And the winner is…

And the winner is…

junefest logo

 

Actually… you’ll have to wait, I don’t know who the winner is. I’m having a fabulous time reading the entries for the 2017 Junefest Short Story competition run by Newbridge Junefest. This brilliant festival of arts, music, theatre, song and literature is now in its fifth year. Highlights for me this year: Mundy, Wallis Bird, the One Act play festival and of course the ever-popular street festival. Find all the details here

When I attended the inaugural Junefest literary event in Newbridge Library I could never have imagined that five years later I’d be a published prize-winning author, and even further from my mind was the idea of judging other people’s work.

I have still a lovely, rustling sheaf of entries to grade and mark. To the delight of Junefest, and (I hope) to the eventual delight of the entrants, I’ve adopted the spirit of the late great Dr John Yeoman of Writers’ Village who provided every entrant in his competitions with a paragraph or two of feedback and a marking scheme. So often my own work has made a longlist only to miss the shortlist, or a shortlist only to miss the prize and have thought to myself “if only I knew where I went wrong (and right) in that story.

So apologies to Junefest entrants who are wondering what the hold-up is… the shortlist is coming soon. And I’m looking forward to seeing some of you at the Junefest literary event   on Wednesday 7th June in the new town hall. It’ll be a wonderful evening. Just look at that talented bunch below…

Meet-the-writers-2017-pic-1024x576

 

Meanwhile spare a thought for me as I am also running the first-ever Irish language event in Junefest, Cór Gael Scoil Chill Dara who, for their sins, have me as their musical director. We’ll be singing in White Water at 1pm on Friday 2nd June, songs from our CD “Ding Dong Dedero” which raised €3,000 for the Jack and Jill Foundation at Christmas, and I’m proud also to be producing, sponsoring and facilitating the first ever Newbridge Big Sing community sing-along on Saturday 17th at 3 pm in the Riverbank Arts Centre.

Right, lets get back to these manuscripts!!!

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!!

 

belfast-telegraph
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…

armagh-big-armagh-read-3-17

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!!!

libraries-ni-logo

Kind words

Kind words

I don’t know how many Irish writers publish their debut novel or story collection each year, but I do know that a weekly newspaper column only happens at most 52 times per year! So that’s fifty-odd chances to break-through all the white-noise and static on social media and get noticed… even more difficult without an Irish publishing house or an agent at the helm.

I was really delighted when Sue Leonard who reviews debuts for the Beginner’s Pluck column in the Irish Examiner each Saturday got in touch out of the blue. I’d have loved to have headed into Dublin and met Sue, one of Ireland’s best-loved ghost-writers and reviewers, but Dublin Bus strike intervened and by the magical power of telephony (and how many of us actually understand how it works?) here is my Beginner’s Pluck article.

Many thanks to Sue

Find out more about The Accidental Wife here.

 

 

Fame, shame…and one-handed typing

Fame, shame…and one-handed typing

It’s funny what people are ashamed of. I’m a Northern Irish Catholic, educated by the Presentation Sisters and the Sisters of Mercy during the 1970s and 80s. I was a teenager during the SPUC anti-abortion craze, and I wore my badge of tiny foetal feet on my jumper every day. I was a teenager during the first horrific decade of the AIDS epidemic and sex was a dirty word. There were so many “sins” when I was a child, and yet now as an adult there is really only one “sin” that I try to avoid in daily life, which is food waste. Most of the rest I have come to think of as merely instructions intended to control the working classes. I don’t think about sin or shame very often in my busy life, unless I’m throwing out a bag of salad, so far over its eat by date that even I can’t stomach it, or soup it. Then, and only then, do I feel a pang of shame.

So when Alan Brereton and his team from Irish Television came to interview me last week for the Kildare County Matters programme, about my Eludia Prize winning collection The Accidental Wife I was surprised to find myself scouring the kitchen, hiding the detritus of family life and giving the glass surfaces a surreptitious wipe. Did this feel a bit like shame?  Why yes it did, how odd, and how utterly unlike me.

But that was nothing compared to my reaction when the cameraman focussed in on my typing, which is largely one-handed, extremely uncoordinated and incredibly inefficient. “Don’t put that in,” I ordered, “and for the love of God, don’t show the gibberish on the screen!” I was duly reassured.

The swine! Not one but two close-ups of my fingers, dancing like spiders on ketamine around my long suffering keyboard!

