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)?


Because I Do….The Writing Life, This Craft of Creativity

I’m deep in a long writing project and alternating between writing, researching, and writing some more. It is growing – slowly – but still growing.

On the days when I am wondering why I am doing this – when my characters fail to speak when I need them to, or when that great plot line falls flat on the page – I  need to remind myself that this is all part of a larger process.

A novel is not composed in isolation and the journey it makes from the jumble that is the writer’s mind (my own!), through the editing process, the reading and advice from agents and publishers until finally it becomes a book – is a long one indeed.

This business of writing, this craft of creativity is strange.

And I remember an article I wrote just over a year ago for Writing.ie  – Because I do.

Creativity and industry are like two tracks, running parallel, sometimes crossing over, or intertwining. Other times changing direction, making choices, and moving slowly. And on these tracks sit the carriages of desire and ego. And you’re feeling them….Tracks, as we all know, join, and split, and move towards each other, a singular destination for a journey. Beside creativity is industry. Without it what you produce is not going to move beyond that track, or even out of the carriage.

And I recall what Anne Lamott said about adding life to form. And I read the last line of my article. Truth can be seen, and felt, in writing. And in living.

And I’m reassured.

Let life burst out from the seams of routine. Add life to the form that you are creating. For the story to be real, the page needs to provoke feeling.

So let the words come – or not – but always, let the living continue. 

Falling into reading

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I so love falling from writing into reading, the worlds and words jumbling and scrambling, and allowing myself  to wallow in places where normally I’d be plotting my escape:

  • a field of corn and a house that breathes and lives; and watches
  • children forge and destroy friendships
  • adults teach magic through books written in wonderful script….

And I find myself loving children’s fiction and all it teaches me about what it means to be human, and more than anything, the joy, wonder, and exhilarating fear of my children as I read, ‘acting out’ as I do so, and allowing that clock to tick until the tired eyes happily close.

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And I consider the purpose of all we do – create, engage in and with, and enjoy art in all its forms. As Flannery O’ Connor puts it in the thought-provoking book Mysteries and Manners: Occasional Prose

The virtues of art, like the virtues of faith are such that they reach beyond the limitations of the intellect, beyond any mere theory that a writer may entertain…the image of ultimate reality as it can be glimpsed in some aspect of the human situation […] Anything that helps you see, anything that makes you look. The writer should never be ashamed of staring. There is nothing that doesn’t require his attention.