News of a book deal helps reinstate my faith in reality

7 Apr


Escaping reality has never been a problem for me. I am one of those casualties from the Celtic Tiger. For one long year I used the power of my creative mind to escape reality and to convince myself that the economy would turn around and boom once again – tomorrow. I ignore the little window envelopes and continue to put them aside in a neat little pile. On good days I might open one then lapse back into denial. I managed to convince myself that “Michael” (not his real name for legal reasons) from the bank might even fancy me. He has a nice clear neutral accent. Well “Michael” phones me every few weeks and talks about repossession and budgets and legal action while I think about dinner for two.
Three weeks ago while “Michael” was serenading me again, I got an email from Paula (her real name) from Poolbeg Press. I had almost given up hope of ever getting a novel published. Several times I thought I might be a deluded old dafty. I often thought I was nothing more than a dreamer. During those bleak moments I would become Olive Collins, a failed writer unable to deal with reality who would eventually end up in the local nut-house.


I write fiction, love fiction and live for fiction but for a period, I considered writing one of those Misery Lit novels documenting my last few years of hell. The following would be a short synopsis of my Mis Lit novel:

– A once successful 40 something Marketing & Advertising executive must adapt to a life without shopping sprees, jaunts abroad, facials, and all the trappings of a self-obsessed life. Even more harrowing, she must adapt to driving a beaten up old jalopy after her sports car blows up all the while she lives in Cuckoo Land thinking the economic crisis is going to improve – tomorrow and the big bucks will come tumbling in the door again. This harrowing account (dramatic loud drum pounding music – Boom. Boom. Boom) of facing life with a crumbling botoxed face is a true account of her year of hell.

With the good news from Poolbeg there is a happy ending to my Mis Lit novel. Of course this news doesn’t improve my falling botoxed face or mounting bills but my ego gets a welcomed boost.

The new plot goes like this:

One day in Cuckoo Land “Michael” (from the Bank) finally manages to get through to Olive, this baffles her as she’s been avoiding his calls like the plague and thought she knew his number. When “Michael” is suggest money saving schemes, Olive gets an email from Paula. It is The Best email Olive has ever received and couldn’t give a fiddlers about banks or money or finance because she just won her very own unique kinda lotto.

That my friends is as true as I’m sitting on my couch with a neat pile of unopened bills and one sealed envelope containing my contract from Poolbeg.





Irish Literary Festivals

16 Jan

After the high of Christmas we all need something to look forward to. Rather than obsessing about overdrawn accounts and the short dark days of January, I compiled a list of writer’s festival to give me something to look forward to.

If I’ve left any festivals out, please let me know.


The Yeats Winter School, 31st January – 2nd February, Sligo. The aim of the weekend is to provide a basis for reading, exploring and thinking about Yeats’s poetry and his brother’s work, in the place where much of it began.

Cork Spring Poetry Festival 10th – 13th February. The Cork Arts Theatre is the venue for the Munster Literature Centre’s annual poetry festival. Confirmed readers include Kyle Dargan, Paisley Rekdal, Ailbhe Darcy, Caitriona O’Reilly and many more.


Kate O’Brien Weekend, 26th – 28th February, Limerick City The Weekend is a celebration of books, authors and readers and commemorates the achievements of Limerick-born author, Kate O’Brien. This year’s line-up include Louis de Bernieres, Donal Ryan, Tim Pat Coogan and Claire Keegan.

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Ennis Book Club Festival 4th – 6th March, This festival includes author readings, discussions, workshops and walking tours through the narrow streets and lanes of Ennis.


Mountains to Sea, 9th 13th March, Dun Laoghaire, A series of talks and workshops suitable for all age groups. Previous visiting authors include Margaret Atwood, Colum McCann, Anne Enright and Michael Longley.


The Cuirt Literary Festival 19th – 26th April Galway Six days of poetry, fiction, and many more at Galway’s Literary Festival.


International Literature Festival Dublin, 21st – 29th May with readings, discussions, debates, workshops, performance and screenings, the festival creates a hotbed of ideas.


Listowel Writers Week 1st – 5th June Ireland’s oldest and probably premier literary event attracts international authors to talk, facilitate workshops, debate and provoke audiences in the historic and intimate surroundings.



Borris House Festival of Writing and Ideas 10th – 12th June, Carlow The festival is hosted in Borris House and filled with a who’s who of the best writers.

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Dalkey Book Festival June 2016, Dalkey, Dublin. Since it began in 2010 it has hosted internationally renowned writers, including Booker Prize winners, a Nobel Laureate, Impac winners, Oscar winners and Tony award nominees.



Hay Festival Kells, 19th – 26th June. Kells rose to the occasion when they hosted The Hay Festival for the first time in 2014. The line-up included Germaine Greer, Jeanette Winterson, DBC Pierre.

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West Cork Literary Festival begins 16th July An annual highlight in the Irish literary calendar, the West Cork Literary Festival is a week-long celebration of writing and reading for people of all ages.


