Achill Archaeology Field School

Presentation created for high school World History students based on my field school experience at the Achill Archaeology Field School

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Teachin’ the Craft

Pretty Ain’t Easy: The Myth of the Easy Short Story Cycle. 

There’s a belief among writers that linked short stories are easier to write than novels, that perhaps a story cycle is really an attempted novel that failed.

In this workshop, we’ll discuss the benefits of reading and writing a story cycle and compare the experience with that of a novel and short story. We’ll also examine ways in which various authors have intentionally linked their collections, analyze the most effective techniques, with the goal of applying them to our own writing.

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This was the blurb to the craft seminar I taught today at Queens, part of our MFA graduating requirements. Although I read a dozen linked short story collections, I really focused on Junot Diaz and how he linked his 3 books, using his main character and narrator, Yunior.

I also presented an overview of ways stories can be linked from Dr. Kevin Cook, Short Story Cycles, Linked Stories, & Novels-in-Stories. (Arizona Universities Faculty Exchange Lecture Series. April 4, 2007.) and listed techniques as described by Dylan Landis, in his Paper Chains and Lace: Lessons on Linked Stories from Love Medicine(Tri-Quarterly. March 12, 2012.)

As a class we read excerpts from Diaz’s story Fiesta 1980, and analyzed the links presented there which carried over into his most recent book, This Is How You Lose Her and specifically the story, The Cheater’s Guide to Love. We also discussed the idea of novel vs. linked stories, and brainstormed story collections that are not labeled as linked, but could be. A great class, a great discussion!

I’ve included my list of recommended readings below. Feel free to add your own in the comments section!

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Recommended Reading List:

1. Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich
2. The Beggar Maid by Alice Munro
3. Drown by Junot Diaz
4. This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz
5. The Brief, Wondrous, Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz – novel
6. Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson
7. The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie
8. Good Scent from a Strange Mountain by Robert Olen Butler
9. Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
10. Animal Crackers by Hannah Tinti

Today In Irish History – March 7, 1913, Women Take Sides in Achill Land Agitation

Today In Irish History – March 7, 1913, Women Take Sides in Achill Land Agitation.

Check out The Irish Story’s article written by Patricia Byrne on the 1913 Achill Land Agitation and the role of Agnes MacDonnell.

(side note: I spent a summer studying Archaeology in Achill so I’m always fascinated with a bit of Achill history)

Luimneach/Limerick: Castles and Crosses

I spent a day on my own, wandering through Limerick, or Luimneach. As a city, Limerick exemplifies the complex history of Ireland. Vikings, Scots, English (Norman English, Victorian English), and native Irish all played a part in Limerick’s development. 


My only preparation was a guidebook and Bus Eireann. ( I love Bus Eireann. I highly recommend it. The bus ran, even when the trains went on strike. Comfy seats, perfect for quick travel naps.)

I arrived in Limerick and I had no itinerary but to explore.  I wish I had taken the Angela’s Ashes Walking Tour and see where Frank McCourt spent his childhood. It’s first thing to do on my list when I return. McCourt says this in the first pages of Angela’s Ashes: “Limerick gained a reputation for piety, but we knew it was only the rain.”


©Sheila R. Lamb


I meandered through the city on a cloudy (but not raining) day in July and found a cemetery where I saw my first Celtic cross. It happened  have the Lamb name, so I was impressed. Now I wonder if William Lamb Stokes, High Sheriff of the City of Limerick, was particularly well-liked during the years of 1909 and 1910.   









From there, I went to King John’s Castle, across the River Shannon, on it’s own island. Built (obviously) under the reign of King John of England, it was considered a Protestant haven during the Irish Rebellion of 1641. Even in earlier times of peace and prosperity, Limerick was divided as an English side, on Inis Sibhtonn, or King’s Island, where the castle was located, and the Irish city across the river.    
©Sheila R. Lamb

Though Limerick was founded by the Vikings in 922, the Irish captured the city some forty years later, enduring a few more Viking skirmishes. Until the formation of the Irish Free State and later, the Republic of Ireland (Eire), the turbulent history between England and Ireland is defined in the city  of Limerick. 


Sources: Tim Lambert’s A History of Limerick, Ireland.






FamilySearch.org Beta: Use It!

For those of us involved in historical research, the advent of online primary source documents has been a godsend. At least for me. Microfilm reels make me queasy.

The reason why I like FamilySearch.org and FamilySearch.org Beta is because I don’t need a library card or password to log on. Yes, I’m that lazy HeritageQuest.

Or pay a fee. Yes, I’m that poor Ancestry.com.

Maria Lamb, 1905 Census, Yonkers, New York.

 The Beta site has many more resources than the main site. Family Search site contains1880 census records, social security documents and user-input birth and marriage records. The Beta site includes more obscure census data, such as the New York State 1865, 1892 and 1905 records. And I’m only talking New York.

Records are available for numerous states and countries – browse by location or document type. These include census, marriage and birth records, death records, military, migration and probate court. Year span ranges from pre-1700 to the present. Outside of the United States, the majority of records exist for North America and Europe. Still, there are a few for Africa, Asia and the Middle East. New Zealand and Australia lie somewhere in between.  The downside is that not all of the collections have browse-able images. Many do, but not all. Due to privacy laws of various countries, some information cannot be displayed.

Beta also has a great online tutorial with lessons for beginning research, creating a family tree, and a list of all the LDS centers where you can get research help in person. FamilySearch is created and maintained by the LDS church.

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