Independent Irish publishers get in party spirit with Bring Your Own Stories event
An evening of readings by emerging authors in Dublin last night saw local publishers team up to have fun and create a platform
Writer Anna Laerke Byrne and Lisa Coen, co-founder of Tramp Press
From left, Seán O’Keeffe, MD of Liberties Press; Jamie Murphy from The Salvage Press; Aoife Walsh, Lilliput Press manager; Gráinne Clear, publishing manager at Little Island Books; Ailish White, publicity manager at Liberties Press; Lisa Coen and Sarah Davis Goff, co-founders of Tramp Press
Writer and actor Sam Coll reads from his work
Ghostbusting, professional drinking and a love poem to the chipper were among the varied topics at an evening of readings by emerging authors in Dublin last night. The inaugural Bring Your Own Stories event at the Martcade in Rathmines was organised by Liberties Press as part of the Dublin Independent Publishers Collective.
The line-up included debut authors Rob Doyle and Daniel Seery, Northern Irish novelists Tara West and Jason Johnson, young adult writer Deirdre Sullivan, the spoken word poet John Cummins, Dublin writer Anna Laerke Byrne, Dubliners 100 contributor Sam Coll and the Gothic fiction writer Brian J Showers.
“We loved the idea of local, independent publishers joining forces to present local talent that can often get lost in a sea of bigger, multinational publishers,” said Ailish White, publicity manager at Liberties Press. “The aim of the evening is to showcase fantastic Irish literary talent. It creates a public platform for authors and gives them a break from their often intense writing schedules. It also gives writers a chance to test out reaction to forthcoming material.”
This was the case for the first reader, Anna Laerke Byrne, who chose a piece from a collection of essays and stories she’s working on. Introduced as a cross between Caitlin Moran and Mindy Kaling, Laerke Byrne’s story, Ghostbusting, took an arch view of the supernatural world. Her real-life tale was well received by a packed room, happily embracing the BYO spirit.
YA writer Deirdre Sullivan, best known for her Prim trilogy, also used the event to try out new material in front of an audience. Sullivan mesmerised the crowd with her dark extract of a teenager struggling to piece together the morning after a violent attack. “It’s a great event to come to both as a reader and a writer,” she said. “You get to chat among your peers and meet interesting people. You’re among a community who you know won’t judge you.” Needlework is scheduled for publication with Little Island in 2016.
Lilliput discovery Rob Doyle read from his novel, Here Are The Young Men, which has recently been acquired by Bloomsbury. Doyle commended the event and its organisers, highlighting the opportunities it presents for writers: “It’s about circulation, blood flow in the literary world. You get to meet other writers and publishers in reality, not just on Twitter. Writing is such a solitary thing, speaking to the emptiness. Events likes these are exciting and a lot of fun.”
The publishers involved in the event are part of the Dublin Independent Publishers Collective, which was set up last May as a way of pooling resources and encouraging creativity in the community. Its members include Liberties Press, Lilliput Press, Tramp Press, Little Island, The Savage Press, New Island and Swan River Press.
“We’ve never really seen each other as competition, but rather as people trying to achieve the same things,” said Lisa Coen, co-founder of Tramp Press. “By working together, we can aim higher. It’s an informal gathering where we share resources, organise readings and sell books. Running events like BYO Stories is much more manageable when we all divvy up expenses and tasks. This way, readers get to see a variety of authors – established, new or even just about to be published.
Tramp’s representative on the night was the writer Sam Coll, whose story Grace was part of the Dubliners 100 anthology launched earlier this year to mark the centenary of Joyce’s collection. Introduced by Coen as “multi-sensory”, the writer used his acting background to more than live up to the billing.
The actor Anthony Seery went one step further, enacting a scene from his cousin Daniel’s debut novel A Model Partner (Liberties Press), bringing the character of Mr Grundy to life for the audience. Relieved at having the night off, Daniel Seery said he was busy working on his second novel. “I hope to be finished the first draft early in the new year. It’s set in Dublin, about a man who won’t leave his house and has all the neighbours wondering why.”
Following the Seery double act was Brian J Showers, whose short story Some Houses is part of Dreams of Shadow and Smoke, a new collection of macabre tales from The Swan River Press. Northern Ireland was represented by the Fermanagh writer Jason Johnson and Belfast novelist Tara West, both of whom are published by Liberties.
Johnson read from his novel Sinker, relating the woes of his professional drinking protagonist with dry humour. Poets Are Eaten As A Delicacy in Japan is West’s second novel, following her acclaimed debut Fodder, and relates with dark humour the legacies of a dysfunctional family.
Mixed in with the authors was spoken word poet John Cummins, who arrived just as his slot was announced and had a can cracked open on stage before his coat was off. “I love that sound,” Cummins told the audience. Finding his rhythm immediately, his three poems ranged in subject from an ode to a chipper to a moving rendition of a father-daughter relationship.
There are plans for more BYOS evenings in the coming months, according to White. “Hopefully this is the first of many,” she said. “It grew from having a handful of our own authors in a single event. We wanted to make the event bigger, more diverse. As BYOS is a spoken word event, we can also welcome writers that we enjoy, regardless of whether they are published yet. The aim is to pool writers from the different publishers involved and create a really fun, public-friendly event.”