Friday, December 3, 2010

A helping hand

There’s a moment right before you fall, when you know you’re going to fall.

For me, that moment happened today, on a slanty bit of path outside Blackrock Shopping centre. I knew as I stepped onto the ice that it was a mistake, could feel my trusty hiking boots unable to get a grip and looking down all I could see were my feet slide back and back and back. It seemed to go on forever and I couldn’t do anything except get ready for the impact. But it never came.

I didn’t fall because just as I was about to a hand grabbed my arm from behind, a hand that was solid and safe. When I turned around I saw a lady – a much older lady – with a stick that she’d dug into the ice. I’d never seen her before, but she was smiling out from under her fur hat. “Come on,” she said, and reached out a hand to pull me up to the top where the ice had already melted, only letting go when we were both safe and sturdy, saying goodbye as we parted ways into the centre.

If I’d been blogging every day since the weekend, I suspect the blog would have different takes on the snow. Wonder at its beauty, calm in its silence, the frustration of cancelled plans and foregone work opportunities. But now, watching the thaw through the window, the ice that becomes water, what stands out in my mind from this week is the kindness this weather brings out in people, the sense of us all being in it together.

So thank you to my lady in Blackrock for stopping me falling and to my neighbour who’s been busy all week clearing a walkway along the path and snow from my car and to the Gate theatre for allowing myself and my friend to reschedule our tickets to Jane Eyre for January instead of last night.

And as we get ready to wave goodbye to the snow, I hope that some of that kindness stays behind, long after it’s gone.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

No Place Like Home At Christmas

For anyone who is torn this Christmas between putting their money towards a charity gift or a “real one,” the Jack and Jill Foundation’s short story collection There’s No Place Like Home at Christmas might just tick both boxes, at least for the under tens in your life.

This lovely hardback book has 29 stories in total, all centred around the idea of being at home for Christmas, tying in well with the important work Jack and Jill do, providing nursing support and respite for families of children with brain damage so they can receive care at home. Alongside yours truly, other contributors include Maeve Binchy, Ciara Geraghty, Niall Quinn, Eddie Hobbs, Cathy Kelly, Patricia Scanlan and, as they say, many, many more!

Why not pick it up this week and make it into a type of storybook Advent calendar to read with your kids? Healthier for the kids than chocolate and arguably healthier for the adults than spending the time watching endless analysis of our financial situation on the news!

The book is available for €14.99 in shops, or you can purchase online directly from the publishers Mercier for a special price of €13.49 on the link below...;_Jill_Foundation%29/571/

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Fly me to the moon

I’ve always been a little obsessed by the moon. My mother recalls how as a baby I’d stare at it, craning my neck to see around the pram’s hood when it went out of sight. When I learned how to work my arms the staring was joined by pointing and ‘moon’ was one of my first words. The obsession lasted into my childhood, and even though it was a blow to discover it wasn’t actually made of cheese, the moon still holds a magnetism for me today.

So that’s why on my way home tonight, when I saw it hanging out so full and round, half hidden by a smoky cloud over Spar in Monkstown, I knew I had to take a detour down to the sea. By rights, I should’ve gone straight home, I didn’t have time to be faffing around, finding parking and the perfect spot to snap a photo of the moon. I should’ve been doing stuff back here, stuff that would be finished by now, people who would be e-mailed, washing that would be drying, phonecalls that would be made. And more of my novel would be written, because that’s what I should be doing now, instead of updating this blog. Which, by the way, I should’ve done yesterday.

I should feel guilty about all of that, but I don’t. I’m just happy with my photo of the moon, so happy, I want to put it on my blog and share it with you. And all of the little ramble to here, got me wondering what life might be like, what things we might share or learn or enjoy, if we all let go of our ‘shoulds’ every now and then, just for a little while...

Friday, November 12, 2010

Because I am a girl

As readers of this blog will know, I don’t typically use it as a platform for politics or to tackle the big issues of the day. For one thing, I usually blog to take a break from more serious topics, it’s a chance to be a little more reflective. For another, there are enough information sources online already, written by people who are much better informed on these topics than I am.

But when I was asked to be a guest blogger as part of Plan Ireland’s “Because I am a Girl” campaign, I knew I wanted to get involved. And that was before I’d seen the really shocking statistics.

For me, one of the saddest parts of charity advertising campaigns, particularly those around Africa, is how much it takes to actually shock. It’s just so easy to become immune, to switch off, to listen to statistics and numbers but not to hear.

