Reader Views Interview page 2

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Welcome, David! Thank you for joining us today at Reader Views. Tell us about your latest book, “Buy the Horse a Guinness: & Other Wee Tales of Ireland”.

Buy The Horse A Guinness is a collection of eight of my oral stories. I have a repertoire of oral stories which I’ve told at Irish festivals, pubs, cultural centers, as well as libraries and bookstores. I’ve often been asked if my stories were available in a book, and until Buy The Horse A Guinness, I had to answer “no.” I grew tired of saying “no,” so I chose several of them to incorporate into a book. I thought that with some whimsical illustrations, it would be a fun, easy read. Some of these stories are my takes on some old folk tales, and some are my original stories.

I love the title! How did you come up with it and what inspired you to write this book?

The title popped into my head while I was working on a story. I led a storytelling workshop at an Irish festival, and I asked the participants to describe something – anything – to illustrate and enhance descriptive skills. One woman explained that she was late for the workshop because she had to care for a sick horse. We spent some time building a story around a sick horse, when another participant suggested that horses are sometimes allergic to hay. A substitute for hay, such as barley, is often the solution.

I knew, as perhaps the participants didn’t, that Guinness is made with barley. I immediately said: “Well, that is the solution. Buy the horse a Guinness!”

I’ve done several storytelling workshops, and perhaps that provided me with the motivation to write the book. I wanted to put some of my oral stories in writing, but I also wanted to expose readers to the art of oral storytelling. Perhaps I should have gone a step further by inserting a CD with each book.

What is a Seanchai?

The Irish word seanchaí literally means “bearer of old lore”. In ancient Celtic culture, the history, laws, and legends of the people were not written down, but memorized by the seanchaí – often in long lyrical poems. They developed a huge stock pile of stories, and adopted a variety of storytelling styles. Because of the difficulty of this process, an experienced seanchaí typically mentored a younger seanchaí. Thus the old lore was passed down generation after generation.

The word seanchaí evolved over time to simply mean “storyteller”. A seanchaí can not only tell historical tales and legends, but can also spin a good yarn. A seanchaí is an entertainer who can hold an audience spellbound through a long story or series of short tales.

This may be a reason why the Irish hold the written and spoken word in high regard, and why there are so many brilliant Irish authors, playwrights, poets and storytellers. A person of wit, or one who can turn a phrase, or who can describe a person or place with humor and charm, is highly respected. Mastery of language is important to the Irish.

Here is an example. The decades long conflict in Northern Ireland often led to violence. The causes are quite complex, with political, economic, historical and religious roots. The peace process was extremely difficult with many moving parts eventually falling into place. To the Irish, this long period of conflict is universally known as “The Troubles”. I’m still amazed that this complicated era of history is known by two words.

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