Thursday, July 26, 2012

New Irish Writing Hennessy Awards

Am absolutely delighted to have been selected for the New Irish Writing Hennessy Awards! You will find my short story 'Digging for Bait' in the Irish Independent this Saturday 28/07.  :)

read the story here .

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Friday, July 13, 2012

Guest Blog for The Irish Writers' Centre

I did a guest blog for The Irish Writers' Centre blog . Big shout out to June Caldwell who organised it.

The sun poured through the Georgian windows of the Irish Writers’ Centre for the duration of the Publishing Day event last Saturday. The room was buzzing with anticipation as people chatted with their neighbours. Jack Gilligan, the recently appointed Chairman of the Centre, kicked off proceedings with fire safety announcements. He apologised that unfortunately perfectly formed novels wouldn’t be dropped from the roof in the event of an emergency. I think there were one or two sighs of disappointment.

Ciara Doorley, Editorial Director of Hacette Ireland, was the first speaker. She dove right into the nuts and bolts of the industry. Giving us guidelines for putting together a gleaming shiny submission, sure to catch someone’s attention. She really stressed the importance of being concise and professional in both the cover letter and the synopsis and for the writing itself to be as fine-tuned as possible before submission. Once you’ve submitted, she said, the key thing is to keep writing. Do it because you love it and because you have to do it. However, it could take months to hear back and it’s important to take the pressure off both yourself and the book while you wait. So learn the art of patience.

Ciara was the first but not the last to mention Stephen King’s book On Writing as a great book to check out for writers at all stages. And of course do I even need to name the other book that got more than a few mentions? Yes it’s a current trend, which of course publishers are aware of, but no she’s not an over-night success. Erika Leonard (E.L. James) had previously e-published other work. Another shining example of the ten year over-night success.

Gareth Cuddy, CEO of ePub Direct, gave an over view of the, blink and you miss it, ever-changing epublising industry. On average people with e-readers read at least a third more books than their 3D book counterparts simply due to ease of access. He ran through a couple of requirements for epublishing yourself. The technical things like formatting and where you can get it done. Who the major players are in the industry at the moment; Kobo, Kindle, Direct Publishing and he spoke briefly about the constant battles (for battles read: hard-core litigation) between the traditional publishing work and the e-publishing world.

He showed a video, much to the amusement of the group, of a toddler playing with an iPad. The child successfully navigated her way around it; passwords, opening and closing of files, zooming into pictures, etc. Then the iPad was taken away and replaced with a magazine. The child repeatedly tried to expand the pictures in print without success. She got frustrated and tested her finger on her little chubby leg just to make sure it was working properly. Once she realised her finger, was in fact, working properly she gave up on the magazine. Gareth said that the child would forever more think that the magazine is an iPad that doesn’t work. Can evolution even keep up with that?

Then it was a quick breather for lunch and a chance to soak up some of the sun. Sitting across the road in Garden of Remembrance I thought about the little girl in the video and what would be lost if that was to become the reality for the children to come. What if browsing through an actual library or book shop was lost forever? What if we didn’t know what books smelled like? Or how it felt to flip over the feather thin pages of a dictionary? How can the ‘consumption of ebooks’ ever equal that?

Cliona Lewis opened the second half of the day. As Publicity Director for Penguin Ireland she knows a thing or two about what it takes to get out there and get noticed. Of course social media now plays a crucial role but traditional media, especially radio, inIrelandis still the winner. We are after all the biggest consumers of radio in Europe. She spoke about how important it was to be able to sell yourself and how gruelling a book tour can be. She said it was hotel to hotel, flight to flight. But even with that dampener put on our fire I don’t think any dreams were crushed in the room with that realisation. For the unpublished this still has a silver lining.

Emma Walsh took the podium next and spoke about the difference between the “art of writing and the business of publishing” and how important it was to not only to be able to tell them apart but to be well versed in the later. Browse your local bookstore to see what people are buying, keep an eye on blogs and websites, the Guardian in particular, so that you’re up to date with trends and industry gossip. And network, network, network. Along with Ciara she highlighted the importance of a professional, well edited and spell-checked submission. And more importantly not to lose heart, ‘if something doesn’t work try something else.’

