Category Archives: publishing

Pride and Petulance

dream

 

By Diana Friedman

A petulant writer confession: I almost didn’t make it to Dublin this trip. Many years ago, a good friend asked me: when is the last time you really let yourself feel desire for something you want? We weren’t talking designer shoes or beachfront holiday property but deep soul-wrenching desire, the kind that makes your heart swell and expand into your cavity when you finally give yourself permission to chase that long-elusive dream.

I answered that question by diving into my novel. With two young children and a demanding job, it was no small feat researching and writing a story partially set in another country. Never mind facing down all the fears that had kept me from attempting it up until then.

During the time spent writing the book, I’ve learned that the heart is a sensitive little creature. One of the consequences of reaching inside so you can hold this lovely little pulsating, squirming core of self in your hands is that when you hit a road block, as I did a few weeks ago, it truly can disintegrate, leaving you vulnerable to falling to pieces.

Back in October 2012 I submitted the first four chapters of my novel to the Novel Fair at the Irish Writers’ Centre. I knew it was a long shot—the first year of the competition, the Centre had over 500 entries. In general, odds are never good in contests like these.

lepglassesI wasn’t planning to submit, but a number of friends encouraged me to apply, as I’d already invested so much time researching the book and doing due diligence to make sure I captured Dublin as is, not just as a city rich in its past and pubs or, as portrayed through the typical Americanist-leprechauny-four-leaf-cloverly-Guiness-tinted glasses.

And, I was no longer a neophyte. I’d been at the book for six years, was working with a professional editor, and had just placed an excerpt for publication. Three pieces of my work had recently been shortlisted in competitions in the States.

So, what was to lose? For 40 euros—a lot of money for one contest, yes, but as a donation to a Writer’s Centre, particularly to the Irish Writers’ Centre and all it offers, not very much at all—authors were to submit the first 10,000 words of a novel, and two judges would pick the top ten entries. Those ten authors would then receive the privilege of one full day of pitching directly to agents and editors from Ireland and the UK. For the non-writers among us, this is the equivalent of being handed an all-you-can-eat card at ten five-star restaurants in France.

As the date approached, I grew more excited about the prospect of being selected. A year earlier, I had attended the Algonkian Pitch Conference in New York City. If I could survive pitching to New York editors, Dublin, I imagined, would be a breeze.

The format for the New York pitch conference was completely different than Dublin. After submitting a synopsis to the conference organizers, applicants were either accepted or denied. If accepted, for the price of trip to Europe, plus some, attendees registered to spend a day and a half learning how to hone their 30 second pitch, and were then given two and a half days to pitch directly to four editors from the New York City publishing world.

It was hard to delineate where the adrenaline bled into the anxiety at the New York conference, except to say that by day four, the hallways smelled like a slaughterhouse just before the cows went under the blade. I have relatives in New York, so I got off easy, financially speaking, but most attendees had spent thousands of dollars to get to and stay in the city. Furthering the tension, we were meeting at the Horace Greely studios in Midtown Manhattan, home to dance and theatre audition spaces. The two groups were easy to distinguish—the dancers cavorted in hot colored spandex with beautiful erect posture, while the writers slouched around in baggy pants, hunched over their manuscripts and laptops. The entire atmosphere was choose me, choose me, choose me, a cramped and antiquated New York City building jammed with dozens of people sharing the same fantasy—that all their years of hard work would finally be met with reward.

We were divided into four sections of 15 writers each, and lucky for me, I wound up with a remarkable group of supportive and encouraging women. We didn’t start menstruating together, but it was the kind of group that had we been there longer, I’m sure we would have. Under the guidance of our very able workshop leader, we were primed, edited, and then instructed in the basics—be polite, articulate, look the editor in the eye, keep the responses brief and focused. And dress nicely. It was a bit like finishing school for writers. By the end of the first day, excitement was running high.

And then the editors arrived.

The first one was from Penguin. She listened to our pitches, asked questions, told us what she liked and what she didn’t, and gave us suggestions for improvement. Over lunch she talked with our workshop leader and gave her the list of books she wanted to see. She selected three.

But as the editors made their selections, and people realized they might not get chosen, the mood shifted. The conference organisers had clearly stated that if your book was not getting selected, it probably meant your pitch was too unfocused, which in turn, was a reflection on the state of your book. This was, not surprisingly, very hard for people to hear. In the hallways, people insisted they’d been put in the wrong group and hence were pitching to the wrong editor, or, blamed the editors for being too narrow-minded. The environment truly was a bit like Survivor for Writers—there were only so many people who were going to be selected—but our group supported and cheered one another on so that by the end most of us felt that the impromptu community we formed was probably the most valuable part of the conference.

Before the New York Pitch conference, my novel had received interest from a prominent agent, who later rejected it after I completed significant rewrites, suggesting I work with a different kind of agent to bring it to publication. I suspected that this meant that the book was good, but not quite good enough for the big leagues. And I knew that selling a book at this conference—despite what the web site promised—was going to be next to impossible, so I entered with somewhat low expectations, which made the landing somewhat easier for me. I wanted to test the market potential of my idea, learn how to pitch the book, and then, if I was lucky, get the manuscript into the hands of an editor who could tell me what precisely the book needed. I was very lucky; I managed all three. The editor who read my novel gave me very concrete feedback on what the novel needed to come to full strength. She offered to look at it following rewrites and point me to some agents. It was a rejection, but as far as rejections go, it was as good as they get.

The Dublin Novel Fair was completely different. The price was right, but only ten lucky writers were going to be selected. It was pretty clear that anyone who made that cut would have a very good chance of getting their book into the hands of agents and editors, since the vetting had already been done.

anxI waited, waited, waited, my mind spiraling with anticipation and anxiety. And layered below my excitement percolated a question that I really wanted answered: had any of the passion I experienced in writing the book come through in the story telling in a way that would resonate on the other side of the pond (this side, that is)? In November, a very kind relative bought me a plane ticket as a birthday present, under the assumption that I would go to Dublin either way, as I was once again tackling significant rewrites. I made a hotel reservation and I was all set.

When I learned I was not selected, though, all I could manage was to reach for the phone, from very deep underneath the covers, to turn in my ticket. For days, I could not bear the thought of being in Dublin knowing that there would be ten lucky bastards eating fillet while I would be sucking up crumbs across town.

And, so, such is the nature of desire; when we heed its call, it takes us to amazing new heights, but how much harder the fall when we don’t reach the destination.

And yet, forcing myself to take my book to completion has taught me a few things about surviving this business. In particular, I’ve had to learn that staying the course sometimes means surrendering to the immaturity of my artist self.  It is a child-like and vulnerable being. It has to be. How else to open myself up and get under and inside the skin of the characters and scenarios I’m creating?