Plan Ireland’s campaign is full of numbers, terrible numbers. Numbers of women who are not in school, who are born to teenage mothers, who have HIV and AIDS. But of all of them the one that really hit me was this one:

70,000 girls every day are forced into marriage.

Every day. That happened today. It will happen tomorrow. By the time we’ve seen the X Factor results on Sunday night that’s over 200,000 teenagers – some girls as young as 12 – who’ll be forced into marriages, ending their education and their freedom. Soon, they’ll have children, and if those children are girls, the cycle will begin again and again. Unless we do something to try and stop it.

If you have a chance read the blog, comment, watch the video, tell other people, start a conversation. If you have the cash, make a donation or sponsor a child.

Only last week a client and I were having a chat – a rant really – about how about 90% of marketing directors in Ireland are male and about how writing by men is usually classed as ‘literary fiction’ while writing by women falls into the ‘chick lit’ category. These imbalances are important, of course they are, and we should talk about them.

But there are other, more important, more life threatening imbalances taking place all over the world, today. And I think we need to talk about them as well.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

5 things I like about here

The last time I updated this blog I was in Brooklyn and I said I wasn’t good at endings. Today, I’m in Dublin, it’s a week since I’ve come home and I’m wondering if maybe I’m not so hot on transitions either?

The thing about this week is that even though my body has been here, for a lot of the time my head – and my heart – has been in New York. I’ve found it easy to disappear down some time and space tunnel where I start to play the “this time last week” game. You know the one. For me it came up particularly during unscheduled challenges – work stresses, an emergency dental appointment, eircom cutting off my e-mail – and suddenly I’d be three thousand miles and seven days away – walking the Highline from 14th street, writing at one of the long tables in the reading room in the New York Public Library, playing ping pong in Fat Cat’s.

It can be an enjoyable game, but an addictive one, so to stop it turning into some kind of post trip slump, yesterday I challenged myself to find five things that Dublin does better than New York.

To be honest, it wasn’t that hard. I live by the sea and to be able to get there in a few minutes, to see the waves and smell the air could account for numbers one to three at least. And then there’s the fact that living here I have a garden and in mine the climbing roses are still blooming, still bright orange, in November. Numbers one and two easily accounted for. Last night, watching Ireland versus South Africa in our fancy new stadium I reflected on how much better a game rugby is than baseball – even when we’re losing – which made three, and at a push for a fourth I conceded Superquinn in Blackrock is a nicer shopping experience than Associated
on Myrtle Avenue in Brooklyn where the cashiers only speak Spanish. But that still left an empty slot at number five.

Anyone reading this who knows me well will know that yoga has become a big part of my life, something more than just a way to keep fit. New York is smorgasbord of yoga with every different type on offer and during my nine weeks there I sampled quite a few. I went to top studios with top teachers, teachers who travel around the world to train other teachers, the teachers who go on to teach people like me. The studios have their own water filter water systems and decorative fountains and branded yoga mats and flip flops to borrow if you need to use the loo during the class. You could say they’ve thought of everything.

This morning I found myself in my usual Sunday morning routine, heading to my class in a small studio in Dun Laoghaire. I’ve been going there for a couple of years now and I know the teacher well, the other students too. This morning, there were seven of us and it was a Sunday morning both the same and different than every other Sunday morning I’ve spent there. We shared hugs and confessions about who’d been out last night. We shared the celebration of a first handstand. We explored some deeper ideas about how to reach your potential and laughed at how much harder it is to actually balance standing on one leg when someone is trying to help you.

New York yoga has a place in my heart and my hips and my hamstrings, don’t get me wrong. But give me Sunday mornings in Sunrise any day. So thank you Frank and everyone in the class for helping me find my number five!

PS - let me know if you've more to add to the list!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Musings from day 54

I don’t keep a blog to apologise about my lack of frequency in updating my blog. And yet, it seems that that is how I start every entry, these past few. It’s been three weeks since my last update and I’m so aware of that. It’s not that I haven’t had anything I wanted to write about. I’ve half written blog posts on note pads around my apartment, even more of them in my head, on all sorts of topics: doing the laundry, a train journey, a sunset from a ferry, writing a novel, but I don’t want to write about any of them today. Today, I want to write about endings.