There was no denying that most of the speakers did at some point express their dismay at the current upheaval in the publishing world. But any qualms were quietened with a belief that in the long run it’ll be positive for the industry and good work always gets through.

After yet another caffeine jolt and the aforementioned networking Arlene Hunt couldn’t have been a better end to the day. Herself and her husband took the proverbial bull by the horns and set up their own publishing house, Portnoy Publishing. Alongside this she also happens to be a best-selling author with no less than seven novels to her name. And with the rights of one just sold in Germany she is on the up and ever up.

Determination, determination and some more determination along with never giving up and a drop of luck were her wise words. She too had been rejected at the beginning but she just kept going. Writing every day is crucial. And always with an eye to finishing the first draft and not getting bogged down in edits of early chapters before the thing is even finished. How can you know what is wrong with it when it’s not even finished? And then you must edit to the point where you don’t care about the characters anymore. That means there is nothing else to change and you’re ready to put it out there.

At the end of the day my head was fried, yes, but, I left with a renewed sense of conviction. Just. Keep. Going. Was the message that was received load and clear over the day. If the journey was easy it wouldn’t be worth it.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Siri Hustvedt on writing

I love this woman! 'What I Loved' blew me away when I read it. Probably for that reason I'll never read it again. She strikes me as a woman with endless talent, intelligence and sophistication. I love what she says about the excitment of having the first thing published and how nothing since then has come close to that feeling.

Photograph: Michael Brennan/Getty Images

Siri Hustvedt, writer – portrait of the artist
Interview by Laura Barnett, Tuesday 10 July 2012

-'I don't read reviews. But I hear about them – especially when a book has been trashed.'
-'Every time I finish a book, I say: “Please let me live to write another one” … Siri Hustvedt at her home in Brooklyn.

What got you started?
A summer night in Reykjavik. I was 13 years old, and had been reading David Copperfield. I remember walking to the window and looking out at the city; it was still light, though it must have been one in the morning. I thought to myself, "If this is what novels are, it's what I want to do."

What was your big breakthrough?
I'd been writing poems for many years, but most of them I didn't like. Then, when I was 23, I wrote one I did like, sent it to the Paris Review – the highest publication I could think of – and they accepted it. No other moment in my literary life has quite come close to that.

You've often written about science. Should literature make more effort to understand science – and vice versa?
I deeply believe conversations among the disciplines can break open new kinds of thinking. Since I published The Shaking Woman: A History of My Nerves, I've been asked to speak at a number of neuroscience and psychoanalysis conferences. Recently, a neuroscientist friend was asked why he'd asked a novelist to speak to his department. He said, "Well, Siri is like yeast: she makes things grow." I'm very happy to be a kind of yeast.

What's the greatest myth about writing a book?
There's a myth of control. Writers are in control of editing processes – making a sentence better, cutting out a paragraph. But the initial outpouring has very little to do with conscious control or manipulation.

What song would work as the soundtrack to your life?
Bach's St Matthew Passion. Not because I have lived my love with that kind of grandeur, but because my inner-being responds to it so deeply.

What's the biggest threat to literature?
That it becomes, in the eyes of culture, a highly feminised form. Far more women read fiction than men, and because of this, novels have become marginalised as serious texts. I don't think it's a conscious, hostile act, but an unconscious feeling that seriousness in literature belongs to men, not women. However, I'm optimistic that if we bring this into the open, many people will realise they are suffering from a prejudice that they could very easily correct.

Do you read your reviews?
No. I hear about them, though – especially if a book has been horribly trashed. The publisher feels an obligation to tell you in case you go to a dinner party and people are looking at you cross-eyed.

What's your greatest ambition?
Every time I finish a book, I say to an imaginary god that I do not believe in, "Please let me live to write another one."

In short
Born: Northfield, Minnesota, 1955.
Career: Has published five novels, including What I Loved and The Summer Without Men, and several books of poetry, essays and non-fiction. Is appearing on Friday 13 July in the Literary Arena at Latitude 2012.
High point: "Finishing What I Loved after six years. It really felt like I'd broken through something in myself."
Low point: "Feeling, in interviews, that I haven't really been understood."

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