Playwriting Course at Big Smoke Writing Factory

It’s been a few years since I’ve run a playwriting course, since I’ve been so busy with my work at the Abbey and my own writing.

I’m delighted to be teaching one again for the lovely folks at Big Smoke Writing Factory, beginning on the 9th February. It’s an eight week course that covers the basics of good writing: characterisation, plot, structure, language, style and genre and redrafting. We’ll also be looking at some classics and trying to work up new scenes and play ideas.

There are one or two places left still, and you can book here

New Year New Writing

I’m finishing up full time work at the Abbey Theatre at the end of this year to return to freelance work. After two exciting but hectic years as Literary Manager, I’m looking forward to dedicating more time to writing and teaching.

I’ve a few courses lined up for Spring 2017, covering playwriting, poetry, and spoken word at Big Smoke Writing Factory and the Irish Writers Centre. Take a look – maybe one of these might be a nice Christmas present idea for a friend who needs a creative boost?

Write the Play – Fundamentals at Big Smoke Writing Factory

Start Date Duration Time Slot Fee
Thursday January 26th 8 weeks 6.30pm-8.30pm € 200
Ever wanted to write a play, but didn’t know where to begin?
This course is suitable for those looking for an all round introduction to the craft of playwriting, or those with a play-in-progress looking for a creative boost. We’ll cover the basics of playwriting under the headings of plot, characterisation, structure, dialogue, theatricality and style and redrafting. Each participant will also be encouraged to write and workshop a number of scenes.
Jessica Traynor is a dramaturg and poet who has worked as Literary Manager with the Abbey Theatre, reading and responding to hundreds of plays and developing new work for the Abbey and Peacock stages with some of Ireland’s top playwrights.

Starts: Mon 6 Feb 2017
Time: 6.30pm – 8.30pm 
Duration: 6 Weeks
Cost: €165/€150 Members

Award-winning poets Adam Wyeth and Jessica Traynor are offering a space for your poems to be workshopped and critiqued in a relaxed and supportive atmosphere. Each participant will have the opportunity to read their own pieces to the group. They will then have a chance to listen to feedback from their audience, with Adam and Jessica giving a final summary of detailed analysis, constructive feedback and suggestions for further improvement.

Jessica Traynor’s debut poetry collection, Liffey Swim (Dedalus Press, 2014), was nominated for the 2015 Strong/Shine Award. Adam Wyeth is a published poet and playwright and works as editor for Fish Publishing.


The Art of the Spoken Word with Emmet Kirwan and Jessica Traynor

Starts: Wed 8 March 2017
Time: 6.30pm – 8.30pm
Duration: 6 Weeks
Cost: €165/€150 Members

As an art form and mode of communication, spoken word is enjoying tremendous popularity and is a powerful and playful way to communicate on themes of social importance. Spoken word embraces word-play, intonation and voice inflection with strong links to rap, hip-hop, theatre, jazz and blues. While the words are important, how they are delivered is equally so. This new course takes a two-pronged approach, as actor, writer and star of RIOT, Emmet Kirwan focuses on the art of performance, the truth, delivery and connection to the audience, while award-winning poet Jessica Traynor will guide participants through the technicalities of the form.

Jessica Traynor is a poet and creative writing teacher from Dublin. She is Literary Manager of the Abbey Theatre. Her first collection, Liffey Swim, was published by Dedalus Press and  shortlisted for the Shine/Strong First Collection Award.

Emmet Kirwan is an award winning actor, playwright, poet and voiceover artist from Tallaght in Dublin. He has worked extensively on Irish television and Film appearing in many films as well as leading roles in home grown Irish series from the Big Bow Wow and Legend for RTE and Jack Taylor for TV3.

Mindshift – From Page to Stage at the Irish Writers Centre

I’m delighted to be taking part in a professional development day for aspiring playwrights at the Irish Writers Centre this Saturday 4th October.

There’s a great line up and I’ll be kicking off the day with some tips on submitting your play to theatres. I’d highly recommend this Mindshift event for any aspiring playwrights or theatre makers, as it’s a great way to familiarise yourself with the industry and the people who work in it promoting and producing new writing. Here’s the full programme for the day:

Mindshift: From Page to Stage with Industry Professionals

Learn the dos and don’ts of preparing your play for submission from the Abbey Theatre’s Literary Reader, Jessica Traynor. Hear from Karl Shiels (Theatre Upstairs), Anthony Fox (The New Theatre), Sarah Ling (Project Arts Centre) and Kris Nelson (Dublin Fringe Festival) as they present on the opportunities available to emerging playwrights.

Literary Managers Aideen Howard (Abbey Theatre), Gavin Kostick (Fishamble) and Maureen White (Rough Magic) discuss the kind of work they’re interested in receiving and what makes a good play. Ireland’s leading playwrights Michael West and Deirdre Kinahan will share their experiences of getting produced. All sessions will be followed by Q&A from the audience.

