Irish booksellers boosted by An Post deal and reopening of key wholesale supplier

A preview of Saturday’s books coverage and a roundup of this week’s literary news

An Post has introduced a special posting rate of just €2.95 per package for independent booksellers posting book packages up to 10kg across Ireland. Bookshops can avail of the offer by entering a special promo code on An Post’s online shop at, or by using a special barcode at their local post office.

Garrett Bridgeman, MD of An Post Mails and Parcels, said: “We are really aware of the challenges facing SMEs such as booksellers during this crisis and An Post’s purpose is to work for the common good. Books are always important, but with so many people confined to their home or local area, they’re a wonderful boredom buster and a passport to good use of free time for readers of all ages.”

John Keane, chairman of the Irish Booksellers’ Association said: “Booksellers, having been forced to close their doors during the crisis, are being greatly supported by An Post in dealing directly with readers and finding new customers during what is a very difficult time for the sector.”

The booktrade has also been boosted by the reopening this week of Gill Distribution’s warehouse, which supplies almost all Irish-published titles.

If you are looking for a bookshop to order from, check out this great article by Jennifer O'Connell.

Saturday's books coverage
Saturday's books coverage in The Irish Times includes, in the Magazine, a report by Una Mullally from the set of Normal People, where she interviews Lenny Abrahamson and Sally Rooney about his adaptation of her bestselling novel, which begins on BBC and RTÉ next week. "The complexity of translating a book so rooted in subtlety to screen has been achieved with incredible deftness. If the book demanded bingeing, the television show urges attention, as if to say: watch everything."

In Weekend Review, Hugh Linehan talks to Philippe Sands about his new book, The Ratline, which Tom Tracey reviews in Ticket. Our other reviews are Oliver Farry on How Much of these Hills Is Gold by C Pam Zhang; Eoin Ó Broin on War for Eternity: The Return of Traditionalism and the Rise of the Populist Right by Benjamin Teitelbaum; Peter Murphy on House of Glass by Hadley Freeman; Andrew Gallix on The Dominant Animal by Kathryn Scanlan; John Gibbons on The Precipice: Existential Risk and the Future of Humanity by Toby Ord; John Self on the best new translated fiction; and Sarah Gilmartin on Barn 8 by Deb Olin Unferth.

Comedy Women in Print Prize 2020 longlist
Debut Irish novelist Michelle Gallen has made the Comedy Women in Print Prize 2020 longlist for published comic novels with her highly acclaimed Big Girl, Small Town. She has some sparkling and stellar company including Nina Stibbe and Jeanette Winterson. The chair of the judges is Marian Keyes and the winners will be announced at an award ceremony at the Groucho Club, rescheduled from July to September 14th.

Here's the full list:
• Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams (Hachette UK / Trapeze)
• Big Girl, Small Town by Michelle Gallen (John Murray Publishers)
• Christmas Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella (Transworld Publishers / Bantam Press)
• The Nursery by Asia Mackay (Bonnier Books UK/ Zaffre)
• The Blessed Girl by Angela Makholwa (Bloomsbury Publishing)
• The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary (Quercus)
• So Lucky by Dawn O'Porter (HarperCollins UK)
• Reasons to be Cheerful by Nina Stibbe (Penguin Random House
• Are We Nearly There Yet? by Lucy Vine (Orion)
• In the Crypt with a Candlestick by Daisy Waugh (Little, Brown Book Group)
• The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman (Headline Publishing Group)
• Diary of a Confused Feminist by Kate Weston (Hachette Children's Group)
• Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson (Jonathan Cape)
• Miss Blaine's Prefect and the Vampire Menace by Olga Wojtas (Saraband)

John Pollard International Poetry Prize
Isabel Galleymore has won the 2020 John Pollard International Poetry Prize for her debut book Significant Other, in which she takes a sustained look at the "eight million differently constructed hearts" of species currently said to inhabit Earth.

Awarded annually to the author of an outstanding first poetry book collection in the English language and valued at €10,000, the prize is sponsored by the John Pollard Foundation and administered by the Trinity Oscar Wilde Centre in Trinity College Dublin. The patron is Stephen Vernon, who named the foundation in memory of his grandfather, John Pollard.

Galleymore said:“I am honoured and delighted to receive the John Pollard Foundation International Prize. As a debut poet, I was unsure what to expect from the publication of Significant Other. Although a year has now passed, the news of this prize reminds me that this feeling has not changed - to have won is completely unexpected and highly exciting. I am very grateful to Stephen Vernon, the patron of the John Pollard Foundation International Poetry Prize, to Trinity College Dublin for hosting it, and to my publisher Carcanet, for believing in the book and submitting it for the prize in the first place.”

