A sunny Saturday in ‘Halfway up the Stairs’ bookshop in Greystones

It was wonderful to be back in Greystones in my favourite children’s bookshop Halfway up the Stairs again to celebrate the lovely new edition of my book Safe Harbour with its great new cover by Philip Cullen.   On a sunny day passing all the little boats out sailing, people in swimming in the cove, with a man playing the bagpipes in the stilly sea air was sheer joy and then to find such huge  crowd of amazing young  readers and bookworms  coming along to meet me . It was brilliant as we chatted all about Safe Harbour and why and how I wrote it and about Fairy Hill too. There were lots of books to sign and questions to be answered. Thank you so much to Trish Hennessy and Sarah Webb for organising such a special afternoon and to all my young readers for coming along.

 In Safe Harbour, Sophie and her younger brother Hugh are caught up in the Blitz, with London being pounded night after night by German bombers during World War 11.  When their house and street gets hit their mum is badly injured. As their Dad is away fighting with the British Army Sophie and Hugh are evacuated to Ireland to stay with their Grandfather, a man they have never met and no one ever talks about.  He lives in Greystones in a big old house overlooking the sea. They don’t want to be away from home and their mum and he makes it very clear that he doesn’t want them staying with him either. Soon Sophie is caught up in another war but with her grumpy cross grandfather as the dangers of war begin to edge closer.

I spent so much of my childhood in Greystones, that I knew that it was the perfect place to bring Sophie and Hugh after all they had seen and witnessed. To have them run and play and swim on the beach and cove and harbour and enjoy a freedom that they would never have in London and also to experience the magic of Greystones which never changes. ..

Safe Harbour and Greystones

It’s exciting as Safe Harbour my book about World War 11 has another lovely new edition with a great cover by artist Philip Cullen coming out this week.

The book is about Sophie and Hugh who live in London during the blitz. Their dad is a soldier away fighting in the war. When their home gets bombed their mum is badly injured, they are evacuated to Ireland to stay with their grandfather, in a big old house overlooking the sea in Greystones, Co Wicklow.

However their grandfather is a man they know little about and have never met.  He is crusty and difficult and doesn’t really want the two children foisted on him. It seems to Sophie she is caught up in another war ….

I spent so much of my own childhood in Greystones I knew it was the perfect place to bring Sophie and her younger brother Hugh who are scared, upset and lonely at having to leave their mother and home.

I will be visiting Greystones and Halfway up the Stairs, my favourite children’s book shop, on Saturday 13th May at 4.00 pm to talk about Safe Harbour and meet young readers and sign books. Please come along as I love meeting young readers. 

There is also a big Zoom with about 80 schools on Thursday 11 May at 11.30 am with the amazing Hannah Gold author of The Last Bear and I with author Sarah Webb, also organised by Halfway up the Stairs bookshop. 

Larry O’Loughlin-Farewell to a Friend

I am so sad this week at the death of my dear friend and fellow writer Larry O’ Loughlin.  We have been friends for more years than I can remember. Larry, a big man with the kindest heart and wisest words had a great sense of fun and mischief. Kids and adults alike adored him and were drawn to him. Passionate about writing Larry wrote everything from witty and fun rhymes and stories for little kids  ‘Worms Can’t Fly,’The Yuckee Prince’  to challenging fiction for young adults ‘Breaking the Silence’ and ‘ Is Anybody Listening?’ . He loved visiting schools and meeting and encouraging young readers and writers.

He was also a talented playwright.Actor Stephen Jones giving an incredible performance, in his powerful stage play ‘100 More Like These‘ was based on the  Irish Soldiers, many of whom  fled famine Ireland only to find themselves having to enlist in the American  army.    A large group of 500 of them led by John Riley deserted it during The Mexican – American War (1846- 1888) and instead fought on the Mexican side. They were known as the San Patricio’s.

Then there was the brilliant and hilarious Stone Mountain Band musical with Larry even writing all the music for it.

He cared deeply about the world and making it a better place for everyone.  He was a joy to spend time with and I loved meeting up with him and talking to him. I was blessed to have had such a friend. My thoughts at this time are with his wife Monica and children Roisin, Sean, Aislinn and Sinead and all his much loved grand- children.

      Sad by Larry O’Loughlin

It is sad to think that lots of toys

that moms and dads buy girls and boys

are made by little girls and boys

who never get to play with them.

Poem from ‘Something Beginning with P’, A book of New Poems from Irish Poets published by O Brien Press.

Larry O’Loughlin and I with writer Don Conroy and his daughter Sarah at Launch Party in RIAC Club, Dublin

Larry and I in ‘Halfway Up the Stairs’ Children’s Bookshop in Greystones.

Ernest Hemingway’s House in Key West, Florida

Taking a break from a busy book schedule it was great to escape to the stunning beauty of the Florida Keys and chill out in Key Largo, Islamorada and Key West. Everywhere we travelled was paradise,surrounded by water and nature, so it was the perfect place for a great holiday.

 In Key West I visited the home of one of America’s greatest writers Ernest Hemingway –a literary hero of mine ever since I first read ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ when I was a teenager. Hemingway was a winner of both the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (1953) and the Nobel Prize in Literature (1954).

 I am always curious and fascinated by great writer’s homes as they provide a glimpse into their lives. The Hemingway house, a French colonial style house built in 1851, did not disappoint for it is a beautiful house on Whitehead Street, close to the lighthouse and to the water where Hemingway loved to sail and fish. Climbing the small stairs to his outside separate study it was great to see the place where he created so much of his work.  Descendants of his original six toed cat still laze around the house and garden.   Another famous  and influential  American writer Judy Blume lives in Key West and is a co- founder of the busy local  bookstore  ‘Books and Books’  and often can be found  there. I can’t wait to see the film version of her classic book ‘Are You There God, its Me Margaret,’ which is due out later this month starring Rachel McAdam and Kathy Bates.

We also visited The Little White House ‘- the Truman home which is only a few minute walk away from the Hemingway home and is also well worth a visit. President Harry S. Truman was a regular visitor to Key West and loved spending time down there. Truman was one of the most influential American presidents. The House is a Presidential Museum with beautiful furnishings and design and is still used sometimes by American presidents. 

All the Fun of a New Book!

With Sarah Webb, Trish Hennessy and Meriel O’Toole in Halfway Up the Stairs Bookshop in Greystones, Co Wicklow.

The first few weeks after Fairy Hill’s publication have been great fun, meeting lots of lovely readers and booksellers, librarians and teachers, visiting schools and bookshops to talk about the book and encourage everyone to write and to Keep Reading.

 I had a brilliant time with lots of lovely readers in a very packed Halfway up the Stairs book shop in Greystones (one of my favourite places a book shop that specialises in children’s books).

It was great to get along to meet so many friends at the Children’s Writer and Illustrator’s Lunch organised by the wonderful Sarah Webb in the Royal St George Yacht Club last week. 

Then I was back in the North Wicklow Educate Together School only a few days later meeting a great bunch of First Year students.

I love meeting my readers and talking about books and words, and the pictures we all get in our head that inspire stories and poems, plays and songs, scripts and even comics and graphic novels.  The one thing I notice is all the really talented young writers out there with great stories to tell…..