DCU Library Creative Writing Competition Awards 2023

This year's DCU Library Creative Writing Competition Awards took place on Wednesday 31st May 2023. O'Reilly Library was the perfect venue for the ceremony, where we introduced our ten finalists and announced Dermot as the overall winner for his short story 'Surprise'. See photos from the night and read our ten shortlisted entries below.

The annual DCU Library Creative Writing Competition is open to members of adult literacy reading and writing groups based on the northside of Dublin. Each year, ten writers are shortlisted for the award: the overall winner receives a €100 book token and the nine remaining finalists receive a €30 book token. The ten shortlisted entries are also printed in a booklet that is shared with the finalists, the tutors and the audience at the awards ceremony.

Our guest speaker, author and DCU writer-in-residence Sophie White announced this year's winning entry as 'Surprise' by Dermot.


The award was accepted on his behalf by CDETB Mountjoy Education Centre tutor Clare O'Connell. 


Read Dermot's winning story here or listen to Dermot read the story himself.


The nine remaining finalists are: Eric, George, Michelle Horan, Liam Johnson, Eleanor Kelly, Les McShane, Derek Nibbs, Patrick, Paul.


Their brilliant entries can be read below - just click on each image to read the poem or short story featured. You also have the option to listen to Eric reading 'Hard-core' or George reading 'School.'


The Creative Writing Competition has been running in DCU Library since 1999. Read some of the winning competition entries we have received over the years and discover the incredible talent of our local writers. 


The awards night is always a special evening where we recognise the achievements of our ten finalists and their tutors and we celebrate everyone who takes part in the competition. It is one of the highlights of the year for DCU Library staff, who participate in the judging and organisation of the competition.

A man holding a gun sitting in a car is reflected in the car's side mirror
Hard-core by Eric

Hard-core by Eric


Listen to Eric reading his poem


Sitting in the Joy

Looking at the boys on the phy


They call me Harry

But I never carry

Yapping to the boys on the Blackberry

Looking at the rats in blue

They haven’t got a clue

Garda rejects getting lesser checks


Sitting in the cell 

Bored to the bone

Another Spliff going

As I’m bored to the bone

Wat can I say about it 

Always fighting the days

I don’t go without it

Or I’m biting my nails

So I light and inhale

Til I’m white and pale

A few joints in the night


I can’t say every day

I be givin’ it up

But every day that’s anuff


They call me Hard-core

Cause I’ll kick down the door

With me 44 

Have the bitch on the floor

Grab the cash from the drawer

Back into the Audi A4

Foot to the floor

Till you hear the Audi roar

Drop the gear and disappear


They haven’t got a clue  where I’m gone

So I’m back with the boys smoking a bong

Singing me song


And it went like this

Gloves and ballies on

For one reason

I work all season

So I bent back the door and pop the lock

Til I see the clock

Hit 90 comin’ on through

It’s the Coolock Crew

It’s what we do

Slide the bends 

It’s what we do


CDETB Mountjoy Education Centre

Shows a robin standing in flowers
Spring has Sprung by Michelle Horan

Spring has Sprung by Michelle Horan


My husband Timmy and I lived in a lovely house in County Galway. We had a large back garden and smaller front garden. We both enjoyed going for walks in the countryside with our dog, Patch. It was a pleasure to hear the cows mooing and the birds chirping. We also loved to work in the garden. Timmy especially liked tinkering in his greenhouse, planting tomatoes and sweet pea.


One night at dinner Timmy said, “Michelle, tomorrow morning we must plant daffodil and tulip bulbs in the garden for next spring”. The next day when I woke up Timmy was not beside me. I said to myself, “He must have gotten up early to take the dog for a walk”. I cooked the breakfast and when it was ready, I put it into the oven to keep warm. While I was slicing some homemade brown bread, Patch the dog ran into the kitchen barking and pawing at me. I said to him “Patch, what’s wrong?”, but he just kept barking and pawing at me and he ran out the back door looking at me to follow him. He was running towards the greenhouse. I followed him there and when I went into the greenhouse, I got the shock of my life. There was poor Timmy lying on the ground looking very pale. I knelt down and felt his wrist, but there was no pulse. “Oh my God!” I screamed, “He can’t be dead!” and I ran out of the greenhouse. 