But when it comes time to face the world—the rejections and cruelties and dismissals, that artist self needs quite a bit of help. Because it is also petulant. And irritable. It becomes a delicate balancing act, allowing the artist-self some tantrum time, and then knowing when it’s time for the adult self to step in—first with compassion, and then a gentle shove back into the world, the same way a parent helps a child along with a skinned knee or a failed exam. And, most importantly, making sure that no matter how bad things feel, that the adult self is the one who faces the world in those hard times—with professionalism and decorum.

Somehow, this time I missed that part about the adult self. It wasn’t until after watching me drown my head in my seventh batch of chocolate chip cookies, that my very same good friend poked me in the ribs and asked: what exactly would be the downside to going? 

And this is why she is such a good friend. Because once I put away the chocolate I knew she was right. In fact, I realized, all the contest had done was paralyse me. I had two directions to take the rewrites of the book, one focused for an Irish audience, and one for the American women’s fiction market. In the three months while waiting for the response, unable to decide which one I was going forward with, I worked on precisely neither of them.

So I stuffed my suitcase with rain gear and then, for reinforcement, made a quick pit stop at my neighborhood hippie haven. Hillary, local Goddess extraordinaire, smudged me with sage and cedar for creative inspiration and good luck. Holly, a massage therapist of zero balancing expertise, passed along visions of me grounded inside a huge pyramid while on the plane. It was an image, I have to confess, I had never considered, but rather liked. It made take-off and landing a bit less traumatic.

By the time I arrived to Dublin, I had mostly forgotten about the Novel Fair. June Caldwell welcomed me warmly and has been an enormous help with my project, as have so many others around the Centre, including random writers popping in and out to talk with me, and the Ink Splinters, a writer’s group that so kindly opened their circle to me one night.

As the Novel Fair date approached and I watched the staff move chairs and tables around the Centre in preparation, I admit to some curiosity, but it was more fly-on-the-wall type.

Happily clicking away on my laptop on this blog and my book, what I mostly felt was relief that I wasn’t going through it again. Eventually I will be pushing the novel at US conferences when it’s ready, but for now, how much more fun it was to be in Dublin,  and, rather than suffer the anguish of selling, bask in the pleasure of writing.

The publishing industry may be fickle and arbitrary, but such is the nature of art;  no voice will ever speak to everyone. Expecting any work of art to resonate across the board is simply setting yourself up for disappointment. As artists, when we become dependent on others to validate our voices, it’s easy to freeze and lose ourselves.

I’ll close out with another confession: Halfway through writing this blog I still have no idea what it means to be an American writer in Dublin, as June dubbed me, but it’s a label I’ve happily worn and enjoyed. Because while the blog format will most likely never attain the same status as the short story or essay, it’s a powerful tool for a writer—pure voice, unadulterated and luminous and radiant as voice comes.

windowIndeed, gazing out from the Centre’s top floor classroom window over the rooftops and chimneys and historic buildings of Dublin, my heart once again thumping safely and softly, the words and stories erupting non-stop in an almost mystical energetic flow, I re-discovered one critically important thing: losing one’s voice may be misery-inducing, indeed, but in the whole entire world, for this writer anyway, there is absolutely and truly nothing better than getting it back.

 

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diana

Diana Friedman’s work has received several awards, including being selected as a finalist for the Howard Frank Mosher Fiction Prize, a top 25 pick for Glimmer Train’s Family Matters Contest, third place in Bethesda Magazine’s Annual Short Story Competition, and as a finalist in Sport Literate’s essay contest. Her fiction and non-fiction have appeared in various publications, including Sport Literate, Flyway: Journal of Writing and Environment, Whole Earth Review, the Baltimore Sun, Newsweek, Bethesda Magazine, Stone Highway Review and the Legendary, among others. An excerpt of her novel will be published in a forthcoming anthology of Washington, D.C. writers, Defying Gravity, available from Paycock Press in 2013.  www.dianafriedmanwriter.com  and to keep up with her newest writings or hang out with her in cyberspace, you can “like” her on Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/DianaFriedmanwriter or follow her on Twitter @Dfriedmanwriter

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Filed under Beginning the Novel, Creative Writing, Dublin Event, new writing, Novel Fair, novels, publishing, writing groups

A year in self publishing

Maura Byrne

BY MAURA BYRNE

I didn’t plan to self-publish when I started writing but after a few years of rejections, a couple of half-offers and finally the offer of a book contract which my lawyer instructed me not to sign, I felt I couldn’t wait any longer. I’d worked with two story editors and children were telling me they loved the book – I knew it was time to release Bridget in Werewolf Rehab.

hamptonsThe first thing I had to do was find a printer. I chose Original Writing because they had relationships in the Irish retail network. The cover came next. I’d heard Easons say that an attractive cover was paramount. Since ‘Bridget’ is a werewolf and the story is comic fantasy, Matt Ryder’s quirky animal illustrations were perfect. I published on Amazon and Smashwords (it’s inexpensive) and ordered the book ‘Self-Printed.’ I took delivery of ‘Bridget’ two days before Christmas, immediately dropping copies into my local bookshop Hampton Books.

But how was I going to successfully reach 9-12 year olds with no track record and no contacts? I needed to network so I started by phoning a self-published author. He advised me to have a book launch where all my family and friends would come and buy ‘Bridget.’ I wasn’t convinced. It would cost a few thousand euros and I’d be lucky to land one photo in the paper. Besides, I needed to reach a far wider audience. I had to discover more about the retail, school and library network.

Over the next two weeks, I met with an independent book seller, the principal at my local primary school, a dog’s charity, the Independent Theatre Group, Pet Expo and an ad agency strategist. I also phoned Children’s Book Ireland and concluded that I wouldn’t have a launch but divert the money into hiring a PR agent. Once I’d found an agent, (Red Communications), we quickly agreed on a press release and a three month media plan.

What happens to werewolves who aren’t savage beasts and vampires who don’t like blood? They get sent to rehab, of course! Welcome to Bridget’s crazy world.

Building a web presence came next and Vanessa O’Loughlin of www.writing.ie suggested a web designer. Within three weeks, we had created www.maura-byrne.com. Suddenly, I had a Facebook page, a twitter account, I was blogging about Bridget’s life, and was listed on Author Central and Good Reads. I was a social-media pro! Children from The Independent Theatre Group came to my house to film a home-made ad and in return I presented a young writers workshop to them. Meanwhile, I continued to email retailers urging them to order my fabulous book but all I got back was silence.

WerewolfA couple of weeks later, we struck gold. RTE’s children’s programme Elev8 (with an audience of up to 200,000) invited me to give live howling lessons to the presenters Diana and Ivan. I notified Easons and five minutes later I got my first order from them. The Irish Independent agreed to an article, Woman’s Way wanted to interview me about reluctant readers, Southside and Northside did a spread, WLR and Sunshine Radio wanted to chat – we were on a roll! I kept the retailers in the publicity loop and the orders trebled in a month.

