Monthly Archives: December 2012

Abandoned Darlings

AbandonedDarlingsCover
Ruth Quinlan, one of the members of NUIG’s Masters in Writing group which produced the collection Abandoned Darlings, caught up with Selfpublishbooks.ie this week and discussed how the book came about, starting with how her interest in writing first began.

“When I was younger,” said Ruth, “I was a real bookworm, staying up all night devouring books until the grey hours of morning. I had always been interested in writing as well, dabbling with a few evening courses but never really making much headway because I was too focused on work. When I moved back from Malaysia in 2009, I really wanted to rediscover that part of myself so I started looking at MA courses and saving every spare cent I could lay my hands on. I didn’t want to do it part-time like I know other people do; I wanted it to be a full year of immersing myself back into the world of books and writing. So, I chucked in the job and became a full-time student again. Yes, several people thought I had lost my senses walking away from a good job in the middle of a recession but I knew that I needed to do it for myself.”

Why NUIG? “The NUIG course really appealed to me because it is such a wide-ranging course – people don’t have to choose a particular area of specialization until the final MA portfolio is being handed in. Instead, they can do anything from poetry to oral history, screenwriting to travel literature.”

Ruth felt this particularly contributed to her enjoyment of the program: “I discovered areas like theater reviewing that I absolutely loved – and would never have considered if they hadn’t been on the available module list. Those free theater tickets for the semester came in very handy – I was there every week for about three months! I adored being a student again and still get a little pang of envy whenever I pass by the college here in Galway.”

So how did Abandoned Darlings come about? “It has become a kind of informal tradition now for each of the MA in Writing courses to release a collection of their writing after the course has finished,” Ruth told me, “We looked at previous year’s examples and we wanted to do the same – especially since this was the tenth anniversary of the MA in Writing course. Professor Adrian Frazier has done an incredible job of gathering together gifted teachers and enthusiastic students and the MA has really blossomed under his skillful stewardship. He had suggested the idea of an anthology to us towards the beginning of our course (back in September 2011) and we ran with it from there. However, the process really started in May 2012 when we started having meetings about it and trying to figure out who was going to be guest editor, how many submissions to have etc. December 2012 when we launched Abandoned Darlings was the culmination of a lot of work by a lot of people who had never done anything like this before.”

What books/which authors particularly inspired you and your MA group? “I remember when I read The Shipping News by Annie Proulx, my fingers literally burned to write like she did,” Ruth said, “I could see what she saw, feel what her characters felt; taste, touch, smell the entire world she created. Since then, I have read everything she wrote but also had the privilege of reading many other wonderful authors. An Irish author that I really admire is Nuala Ni Chonchuir. I find the sensuality and earthy wisdom of her prose and poetry inspiring. Whenever the muse has decided that she’d much rather hang out with a more deserving writer, I pick up one of Nuala’s books – the muse eventually stops sulking after that and deigns to come back  – for a little while at least.”

What did Ruth contribute to the anthology? “I wrote a short story called ‘Moon-kite’ which is my attempt to explore the breakdown of a middle-aged woman’s marriage. It is about her realization that she has lost pieces of herself in the struggle to hold a dying marriage together – and the solace she seeks during her rediscovery of her self. I also wrote a short piece called ‘Crossing the Dunes’, which is about the loss of a loved one. It was heavily influenced by the loss of my own father but is not completely autobiographical.”

Ruth was happy to talk about her publishing history: “I have had my writing published in journals and forums like ThresholdsSINScissors & SpackleEmerge Literary Journal and I’m included in this year’s Irish Independent Hennessy New Irish Writing series. My poetry was published as part of Wayword Tuesdays, which was a poetry collection printed by Selfpublishbooks.ie a little earlier this year. I was just a contributor on that project though as opposed to this one for Abandoned Darlings where I took responsibility for driving it to conclusion.”

What caught their interest in self-publishing? “Self-publishing really opens your eyes to the hard grind that goes into creating, marketing, and selling a book. I will never pick up another book without a heartfelt appreciation of how many decisions were required to bring it into existence. It’s funny actually because when you self-publish, you become completely obsessed with strange things like cover finishes, and paper color and weight. I found myself on several occasions standing in the middle of a bookshop running my hand over a page of particularly smooth, heavyweight paper – or lusting over a nice cover graphic. I definitely got a few odd looks!”

