Children’s Books Ireland conference: five authors speak

Sara Keating asks five debut authors appearing at this weekend’s 20th anniversary event five questions about their work

President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina receive representatives of Poetry Ireland to mark its 40th anniversary and Children’s Books Ireland to mark its 20th anniversary, with from left; Theo Dorgan, Siobhan Parkinson and PJ Lynch at Áras an Uachtaráin.Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina receive representatives of Poetry Ireland to mark its 40th anniversary and Children’s Books Ireland to mark its 20th anniversary, with from left; Theo Dorgan, Siobhan Parkinson and PJ Lynch at Áras an Uachtaráin.Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Children’s Books Ireland celebrates its 20th birthday at the CBI conference, which takes place at the Lighthouse Cinema this weekend. Bringing together some of the best Irish and international authors and illustrators, the annual event invites readers, writers and artists into a conversation about publishing and the world around them.

This year’s theme, Movement and Migration, examines the vital role that books for children and young people can play in critiquing the global, socio-economic forces that shape our lives today, from personal coming-of-age tales to the epic drama of dislocation, conflict and emigration. With addresses from the inspirational Kate di Camillo, a former US ambassador for children’s books, and Lucy Cousins, creator of the Maisy Mouse series, the event runs over two days, and also features panel presentations from picture-book makers Rob Biddulph and Chris Judge, Anna Carey, and poet Joseph Coelho. It also, crucially, gives a platform to new voices in the industry. Here, five of the featured debut authors answer five questions about their work. To find out more, you’ll have to go and hear them speak.

The 2017 Children’s Books Ireland conference takes place at Light House Cinema on September 23rd and 24th. For details of the full line-up see childrensbooksireland.ie

Meg Grehan
Meg Grehan

Meg Grehan
What is your book about?
The Space Between is a verse novel about agoraphobia, mental health, loneliness and the power of letting people in.

What was your inspiration for the book?
My own experiences with agoraphobia! I wrote it while housebound as a way of expressing and trying to better understand what I was going through.

What was the hardest thing about the process?
Writing the book was easy, but sending such a personal book out to be read by strangers for the first time was incredibly hard!

What was the most surprising thing?
How fun and lovely the whole publishing process was! Little Island Books were so kind and brilliant the whole time!

What was your own favourite book as a child, and why?
I’m cheating and choosing a trilogy! His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman. I fell completely in love with the characters and read them over and over.
The Space Between is published by Little Island

Sadhbh Devlin
Sadhbh Devlin

Sabdbh Devlin
What is your book about?

Bí ag Spraoi Liom! is about Lúna, a keen inventor with one big problem; Mom is too busy to play with her in her new time machine. It is a story which reminds us to make time for the important things in life.

What was your inspiration for the book?
My inspiration came from a conversation with one of my twin daughters about the games I used to play as a child.

What was the hardest thing about the process?
Editing. Trying to get the word count down as low as possible while not losing the rhythm of the story was tricky!

What was the most surprising thing?
Seeing the printed book for the first time. Even though I’d seen the “dummy” and the proofs at all stages, it was still a lovely surprise to hold it in my hands for the first time. It was as if it wasn’t ever really happening until that moment!

What was your own favourite book as a child, and why?
A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I had an attic bedroom, so I constantly pretended I was really the protagonist, “Princess” Sara Crewe, banished to a garret by a cruel twist of fate. I was a dramatic child.
Bi Ag Spraoi Liom is published by Futa Fata

Mary Watson
What is your book about?
A girl pursued by the past embarks on a quest she doesn’t fully understand.

What was your inspiration for the book?
I wasn’t getting over being homesick for Cape Town so I decided I would write something I could do only here. Writing this book was an act of grounding, of making Ireland my home.

What was the hardest thing about the process?
Before, I wrote because I love words and ideas. Now, I want to write stories: books that grab a reader by the shirt, yank them in, and turn them inside out. I’m learning.

What was the most surprising thing?
How incredibly real the world of the book became to me.

What was your own favourite book as a child and why?
Cora Ravenwing by Gina Wilson because it is so disturbing. I’m intrigued by small cruelties.
The Wren Hunt is published by Bloomsbury on February 8th, 2018

Sarah Carroll
Sarah Carroll

Sarah Carroll
What is your book about?

The Girl In Between is told by a young homeless girl who lives with her Ma in an abandoned mill in the heart of Dublin. The mill is earmarked for development, and with her safe place threatened and her own past haunting her, the girl must find a way to move on.

What was your inspiration for the book?
The mill is based on Boland’s Mill, a stained granite building in Grand Canal Dock that is currently being developed into business and living units. Before development began, however, the mill used to provide shelter to a homeless man. Both the mill and the man were largely invisible to those that passed by on their way to work every day. To me, the mill represented a crumbling past being replaced by an uncaring digital future. It was an embodiment of the unseen past. And so one day I thought, there’s a young girl trapped in there. She’s trapped because she’s homeless, but also by her past.

What was the hardest thing about the process?
Getting the relationship between the girl and her Ma right; the neglect, the guilt and, ultimately, the love.

What was the most surprising thing?
That I really enjoyed the editorial process. Stripping the story down, shaping it, drawing out the themes.

What was your own favourite book as a child, and why?
There’s no “one book”, but one of the many was The Twelfth Day of July by Joan Lingard. I loved it because of its fearless heroine, Sadie, but also because I got a glimpse into the Troubles in Northern Ireland.
The Girl In Between is published by Simon and Schuster

Orlagh Collins
Orlagh Collins

Orlagh Collins
What is your book about?

On the face of it No Filter is about falling in love, but at it’s also about a young woman who overcomes feelings of powerlessness to discover her own authentic voice. The theme of self-discovery is as important as the romance.

What was your inspiration for the book?
I wanted to write about the intensity first love. I adore 1980s teen movies, not only because they take teenage feelings seriously.

What was the hardest thing about the process?
Self-promotion. Self-doubt.

What was the most surprising thing?
How much I love to write. My appalling grammar.

What was your own favourite book as a child, and why?
Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree was one of the first books I read alone and it introduced the possibility of disappearing to lovely, hidden places inside my head.
No Filter is published by Bloomsbury

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