One-by-one, first-timers and regulars at the monthly Frustrated Writers’ Group filed into Unit 44 at the top of Prussia Street in Stoneybatter.

Eleven people in all, poets, fiction writers, essayists and playwrights. They grabbed seats in a circle around the black-and-white chequered floor.

“So, everyone got the provided texts in advance,” Tom Roseingrave said to the room, as if a tutor easing freshman students into their first tutorial.

Some reached into their bags for sheets of paper, laptops and notepads. Others dug into pockets for phones, calling up the works to be presented and discussed from a shared online document.

Roseingrave, in a white tank top, and almost shining blue tracksuit bottoms, had the writers in the room introduce themselves.

Due to share on this Tuesday evening – 8 August – were copywriter and journalist Kerry Mahony, poet Rafael Mendes and theatre-maker Cathal McGuire. Each was there for the first time, Roseingrave said.

Buses rumbled by the front windows of the former store. Muffled voices, too.

But as Mahony kicked off the session – reading a piece of short fiction set between Instagram and a therapist’s chair – the world outside faded.

The group sat in silence, before entering into a long discussion of what they had just heard.

Getting that feedback is a rare thing for writers who are unpublished or just starting out, Roseingrave says later.

“This is a very solitary thing, and if your stuff isn’t getting published, you kinda don’t have any idea whether this is an absolutely deranged life choice or not,” he said.

Finding a voice

The Thursday after, Roseingrave took a seat outside a coffee kiosk in Harold’s Cross Park.

An anthology titled Frustrated Writers’ Group, Volume One, composed by writers and writings from the first 15 meetings, is at the printers, he says. There’s a week to go before its launch.

Roseingrave has been writing since his teens, he says. “I was in a band. I wrote the lyrics, and then I did English literature in Trinity College, so it was always in the back of my mind.”

He did a creative-writing module as part of the course but was never satisfied with what appeared on the page. “It was just dogshit,” he said matter-of-factly over the soft burble of a small nearby waterfall.

Studying the literary canon was important but it stultified him, he says. “I felt like I was in a bit of a stranglehold, where I was imitating, but couldn’t get close to these amazing writers.”

His most freeing moments were when he and a friend, filmmaker Dennis Harvey, worked on a short film in his final year, he says. “It was so much better.”

There were no expectations, he says. “It was for fun. I was able to write good things rather than write trying to be the smartest person in the room.”

That stuck within him when he later set up the writer’s group, he says. “The structures and environments in which we write have such a massive impact on how you write, and if you can write confidently.”

Facilitating Magic

In April 2022, Roseingrave ran the first meeting of the Frustrated Writers Group.

He drew inspiration from his involvement in other organisations: Dublin Digital Radio, the Community Action Tenants Union and the experimental contemporary music collective Kirkos Ensemble, which opened the Unit 44 performance space.

“I wanted there to be something like a more communal activity around writing,” he said.

Each gathering attracts a mix of people, he says. Some reading work for the first time, others who have been published widely.

“It was about facilitating an atmosphere in which writers of any experience should feel comfortable,” said Roseingrave.

Poet and singer Molly May O’Leary found the group through a residency she had in the studio space on the first floor of Unit 44.

It drew her in because it’s an outlet for people who felt a need to write, she says. “That’s where creativity blossoms. You can’t enforce magic, but you can facilitate it.”

Each gathering is loosely the same. Three people read pieces to the group. After they finish, Roseingrave asks for responses, whether critical observations or comments to highlight passages or descriptions that they appreciated.

At the August gathering, as Kerry Mahony ended her story, Roseingrave asked for the room’s input.

There was a pause, before the first questions were fired. Some queried imagery. Others praised the seamless transition in the narrative from the digital to the real world.

Roseingrave really encourages people to get to know each work before the reading, says Mahony. “All of that really helps to lend itself to a nice feeling when you’re there.”

It’s definitely scary, she says. “But I just knew it was going to be so beneficial.”

It was amazing to hear the level of detail people had gone into, says Mahony. “People read it and had suggestions of things to change, or would be interesting to try out.”

What was satisfying, Mahony says, was feeling an immediate resonance with others as she read her words aloud.

As a columnist and a copywriter, feedback isn’t something she is unfamiliar with, says Mahony.

But she had fewer external voices to weigh in on her fiction, she says. “I had one friend from a writing course who gave me feedback, but I knew I needed more to spur me on.”

Taking a risk

Roseingrave says he didn’t want the new anthology to imitate any of the other Irish literary journals. “We’re not The Stinging Fly or Gorse, and we’re never going to be that.”

Like with the group itself, which caters to writers who might not have had much of an audience before, he wanted the publication to be a place for writing that may have struggled to fit in at another more established journal, he says.

“In an open call, I told people not to submit works that would be better suited to one of the more prestigious journals,” says Roseingrave. “That’s not really what this is.”

What came back, he says, gave the volume a more experimental feel.

“People did probably submit weirder pieces that had been lying around for a while. Maybe ones that hadn’t found a home or had been rejected, and we wanted to take a risk,” he says.

The editorial process, he says, built on the collaborative nature of the group.

More experienced contributors to the anthology, such as artist Léann Herlihy and poet Clíodhna Bhreathnach, volunteered to co-edit people who were newer to writing.

“We had these sharp minds giving their time,” says Roseingrave, “and it built up an element of trust that served the publication in a lot of ways.”

Michael Lanigan is a freelance journalist who covers arts and culture for Dublin Inquirer. His work also appears in Vice, Totally Dublin, and the Business Post. You can reach him at

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *