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The Boys of Ballycroy by Kieran Ginty

Kieran Ginty Cover 'The Boys of Ballycroy'Final

A full-time public servant, Kieran Ginty qualified from the University of Limerick with a BA degree in Public Administration. Originally from Ballycroy in Co. Mayo, he is now settled in Limerick.  This week, I had a quick chat with Kieran about his newly printed novel, his first, The Boys of Ballycroy.

First off, I asked Kieran how it all started. “People who have read the book estimated that it must have taken me at least three years to write,” he said, “but I actually did it in less than 6 months – and that was working weekends, evenings and mornings only.  The book revolves around a group of seven friends, and follows how they and their families cope with the arrival of three conflicts – World War I, The Irish War of Independence, and The Irish Civil War.  It is set in my native parish, against the backdrop of poverty, oppression and emigration.”

What prompted your interested in writing this book? “There was a book written in the 1850s by a Scottish visitor that featured Ballcroy, and I have often wondered why no one wrote about the place in the interim.  I pay homage to this book in my publication.  Being a remote townland, the landscape remains largely untouched by modernization and it is the mountains, lakes, bogs, rivers, sand dunes and sea that provided the main inspiration.  Coupled with my deep interest in history, I hope all readers agree that they combine for a good read.”

“My grandparents used to tell me many stories about their days growing up there, and some of these have been integrated into the novel.”

I saw on the Facebook page photos and videos that feature in the book and asked Kieran if it the landscape that inspired the story or the story fitted to the landscape: “Definitely the landscape was the main inspiration.  There are so many old ruins also that prompt you to wonder what went on there in the past.  In some of those photos and videos, there is little sign of tarred roads, electricity wires or satellite dishes – you could actually convince yourself that they were recorded a century ago.  I have often said that it would be inexpensive for a movie set in the 1910s and 1920s to be filmed in Ballycroy, as very little would need to be done cosmetically.  And that is no slight on those who live there today – it is actually a compliment in that they have preserved their parish magnificently whilst still keeping in tandem with the modern world.”

I wonder if Kieran has always enjoyed writing. When did it begin? “From my schooldays I always enjoyed writing, especially creative writing.  However, I always hated reading out loud or speaking in public – even to this day I have ‘issues’ with these aspects of communication.   I used to really enjoy composing English essays in Secondary School – but then, to my horror – the teachers used to make me read my compositions out loud in front of my classmates.  I still have nightmares about that!  As a result, I ended up purposely writing bad essays, so that I would not have to recite them!  That is one of the reasons I held a low-key launch of my book – I avoided having to publicly read a passage.”

Surely such an avid reader has to have favourites. “I have always enjoyed the classics from the Brontes and Thomas Hardy as they vividly describe the surrounding landscape and local landmarks,” said Kieran, “From the initial feedback I have received from readers, the people of Mayo are enjoying reading about Croagh Patrick, The Nephin Mountains, Achill Island, The Inishkea Islands, The Mullet Peninsula – all of which feature in my novel.”

‘Wuthering Heights’ still remains unsurpassed as my favourite book of all time – even after the arrival of ‘The Boys of Ballycroy’!

What caught his interest in self-publishing? “To dip my toe in the water I contacted a number of publishing houses and to be honest, most of them had an ‘auto-reply’ type response saying they would take ‘at least three months to respond’ or ‘we are currently over-subscribed for Irish fiction.’  This ‘don’t call us – we’ll call you’ attitude was not for a good old typically ultra-efficient Public Servant like me (!) so it was such a relief to discover the self-publishing option.”

How did he find the self-publishing process? “Amazingly efficient.  The team in Cork were excellent.  They clearly set out what they do and also (just as important) what they do not do.  As a result, I had a large say in deadlines and in volumes printed, and all of the staff were so adaptable.   They were always ready with helpful tips or advice and were very supportive at all times.  It is a great comfort to know I can always contact them with a query.”

