The Lady in Red by Nuala N Chonchir | Gladstone's Library

The Lady in Red by Nuala N Chonchir

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Nuala N Chonchir

I get to have a week of writing in Wales because I love the colour red. A week of writing in a residential library, no less. Next Thursday I take car, plane, train and bus to the village of Hawarden in Flintshire, and Gladstone's Library, and it is all because of a red dress.

Gladstone's ran a writing competition last year for short stories and flash. As I was in the thick of writing a novel, I couldn't take the time to write a whole story, so I investigated their flash fiction competition instead. It involved writing about a portrait of an unknown lady in red. I was immediately sold.

I looked at the lady in the painting; I fancied she was Spanish: she had dark good looks and she held an orange. A black dog stared up at her. Her own stare was disquieting – she seemed to dare the viewer to judge her.

I began to spin a narrative in my head around this woman, about her origins, about her family. I researched oranges, hunting dogs and red velvet. The domestic service novel I was writing had maids on my mind and so a servant - a wet-nurse - came into my story. Motherhood - one of the key areas of interest in all my writing - came to the fore. Very quickly, I had a story about Gladstone's mystery lady. I called it 'Naranjito's Daughter'. As the winner of the Gladstone's Flash Comp, it will be published in Chester University's Flash: International Short-short Story Magazine this year.

The Mystery Lady

Day two of the festival sees talks on inspiration with Melissa Harrison and the theological novel from Neil Griffiths, as well as an afternoon session on Writing Techniques from all the writers in residence. I look forward to hearing what other writers have to say on subjects as dear to my heart as the short story, novel-writing and inspiration.While I will be in residence at Gladstone's, a mini literary festival called 'Hearth' takes place. My friend Tania Hershman is giving a workshop on short story writing and extreme brevity, and Adnan Mahmutovi? will chair a discussion on writing across borders. I was with both Tania and Adnan at the International Short Story Conference in Arkansas last year, so it is going to feel very cosy.

I am so looking forward to this trip to Wales. I love that country - my first novel was partially set there (very partially!) - and the chance to be in beautiful surroundings, chatting with other writers, is always a treat. So I thank the mysterious lady in red for granting me this opportunity, and I can’t wait to meet her in person, as it were, on Thursday.


Nuala Ní Chonchúir was born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1970; she lives in East Galway. Her fourth short story collection Mother America was published by New Island in 2012. A chapbook of flash Of Dublin and Other Fictions was published in the US in late 2013 by Tower Press and Nuala’s second novel The Closet of Savage Mementos appears spring 2014 from New Island.