They actually don’t bite

The RTE Guide/Penguin publishing day

So, a first experience of meeting editors and publicists and people-in-the-know in the writing world–and they actually don’t bite.

The room in Pearse Street Library was buzzing with the group of writers longlisted for the RTE Guide/Penguin Ireland short story competition. We were looking forward to a day of talks and workshops, not to mention the networking opportunity and the chicken and stuffing sandwiches. The line-up included Jane Alger, Dublin UNESCO City of Literature and Cliona Lewis, Publicity Director, Penguin Ireland, who spoke about the industry in its current state, with some warnings about how hard it is to get published and how polished the manuscript needs to be. A dollop of luck is also a requirement. We had some informative talks and Q&A sessions with  Patricia Deevy, editorial director Penguin Ireland and Faith O’Grady, Lisa Richards Literary Agency. They were both very approachable and unassuming and urged us to polish, submit and keep writing.

There were three authors present (Sinéad Moriarty, Niamh Boyce and Mary Grehan) and also an interesting talk from Stephen Boylan, Books Purchasing Manager, Eason & Son and Donal O’Donoghue, Features Editor, RTÉ Guide. After lunch we had an excellent overview by Rachel Pierce, freelance editor, peppered with the real experiences of the authors on the panel. All in all a good mix from the publicist to the book buyer to the authors and the editors, the day was well-organised and efficient. All through the day there were plenty of questions and a chance to mingle.

The authors on the panel were: Mary Grehan, Love is the Easy Bit, who seemed to be enjoying the whirlwind of the first book publicity tour. And, this being Ireland, we discovered that we had both taught English in the same school in Japan. We compared just a few of our battle scars.

Niamh Boyce (The Herbalist: I blogged about it here) gave a very honest account of her writing methods and habits and entertained us with her dry wit.

Sinéad Moriarty, Mad about You: Her love of writing was evident. An established writer, on her tenth book, and such a positive energy and attitude. I’d say she works damn hard too, but she reminded us that we need to be in it for the journey and not the destination.

That reminds me of a documentary I saw recently on John Irving (A Prayer for Owen Meany and The world according to Garp.) He compared writing to preparation for a wrestling match. There’s a lot of training, repeating and perfecting every move, and then a short match that can be over in minutes. Irving takes about seven years to write each book. He says that you’ve got to love the journey, because the day the book comes out and for about four months, he’s on the publicity/interview circuit, but then he’s back to his desk for the next six or seven years.

So we left the event in high spirits and I got to enjoy a rare night out in Dublin.


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