I asked Ruth how she and the group found the self-publishing process – efficient or daunting? Ruth was optimistic about the whole process. “However, once we got int the nitty-gritty like finding a guest editor, assigning an ISBN number, writing bios, fundraising to cover the printing process & advertising costs, etc. we became a little more daunted. However, we were fortunate in the fact that we could turn to some of the people from previous MA years who had gone through the process already. Their advice was invaluable. While this was a steep learning curve for me personally, I am very glad I did it because now, if I ever get to the stage where I want to publish a book of my own, I would have a pretty good idea of how to go about it. The old adage is true – you really do only learn by doing, getting your hands dirty and by making your own mistakes. Then, at the end of the day, when you see your book for the first time in print, the hard work is truly worth it and there is a great feeling of satisfaction in being able to say, ‘I did this, I created this.’ ”

Will the group be writing together in the future or going their separate ways? “Now that the MA year has finished, many of the class have moved back home to the States or Canada so I am not sure if we can all continue to work together as closely as we have until now. However, I think we will all keep in contact and continue to workshop each others writing and I am very sure that some of the group will continue to work together as a writing collective.”

Now the collection is done, I asked Ruth if she’s finished with writing: “Never! I will never have enough of writing. However, now that I am back in full-time employment, the challenge will be to make sure that I retain a balance between work and the writing. I cannot let my writing slip away like I did before so I am determined to keep at it. It would be such a loss otherwise. Competition deadlines are a great way of forcing yourself to write so I’ll be keeping an eye out for those. Even if I don’t get anywhere with them, they are a great incentive to keep producing. Practice makes perfect as they say.”

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Wayword Tuesdays with the Tuesday Knights

Wayword Tuesdays COVER

Over the last three years, novice and experienced poets have been meeting in creative writing classes in Galway under the guidance of poet Kevin Higgins either on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Fridays. Over the years, though classes have had different people come and go, there have been a few who regularly would be there on the Tuesday night, and got to know each other pretty well.

I caught up with Stephen Byrne, one of the contributors to Wayword Tuesdays, who told me that it was one of the aforementioned few regulars who came up with the concept of creating an anthology for the group, and so the Tuesday Knights were founded and consisted of 7 poets.

The Tuesday Knights printed their anthology with Selfpublishbooks.ie earlier this year. I asked Stephen how it all began. “We started it last June,” he says, “We would meet in the House Hotel (which became a regular occurrence) to decide on how we would do it, since none of us had ever had books published before. A lot of work and decisions have to go in to this project such as, to try get published or self–publish? Do we need/want an ISBN number? How many poems each? What would the design be like? Who will design it? What about the cover, art or graphic? We needed to meet regularly and come to agreement on everything, time consuming but fun.”

I asked Stephen what he enjoyed the most about the compliation. “We all contributed 7 poems each. Plus we had a professional photographer take portraits and added these into the book along with a short bio of each writer, was a lovely touch.”

Seven writers, one book had to be a challenge. I asked Stephen what the main obstacles were in putting together Wayword Tuesdays: “As with 7 different poets, the main challenge was to have variety. And luckily enough, since we are 7 completely different writers with different styles and voices, the book is awash with different types of poetry, catering for all tastes.”

This is the Tuesday Knights’ first publication. Why self-publish? Stephen is happy to tell me: “Having full control, of design, cost, timescale. Plus, we had the ability to come together, grow together as a group, each with an influence in its creation and the excitement of having and viewing the final draft before we give the go ahead to print, is daunting yet crazily exhilarating, the power of self-publishing.”

The process of self-publishing itself is sometimes daunting at first glance, but Stephen told me it was quite the opposite for him and the group. “Actually found it quite easy. Working with Frank and his team was gratifying, easy, enjoyable and extremely efficient. The hard and tiring part was getting everything together, working with 7 people, meeting together, agreeing, disagreeing, but the publishing part was a doddle, quick with outstanding results.”

What about the finished product? “It was way better than we imagined, stunning,” Stephen said, “We had outsourced the artwork for our cover with a local artist, so we did not know what way the cover would look until we had the books in our hands. We also chose a creamery paper rather than the white. When the books arrived, I was blown away by how professional they looked. The cover was outstanding and because of the paper we chose, the font looked amazing.”