I don’t like endings. I don’t think I’m very good at them – I’ll leave those of you who’ve read my novel to agree or not! – and coming towards the end of the 8th week of my 9 week trip it’s hard not to think about the end. My list of things to do before I go home will no longer fit in the days ahead. The best before date on my milk carton is when I will be back in Ireland. For quite a while I haven’t been able to say I have more time left than I have spent here. Walking back as I just did from the coffee shop on the corner I am acutely aware of the details of Brooklyn all around me: the squirrels chasing each other around the tree trunks, the sound of sirens, the feeling of the air on my face. I’m drinking it all in, that’s what it feels like, so I can emboss it on my memory for when I am no longer here. I pass by houses dressed up for Hallowe’en, shrouded in fake cobwebs and yellow tape, with laughing pumpkins and funny straw filled little men smiling from every step. New York, it seems, is getting ready for another season too, in Bryant Park the Reading Room has gone now, myself and Nuala packed away for another year. In its place there’s the beginnings of construction of an ice rink, a market that will sell festive gifts alongside it. Both open on October 29th, the day before I leave.

The handy thing, about being aware of all of this is that it dovetails neatly with the character in my book. She misses Brooklyn too, that’s what I’m writing about, her in Dublin, missing here. When I am back at home, I may write about her back here. Perhaps we will pass each other in the air.

The other handy thing, is that it gives me a real opportunity to practice staying in the day. I’ve been doing a lot of yoga over here and no matter what class I go to, it’s always the theme. It’s hard, for ninety minutes to stay on your own mat, to stay in that minute, that second and it’s even harder off the mat but it’s good to try at least. As a kid my Dad would ask my Mum and I half way through our holiday if we’d enjoyed ourselves – past tense – and I always vowed never to do that! So here I am, on my fifty fourth day in Brooklyn, posting my blog about to head out to dinner with friends and looking forward to the eight days I have left. And like the children already dressed up, making the most out of Hallowe’en, I plan to enjoy them, to trick and treat all the way to the end.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Rubbing Shoulders with Nuala

A few weeks ago on this blog I mentioned Bryant Park, which as you probably gathered is one of my favourite spots in New York. One part of the park I especially like is the ‘Reading Room’ – a tradition from the 1930’s which they brought back in 2003. The ‘Reading Room’ consists of trolleys of books and magazines that people can read for free while in the park, there’s no ticketing system or anything, you just read them and they trust you’ll put them back.

So, being a marketer and a first time novelist who just happens to have four copies of her book with her I decided to surreptitiously leave a book on the trolley. Funny how I felt so conspicuous, hanging around until the librarian was well over the other side. I think it would have been easier to actually steal a book rather than leave mine behind. One the advice of a friend I inscribed the book, to the readers of Bryant Park, saying how much I loved the place and I hope that whoever found it enjoyed the book.

That was a couple of weeks ago and each time I pass, I casually stop - as if browsing you understand. Only hours after ‘the drop’ I was delighted to see the book was gone! I scoured all the trolleys and got a little carried away. Maybe it had been stolen? Perhaps for sale on Ebay? Surely that would be the ultimate compliment! Alas, a few days later it reappeared, not on the ‘Classics’ section where I’d put it originally (it was the closest trolley to the edge) but on the bottom shelf of another trolley, next to a copy of Nuala O’Faolain’s “My Dream of You.”

I never met Nuala in person but from reading her memoirs I felt like I knew her, and like many other people, felt that we shared a love of lots of the same things – Raymond Carver for example, New York, Berlin. I’ll admit that seeing my book there, next to hers with Manhattan bustling all around gave me quite the thrill.

In the past few weeks, my book has come and gone, come and gone and now even proudly carries a yellow sticker declaring that it is the property of the Bryant Park Reading Room. Needless to say Nuala’s has come and gone several times too, but somehow they always seem to find their way back together again. Perhaps it’s because they are the same height – the librarian seems to favour filing by shape and size – but sitting there every morning making out my notes for the day ahead I like to let my imagination play, and in the dappled September light of the trees it’s easy to believe it’s something more than that, just for a few minutes.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

It’s been a while since my last post. Nearly two weeks. But I have an excuse, several in fact. I am in New York, which means there’s a lot to do to distract me from blogging. And the fact that I am writing a novel, which means any writing brainpower should be channeled towards that. And, best excuse of all, I survived a tornado!

OK, so there is no direct link between the tornado and my lack of blog posts but it’s really just an excuse to write about it. Being Irish, I haven’t really experienced extremes of weather before. When I see rain and lightning and wind that makes the tops of the trees going wild I think it’s just a storm. And even when the thunder claps are threatening to smash the window and it sounds like someone is tapdancing on the roof I think it’s just a bad storm. That’s what happened last Thursday, around five thirty and it was only half an hour later when all was quiet and I went to venture out to yoga I realised the extent of the damage.

For anyone who has never been to Brooklyn, the first thing that differentiates it from other boroughs is the trees. Each block has four or five or six of them –big sycamores and oaks and elms that push up the flagstones on the sidewalk. As I walked my short seven block walk to my yoga studio, I lost count of the number of them that had been hit. They had gaping holes where they’d lost branches, some still hanging on by a slim ribbon of wood. One was completely cracked in half, like a mirror of itself. The debris littered the paths and the roads, stopped some people getting into their houses. Cars drove slowly negotiating their way around fallen branches big as tree trunks, mounds of leaves. They stopped at each corner where the walk/ don’t walk signs were stuck on both. It was like something from a movie and on one corner where they’d been trying to make a movie I found three men standing around some crumpled piece of scaffolding, flattened and leaning onto the road, their hands on hips unsure of what to do.

By the next morning I found out it was a tornado, not just a storm. That someone in Queens had died. In Fort Greene Park the workers were out in force clearing up the damage, talking about overtime. The giant American Elm at the entrance on Willoughby had been struck, hundreds of years of tree split down the middle, felled, just like that. Someone had wrapped yellow tape around it, the kind like in the cop shows that they put around the bodies. Like a few other passersby I stopped and looked, watched the squirrels as they ran along the now horizontal branches, chased each other through the leaves.

It’s nearly a week later and everywhere is cleaned up, the sidewalks are clear again, traffic lights and train lines working. Some of the trees that are still standing are just hollow pieces of wood, reaching to the sky. They don’t know they’re dead yet. Most of them survived, their scars new and visible, light whitish wood where pieces of them were ripped away. After a while though the bark will grow back and you won’t notice the missing branches, their unbalanced shapes. And soon they’ll lose their leaves anyway, they’re already starting to, and in spring they’ll grow again and wait to ride out the next storm.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Two answers and a question..

One of the many things I like about being here in NYC is the amount of readings that are on. And that they're all free.

There's pretty much someone reading somewhere every night of the week and this week I've seen two, AL Kennedy and Jonathan Franzen.

AL Kennedy's reading was on Monday - Labour Day - and she got a pretty decent turnout. Turns out she does stand up comedy too which I didn't know, but then again, not having read her before there's a lot I don't know about her. She was very witty and self deprecating - not sure the audience got all her jokes - and read from a work in progress novel about two people falling in love which already seems doomed for disaster. Afterwards she spent a lot of time answering questions in a sort of roundabout way. The only one she answered with any level of certainty was mine, when I asked if writing novels became easier or harder. "Harder," she said. "Definitely."

Last night, I went to see Jonathan Franzen who is very much the man of the moment over here, appearing on the cover of Time magazine and being touted as the greatest American novelist of all time. Not surprisingly, Barnes and Noble on Union Square was packed. I arrived 50 minutes early and got a seat about 20 rows from the front, by the time he came on there must've been 500 people there, many of them standing. Seems there's been some hoo-haa over here about chick lit with some female writers claiming that only white, male writers living in Brooklyn receive this kind of media attention over here. Not being from here I don't know how valid this is but they probably have a point. When JF was asked for his view, he was pretty quiet about it, only pointing out he doesn't, and never has, lived in Brooklyn.

He read from his latest novel, "Freedom", nine years in the making and, it seems, worth the wait. I wasn't the biggest fan of "The Corrections" in the world but last night his 38 minute reading seemed to fly by and I held onto every word. At the end someone asked him if he could write a book a year. "No," he said. "Next question" and that was that.

So now I have a question. If writing novels gets harder and the reputed greatest American novelist of our time takes nine years to do it, then why the heck are the rest of us expected to do it in 12 months? And how many better books would there be out there if we were all given more time?

Time to go for a late lunch and muse over that rhetorical question. And to my editor, if you're reading, don't worry, that second novel is coming on fine. Just fine...!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Posting from my favourite writing place in the world...