I began focussing on the library and school network next. Dublin South Libraries booked me for two presentations to 90 schoolchildren in Tallaght and Lucan. Initial butterflies subsided and I loved every second. Through my friends, presentations at an Educate Together School, Rathdown Primary, Abbeyside NS and Scoil Garbhain followed. I wanted to meet more children so I put together a database of libraries and began to email them. Soon, I had an avalanche of library bookings matched by continual orders from school book and library suppliers.

In early May, the influential Children’s Books Ireland published the first ‘Bridget’ review and my heart sang! I did an in-store presentation in Easons Dungarvan in June and they sold 150 books. Autumn saw me read at the launch of the MS Readathon. By mid September, I’d been booked to present werewolf and young writer workshops to 700 children in 23 city and county libraries and schools. The orders continued to come particularly after ‘Bridget’ got a stunning review from Niall MacMonagle in the Recommended Reads Guide 2012.

Today, the sales grow. Easons just re-ordered for the 7th time and last week Trinity College showcased ‘Bridget’ to 100 children. It is a hard slog to succeed at self-publishing and there are times when I wish I had the support of a publisher if only to ensure shelf space in the bigger stores. Getting your paperback noticed and purchased without a publisher requires monumental determination and focus. I’m grateful for all I’ve learned but for Books two and three of the ‘Bridget’ trilogy, I would love the support of an international publisher. So come on publishers, a building ‘Bridget’ market is waiting for you!

Maura Byrne lives in Dublin, Ireland with her husband, her two teenage children and her dog. Her writing life started early when she wrote, directed and starred in her first play at age 9. The play went so well the school principal gave the cast a massive Easter egg as a prize. Unfortunately for Maura she was at the dentist that day and by the time she returned, the cast had eaten the lot! A ferocious reader, Maura loved being transported into strange worlds with unusual characters. She had four brothers after all and getting away from them was essential. When she wasn’t reading she was making forts, rubbing doc leaves onto her nettle-stung legs, playing piano, dressing as a tom-princess and watching episodes of ‘Black Beauty.’ Her favourite childhood book is still ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.’ When she grew up, Maura studied marketing and later created an exhibition for parents and children. It turned out to be a good idea because 30,000 people came. Of course Barney the Dinosaur was also there. – Maura was the first person to bring this purple   Jurassic creature to Ireland. But writing was still in Maura’s heart and a few years ago she started writing again. She has written lots including two more books about Bridget the reluctant werewolf and her world of nutty friends.

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What children are saying about Bridget in Werewolf Rehab:

‘I give Bridget in Werewolf Rehab 10 out of 10. My favourite character was Annabel.’ Shona aged 10

‘I absolutely love this story and that there are so many characters and they are all so different.’ Jennifer age 11

‘This book kept my imagination going. It is full of excitement.’ Tianway aged 10

‘This is an excellent story and there is a lot going on.’ Aoife aged 10

‘I think it is a well written book and I love magical creatures. My favourite character is Bridget.’ Caitlin aged 10

‘I give it 99 out of 100. Good work.’ Thomas aged 11

‘I love Bridget. Her character is so interesting. I love that she owns her own website called Howlo. The boat race was so funny when Horst farted and Werner couldn’t talk. I think it is so sad when her Dad died.’ Esther aged 10

‘I think this book is cool and exciting. It is a good mix of adventure and courage. I love vampires and werewolves.’ 10/10 Erin Kelly

 

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Filed under Beginning the Novel, Creative Writing, new writing, publishing, Self Publishing, Self-promotion for writers

Deadline Approaching for the Irish Writers’ Centre Novel Fair

The Irish Writers’ Centre has begun counting down the days to the deadline of its esteemed Novel Fair. The deadline for the competition this year is on October 17th and the Novel Fair itself will take place on February 16th, 2013.

With just a few weeks left to enter, the terrific news of book acquisitions from last year’s winners is flooding in. Finalists from 2011, Niamh Boyce, Janet Cameron and Kevin Curran are three of our success stories.

Earlier in the year, Niamh Boyce sold her novel The  Herbalist to Penguin Ireland and more recently Janet Cameron‘s book, Cinnamon Toast and the End of the World, was snatched up by Hachette. As well as this, Liberties Press have laid claim to Kevin Curran‘s novel, Beatsploitation. With nine of the authors signed up with literary agents and many in talks with publishers, we eagerly anticipate more book deals before the end of the year.

The Novel Fair was introduced last year with the aim of introducing, in person, up-and-coming writers to top publishers and literary agents who, in turn, have the chance to liaise with an eclectic bunch of talented, new authors. It gives promising, first-time novelists the opportunity to bypass the slush pile, pitch their ideas, bring characters to life and place their synopsis directly into the hands of the people they want to see it most.

Some changes have been made to last year’s set up, which include reducing the number of finalists to ten so that the novelists will benefit from more quality time with the publishers. To fully prepare them for the day the finalists also win a place on the seminar ‘How To Pitch Your Novel.’ 

This year, a brand new judging panel will be asked to select a shortlist of ten successful entries, presented to them anonymously. There is no limitation on style, genre, or target market and with a new set of eyes umpiring, writers who’ve submitted before shouldn’t hesitate in submitting again. The only requirement is that the authors mustn’t have published a novel before.

Publishers who have already confirmed attendance at this year’s Fair include Liberties Press, Penguin Ireland, Picador, New Island, Transworld Ireland, The Feldstein Agency, The Book Bureau, Marianne Gunn O’Connor Literary Agency, Jonathan Williams Literary Agency, The Lisa Richards Agency, and Lilliput Press. Each writer in attendance will have a stand at the Fair with copies of the synopsis, the finished novel itself and biographical material.

To enter send two copies of the opening chapters of your novel (max 10,000 words) along with three copies of a synopsis and a completed entry form, which can be downloaded from our website or collected from the C entre.  The Novel Fair Competition costs €40 to enter (€35 for members of the Irish Writers’ Centre). To find out more about the Novel Fair Competition, check out www.writerscentre.ie/novelfair, or email novelfair@writerscentre.ie. If you already know everything you need to know and would like to enter, click here.

 

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Just. Keep. Going.

The sun poured through the Georgian windows of the Irish Writers’ Centre for the duration of the Publishing Day event last Saturday. The room was buzzing with anticipation as people chatted with their neighbours. Jack Gilligan, the recently appointed Chairman of the Centre, kicked off proceedings with fire safety announcements. He apologised that unfortunately perfectly formed novels wouldn’t be dropped from the roof in the event of an emergency. I think there were one or two sighs of disappointment.  Do it because you love it and because you have to do it

Ciara Doorley, Editorial Director of Hacette Ireland, was the first speaker. She dove right into the nuts and bolts of the industry. Giving us guidelines for putting together a gleaming shiny submission, sure to catch someone’s attention. She really stressed the importance of being concise and professional in both the cover letter and the synopsis and for the writing itself to be as fine-tuned as possible before submission. Once you’ve submitted, she said, the key thing is to keep writing. Do it because you love it and because you have to do it. However, it could take months to hear back and it’s important to take the pressure off both yourself and the book while you wait. So learn the art of patience.

