For the second interview in our Publisher Interview Series we talk to Mary Feehan, MD of Mercier Press, Ireland’s oldest independent publishing house.
Q: As a publishing house, 2014 marks your 70th anniversary: as well as being a remarkable achievement, this offers you a unique insight into the publishing industry within Ireland. What changes have you noticed during that time? What changes would you like to see in the future?
There have been huge changes in production methods from metal typesetting which is how we set all of our books when I first began to work at Mercier. Printing was a highly skilled craft and typesetters had to learn that craft through a long apprenticeship. Now people can publish their own books online with the press of a button. It’s wonderful that the market has opened up so much but it was sad to see such a craft disappear. There are also many more bookshops and publishers in Ireland now which contributes to a diverse and interesting publishing industry. Thankfully the Irish love to read Irish books so we continue to have a wide audience.
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In the first of our Publisher Interview Series, we talk to the founding Editor of The Stinging Fly Press, Declan Meade.
Q: As a publisher, The Stinging Fly Press has been around for just under a decade now, achieving great success with the likes of Kevin Barry, Mary Costello, and most recently Colin Barrett: what changes have you noticed in the publishing industry in Ireland during that time? What changes would you like to see in the future?
I think publishing is a lot more lively here now than it was ten years ago and this is on account of new publishers arriving on the scene and also, in some cases, new people coming on board at the existing houses. There are now more publishers producing not just more books but a wider range of books. That has to be good for writers and for readers.
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This year, in the run-up to Dublin Book Festival 2014, we will be conducting a number of interviews with various authors and publishers, with the aim of giving a better understanding into the workings of the publishing industry in Ireland.
To start with, we will be talking to different Irish Publishers over the next few weeks, showcasing their ethos as a press and asking for their insights into the current climate of Irish publishing and also what advice they would offer to budding authors.
The first of these interviews will be online at the end of next week.
Whenever a critic writes about the short-story form, they seem to always begin by saying, “There’s a dearth of critical study on short stories.” And if we’re comparing them to novels—which always seems to be the case—perhaps it’s true. But if you look hard enough, there’s actually a hell of a lot written about the short-story form. Granted, it’s mostly precious stuff about it being a “higher” Art than the Novel, and then some deathly-dull thing about short stories being connected with the “oral tradition”—but it’s not a critically-neglected form. It’s just a form in need of new critical ideas.
As a reader and writer, I see myself primarily as a short-story person. I become very quiet when I’m amongst a group of people talking about novels and novelists. For a long time, I thought it was testament to something lacking in me—that I surely couldn’t be interested enough in books if I hadn’t read seventy-eight John Updike novels. And the feeling remained for a long time: how could I even begin the journey to identify as a writer if I didn’t read all these books that other people were telling me were so great?
But I’ve had my counselling sessions and I’ve arrived at a belief that feels both banal and true: sometimes we need short stories and sometimes we need novels. Frank O’Connor, in The Lonely Voice (sigh; another reference to that bloody book), speaks of people reading novels to assuage loneliness. In contrast, he says, people come to short stories to confront their loneliness. (A typical O’Connor dichotomy: sensible-sounding at first, but increasingly—and fruitfully—problematic on reflection.) He then goes on to talk specifically about what short stories do and, in trying to characterize their essential activity, he quotes Pascal—“the eternal silence of those infinite spaces frighten me”. It’s a knotty quotation, and one I’ve struggled to understand for a long time.
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MIKE MCCORMACK & NUALA NÍ CHONCHÚIR – THE ART OF THE SHORT STORY
- Date: Thu May 22 / 1pm
- Venue: Smock Alley Theatre
- Price: €5
We are kicking things off for the 2014 festivities with our short story event with Mike McCormack and Nuala Ní Chonchúir, which takes place at the always excellent Dublin Writers Festival!
For more details about the event, go to http://www.dublinwritersfestival.com/event/mike-mccormack-nuala-ni-chonchuir-the-art-of-the-short-story/
Dublin Book Festival 2013 has passed, and with the majority of our events booking out, it was our most successful to date. For four days authors, readers – both young and old, publishers and aspiring writers gathered together and shared their love of words and books. It was such an honour to have so many talented writers discuss their work, inspiration and passion for writing.
It was a joy to see children lounging on beanbags listening to stories told to them by the authors themselves and taking a stab at writing their own stories.
It was a festival of words and ideas, laughter and imagination. I hope you were as inspired as we were.
I would like to thank everyone involved, the DBF committee who give up their valuable time throughout the year to work on the festival, the DBF team for their dedication and hard work, the wonderful volunteers, the publishers who came from around the country to support their writers, and finally the authors themselves – thank you for taking us on your journeys.
Until next year,
Held in the intimate quarters of Smock alley’s Boy’s school – this year’s festival offered a greatly anticipated opportunity to meet the experts of the literary and publishing world. In association with writing.ie a panel of leading experts took the stage to reveal the tricks of the trade, the do’s and the don’t s of writing and the big no-nos on the path to getting published. There, audiences were given the chance to meet Michael O’Brien, founder of The O’Brien Press; Literary agent Faith O’Grady; writing.ie founder and literary scout Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin and Eoin Purcell, the editorial director at New Island Books.
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After a successful book gathering, The Irish women’s blog, The Anti Room took the stage to discuss gender within the literary and publishing world. Is women’s writing treated differently than men’s? Does gender define a writer? And what need or place does feminism have in contemporary women’s writing? These where but a few questions which authors Christine Dwyer Hickey, Nuala Ni Chonchuir and journalists Sinead Gleeson, Anna Carey and Jennifer Ridyard wished to explore.
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This year’s greatly anticipated book gathering was a huge success and I’d like to thank Ireland AM’s Sinead Desmond and host writers Ciaran Collins, Caroline Grace-Cassidy and Mark O’Sullivan for their readings and discussions which got the crowd buzzing Saturday afternoon with questions pondering the complexity of the Irish language with its poetic and musical charm and the insightful commentary from Caroline on the unfair expectations that are forced upon women.
Authors took the stage to discuss the many inspirations for writing and the gruelling process of characterisation crucial to making readers connect with their protagonists. Both Mark and Caroline spoke of their ventures into new genres where O’ Sullivan spoke of his newfound treatment of the crime novel and for Caroline, her venture into darker themes which she is keen to continue. Ciaran read from his novel “The Gamal” receiving great reception from fellow authors and readers alike accompanied by laughter and a discussion on style and use of language. Overall it was an enjoyable afternoon and the festival looks forward to launching new book clubs in the future.
The Dublin Book Festival got off to a great start last night, as Frank McGuinness discussed his work – particularly his new novel Arimathea – with RTÉ’s Sean Rocks. If you weren’t able to join us last night, you can still be a part of this delightful evening by tuning in to the Arena broadcast of the event on 29 November. In the meantime, take a look at a sampling of photos from the night: [click to continue…]