Busy busy…IWD2017 and the importance of community

Busy busy…IWD2017 and the importance of community

Lately, I’ve been too busy to write. Well, that happens sometimes.

Lately, I’ve been too busy to do housework. Well, that happens more often than one might care to admit.

Lately, I’ve been too busy to read. Well…Sorry? What? That NEVER happens.

Yes, February and March 2017 have been non-stop madness and the total of books read in that whole period is about 6 in total. There have been some crackers though: 1847 by Turtle Bunbury, The Faerie Thorn by Jane Talbot, Once we sang like other men, John MacKenna and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale which, I assure you, is far scarier this time round than when I read it 20 years ago and the internet was for university researchers and no-one I knew had their own mobile phone.

And what has had me so busy? I’m delighted to say I was assisting as PRO for an amazing celebration of International Women’s Day at the Irish Writers Centre, showcasing the talents of some of Ireland’s hundreds of women writers, and the brainchild of Women Aloud NI.


I honestly don’t have time to describe the day itself, a four hour readathon, readings on public transport, communications with Ireland’s main literary organisations and panel discussions, so I’m going to refer you here and here for eloquent descriptions of the day and here to some footage I took of the culmination of the day…a public massed reading in Dublin’s Garden of Remembrance.

What I want to talk about instead is community…finding a community and plunging right in. I don’t think I have ever joined a community online. Every one of the groups I belong to, I’ve been invited into or signed up without my knowledge. Margaret Scott, author, brought me into Facebook right at the start, Margaret Bonass Madden, book blogger extraordinaire, enrolled me in the Rick O’Shea book club, Ana Dorado, photographer, brought me into Bite the Biscuit and really crucially Kerry Buchanan, writer, introduced me to Women Aloud NI. And there are a dozen more.

At first I was bemused…why should I spend time online when I should be reading? Or writing? Surely everyone’s just faking anyway? These aren’t real relationships? What do they want from me? And the answer is: they want as much or as little as you are prepared to give. And these relationships are real, and vibrant and rewarding as any other. As the women of Women Aloud NI spilled into the reception of the Irish Writers Centre, to meet forty women writers from the Republic of Ireland, I greeted friend after friend, hugged, laughed, exchanged views on their books, asked about their parents and children and knew that these women, most of whom I had never met before, are as real to me as some of the neighbours that I smile and wave at every day (or more so.)

Writing is a lonely occupation, especially so, I’d imagine, for those who write full-time. Find yourself a community. and plunge in.  Here I am reading from The Accidental Wife at the four hour readathon.

orla at IWC




The Accidental wife in the Belly Telly

The Accidental wife in the Belly Telly

When I was a child, my family bought The Irish News. It wasn’t a decision one had to think hard about. “We” bought The Irish News, “They” bought the Belfast Telegraph, and never the twain did mix.

It has given me great joy to hear from readers who are participating in The Armagh Big Read, that The Accidental Wife is resonating with readers from both traditions in Northern Ireland. Readers of both nationalist and unionist backgrounds are enjoying the vibrant dialect of their homeplace and the warts-and-all fond representation of the home that they recognise.

“As I was writing it down I thought ‘this is disappearing really fast – I wonder how many people are writing this down?’ And I started thinking I really wanted to write in this dialect so people would know it had existed,” she says.

I’m thrilled that The Armagh Big Read has helped me really accept the magnitude of the changes that have occurred since my childhood and the real tangible progress in coming together as a civic society since the slow, painful birth of the peace process.

Twenty years ago, I never could have imagined this lovely, and generous article appearing in the Belfast Telegraph, never mind a photo of me in my First Communion dress, and I’m so grateful and happy for the change. Read the full article here, if you are not already utterly sick of hearing me talk about myself!!


Here I am on the front page of the Telly!

And don’t forget, if you have read The Accidental Wife, before or during The Armagh Big Read, pop up a review somewhere… I’d love to hear your thoughts.


Then there are the expletives…

Then there are the expletives…

I don’t usually share reviews of The Accidental Wife, I feel they are for readers to browse at their leisure, and not for me to gloat over…and then this one comes along!

Oh Happy Day!

To the best of my knowledge, this is the first review that has been generated by the Libraries NI public massed-reading project The Armagh Big Read. And it’s the first review which I know for a fact has been written by a Northern Irish reader from the “other” tradition.

What a relief! I can’t help sharing it. My first Armagh Big Read review, written by Angeline King, author of Snugville Street, and she “gets it”, she really, really gets it!

