Listowel Writers’ Festival. Wonderful 30th May – 3rd June 2018

Monday, 18th June 2018

I returned from the Kingdom of Kerry to England treasuring memories of the  wonderful Listowel Writers’ Festival.

I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience.

I felt welcomed. Made and renewed friendships. consumed delicious meals in The Listowel Arms.  Enjoyed excellent B&B accommodation. Learnt so much from a host of brilliant speakers and ultra skilled interviewers  all oozing with talent. Became engrossed in great plays, music and all that was on offer in the Kerry Writers’ Museum.  Where else would you meet the likes of Edna O’Brian, Colm Toibin, Margaret Drabble and Anthony Horowitz? I am among millions who hold Fergal Keane in great esteem. I was particularly impressed with the sensitivity and accurate research in which the discussion on ‘The War of Independence was conducted. Cathriona Crowe recommending that we base our opinions on the facts that she presented. Adrian Dunbar sharing an opinion from over the border. Hsitorian, Ciara Breathnach immersed in local history skilfully inviting audience participation.

I laughed, mingled with locals, fellow Irish folk, Americans, Canadians and English folk. I walked, was challenged, joked, lingered pondered and absorbed. All this in a warm, welcoming atmosphere. 

I’m in admiration of how all was facilitated, directed and guided by the cheerful and efficient, glamorous, committee. There was that personal welcoming touch with each person respected and warmly welcomed. 

There is definitely something unique about The Listowel Writers’ Festival. It’s jam packed with talent and genuine good humour. There is a relaxed atmosphere while being highly efficiently organised. 

I smile when I recall:

-When I stopped to enquire of two gentlemen how to respond when greeted with ‘Dia duit’. After encouragement followed by a little probing, I walked away with leaflets on Jehovah’s Witnesses.

-Teasing the priest about confession on the return bus journey from Ballybunion 

-Bridgette, on the restaurant staff, pretending to consult Met Eireann before assigning us a suitable  draught free table.

-When a lady I had met a few times ,witnessing my confused state after being coaxed to imbibe a glass of wine, asked me where I was staying. I replied “opposite a house with a fountain in the front garden. As it was dark it was a long journey way-out along the road. She maintained her good humoured and patience and I was eventually delivered safely home.

-We were asked if we would mind if two ladies joined us at our table in the restaurant only to discover that it was one of the nuns that t knew from the Salesians from Limerick. The Order that i belonged to for thirty-three years.


I realise that I am being ambitious in asking if I would be permitted to launch my autobiography ‘Dropping The Habit, together with my two novels Searching for Love and ‘A Love as Strong’ next year. You have very high standards. You invite very talented celebrities. So why am i putting myself forward?

In 2007 when Poolbeg published my autobiography  people were interested in discovering the reasons nuns and priests were leaving their communities. I was interviewed on television and radio and my story was featured in most of the newspapers in Ireland. When the person from the ‘Late, Late Show’ discovered that I did not have any ‘scandal’ to disclose she was no longer interested in my story.

I have no axe to grind. Nuns and priests loss departing from religious life have been temporarily ‘out-of-fashion for some years.  However as time has elapsed I am aware of a curiosity in the younger generation and a nostalgia in older people. 

I feel the need to write for two reasons:

1 Writing proved therapeutic after I was diagnosed with breast cancer soon after I left the convent.

2 A view of  convent life should be documented by someone who has spent more than half their life as a nun through the rapidly changing times of the past decades. 

My accounts are accessible in conversational style.

I will continue to recall and praise the Listowel Writers’ .

In appreciation 

Marion Dante 30th May

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