The Poet’s Chair

by Admin on November 21, 2015

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Last Saturday, despite the bad weather, a crowd of poetry lovers came out in force to attend a very special event, a rare chance to see and hear from the current and two most recent Ireland Chairs of Poetry. Harry Clifton, Michael Longley and Paula Meehan read from their considerable bodies of work and discussed their individual experiences from their time as Ireland Chair of Poetry.

In the wake of the Paris attacks on Friday, Harry Clifton’s decision to read from his 2007 collection, Secular Eden: Paris Notebooks 1994-2004, added an extra poignancy to the event. Michael Longley announced he would be reading some new poems “to show being the Chair didn’t stifle my creativity”. Michael closed his reading with a poem in tribute to Seamus Heaney – fitting as the Ireland Chair of Poetry was established in response to Seamus Heaney’s winning of the Nobel Prize for Literature. The readings ended with current Ireland Chair of Poetry, Paula Meehan. The variety of all three poets’ work provided an entertaining hour for the appreciative audience.

After the readings Arminta Wallace, feature writer for The Irish Times, led the poets in a discussion of their time as Ireland Chair of Poetry. All three spoke of their delight at how enthusiastic and receptive the younger poets they have come into contact with have been with regard to wanting to learn the craft of writing poetry. The event ended with a reception to launch Harry Clifton’s new book of lectures comprised from The Poet’s Chair series, Ireland and its Elsewheres (UCD Press).


Writers’ Event: Meet the Editors

by Admin on November 20, 2015

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Friday afternoon of DBF2015 saw the crowds pack in to the Boys’ School of Smock Alley Theatre for what turned out to be one of the most informing events throughout the festival, our special Writers’ Event: Meet the Editors. Aspiring authors, readers and those generally interested in the publishing industry gathered together to listen to the discussion between our panel of disparate experts. Chaired by Declan Meade, Publishing Manager and founder of The Stinging Fly, the panel consisted of Gráinne Clear, Publishing Manager at Little Island Books; Dan Bolger, Commissioning Editor at New Island Books; Helen Carr, Senior Editor with O’Brien Press; and Patsy Horton, Managing Editor of Blackstaff Press.

Each panellist gave a brief introduction as to who they are, what they do, and how the process works at their individual presses. It was interesting to discover how different the various presses can be; for example, the fact that there is only a staff of two at Little Island Books compared with a staff of over fifteen at O’Brien Press. We got to hear how Gráinne Clear, whose official title at Little Island Books is Publishing Manager, is also responsible for editing and marketing within the small team. The other panellists agreed that this type of multi-tasking was common in spite of how big or small their presses’ teams were: and, as Gráinne said on the day, “Publishing is a job you do because you love it.”

“Read the submission guidelines for the individual press!” was the chorus of advice that rang out when the issue of authors submitting work was brought up. Know as much about the publisher as possible before sending in your manuscript. What do they publish? How often? Is my book too similar to one they’ve recently published? Do I have a clear idea of who the book would appeal to? These are just some of the questions aspiring authors should ask themselves before they approach a publisher. It was stressed how manuscripts can get rejected for a multitude of reasons, it’s not simply a case of whether or not a book is good or bad.

A significant portion of the discussion was spent on the issues surrounding how independent and smaller publishers in Ireland compete and compare with the Big Five on the global stage, particularly in the UK. Dan Bolger, Commissioning Editor at New Island Books, spoke of how “you’re aware of the Big Five but you’re running your own race.” Independent Irish publishers don’t have the financial clout to be able to go out and market and support their writers in the way they would wish to; nevertheless the works of Irish writers do translate and have considerable success worldwide, a sure sign of the quality over quantity thinking behind many of the Irish publishers’ selections in recent years.


Winter Pages

by Admin on November 19, 2015

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The opening night of Dublin Book Festival 2015 was a great success with the launch of Winter Pages, Ireland’s new annual arts anthology. In a special recording of RTÉ Radio 1’s Arena programme, which will be broadcast tonight, Seán Rocks talked to two of the contributing authors, Claire Kilroy and Peter Murphy, alongside the anthology’s founding editor and publisher, Kevin Barry.

According to Kevin the idea had been floating around between him and fellow editor Olivia Smith for a number of years. This desire to capture the buzz around the Irish arts found particular focus through the many interviews that are prevalent in Winter Pages: “We wanted to ask about the craft.” The craft evident in the laughter of the audience when Kevin read out his own story from the anthology.

The serious issues surrounding what it means to be an artist, particularly a writer, once you’ve given birth and are taking care of a child were dealt with fantastically by Claire Kilroy, both on the night and in her personal essay, “F for Phone”. She spoke openly and earnestly about the her views pre- and post- pregnancy with regard to what it takes to be a mother, as well as her own struggle to find the words within the fog of her baby brain.

Writer and performer Peter Murphy read from his “post-apocalyptic dog story”, demonstrating his particular dialect and appreciation for scuffed-up language. His interview with the director Lenny Abrahamson is just one of the many artistic cross-pollinations throughout the anthology.

Music on the night was provided by singer songwriter Grainne Hunt.

As Kevin said, “Irish writing is built on people going nuts on the page”, and if the launch was anything to go by then Winter Pages is off to a great start.


DBF Interviews: Danielle McLaughlin

by Admin on November 8, 2015

Danielle McLaughlin PhotoAuthor Danielle McLaughlin talks to us about short stories, the importance of literary journals for reaching readers, and her debut collection, Dinosaurs On Other Planets (The Stinging Fly). Danielle will be taking part in RTÉ Radio 1’s Arena Live Show.


Q: Your debut collection of short stories, Dinosaurs On Other Planets (The Stinging Fly), was published earlier this year. How long have you been working on the stories within it? Was it your aim for them to form a collection?

