Monday, 23 February 2015


Between writing my novel-in-progress (NIP), nursing one chickenpoxed child, chasing one renegade mouse (caught and released) and various other shenanigans, I've been neglecting this blog.

I am also just back from London where I spent four days doing research for the NIP, which is set in Victorian London. I got back late last night after a flight delay, but it was a productive trip. There is nothing to match the thrill of going to an archive and being let handle documents that were signed by your characters. Or seeing new photos of them that make you look at them a bit differently. I'm grinning like a loon now thinking about all the valuable stuff I saw and did for the novel while in London. And I ate cake, oodles of it.

I did research here:

And while I was there I visited this pair, in honour of Wolf Hall:

Anne Boleyn
Thomas Cromwell
And these gents:

My main character liked to eat here so, naturally, I had to do the same:

Café Royal - window treats
Valrhona choc orange cake & tea
I also went to Kew to view documents - what an efficient, peaceful, wonder of a place the National Archives is:

 And while in Kew we ate in this lovely pub, where the halloumi on ciabatta was tdf:

Otherwise it was wandering, eating and even accidentally bumping into friend and fellow writer Kathleen Murray and her son across the road from here:

St Paul's Cathedral
Oh, serendipitously, we also stumbled upon the beautiful Royal Courts of Justice which feature in the NIP (which excited me no end):

And I found an Emily quote in the Bishopsgate Hall:

I bought books in Foyles refurbished place on Charing Cross Road:

Saw a grumpy kid off Brick Lane:

And an illusionist on Regent Street:

Plus iconic thingies, like The Gherkin:

I also bought two little essays on book shops, in chapbook form, to give away here, Ann Patchett's The Bookshop Strikes Back and The Unknown Unknown by Mark Forsyth. I'll post to anywhere in the world. Simply leave a comment and say which booklet you would prefer to win.

London was, as always, fab. I love the frenetic pace of it all, the mad Tube queues, the fantastic veggie food, the posh shops like Liberty, the abundant charity shops and markets, the beautiful Victorian square we stayed on, the Londoners who are so Londony they are almost like parodies of themselves. All of it is intoxicating, every time.

But it was equally lovely to be in my own bed last night, surrounded by silence, and to get back to the desk this morning armed with all I had learned about my characters, and their city. It proved a slow writing day (travel always distracts and unsettles me) but I'm hoping tomorrow will be more productive. Onward!

Thursday, 12 February 2015


The beautiful home of Limerick School of Art and Design
I had my second visit to the 4th year Visual Communications students at LSAD on Monday. Each of them - 30 in all - presented their initial concepts to me and their lecturer Eamon Spelman, for the Visual Fiction project. Here is a list of the stories they are using as inspiration:

'On The Devil's Disc' - Kevin Barry
'Deer at Rest' - Thisbe Nissen
‘Room 313’ – Nuala Ní Chonchúir
‘The Lottery’ – Shirley Jackson
'Hills Like White Elephants' – Ernest Hemingway
'Champagne' - Chekhov
'The Moon' - Colin Barrett
'The Model' - Guy de Maupassant
'Finishing Touch' - Claire Louise Bennett
'The Story' - Cathy Sweeney

I was totally impressed with the development concepts they came up with as well as their in-depth interpretations of the stories they were asked to read. With thirty students and ten stories, three have the same story to work from and the diversity of their responses was wonderful.

The students plan to create everything from videos, to a Chekhovian Snapchat, to animated gifs; from a graphic novel in poster form, to a smoking kit. One student plans to have an installation featuring receipts, inspired by Colin Barrett's story 'The Moon', while another will make a tabloid newspaper poster based on 'The Model' by Guy de Maupassant.

I can't wait to re-visit the class on the 2nd of March, with Stinging Fly editor Declan Meade, to view the finished pieces.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015


The Molly Keane Creative Writing Award 2015 closes on the 6th of March 2015.

Submit previously unpublished short stories of up to 2000 words on any subject.

Free to Enter.

Eligiblity: open to all writers on the island of Ireland. No age limit.

Prize: €500 which will be awarded at a special ceremony at the IMMRAMA Literary Festival in Lismore, Co. Waterford in June 2015.

Download the entry form and see full terms and conditions here.

Monday, 2 February 2015


Daisy Meadow - Katherine Green
I've had a strange, upsetting day with flashes of light among the tears. A very junior member of our extended family was killed in a car crash abroad. Devastating for her young mother and all the family. What can you do but send loving thoughts, weep tears of frustration and empathy, and light a candle?

The flashes of light? It seems wrong to talk about niceness in the midst of tragedy but, for one thing, I am grateful that my kids are all here with me this evening, alive and well. Other good things today were writing related, of course. Another blurb came in for Miss Emily, for example. (That is sixteen so far. People have been extraordinarily kind.) Other than that, it has been a day for reflection on how fortunate I am and how swiftly and cruelly life can change.

Keep Baby M in your thoughts, if you will. In your prayers, if you pray.

Saturday, 31 January 2015


The full list of poems shortlisted for the Poem for Ireland is:

A Christmas Childhood by Patrick Kavanagh
A Disused Shed in Co. Wexford by Derek Mahon
Dublin by Louis MacNeice
Easter 1916 by William Butler Yeats
Fill Arís by Seán Ó Ríordáin
Filleadh ar an gCathair by Ailbhe Ní Ghearbhuigh (yay!!)
Making Love Outside Áras an Uachtaráin by Paul Durcan
Quarantine by Eavan Boland
The Statue of the Virgin at Granard Speaks by Paula Meehan

When All the Others Were Away at Mass by Seamus Heaney

I had nominated Death of an Irish Woman by Michael Hartnett, so I am disappointed not to see that on the list but I am thrilled for the very talented and lovely Ailbhe Ní Ghearbhuigh, a young Kerry poet who works in the Irish Department in NUI Galway.

Details about voting and more info here at the Irish Times.