My next door neighbour, Mary, must have heard my screams because just then she came into my garden and said to me “Michelle, is everything ok?” I replied, shaking, “No, Mary, Timmy is on the floor of the greenhouse dead!” Mary took me back into the kitchen and rang for the doctor and an ambulance, before making me a cup of sweet tea to help with the shock. Very soon the doctor arrived and having checked Timmy over he confirmed that Timmy had died of a heart attack and that he had died very quickly. He asked me if I had any family to stay with me and I told him I had a sister Jane living in Galway city. Jane came and stayed with me for a while.


A month after the funeral I went out to the back garden and into the greenhouse for the first time since Timmy had died. There were all of the daffodil and tulip bulbs in their bags. I ran back into the house and said out loud, “No, I can’t be bothered to plant the bulbs for next spring!” I avoided the back garden for another few weeks. One day I was drying the dishes when a robin flew in through the open kitchen window. He was flying very close to me, whistling at me aggressively. I tried to swish him away with a tea towel, but he just kept flying at me. Eventually he flew back out of the window. That night was very mild for the time of year, so I opened my bedroom window.


Early the next morning, before sunrise and before I was fully awake I heard this loud chirping – lo and behold it was the robin in my bedroom! He was flying around my head. After a few minutes he flew out of the bedroom window. Later on, while I was eating my breakfast, I thought about the robin and wondered why he was visiting me. It took me a while to think but then I remembered something Timmy had always said: “If a robin follows you around, it is someone’s spirit saying hello.” I gasped and said out loud, “Oh my God, that robin is Timmy’s spirit telling me to plant the bulbs for next spring!” So, I put on my wellingtons, went to the greenhouse, got the spade and bulbs and planted the daffodils and tulips in both the front and back garden. I also planted some hyacinths around Timmy’s cherry blossom tree. That night when I was in bed, I spoke to Timmy’s spirit saying, “Timmy, I planted some spring bulbs and I hope that they grow.” 


January that year was cold so I spent many an evening knitting by the fire. One spring morning when the weather was a bit brighter I ventured into the back garden to see what I could see. To my delight, the daffodils and tulips were all coming up. The hyacinths were also out, purple and pink. I was very happy. I went into the greenhouse and planted sweet pea and tomato seeds. After a while I sat on the bench beside Timmy’s cherry blossom tree. It was so lovely to get the scent of the hyacinth blossoms. I was just enjoying my tea and biscuits when the robin came along. I put my hand out with some biscuit on it. He flew onto my hand and pecked at the crumbs before flying towards the nest box. He was picking up twigs and small pieces from the grass and putting them into the nest box. I could hear the lambs in the nearby fields baaing. I stayed out in the garden listening to all of the birds singing and getting the fragrance of all of the lovely flowers. I looked up to the sky and said to myself, “Spring has sprung Timmy, Spring has sprung!”


CDETB Adult Education Centre Finglas/Cabra, Barry Road

Shows the top of an Irish telephone box
Telephone Boxes by Paul

Telephone Boxes by Paul


Conversation is dying, personal communication as well

We’re very reliant on texts, what the hell.

Computers and tablets are corrosive too,

Soon no need for speech, how sad for me and you.


Have you got the latest app

On your phone, or on tap.

We’re living in a virtual world,

No talking it’s absurd.


Caught in technologies, ever widening trap

Now we have to take the rap.

We have lost, our way,

Along the information highway.


There are generations, what a shame

Bytes and all, it’s getting lame.

Using their energy, to move a stick,

We have to solve, this problem quick.

Oh please, take me back

To when you couldn’t hack.

When conversation was good

Where telephone boxes stood.


CDETB Mountjoy Education Centre

Shows a meadow full of flowers
Spring is Sprung by Liam Johnson

Spring is Sprung by Liam Johnson
























CDEBT Adult Education Centre Finglas / St. Helena's

Shows a woman standing in water facing the sun with her arms stretched out
Because You're You! by Eleanor Kelly

Because You're You! by Eleanor Kelly



She cries with fear and she cries with so much pain,

She would love to see the sun but she only sees the rain.

Her heart slowly beats because it’s been broken into two,

If only someone could help her decide what she should do.

What’s the point in fighting these feelings anymore?

There’s no explanation why her heart cannot ever soar.

It’s heavy, it’s tired and only beats because it's something it just has to do,

A little bit of happiness, peace and freedom she knows is well overdue.

As she looks in the mirror what exactly 

does she see?

The pale ashen face that’s herself and who she doesn’t want to be.