“I believe a prize dedicated to debut collections is a wonderful thing and it is important to me that this prize has been founded in Ireland with its rich literary landscape. It may come as no surprise that the way I look at the natural world, and write about it, is greatly influenced by Seamus Heaney. His eye for detail and ear for sound in Death of a Naturalist, and many of his other collections, continues to instruct me on the abundant microcosms of life that we may otherwise overlook.”

Members of the prize jury were: Prof Eve Patten, School of English, Trinity; Harry Clifton, former Ireland Professor of Poetry and Adjunct Professor of Literary Practice, Trinity; Tim Dooley, Poetry School and the University of Westminster; Dr Nerys Willams, Associate Professor in Poetry, University College Dublin.

Patten said: “This year’s submissions represented an extraordinarily rich and vivid response to the landscapes of our time - political, economic, natural and emotional. While the range of subjects covered was diverse, the judges noted that a sense of poetic responsibility to the present moment was common to almost all the poets considered. There was a tremendous intellectual force in evidence too, alongside an ambitious play with form and style. Nothing else ‘leaps at the heart’ like a poem can, Virginia Woolf said, and many poems also touched our hearts during the reading journey from submissions to shortlist and on to choosing our winner.”

Rick Riordan studies Irish myth at UCC
A multi-million selling US author, whose works incorporating world mythologies have spawned big screen adaptations, is now studying Irish legend and tradition at University College Cork.

New York Times No 1 bestseller Rick Riordan – whose Greek myth-inspired ‘Percy Jackson’ series has been adapted into two blockbuster movies – says he now plans to incorporate Irish legend into his works.

Riordan is studying an Online Masters in Gaelic Literature in UCC, and was due to visit Cork last month for a conference on modern Irish literary figure Peadar Ua Laoghaire, before the outbreak of Covid-19 led to its postponement.

The Boston-based author said he chose to study at UCC in the hope that Irish legends may inspire his next best-seller.

“I’ve written children’s books about many world mythologies – Greek and Roman, Norse, Egyptian – but I’ve not yet tackled Irish mythology, which is ironic as it’s one of my favourites, and also part of my own ancestral heritage. My branch of the Riordan family was originally from Cork City, in fact, and their homestead was just a stone’s throw from the UCC campus,” Riordan said.

“I’ve loved mythology ever since I was a child. As a middle school teacher in the US, I taught mythology for years, so I was familiar with how children of that age get excited about gods, heroes and monsters.

“I began writing children’s books based on the myths when I told The Lightning Thief to my son as a bedtime story. He encouraged me to write it down, and the Percy Jackson series was born. Fifteen years later, much to my amazement, I have tens of millions of books in print. I think this speaks to the enduring power of myth.

“My hope is to use what I’ve learned at UCC to explore Irish mythology in children’s literature, much as I did Greek mythology in my Percy Jackson books.’’

Course originator, Prof Padraig Ó Macháin, said: “Our students for this online MA are drawn from all over the world. Everyone who undertakes this course contributes something of great value, a bank of experience, and Rick Riordan’s contribution to the course is no exception and has been very important.”

Riordan said: “Before I turned to Irish myth, I wanted to be sure I had done as much research as possible, even though I knew the stories fairly well. Being a full time writer and based in Boston, I wouldn’t have been able to study Irish mythology in Ireland for an extended period of time, but UCC’s online Gaelic literature MA provided me with everything I needed. It truly is a fantastic program for anyone interested in Irish history, literature, language or mythology.

“UCC allowed me to immerse myself in the subject, interact with students from all around the world, and have access to the finest faculty available for Gaelic studies, all at my own pace and on my own schedule. There is no other program like it in the world, to my knowledge,” he said.

Riordan cited Fionn MacCumhaill and Cúchulainn as among his favourite Irish legends.

“The Irish gods are delightful and elusive beings, but I’m especially drawn to Lug, who is the focus of my master’s thesis for UCC. He is a jack-of-all-trades, a model hero, an ideal king and a liberator of the oppressed, depending on which story he appears in. He has been reinvented so many times in the course of Irish literature. In baseball, we might call him a “utility player” because he can take any role on the field. I think that makes him quintessentially Irish, actually. He is resourceful, innovative, creative, resilient - he’s a survivor.

“I think the fact that any Irish myths exist at all is a testament to how powerful and important these stories are. The Irish were oppressed for so many centuries, their language and culture systemically dismantled by colonialism, and yet the stories have survived - not just in manuscripts, but in oral tradition. Given everything these stories have been through, I am optimistic they will continue to survive. I hope I can contribute in some small way to refreshing them for a new generation of young readers, but I am just one of many storytellers who will work to keep that tradition going.”