Ciara was the first but not the last to mention Stephen King’s book On Writing as a great book to check out for writers at all stages. And of course do I even need to name the other book that got more than a few mentions? Yes it’s a current trend, which of course publishers are aware of, but no she’s not an over-night success. Erika Leonard (E.L. James) had previously e-published other work. Another shining example of the ten year over-night success.

Gareth Cuddy, CEO of ePub Direct, gave an over view of the, blink and you miss it, ever-changing epublising industry. On average people with e-readers read at least a third more books than their 3D book counterparts simply due to ease of access. He ran through a couple of requirements for epublishing yourself. The technical things like formatting and where you can get it done. Who the major players are in the industry at the moment; Koby, Kindle, Direct Publishing and he spoke briefly about the constant battles (for battles read: hard-core litigation) between the traditional publishing work and the e-publishing world.

He showed a video, much to the amusement of the group, of a toddler playing with an iPad. The child successfully navigated her way around it; passwords, opening and closing of files, zooming into pictures, etc. Then the iPad was taken away and replaced with a magazine. The child repeatedly tried to expand the pictures in print without success. She got frustrated and tested her finger on her little chubby leg just to make sure it was working properly. Once she realised her finger, was in fact, working properly she gave up on the magazine. Gareth said that the child would forever more think that the magazine is an iPad that doesn’t work. Can evolution even keep up with that?

Then it was a quick breather for lunch and a chance to soak up some of the sun. Sitting across the road in Garden of Remembrance I thought about the little girl in the video and what would be lost if that was to become the reality for the children to come. What if browsing through an actual library or book shop was lost forever? What if we didn’t know what books smelled like? Or how it felt to flip over the feather thin pages of a dictionary? How can the ‘consumption of ebooks’ ever equal that?

Cliona Lewis opened the second half of the day. As Publicity Director for Penguin Ireland she knows a thing or two about what it takes to get out there and get noticed. Of course social media now plays a crucial role but traditional media, especially radio, inIrelandis still the winner. We are after all the biggest consumers of radio in Europe. She spoke about how important it was to be able to sell yourself and how gruelling a book tour can be. She said it was hotel to hotel, flight to flight. But even with that dampener put on our fire I don’t think any dreams were crushed in the room with that realisation. For the unpublished this still has a silver lining.

Emma Walsh took the podium next and spoke about the difference between the “art of writing and the business of publishing” and how important it was to not only to be able to tell them apart but to be well versed in the later. Browse your local bookstore to see what people are buying, keep an eye on blogs and websites, the Guardian in particular, so that you’re up to date with trends and industry gossip. And network, network, network. Along with Ciara she highlighted the importance of a professional, well edited and spell-checked submission. And more importantly not to lose heart, ‘if something doesn’t work try something else.’

There was no denying that most of the speakers did at some point express their dismay at the current upheaval in the publishing world. But any qualms were quietened with a belief that in the long run it’ll be positive for the industry and good work always gets through.

After yet another caffeine jolt and the aforementioned networking Arlene Hunt couldn’t have been a better end to the day. Herself and her husband took the proverbial bull by the horns and set up their own publishing house, Portnoy Publishing. Alongside this she also happens to be a best-selling author with no less than seven novels to her name.  And with the rights of one just sold in Germany she is on the up and ever up.

Determination, determination and some more determination along with never giving up and a drop of luck were her wise words. She too had been rejected at the beginning but she just kept going. Writing every day is crucial. And always with an eye to finishing the first draft and not getting bogged down in edits of early chapters before the thing is even finished. How can you know what is wrong with it when it’s not even finished? And then you must edit to the point where you don’t care about the characters anymore. That means there is nothing else to change and you’re ready to put it out there.

At the end of the day my head was fried, yes, but, I left with a renewed sense of conviction. Just. Keep. Going. Was the message that was received load and clear over the day. If the journey was easy it wouldn’t be worth it.

BIG THANKS to Niamh MacAlister who attended the Publishing Day & reviewed it for us! Niamh completed a Masters Degree in Creative Writing at the University of St Andrews, Scotland with the assistance of The Arts Council of Ireland, An Chomhairle Ealaíon.  She was selected as a ‘New and Emerging Poet’ for the 2010 Poetry Ireland Introductions Series and also for the Lonely Voice Short Story Series. She has had prose published in 3009 and poetry in The Stinging Fly, Raft, The Moth and Washington Square Review. She will complete a residency in Cill Rialaig in 2012. 

 

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Eddie Linden: poetry and reminiscence

An interview with John Kearns, 19th April 2012.

Eddie Linden became one of the leading figures on the international poetry scene through his journal Aquarius, which ran from 1969 to 2002. While Aquarius was seminal to the development of many poets in the UK, Ireland and internationally, Eddie is also an accomplished poet himself and last year saw the publication of his selected poems A Thorn in the Flesh from Hearing Eye press. We hope you can join us at the Irish Writers’ Centre for an evening of poetry and reminiscences from Eddie and many of his Irish friends on Tuesday April 24th 2012.

JK – Something I wasn’t sure about because there are various accounts, was where you were born – in Coalisland or in Scotland?

EL: I used to assume that it was in Coalisland, but now I believe it was in Scotland– I think my mother had come there. I never knew my real father, he died in south Armagh, but I did meet the family some years ago with Constance[Short]. My father was long dead by that stage. I’d always wanted to meet him and I’d a great dream that one day we’d meet in Cullaville near Crossmaglen in South Armagh where he came from. But it never happened. He never married or acknowledged me. My grandfather’s brother John settled in Dublin and his grandson is a solicitor there. The funny thing was that the street where John Behan [the sculptor and Eddie’s friend] lived in Marino, was the same street as where my great uncle John Glacken lived. John’s mother only lived about four doors away from them. My family are definitely Irish.

JK – And what about yourself – do you feel more Irish or Scottish?

EL – Oh Irish. I’ve always felt more Irish. And I suffered a lot when my foster father inScotlandremarried – he married a very bigoted Orangewoman. She tried to get rid of me and I remember as a boy of 10 being taken to my mother’s house and seeing my mother being insulted: “Take your Fenian bastard back!” It left me with a hatred of racism and sectarianism, particularly in Scotland where it was very bitter, and that comes out a lot in my poetry. I was glad when I came toLondonto get away from all that. That’s when I joined the Communist Party.