I asked Kieran if this is the end of something, or just the beginning. What’s next? “It is a great source of enjoyment to me to see the reaction to my story,” he replied, “I’ve seen so many smiles in the past few months, so I’m soaking all of that in for the moment.  I am very proud to see my book on display in bookshops that I have frequented for so many years. My only regret is that my grandparents are not around to see it – but I am truly fortunate that my parents are. Nothing definite has yet been decided, but I would like my next book to be about modern day Limerick, the city that has been very good to me.  And of course if I get enough encouragement from people whose opinion I value, I will do a follow-up to what I have just published – perhaps ‘The Girls of Ballycroy’!”

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Going to College as a Mature Student

Going to College as a Mature Student

This week, the team at Selfpublishbooks.ie caught up with Denis Staunton. I asked Denis about himself and what may have prompted him to write Going to College as a Mature Student.

“I am originally from Limerick, now living in Cork, married with four grown-up up children,” said Denis, “I have been involved in education at many different levels and in several different contexts for the past thirty-five years. I have worked in the non-formal education sector as a community youth worker, in the in-formal sector as an adult education co-ordinator and in the third-level sector as a lecturer, researcher and policy formation. I know the Irish education system from both the outside and the inside.

“When I left secondary school I knew what I did not want to do but not what I wanted to do. I did not want to work in an ok kind of job, with ok kind of money, in an ok type of office. I felt there was something better out there waiting for me through education. I discovered a ‘thing’ called Sociology and went to UCD as a mature student to study for a degree in Social Science. I loved the challenge of learning and became a lifelong learner.

“Professionally I have worked as a youth work in the inner city of Dublin; Community worker in Donegal with the Combat Poverty Programme; Training Officer with a Community Development Organisation in Cork and for the past twenty five years in University College Cork (UCC) teaching in the Department of Applied Social Studies, Assistant Director (Academic) in the Centre for Adult Continuing Education and Director of Access.

“I have always studied topics related to my work. For example, I completed my Masters in the area of Burnout and Stress among Youth and Community Workers and my PhD was entitled ‘Was it worth it?: The occupational benefits of getting a degree qualification as a Mature Student.’ ”

Where did he get the idea for this book?

“It arose out of the many interviews I carried out with mature students for my PhD Thesis. Reflecting back on their educational journey through college many mentioned the fact that so
much time and stress could have been avoided  (especially in the first year) if they had known more about the academic cultural expectations and the skills and strategies required to become a competent student.
It took me three years to complete. It was hard work but I adopted a simple strategy: no matter what, do an hour every day and write 200
words. It’s amazing how quickly the words add up and after a year a
‘shape’ begins to appear. Year one was given to reading, researching
and drafting (enjoyable part), Year two focused on structure, clarity
and purpose (the self-doubting part), Year three (the really hard
part) was entirely given to rewriting, rewriting and more rewriting.
Receiving written feedback from ‘critical colleagues and friends’ is
essential during the rewriting phase.”

I was curious to know if Denis always enjoyed education. “Yes, love libraries and books. Always reading – even if pottering
around the house or garden I listen to audio CD’s. This allows me
experiment with all sorts of reading material. If I really like one I
can always get copy of book to read at my leisure or study in detail.”

What books or authors inspired him?

“I am more inspired by ideas and certain organisations. However, since
education is my primary interest I have been influenced by
educationalist such as John Dewey, Paulo Freire, Pierre Boudieu,
Malcolm Knowles and Jack Mezirow to mention but a few. I admire the
work of organisation like UNESCO, Amnesty and One in Four.”

Surely there must have been something in particular about this project that attracted him.