I think some places are still available – booking here:

Creative Clinics at the Irish Writers Centre

On Saturday 24th May, I’ll be running a series of one-hour consultancy sessions as part of the Irish Writer’s Centre’s new Creative Clinics initiative. These one-to-one sessions are aimed at aspiring playwrights and are ideal for anyone looking for advice on how to develop their work, where to send their play, and on what kinds of opportunities there are out there for playwrights. I’m hoping the participants will come away feeling inspired and re-energised!

There are some places still available. Please do spread the word to any interested parties! More info and booking here:



Saturday 24th May + Sat 7th June

10.30am – 4.30pm
Duration: 1 Day

Cost: €85/€75 Members

We’re giving writers at all stages of their professional development the opportunity to book a one-hour slot with an experienced, published writer. You can use it to discuss any aspect of your work as a writer: to get a professional opinion on an idea or concept, to address a specific problem, to get an assessment of and feedback on a sample piece of text, or to seek industry advice.

Your chosen author will review a small sample of your work in advance (1,000 words) whether that be a synopsis, sample text, script treatment, or a summary of the issue to be addressed. The author may, if you wish, take further time during the hour to read more of your work before feeding back and offering advice. Consultations are strictly limited to one hour, but arrangements may be made for ongoing consultations.

The following writers will cover these chosen areas.

Celine Kiernan

Sci-fi / Fantasy

24th MAY

Sean O’Reilly

Fiction & Short Stories

24th MAY

Jessica Traynor

Theatre script

24th MAY

Lauren McKenzie

Film & TV script

24th MAY

Louise Phillips

Crime / Thriller (2 dates)

24th MAY & 7th JUN

Henry McDonald


7th JUN

Oisín McGann

Children’s Writing

7th JUN

Conor Kostick

Rights & Contracts

7th JUN


There are three slots available with each writer, which are:

10.30AM – 11.30AM
11.45AM – 12.45PM
1.30PM – 2.30PM


For more information on these clinics and to book a slot, please call 01 8721302.




Workshop at All Ireland Drama Festival

The RTE All Ireland Drama Festival is the highlight of the amateur dramatic year and a wonderful occasion which brings together talented drama practitioners from all over Ireland:

‘The RTÉ All Ireland Drama Festival sees the nine top amateur drama groups in Ireland compete for the honour of being crowned All Ireland Champions 2014.

Having come through a qualifying circuit of thirty five local drama festivals held throughout Ireland in February and March, these groups will battle it out in a grand final in Athlone in May. The adjudicator is Russell Boyce. This is the most prestigious event in the world of amateur theatre and is supported by a full programme of fringe events including art exhibitions, workshops and entertainment at various venues around the town throughout the duration of the festival.’

I’m delighted to be teaching a playwriting workshop as one of the Festival Fringe events at the Luan Gallery on Saturday the 3rd May from 10.00-13.00. This three hour crash course will give participants the opportunity to formulate an idea for a play while focusing on character, structure and dialogue. Details below. Bookings can be made by calling the Luan Gallery on 090 644 2154.



More information on all Fringe Events can be found here:


Introduction to Playwriting




I’ve two playwriting courses beginning in the next few weeks. My Playwriting Workshop course is filling up fast at Big Smoke, but I believe there are still a few places left in my Introduction to Playwriting course at the Irish Writers Centre.

This course is suitable for those looking for an all round introduction to the craft of playwriting, or those with a play-in-progress looking for a creative boost. We’ll cover the basics of playwriting under the headings of plot, characterisation, structure, dialogue, theatricality and style and rewriting. Each participant will also be encouraged to write and workshop a number of scenes. 

The course is eight weeks long and begins on the 6th May. More details and booking here:

Poetry and playwriting courses




My new poetry and playwriting courses are kicking off next week in Big Smoke Writing Factory’s new premises in Temple Bar. Sign up if you want to kickstart your creativity in the new year – I can promise good fun, great value and a supportive atmosphere in which to develop your writing skills.

Info and bookings below:

Beginning To Write Poetry (6 weeks – €150)
MONDAYS, starting 20th January 2014, 6.30pm-8.30pm

Write The Play – Fundamentals (8 weeks – €200)
THURSDAYS, starting 23rd January 2014, 7pm-9pm

…or you can contact me at if you’d like more information about course content.

Here are some testimonials from previous participants to give you a flavour of the atmosphere of the courses. If any of you recognise your own words, thanks again!

“A brilliant course. Compact and practical (just what I wanted) but with enough room to explore individual participant’s writing. Jessica is very generous with her time and feedback and the reading examples were spot on. I would highly recommend this course as an excellent way to start writing that play you have in mind!”

