December 15, 2019

The Write Space – Áine Greaney

by Felicia Cheney

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The Write Space is a monthly Q&A series from Creative Collective covering a local writer and a North Shore space(s) s/he associates with writing.  Questions? Contact:

Give us your best writerly bio.

Áine Greaney is an Irish-born author who now lives in the Newburyport area. She never published anything until after she emigrated alone, at age 24, to America.  Now she writes fiction and nonfiction and has just published her fifth book. She has also published and broadcast many essays, short stories and features in the U.S., Ireland, the U.K. and Canada.  Her personal essays have appeared in Creative Nonfiction, The Boston Globe Magazine, Salon, Litro, WBUR Cognoscenti and other publications. She teaches and leads workshops on writing for health and wellness.  Among other awards and shortlists, her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and her essay, “Green Card” has been cited in Best American Essays. Her second novel, “Dance Lessons,” was one of 20 chosen by the National Women’s Book Association for National Reading Group Month. 

Greaney’s most recent book, “Green Card & Other Essays” (Wising Up Press, April 2019) chronicles her journey from being a newbie (and clueless) immigrant to becoming a naturalized American citizen with a vote and, through her writing and speaking, an advocacy pulpit.      

Tell us about a North Shore Write Space.

I’m a writer with a day job (I work in nonprofit communications), so on week mornings, I get up extra early to write at a small white desk inside my attic window. I write for about 40 minutes before it’s time to go downstairs to pack my brown-bag lunch and go earn a living. I also have a little backyard writing studio where, on weekends, I meditate, wool gather, journal and, oh yes, write!  My late father left me a modest inheritance, which I used to build this cozy, garden-view space. 

When I’m in North Shore, not writing, I’m …

How lucky are we to live on the North Shore in the first place? Very, very lucky.  I’m a big walker and my back garden actually backs up to one of the city-constructed walking trails. So you will find me tramping along that trail and others. From Memorial Day onward, I’m on my bicycle or sitting on the beach with a book. I’m a lifelong public library patron. Since moving to the North Shore, I have been a part of the historic Emma Andrews Library and Community Center here in Newburyport. I also enjoy taking part in the writing community at the Writers Series at Salem State University and the Gloucester Writers Center. Also, this summer, the International Women’s Writers Guild will be hosting their annual summer conference at Endicott College

What are you working on now? 

I’ve never been able to work on just one project. The release of my essay collection has been keeping me out and about doing presentations and readings, so I haven’t been able to get to as much creative writing as I would like to. That said, I always have a few personal essays in various stages of drafting and re-writing. I’m also re-writing a novella, “Irish or Something.” The novella’s first-person character is a teenage girl, and “Irish or Something” is a rather stark story about mother-daughter clashes, and a first-generation kid’s code switching between two cultures and languages. Also, at least two of my émigré great-aunts were Irish “domestics,” so I’ve always wanted to write a fictional story set in the Phillips House in Salem. Much of my published work tackles issues of social class, so that idea to write a servant-narrated story keeps bugging me.   

And finally –

Set on the North Shore, “Stranger in Winter” is one of the final pieces in my essay collection, GREEN CARD. I wrote it at my little attic table after a trip back to my native Ireland. I hope this essay captures the immigrant’s sense of displacement and our shared and lifelong search for that elusive thing we call “home.” Here’s an extract:

Outside my attic window I watch the winter dawn over the river. Inside my attic window I write in a journal. I hear my pen scratch across the page and I think, I am home.

For immigrants, this ‘home’ business is always fragile. In truth, this may be why some of us left – why we swapped one country for another – all those years ago. Some mornings I know that when I leave this chair, this page, this window, ‘home’ will be gone again, and this New England place will revert to being just that – a place, a territory where I have washed up, set up; where I make too much noise and take up too much space.

Away from this river is the interstate highway that runs north to Canada and south to Miami. Yesterday I was one of the drivers on that wet, southbound highway, swishing past the overpasses and the exit signs, the offices and condo developments. I was all dressed up and rushing to a meeting.

Oh, America, I thought.  Please tell me how on earth a woman like me comes to be driving here, on this day in winter?

Read the complete essay at Litro Literary Magazine

Find out more at  Also, you may find my books at my publishers or at Jabberwocky Books in Newburyport.  

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