Summer Reading has begun

There are lots of recommendations for summer reading including some good ones from Anna Carey in The Irish Times here. I’ve got the wonderful George Saunders on my list myself but for the moment, here’s the pile I’m going through:

Nuala O’Connor – Joyride to Jupiter A wonderful collection of short stories published by New Island.

Do watch out for my interview with Nuala and a wonderful givaway coming  on 19th July as part of her Virtual Book Tour

Ethel Rohan – The Weight of Him A heartbreaking novel about love, suicide, and family. I just read the last page today and took a deep breath – poignant and moving.

Later this summer I’ll be featuring Ethel on this blog!

Tariq Ali – Fear of Mirrors First published in 1998, and a fall of communism novel, it fits right in with some of the research I am currently doing for my novels

Sheila Rowbotham – Women, Resistance and Revolution The first of my non-fiction reads – again, a reissue from the wonderful Verso  – so looking forward to this one. 

Norman Geras – The Legacy of Rosa Luxemburg There’s always more to learn about historical figures who you think you know or know about…

Arthur Koestler – Spanish Testament An original 1937 Left Book Edition of Koestler’s fine analysis of 1930s Spain. And the question that the historical novelist considers is this: how do you get ‘at the facts’ in the days of dictatorships and war (even without the fake news of these days)?

Reflections on my time as Community-Writer-In-Residence

I’m delighted to feature in today’s Irish Times – a reflection on my time as community writer-in-resident with the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, thanks to the Irish Writers’ Centre and Dublin County Council.

“We don’t always need to have the right image/emotion/first line. Maybe nothing is right but we still write…”  You can continue reading here…

My residency was one of three residency posts run by the Irish Writers’ Centre and Dublin City Council. Poet Nessa O’Mahony writes about her residency with the Dublin Adult Learning Centre here.  Lisa Harding’s reflections on her residency with Pavee Point will be published next Thursday in the Irish Times.

View from the edge: on drafting and editing

Annie Dillard in her wonderful book on writing The Writing Life reminds us that

For writing a first draft requires from the writer a peculiar internal state which ordinary life does not induce…but how, if you are neither Zulu warrior nor Aztec maiden, do you prepare yourself, all alone, to enter an extraordinary state on an ordinary morning? How set yourself spinning? Where is an edge – a dangerous edge – and where is the trail to the edge and the strength to climb it?

So, imagine you’ve done that. You’ve spent the guts of the last two years on that edge, or more precisely, watching it, moving towards it, and then scampering back to the safety of the long grass, and then, suddenly, the emotional force of the story pushes you right over the edge.

And you write. Like your life depended on it. And you dream. Of your story. Of the possibilities. And every news item seems to echo the world you’re writing about. And every tear, each bereavement and loss moves you as if it were your own.

And even when it is your own, you feel it so much that you are numbed.

But the mist hasn’t quite lifted yet. You still can’t see the green of the mountains. For now you’re in editing land. Half of you still dreams of possibilities, the other half runs lines like electricity through the connections of plots, subplots and things that weigh heavily. And scenes that bob and float and seem to be made of nothing.


What will you do with all of this?

Yes. You have finished the draft, and now you are honing it, and simultaneously weaning yourself away from it.  Yes.

Summer time.

  • Time to work.
  • Time to think.
  • Time to compost.
  • The next long fiction project nudges with invisible fingers…