As the tears begin to flow and the pain hits its peak,

She can shamefully admit within herself that she’s painfully weak.

She’s cried and she’s cried while she lies in the darkness once again wide awake, 

She’s tried and she’s tried to improve the path she unfortunately had to take.

Her brain can only try its hardest to be in harmony with her mind,

But in her heart the answers she knows they can both never find.



Her heart, body and soul she knows can never be repaired, 

Likewise she knows her voice also will never 

be heard.

Each day she hides her solid tears as she tries to hold her head high,

But realistically she knows that no one will ever fully understand why?

She can only sometimes hear music that brings peace and solitude  to her deep inside 

But when she looks up and can’t see the colour of the sun she knows her mind lied.

Her heart is so broken and so terribly tormented is her mind,

Her mixed and confused  emotions are buried within her and constantly entwined.

Her days are never bright as the darkness is never gone,,

It’s very clear to her that her path in life is so terribly wrong. 



Some days she can hear the birds sing, see the colours of the rainbow but is this even real?

Some days the sky looks blue but sure it’s temporary so what’s the big deal? 

The flowers sometimes bloom and she can hear laughter in the air,

But in her mind that’s not real and why should she actually care?

She’s broken, she’s hurt, she’s so angry and sad,

Is there a magic emotion somewhere that can make her feel glad?

The shame her body and soul feel will never leave her head,

The past, the present, the future will always fill her with utter dread.


The memories , the regrets and shame just fills her lost soul,

She feels that nothing can change as yet again she is losing control.

She sits in a glass box waving frantically at passers by,

She knows no one can see her and wonders did her heart die?

As the birds begin to sing and the dew falls on the mountain tops,

She wonders deep in her heart  will her heartache ever truly stop.



One day someone helps her see that heartache actually does hit all walks of life, 

Her road to recovery she can now grasp with both hands and embrace with all of her might. 

She realises that for her there could be a tiny flicker of hope, 

Like the springtime when the flowers begin to blossom her soul had just woke.

Someone said these simple  words that she never thought she would hear, 

She had to take a deep breath and make sure she they were indeed clear.

‘Eleanor you're you and you’re worth fighting for’

Her healing had just begun as her heart began to soar.

As the roses began to open and the birds left their nests,

The battle within her mind had finally been laid to rest.

Forgiveness is a learning process but how do u forgive all? 

Just begin this healing process and you too will learn how to stand tall.



Colours became real and darkness became light.

She started to tackle her demons with all of her might.

As her breaths slowly steadied and the toxic war in her mind cease,

She knew wholeheartedly she was finally freed of this silent disease.

She knew the burdens of life had indeed left her poor soul,

Now to share her lifelong experiences was now her new role.

She could give a message of hope to others as her mind and soul now had United as one , 

Never ever give up in life because like me you too can learn to see the colourful rays of the sun.

Always try and say a few words that can change someone’s sad, unhappy and lonely life, 

And Remember to always dig deep and you too will see the difference between the darkness and the light.


Coláiste Dúlaigh College of Further Education

Shows a man sitting in a prison cell
I Couldn't Go On by Patrick

I Couldn't Go On by Patrick


As I’m sit here in my cell

My escape

From the crazy city’s

Drug induced Hell


I can rest 

My weary, fragile body

And heal 

From damage done

And the drug man’s deal


I started young

And had no fears

Ignoring Mam’s worries

And all her tears


Eleven-year-old smoking hash

By twelve on gear

Now robbing for cash


To feed

An ever-growing habit

I promised my family I’ll do it no more

But those cramps and pains

Were too much to ignore


And I’d set off

For on last score

Licking my lips

As I had my fix

By now I’d lost my nearest and dearest

My health declined

My friend was gone

Inside was empty

I couldn’t go on


CDETB Mountjoy Education Centre

Shows a crystal decoration of an angel
The Christmas Angel by Les McShane

The Christmas Angel by Les McShane


He lay there in the bed, struggling to hold on to life. He seemed very agitated, tossing and turning in his fight for survival, in and out of consciousness. At one point he felt the need to spit. Something nasty in his mouth.  Nurse explained that the outer layer of skin on his tongue had dissolved.  Chemo will do that.


Danny was like a surrogate father to us.  A father of nine kids with him holding the title of first born, always there when he was needed, his own problems taking second place.  His love of people held no bounds, and the world loved him in return.