I asked Stephen if there was an author/group of authors the group took as their inspiration. “Too many to name,” replied, “I myself would be highly influenced by Lorca and Neruda and more recently Nathalie Handal.”

What’s next for the Tuesday Knights?

“I think we will now do a bit of literature festival traveling to promote the book, sell a few copies and have fun with it. Whether we bring out another anthology down the line remains to be seen, but who knows, we now know what were doing and have had a taste of the simplicity of self-publishing.”

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Irish Poetry with Sean O’Muimhneachan

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Sean O’Muimheachan, a primary teacher in Macroom, printed with Selfpublishbooks.ie a casebound book of his poetry. I had a quick chat with Sean and asked him where it all began.

“I was born and reared in a rural Gaeltacht area, Gaeltacht Mhúscraí,” said Sean, “and received my primary and secondary education in that area; I’ve
spent all my working life there. Very boring you might say! Not at all.
This is an area of natural beauty, steeped in history and culture and with
plenty of sporting and cultural activity throughout the year. We are within
easy reach of bus and train services and within an hour’s journey of two
international airports. But those things never bothered me growing up in
this area as there was always plenty to do.”

Sean was happy to relate how he first became interested in writing: “This locality has long been famous for its writers, poets and singers and
it was only natural that I would become acquainted with their work as I
grew up. Songs and poems were composed about many local happenings,
these being mostly humorous songs, but many more serious poets were
also at work, producing works that were to earn for them national fame.

“Seán Ó Ríordáin and Séamas Ó Céileachair are two who immediately
come to mind. Then there were the writers like An tÁth, Peadar Ó
Laoghaire and Dónall Bán Ó Céileachair, who preserved the richness of
the local dialect in their writings. Perhaps it was only natural that I would
begin to dabble in such pursuits as I grew to understand the importance of
such things in our society.”

How does work fit into all this? “Being a Primary Teacher, I often composed poems to fit in with topics in
the curriculum when suitable poems were not available or for use in stage
shows or drama competitions. Dámhscoil Mhúscraí provided the impetus
to practise my poetry skills and I have for many years participated in
this annual poetry session.

“I’ve been a regular attendant at Oireachtas na
Gaeilge and Fleadhanna Ceoil also, both of which hold competitions for
newly composed songs. This provided the incentive to write and compete,
which I have done for many years with limited success. Having heard
suggestions from many that I should publish some of my works, I decided
the time was right when I retired from teaching and so Gleanntán an
Aoibhnis began to take shape.”

I was curious to know what a reader can expect from Sean’s book. “The reader will find that the songs are predominantly humorous songs
and I must admit to enjoying writing such songs,” he admits with a smile, “When a good line comes
together it gives me a giggle of satisfaction and I hope it also brings a
smile to the face of the reader.

“Having said this, I am well aware that a
serious song or poem is usually of a far better quality than a frivolous
one. I have also written a few of those, both in Irish and in English. It’s
easy to draw a laugh but the song that draws a tear strikes closer to the
heart.”

So once he put all the words together, it was only a matter of finding where to put them between a book cover. Sean has already given a wonderful testimonial, but I was curious as to how he found self-publishing: “This was my first experience of publishing and, having approached Bard
na nGleann in Béal Átha’n Ghaorthaidh, I was put in touch with Lettertec
in Carrigtwohill. I was facing the unknown.

“However, I was given every
assistance and advice and Elaine Barry, who was in charge of design, was
most efficient, helpful and patient. Anything that needed to be changed or
corrected was attended to without fuss and her advice on layout, font, etc.,
was invaluable. The finished product more than I could have wished for,
a most professional package, and deadlines were met promptly.”

What’s in store for Mr O’Muimhneachan now? “At the moment I don’t have any other plans for publishing,” he says, “but who
knows what the future may hold!”

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Young At Heart

Phil with Minister Kathleen Lynch and Frank Kelly of Lettertec

Young at Heart – a Celebration of Ten Years is a compilation by Phil Goodman which chronicles the activities of a group of volunteers in the Douglas area who meet on a weekly basis and call themselves ‘Young at Heart’. The book was launched at St Columbas Hall, Douglas, Cork on November 26th by Kathleen Lynch, Minister with special responsibility for the elderly, pictured above with Frank Kelly of Selfpublishbooks.ie and Phil Goodman.