JK – I was interested to read about that in Who is Eddie Linden?, but it was the invasion of Hungary in 1956 that dampened your enthusiasm for the party?

EL –Hungarywas one of the things. I never lost contact with the party. In fact one of the last general secretaries, Gordon McClennan, died last year and for the last five years of his life we were in contact regularly. He was a lovely man. His last days were spent helping the pensioners – he was part of the pensioners’ movement.

JK – But in the book, Sebastian Barker writes about the influence of a priest, a Fr Andrew Scott, on you around this time?

EL – Fr Andrew was a Dominican in Scotland. The Dominicans at that time were very progressive. When I went back to the Church it was like going to the Catholic Church from the Communist Church, they were identical. They both were authoritarian. It’s like what I heard recently about priests that have been silenced. One of the great theologians to be silenced by Romewas Hans Küng. And one of the big things that annoy me is the anti-progressive attitude of the Catholic Church to people who are gay.

JK – So tell me how you got into poetry.

EL – Poetry happened to me late. I never thought that I would have a book of poems out. I wasn’t happy with the first book because there were a lot of misprints in it. It had extracts from my diaries – diaries which were eventually lost. They would have been helpful for John Cooney [currently writing Eddie’s biography]. But from 1969 I was dedicated to my magazine Aquarius. I got great help from the late Timothy O’Keefe of the publishers Martin, Brian & O’Keeffe. Brian helped me with the layout and adverts, Tim did reviews for me, Martin helped a great deal too. They didn’t last long, about five years, but they published The Green Fool by Paddy Kavanagh and later on they published his Collected Poems too.

JK – They published Sebastian Barker as well I think?

EL – That was through me, I got them to publish him. At that time the Arts Council were giving grants to publishers. That meant that publishers were able to publish more poems. They started with Sebastian Barker, later they did Shaun Traynor. But they didn’t do much poetry except for Irish poetry like Kavanagh.

JK – What was it that prompted you to start up Aquarius in the first place?

EL – I’d been friendly with John Heath-Stubbs. And I’d started doing readings at the Lamb and Flag and I had people like John reading along with George Barker, Thomas Blackburn and others and the magazine grew out of that. The second magazine was a special Irish issue with a cover by Eamonn O’Doherty and it was edited by Pearse Hutchinson. I never got a grant for that, but later on I did an Irish-Australian issue where the Australian Arts Council helped to pay for the Australian poets and there was an introduction by the late Peter Porter and I did an Irish issue there. I got a lot of help with that through a man I met at the Irish embassy called Con Howard. I started organising readings also at the Irish Club in Eaton Square and that was through him too. He managed to get funds from the Irish government and I was able to bring over Pearse and a number of young poets like Paul Durcan and Eiléan [Ní Chuilleanáin]. Then I published Madge Herron from Donegal, though she had settled in London by that stage. And from then on I was always in contact with Irish poets.

JK – How many special issues of Irish poetry did you do?

EL – I did two issues. If you notice in Eddie’s Own Aquarius Seán Hutton provided a list of all the issues that came out. I did it all on my own. There were no grants when I started, but I got a lot of good will from people. Harold Pinter really set me up when he sent me £100. It’s not true that it was the only magazine where he allowed his poems to be published – people have said that, I did publish him but he was published elsewhere too. He always remained a supporter of Aquarius though.

JK – Thinking of all the poets you’ve published, who do you think you’d be proudest of?

EL – I think I’m very happy to have published people like Matthew Sweeney. Anthony Cronin must have put him in touch with me and he himself was living not far from me in Maida Vale and he had started a broadsheet. He sent a copy of it to Samuel Beckett. Beckett didn’t send a poem, but he sent a donation. I’ve always been proud that I was able to promote the poetry. If I thought a poem was good I would write to the TLS about it.

JK – I’d imagine those years were pretty fractious times in London with the situation in the Poetry Society, Eric Mottram taking over at Poetry Review and so on. 

EL – They were fairly separate. It was around that time that I got fairly involved and became a council member of the Society. I remained so for about thirty years and that was a way of promoting the magazine. I think that Aquarius did its best. I was pleased that I was able to do something like that. I realised that I had reached a new generation and I felt about three years ago that I did my bit. I think the last issue I finished with the help of A.T. Tolley in Canada was a John Heath-Stubbs issue. I got to know Prof Tolley and he got me to do an issue on the poets of the 1940s. I remember getting articles from David Gascoyne, the surrealist poet, who spent most of his early life in Paris and whose biography has just come out by Robert Fraser. I’m halfway through it and it’s a remarkable book that really ought to be read.

JK – Gascoyne’s a writer that doesn’t get as much attention nowadays as maybe he ought to. For a lot of younger poets I think he could be quite inspirational.

EL – He was. The story of David is interesting. A woman came into his life [Judy Lewis] when he was in a mental hospital on the Isle of Wight and she was reading poetry to the patients. And on one occasion she read a particular poem and he came up to her afterwards and said “I wrote that!” She didn’t believe him at first, but it was a salvation for David. He started to write for the TLS after that and he was invited to poetry festivals in Cambridge. At the end of his life he got a medal from the French government for his contribution to literature and he met up with a lot of the old poets that he knew – it was a remarkable thing. He made a wonderful recovery and never looked back. One other person who knew him very well and was important to me too was Elizabeth Smart, Sebastian’s mother, who wrote By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept. She was a great inspiration and I used to spend weekends and holidays at her house in the country. I wrote a poem in which I talk about the “The Dell” in Suffolk where she lived.

JK – Somebody who was obviously very important to Aquarius was John Heath-Stubbs. What was he like to work with? It sounds like he was very supportive of you?

EL – Oh he was. At one stage he was annoyed when I published Blake Morrison, who became a really good friend, because he was very anti-The Movement. In the new edition of Agenda there’s an article about John when he was at Oxford with a man called Michael Meyer and they brought out an anthology of poetry at that time and they left out Larkin and Kingsley Amis. John always regretted he didn’t put Larkin in, although I don’t think they cared much for each other. Larkin included John in the last thing he edited though and John. His publisher was OUP and he did a translation of the Italian poet Leopardi and I believe it was a really good edition. He never did a lot of translation, but on that occasion he did it really well. And then the OUP dropped him and he was taken up by Michael Schmidt in Carcanet through Charles Sisson. From then on, John was published by them, though he never really did as well as he should. He did get reviewed in the TLS – whenever I brought out special issues I always got reviews in the TLS.

JK – I suppose a work like Artorius might be a bit intimidating for some readers.

EL – I think he spent 10 years thinking out that poem and it was published eventually by Enitharmon. He hated Alvarez – also part of the Movement – and Alvarez left him out of his anthology. I don’t think even Ian Hamilton cared much for the kind of poetry John was writing. He didn’t belong to any group. He was always regarded as a Neo-Romantic, but he didn’t like that. But check out that article in Agenda about the dispute between the Movement people and John’s generation.

