Books, Journalism, Writing

Aspiring authors flock to Dublin’s International Literature Festival

Thousands of writers are heading to Dublin city in Ireland this week in the hope of gleaning advice, encouragement and inspiration at the International Literature Festival.

I spoke to festival director Martin Colthorpe about what keeps drawing people back nearly 20 years on, as well as authors Vanessa O’Loughlin, Catherine Ryan Howard and literary agent Sallyanne Sweeney on their advice to get your book on the shelves.

Have a watch of my 3News report for TV3 Ireland:

 

Journalism, Theatre

Review: Brontë, Smock Alley Theatre

A tale of love and loss – the words of Polly Teale are interwoven with excerpts from the iconic Brontë novels to make two hours of a captivating story.

The play is a fascinating watch because it questions what drives people to write, why and if fame matters, and how three young women from the Yorkshire moors made their names as some of the most renowned authors in history.

While the three sisters – Charlotte, Emily and Anne – certainly lead the production, this is very much a Brontë family drama: we watch their brother Branwell’s descent from a young man full of potential and promise into the depths of alcohol addition, and their father Patrick’s encouragement to better themselves through exploring the world of literature. The actors perform very well together as a whole, have clearly established strong relationships with each other that come across on stage, and all had mastered the regional accent.

I admire how much the cast gets out of Smock Alley’s intimate and minimalistic set at the Boys’ School: with just a few chairs and a table, the Brontës come alive again. We are front-row witnesses to a chaotic family dynamic, both as grief tears them apart and as they learn of their literary success.

Ashleigh Dorrell as Anne Brontë stands out for her ethereal nature and her ability to communicate her character’s thoughts in a quiet way. As Catherine Earnshaw from Wuthering Heights, her otherworldly look becomes ever more haunted and you really do believe she is horrified by the decisions she has made and the person she has become. However I wasn’t particularly keen on Katie McCann donning for all intents and purposes a shower cap to transform from Emily Brontë to Nelly the housekeeper for those scenes, although her matronly concern is well portrayed.

The ‘drunk’ acting by Desmond Eastwood as Branwell is somewhat exaggerated with deafening roars, and when I saw it he accidentally knocked one of the chairs apart as he stumbled raucously around the stage. His youthful bravado is more believable, amplified by the symbolism of his tight curls turning lank and wild as the character battles his addiction. As Heathcliff he conveys a wonderful intimacy with Catherine, complemented by Ashleigh Dorrell’s stellar performance.

For me, the star of this is Ruairí Lenaghan, who plays multiple roles including Patrick Brontë, Charlotte’s tutor Constantin Héger, and Edward Rochester from Jane Eyre. He sinks into each part with seamless authenticity, contending with multiple accents and physical ailments, and shines the most as the shy and earnest Arthur Bell Nicholls. Louise O’Meara is equally at her best as Charlotte Brontë here, playing off the growing fondness and mutual embarrassment between the characters.

One of the most striking elements of the play for me is the exploration of how loss shapes you: perhaps most evident towards the end of the play, when Charlotte is left alone as those closest to her have passed away. Though she feels their physical presence around her, their absence is tangible as she sits alone at her desk.

Overall, I thought it was a wonderful show, suited to both Brontë diehard fans and newcomers. Those who aren’t overly familiar with the books will learn more about the women who wrote them, and those who have devoured every word will consider aspects of the authors’ personalities that they perhaps hadn’t before.

Brontë has a limited run at Smock Alley Theatre in Dublin every evening at 7.30pm until Saturday 11th March. Tickets are €15, or €12 concession. You can book it at smockalley.com/bronte/. This will be followed by performances at the dlr Mill Theatre in Dundrum from Thursday 16th March (8pm) to Saturday 18th March (matinée 1.30pm). Tickets there are €18, or €15 concession, with groups of 8+ at €12. To book, see milltheatre.ie/events/bronte/.

Lead image courtesy of Illustrated Productions/Ste Murray.

This review was also published on Xpose.ie.

Books

10 places every literary fan should visit

1. The Long Room at the Library of Trinity College Dublin

Built in the early 1700s, tourists come from all over the world to see this magnificent library. Located in the heart of Dublin city, its awe-inspiring bookshelves are lined with some of Ireland’s oldest books. You can also peer at the Book of Kells, an illustrated manuscript written around the year 800.

