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New Writer 2023: Dervla Johanna

Fiction and Narrative Non-Fiction

Dervla McCormick headshot

Dervla has been writing for as long as she can remember, scribbling stories at the back of her school jotters about spies, or spaceships, or adventurers. Her desire to write drew her to studying English and Creative Writing at the University of Dundee where she graduated with a first-class honours. While in university her writing often featured in The Magdalen, a student-run magazine, and in 2018 her short-story, 'Baby Steps', was nominated as a runner up in the Mother's Milk Books short story prize.

After her undergraduate degree, Dervla studied a masters in English Literature at Queen's University, Belfast. Continuing her writing pursuits, she kept a blog where she wrote a new short story every day in November 2019. These stories were mostly fiction, but sometimes there were fictional characters plastered over real emotions. In December 2020 one of Dervla's stories, 'Pining for Christmas', was performed on BBC Radio Suffolk as part of the Ink Festival. 

Dervla graduated from her Masters with Distinction and has since been focused on writing longer form fiction, including some projects that she hopes will be published one day. Her long form fiction has the same amount of heart as her short stories but with just a bit more magic. She is currently working on a fantasy novel set in a fantastical version of Ireland.

Writing sample

The room had darkened since their last client had left. The sun had set and the only source of light were the candles dotted around the room, casting everything in half-shadow. Oisín was just about to help Cáit pack everything away when there was a knock at the door.

Hurt, the voice in Oisín’s head informed him. The word sent a shiver down his spine. There was a tingling in his chest.

Most of the time when clients came to the Seer’s lounge they were wounded in some emotional way: bad breakups, love affairs, broken hearts. But this was different. He felt this hurt low in his gut, like his skin was about to be torn open.

He forced himself to sit down at the table, holding his head in his hands. Everything felt light. “Cáit…” His throat was hoarse. The words came out barely louder than a whisper.

She turned to him, her expression shifting from her usual fake Seer’s gaze to one of great concern. “Oisín are –” The door burst open and cut her off from whatever she was about to say.

Cáit’s eyes snapped forward. Standing on their doorstep was a woman with soaking wet hair and a muddy cloak.

“I’m here to see the Seer.” The woman’s eyes fixed on Oisín and he felt his neck burn. He was the only person in the lounge with “the Gift” or “the internal nuisance” as he affectionately called it, but female Seers drew in more clients so he sat on the side-lines while Cáit acted the part. Normally no one paid attention to him, he was just the scribe. But this woman knew. He could see in her eyes that somehow she saw through their performance.

“What did you want to know?” said Cáit as she resumed her place at the table.

“I was wondering about a friend of mine, Aine?” the woman asked, still staring at him.

Aine McFadden. Dead.

Oisín gulped, the pain in his side worsening.

“I need your help to solve a murder.”

Dervla says:

'I'm absolutely "can’t stop maniacally grinning at the bus stop" levels of ecstatic to have received this award. Writing is the thing I love the most, my characters are like dear friends, and it means the absolute world that someone has read and enjoyed something I've written.'