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Áine Greaney
Writing as a Process, not a Product

Irish-born fiction writer Áine Greaney was raised on a small farm in County Mayo, and moved to the USA in 1986. Since then she has won numerous awards for her short stories, and in 2003 published her first novel, The Big House. Last year, she published a short story collection, The Sheepbreeders Dance. She resides in Newburyport, Massachusetts.

Ireland has been a big part of your literary muse. How does living outside the country affect that muse?

I wrote and published my first story while finishing graduate school in upstate New York. Though the story was set in Ireland, I needed the transatlantic distance from which to re-imagine my own country. Living overseas is a splintered, dual-sensibility existence. And from that push-pull comes the art.

Tell us about your new novel, Dance Lessons.

It opens in greater Boston when an American widow discovers that her Irish-born husband had misrepresented his life and family back in Ireland. In plotting the wrong-turns of her transatlantic marriage, the wife, Ellen, re-lives their courtship and marriage during the 1980s wave of Irish immigration to Boston. The back-story chronicles a rural Irish family and the issue of arranged marriages in the name of land acquisition.

Newburyport is one of New England’s most scenic settings. Does the landscape inform your work?

I’m in love with New England, and relish living in this landscape and city of some of America’s earliest settlers. I also love living at the juncture of the Merrimack River and the Atlantic. The Merrimack Valley has a rich industrial history, plus a great legacy of new-arrival and first-generation women who re-invented themselves and women’s overall role in labor and workers’ rights.

You’re a popular speaker and instructor. What do you tell your pupils about the rigors and rewards of writing?

Too often, writing is defined via the language of commercial publishing--as a bestseller or best-value product. I tell my students that ‘writing’ can and should be defined as a process (not a product), and one that must work for them. For example, my best ‘published’ work is a piece I wrote for a close friend who had lost a child. To this day she keeps that piece on her refrigerator. So it served its central goal of influencing or moving its reader. And, thanks to a dime-store fridge magnet, it’s officially ‘published.’

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by Michael P. Quinlin

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