JK – What about another poet loosely associated with the Movement, Elizabeth Jennings?

EL – Yes I did get her to do readings. She was a very nervous sort of person, spent a lot of her life living in rooms at Oxford. She was very eccentric. It was the same with Madge Herron. Madge used to think in Irish and could be difficult, but was a great poet. She had started her career in the Abbey Theatre and she sent her poetry to W.B. Yeats, who encouraged her. She became more eccentric when she moved to London though.

JK – Were there any other Irish poets who stick in your mind.

EL – Well Seamus [Heaney] started publishing in Aquarius and I was very pleased to have published him and other northern poets like Paul Muldoon, from Tyrone where my family are from. I published Paul when was just starting to get publishe by Faber. There are so many others that I can’t think of them all.

JK – Thank you. 

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Arlene Hunt on crime fiction

Your stories have been described as ‘dark and atmospheric, why did you get into crime writing above other genres? Without a doubt, crime fiction is my favourite genre to read, so it was natural for me to want to write it above all else. I’m trying to imagine attempting a romantic fiction or sci-fi novel: I wouldn’t even know where to start. Where would I hide the body?

There’s lots of talk about Ireland being more crime-riddled and dangerous since recession, has this impacted on how crime is portrayed in fiction? Is there? I thought we were pretty bloody before and during the recession, that seems to me to be era the gangs rose. It’s possible that lesser crimes like burglary have increased, but murder and other violent crime seems ever present regardless of who has what in their pockets. There are definitely more weapons available, that translates into fiction. Weapons and drugs.

How long does it take you to write a book? About nine months, a good old gestation period.

Do you interview sources or pluck the details & plots from the ether!? Depending on the book, I’d say both. I did a good bit of research for my last book, The Chosen, as it was set in the USA. I had to be very sure of my terrain which was essential to plot, and I had to learn how to operate a long bow and how to make arrows and so forth. It was very enjoyable. I read a lot too, hunting magazines, forensics, books on psychology, that sort of thing, but that’s a pleasure and something I would do in my spare time anyway.

Do you have any quirky habits when writing or a particular time of day when you’re most creative? I write in the morning (badly) and in the evening (fluidly), with the mid-afternoon taken-up with reading submissions or editing. I’m also training for a marathon at the moment, so it’s a pretty full day, with little time for quirks: unless you consider operating as a cat butler a quirk. I don’t. More a chore. Stupid mammals, not having opposable thumbs.

Are any of the characters based on people you know? Not really, most of the people I know are far nicer than the people who appear in my books. That said, if I met someone I actively dislike you can be sure they’re going to meet a grisly end amongst my pages.

You list your favourite authors as: Robert Crais, George Pelecanos, James Ellroy, James Lee Burke, John Connolly – what do you particularly like about them? That they have the ability to combine good writing with escapism without losing credibility. I think it’s fair to say that you can read any one of their novels and come away with something you didn’t have before you cracked them open. The older I get the more I appreciate the skill and practice that goes into good writing.

Give us a writing tip! Read! Don’t ever stop reading. I cannot fathom people who write but do not read.

Your last book The Chosen was a departure from the QuicK Investigations, was it harder to write? No, but I had the story kicking around in my head about a year before I sat down to write it, which is unusual for me. It was kind of nice to stretch myself mentally too. It’s easy to get moored to one particular formula, so this was a nice break.

What inspired you to launch your own publishing company? I thought the time was right for such a move. It was a huge learning curve of course and many lessons were learned in the process, but I’m glad we did what we did; it seems to be working out for us with two titles behind us, and hopefully two more to come this year.

What are you working on now? A novel set here in Dublin about two children who run away from home to escape an abusive father and walk straight into a drug war in the process.

“Arlene Hunt may just be the best female crime writer to have emerged from these islands in recent years” – John Connolly

Arlene who will teach a Crime Writing course at the Irish Writers’ Centre from 25th April began writing at the age of 27, and produced her first novel, Vicious Circle, within the year. This book was eventually published by Hodder Headline at the end of April 2004. Her second novel, False Intentions, introduced two characters, John and Sarah of QuicK Investigations, who were set to become a regular part of Arlene’s work, and was published in May 2005. Her third novel Black Sheep was published in June 2006. Arlene’s 4th novel, and the third in the John and Sarah series, is called Missing Presumed Dead (MPD) and was published in June 2007. It was translated into Dutch and is available under the title ‘Vermist’ and is due to be published in Russian. Her fifth novel, the fourth QuicK Investigations book, is entitled Undertow and was published in Septmber 2008. It was nominated for Best Crime Novel at the 2009 Irish Book Awards. In 2009 Arlene completed her 6th novel, Blood Money, which was published in March 2010. It continues the QuicK Investigations series. Her 7th novel, ‘The Chosen‘ was published in October 2011. It is a standalone thriller based in the USA and will be published by Portnoy Publishing.

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NaNoWriMo – Week Three – Going Crazy by Grace Tierney

A writing friend accused me yesterday of borrowing Hermione Grainger’s time-turner in order to write this much in one month. I would love a time-turner!

I’m just back in the door from our region’s Sunday Night Write-in. I wrote 550 words, which is a help as yet again I’m behind on word-count. I’ve got 28,788 words written. I’m 5000 words off target.

Those are 28,788 words I probably wouldn’t have written this month without NaNo. It’s ten thousand more than I wrote in 2007 when I tried NaNo for the first time. But it’s not enough. This time last year I had already passed the 50,000 word finish line. My final word count was 74,000 words in 2010. But I wasn’t working part-time in 2010. I wasn’t training to become a Beaver scout leader. And I didn’t have mid-term or my entire immediate family falling ill during November either.

That’s the problem with a month-long writing challenge. Life happens during the month, whether you like it or not.

I asked my writers tonight to sum up their week three. “Like a cyclone”, “mental – but good”, “hellish”.  So much for my theory that week three is a dream, an easy run-in to the final finish-line. That only works if you’re well on top of your word count, and most of us aren’t.

However spirits remain high. We’ve cheered on the writers who’ve passed the halfway point this week (well done Maera, Barroc, Scribblerbug, MariaM, MariaH and others). We’re all still confident that we can manage the 50K by midnight on November 30th. In fact I’m going to host a “woo-hoo, we did it” chat on our regional NaNoWriMo forum just after midnight, as I’m convinced I’ll write up to the wire.

That deadline is the whole point of NaNo really. Having a deadline makes you write. Every reporter knows that.

So tonight we worked out how we’d like to celebrate finishing NaNo. We’ll be throwing a traditional Thank Goodness It’s Over Party (or TGIO) on the 1st of December. It’s a social gathering, where for once we don’t write. We’ll swop war-stories of late-night writing, ignored housework, and runaway plots. We’ll rejoice that the month is over and think about the draft completion, revisions, and editing which lie ahead for those of us who write year-round.