Sebastian Barry's German translator wins major prize
Literature Ireland, the organisation which promotes Irish literature abroad, was delighted to learn this week that the German translator Hans-Christian Oeser has received a prestigious €25,000 prize, the Straelener Übersetzerpreis der Kunststiftung NRW, for his translation of Barry's powerful, award-winning Days Without End, which was published as Tage ohne Ende in Germany in 2018 by Steidl Verlag Göttingen.

Oeser has been a friend and active translator of Irish writing throughout his long career. He has been described in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung as “Ireland’s German Voice”, having translated 34 Irish writers into German.

His editor, Claudia Glenewinkel, said: “We’re delighted that Hans-Christian Oeser has received this prize, which honours not only an exceptional translator (and dear friend), but also someone who’s facilitated the introduction of Irish literature into Germany like no other. So far Hans-Christian has translated five novels by Sebastian Barry into German for Steidl, not to mention works by Maeve Brennan, Colin Barrett, Claire Keegan, Eugene McCabe, Patrick McGinley and Caoilinn Hughes. Without the outstanding support of Literature Ireland, this would not have been possible – our heartfelt thanks to all our friends and colleagues there, who continue to accompany us on our adventure with Irish literature”.

Sinéad Mac Aodha, Director of Literature Ireland, said, “Hans-Christian Oeser has been instrumental in bringing the best of Irish literature into German throughout his long career. We congratulate Hans-Christian, the Laureate for Irish Fiction, Sebastian Barry, and the dynamic German publisher Claudia Glenewinkel on this major achievement. Over 16,000 hardback copies of this beautiful book have already been sold in German and the paperback looks set to sell very well over the coming months. A small translation grant awarded at the right time by Literature Ireland can go a long way to bring Irish literature to international readers.”

Barbara Byar shortlisted for 2020 Saboteur Awards
Barbara Byar's flash fiction collection, Some Days Are Better Than Ours: A Collection of Tragedies, published last November by Reflex Press UK has been shortlisted for the 2020 Saboteur Awards. Voting is now open to determine the winners and she would appreciate any support.

Her collection is available to order directly from her publisher (Use code SabFab at checkout for 10% off) or from Amazon.

Byar immigrated to Ireland from San Francisco 20 years ago. She lives in Co Kerry. She has also received Pushcart and Best Small Fictions nominations in 2020. A previous Irish Writers’ Centre Novel Fair winner, she was shortlisted for the Over the Edge New Writer of the Year Award and longlisted for the Bare Fiction Prize.

Mairtín Crawford Awards for Poetry and Short Story 2020
The Crescent Arts Centre is celebrating the life and work of the man who poet Michael Longley called "a saint of poetry" with the launch of the Mairtín Crawford Awards for Poetry and Short Story 2020.

The awards are aimed at writers working towards their first full collection of poetry, short stories or a novel. Both published and unpublished writers from all over the world are invited to submit between 3-5 poems for the poetry award, and a short story of up to 2,500 words for the short story award. The only stipulations are that entrants must not yet have published a full collection of poetry, short stories, or a novel and entries must be in the English language.

Sophie Hayles, CEO of the Crescent Arts Centre, said: “As a creative writing tutor, writer-in-residence and Director of the Between the Lines festival, Mairtín Crawford was a huge part of The Crescent Arts Centre family before his untimely death in 2004. As Michael Longley so memorably said, Mairtin ‘gave so much more than he took and made things possible for lots of other people’.

“Although the 10th Belfast Book Festival will not take place in June 2020 due to the current public health crisis, we are delighted to still be running the Mairtín Crawford Awards as part of our ongoing commitment to supporting emerging talent.”

Naomi Foyle, one of the judges of the Poetry Award and a close friend and colleague of Mairtín, said: “The current lockdown leaves many writers with more time on their hands than they might have anticipated. While there are serious and painful difficulties about the experience we’re all undergoing, there are positive aspects too and the process of writing can help us to gain a valuable perspective on it all. While it’s sad about the cancellation of this year’s Belfast Book Festival, it seems fitting that Mairtín’s Award will be energising aspirant writers at this time of enormous social change.”

The deadline for submissions is midnight on May 13th. The winner for each award will receive a cash prize of £1,000 and a 3-night stay at the writing and reading retreat The River Mill. The runners-up will be given a cash prize of £250. The judges are: Short Story: Lucy Caldwell (Chair) and Rachael Kelly; Poetry: Moyra Donaldson (Chair) and Naomi Foyle. The awards are supported by NIPR Books and The River Mill.

Keywords by Zoë Comyns
Keywords presented by Zoë Comyns is a new eight-part series for RTÉ Radio 1 Extra. It begins on Sunday, April 26th at 8pm and will be podcast after broadcast.

