Anne Walsh Donnelly, Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest Runner Up, Writes About Self-Love

Sunday, December 13, 2020

We are lucky to interview Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest runner up for Q4, Anne Walsh Donnelly, today who lives in Mayo, Ireland. Ann won for her essay, "A Lover Without a Lover" which you can read here. 

Here's a little bit about Anne:  Anne Walsh Donnelly lives in the west of Ireland. She writes poetry, prose and plays. She started writing in her mid-40s, kick-started by the end of her marriage and her work in therapy. She dedicates this piece to her therapist(s) who provided a safe place for her to explore her inner thoughts and feelings. She is the author of the poetry chapbook The Woman With An Owl Tattoo published by Fly on the Wall poetry press in the UK. The chapbook is an intimate reflection on her journey of self-discovery and acceptance of her sexual identity in mid-life. She is also the author of the short story collection Demise of the Undertaker’s Wife published by The Blue Nib imprint in Ireland. To find out more about Anne and her work, go to: She was recently awarded a bursary by the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival for one of her plays. Twitter: @AnneWDonnelly Facebook: AnneWalshDonnelly

WOW: Congratulations, Anne, on placing as a runner up with your essay, "A Lover Without a Lover." This essay seems to have many themes that will resonate with our WOW! community. Can you discuss some of the themes you were particularly exploring while you crafted this essay? 

Anne: It was the whole notion of belonging and what home really means that I wanted to explore in the essay. The sense of being comfortable in one’s own body and in one’s own skin. Home for me is an internal state of mind; it actually doesn’t matter where you live, how beautiful or grotty it is. It’s the internal not the external that matters. I wanted to show how my work in therapy has helped me. I did a lot of excavating in therapy; often the process was quite painful but very rewarding. I started writing as a result of my work in therapy, and I also explored my sexuality. It was in the process of integrating all the different parts of me, some of which I had buried, that I finally came home to me. The title refers to how I’ve learned to love and accept myself. I am my own lover now. 

WOW: Thank you for sharing that with us. Internal work is not easy, but so rewarding. It's helpful for all of us to hear how it helped someone else in our community! This essay reveals some personal information about yourself, and we often have writers ask us: How do people let the public (or their loved ones) read such personal information? Do you have any advice to give to these writers who have a little fear about laying it out on the page? Have you ever felt that way? 

 Anne: That’s an interesting question, and there’s no right or wrong answer. I think you have to go with what feels right for you. That can vary from day to day. It’s important to protect yourself in the process. Write whatever you need to write, but let it settle and think before sending it out for publication. Not everything needs to be shared. Yes, I’ve often felt fear! Sometimes I’ve let something be published and after have asked myself what the hell was I thinking! I was terrified when my chapbook of poetry, (which is about my coming out journey) was published. But the reaction to it has all been good. In fact, I believe it may have helped others in their journeys. Sometimes. you’ve just got to take a risk. 

WOW: Yes, that's true. And really personal or not, writers are taking a risk every time they share any writing with another person. In the essay, you go back and forth in time, and you also use songs to move the piece along. What made you decide to use these two devices to tell your story?

Anne: I love listening to music, especially songs that have a storyline, and there are certain songs that encapsulate different experiences I have had. I can’t remember making a deliberate decision to go back and forth in time or to use songs in this essay. It just evolved as I was writing. This piece went through a lot of drafts with bits added and bits taken out in each draft. 

WOW: Well, it definitely worked! In your bio, it states that you are an author of poetry, prose, and plays. It also states that you have won an award for your playwright ability. Tell us more about your plays and/or this award! 

Anne: Yes, I write plays, poetry, and prose. One of my strengths is writing dialogue. I was awarded a bursary, this year, from the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival for my play called, “My Dead Husband’s Hereford Bull.” It’s dark and funny, and I had great fun writing it. It’s about a widow who thinks her dead husband’s bull is talking to her, and that he’s threatening to kill the woman she’s having an affair with. The play explores her struggle with her sanity and sexuality. It was scheduled to be performed earlier this year, but unfortunately COVID hit. 

WOW: That sounds very interesting, and we are sorry to hear about COVID stopping the production. What are you working on now? 

Anne: I’m really looking forward to 2021! My first full collection of poetry, called Odd as F*ck, will be published by Fly on the Wall Poetry Press next year; so I’m currently putting the final touches on the manuscript. The title is my attempt to be humorous. I’m describing myself at being Odd as F*ck in the book! Essentially the book is about my growth and transformation, as a result of my painful experiences, and what I’ve learned is that life is easier if you don’t take yourself too seriously. I’m also working on a new manuscript. It’s a hybrid piece and interweaves prose and poetry, and I’m really excited about it. It’s set in rural Ireland, and it’s about a man who has spent most of his life in a psychiatric hospital, but is now living in the community. He converses regularly with Jackdaws and thinks their claws keep him from jumping into a lake and drowning. You’ve probably gathered by now that my characters often tend to be a bit left-of-centre and slightly unhinged. A bit like parts of me, maybe! 

WOW: I think your characters sound wonderful and quirky! Keep it up because it's obviously working for you. Thank you, Anne, for your time today!


Sioux Roslawski said...

Anne--ALL of my favorite people are odd. They're all off-center and ready to fly off their hinges (because only one screw is holding the hinges on).

Congratulations. I might be using your essay as a mentor text--since it uses bits of music"--in my class, because we will soon be reading and working on essays.

Good luck with your future projects. However, it doesn't sound like you need any luck. ;)

Anne Walsh Donnelly said...

Thanks, I’m honoured to have someone use my essay for educational purposes

Jeanine DeHoney said...

I enjoyed reading your essay Anne. Congratulations and much success with all of your creative endeavors.

Anne Walsh Donnelly said...

Thanks Jeanine

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