My grandmother claimed to be Irish, but no one in our Alsatian-American family believed her. I believed her, because I wanted to be a writer, and the Irish boast a storytelling tradition to rival no other. I read so many of the Irish writers—from Oscar Wilde and James Joyce to Frank McCourt and Nuala O’Faolain to Ken Bruen and Tana French—and dreamed I was one of them. I even married an Irishman.
I desperately wanted to believe that Irish storytelling blood ran in my veins. I was thrilled when my Uncle Larry traced our family tree, and lo and behold, my wannabe Irish grandmother turned out to be…Irish.
As it turned out, I was descended from the Clancy and Couch clans, from County Cork. That was Irish enough for me. Enough that when an editor came to me and asked if I’d write a story for girls set in the foreign country of my choice, I chose Ireland without a second thought—though I’d only ever been there in my imagination—and filled my little tale with the Irish people and places and Celtic lore and legend I’d been reading about for years. (Note: That story is long out of print, but my obsession with all things Irish remains.)
“In Ireland every place you visit and every person you meet has a story. And they love to tell you their stories. Everyone is interested in everything; in a land of storytellers, you will never be bored.”
When I finally made it to Ireland—me, my daughter, and my six-month-old granddaughter—I had to go see the Dublin Writers Museum. A pilgrimage that moved me greatly—and might move you, whether you have Irish in your DNA or not. If you ever make it to Dublin, be sure to visit.
And then go to the nearest pub, where the balladeers and the poets and storytellers all hang out—singing their sorrows, weaving their wonders, spinning their fictions and fables and fantasies. Have a lager, and a listen. You’ll be all the richer for it.
On St. Patrick’s Day, we are all Irish. And all of us writers are all a wee bit Irish, too. Not just on St. Patrick’s Day, but whenever we sit down and tell a story.
This year, celebrate the luck of the Irish writer by telling a story.
Your story, your way. What could be more Irish?
We stumble on.
It is enough.”