December 1st is just ten days away. Thanks to tonight’s brain-storming – as a writer I have clues to lead my heroes to the treasure and the final showdown with the grave-robbers, and as a Municipal Liaison for Ireland NorthEast I have a time, date, and venue for our TGIO parties, both online and virtual. Ten days. 20,662 words still to write. Me, my laptop, and my imagination. Wish me luck.

Grace Tierney (www.gracetierney.com) writes in Meath. Her work has been published internationally in print and online. She is the Ireland North East organiser for Nano (www.NaNoWriMo.org) and actually enjoys the challenge of writing 50,000 words in just one month. After Nano 2011 she will complete her second chick-lit novel. She blogs on unusual words at http://wordfoolery.wordpress.com/.

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emer martin – I’m Still Writing

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the road home -

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I’m still Writing

It’s after midnight, my yellow cab crawls along the magnificently ugly Pulaski skyway over the foul wreckage of New Jersey’s chemical nightmarescape. This cab is bringing me back to a city that was once, unquestionably, home. The airline has lost my luggage, which always fills me with a sense of relief and freedom. Unfettered, I’m entering a hot Manhattan Saturday night carrying nothing but a laptop.
Emerging from the Holland Tunnel my blood begins to fizz with New York electricity. I spent a decade in the East Village, and I have been exactly a decade away from it. If you want to be a writer – live in New York. New York was where I became a writer for real. Everything before that was just fevered scribbling and muddled longing.
I might have been naïve and unschooled back then but I knew some geographical truths:
I knew some geographical truths.
If you want to drink in Grogan’s stay in Ireland.
If you want a great lifestyle go to San Francisco.
If you want to make films go to Los Angeles.
If you want to publish books go to New York.

I was 26 when I got my first book published. Though I had been thrilled, I had not been surprised. I had felt sure it was my destiny to write since I was a child. It was all I wanted.
This is the beginning, I had thought. The first book was the hardest to get published. My life would flow from this here tiny spring, and as sure as a river, I would meet the sea.
Drowning was not an option. I was the river.
I published Breakfast In Babylon with Houghton Mifflin and my second novel More Bread Or I’ll Appear with Houghton Mifflin, and then Random House bought the paperback rights.
When I read in Dublin, people would fold their arms and say, “Who does she think she is?”
I could give the same enthusiastic reading of my work in a San Francisco bookstore to a receptive and engaged audience who would take me out clubbing, but none of them would be in the industry.
When I did a reading in Los Angeles the rather sparse audience would ask, “Is this going to be made into a film?”
But when I did a reading in New York there was always a good chance of key editors and agents sitting in the audience.
It was THE place.
Even for the media and audience back home in Ireland New York is the only place in the entire continent of America that matters.
If you put on an event in New York, the buildings whisper it to the bridges, who whisper it to the waves, who whisper it to every shore in the whole wide world.
As a young writer I didn’t want to be anywhere else on the planet. The poet Imelda O’Reilly went a step further – “If I can’t live in the East Village” She declared, “Then I don’t want to live in America.”
Little did I realize I began my publishing (I hesitate to call it a career) right under the wave of a cultural corporate Tsunami.
The publishing industry is still here but not as it used to be. My agent, Maria Massie, tells me that when I started publishing in the mid nineties there were many more publishing houses to send submissions to. Random House, Bantam-Doubleday-Dell, Viking-Penguin, Putnam, Simon & Schuster, Scribner, Harper-Collins, Houghton Mifflin, Time-Warner, Hearst Publishing and the Holtzbrinck Group. These publishers were consolidated and shrunk to 6. Now there are even less.
I was in the midst of releasing my second novel in 1998, when German publishing giant Bertelsmann purchased the biggest U.S book publisher, Random House. Bertelsmann already had bought Bantam-Doubleday-Dell. They also swallowed the once independent Knopf, Crown, Ballantine, Fodor, Del Rey Fawcett, Times and Pantheon.
I remember the pervading feeling of malaise but I didn’t really know how it would impact myself and my writer friends. I was too busy writing.
How bad could it be?
I used to find the people in publishing a strange bunch at the best of times. The salaries were so miserable that to exist in Manhattan on 20,000 a year as an assistant editor you needed a trust fund. I met scores of skinny young women from Sarah Laurence College, with trendy 50’s glasses obscuring their fresh, white, earnest, ambitious faces. They were privileged, sheltered people who had antiquated notions of what a writer should look and act like and, fatally, what they should write about. I found them odd gate keepers to the culture and completely out of step with the funny, raw, multi-cultural, tough New Yorkers I was going to Hunter College with, not to mention the wild, mad characters I was carousing with down at Nightingales Bar on 13th Street.
Now, looking back, it was amazing I got published at all. Destiny, schmestiny!
There were the inevitable endless rounds of publishing events which I would be invited to; schmooze fests I squandered by drinking too much free wine and alienating half of the key players. They called me Edna, Emma, Irma. I told them that the name was Emer, as in Emergency. I didn’t fit their criteria of what an Irish Writer in New York was. Frequently, they would raise their waxed eyebrows at me and view me as the savage I was. And I was.