Continue reading “10 places every literary fan should visit”

Writing

Why I studied creative writing at university

Nearly seven years ago, and I really can’t believe it was that long, I began my degree at NUI Galway in Ireland. I chose Galway for one reason only: I could study creative writing there. As someone who had been interested in words, books and literature ever since I could remember, it seemed a natural choice.

Continue reading “Why I studied creative writing at university”

Books, Writing

Visiting Haworth, the home of the Brontës

Haworth is a rural village on a steep hill, surrounded by fields of heather and a bitter breeze. The parsonage, where the Brontë sisters grew up and lived, is easily the biggest building there. It sits by tall trees and crooked gravestones, and is filled with remnants of the family’s lives; it does feel like they’ve just popped out for a walk on the moor. Continue reading “Visiting Haworth, the home of the Brontës”

Writing

Where does creative inspiration come from?

Now that I’ve graduated from my masters, I’ve had more time to focus on my creative work.

But how do you turn off that editorial side of your brain? As a journalist, I’ve become accustomed to writing and editing almost simultaneously.

Continue reading “Where does creative inspiration come from?”

Image copyright: Tony Antoniou
Writing

Review of The British Library exhibition ‘Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination’

Last week The British Library opened a major new exhibition on the Gothic imagination. Running until 20 January 2015, it marks 250 years of the supernatural in literature and film, starting with Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, published in 1764.

Continue reading “Review of The British Library exhibition ‘Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination’”

Writing

Review: One-day Urban Writing Retreat, London

It’s quickly clear that Charlie Haynes has hit on an entrepreneurial concept that works: writers will pay good money to sit in a room without the distractions of the phone or the Internet.

Continue reading “Review: One-day Urban Writing Retreat, London”

Journalism

Interview with Helen Youngs, Chair of the Society of Young Publishers

In honour of World Book Day this week, Marése O’Sullivan spoke to the new Chair of The Society of Young Publishers (SYP), Helen Youngs, to find out about her publishing career so far, being impressed by famous people and what her plans are for the SYP.

Continue reading “Interview with Helen Youngs, Chair of the Society of Young Publishers”

Books, Writing

Do You Judge A Book By Its Cover?

Does a cover really have that much influence on whether or not we choose to read a book?

The New York Times recently published an article about new book covers being created for ‘classic’ novels to attract young-adult readers. Continue reading “Do You Judge A Book By Its Cover?”

Writing

Writing Tip of the Day: Ernest Hemingway

“I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, ‘Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.’

So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there. It was easy then because there was always one true sentence that I knew or had seen or had heard someone say.

The writer’s job is to tell the truth.”

– ERNEST HEMINGWAY

Image courtesy of poetryfoundation.org
Books, Writing

Novel News: J.K. Rowling’s New Book Cover Revealed!

Bestselling author J.K. Rowling, 46, has revealed the cover of her first adult book, The Casual Vacancy, which will be published by Little, Brown and Company on 27th September 2012.

‘The Casual Vacancy’ by J.K. Rowling – Image courtesy of The Telegraph

The striking but simple yellow, red and black cover with white titles indicates a huge departure from Rowling’s previous work. The Harry Potter series, with which she made her name, used colourful character drawings on the cover to attract a younger audience.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Rowling’s last release

Her last novel – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the final book in a series of seven – was published in 2007. Rowling has since earned an OBE for services to children’s literature, as well as having been awarded France’s Légion d’Honneur, the Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award and the Prince of Asturias Award for Concord.

J.K. Rowling. Image from Little, Brown

The Casual Vacancy will centre on a small English town, Pagford, and the “blackly comic” parish council election that happens there.

“When Barry Fairbrother dies unexpectedly in his early forties, the little town of Pagford is left in shock. Seemingly an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war,” say Rowling’s publishers, Little, Brown. “[The character’s passing is] the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen.”

The author is currently estimated to be worth more than £620 million from the Harry Potter brand.

What do you think of Rowling’s book cover? Will you be one of the first to buy her new novel? Comment below!

