Tag Archives: irish

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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Radio Blaa Blaa by Brian Kennedy

Brian Kennedy’s first book, Confessions of an Exeter City Nut, was self-published before being taken up by a small publisher in England. His 2011 book, Just Follow the Floodlights was published by Liffey Press and went to No.1 on Amazon’s English Football League Bestseller List on 4 different occasions. I caught up with Brian to talk about his new memoir, Radio Blaa Blaa.

Brian was a man born with a pen in his hand: “I’ve always been writing one thing or another from an early age. I used to do a football magazine called ‘Blow It Up Ref!’ for my Waterford Junior League Division 4 Club, Kilbarry Rangers. It always gave the lads a laugh, which helped after the beatings we used to get!”

So how long has Radio Blaa Blaa been in the works? How did it begin? “I wrote it in about six months,” Brian says, “When I put my mind to something, I keep at it until the project is finished. ‘Radio Blaa Blaa’ was no different to any other publication of mine in that respect. I started the project, set a date to finish and worked within those boundaries.

“It was a disc jockey who had inspired me to write the book. Colin Kennedy is a family friend and happened to have been part of the whole pirate radio scenario in the early eighties. I was a bit iffy about whether it could be done, let alone successful, but to date it’s my fastest selling book ever!”

I asked Brian what he enjoyed writing the most in his memoir and why: “Nostalgia is a wonderful thing. It’s the file that takes the rough edges off of yesteryear. It’s something everyone goes back to time and time again. Sometimes all we have is the past when the future looks bleak. It was for this reason I really enjoyed writing the book, going back to a time that’s brought many, many wonderful memories.”

Brian is no stranger to self-publishing, but I was curious as to why he chose it again. “For Just Follow the Floodlights, I had a publicist, graphic designer and a book distributed all over Ireland by Gill & McMillian, but I actually enjoy the self-publish route just as much. That way you’re judge, jury & executioner on everything.

“To be honest I knew the chances of getting published at first where Bob Hope and No Hope! I just wanted to get my books on the shelf of my local bookstore. I think self-publishing is a lot of fun. You’re dealing with the front cover on your own terms , the content on your own terms, without an editor to say ‘Take this, that, and the other out’. Nobody knows better than the author themselves I feel. Yes sometimes they need a guiding hand but I never liked anyone telling me the way to go. I had a good publisher in Liffey Press who listened to me about the front page, the content and the price. I didn’t budge on a single thing! And it worked as I got my way, which has proven a success.”

So why self-publishing in the first place? “To be honest at first it was a step into the unknown. I’d either had my books published or had used my local printer and that had been a happy union. However, money became an issue which brought me to the lads at Selfpublishbooks.ie. I’ve got an astounding piece of work made, more so for the price which is simply the best in Ireland and trust me I’ve checked. The quality is fantastic.”

Was a writing career always on the cards for you? “I’ve never been to a writing class, barely passed English in my Leaving Cert and hardly ever go to book launches. I don’t run in those circles. It’s just never interested me. I laugh sometimes at the grants handed out to some writers – I remember three Irish writers getting a combined grant of €30,000 euro between them for Irish language books a couple of years ago and selling exactly 64 books between them. There a lot of pompousness involved. There is this need of acceptance. That getting a publishing contract means they have ‘made it’. Did I make it when I got my publishing contract? Yes I did….for 2 euro a copy! That’s the reality.”

I asked Brian what’s next – or has he had enough of writing? “Well if I finish a book before 2014 it will have been 10 books in 10 years. Mind you I’m running out of subject matters! Yes I get tired of writing, and I can’t see myself doing it forever, but when I see the joy it brings to people, who tell me so, then it makes it all worth while.”

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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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The International Charity Bazaar Cookbook

The International Charity Bazaar was founded in 2006 by the wife of the then Pakistani Ambassador to Ireland in order to raise money to provide relief to the victims of the devastating earthquake in Pakistan. Since then, the Bazaar has evolved and is now a firm future on the social calendar in Dublin. It had long been the wish of the organising committee to publish a cookbook of international recipes in order to raise funds.

This week I caught up with the woman who led the project, Siobhan Denham. I asked her where the whole idea started.

“As I had been involved in 2 similar projects previously in San Francisco and Lithuania — my husband is an Irish diplomat — I volunteered to lead the project,” Siobhan says. “I became involved in the Bazaar in 2011 following my return to Ireland.  We started contacting all the resident embassies in Dublin during the summer asking them to submit recipes for the book. We were delighted with the response, with almost 50 embassies contributing over 150 recipes.”

The Embassies are assisted in their volunteer efforts by a group of Irish ladies known as the Irish friends. “The Bazaar patron is Norma Smurfit – well-known for her fundraising efforts,” adds Siobhan. “I submitted what I consider very traditional Irish recipes and which I have served with great pride when I have lived abroad.  The recipes are Colcannon, Irish Stew, Guinness Chocolate cake and Irish coffee as well of course as delicious recipe for Brown Soda Bread.”

What caught your interest in the project? Have you always loved cooking? “I love simple food made from really fresh ingredients.  We are so lucky to live on an island and to have access to fresh fish.  I love to cook all kinds of fish with baked in the oven or pan fried and served with fresh vegetables.”

Why self-publishing? Siobhan says it was a straightforward decision: “We were very anxious to have a print copy of the book – the first idea was to produce a CD, but as someone who loves to cook myself, I felt that people want to have something to flick through. Thanks to Google, Lettertec popped up in my search. I was impressed by Frank’s immediate response and enthusiasm for the project and the fact that he had so much experience of producing charity cookbooks, so really after that I didn’t shop around. My first impression was a lasting one!”

All the funds for the cookbook, raised both last year and this, go to Irish charities.  For more information on the Bazaar’s history and mission, see their website www.internationalbazaar.ie

You can also find them on LinkedIn and Facebook.

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