“I most enjoyed researching and writing about working with your brain
(chapter 6). Learning how the adult brain works put me in touch with
new research from a number of scientific fields, such as neuroscience,
cognitive science and developmental psychology. Up to a few years ago,
the prevailing notion was that we were born with all of the brain
cells we were ever going to get, and they steadily eroded in a
depressing journey through adulthood and old age. It is now thought
that throughout life, the adult brain is losing connections at the
same time it is creating new connections in the region of the brain
involved in learning. This notion of creating new connections is
called ‘brain plasticity’, namely, the adult brain has the ability to
change its structure and function in response to experience. This is
really good news for adults who return to study as it shows that
intelligence is not fixed but changes as we learn. The popular phrase
‘use it or lose it’ certainly applies to the adult brain.”

What was it about self-publishing that caught his attention?

“The book I wanted to publish was in the middle between purely academic
focused work, on the one hand, and a non-fiction or fiction book for
the general reader on the other. My book was aimed at a particular
audience and even within the field of education mature students
represent a small percentage. Self-publishing, therefore, was an
obvious option, apart altogether from the financial costs involved in
producing a book as well as any financial rewards.

“I certainly did on-line research but in the end opted for a company
near where I live. From my previous experience of working with
publishers and printers being able to visit the site and get to know
the staff personally helps considerably. Lettertec in Cork ticked all
the boxes for me. I got very helpful advice, practical support and a
professional published finished product.

“It worked for me. I was able to get assistance in editing, graphic
design and production quality. This meant that I could bring a
finished product to the university and to work in partnership with
them in bring it to the target audience.”

What’s next for Dr Staunton?

“Right now I am taking time out to reflect and relax before I
decide my next project.”

And we can’t wait!

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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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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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A Certain Time, A Certain Place

Selfpublishbooks.ie are reprinting Katherine O’Riordan’s memoir, A Certain Time, A Certain Place and luckily I got to catch up with the author herself.

Katherine O’Riordan was born in Macroom town where she lived for twenty-one years until she married and moved to Cork. I asked her where the writing began. She said, “Those years I spent growing up left such a lasting impression on me that I was forever writing down memories as they came, in the hope that one day my children and grandchildren would get a glimpse of everyday life.

“This book is a opportunity for them to find what their grand and great grand parents were all about, and how life was lived and fun was had with neighbours and friends in those much simpler times.”

With her collection of short stories, she then decided to make a book of them and so A Certain Time, A Certain Place came into being.

Who should we count among the influences behind this decision? Katherine was happy to tell me. “Catherine Cookson, Edna O’Brien, Phillipa Gregory, Clare Boylan and Ella Wheller Wilcox, without a doubt.”

Having a father and uncles who worked as house-painters, it was no surprise that Katherine also took up painting as a hobby and has made hundreds of art works, which have found homes all over Ireland and further afield.

In A Certain Time, A Certain Place, Katherine has captured a part of Ireland that will evoke memories in anyone who enjoyed swims in Sullane, trips to the Palace Cinema or days at the visiting fairs, and transport anyone who is unfamiliar with those memories right back to Macroom in the ’40s and ’50s. It is easy to see the influence of painting and music on Katherine’s prose and she vividly describes a very specific part of Ireland’s history.

I asked Katherine what is next. “I would love to produce a book of poetry and illustrate it myself, so it looks like busy days ahead!”

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‘Valentia’ by Catherine Conlon — Christmas Bestseller!

Set in contemporary Ireland, this novel follows the lives of the various members of the O’Sullivan family during a pivotal five-month period which marks a number of important transitions in all of their lives. The main backdrop for the action is the remote and magically beautiful island of Valentia in County Kerry, one of the most westerly points of the country.

The author, Catherine Conlon, is a medical doctor and lecturer in Public Health and Epidemiology in UCC Public Health Department. Married with 4 children, living in Blackrock in Cork, this is her second book and first venture into self-publishing. I had a quick word with her about her new book.