Yes, the lion is a bit of a giveaway but it's New York Public library!I think this lion is Fortitude, but it looked quite patient this morning as I came in, allowing a hot looking pigeon to nest in the crook of its shoulder. For anyone who doesn't know, the two lions Patience and Fortitude are so named because apparently these are the qualities one needs to write... yes I can concur with that.

So, I'm sitting here at one of the long tables towards the back of the Rose Reading Room and ever since I arrived here this morning I've just had this overwhelming sense of being at home. I've always liked libraries anyway, even the Dun Laoghaire children's one that when I was growing up was just a prefab affair that on occasion housed an enormous Apple computer as well as a few scanty shelves of books.

But this one, with the lions and the brass lamps and the fresco sky overhead and the real cloudless sky out through the arched windows, definitely beats the prefab.

And if it wasn't enough to have such a beautiful building with a gift shop packed full of books on writing downstairs (half of my procrastination shelf is from there) the library is right next to a pocket of green in the middle of the city called Bryant Park. On a day like today (in the 90s, thank god this reading room is air conditioned) the park is full of people writing, reading, meeting for lunch, playing free ping pong. There's a 'library' area where there are free books to borrow on trolleys - I am thinking of planting a copy of 'The Other Boy' - and if that doesn't tickle the grey matter enough there's a chess area too. If you come in winter, there's a Christmas market and of course, an ice rink.

So for anyone who likes writing or books or history or just life you have to put this on your list to visit. Just tell the lions I sent you...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

From here to there, getting a first novel published..

Just thought I would post a link to my guest blogging piece on Writing4All.

It started out about getting published but ended up as a piece about how to keep on writing when no-one will publish you!

Monday, August 16, 2010

'Do you like green eggs and ham?'

At this risk of this turning into some kind of birthday blog, I had to post this.

Dr Seuss' children's classic 'Green Eggs and Ham' turned 50 last week.

The book was originally a wager, between Dr S (real name Theodore Seuss Geisel) and his editor in Random House, who bet that he couldn't write a children's book in 50 words.

Well, he did and won a dollar a word for his trouble. And fifty years on it's still making kids everywhere happy - and probably Random House too...

Saturday, August 14, 2010

'I paid them to read my book'

Now I work in marketing and I've actually thought about this before. I remember how, when I lived in London, that seeing what people were reading on the Tube was a real barometer of how well a book was doing and often would start a conversation about a particular book when I got into work. Planting commuters to read your book seems like a sensible thing to do to promote it.

Well, Jennifer Belle, New York author of ' The Seven Year Bitch' has beaten me to it. Not only did she hire and pay actresses to read her book but she also auditioned them to make sure their laughs sounded just right when they were chortling their way through it as well. Crazy? Maybe, but check out how it's worked for her..

Anyone want to sign up to reading 'The Other Boy' on the DART?!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Happy belated birthday Philip Larkin.

OK technically I don't know if it matters if a birthday is belated after you're dead, but catching up on my daily writing mails from Writers' Almanac today I saw that Philip Larkin's would have been 9th August (he was born in 1922.)

I like the Writers' Almanac because it's just the right size for a daily writing bite. A poem, some facts on people who were born or died or other significant events on that day. Plus, if you listen to the podcast it's read by Garrison Keillor who has a deep ground up voice with an edge of honey.

Anyway, back to Philip Larkin. I knew the name but it was only in the last couple of years in Yvonne Cullen's writing classes I became familiar with his poetry. And I discovered I really liked it.

Reading about him online today he has shades of an early Morrissey about him when he talks about his poetry: "Deprivation is for me what daffodils were for Wordsworth" and he attributes the popularity of his work to the fact that most people are unhappy.

Maybe so, or maybe the times weren't not effervescent with joy are the times we tend to dip into poetry. Either way, he seemed to find some inspiration on this side of the water and below is a link to his poem Dublinesque.

For the full experience sit down with a cup of tea, click on the podcast and let Garrison's voice wrap you in a nice warm blanket of words as he tells you a bit more about Larkin's life and Richard Nixon's resgignation as well.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The writer's bookshelf

The last post on Dorothea Brand got me thinking about books on writing and I had a look at my shelves to see how many books about writing I actually had and how many I'd found useful.

Like a lot of writers, I probably have quite a few. Some I've bought, some have been presents and most I've never read.

If you check out the link below from the Gotham writing school in NYC there has to be over 50 books they recommend for the writer's bookshelf. The problem I have with all of these books is that if you spend time reading them all, when are you actually writing? And to pose a Carrie Bradshaw type question: 'Is buying books about writing the ultimate in procrastination for a writer?'

