GPO Launch of Leaders and Learners

It was such an honour and privilege to launch the Leaders and Learners exhibition in the Witness Gallery of the GPO in O’Connell Street on Friday.

The social history exhibition based on the work of Primary Schools students from City Quay National School and Drimnagh Castle National School, is part of College Awareness Week.

In this fascinating project, the students researched the lives of many of the 1916 leaders, their educational background and what they might aspire to study if they were alive a hundred years later. They also wrote about their own ambitions to attend college and study in the future.

Looking around at their colourful portraits of Grace and Nellie Gifford and Countess Markievicz, Padraig Pearse, James Connolly, Elizabeth O’Farrell and so many others, I felt that I was amongst friends.

The students were awarded certificates for their participation and it was great to chat to such a bright, interesting crowd of students who had made their own of 1916 and enjoyed researching and working on all the projects which are now on display. The Leaders and Learners exhibition will run until the end of the month in the GPO.

Afterwards I took the opportunity to visit the GPO’s Witness History 1916 Exhibition, which is just brilliant. By just being in the GPO, you are already part of Irish history, but the exhibition helps to give an overall concept of Dublin at the time of the Rising.

There is a spectacular film of the days of the Easter Rising itself, which almost surrounds you and makes you feel like you are looking down at all that is happening. As you watch the leaders of the Rising talking in the GPO, they make their plans and study a map which brings the visitor to that part of Dublin and the action there. Throughout the visitor centre there are displays of mementos and uniforms, letters and even sections of the Post Office. I also found the walls covered with theatre and army recruiting and advertising posters of the time added to the experience.

Outside there is a wonderful new courtyard with a sculpture of stones to commemorate the children who died during the 1916 Rising. There is also a bright new coffee shop and gift shop and of course there is the wonderful Post Office itself, which is where it all began.

The GPO Witness History 1916 Exhibition opened as part of the 2016 Centenary, but is a permanent exhibition. If you are in the city or planning to visit Dublin, it is well worth exploring.

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Bord Gais Energy Irish Book Awards 2016

What a wonderful night at Dublin’s Double Tree Hilton at the Irish Book Awards! The great and the good of Irish publishing and bookselling gathered for the glamorous and glitzy annual celebration of Ireland’s Books of the Year.

I was very honoured as Rebel Sisters was on the shortlist for the Irish Popular Fiction Book of the Year. The award on the night went to TV’s Graham Norton as expected, but I’m so proud of my book and so pleased that it has been enjoyed by so many readers and book clubs here in Ireland and in the UK and the USA.

My daughter, Fiona, accompanied me and we had a brilliant night at the Transworld table with my publishers Larry Finlay and Bill Scott Kerr, with the wonderful Jilly Cooper entrancing us all. Jilly received the very special Bord Gais Energy International Recognition Award for her significant contribution to the Irish book trade over the years and for entertaining so many readers with her books. Acclaimed Irish Poet and writer John Montague received the Bob Hughes Lifetime Achievement Award. It was lovely to chat with author Donal Ryan and his wife Anne-Marie who were also on our table.

Great to meet up with so many friends and writers at this very special night that celebrates literature and authors!

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Vote in Irish Book Awards 2016

Marita at launch of Irish Book awards 2016What great news to discover that Rebel Sisters is on the short list for the Popular Fiction Book of the Year Award 2016 for this year’s Bord Gais Energy Irish Book Awards!

There was lots of excitement, chat and fun when I went along to the official announcement of the shortlists for the book awards at Dublin’s Bord Gais Theatre. You have never seen so many happy authors, publishers and book sellers in one place.

I am in very good company as the other authors on the shortlist for the Irish Independent Popular Fiction Book of the Year are Graham Norton, Cecelia Ahern, Emily Hourican, Hazel Gaynor and Ross O’Carroll Kelly.

It is heart-warming to know that so many of you have enjoyed reading Rebel Sisters.

I’m really looking forward to a big night out on 16th November when the awards will be presented at the Irish Book Awards Ceremony and Gala Dinner in Dublin’s Double Tree Hilton Hotel. It will be broadcast on RTE One on Saturday 19th November and voting is now open…

If you want to vote for your favourite book for this year’s awards, you can do so here.

Voting closes at midnight on 11th November 2016.

Marita, Liz Nugent & Donal Ryan

Marita, Liz Nugent & Donal Ryan

Marita and Happy Pear cooks Stephen & David Flynn

Marita and Happy Pear cooks Stephen & David Flynn

October Festivals!

Trinity Lit Society Award 2016 with Ruth Atkins

Trinity Lit Society Award 2016 with Ruth Atkins

It’s October and it’s book festival time!

Rebel Sisters has just come out in paperback and it is such a privilege to have so many book clubs reading the book. Also, it’s great to hear that so many of you are going on to research and discover more about 1916. I love it when people come up and share their own 1916 family stories with me, as I do events around the country.

Huge thanks to the Trinity Literary Society for their lovely award which I was very honoured to receive. Talking about books and writing in Dublin’s beautiful old college always reminds me of the writers that have crossed its cobble stoned squares over the years.

Marita with Lia Mills and Sinead Moriarty

Marita with Lia Mills and Sinead Moriarty

Then it was up to my old school, Mount Anville, for a very special Authors’ Night with Lia Mills and Sinead Moriarty. We are all past pupils and it was fun remembering our school days and our first forays into writing with a big group of book lovers.

Then down to North Tipperary to the Drumineer Arts Festival. What a lovely event,held in Nenagh Castle – that has been restored! Talking history in the Round Room of the Castle was very special and having harpist Laura O’Sullivan to play certainly added to the atmosphere.

Marita in Nenagh Castle with Margaret Kennedy and Laura O'Sullivan

Marita in Nenagh Castle with Margaret Kennedy and Laura O’Sullivan

Then it was the Red Line Festival in Tallaght where I was delighted to join writer Dermot Bolger on stage in the Civic Theatre in Tallaght for their Readers’ Day. On Sunday, Dermot and I took part in a recording of RTE Radio 1’s Sunday Miscellany in the Civic Theatre.

Now I’m packing my bags again to go to Cork for this year’s Children’s Book Festival where I will get to meet and talk to lots of young fans…

London Calling

Emily Hayward-Whitlock, Marita and Caroline Sheldon

Emily Hayward-Whitlock, Marita and Caroline Sheldon

Just back from a busy few days in London, with a special Champagne celebration lunch with my editor Francesca and agent, Caroline Sheldon, to mark the success of Rebel Sisters and its upcoming paperback edition in October.

I barely had time to get back to my hotel and change for the big party held at The Art Workers’ Guild on Queen’s Square to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the Caroline Sheldon Literary Agency.

What a fantastic night! The old portrait lined hall was thronged with authors and illustrators, editors and publishers, all delighted to congratulate Caroline on her hard work and achievements over the years, looking after so many of us writers and illustrators. Caroline knows the book industry inside out and it is lovely to know that you have her there to support and encourage you.

All around the room, Caroline and fellow agent Felicity had on display some of the wonderful books that they have worked on. It was a very special night with great food, wine, chat and lots of fun at what was one of London’s publishing parties of the year!