What is this all about? Catherine sends me on a moving synopsis: “Valentia is a readable, absorbing story with engaging, well-drawn characters in situations many of us, and women in particular, will be able to relate to. While the author explores, with a light and often entertaining touch, some of the traditional territory and themes of romance, female friendships and family dynamics, the narrative also offers a deeper, more profound reflection on what is truly valuable in modern life. In this era of widespread economic downturn and material hardship for so many people – which has hit Ireland particularly badly after so many years riding high on the Celtic Tiger – Valentia brings the reader back, time and again, to the core values of family, a sense of community and the need to belong.”

I asked Catherine which authors inspired her to write. “Those who inspired me to write on similar themes,” she says, “include Adriana  Trigiani, Victoria Hislop, Rosemunde Pilcher and Joanne Harris. In non-fiction, it would have to be Mind Body Spirit, John O’Donoghue, Neale Donald Walsch, Sister Stan, Mark Patrick Hederman and Robin Sharma.”

What did Catherine enjoy the most to write? “I enjoyed writing the dramatic bits and also the descriptive pieces, particularly in creating the magical quality of the island.” And according to the readers, those are the bits that stand out most.

As we know, this isn’t her first book. I asked Catherine what she’s written before. “I previously published ‘Sonas; Celtic Thoughts on Happiness’ with Hachette.”

So what brought her to self-publishing? “I liked self publishing because I had more control over the product and because it was so much simpler and quicker.
 I shopped around first but the message coming back was that no matter how good the book, publishing fiction first time at the moment was difficult in a publishing industry under siege.”

How did she find it? “The self publishing process was remarkably straightforward and the team at Lettertec were professional, approachable and flexible with every aspect of the book.
I would be delighted to self-publish again although I will wait and see how well the book does first!”

Where is the eye-catching cover from? Catherine is happy to tell us. “It is by a local photographer in Ballinskelligs, Michael Herrmann, and I am delighted with it. It is exactly right for the book.”

Where to go from here? Is she finished with writing? “Not at all,” she says, “I’m starting a sequel so watch this space!”

Valentia will be available in all Eason’s branches this Christmas.

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Teresa Collins’ Reiki at Hand

What is Reiki? Selfpublishbooks.ie author, Teresa Collins, has written the book on it. Reiki is a spiritual practice developed by Japanese Buddhist Mikao Usui, which has since been adapted by various teachers of varying traditions. It uses a technique commonly called ‘palm healing’ or ‘hands-on healing’ as a form of complementary therapy. Through the use of this technique, practitioners believe that they are transferring universal energy (i.e. reiki) in the form of qi (Japanese: ki) through the palms, which allows for self-healing and a state of equilibrium.

Teresa Collins grew up on a farm outside Cork City in Ireland. From a very young age, she identified the sacred in nature. She qualified as a physiotherapist in Trinity College and went to live in Canada for twelve years. There she met many  spiritual mentors and pursued all things spiritual and mystical.

She returned to Ireland in 1993 bringing a cornucopia of experience and knowledge with her. She taught Reiki and wrote the first Irish published book on Reiki. She returned to the land once again giving tours to Sacred Sites in Ireland and reconnecting with the Celtic Spirituality she grew up with. Presently she gives workshops on Reiki, Angels, Empowerment and Inner Peace. She also gives individual sessions on these areas as well as reading Tarot and in  mediumship.

Reiki at Hand, her guide to the practice, is a very practical handbook  for students and teachers of Reiki. Teresa taught Reiki for twenty years and wrote this book based on questions asked during the workshops.  It is user friendly as you can find the answers to any questions you have. It has great illustrations  to accompany the text. She is a qualified physiotherapist and Reiki at Hand emphasises through out the safe use of Reiki for both practitioner and client. This book is a must for all Reiki practitioners.

Her latest book, Secrets of an Irish Mystic, explores her own mystical experiences while encouraging the reader to identify similiar  experiences in their own lives. She strongly feels that each person is a mystic but because it is not talked about it goes unnoticed. She hopes in this book to language mysticism through her own personal experiences.

If you want to learn more about Reiki or order a copy of the book yourself, contact the author on her website, her phone (00353-86-8102338) or email tercol@eircom.net

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