For me, of the fifteen or so books about writing on my shelves, there were 4 I found really useful:

On Writing by Steven King - I just loved this book because he makes writing so ordinary, a job like any other. He compares it to laying pipes! A good reminder not to get too carried away I think...
Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brand - I mentioned this on my Sunday post. This book is over 50 years old but still full of really sound advice. If you're stuck on something go do something physical - weed the garden, go for a run. Works for me.
The Writers' and Artists' Yearbook - for when you get to the sending out stage, deciding who to target agent and publisher wise.
The Resilient Writer, compiled by Catherine Wald - the most useful book for me of all, a collection of essays on rejection from well known writers. Kept me going through the whole 'doing the rounds' stage and would highly recommend it.

So just wondered what anyone else thought? Any books you'd highly recommend? The one I'm thinking about getting is 'Bird by Bird' by Anne Lamott. Thinking about it, it's ages since I've bought a writing book, about 2 years. Funny how it coincides with my imminent writing trip to work on novel number 2, I hope I don't hear anyone think the 'P' word...

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Learning to see again

I've just spent the weekend taking part in a yoga workshop, led by John Friend, the founder of Anusara yoga.

Now, I don't really tend to start blogging about yoga because (a) what I don't know about yoga would fill an ashram and b) because after 8 hours (yes 8!) of yoga over the weekend, my fingers are about the only part of me still working and maybe not for much longer.

But what I did want to post was something he said yesterday which really resonated with me and has been on my mind since then. He opened the workshop by talking about how we are all so serious about everything and what he asked of us over the 2 days was to see everything the way a child would, to drop the preconceived ideas and find the wonder in things. To laugh when we wobbled in a pose, to try something new instead of thinking 'I can't do that' - to let ourselves imagine what it would be like if we could.

As he was saying it, I thought of a piece of paper I have stuck on my writing noticeboard. It's a heading I photocopied from Dorothea Brand's book, I'm not sure what chapter it is, but it's the one called 'Learning to See Again.'In it she talks about how the key to good writing is to approach everything with the eyes of a child to see the freshness and the wonder in everything. To not take things too seriously. To be curious and drop the preconceived ideas we all have.

What struck me was the way they described it, John and Dorothea, using nearly the exact same words. Now she was around first so maybe he came across 'Becoming a Writer' and thought, 'hey I could use some of this stuff!' Or, maybe the qualities it takes for both aren't that dissimilar. And come to think of it, maybe looking at things through a child's eyes aren't just good ways to approach yoga or writing - maybe it's a way to approach life in general?

Right, enough philosophising for one night...there's a Radox filled bath with my name on it...

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Breakfast at Ballymount...

OK technically it should be breakfast 'in' Ballymount, but it wouldn't have had the same impact really, would it?

So this morning was my TV debut on TV3's Ireland AM. I have to admit I was pretty nervous about it yesterday. I'm not sure what I was afraid might happen but all sorts of scenarios flashed through my mind: getting tangled in my words, getting tangled in the camera cables, last night I even had a dream that I was changing into my dress in the bathroom and my dress fell down the toilet (Freud would have field day with that, I'm sure) but I'm happy to say nothing awful happened, in fact I think I'd go so far as to say it went 'ok.'

I think what dissolved my nerves this morning was just how ordinary the whole thing was, like arriving for a work meeting really, everyone had their job and just got on with it; the make up woman, the meet and greet guy. Even when we were getting set up on the red couch with our microphones there were people all over the place asking each other how they enjoyed the bank holiday weekend and and someone in the corner of the set was drinking coffee and reading the paper while two feet away the anchors were reading the news in front of a blue screen.

The item was nine minutes and it seemed more like nine seconds. I was on with 2 other writers, Sarah Webb and Collette Caddle, both who write different types of novels than I do so while at times I did feel like the odd woman out I guess that's good territory to mine for any writer?

So all in all, I'm glad it's over and might even do it again. Just to say thanks to Ais and Jo for their Mark Cagney impressions over the weekend, they were good for a laugh if nothing else.

If they put the interview online I'll post a link for anyone who feels like a lunchtime laugh and the chance to check out how natural 'fake bake' can appear in a TV studio setting..

Friday, July 30, 2010

New authors left on the shelf?

