WHEN Elleesa Rushby was a child she would listen to terrifying tales of banshees from Ireland’s rich folklore.
Unknown to her then, those stories – shared in the shadows by roaring open fires - would go on to influence stories of her own.
A keen writer at school, her attentions later turned to raising her family - though she was famed for the yearly Halloween story she would write for her two sons.
Now 54, and a BA student of Creative Writing at the University of Bedfordshire, she has thrown herself back into writing in the hope of becoming a published author.
Having grown up between Dún Laoghaire and Britain, she now lives in Leighton Buzzard.
Her desire to write full-time inspired her to enter to The Irish Post’s Listowel Writers’ Week competition.
Her short story, entitled New Pet, is an intriguing tale with a twist.
It was chosen from hundreds of entries by this year’s judging panel for its brilliant use of language.
Ms Rushby says she took inspiration for the tale from a woman she would see every day on the bus into town.
“For some reason that morphed into Una and Maeve – though she’s probably a lovely lady,” the writer jokes.
“Growing up I just had this strong oral history of storytelling. There’s a strong tradition of the supernatural in Irish writing – underneath a fading Catholic tradition there’s so much pagan folklore,” she says.
“I wrote when I was at school but kind of let it lie when I had the children though I used to write them a Halloween story every year.”
Ms Rushby has a bank of short stories and the makings of a novel in the bag, and is hoping to follow her Creative Writing BA with a Masters degree.
“I felt it was my time,” she says of her desire to pursue a career in writing. “I’ve entered The Irish Post’s writing competition for three years on the trot and for me it was just an amazing feeling of success to win.”
With a trip to Listowel Writers’ Week ahead - where previous guests have included Graham Norton, Emma Donoghue, Fergal Keane and Colm Toibin - she adds: “I am most looking forward to meeting other writers and soaking up the atmosphere of the festival, especially as it has just won the Irish Hospitality Award.”
And her words of advice to anyone who dreams of being a writer?
“Get it out there. What have you get to lose? Find your inspiration within,” she says.
As well as €500 in prize money, the winner of this year's compeititon will take part in the prestigious Listowel Writers’ Week in Co. Kerry, which takes place May 30 – June 3.
The 2018 line-up includes Edna O’Brien, Margaret Drabble, Anthony Horowitz, Fergal Keane, Adrian Dunbar, John McGregor, Ian Robertson, Carlo Gébler, Michael Harding, Julia Parsons and Alex Preston.
Meet the judges:
Siobhán Breatnach - Editor-in-Chief, The Irish Post
Siobhán Breatnach is a digital and print journalist with over a decade's experience working in regional and national press in Britain, Ireland and the US. Originally from Co. Waterford, she is a University College Dublin Law graduate and holds an MA in Journalism and Society from the University of East London. A former Irish Editor for the Daily Star Sunday in London, she is also a guest lecturer in Journalism at the School of Arts and Digital Industires at UEL. A native Irish speaker, she began her career as a news and entertainment reporter with the Sligo Weekender and has featured in TV and radio broadcasts for TG4, RTÉ and UTV, among others.
Joe Horgan - Poet & Writer
Joe Horgan was born and raised in Birmingham of Irish parents and now lives in Cork. As an award-winning poet his work has been published in Ireland, Britain and the US. He has also written a weekly column for The Irish Post since 1999. A past winner of the Patrick Kavanagh Poetry Award he is the author of four books — one of which was serialised on RTÉ Radio One. He is a Contributing Editor at The Bogman’s Cannon and has been a featured reader at the Cork International Poetry Festival.
Anne Marie Scanlon - Author & Journalist
Anne Marie Scanlon is an Irish writer and journalist who has contributed to publications in Ireland, Britain and the US including The Sunday Independent, The Telegraph, The Evening Herald, Woman & Home, Essentials, Image, Woman’s Way, Prudence and The Irish Post, as well as broadcasting on RTÉ, the BBC and radio and TV in America. Anne Marie is the author of It’s Not Me… It’s You! (A Girl’s Guide to Dating in Ireland), has contributed to several anthologies including What I Wish I’d Known: The Truth About Motherhood and is co-founder of The Mammy Monologues.
Ryan Price - Journalist, The Irish Post
Ryan Price is a journalist and currently works as a digital reporter for The Irish Post. He hosts the London Calling podcast which features interviews with Bob Geldof, Fiona Shaw and many more. Ryan recently moved to London from his home of Cork, where he previously worked as a producer for Cork’s Red FM. Before that, he studied English and History at University College Cork and Journalism and New Media at Cork Institute of Technology.