The earliest of the stories is ‘All About Alice’. That was written back in 2011. Most of the collection is comprised of more recent work. When I began writing, I wasn’t writing with a book in mind, I was just writing stories and sending them out. Even when I did begin working towards a collection, I wasn’t writing to a particular theme, although looking back over the stories I can see certain preoccupations emerging.

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DBF Interviews: Donal Ryan

by Admin on November 3, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-11-03 at 21.12.15Author Donal Ryan tells us about his experiences in moving between novels and short stories. Donal will be one of several panellists at our Writing Long & Short event.


Q: After the huge success of your first two novels, The Spinning Heart and The Thing About December (The Lilliput Press), you return with your first collection of short stories, A Slanting of the Sun (The Lilliput Press): what were the factors that prompted this change of form?

I had written some short stories as a break from the slog of editing the novels. They were just there, waiting for something to be done with them, so I decided to use them as a basis for a collection. Doubleday had offered me a new three-book deal and the only tangible thing I had was some stories and two very sketchily outlined novels. My first two novels are short and intense anyway, so it wasn’t a huge departure. When I read Stephen King’s brilliant On Writing years ago I was struck by his assertion that ‘once you get to the 60,000 word mark in a short story you’re heading into novella territory’. That’s a fine size of a full-length novel for me! Anyway, who’s to say what’s what, really? None of these ideas and delineations and divisions matter, a story is a story no matter how long you take to tell it. You have to just make it worth hearing.  

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DBF Interviews: Turtle Bunbury

by Admin on November 3, 2015

Turtle BunburyWe talked to historian and author Turtle Bunbury about some of the remarkable personalities behind the 1916 Rising. Turtle will be one of the panellists for The People of the 1916 Rising event.


Q: Your new book, Easter Dawn: The 1916 Rising (Mercier Press), examines many of the extraordinary characters who played some part in the Rising. Did any of the stories surprise you in any way? Were there people who we should know more about but have been lost to history somewhat?

I think the part that most surprised me was how creative the prime players on the Irish side were, as in nearly all of them had a penchant for poetry, music, acting or the arts. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised; revolutions are often spear-headed by intellects, but I think that aspect of the Rising nonetheless made a strong impression. As for neglected players, I reckon most people have received due credit one way or another by now although I think there should be more made of the surgeons and nurses from Sir Thomas Myles and John Lumsden to Ella Webb, John Francis Holman and the people on the ground.

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DBF Interviews: Pamela Newenham

by Admin on November 3, 2015

Pamela NewenhamPamela Newenham, award-winning business journalist with The Irish Times and editor of Silicon Docks: The Rise of Dublin as a Global Tech Hub (Liberties Press), talks to us ahead of her appearance at The Business Clinic.


Q: As an award-winning business journalist with The Irish Times and editor of Silicon Docks: The Rise of Dublin as a Global Tech Hub (Liberties Press) you are very much at the forefront of the current state of Irish Business – what’s your assessment of where the industry is right now?

Ireland has come a long way in terms of business, especially when it comes to entrepreneurship and technology.

It’s good to see so many technology and born-on-the internet companies in Ireland, such as Google, Facebook, Intel, LinkedIn, PayPal and Microsoft. They employ vast numbers here too.

There are thousands of start-ups in Ireland, especially in Dublin, which is great. However, many people think Dublin is a major start-up hub globally, and that Ireland is leading the way when it comes to start-ups. Dublin didn’t make it into this year’s Global Startup Ecosystem Ranking, a list of the best cities for start-ups.

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DBF Interviews: Dave Kenny

by Admin on November 1, 2015

Dave Kenny 2013We asked Dave Kenny, editor of The Press Gang, about why he wanted to share the stories from “newspapers’ gilded age”.


Q: When did the idea for The Press Gang (New Island) first come about? Tell us a little bit about why you wanted to share the various stories.

Well, it’s the 20th anniversary of the paper’s closure and I wanted to mark it. I was one of the people who occupied the building for five days in May 1995.
My original intention was to do a documentary, but after mulling it over I realised that you couldn’t tell the story of the golden age of newspapers in 55 minutes.

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DBF Interviews: Nessa O’Mahony

by Admin on November 1, 2015

nessa o'mahonyAhead of her appearance at The Inspiration of Life, Love and Loss event, poet Nessa O’Mahony tells us what inspires her to write.


Q: Writers and poets are fuelled by their lives, loves and losses. How difficult is it to address the issues that are closest to us and turn them into something for public scrutiny? How important is it to get a balance between the personal and the universal?

The need to respond to love and loss is a common characteristic of writers, to be sure. We write for all sorts of reasons, some personal, some aesthetic, some political, but as human beings we all experience moments in our lives of great joy and great despair and, as writers, we learn that the act of translating those experiences into words with shape, pattern and imagery can provide distance and objectivity that helps us get through the worst of it.

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DBF Interviews: Paula McGrath

by Admin on November 1, 2015

Paula McgrathWe talked to Paula McGrath about her journey towards becoming a published author. Paula will take part in our Mastering the Deal: Life after the Creative Writing MA event.


Q: Earlier this year you published your debut novel, Generation, with John Murray Originals: can you give us a brief overview of your journey to becoming a published author?

I wrote for years in fits and starts while doing other things with my life. It took me a long time to get serious, and when I did I took classes and studied books on the craft. And I read: I read the kinds of books I wanted to write, paying attention to how they did what they did; I read my contemporaries; and I read as an act of support for ‘the literary project’ I hoped to participate in. The many lessons learned along the way are instantiated in Generation, and, thanks to my agent, Ger Nichol, it fell onto the right desk at the right time.

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