I don't usually buy the Sunday Independent, but last night my Mum fished an article from the green bin that she had kept for me. It was by Alison Walsh and the headline was "New authors left on shelf in chapter of caution."

Not exactly the kind of article that looked set to put me in top form for a bank holiday weekend but a must read all the same.

In the article (which I have tried and failed to find on the independent website, so if anyone can find it do post a link) Imogen Taylor, publishing director at Headline and Sheila Crowley, literary agent at Curtis Brown, both agree that it is becoming even harder to get published as the book market tightens even further with decreases in sales of up to 30% reported by some booksellers.

Depressing statistics, but as I read on, I began to wonder if there was a silver cloud in that possibly the new more discerning publisher could be a good thing for readers. It seems that the area hit most hard is commercial women's fiction where titles that would have been accepted over the past decade or so when as Crowley puts it "it became a very buzz thing to write a book and there were all levels of quality" are simply not making sales the way they used to.

Today's readers, it seems, are saving their money, not only for paperbacks over hardbacks but also for meatier, more compelling stories like Kathryn Stockett's 'The Help' or the Stig Larsson trilogy. Based on this new trend, to quote Crowley again, publishers are looking for "the new something as opposed to another version of something."

I don't know about you, but I think that's a pretty good development and arguably what should be the core role of publishers anyway? And while of course, the market will still be dominated by celebrity and"brand authors" - a term that makes me shudder - let's hope it means there'll be a little more time taken over submissions, a little less pressure on new writers working on first novels to be described as the new 'someone' and just allowed to be themselves.

That's it from me until next week, off to West Cork for the weekend, with my copy of The Help...

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Best Bookstores in the world

9 of the best bookstores in the world with some great photos. I've only been to one, Strand in New York (18 miles of books) but it's definitely up there in my favourites!

Anyone else any suggestions to add? Other than The Gutter Bookshop in Dublin, obviously...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Dublin as Unesco City of Literature

Nice article in today's Irish Times, where Eileen Battersby examines why Dublin, a city "firmly planted on a bedrock of words" deserves to be a designated Unesco City of Literature.

Below is an edited timeline from the Dublin Unesco website

Eighth-century Book of Kells created. Housed in Trinity College Dublin since 1661

Twelth-century Aoibhinn bheith in mBinn Eadair is a Gaelic poem celebrating the beauty of the Hill of Howth

Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral whose masterpiece, Gulliver’s Travels , has never been out of print since first published in 1726

1701 Foundation of Marsh’s Library, Ireland’s first public library

Oliver Goldsmith (1728-1774), author of The Vicar of Wakefield , was a student at Trinity College where a statue to him now stands

Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751-1816) had a spectacular career as a playwright and as a theatre manager. His sparkling comedies such as The School for Scandal and The Rivals are still performed today

Sheridan Le Fanu (1814-1873) author of one of the earliest vampire tales, Carmilla . Many of his stories are set around the Dublin area

Dionysius Lardner (Dion) Boucicault (1820-1890) was one of the most popular Irish playwrights of the mid-nineteenth century

Bram Stoker (1847-1912) best known as the author who inspired an entire genre, the vampire novel, with Dracula

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) Wilde’s mastery of language is demonstrated in his plays, poetry, novel and short tales for children

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1925 and an Oscar in 1938 for his work on the film of Pygmalion

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) was one of the major poets of 20th century literature and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1923

John Millington Synge (1871-1909) whose play, The Playboy of the Western World , caused riots when it was first performed in the Abbey Theatre in 1907

Seán OCasey (1880-1964) whose play, The Plough and the Stars , provoked riots at the Abbey Theatre in 1926. He left Ireland in disgust

James Joyce (1882-1941). Dublin was a major force in Joyces imagination, forming the core of his great work Ulysses, one of the greatest of the Modernist writers in English

Austin Clarke (1896-1974) was a major 20th century poet, who also wrote drama, memoir and novels

1904 The Abbey Theatre first opened its doors

Patrick Kavanagh (1904-1967) is considered one of the major Irish poets in the period between Yeats and Heaney, and has written some of the most moving odes to the city

Samuel Beckett (1906-1989) was winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1969. Born and brought up in Dublin, he lived most of his life in Paris

Máirtín Ó Direáin (1910-1988) Irish language poet born in the Aran Islands, he spent most of his life in Dublin working as a civil servant

Brendan Behan (1923-1964) wrote plays including The Quare Fellow, An Giall and The Hostage

