SHORTLISTED recently for the inaugural Costa Short Story award, Enniskillen-based writer, Sheila Llewellyn, is kept busy.
At an awards night on Tuesday January 29, Sheila was unlucky not to come away with the award, losing out to Avril Joy.
However, this has not dismayed her too much, and the writer is excited about opportunities that have already started to present themselves.
“I know it’s a cliché but I have always written, but never really gone public with any of it until about three years ago.”
In 2011, Sheila won the RTE PJ O’ Connor Radio Drama Award with her play, ‘The House on Shareni Street’. The play went on to win the Silver Award at the New York International Radio Drama Festival, in 2012, while she was also shortlisted that same year for the Sean O Faolain Short Story Prize and the Bridport Prize.
“My interests are reflected in the kind of stories I write – historical, psychological, usually with art and poetry in there somewhere,” she continued.
“Anything that grabs my interest really and which has a good story buried away in it.”
With her story, ‘Dislocation’, Sheila called on inspiration from the Le Brocquy painting, ‘A Family’, which is the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin.
“It intrigues me to see this family, so fractured – the mother, the father and the small boy all so isolated and dislocated from each other. It makes me wonder what this family could have endured to end up like that,” she commented.
“I’d also been reading about the effects of the wall coming down in Germany and the number of Stasi informers that were slowly being revealed. That gave me an idea of having a gallery attendant, originally from East Germany, who gradually comes to face a terrible family betrayal by looking at the Le Brocquy painting day after day and responding to the dislocation of the figures in it.”
The experience was made all the more poignant considering the month after Sheila had finished it, Le Brocquy passed away aged 94.
“I only hope I did the painting justice,” she admitted.
Sheila was shortlisted among five for the Costa award, and noted that she nearly didn’t make the deadline.
“I was thrilled to be shortlisted. I nearly didn’t make the deadline – it was the last morning for submissions before I got myself sorted out to put the story in.”
She then attended the awards night in London on Tuesday January 29, where Avril Joy won the award.
“The actual awards night was good fun – lots of glitz and razzmatazz.”
Sheila acknowledged that despite not winning, ‘one or two’ things have begun to happen for her.
“One or two things have already started to happen for me as a result of getting shortlisted and having the story out online, both as written versions and downloadable versions. So that is really exciting.”
When not writing, Sheila is a keen art fan.
“I love art galleries and museums,” she said.
“The Ulster museum is a great place – I tend to lurk and earwig people’s comments on the exhibits – I’ve learned quite a few salty Belfast expressions that way! And The National Gallery in Dublin is a little gem. All the galleries and museums in Dublin are great and free and have kept shining for us through all the tough times,” she added.