There’s the language of farming and it’s sharp and metaphorical in a way that only one familiar with the metal spike on a velvet-soft muzzle could imagine, “The bull’s nostrils slammed open on the instant and he sucked in a huge, shuddering breath, rasping like a stone caught under a tight-fitting door.” There’s Irish mixed with Scots mixed with Middle English, all churning into buttery swirls of Ulster dialect on the page.

And then there are the expletives…

Then there are the expletives. Orla McAlinden excels at expletives and she sprays them like a deadly weapon charged with poetry, rhythm, pathos and comedy. Jesus! The bastard. Jesus! Insufferable bollocks. Jesus! Useless bollocks! Christ! Pillock. Jesus. Shut up to fuck. For Christ’s sake! Jesus. Thon wee bastard. Fuck it to hell and back. Jesus. Fuck and shit and crap and damn.

I had to write in the authentic language of my childhood, but I know it wasn’t the soundtrack to a lot of Northern Irish lives; in the homes of those often referred to as “good livers” one never took the name of the Lord in vain. I will admit to a few pangs of concern about the language of my characters as The Armagh Big Read draws closer…


Thank God, at least one reader in The Big Armagh Read recognises the poetry and the vigour and the authenticity of “the expletives”. Read the full review here

I can’t emphasise enough, how much I would love to see more reviews from those who have read The Accidental Wife (as part of the Armagh Big Read, or not.) On Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon or on your own personal blogs…sooner or later, I’ll find them. Or post them to The Armagh Big Read. I can’t expect them all to be glowing…but I’d like to read your thoughts before I head up to Armagh in March to speak with the members of Libraries NI!!!


The Armagh Big Read 2017

The Armagh Big Read 2017

Book the dates! The Accidental Wife is going on tour!!!

I love the public library system, it’s one of the greatest achievements of the 20th Century and we have to fight against the insidious weakening of our cash-strapped libraries. Go out and use your library! And no better time than March 2017 to do so…

Here are the details of The Accidental Wife’s library tour as the inaugural title of the Libraries Northern Ireland  public mass reading initiative The Armagh Big Read:

Bessbrook Library: 6.30pm 21st March

Portadown Library: 6pm 22nd March

Lurgan Library: 11am 28th March

Armagh City Library: 6.30 pm 28th March

I’ll be there in all my glory, and I’m thrilled that the interviewer at all these events will be NI Crime writer extraordinaire, Anthony J Quinn the international best seller of Disappeared, Silence and Trespass, and the creator of Detective Celsius Daly. I’ll be having a brief fan-girl moment, but I’m sure we’ll soon be sick of the sight of each other.

Since The Visit won the BGEIBA Short Story of the Year award and the  Portadown Times published this article about the Big Read, so many of my old friends have reached out on Facebook and Twitter and reconnected. That’s been one of the most joyful aspects of the whole writing journey so far. I hope that my old friends and new readers will take the chance to come along and meet me at one of the events above.

The nine public library branches in Co Armagh have 300 copies of The Accidental Wife…get in there and start reading! See you soon.


Good news just keeps coming…

Good news just keeps coming…

This is the first time I have ever attempted to write a full post on a phone, so excuse the brevity!

I’m thrilled that Libraries Northern Ireland have chosen my first book, The Accidental Wife, as the Armagh Big Read for 2017. There will be hundreds of copies throughout the nine branches of public libraries in Armagh, and I’m hoping for large turnouts at four author events I’ll be participating in during March 2017.

I know every reader won’t fall in love with my characters but I hope they’ll come along and I’ll try to explain myself

And here’s a lovely article from the Portadown Times, who are helping to spread the word!

Better start revising , in case there’s a test at the end !

Woo hoo!!!!!! BGEIBA short story of the year.

Woo hoo!!!!!! BGEIBA short story of the year.
Me! And Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin of http://www.writing.ie the sponsor of the BGEIBA Short story of the Year

Well, I did it! Thanks so much to the judges of the BGEIBA short story award and all the people who took time to read six fantastic short stories  and to vote for my story, The Visit! It was hugely appreciated.

I had the best night! But next year I’m going to go back as a guest instead of a nominee and I’m really going to soak up the atmosphere and the company of hundreds of people who love books as much as I do. The time before my category was enjoyable but tense, after my win, I was literally numb! (Now that I think about it…I suppose I would cope if I was a nominee next year… I better start writing!)

I’m so grateful for the crazy roller-coaster journey that my debut collection The Accidental Wife has taken me on.

And thanks to the award, The Accidental Wife is now available in one of Dublin’s iconic bookshops, Dubray Books on Grafton Street… Feel free to rush out and buy half a dozen copies for your Christmas stockings!