Travel

La Vie En France: The Second Semester

I have only two months left on my Erasmus year abroad in the south of France and I can’t believe time is flying by so quickly. After much-needed catch-ups with the family and friends in Kerry – and my boyfriend’s sister’s wedding in Galway – I returned to Avignon at the end of January, and it’s been an absolute whirlwind of chaos ever since. After the freezing gale-force winds of the Mistral (as a friend said, “If you think it might be the Mistral, it’s not the Mistral”), the blushing sun of the last few days is serving as a lovely pick-me-up.

The Erasmus in France/Creative Writing experience thus far has been like nothing I had expected. As I blogged in September, the nerves were hitting in: I had just moved to a different country, with a different culture and a different language. Being a French resident for the last six months has helped me become more accustomed to life outside Ireland. I’ve definitely become more confident in speaking French and interacting with native speakers. I’ve noticed that it’s a lot easier for the Anglophone French to realise what a challenge it is to integrate yourself into an entirely new place and improve your language skills. I’m very glad that those students make the effort to speak in French with us.

On the creative side: I’ve put more work into my writing since September than I’ve ever done in my life, and I’ve got my fantastic course at NUI Galway – and my editor, Geraldine Mills – to thank for that. It’s been a hell of a lot more hard work than I thought it would be, but so far I’ve had an absolute ball doing what I’ve wanted to do since the age of five. I’ve been writing all the time and got my first ever cover story published earlier this month by my university newspaper, Sin, on the Minister for Education, Ruairí Quinn’s, increase in college fees.

In the last few weeks, I’ve joined the ranks of the wonderful websites that are Studenty.me and Kettle, so I’m looking forward to writing articles for them. I think it’s great to have publications out there that specifically want student writers. Journalism is such a difficult industry to make your name in; the more credentials you have to your name the better, so I’m delighted that they’ll have me. I’m thriving on being involved with journalism. Even though I’m living in another country, each team has made an enormous effort to make me feel part of them. I’ll be contributing to Written in Ireland‘s online magazine as well, so make sure to check out that site.


I’m having a great time doing author interviews for writing.ie. Learning from other writers about what works for them will never stop inspiring me. I recently spoke to Tom Darling about his second novel, Summer, and he offered some great advice on writing – you can read about it on the site very soon. I’ve also set up a new blog specifically for Beauty, Fashion and Red Carpet blog posts, called Marése Martha, if you’d like to check it out here.
I’m terribly, terribly excited about everything that’s coming up on A Younger Theatre. The team have been nothing but fantastic since I started working with them. My interview with the internationally renowned performer, Michael Ball (currently starring in the West End adaptation of Sweeney Todd) will be published soon on their site. I’m also going to be interviewing English actress Jessie Cave, who played Lavender Brown in the Harry Potter films. My Want to Write? Blog is set for some amazing interviewees in the literary/journalism industry: I will be talking to Irish poet, Gerry Hanberry; the founder of writing.ie Vanessa O’Loughlin; TV3 broadcast journalist Sinéad Desmond; Irish children’s author Claire Hennessy; AYT‘s Laura Turner; novelist Sarah Webb; The Guardian apprentice Rhian Jones; Móna Wise of the brilliant Wise Words blog, who will be self-publishing her début book this year; and British children’s author Bali Rai (who is also now the Writer-in-Residence for Booktrust). Finally, I will also be interviewing a New York Times bestselling author for the blog…but I won’t reveal who that is just yet!

With the busy writing schedule and life in general, it’s been hard to utilise the great South of France base that Avignon is and find time to go travelling, but my trip to Paris last December with my lovely housemate Hannah – where I visited the most beautiful bookshop possibly in existence, Shakespeare and Company – worked wonders for me in terms of reminding me to stay positive about everything.

All set to go: TGV train ticket to Paris
Yes, alright, I was a little bit excited about Shakespeare.
Partyin’ with Mona: Picture courtesy of Hannah O’Reilly.

I’m lucky enough to be going to Paris again in April for the last week of my séjour in France and I already know it’s going to be a bittersweet goodbye. I plan to fit in some more gallivanting around Marseille, Nimes and Arles before I head off home too and a couple of other cities if I have time. I’m not saying au revoir just yet!