I didn’t care about the industry. What mattered to me was the writing. When I sent my third, and best novel, Baby Zero to my agent she bemoaned the fact that there were fewer and fewer editors to send books to and if you got rejected by one publishing house it probably meant them all. I nodded sympathetically but not attentively. How could I get rejected? My book was the most powerful, complex piece of writing I had produced so far. I was maturing and coming into my own as a writer. But I did get rejected. And the shock just about paralyzed me as a writer and therefore as a human. I was soul shaken.
I found out that editors had to send a book’s one page synopsis, first to the marketing department, who then often ran it by the major chain book sellers. They would then decide if a book was worth publishing based not on Literary merit but on marketing potential.
This was during the initial stages of the war against Iran and Afghanistan. And a book by an Irish woman Writer about a Middle-Eastern family arriving from a refugee camp to California was decidedly not PC. Who was I to write about that? Where was the marketing hook? Why couldn’t I find my pigeon hole and climb on in? Why couldn’t I write Angela’s Ashes?
Would the marketing department allow someone to write about a black guy in Venice, if he was an English man who had never left the country? How about a Danish Prince, if you’ve never been to Denmark or mingled with royalty?
Some even suggested that I was too negative against Middle-Eastern people, not even giving me the chance to point out that it was a critique of the excesses of both East and West. It seemed that you could go bomb families all over the Middle East but not write about them.
Most of all I was shocked that they would run a book by a shop before they decided on publication. When had this started to happen?
My friends and I loved Barnes & Noble. The superstores were crammed with professionals, hipsters, professors, artists, punks, and reprobates alike. It was fantastic. We could go grab a pile of books and magazines, spill coffee all over them and saunter off without paying. Imagine a New York library right in the East Village that allowed you to balance your skinny cappuccino on a pile of their books while talking your head off to friends on your cell phone.
When my first book came out I asked the publishers to try to get it on Barnes & Noble Most Promising New Authors Series. They said they had to pay $5000 for that privilege and it wasn’t in the budget. Naively, I wondered why my books weren’t placed on the tables. They informed me that to get a book in the window cost a small fortune and even the table placement had to be paid for. So my book was shelved on publication. I was a mid-list writer, therefore a risk. And if I didn’t perform sales wise then I would be dumped. So to sell a second novel had become even harder than selling a first. But how can you perform sales wise if the company puts no muscle behind your promotion? It takes a miracle to lure astute readers to the back shelves of a giant bookshop in the few short months they deign to keep your book on premises.
Just imagine James Joyce never being allowed publish again after the poor sales of Dubliners and Portrait of an Artist? What would have been lost?
As unthinkable as this seems, it is happening to so many promising writers right now.
I bristled when I first heard the term mid-list writer. Being a creature of extremes, anything that stunk of the middle was anathema to me. But that was what I was.
Mid-list writers are writers of high quality fiction that is unlikely to make it to the best seller list. They are the books I read myself; the strange ones, the ones that can’t be neatly categorized, the ones that break rules and traverse boundaries. So it couldn’t be that bad, could it? However perverse, the more retail space that was given over to books the more the market favoured best sellers and the mid-list was being phased out. In 1998 Bertelsmann acquired a 50 percent interest in Barnes & Noble. The largest publisher in the world was now the largest book seller.
As William Petrocelli co-owner of Book Passage, an independent bookstore in Corte Madera, California. Points out in his excellent article,
“Concentration of power in the book business goes hand in hand with the bestseller syndrome. Any corporate bean counter looking at the book business would immediately conclude that a publisher or retailer can make more money on a small number of bestsellers and that it should downplay the larger merchandise base of slower selling titles. In a competitive environment-where lots of publishers and lots of stores are competing for the same customers-this scenario is unlikely to unfold. Customers can go elsewhere and get better service. But as publishing falls into fewer hands and bookstore chains become more and more dominant, the temptation to cut back drastically on the number of titles is too great to resist.” http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Media_control_propaganda/Book_busters.html
The quaint notion of a dedicated editor patiently nurturing a brilliant unknown writer was gone. And how many great books and great writers have gone with it?
Can we conceive of our loss?
Then the ultimate catastrophe happened.
I left New York. It was like walking off the map. The cut throat publishing business seemed to have a higher turnover than MacDonald’s. When I returned occasionally everything and everyone would have shifted. Editors were given the boot if sales were low on their acquisitions. Who can afford to take a risk in an environment like that? One of my most committed and discerning editors had fled and was home schooling her children in Manhattan. I simply didn’t know anyone who had stuck it out in the new profit driven world of publishing.
In Britain, the model Jordan’s ghost written “autobiography” outsold every Booker Prize Winner ever combined. Celebrity writers ruled. Their astronomical advances were starving out the mid-list.
I finally published Baby Zero with Brandon, an independent Irish publisher. The publisher was the late Steve MacDonagh, an Irish man married to a Muslim who lived between Morocco and Ireland. He got what I was doing.
Do the books I read and the books I write still matter?
Every year I teach courses in Trinity College and the Irish Writer’s Centre in Dublin. I’m always humbled and stunned by the amount of talented writers I encounter in these classes. They are desperate to have their voices heard. Their voices are original and worth hearing. What will happen to them? What will happen to their work?
Hope comes in many forms. While in New York, Anna Van Lenten, a writer and editor hosted a literary salon in her Brooklyn Kitchen in honor of my arrival. We put the shout out via facebook and Twitter and many old friends came. Everyone was to read or perform for 3-5 mins. The length of time in such a large group was key so as not to be intimidated and not to be boring. Imelda O’Reilly (the Irish poet and consummate New Yorker has even survived her move to Upper Manhattan after being priced out of the East Village.) performed her classic poem Women With Irons. Celia Caro gave a slide show from her new Graphic Novel from her laptop. Those who did not write sang songs, or read beloved poems from their iPhones. Alice Farrell sang, and her daughter Mauve danced. We all defiantly joined in when Luke Kelly’s sister Betty sang The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down. Niall McKay the filmmaker kept cursing the fact he wasn’t filming it. We drank wine and I didn’t alienate anyone.
There were no publishers, editors, agents in that Brooklyn kitchen. We were all, everyone of us, Artists and art lovers. I read from my fourth novel. There’s no guarantee I’ll get a publisher for it. But, it’s great spontaneous nights like this, surrounded by creative, striving people that sustain me. And the sands are shifting again. The days of Borders and Barnes & Noble are numbered. I predict that e-publishing will loosen the grip that the big publishers have allowing more disparate, unusual voices be heard. For in these dark times of economic collapse and environmental devastation aren’t these the voices we need to hear? As languages, species, habitats disappear so too do small publishers and independent bookshops. Do we really want to live in a such a generic mono world? The e-publishing industry has the potential to bring back the diversity that is so necessary for our survival. To all those wonderful, gifted students whom I teach and all the young and old aspiring writers that I constantly meet, I implore you. This is not time to get comfortable. It’s time to fight.
Fight for your creative life.
My life has changed utterly. I shake my two little children awake in the taxi as it arrives at Lexington Ave. They shuffle in a deep daze, into my uncle’s Jim’s familiar elevator. We don’t even have a toothbrush between us. I breathe in the air; The smell is so familiar it’s as if nothing has changed. Instantly, it makes me nostalgic for a life I spent here. Spent and lost; The Banquet years I call them. A life racing around in gangs to gigs, openings, readings, exhibitions, recitals, launches, Bloomsdays, Guinness Fleadhs; a magical life spent writing, publishing, and dreaming.
I’m still writing.

the passanger

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www.emermartin.com

Emer Martin is a Dubliner who has lived in Paris, London, the Middle East, and various places in the U.S. Her first novel Breakfast in Babylon won Book of the Year 1996 in her native Ireland at the prestigious Listowel Writers’ Week. Houghton Mifflin released Breakfast in Babylon in the U.S. in 1997. More Bread Or I’ll Appear, her second novel was published internationally in 1999. Emer studied painting in New York and has had a sell-out solo show of her paintings at the Origin Gallery in Harcourt St, Dublin. Her new book is Baby Zero, published March 07. She has just completed her third short film Unaccompanied. She produced Irvine Welsh’s directorial debut NUTS in 2007. Emer was awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship in 2000. She now lives in the jungles of Co. Meath, Ireland.

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