“A great course. Brilliant notes and Jessica was very generous with her time and knowledge. There was also a lovely atmosphere and our little group enjoyed lots of tea & chocolate biscuits to fuel the creativity!!”

“Really enjoyed and learned so much from doing this course. Jessica is very generous with her time, knowledge and feedback and makes writing that play much less daunting. An equally lovely and sharing group of people was the cherry on top.”

“A great course, Jessica’s enthusiasm was contagious! It opened me up to other styles of play-writing, some great choices of writing. It has given me the motivation and confidence to get going and keep going until the play is complete!”




One for the Playwrights…

Just a quick note which might be interesting for any non-Dublin based playwrights looking to develop their work or receive feedback (this also might be of interest to Dublin-based playwrights who find it difficult to commit to a six or eight week course!)

Alongside the group playwriting courses I run for Big smoke Writing Factory, I also offer an online course and a play reading service. 

The first is useful for those developing a work in progress, as we work together over a period of six to eight weeks, with me sending tutorials and the playwright sending work  to be critiqued in return. The second option is good for any of you who may have a play in a drawer that they need a second opinion on! Generally I read the play and deliver four to five pages of feedback within a two week period, before meeting with the playwright to discuss. I really enjoy this one-to-one work, and I know it’s helped a few playwrights get excited about a project all over again.

I’m accepting participants for the online course and the play reading service on a rolling basis. Links to some more info on both services here – and you can always contact me here if you’ve any questions.

Online Course:

Play reading service:

Keeping Busy

It’s been quiet around here the last while as I’ve been busy with a couple of projects. Firstly, I changed roles within the Abbey at the beginning of June and am now the Literary Reader. I’m really enjoying my new work; it’s much more closely focused on reading and assessing plays, which is what I like to do. There are also some other exciting developments in the works, but more on those later.

I’ve just finished up a Wednesday evening workshop course with Big Smoke Writing Factory, which I’m already missing. This was a course for slightly more advanced playwrights who have a draft of a play that they want to knock into shape. I had a lovely group with interesting voices and incredibly varied interests and preoccupations. It’s wonderful being in the middle of that creative dynamic. The structure of the course was as follows: each week I’d circulate an extract from some successful contemporary plays from Ireland, the UK or the USA and we’d begin the session by discussing them. In this way I hoped to give mini-masterclasses on current trends in theatre while also demonstrating certain playwrights’ skills for characterisation, dialogue, structure etc. After this, we would workshop an individual scene from two or three of the participants’ plays. None of us purported to be brilliant actors or readers, but hearing the scene read aloud and receiving the group’s critique is an invaluable part of the process which can be difficult to simulate at your writing desk on your own. A combination of complementary reading and workshopping seems to be a winning formula when it comes to developing work and the group all left very happy, some of them with plays that will be produced in the near future. I do miss them, though – it was a lovely way to spend my Wednesday evenings. I’m hoping to run a similar course at the beginning of 2014.

Dublin’s independent writing school

Over the past months I’ve also been working as dramaturg with Chalk Talk Theatre Company, helping the wonderful Máirín O’Grady and Louise Melinn develop their play for the Fringe Festival. Working with director Aoife Spillane-Hinks has also been fantastic and after a couple of months of hard graft, the script is ready to be subjected to the rigours of the rehearsal process. Both playwrights were always open and receptive to feedback and demonstrated a real passion and dedication to their work. Even over the past few weeks, when both knew they were on the home stretch (and were exhausted) they kept plugging away at the script, smoothing out any final inconsistencies or hang-overs from previous drafts. It’s so refreshing to see that winning mixture of energy and discipline in young playwrights. It was a real pleasure to work with them and I’m looking forward to seeing the play, which is a smart and funny – a surreally allegorical take on the Irish emigrant experience. Oh, and Aoife, Louise, Máirín and producer Aisling O’Brien have assembled a brilliant cast and creative team as well. Watch this space for more updates on the show and put it at the top of your Fringe must-see list.

From left to right: Margaret McAuliffe, Barry John O’Connor, Jill Harding, Charlie Bonner, Rebecca Grimes

Sam Shepard’s Typewriter

My new header is a photo of a typewriter in the Abbey Theatre Literary Department. We got it for Sam Shepard during one of his trips to Dublin a couple of years ago so he could write in his hotel room (he doesn’t do computers!) I had the job of sourcing it, which proved near impossible – our props department have a beautiful array of bashed vintage types, but it’s almost impossible to find ribbons for them. In the end, I found this online and nabbed it. It’s still sitting in the Literary Department with a post-it reading ‘Sam Shepard’s typewriter – Jessica to collect’ in case Sam ever feels inspired on a future trip to Dublin.