Monster Book Lunch

I had a fantastic time as usual at The Monster Book Lunch in The Royal St George Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire on Saturday. I got to talk to lots of great readers and hopefully a few new young writers about my books and ideas. Had a lovely table and we had great fun chatting over lunch as the girls came up with cover ideas and asked me lots of questions about my books. Lots of other lovely writers along too, including Sarah Webb, Cathy Cassidy, Oisin McGann and David Maybury. It was great to meet so many fans and get time with them.

Seamus Heaney

Saying goodbye to Seamus Heaney, Ireland’s best loved poet, has touched everyone in the country. All of us are aware of the passing of a very special, big hearted, generous, kind man who was a true wordsmith and had a rare ability to reach us with his poems. One of the world’s greatest writers, his poetry was firmly anchored in Irish soil but stretched out across the world to many.

I first met him when he visited my school when I was about twelve and we were surprised to find a lively young poet, talking to us about his first book of poems instead of a priest or nun, home from the missions. As he began to read I still remember being overwhelmed by his words and that sense that he was a living, breathing, real person and had the ability to transport me with his poems. Encouraged, I began to write.

Years later when my own books began to be published I was privileged to meet Seamus… he always made me laugh and put me at ease. He was that kind of man… A Nobel winning poet with an immense kindness and ability to inspire and encourage others.

At his funeral, his son Michael told us that a few minutes before he died Seamus had sent a text to his beloved wife Marie ‘Noli timere’ – don’t be afraid. His final words of farewell demonstrating the kind of man he truly was.

As chairperson of Irish PEN in 2005 I was very honoured to be involved in the presentation of Irish PEN’s Award for Literature to Seamus Heaney for his immense contribution to Irish literature.

“Between my finger and my thumb, the squat pen rests
I’ll dig with it”
Seamus Heaney 1939-2013

1913 Lockout Commemoration

I was very proud to be part of the great crowd that turned up to the commemoration of the 1913 Lockout in O’Connell Street on Saturday. Dublin’s Lord Mayor Oisin Quinn addressing the crowds reminded us that ‘knowledge of our history is intrinsic to citizenship’. Passages from James Plunkett’s pivotal book about the lockout ’Strumpet City’ were read by actors Bryan Murray and Angela Harding who starred in RTE’s TV series of the book. The wonderful voice of Ciara Sidine entertained the crowds as she sang about the Magdalen women.

A staged re-enactment of James Larkin’s speech to the crowd and his arrest and the baton charge on the large crowd by the Dublin Metropolitan Police was held in the centre of O’Connell Street near the Larkin statue with spectators joining in the ‘Down Murphy‘ and ‘Up Larkin’ chants.

The President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, laid a wreath at the statue along with Labour and Union leaders as the hardship endured by workers and their families for many months as they fought for better working conditions during the Lockout was remembered.

1913 Lockout Commemoration

Mountains to Sea Festival 2013

As the long hot summer ends it signals the start of Dun Laoghaire’s Mountains to Sea Book Festival. This event has become one of the highlights of the Irish Book world. I remember when it started off with just a handful of writers talking under gazebos and the trees in The People’s Park in Dun Laoghaire with everyone praying that it wouldn’t rain. The festival has grown and grown and has become one of the busiest and best book Festivals in Ireland. This year’s line- up includes authors Margaret Atwood, Seamus Heaney, Blake Morrison and Colum McCann.
From Screen writing, children’s books, workshops, to poetry and memoir there is something to suit everyone. I love it as Dun Laoghaire gets packed as writers and readers come together and everyone enjoys hanging out in the cafés, bars and restaurants scattered around the harbour and town. The Festival runs from 3rd Sept to 8th September 2013 and you can find more details here.

Mad About Books launch

Had a wonderful night along with lots of lovely authors, illustrators, publishers and booksellers as we celebrated the launch of Dubray Books Guide to Children’s Books which was compiled and edited by busy author and children’s book expert Sarah Webb. Gemma and Kevin Barry and Susan Walsh of Dubray Books welcomed the huge crowd to The Lost Society in Dublin’s Powerscourt Centre. There was lots of wine and nibbles and fun and chat about the world of children’s books.
Mad about Books is the perfect way to discover a book to suit children of all ages and has over 400 book reviews and lots of author interviews….it is a highly recommended guide for anyone who wants to know a little more about kids books and what to read or buy.

Mad About Books cover