Kildare Readers Festival, October (dates to be finalised), A full weekend of literary delights for bookworms, writers and readers alike. The festival will include author readings and interviews, poetry, music, drama and an opportunity to meet with other book lovers in the warm and welcoming atmosphere of Riverbank Arts Centre, Newbridge, Kildare.

My D-Day has arrived

4 Jan

While most of you are returning to work today, I am slowly rising from my bed and trying to find a clear calmness to embrace my very own D-Day, the day I submit my manuscript. I’m listening to Leonard Cohen, Hallelujah (it might seem a bit dramatic but there is method to my magic). Leonard will elevate me to a higher plane. A place where rejection or acceptance, mild criticism or disregard will not dent my writing ambitions.

The synopsis goes a little like this:

The Memory of Music opens in Dublin in January 1916. Through the protagonists eyes my novel relays the political and social events in Ireland 1916 to 1925. It explores the life of Betty Hopkins and how events that were covered up in 1925 affected her daughter and granddaughter. Those secrets are finally uncovered by her great-granddaughter in 2016.
Told in 3 parts, Part 1 & 2 tells the story of Betty Hopkins and her husband Seamus from January to May 1916 to 1925 as events unfolded during Ireland’s wars, and their lives in the aftermath. Part 3 introduces Betty Hopkins grandchildren and great-grandchildren. As secrets churn their way to the surfaces in Betty Hopkins old home, it finally pieces together the past and gives them understanding of the previous generations.
Betty Hopkins is proud, ambitious and clever. While working in her father’s violin shop in rural Ireland she meets Seamus Hopkins, a gifted violin maker. In 1916, equipped with his dreams of freeing Ireland, and her desire to escape the humdrum realities of rural life, they elope to Dublin. Betty is disappointed with Dublin life and her husband, whose priority is Ireland’s freedom. As tensions increase with Ireland’s escalating troubles, Betty finds consolation with her husband’s comrade, Phelim Salmon. With the ensuing Civil War Phelim and Seamus take opposing sides. Betty and Phelim exchange a series of letters which identify the roles they played in Seamus’ demise. Their correspondence remains hidden for almost 100 years.
Betty’s daughter Isabel is born during the 1916 rising. As she is dying she recalls fragments of her life from a hospital bed. Through her recollections we are given another view point. The events from the period defined the woman she became which impacted her relationships with her children.
Eilish is Isabel’s granddaughter from Dublin. She is clawing her way out of bankruptcy by trying to re-establishing the company her great-grandfather founded almost 100 years previously. While living in her great-grandmother’s home she uncovers the letters exchanged between Betty and Phelim 90 years previously. As the surprises are revealed, it finally allows the women a greater understanding of the true events that shaped Isabel’s life and in turn their own lives.

Leonard Cohen is now singing, Dance Me, there is a reckless gaiety to the tune that signifies the end, the end of exploring a Ireland’s history that needled me until I wrote this book. If I am disregarded or receive a litany of rejections, at the very least I understand how our grandparents and great-grandparents lived through Ireland’s turbulent beginnings and many wars. After writing 104,000 words, I finally understand the fragments of their past that shape our present.




New Year’s Resolutions lie in Reverse Psychology

1 Jan

On the 1st January every year of my adult life I wake up with sterling resolutions. I won’t bore you with the usual gym-membership-stop smoking-work harder litany. We all know, by the end of January the gym bag is “lost”, the yellow nicotine stains are on the brown side and the notion of working harder reminds us of our childhood aspirations to be an astronaut. It’s like the deep indention on the couch that swells with each passing month. Essentially, the opposite happens every single year.

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This year, 2016, the Chinese Year of the Monkey, things will be different.

The answer is Reverse Psychology.

My New Year’s Resolutions for 2015 –

I will smoke 2 packets rather than a measly 1 pack of cigarettes a day
I will not surpass my dating record (4 months per year at 1 date a week before I flee to my single, footloose and fancy-free comfort zone)
Begin each day with a full Irish fry dripping with fat and eat a FULL banoffee pie
I will use 2 swear words per hour
I will use my exercise bike to explore new sexual positions with some random stranger and take a sledgehammer to my treadmill
I will take promiscuity to a new level (Johnny Cash said, “Ain’t nothin’ too weird for me”. “Well, The Ghost of Mr Cash, you should visit my home in 2016!!!”
I will stop writing. I will not submit my finished novel and for 2016 I will ignore the little storylines and frighten away the noteworthy characters who enter my head.

At 3.37pm on January 1st, I have encountered my first obstacle which proves my Reverse Psychology Theory works.

I ate so much junk yesterday, the notion of one slice of banoffee pie makes me ill.
The dog is staring at me with pleading eyes for a walk, which I will gladly do for the dog’s sake.
The ‘effing curisng ‘effing problem is not as easy as I thought. My first ‘effing phone call of the ‘effing New Year ending with my friend hanging up when I told him about my ‘effing 2 swear words per sentence.

I am writing this which means my resolution not write has been broken.
So, if you have problems sticking to your ‘effing New Year’s Resolutions, try my method of Reverse Psychology.

What are your Reverse Psychology New Year’s Resolutions?



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