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I’mHappyNow.com

imhappynow

This week Selfpublishbooks.ie sat down with Diarmuid Hudner, author of Imhappynow.com, a story of three young people who come together to overcome being bullied through the website of the same name, a site free to access here. I asked Diarmuid if he has always been writing:

“I have been writing since I was very young. I used to write poetry for a local newspaper from around the age of 15. I wanted to study English at University but at that time in Ireland it was very difficult to find any job and I ended up studying business and going abroad afterwards. I have always regretted it because it took me nearly 15 years to get back to doing what I always knew I should be doing. But I kept my hand in by writing articles for financial magazines like Investment Week and Money Marketing.”

Imhappynow.com is a huge success, as signified by Diarmuid’s upcoming radio interviews and global audience. I asked him to give a brief introduction to the book. How long was it in the works? How did it begin?

“This book is a very different move for me,” Diarmuid says, “I had just finished another book called When Leaves are Falling, which was a historical fiction novel and was already half way through a World War I book when the idea for this one came into my head. I couldn’t seem to get rid of it so I stopped what I was at and started ImHappyNow.com. I had it sitting on the shelf for a year before I decided I better start doing something about it.

“I must have been born old because I love all the historical fiction classics like Jane Austen’s books,” he says, “I find them very romantic and chivalrous. I’d live back in that time if I could!! Probably though the book that made me decide to be a writer was F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. It was able to capture the whole era of the “roaring twenties” and I loved some of the lines he had: ‘When he kissed this girl he knew his mind would never romp again like the mind of God.’ Nobody writes like that anymore.”

It seems Diarmuid has always loved writing: “For some reason it always put me at ease,” he says, “I’m a bit of a loner too so it suits my disposition!! I tend to actually write poetry for “kicks” but would never consider myself a poet. I started actually by writing a screenplay as I never thought I’d have the patience to write a novel but once I started it came naturally enough. Fear is the biggest thing that holds us back I think. Sometimes you have to just jump and hope you remembered to bring a parachute!”

I asked Diamuid what he enjoyed writing the most in Imhappynow.com and why: “I enjoyed the self reflection that was needed in order to write this type of book which was difficult in its own way. I had to question myself alot about how I was living my life and the level of happiness I had or hoped to have. It deals with some very raw issues such as bullying, alcoholism, suicide and self harming so it was traumatic in its own way. It’s actually a very simple message that you and only you are in charge of your own happiness.

“Meeting people with very different kinds of problems from self harmers to those who had attempted suicide was also a great learning curve for me and the realisation that fundamentally we all think the same and are searching for the same thing. Probably the biggest plus of the whole experience was to actually make the fiction book a reality by developing a website called Imhappynow.com to offer hope to anyone who is finding things a little difficult by seeing that they are not alone.”

Diarmuid explained that he had to carefully search the market before choosing self-publishing:

“I was Chairman of the Doneraile Literary & Arts Festival and I was running some workshops and began talking to more and more people who had gone down the self-publishing route. I have learned from my days in business that the market always decides and self-publishing has arisen from the traditional publishing world becoming a very closed sector. I looked at the statistics and weighed everything up before I decided to go down this route. It was daunting as I had two offers from publishers to publish my book but decided to self publish anyway as I felt I was more in control. Twenty percent of the top ten bestsellers last year were self published so it has established itself in its own right.

“It was daunting at first but I took very much a business approach to it. I researched the companies who were in the industry, got quotes and examples of their work etc. It is important to keep in mind that they are not editors or marketers of your book. That is up to you so you really have to work out whether you want to make your book commercial or not. If so then you have to figure out the process of achieving that. I think you get what you put into it but if the desire is there then help seems to appear.”

I asked Diarmuid how he found the finished product from Selfpublishbooks.ie – was it as he had imagined?

“I was hugely impressed by Selfpublishbooks.ie and the lady, Sharon, that I was dealing with there. She was very efficient, helpful, informative and professional. She must also be very patient as I can be a bit of a pain to deal with I’d say!! The graphic designer, Shelley O’Reilly, was excellent too in taking the concept of my book and making it a reality. Overall I would highly recommend Selfpublishing.ie and will be back to them with my second book.”

What’s next for Diarmuid? “Well I’m developing the website imhappynow.com which goes in tandem with this book at the moment so that’s keeping me busy. I have another book finished, When Leaves are Falling, which is more of a Jane Austen-type book and more natural to my writing style I think. I half to begin the painful job of editing that which is a “cobweb growing over face” experience but it has to be done. I have to finish the World War I book and then I might do a follow up to this one so no holidays again for me this year!”

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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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