Romana Semler was unanimously chosen as the winning entrant for the 2022 All Ireland Scholarships Alumni Association Creative Writing Competition by a star-studded judging panel for her short story ‘Stringing The Bow’.
Romana, a 2011 All Ireland Scholarship recipient from Carrick-on-Shannon, Leitrim will be presented €1,000 prize money with runners-up James John O’Connor from Longford, Katie Lockhart from Antrim and Claire O’Brien from Cork each set to receive €500.
The Competition judging panel was chaired by Professor Sarah Moore Fitzgerald of the University of Limerick and featured Ireland’s first Prix Jean Monnet winner, Donal Ryan, acclaimed writer Kerri ní Dochartaigh and poet Alice Kinsella, the 2021 winner.
On the winning entry, the judges said: “Stringing the Bow is a subtly abstracted story, with an arresting opening and an attention to detail that makes it shine.
“It’s so difficult to capture a child’s voice authentically and consistently, but the voice in this piece is utterly true, and never slips. This is a story composed by a writer of clear talent, replete with startling images and language that’s full of music and flow.
“From its first line right up to its unforgettable closing passage, it is a searing, virtuosic work.”
On the Competition, Professor Moore Fitzgerald commented: “The quality of the submissions was hugely impressive with a great diversity of style and voice.
“There were some wonderfully moving, perceptive non-fiction pieces, many of which felt current and relevant, speaking to challenges and issues of our time. And there were extraordinarily well-crafted fiction pieces too, revealing a richness of imagination and storytelling flair.
“Again, it’s clear that this competition has identified talent and real narrative skill among All Ireland Scholarship alumni.”
Winners & Runners Up
Romana Semler is a 2011 All Ireland Scholarship recipient from Carrick-on-Shannon in Co. Leitrim. After receiving the Scholarship, she attended the National University of Ireland, Galway and studied a BA Connect in Classics, Creative Writing and Italian. Romana went on to complete her MA in Classics. Since then, she has taken some time out to travel and to explore other creative avenues and is now planning to further her postgraduate studies.
Claire O’Brien is a 2010 All Ireland Scholarship recipient from Ballincollig in Co. Cork. After receiving the Scholarship, she went onto study for a BA in Music and The Study of Religions at University College Cork and then a BMus in Music, majoring in performance and composition. In January 2020, she graduated with an MA in songwriting from the Irish World Academy in the University of Limerick. Claire is currently teaching piano part-time and preparing for the release of her new album.
James John O’Connor is a 2019 All Ireland Scholarship recipient from Newtownforbes in Co. Longford. After receiving the Scholarship, he took a year out to work and then in 2020 went to The Netherlands to study International Relations and International Organization at the University of Groningen.
Katie Lockhart is a 2015 All Ireland Scholarship recipient from Lisburn in Co. Antrim. After receiving the Scholarship, she went on to study Medicine at Trinity College Dublin. Following her graduation in 2020, Katie is currently completing her Family Medicine residency in Maine, USA.
Professor Sarah Moore Fitzgerald is an award-winning teacher, researcher, novelist, writer and author, who chairs the All Ireland Scholarships Alumni Creative Writing Competition. Sarah is a Professor of Teaching and Learning at the University of Limerick, with a particular interest in creativity. She has published several novels, with her fiction being adapted for the stage at the Edinburgh Festival and the Arts Theatre in London’s West End. Sarah has been shortlisted for the Waterstones Prize and the CBI Book of the Year Award. In 2015 she received a Kirkus Star for her second novel, 'The Apple Tart of Hope', and in 2016 won the Irish Writers’ Centre’s Jack Harte Award.
Donal Ryan is a multi-award-winning author and lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Limerick. His 2013 novel The Spinning Heart won the Guardian First Book Award, the EU Prize for Literature (Ireland), Book of the Year at the Irish Book Awards, and was voted 'Irish Book of the Decade'. In 2021, Donal became the first Irish writer to win the Prix Jean Monnet for European Literature for his work ‘From a Low and Quiet Sea’.
On the competition, Donal said: “The written word is one of the greatest ways we have of sharing human experience with one another. Whether fact or fiction, creative writing shines a light on something that might otherwise go unnoticed. I can’t wait to read the range of writing and new stories that this competition will generate.”
Kerri ní Dochartaigh is the author of ‘Thin Places’ which was highly commended by the Wainwright Prize. She has written for The Guardian, the Irish Times, the BBC, Winter Papers, and others. She lives in an old railway cottage in the heart of Ireland with her family.
Praise for ‘Thin Places’: “A remarkable piece of writing. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book as open-hearted as this. It resists easy pieties of nature as a healing force, but nevertheless charts a recovery which could never have been achieved without landscape, wild creatures and “thin places”. It is also flocked with luminous details (moths, birds, feathers, skulls, moving water). Kerri’s voice is utterly her own, rich and strange. I’ve folded down the corners of many pages, marking sentences and moments that glitter out at me. Wow” - Robert Macfarlane
Alice Kinsella was born in Dublin and raised in Co. Mayo. Her work has been published in The Irish Times, Poetry Ireland Review, RTÉ, Banshee, and The North, among others. Her pamphlet Sexy Fruit (Broken Sleep Books) was a Poetry Book Society Spring 2019 Selection. She edited Empty House: poetry and prose on the climate crisis (Doire Press, 2021). She graduated from Trinity College Dublin in 2016 with a BA in English Literature and Philosophy, and from the National University of Ireland, Galway in 2018 with an MA in Writing. She received support from Words Ireland and The Arts Council of Ireland to complete her first full-length poetry collection. Alice's first piece of creative nonfiction won the inaugural AIS alumni creative writing award in 2021. She currently lives on the west coast of Ireland.