Writer and editor, Elizabeth Reapy, talks to Steven Balbirnie about bringing together Ireland’s emerging literary community
Since completing an MA in writing in 2009, Elizabeth Reapy has been at the forefront of the emerging Irish writing scene. It’s clear that Reapy has an innate passion for writing, as she always had amibitions of entering the literary world. She admits that alhtough she wasn’t necessarily inspired into writing by any single moment, but rather, she can’t remember a time where she didn’t want to be a writer.
It is, however, not just the quality of her poetry and prose that make her such an important figure within the burgeoning literary scene; it is also her steadfast work as an editor and an organiser of arts events.
In 2010, Reapy founded the online publication wordlegs, which, as she explains, “came from the idea of promoting writing by younger Irish writers, creating a platform for their work to be showcased.” The publication quickly gained a reputation for publishing high calibre work by a new generation of writers, giving many of them their first break.
The success of wordlegs even allowed Reapy to pursue the compilation of a published collection of writing by fresh Irish talent called 30 under 30. This anthology was met with much acclaim, though Reapy explains that the process wasn’t without its challenges.
“I sent out invites to 29 writers that I admired. It was a good project, though we were under major time pressures as we needed to launch it six weeks after the invites went out because I was leaving for Australia.”
Aside from her work with wordlegs, Reapy has also pioneered projects to bring young Irish writers together such as Speed Connecting, an event designed to bring writers together as Reapy points out that “there’s a lot of excellent literary events in Dublin and maybe knowing a few familiar faces at these can make it less daunting to go to them on your own.”
The Shore Writers’ Festival, held in Enniscrone and now in its second year, was also Reapy’s brainchild. “I was working in an orange factory in Australia and I’d a lot of time to think there as I boxed fruit for 11 hour shifts. A plan of having a writers’ festival came and wouldn’t go away.”
When asked about what motivated her to pursue these projects, Reapy answers, “In creating wordlegs, 30 under 30, and Shore, I saw a gap in the market. I saw something that I’d have liked for myself as a writer and when it didn’t seem like it was going to happen any other way.
She continues, “I couldn’t moan that ‘Oh there’s nowhere for young writers, we’ve to submit against the literati’ or ‘Why isn’t there an Irish young writers’ festival when the Aussies have one?’ etc. I just had to try and put these things in place.”
With wordlegs going from strength to strength, the second Shore Writers’ Festival taking place this November, and a screenplay of her Australian stories currently in the works, Reapy’s positive contributions to the Irish literary scene only look set to continue.