Two weeks earlier we had a surprise party for him.  The eldest of our family. It was a great success. The look on his face, priceless!  Childhood revisited. November 14th and an early Christmas for him.


Looking at the anxious faces lost in the shadows of a predawn, my eyes rest on his daughters Denise and Joanne. Denise the eldest, eyes red and swollen, the worry and pain etched on her face. God how she loved that man. Joanne her sister, 25 years old with the mind and heart of a child. One of life’s special people, shell-shocked. 


She first came into their lives at the tender age of one, fostered.  An unwanted gift from God. Her foster family made her a permanent part of their home and all of our lives from continuous fostering to adoption. 


He sat bolt upright in the bed with his arms outstretched and said “Mammy.”  Just “Mammy.”  When he lay back on the pillows there was a look of total peace and contentment about him, all anxiety ceased. For me I think that was the moment his life left him. Three hours later they pronounced him clinically dead. Five in the morning. The day before he was out of hospital buying Christmas presents as if there were no tomorrow. God, he got that one right.


Two days before his funeral, Joanne asked me why I did not tell her that her Dad was going to die. I explained that we all hoped he would pull through, but that in spite of the hospital’s best efforts and all our prayers, death was inevitable. That’s when she dropped the bombshell.


“He’s not dead you know,” she said. “He’s still at home. I see him on the stairs at night, every night,” she said.  “Are you afraid when you see him?” I asked.


“Why would I be afraid,” she said, “He’s my Dad. I love him, but I do need to know what’s wrong. Why is he still here?”


“Well, your Dad is still here for a couple of reasons,” I said. “First of all, if you look around you’ll see the immediate problem. It’s December 17th and not one decoration in sight! Danny would have put them up weeks before,” I said. “Inside and outside the house.”  


“I believe the other reason is that your Guardian Angel’s job has now been handed over to your Dad. When the decorations are in place you probably won’t see him again,” I said. “But you’ll know in your heart that he’s always close by.”


On Christmas morning I got a phone call from Joanne. “Happy Christmas Uncle Les, thank you for my present,” she said. “It’s the best present ever!”


“Happy Christmas to you too,” I replied. “I’m glad you like it.” I knew she liked Shania Twain.  “Enjoy the video,” I said. “And once again, have a good one.”


“No!” she said. “Not that. It’s beautiful, it’s my Dad!”


I had picked up a plastic angel about 10 inches high. The hands were joined in prayer and it looked like it was made of crystal. I was amazed at the impact it had on her and was so pleased it helped her to cope with the great loss. To this day it holds pride of place in her apartment.


CDETB Adult Education Centre Finglas/Cabra, Barry Road

Shows a boy giving a high five to a man
School by George

School by George


Listen to George reading School


Some people have called me weird, sometimes not the full deck,

So I pop into the circuit training and buff up the pecs.

I like going to the school sometimes lambs dressed as mutton,

So I sit down for computers, the mind on the buttons.

Just getting out of bed in the morning the eyes all bleary,

You look forward to the school, the teachers all cheery.

I don’t have to be brave to go or even be gallant,

Because the school’s full of promise and plenty of talent.

When life gives you trouble you can still turn it around,

The teachers uncover your hidden potential and are really quite sound.

You start to feel you belong, start to fit in a group,

Even a member of the Red Cross, like one of the troop.

You look forward to classes for the first time in a while,

Then you leave until tomorrow but it still makes you smile.

I’d like to say thank you to the teachers and to all the school,

Because I walk around chest out and happy feeling so cool.

You get to cook and to paint, maybe even to dance,

Just letting you all know now, just give it a chance.

My mind is kept busy and you forget awhile your hurt,

And for those couple of hours you truly feel your worth.

So tell your friend to try the classes, maybe shoot for the sky,

Then earn that junior or leaving or that hard QQI.


CDETB Mountjoy Education Centre

Shows a staircase
Tenement by Derek Nibbs

Tenement by Derek Nibbs


The hallways dull like an old fading black and white photo 

Tenements white smells of dust and crumbling red brick 

Cleaned every day 

Knees melting into the wooden stairways 

Brushes been pushed back and forth 

Disinfectant and soap

Steel bucket and wringing hands  

Hallways and newspaper like stepping stones

Halldoor kept ajar and back door open wide 

The breeze rushes through doing its job

Neighbours step lightly on yesterday's news

And the women talk as they guard their work 

And the lingering smell of disinfectant and soap


Dublin Adult Learning Centre, Mountjoy Square