Blazing a Trail…Irish Women Who Changed the World

IMG_3928What an amazing launch in Dun Laoghaire’s Lexicon Library for Sarah Webb’s wonderful new book Blazing a Trail…Irish Women Who Changed The World.

Sarah and talented Illustrator Lauren O’Neill have shone a light on 28 amazing intelligent, hardworking, pioneering Irish women who have influenced people both at home here in Ireland and across the world.

In terms of design, Blazing a Trail is visually stunning and an exhibition of Lauren’s illustrations from the book is currently on display at the Lexicon.

Sarah has done a huge job in compiling, researching and finding out more about these incredible women some of whom I’m ashamed to admit I was not even aware of.

From Maureen O’Hara, Sybill Connolly, Eileen Grey, Nellie Cashman, Aleen Cust, the list I promise is truly varied and this is a book that deserves to be read by girls of all ages.

Ossian Smyth Cathaoirleach of Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council and Librarian Marian Keyes helped to launch the book alongside O’Brien Press Editor Aoife Walsh.  There was a great surprise when a few members of Sarah’s talented young writers group, complete with wigs and costume, entertained us with dramatized scenes from the lives of three of these remarkable women.   What a brilliant night and what a brilliant book!

Bold Girls

What a perfect day to launch Bold Girls as across the world we celebrate International Women’s Day and the Centenary of Women’s Suffrage here in Ireland !

Bold Girls’ is the innovative new project by Children’s Books Ireland to celebrate and the representation of girls and women in children’s books, that have strong, intelligent female characters that appeal to all ages. The aim is to break down barriers and put girls front and centre

A ‘Bold Girls’ Reading Guide is part of the initiative and it includes a broad reading guide from picture books to teenage novels and also includes a  focus on twenty Irish female authors and illustrators of children’s books.  It was great to take part in a special ‘Bold Girls ‘school event  in Eason’s with authors and illustrators Sarah Crossan, Niamh Sharkey and Yasmeen Ismail  and the brilliant kids from St Mary’s School in Dorset Street with lots of stories and doodling  and face painting going on.

boldgirlsLater all the Bold Girls gathered in the amazing Long Room in the Old Library in Trinity College (The inspiration for the Hogwarts Library in the Harry Potter films) for the official launch of Bold Girls.

There is also a small selection of children’s books by Irish female author’s part of the ‘Story Spinners display in the library which marks women’s role in writing and illustrating children’s literature over the century.  The books are part of Trinity’s wonderful Pollard Children’s Literature Collection of over 10,000.00 books.

Dr Norah Patten, faculty member of the International Space University officially launched ‘Bold Girls

With so many female writers and children’s book lovers gathered together it was always going to be a fun night with lots of stories!!

Well done to Jenny Murray and all the team in CBI for organising it all and putting the Reading Guide and the  Bold Girls  initiative together.IMG_1642.JPG

The Irish PEN Dinner and Award 2018

The Irish PEN Dinner and Award 2018

Great to meet so many of my friends from Irish PEN at this year’s dinner and presentation of the Irish PEN Award at The Royal St George Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire.

It is always a very special night to have so many writers gather to enjoy dinner and drinks and to honour a fellow writer in this beautiful old club.

This years’ very worthy winner of ‘The Irish PEN Award for Contribution to Literature’ is Anne Enright. As a  writer Anne  has achieved so much in terms of her work which includes , ‘The Green Road, The Portable Virgin’ and  her Man Booker award winning novel ’The Gathering’.  Anne has just finished up her term as the inaugural Laureate of Irish fiction.

The chairperson of Irish Pen Vanessa O’Loughlin presented Anne with the award.

June Considine of WORDS Ireland in her speech reminded all of us present of the imprisoned writers, an empty chair was positioned at the dinner to remember all of those, whose writing and words had led to their loss of freedom.

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Readers Day in Clones Library in Monaghan

22489760_1109224142443141_5271740234397733242_nI was delighted to come along to Readers Day in Clones Library in Monaghan to meet so many great readers, many who were also interested in writing.

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I had a wonderful conversation about my writing with Irish Times journalist Frank McNally, who later talked with Alison Jameson and Liz Nugent about their work. The wonderful Ally Bunbury told us out her Monaghan childhood, getting published and her ‘big house’ novel ‘The Inheritance’.

RTE’s Sean Rocks remembered poet Patrick Kavanagh’ with Kavanagh expert Art Agnew who also treated us to some of the poets work.

After a lovely lunch in the library Sean talked with Fermanagh born actor/writer Ciaran McMenamin about writing Skintown. The audience was riveted as Ciaran read from his first novel about the life of a young man growing up in the divided border counties.

We finished up with all of us picking a favourite book we’d recommend to our fellow readers.

Thanks to all the librarians in Clones for organising such a great event!

‘Irish Women in Literature’

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It was lovely to revisit Strokestown Park House to participate in their two day Irish Women in Literature Symposium which was opened by Councillor Orla Leden, Cathaoirleach of Roscommon and had a special focus on the forgotten women of Irish Literature

Professor Christine Kinealy of Quinnipac University gave us a fascinating account of the life of Fanny Parnell and her writing and immense contribution to Irish Nationalism.

Professor Luke Gibbons of Maynooth University, provided an absorbing insight into the world of Irish Women Writers some who hailed from Roscommon. He talked about the huge success enjoyed  by the work of Charlotte O Connor Eccles, , Grace Little Rhys, and the  prolific Bitha May Croker who  wrote 50 novels and had ‘The Road to Mandalay’ filmed. Much of their work is unfortunately now out of print but certainly these women deserve to be remembered for their contribution to Irish literature.

Nuala O’Connor talked about her work and read from ‘Miss Emily’ and a wonderful short story that has just been published in her new collection ‘Joyride to Jupiter ‘.

On Friday Dr Margaret Corporaal, Assoc Professor of Radboud University, Holland  gave us an in depth  talk about the life and work of Mary Anne Sadlier , who emigrated to Canada in 1844 and with her writing came to represent  the voice of the Irish Catholic Diaspora.

Strokestown Poetry presented a talented group of Roscommon Poets Reading from their work with Jessamine O’Connor finishing up a wonderful few days by reading from The Hermit Collective.

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 Jason King, Mary Butler, Nuala O’Connor, Orla Leden, Caroilin Callery, Christine Kinealy & Marita Conlon-McKenna