We are truly delighted to take part in Inkroci, and humbled to have this special edition dedicated to the Irish Writers’ Centre featuring writings by the Irish writers who make up this year’s Italo Irish Literature Exchange (IILE). Below you will find a short contextual description of the IILE to set the scene. This edition of Inkroci, timed to coincide with the Irish writers’ week-long tour of Italy in June, makes evident the importance of establishing connections through the exchange and is a prime example of a direct outcome of the IILE.

Huge thanks go to all the writers for their contributions and we are especially indebted to Anna and Michele for inviting us to the table. I hope that you enjoy reading these stories and poems, and that they give you ample food for thought.

The writer and past Board member of the Irish Writers’ Centre (IWC) Catherine Dunne, using her status as an acclaimed novelist in Italy, spearheaded an initiative in 2011 which led to an extensive cultural relationship between Ireland and Italy and their writers. Partnered by ònoma, an Italian writers’ organisation led by Federica Sgaggio (author and journalist), the Italo Irish Literature Exchange was born.

The purpose of the Italo Irish Literature Exchange (IILE) was to provide a forum for Italian and Irish writers to meet and to connect with each other by sharing and promoting their literatures in both countries. Organised by the Irish Writers’ Centre and its Italian counterpart, ònoma, the IILE enables Irish and Italian writers to take part in readings, workshops, discussions, educational visits and other cultural events in both countries.

There have been 3 visits to date under the IILE banner, two by Italian authors to Dublin (in 2011 and 2012) and one return visit by Irish authors to Verona (in 2012) with the support of Culture Ireland and the Istituto Italiano di Cultura – Dublino. The 2014 trip to Italy represents the return journey of the second incarnation of the IILE.

Current Developments
In the summer of 2013, seven Irish novelists, playwrights, poets were selected from over sixty applicants by the Irish Writers’ Centre to represent Ireland. The itinerary begins in Rome with a welcome reception and readings in the Irish Embassy, then moves onto the tiny town of Sant’Agata de’ Goti (Campania) to meet and exchange with the ònoma writers under the IILE banner.

Among the themes to be discussed with Italian IILE writers and audiences will be the importance of place and identity; migration; the role of writers and writing in responding to the political and economic crises facing Italy and Ireland; the challenges and opportunities facing publishers and writers in both countries in the digital age; and the establishment of further cultural links between Ireland and Italy. The make-up of both the Irish and Italian groups is designed to showcase a mix of emergent and established writers in a range of genres, including novels, short stories, poetry, drama, screenplay, non-fiction and political satire.
As well as the Irish Embassy readings in Rome, there will be workshops, readings and panel discussions with Italian writers over three days. Then, the Irish writers will move onto Lugo and Bologna (Emilia Romagna) for events and cultural interchange with members of the literary society in Emilia Romagna, where in Bologna, we hope to meet with Italian translators. Press and broadcasting coverage of the visit will, it’s hoped, significantly increase the profile of contemporary Irish writers and writing in Italy. Our group includes: Mia Gallagher, Sean Hardie, Afric McGlinchey, Liz McManus, Noel Monahan, Nuala Ní Chonchúir and William Wall.
Funding for this leg of the IILE was kindly supported by Culture Ireland, The Irish Copyright Licensing Agency, and many generous donations from friends and supporter of this initiative.

Part of the ambition of this project is that the IILE is not just about the journeys and encounters in each other’s countries, but that the participant writers’ creative work reaches out to a wider audience over different platforms. With this in mind, we have connected with publishers and are well underway with plans for two separate print publications. We consider this publications phase of the IILE as a significant progression of the original idea in that the publications provide an ongoing potential of introducing new international audiences to the work and the authors.
The first publication is an anthology on Displacement, a theme which the writers agreed to work on for the 2014 leg of the IILE.  Via Catherine Dunne, co-originator of the exchange, her Italian publisher Ugo Guanda editore is publishing an Italian version of the new works of Irish and Italian participants in book form. The publication date has been set for March 2015 with Catherine Dunne writing the introduction.
While the Guanda publication was under discussion, one of our IILE authors approached New Island Books, (a prominent independent Irish publisher) with a view to proposing a similar English language publication. This was positively received, and New Island Books has agreed to produce a mirror publication in English which will launch in May 2015.
The latter two publications we consider very important in the development of the IILE. They represent a current, permanent record of the creative work of the IILE writers, with the potential of inviting new readers, writers and promoters to sample the best in contemporary writing and poetry in Ireland, Italy, and further afield.

Valerie Bistany
Irish Writers’ Centre
May 7, 2014

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Valerie Bistany
Valerie Bistany is a professional arts manager, producer & events coordinator with over 20 years of international experience in Ireland, England and the USA working with organisations such as Dance Ireland, Dublin Youth Theatre, the Abbey and Pavilion Theatres. She has worked in a freelance capacity as a facilitator in strategic vision planning, as an independent evaluator and as a creative mentor in the professional arts and voluntary sectors. She is also a certified mediator and began mediating as part of a political dialogue facilitation team working with Northern and Southern politicians in Ireland. Valerie was appointed director of the Irish Writers’ Centre in July 2013. Originally from Lebanon, she has lived and worked in England, Spain and the USA, but has made Dublin her home these last 23 years. She spent a delightful year living in Pavia in 2011 with her son Sacha.