This group was formed by Phil ten years ago who saw the need to focus attention on the ageing members of the community in Douglas and has since evolved from the regular weekly social night in St. Columba’s Hall, to the formation of the Douglas Care Ring that has been set up to care for the needs of the elderly people living in the Douglas area.

The book charts the Young at Heart groups activities over the past ten years from visiting Áras an Uachtarán and Dáil Éireann to  Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament in London. It details the various weekly activities that the group enjoy such as Bowls, Bingo and visiting Douglas Community School to learn basic computer skills.  There is no end to what this group can do!

In her own words, Phil explains why the group was formed, “We all need meaningful interaction with other people.  There was a need for this age group to meet and socialise together to keep them young and active.  This was the genesis of the name Young at Heart.”

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Booze, Money & Liz

Wonderful review! Can’t wait to read this. We blogged on this only a  few weeks ago.

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Week Round-Up

A lot has been happening in the literary world this week, so here’s a Top 10 Hot Spot list of all the latest news & views.

cassettetape

# 10

Most overlooked books of 2012 – a literary mixtape 

# 9

Jamie Oliver and JK Rowling battle it out for Christmas top spot

# 8

Overwhelming response to Foyle’s revamp plans

# 7

The Casual Vacancy as BBC show 

# 6

Self-publishing case studies

# 5

Angela Carter named best writer of a century

# 4

What writers can learn from Literary Death Match

# 3

Mo Yan delivers Nobel Prize Speech (with some controversial notes on censorship)

# 2

NaNoWriMo churned out 3 billion words this year

# 1

Book-scanning robot coming to a library near you?

 

~Bonus~

Book Christmas Trees 

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Kilclooney Woods by Micheal O’h-Aonghusa

Kilclooney Woods Cover Final

Last week, Selfpublishbooks.ie printed Micheal O’hAonghusa’s new book, Kilclooney Woods,  a brief history of Fenianism and the events of 1867 in East Cork. I had a quick chat with Micheal and asked him if he had always wanted to write.

“I have never been into writing,” says Micheal, “but I have always been into history, and especially local history. I was involved for years in Republican politics, and at the age of 23 (I am now 76) I was organising commemorations of Peter O’Neill-Crowley at Kilclooney Wood. That wasn’t surprising, as I was born just a stones throw from there, and in a little corner of Ireland that always had more than its own share of rebels.”

I asked Micheal who he counts amoung his influences. “In history books, Anthony Beevor is the master. In travel books, I have read everything by our own Dervla Murphy from Lismore.”

How did the book come about? “In 1967 (the 100th anniversary) it was suggested to me that I should write a book on the subject, and I commenced collecting stuff, doing interviews etc. But marriage, five children, and trying to put food on the table was more than sufficient challenge at that time. My interest of course never waned, and I continued to collect anything at all that would be relevant.”

So it is safe to say then, that Micheal has always been an amateur historian. “Oh, yes, I devour books on history,” he says, “At this time, it would only be second to my interest in travel, and travel writing. Last autumn I was rooting about the attic and came across a huge box of paper clippings and other memorabilia about Kilclooney Wood and Peter O’Neill-Crowley that I had collected over the years. Thinking about my age, it dawned on me that if I died that day, the whole thing  would be in the refuse container the following week. So there and then I decided that if I was spared for another year, I would spend 2012 writing the book, and that is what I did.”

I asked Micheal what parts he enjoyed writing the most. “I can’t say that I “enjoyed” any of it! But I was surprised at how easy it came to me once I had laid out the framework. It is my first printed book, but as manager of Mitchelstown Credit Union, I had published a high quality Annual Report every year, for 26 years.”

How did Micheal hear about self-publishing? “From my son, Sean, who lives in Midleton, where
presumably he had heard about Lettertec. Early on, I visited the Lettertec website, and of course it was exactly what I was looking for. It was that, more than anything else, that encouraged me to proceed. It had all the elements that I was looking for, high quality, small print runs and a bit of hand holding.”

How was the finished product? “Even better that I had visualised it. The historian (John J. Hassett) that did the launch described it as a work of art.”

What’s next? More writing? “Six months ago, I would have said “never again”. The one thing that could precipitate
another is how easy the actual production was. With Lettertec, I’m also including Shelley O’Reilly and Joanne Buckley.”

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