Máire Mhac an tSaoi (1922) born in Dublin and one of the most renowned poets working in the Irish language

1928 The Gate Theatre was founded

Thomas Kinsella (1928) Awarded the Honorary Freedom of the City in 2007, Kinsella has made a major poetic contribution to the cultural heritage of Dublin

Seamus Heaney (1939) Awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995. While Heaney is very much identified with his native Northern Ireland, since 1976 he has lived in Dublin

Maeve Binchy (1940) and Gordon Snell (1933) work side-by-side in Dalkey. Maeve is acclaimed as one of the world’s master storytellers. Gordon has written many popular childrens novels

Eavan Boland (1944) one of Ireland’s foremost poets on the international stage

Paul Durcan (1944) is one of the best-known of contemporary Dublin poets. He uses the distinctive idiom of the city of Dublin in many of his poems

John Banville (1945) who also writes as Benjamin Black has been the recipient of the Guardian and the Man Booker awards for his work

Colm Tóibín (1955) Winner of the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, and the Costa Novel Award. Tóibín lives in Dublin. His most recent work is Brooklyn

Sebastian Barry (1955) Playwright, poet and novelist, Barrys work frequently has a historical base. A Long Long Way was selected for Dublin’s 2007 One City, One Book

Paula Meehan (1955), a poet and playwright who was born in and has lived most of her life in Dublin. Her work conjures up the voices of those who mourn what has been lost

1957 Dublin Theatre Festival founded

Roddy Doyle (1958) Novelist, playwright and childrens writer. Awarded the Booker Prize for Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha in 1993

Colum McCann (1965) Born in Dublin. Awarded the National Book Award (US) in 2009 for Let the Great World Spin

1995 International Impac Dublin Literary Award founded, which is the world’s richest fiction prize

2000 The first Dublin Writer’s Festival was held

2006 One City, One Book established in Dublin

2010 Dublin Unesco City of Literature

Monday, July 26, 2010

Advice from Other Writers

One of the things I like to dip into (sometimes as an excuse to put off doing any actual writing) is to read advice and tips from other writers.

Below is a list of 10 good writing tips from Zadie Smith which I received via e-mail from Gotham Writers' Workshops, originally published by The Guardian.

I like it because a lot of it is just sensible advice - 'work on a computer that is disconnected from the internet' although I think for most of us it might be a little late to take up her first point...

Saturday, July 24, 2010

A morning well spent

Yesterday, I was lucky enough to be invited along to a writers' workshop with Brenda Flanagan, novelist, poet and short story writer who also happens to be a Cultural Ambassador for the US embassy.

The night before, I'd been to see Brenda read at the embassy, although "perform" would be a better word for it. As she strode back and forth, refusing to stand behind the podium she told some of what it was like to grow up one of 14 children in Trinidad, she sang to us and she read to us a short little page and a half story, "The Girl from Bahia" from her collection "In Praise of Island Women and Other Crimes." A story which has been in my mind ever since.

So, you could say I knew it was going to be an interesting workshop. What I hadn't been expecting though was the level of energy in the room, the openness of sharing between the fifteen female novelists, poets, journalists, short story writers who turned up. In two and a half hours we shared our thoughts on writing, we gave each other advice, we analysed a poem and a short story and even had time to write as well.

Without doubt it's the most enjoyable Friday morning I've spent in a while. And it reminded me that in this solitary pursuit of writing, how important it is to get away from the desk and around the table with people who see the world in a little of the same way.

Monday, July 19, 2010

First Post

OK, so this is my first post.

I am pretty much posting to myself, so I guess I can say anything at this point.

The question that's in my head is why I am starting this blog? Do I have time to keep a blog? I know that the way to make a blog work is to post witty, relevant and interesting pieces of information that my audience will enjoy. And to do this every day.

At this point it feels like this blogging lark involves more commitment to this than most relationships..

So why am I doing it?

Honestly? Because I've written a novel and because I want a place I can post updates on my writing and to create a place where anyone who's reading it can share their thoughts with me and others and let me know what that think and we can talk about other books too and share recommendations with each other on writing and reading. Oh, and that hopefully more people will buy it.

It's called The Other Boy, by the way. Here's the link to it on Amazon...

And no, not all the reviews are my friends!

So there you go, that's the first post over with. I guess I'll be back soon, if anyone is out there, do say hi...