More shame. How utterly, utterly bizarre. What an insane thing to worry about, in what was otherwise a very enjoyable interview. While moaning about it, another writer online pointed something out to me: “Many people are able to type well, but very few of them write a book!” I could have hugged her.

I don’t know the lady in question, we’ve never met. What a shame.

You can watch the interview here  .I start at about 12 and a half minutes in, though the whole episode of Kildare county happenings is worth watching.

You can order The Accidental Wife  here.

_mg_7854

 

 

Love, love, love…The Accidental Wife

Love, love, love…The Accidental Wife

There are so many ways to show love. Maybe you brought flowers or a gift, maybe you bought five copies (as I know some of you did!), maybe you were on the platform, telling the world my virtues, or on the platform telling the world about The Accidental Wife and how it is the best thing since sliced toast.  Maybe like my family you braved atrocious driving conditions for 5 hour round journey to spend this special evening with me.

The launch of The Accidental Wife last night was a truly wonderful evening for me surrounded by friends and family, and a big contingent of writers and bloggers and book lovers. Thanks to each and every one of you.

A special thank you to Aoife at Designer Hair who made me look like the lady on the back of my book and wouldn’t accept payment, to Ana Dorado for the amazing photography, to Margaret Scott who acted as MC and to Martin Malone who officially launched The Accidental Wife. And to all who have read or reviewed the book and sent messages of support and affection.

Just to prove to that all forms of love were fully represented: Five minutes before the kick-off my husband burst through the doors of Barker and Jones bookshop, preceded by howling wind and wet through. As he stood and dripped a small puddle onto the floor from his soaked coat and slicked the raindrops off his face, he reached into his pocket and produced a shiny, gleaming, sparkling can of ice-cold Diet Coke. As Margaret said, it’s the closest thing to the iconic Milk Tray ads she’s ever seen in her life! (And my husband says, the book is “very good”, which is strong praise indeed!

Buy the accidental wife here

So busy…so, so busy. Launching The Accidental Wife

So busy…so, so busy. Launching The Accidental Wife

t-1

The Accidental Wife launches 21st Sep

Why didn’t I write this book twenty years ago? Why on earth didn’t I take my first steps into publishing back when a writer wrote a book, got a contract, did some radio interviews and either had some success or gently faded away, depending on how good their publisher’s publicity department was?

I’m joking, I suppose, but my God, this self-publicity is tough work! Even the largest and most well-known publishing houses have slashed their publicity budgets and passed a lot of that work onto the already bowed shoulders of their writers. I’ve seen the hundreds of hours of  blogging, interviewing, radio and television features and thousands of words of self-promotion by some of my favourite, most successful Irish writers. I knew it would be difficult to be published by a small American publisher, with no reach or personal contacts into the Irish market, but no idea how difficult.

Every time my hand hovers over “publish” or “post” I hesitate and think…oh God, they’re all going to run away, or unfriend me, or unfollow me, or whatever you do to social media mosquitoes when they buzz around whispering “…did I tell you I’ve published a book? let me tell you a-a-a-a-ll about it…” They roll up a virtual newspaper and they look round for a bottle of DEET.

So, for absolutely, categorically the last time…I’m launching The Accidental Wife at Barker and Jones Bookshop, Naas, Co Kildare at 7pm on Wednesday 21st September. My friends and writing mentors Margaret Scott and Martin Malone are launching it with me. There will be wine, and chocolate and an opportunity to tell me I’m great. There’ll be a gathering next door in Lawlor’s Hotel at 8pm, where there will be wine, and cocktail sausages and more opportunities to tell me I’m great (or to distract my children, for which I will be even more grateful!)

And in the interim, to the dozen hardy souls who have braved the soulless wastes of amazon.com or amazon.co.uk or Goodreads to spontaneously tell the world about The Accidental Wife…many thanks! Readers don’t always realise how much those reviews mean to writers…every review increases the visibility of the book to the all-powerful Amazon search engines…get enough reviews and Amazon starts to prick up it ears and whisper to itself…I wonder should I tell people about this book…so thank you. (And remember, computers can’t read, and they don’t care what the review says, two lines is enough!)

The Accidental Wife is available at Barker and Jones, Naas, at Farrell and Nephew, Newbridge, to order from most independent bookshops, and here.