“Hello, this is Amy. From the Irish Writers’ Centre…” Well, that’s exactly the kind of phone call I want to get on a dreary Tuesday afternoon. I held my breath. Yes! The Flight of the Wren, my debut novel has been selected for presentation to 16 leading literary agents and Irish Publishing houses at the Greenbean Novel Fair on February 20th.
I wasn’t really listening as Amy explained the rest of the details. Writing is such a solitary affair, a bizarre mixture of the compulsion to tell the story, and the crippling self-doubt that appears to dog writers; the false certainty that anyone else in the world could tell it better. With so many days of wrestling with the keyboard behind, Amy was finally telling me that the anonymous panel of judges believed that actually, no-one can tell my story better than I can.
1849, Ireland. Twelve year old orphan Sally Mahon has two choices; starve to death with the children she has rescued from a life of crime, or entrust their safety to a Curragh wren, a prostitute living wild on the Curragh of Kildare. Inspired by true events, the stories of 200 real Irish women weave through this fictionalised account of life on board the prison ship Australasia, heading for van Diemens Land.
What a joy it was to attend the preparation day for the novel fair and discover that the person who championed my book was multifabulous novelist and journalist, Martina Devlin, whose books I have so enjoyed recommending to family and friends in the past. (Check out The House where it happened here and About Sisterland here for two stunning examples of her work.)
Now, I have two weeks to follow the advice given to me at the Irish Writers Centre by Martina, and edit, polish, and practice. When the book is as good as it can be, then it’ll all come down to me, and my powers of persuasion, on Feb 20th. I can’t wait. And I’ve had the champagne already, just to be on the safe side.
Check out the full list of winners and the longlisted novels here I am particularly intrigued by three that I heard about: Canticle by Elizabeth McSkeane, Laura one by Julianne Knowles and Helpmeet by Alex Reece Abbott… I’d be happy to spend a day or two with any of those stories!