Bits ‘n Pieces

Bits ‘n Pieces
Museum of Miniature, West Cork Arts Centre, Skibbereen

As part of the Museum of Miniature project at West Cork Arts Centre, I was invited to  write a short piece inspired by one of eight miniature works of art.

Aissa Lopez’  Miniature (below) made a deep impact on me and prompted my response, Return, which I read as part of the Museum of Miniature’s event at the West Cork Arts Centre in July 2018.


Miniature by Aissa Lopez


Houses shrink. We grow; they shrink. Go back, and everything seems smaller – hence the saying: Never go back. But I always did. Looking for you, probably.

This house, here, was all innocence: licking the wooden spoon when you baked, Fry’s Turkish Delight on Fridays, a big pink teddy bear one Christmas… The one time we had money for Mr Whippy, I was so excited I dropped the ice cream running home.

 You handled my despair; Mr Whippy had gone.

This one, then, this is where you entertained in elegant Irish-designed clothes and I turned prankster: hidden bells, collapsing chairs, a hamster stashed in my dolls’ house one April Fools’ that was never seen again … Here, too, I got my first pair of bell-bottoms and stood staring at the mirror, biting my finger – me, in bell-bottoms!

They were tweed, for feck’s sake. Tweed.

The house with the stairs outside – here you suffered and I fell in love. Deeply. He and I, we often lay on the floor in an alcove downstairs, between a room and a room, where you couldn’t surprise us. Nor we you. There was an orange cordial stain on my white bedroom carpet (mea culpa) and I once smashed a door through a wall. Well. A huntsman spider the size of my face was loitering on the back of the toilet door. The flight instinct has muscle.

This was a home of blue skies and water fights, of light and shadow. And lost days.

In the tall, thin house I discovered my writerly self – the one you had detected years earlier – while scribbling on yellow pages, gutted by Italian crooners. One winter’s day, I sat in the orange grove in a porcupine coat and for four hours wept my siblings’ loss. Mine, too.

Here, we spoke our last words.

This – this is the house where you have never been, where the grandchildren you have never known grew up, and where I grow older than you ever were.


Museum of Miniature-Writer_Denyse_Woods with Aissa-Lopez miniature_PhotoBy_MarieBrett








“An Irish writer who knows the world.”

Irish Times





Denyse Woods’ sixth novel, Of Sea and Sand, is published by Hoopoe Fiction (American University of Cairo Press) in 2018. Set against the stunning landscapes of Oman, the wild Atlantic coast of Ireland, and war-time Baghdad, this is a story of remorse, exile, love and the unseen.

OSAS hi res


“Supernaturally good. It is an engaging, unusual, and thought-provoking book.” Irish Times

“A fascinating and atmospheric read.” The Examiner

“… a mind-bending journey in which reality and fantasy get intertwined.” Gulf News

“… a cracking good story, and the writing is a treat, crisp and precise, warm and witty, with a gift for unpredictable metaphors and similes so strong that one of my notes reads ‘She writes like a jinn.’” Alannah Hopkin






Denyse’s other novels include the critically-acclaimed Overnight to Innsbruck and bestseller The Catalpa Tree. Her books have been translated into six languages.

In 2016, as the winner of the Florida Keys Flash Fiction Award, Denyse spent two weeks writing in Ernest Hemingway’s studio in Key West – the first author to do so since Hemingway himself. She has also been awarded residencies by the Shanghai Writers’ Association (with Munster Literature Centre); the Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris, and Zvona i Nari, Liznjan, Croatia. She is the recipient of an Arts Council of Ireland Literature Bursary and other grants. Denyse was Writer in Residence 2017 at Cork County Council’s Library & Arts Service. She is the former Artistic Director of the West Cork Literary Festival.

Born in Boston, Denyse had a peripatetic childhood. Moving from one country to another gave her a lifelong habit, and love, of writing letters, which proved an excellent apprenticeship for a novelist.

 “A real treat … I read it in one setting, holding my breath, such is Woods’ skill in building up tension.”

SPECTATOR  Overnight to Innsbruck

“Devlin shares Anne Tyler’s knack [with] imagery that feels effortless and familiar and wondrously vivid all at once.”

IMAGE Magazine The Catalpa Tree

‘”Evocative, painful, beautiful and haunting. Truly an extraordinary novel.”

Evening Herald The Catalpa Tree