What an exciting and busy day! First, there was an enormous ‘World Book Day’ Zoom organized by the amazing Sarah Webb and Halfway Up the Stairs Children’s Book Shop in Greystones in Wicklow and publishers O’Brien Press with 80 schools and classes from not only Wicklow all over Ireland taking part.
Ivan O’ Brien and Trish from the bookshop welcomed everyone and Sarah, Judi Curtin and I all talked about our favourite thing….Books… It was such fun and some classes had dressed up as their favourite book characters. I even got the chance to read a little bit from my new book Fairy Hill to everyone.
Then into town for the official launch of Fairy Hill in Dubray Books on Dublin’s Grafton Street. It was such a special night as so many friends and family turned up along with some wonderful young readers to celebrate my new children’s book Fairy Hill, which was sheer joy to write.
The joy was tinged with a little sadness as my late publisher Michael O’Brien was not there to see the book in print but his son Ivan of O’Brien Press did a wonderful job launching my book with his thoughtful and kind words. Huge thanks are due to Susan and all the Staff in Dubray Books for arranging the launch and to Dubray books for the great window displays for Fairy Hill. Thanks also to the great team in O’Brien Press for organising a night to remember.
Marita with friends authors Sarah Webb and Tom McCaughren in the Dubray Bookshop, Grafton Street, Dublin.
Here’s hoping that 2023 will be a better year for the World and the Planet and that Peace, Justice, Care and Kindness will prevail across the Earth.
It is an exciting time for me as my new children’s book Fairy Hill is due to be published at the end of February 2023.
The story has been in my head and heart for the longest time and it was a joy to write about Anna who comes to stay with her Dad in Ireland. Upset at first Anna gradually comes to know and love the old house and the fields and lake, beach and woods. There are new friends and she learns to surf and to ride but Anna senses that she is being watched. As she begins to uncover the mysteries of Fairy Hill and its secrets Daniel, the mysterious boy she meets down by the lake, warns her that her little half- brother Jack may be in danger. Soon Anna is caught up in a desperate fight to find her brother and save him from a powerful and magical foe.
The story is inspired by one of my favourite poems The Stolen Child by W.B Yeats which I first read when I was about eleven or twelve and has stayed with me ever since.
I had lots of fun at Fighting Words meeting a group of brilliant young authors who gave up their Saturday morning to come and talk about ideas, writing and creating stories.
It was all arranged by the amazing Louise Melinn and Mark Davidson and the team of volunteers in Fighting Words in their bright and welcoming head -quarters in Dublin’s Russell Street. Writer Catherine Prasifka author of ‘None of this is Serious’ was there to help moderate what was a lively session. We all had such fun with the young writers getting out pen and paper to write a new story.
Fighting Words is a creative writing organisation which was the brain child of Writer Roddy Doyle and Sean Love. It was set up in 2009 to encourage children to write and create stories of their own. They hold workshops for both primary and secondary school students and summer camps which they run with the help of volunteers.
The Creative Ireland Programme has partnered with Fighting Words to help it expand and they now have 12 branches in towns and cities across Ireland. Volunteers play a huge part in its operation and there are over 400 wonderful volunteers and mentors helping young writers to harness their imagination and develop their creative writing skills.
It was a great honour to be asked to take part in the memorial tribute for my friend and publisher Michael O’Brien in Dublin Castle as part of The Dublin Book Festival. Friends and family and colleagues from the book world gathered in the Print Works to remember this extraordinary man who had done so much to grow and develop Irish publishing over the years. He was involved in setting up so many organizations that would encourage reading, writing and publishing.
O’Brien Press growing from the small beginnings of just two people working there to becoming one of Ireland’s foremost award winning publishers. Michael had huge energy and drive and a vision for Irish publishing that he lived to see fulfilled. His achievements in terms of publishing were enormous as found gaps in the Irish book market and set about filling them as well as regularly attending the huge book fairs and selling translation rights to so many books by Irish authors.
His son Ivan O’Brien and Editor Ide O’Laoghaire and designer Emma Byrne all shared their memories as a montage of photographs of Michael’s rich life was shown on screen.
I told of my first meeting Michael in O’Brien Press in Rathgar in 1989, when he gave me the good news that he was going to publish my book ‘Under the Hawthorn Tree.’ This was the start of a long friendship which stretched over many years, with O’Brien due to publish my new children’s book Fairy Hill in spring 2023.
Playwright and author Frank McGuinness was a long -time friend of Michael’s but unfortunately at the last minute was unable to attend but Ivan read out his words about the high regard he had for Michael O’Brien.
President Michael D Higgins also spoke of their enduring friendship over many years and how he looked forward to meeting Michael and the lively discussions that ensued. Michael was always an innovator, full of ideas ready to try new things.
Michael O’Brien was huge figure in Irish publishing and will be missed by all of us who had the good fortune to know him. However he has left an abiding legacy and O’Brien Press continues to thrive under the good care of his sons Ivan and Eoin O’Brien and all the publishing team there.
Dublin Castle with Ivan O’Brien and the wonderful Alice Leahy
On a balmy November’s evening in Dublin it was great to be able to get along to two busy book launches after such a long time of having no launches.
Ally Bunbury’s fun Christmas read ‘All Wrapped Up’ was launched in The Little Museum by Anne Doyle and then down the road to Hodges and Figgis Bookshop for the launch of my friend P.J. Lynch’s beautiful new picture book ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’ which is based on the famous Robert Frost poem. Eoin Colfer did the honours and it was great to meet up with so many friends. Both are perfect Christmas books
One more book I should mention is by talented young Ukrainian writer Yeva Skalietska whose wonderful book ‘You Don’t Know What War Is’ has also only been published.
Twelve year old Yeva recounts what happened when Russian forces began to bomb her home town of Kharkiv, at first they shelter but as things worsen she and her grandmother Irina have to flee, moving to another part of Ukraine. Yeva keeps a diary recording what is happening all around her and her fears and hopes. She and her grandmother make the long journey to Hungary where a journalist sees her writing it and helps them until they eventually come to Ireland. There are maps of her hometown and of the long journey she and her grandmother made I met Yeva months ago with Irina and she is already trying to make the best of things, settling into her new school and life here.