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

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!

Book Clubs – Rebel Sisters

Book Club IllustrationIt is great to see Rebel Sisters become such a big Book Club choice. It is a great honour to have so many book clubs all over the country reading and discussing my new novel based on the lives of the Gifford sisters. Rebel Sisters was also a Sean O’ Rourke’s RTE Radio Show Book Club choice.

There is a huge interest in the changing lives of women of the period leading up to 1916 and the complexities of Irish history which would see a family like the Giffords, loyal to the crown and empire, torn apart. As their brothers enlisted to fight in the Great War, Muriel, Grace and Nellie found themselves instead caught up in plans for the Nationalist rebellion.

Writing a book about three young women who were so deeply involved at the very heart of the 1916 Rising was certainly a very big subject to take on but I am so please at the huge interest in the book and the fact that it has encouraged so many readers to delve further into the events of 1916.

I had a lovely time speaking at a big Book Club lunch held in Elm Park Golf Club in Dublin where I had the chance to meet lovely readers from different book clubs, who had lots of questions and insights into the book.

Thank you to all my wonderful Book Club readers!

Easter 1916-2016

O'Connell Street Easter Sunday 2016

O’Connell Street Easter Sunday 2016

Easter Sunday

The streets of Dublin were crowded as thousands of us gathered to watch the Easter 1916 Centenary Commemoration Parade. The day was bright and dry as the massive crowds made their way along the long parade route which led towards O’Connell Street. There were wide screens to display the formal ceremony outside the GPO, as the main street of Dublin city was reserved for family member and relatives of those who fought in 1916.

The parade of the Irish Defence Forces received huge cheers as they passed us, army bands, navy services and all types of military vehicles. President Michael D. Higgins, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Dublin’s Mayor Criona Ni Dhalaigh and the Minister for Defence, Simon Coveney, all received a warm welcome on this very special day. Everyone watched and was moved by the reading of the Proclamation by Captain Peter Kelleher outside the GPO, the lowering of the Irish tri-colour flag and the army band playing Mise Eire.

Reading of the Proclamation Easter Sunday 2016

Reading of the Proclamation Easter Sunday 2016

The whole city stood still to remember that day a hundred years ago when a small band of rebels took the GPO and declared an Irish Republic. The Irish Air Corps with their plumes of green white and orange flew over O’Connell Street which brought huge cheers from everyone watching below. This important part of our history was honoured, the brave men and women of 1916 were recalled and their effort to fight for Irish freedom commemorated on this very special Easter Sunday 2016.

Reflecting the Rising

On Easter Monday, the city was transformed for RTE’s large scale event organised for families and all those with an interest in the Rising.
Artist and writer Don Conroy and I were delighted to take part. We gave two 1916 story and drawing workshops in DIT College, Aungier Street, (site of the former Jacob’s biscuit factory and the garrison led by Thomas MacDonagh and Captain John MacBride during the 1916 Rising).

There was fun and hundreds of events and talks on all aspects of the Rising and re-enactments by drama groups with packed events in O’Connell Street, Smithfield and St. Stephen’s Green. Alongside the family activities and entertainment in in St Stephen’s Green, there was the poignant reminder by a children’s drama group of all the children who died during the Rising.

The skies stayed bright and sunny and the marvellous events of the weekend were finished off by RTE’s Centenary concert, broadcast live that night from the Bord Gais Theatre.

It was a weekend to remember and a fitting tribute to Padraig Pearse, Tom Clarke, James Connolly Sean MacDiarmada, Thomas MacDonagh, Eamonn Ceannt and Joseph Plunkett and all those who went out a hundred years ago, on that Easter Monday 1916.

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Hong Kong and Macau Turn Green

What a great experience to be invited to take part in Macau’s Script Road Writers’ Festival! I met lots of writers not only from China and Portugal but from across the world.

I took part in a lively discussion on ‘The Peculiar Life of Writer’ at The Old Court Building with Sweden’s Bengt Ohlsson and Portugal’s Rui Zink. Also I was kept busy with events across the island, talking in Macau’s University, the International School, the Sir Robert Ho Tung Chinese School, as well as a family event at The Ritz Carlton Hotel.

Great to see Macau’s historic St Paul’s Church turn green, like many iconic buildings around the world, to celebrate St Patrick’s Day. Dublin’s Lord Mayor, Criona ni Dhalaigh, spoke at the Hong Kong and Macau Irish Festival‘s St. Patrick’s Day dinner in the Grand Lapa Hotel. The next day she led off the first St. Patrick’s Day parade to be held on the island.

Watching the local Irish dancing groups, traditional lion dancers and the Chinese dragon, as well as local hip-hop dancers and the police bag-pipers, I felt very proud to be part of such a multi-cultural celebration of Ireland’s heritage.

In Hong Kong, the Mayor of Dublin presented Father Joseph Mallin – aged 102 – with the great honour of the Freedom of Dublin City. Father Joseph, son of Michael Mallin the 1916 Rising leader, is not only the last living child of an executed leader of the Rising but has dedicated his life to working and helping those in need in Hong Kong.

A concert entitled ‘Mise Eire’ was held to celebrate and commemorate the centenary of the 1916 Rising and was attended not only by the Irish community living in Hong Kong, but also by those with an interest in Ireland. I was very honoured to read a chapter from Rebel Sisters to the large audience and to get the chance to meet Father Mallin.

Well done to Ireland’s Consul, General Peter Ryan and all those involved in organising such a special event to mark the centenary of the 1916 Rising!

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