The Undertaker Goes Slamming

The Undertaker’s Debut at the OTE Fiction Slam.

The Over The Edge annual fiction slam was held in The Kitchen in Galway on Friday 28th June.  This literary event is just one of several organized by Kevin Higgins and Susan Millar Du Mars. They excel in giving new and emerging writers a platform to showcase their work.

Having won this slam in 2018, I wasn’t expecting to do so again. I just saw the event as an opportunity to try out one or two extracts from my forthcoming short story collection, “Demise of the Undertaker’s Wife,” to be published by The Blue Nib in September.

For me the joy of seeing one’s work in print is always surpassed by the joy of reading one’s work in public. There’s nothing more invigorating than reading to a receptive audience.

As I read, I look up from the page every now and then. This helps me to connect with the audience. I love to scan the room and look at those who are listening. A wide-eyed face, smile, gasp or laugh, spurs me on to give the best reading possible. I strive to lift my characters off the page and bring them into the room for the audience to experience their story.

I hadn’t read, “The Demise of the Undertaker’s Wife,” in public before so I decided to let it have its first outing. The reaction of the audience was amazing. To my surprise they loved it, despite its grisly end.

This story emerged from me wondering if two bodies would fit in one coffin. I emailed someone who I thought would know and he replied, yes, that would be possible. But how could the additional weight be explained to the pall bearers? I found a solution to that problem. You’ll need to read the story to find out more!

When I first wrote this story, I decided to rewrite it as a short play. It got its first outing in the Claremorris Fringe Festival of Drama in 2014 and won the Audience prize for best play. Subsequently, I rewrote the story and decided to include it in my short story collection. Judging by the audience reaction at the fiction slam, it obviously works as a short story as well as a short play.

I was lucky enough to be selected to read in the second round of the fiction slam. This time I read an extract from the story, “WLTM.” A very different piece to the previous one with a lighter ending but again one that got a good reaction from the audience.

There were fifteen readers at the slam and the standard was high with two previous winners participating. I’m sure judges, Susan Millar DuMars, Liz McShane and Niamh Boyce had a difficult job.

I was delighted and surprised to be named as joint winner alongside Rory Duffy from Athlone and Carla Shackleford from the NUIG summer school. Both very talented readers and writers.

All in all a very enjoyable evening, with the added bonus of hearing both Liz and Niamh read from their wonderful novels. 

It was a memorable first outing for my undertaker. I’m sure he would be delighted!

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