Keywords is a creative hybrid for words and sounds, a platform to share your thoughts, record yourself and collaborate. Each episode is guided by a keyword – You can record a conversation, an observation, talk about an experience or a moment, write a poem, essay or story or create a short audio feature. You might just want to record sounds, leave a voice message or compose a short piece of music, read a diary entry or a letter...

The first episode prompted by the keyword Distance is a new story by Sarah Davis Goff exploring the fears of one woman in these hazy strange days. Sinéad Gleeson collaborates with Steve Shannon on a short sound-enriched essay, a reflection on distance, the sea and lighthouses. Nick McGinley explores the different types of distance in Hikikomori.

The programme opens with Galway native Sarah Keating standing on her balcony in Singapore adjusting to the sound scape and reflecting on her new surroundings, there are also contributions by poet Aodan McArdle and writer Marcella O’Sullivan.

Over the course of the series you’ll hear from established writers such as Eimear McBride, Donal Ryan and Nuala O’Connor who are contributing new work to this series as well as writers Roisin O’Donnell, Neil Hegarty, Rachel Andrews, Ceri Morgan, film maker Tadhg O’Sullivan, Regan Hutchins and Fionn Davenport and many others.

Censored podcast
Filthy-minded historian and avid reader, Aoife Bhreatnach, searches censored books for smut, swearing and shagging. The Irish censor was infamous, banning 12,491 books and magazines between 1929 and 1998. Alongside the greats such as Doris Lessing and Samuel Beckett were thousands of books, now mostly forgotten. Mediocre novels, sex manuals, true crime stories, pulp fiction, racy memoirs and queer literature: the Irish censor banned them all. Join Aoife as she reads like a smut-obsessed censor, looking for the rude bits in all kinds of books.

Check out the trailer here. It's published on Thursdays and the books for season one are listed here. "Three episodes in," says Aoife, "I have covered wanking republicans, single girls shagging worthless men and Buddhist orgies. As it gets going, I plan on having lots of guests. I'm hoping it will get progressively ruder as well, but that depends on the books!"

BookBound, a new virtual literary festival
A new virtual literary festival, BookBound, launched by author Georgie Codd, takes place from April 27th till May 3rd. BookBound 2020 brings together well-known authors and new voices from around the globe for a week of online stories and conversation.

The festival is a fantastic example of the ways that authors, publishers, retailers and the media are rising to the challenges of the global crisis with creativity. Speakers include comedian and author Robert Webb, David Lammy, Sarah Perry, Max Porter, Michelle Paver, and Nikesh Shukla on topics ranging from mental health and human rights to art theft and wolves, in a festival of over 50 speakers in 22 unique pairings. Events will be streamed live on BookBound's YouTube channel.

Wild Atlantic Writing Awards
A Donegal author, publisher and founder of a successful international writing retreat has launched a special awards competition to create enjoyment for the many people stuck at home due to the coronavirus, with almost €3,000 worth of prizes for 500 words of prose.

Sean Hillen, who was born in Ballymurphy, launched Ireland Writing Retreat five years ago and is offering the new prizes, entitled Wild Atlantic Writing Awards, with a deadline of May 31st.

Sean’s writing retreats were recently listed among the Top Ten artistic retreats of any kind throughout Europe by The Guardian. Prizes in the new awards include a week in Paris, the Black Sea or Ireland where the retreats take place.

“We thought such an awards competition would provide an interesting challenge for people who like reading and writing and have no choice but to stay at home for the next few weeks,” said Sean. “After all, there are many people who’ve considered writing, but haven’t, now is the perfect time to start.”

“Our competition has two categories: flash fiction – open to all genres from sci-fi, crime, romance, horror, humor, thriller, mystery to whatever tickles you - and creative nonfiction. The winning entry will receive €500 in cash, plus €990 in the form of free participation to one of our retreats, including all daily excursions, by land and sea, food and drinks tastings, concerts and dance performances, and all writing workshops and author talks.”

To qualify for the ‘Creative Nonfiction Award,’ participants must write a story of not more than 500 words on any subject - whether in the form of memoir, profile, literary journalism, personal essay, travel food, or any other creative nonfiction category.” The prize in this category is the same as the flash fiction.

Leaving Certificate Poetry video series
It is an incredibly stressful time for this year's Leaving Cert students but Poetry Ireland is doing something to help. Check out its Leaving Certificate Poetry video series on its YouTube Channel. There will be a series of videos by poets featured on this year's exam and also some videos by other poets reading and speaking about the poems on this year's test, including works by Eileán Ní Chuilleanáin and Martin Dyar.