Tuesday, 28 October 2014


I got home from my NY/NM odyssey this morning. I guess I should be unpacking, but here I am instead. 2014 has been a great year for me but this trip was one of the absolute highlights. The contrast between Manhattan and New Mexico was huge - each enriching and enchanting in its own inimitable way.

It was fantastic to meet with Tara Singh Carlson, my editor at Penguin. She brought me and my agent, Gráinne, for lunch in Giorgione and we had a lovely companionable natter over delicious pizzas. Back to the Penguin Office on Hudson Street then for a meet-n-greet with lots of the people who will work on my book: sales and marketing people, mostly. All lovely and brimming with positivity about Miss Emily.

Penguin gifts
They gifted me two Penguin classics with my initials on the cover, which was very sweet. I also got a bound proof of my novel to take with me to New Mexico, for my first ever public reading from the book at the Uni of New Mexico in Albuquerque. All thanks to my friend Caleb Richardson, a professor in the history department there, who arranged my visit.

Bowery mural
That event went well - the audience were lively and smart and we had a good Q&A about historical fiction. I was also brought to lunch in Slate Street Café - a favourite of the Breaking Bad team when they were in Albuquerque - with, among others, the stunning Gail Houston, head of English at UNM, and poet-professor Diane Thiel. I could've talked to those women all day - brilliant people.

It was on to Santa Fe then for the ACIS West Conference for Irish Studies, to meet old pals and get myself an education on Ireland. It is amazing to listen to experts talk about your country - I always learn a ton at these conferences.

The road between Albuquerque and Santa Fe is remarkable - vast blue skies one day, mountains marbled with clouds the next, red earth, reservations dotted with piñons and casinos. These places are at high altitude and the air is thin and fresh and the sun extremely bright. It is a beautiful drive.

Rail yard, Santa Fe
Our conference hotel, the only native-owned one in Santa Fe, was beside the rail yard, an area of cute cafés, a farmers' market, book shops and great bars. Talk about spoilt rotten.

Myles Dungan & Glen Gendzel do Mr Dooley
I attended too many events/papers to go into them all here but highlights included Myles Dungan and Glen Gendzel's hilarious enactment of Finley Peter Dunne's Mr Dooley: a series of crankily spot-on monologues on the state of the States. Though Dunne was writing in the late 19th C., the topics were very contemporary, including emigration and the provision of libraries. Andrew Carnegie got the lash of Mr Dooley's tongue: 'They're tearing down poorhouses to put up libraries.'

UNM students perform The Weir
Another highlight was the production of Conor McPherson's The Weir by students from UNM, under the direction of Maria Szasz. Though not trained actors, they really embraced the play and it made for a funny and moving performance.

Margot Gayle Backus, who can only be described as a genius, gave an erudite and lively keynote on Irish children in Imperial scandal. Lucky are the Belfast students who will benefit from her being at Queen's on a Fulbright from January 2015.

Saint Kateri Tekakwitha statue at St Francis Cathedral, Santa Fe
Other guests included the fab Nicholas Allen and Ernie O'Malley's son, Cormac, who presented on Ernie's time in Santa Fe after the Irish Civil War. Fascinating stuff and he took great photographs which we got to see. Charlotte Headrick and Eileen Kearney launched their anthology of Irish women's plays, though the book won't be available for a few weeks. More on that here.

Gerry Carthy & friend play at the Swiss Bakery
And what else? Well, we socialised heartily around the town, eating well and drinking modestly (mostly!). I got to meet and listen to Mayo-man Gerry Carthy, a multi-talented musician, at two separate venues in Santa Fe.

I went to the launch of a photography book about Ireland by Elizabeth Billups and Gerry Adams (yes, that Gerry) in Collected Works Bookstore. The owner Dorothy fed us tea and cakes while we listened to Elizabeth's enthusiastic take on Ireland and its landscape and people.

Elizabeth Billups at her Collected Works launch
On my last day, I was brought up the Turquoise Trail, through gorgeous mountain scenery, to Tinkertown Museum, an enchanting and utterly charming collection of miniature villages, funfair kitsch and Western memorabilia. I giggled my way around the place and it is, hands down, the best museum I have ever been to.

It reminded me of my late sister Nessa, a theatre designer, who also specialised in miniature foods and dioramas, among other things. As a collector, and the daughter of committed collectors, I felt right at home among the glorious, eccentric clutter of it all.

A Tinkertown clown sums up how I felt leaving Santa Fe
So, I'm now home, gathering my thoughts about the trip, thinking about all the lovely people I met and spent time with over meals and drinks, and at events. I look forward to doing it all again with them next year, at a yet-to-be-decided venue. For now, sleep!


shaunag said...

Sounds like you had a fab time, Nuala. Loving the light in New Mexico - such a wonderful part of the country. So, go on, what trinkets did you pick up?!

Emily said...

Wow, Nuala, how did you pack it all in?! Sounds absolutely fantastic and inspiring! They should be employing you as a travel writer; you always make places you travel to come alive :)

Nuala Ní Chonchúir said...

Trinkets is right, Shauna. The shopping was great. I bought a Navajo doll for Juno, a dreamcatcher for Finn, some turquoise jewelry. All fab! See you soon, sweetie, I hope.

Nuala Ní Chonchúir said...

And this is only a taster, Ems. In my weariness I forgot to mention the Emily D play I went to. Separate post to follow!

Christopher Allen said...

What a joirney. Congratulations on the publishing deal!

Nuala Ní Chonchúir said...

Cheers, Christopher. Am feeling blessed.

Tania Hershman said...

Oh my! It sounds - and looks -fabulous!! Welcome home. xxx

Nuala Ní Chonchúir said...

It was, dearest T. Am having a hard time adjusting to reality!

Anonymous said...

Theatre, bookshops and coffee shops ! Meetings with agents, publishers and writers . And a book tour to look forward to! You couldn't write a better script!

Nuala Ní Chonchúir said...

It was a blast alright, Galwaystar. Welcome to WWR, always nice to see a new 'face'. :)