Photography, Writing

Nana – A Poem

Today is a day for family, and to remember.

I don’t know any other way but to turn to words in sad times.

My grandmother holds a very special place in my heart, and she makes me realise that happy memories make all the difference.

Continue reading “Nana – A Poem”

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!

Travel

Why I Love London

London is one of the greatest cities in the world. The blend of the ancient and modern alluringly combine in England’s capital to make it one of the most diverse and wonderful landscapes to explore: from beholding the might of King Henry VIII’s five-hundred-year-old Hampton Court Palace to going for a spin on the tallest Ferris Wheel in Europe, the ‘London Eye’.

Hampton Court Palace, dating from the Tudor era – Photo from its official site

London’s ability to grab and captivate the imagination of artists and writers extends back almost two millennia, inspiring countless works of outstanding creative merit – from Shakespeare to Dickens to Rowling, to name a few – and it’s no wonder. Majestic landmarks are dotted around almost every corner of the city centre. Even the Queen calls London her home (the iconic Buckingham Palace, of course, being her residence). The rich and diverse history and heritage of the United Kingdom’s capital city beckons generations of people all over the world to be enchanted by it.

It’s so easy to wander around the hubbub of the British city; the mixture of cultures, personalities and lifestyles give an eclectic yet fun feel to London. As the sun comes up, traditional jet-black cabs zoom past iconic motion picture locations and very familiar settings and sights from classic British films, such as ‘James Bond’, ‘Notting Hill’ and ‘Children of Men’. The buzz and bustle of the capital merges to become one continuous low rumble: the locals frantically rush to work, the wide-eyed tourists clutch video cameras as they pass on the top deck of the scarlet-red bus tour and lighthearted buskers strum along on their guitar. Fragments of music notes and scattered chords echo along the market streets, accompanied by vocals in the crisp English accents that I adore.

No matter what your passions in life are, you will find something to fuel them during your London experience. Nightlife throbs, bright lights flash and flicker, and wellies squelch at summer festivals. There are many chaotic and fun sides to the city, but there is also a deeply serene atmosphere about London, even in the midst of the hype and intensity: there is a unique vibe of coolness intermingled with true beauty, found in very few places on Earth.

My favourite aspect of London, though? The more you see of the vast city, you still haven’t seen it all. All its wonders will still be there for you to treasure upon your return…which means you have another reason to come back.

Marése O’Sullivan

Exploring the city around the unbelievably beautiful Westminster, 9/07/2011

Books

My Top Five Reads of All Time

I’m quite enjoying this blog-writing escapade. So I have decided to embark on another. 🙂

My Top Five Reads of All Time:

1) The ‘Harry Potter’ Series by J.K. Rowling

Anyone that knows me is painfully aware of how much I worship the Harry Potters. It is not enough to say that the series encompasses a variety of fully-formed, well-rounded characters with strong opinions, fight-to-the-death battle sequences and the trials of true love. What I love most about Harry Potter is both the sheer integrity and respect with which the author treats the characters and their friendships, and also her beautiful, poignant tone that is clearly woven throughout the narrative. The characters have grown up with me, from a little girl of ten years old to a stubborn bibliophile of twenty. Jo Rowling’s words have seen me through the worst and best of times – the death of my grandfather, new starts in life (college in a different part of the country, meeting new friends and keeping old ones) – and helped me through perhaps one of the toughest times of them all, dealing with my grandmother’s onset of Alzheimer’s. Nothing can ever change the impact that the Harry Potter books had on my growing up and development through the years of my adolescence, and I suppose that’s why I have such a special connection with them.

 

2) ‘Birdsong’ by Sebastian Faulks

I attribute part of my recent re-appreciation of history to the wonderful novel that is ‘Birdsong’. Faulks combines the horrific descriptions of trench warfare in World War One with a beautiful and eloquent captivation of true love in the early twentieth century. His story is so vivid and rich that I really felt as if it was real. I loved his mixture of powerful English and scatterings of French, which appealed to the linguist in me and revealed his gift with language. Some day I hope to emulate his fantastic writing ability and career, and I really can’t give him much more praise than that.

 

3) ‘Atonement’ by Ian McEwan

I think I saw the film before I read the book, but my mind was blown by both. It was a really original story for a rather short novel. Of course, McEwan is renowned for his writing prowess and this book is a tribute to his fantastic ability with the craft. I loved the choice of name for his main character, Briony, and the fact that she too is an author. The plot is touching and enduring for the reader and relentlessly challenging for the characters.

 

4) ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ by C. S. Lewis / ‘The Hobbit’ by J. R. R. Tolkien

  

I am obviously enthralled by fantasy, which is why I adore both the ‘Chronicles of Narnia’ series and ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and have given them equal pride of place on this blog (I just couldn’t choose!). I am ashamed to admit that I have not yet tackled the immense volumes of the latter, but I have read their predecessor ‘The Hobbit’, which I thoroughly enjoyed and I look forward to seeing the two-part films of it. The screen versions of ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’, I thought, were pretty fantastic and I wanted to see how the books compared, particularly as I am usually an advocate of book over film. Both of these authors are world-famous. Their stories appeal to many generations of people and I am really glad that these writers are so appreciated as they are.

C. S. Lewis seems to be more concerned with character (especially with regard to the gentle yet strong-willed Lucy) while with Tolkien, the focus is plot. They both manage to contain many in-depth and fascinating characters in their work and, vitally, they never lose focus of where the story is going. I am completely in awe of the complex landscapes and unbelievable creativity that they exhibit in their novels. They appeal to the fundamental humanity within us, and there is always a sense of the authors just recounting a story of a journey.

 

5) ‘Persuasion’ by Jane Austen

For people that haven’t read her, perhaps the hype surrounding Jane Austen’s writing seems a little over-the-top, even unnecessary. I myself was not particularly a fan before I read her work. I knew that it was just remarkable what she achieved in the restrictive times that she lived in. Being a female and an author was almost unheard of in those days – she did both and she did it so well that her name is now eternally remembered. I was never fully convinced that she would live up to my expectations and her famous name. But she did.

Having read her classics such as ‘Pride and Prejudice’, ‘Sense and Sensibility’ and most of the others she wrote, my focus then turned to one of her lesser-known novels, ‘Persuasion’. I knew I would get a cracking story and fantastically vivid characters. But Anne Elliott was refreshingly different to Austen’s other heroines. Communication, as always, is central to the Austen story, but there was something rather unique about this tale. I can’t quite put my finger on it.

Perhaps because I hadn’t seen a film or other adaptation of ‘Persuasion’, I went in to it pretty blind, and came out awestruck by the captivating prowess of the renowned mistress of English literature.

I believe rereading Austen is essential to realising the full extent of her capability. She sets up plot twists early on and evokes real characteristics of human beings, and these resound with her readership even centuries after she walked the earth.

Marése O’Sullivan