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Oh My God! Aisling authors sign six-figure deal and film could be next

Cúirt highlights; major Seamus Heaney exhibition; book deals for Niamh Boyce and debut author from Derry

'Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling' authors Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen have signed a six-figure, two-book deal with Gill Books to continue the story.

It looks set to be a very happy Christmas for Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling authors Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen, who have signed a six-figure, two-book deal with Gill Books to continue the story of country girl Aisling as she makes her way in the world. A film deal is also being negotiated.

The novel has been near the top of the bestseller list since it was published in late August with sales of 40,000 expected by the end of the year. A spokesperson for Eason, who described it as “an Irish Bridget Jones”, said: “Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling is the hottest debut of 2017. It’s incredible to see a breakout Irish hit like this doing battle for the No 1 spot week after week with perennial favourites like Lee Child, Marian Keyes and Ross O’Carroll Kelly.”

Conor Nagle, commissioning editor for Gill Books, said: “One piece of feedback we’ve had time and again is that Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling is like Ross O’Carroll Kelly for women with country roots. Hopefully Aisling is now set to emulate the success of Ross O’Carroll Kelly, who celebrated his 20-year anniversary this year. Its success lies in the fact that there’s a bit of Aisling in all of us, as well as in the authors’ skilful ability to capture a certain slice of Irish life with humour and a light touch. It brilliantly manages to deal with real issues and tug at the heart strings while also making you laugh out loud.”

Paul Howard has described it as “one of the funniest books I’ve read in20 years”. Marian Keyes said, “There aren’t enough words for how much I love it. It’s feckin’ HILAIRE and very touching”, while Louise O’Neill said it was one of her favourite novels of 2017.

Book two is due to be published next autumn 2018. The authors are keeping the plotline firmly under wraps but Aisling will be spending a lot more time “down home” so readers can look forward to getting to know already loved characters Niamh From Across The Road (NFATR), Aisling’s unreliable best friend Majella and Mammy much better.

Describing their year the authors said: “The success of the book took us completely off guard. We never in a million years expected so many people to fall in love with Aisling. But now that they have, we’re excited to continue her adventures with Gill Books.”

The authors will be signing copies of the book this Saturday, December 9th, at 12.15pm at WHSmith in Arnotts, Dublin.


Novel of the Year winner Bernard MacLaverty, Pulitzer Prize winning American poet Jorie Graham, Winter’s Bone author Daniel Woodrell; Forward Prize winner Sinead Morrissey, fellow poet and artist Imtiaz Dharker and Prof Declan Kiberd are the big named announced this week for the Cúirt International Festival of Literature 2018 festival, which runs from April 23rd to 29th in Galway. The the 33rd annual programme will be the first curated by the new programme director, Emily Cullen. The full festival line-up will be announced next February.

Cullen said: “The Cúirt Festival has a long tradition as a vibrant place of ideas and debate at the heart of a cultural capital. It has always facilitated an intimacy with leading Irish and international authors and the 2018 edition will continue in this vein, featuring world writers in translation, essayists and conversations with song writers and artists. A commitment to the promotion of Irish language writers is also a significant feature of the Cúirt festival in a city with a unique bilingual status. I’m looking forward to sharing the full festival line-up with audiences in the new year.”


US poet Mark Doty is to be the first Seamus Heaney International Visiting Poetry Fellow at Queen’s University Belfast

Best known for his powerful work written in response to the AIDS epidemic, multi-awardwinning US poet Mark Doty is to be the first Seamus Heaney International Visiting Poetry Fellow at Queen’s University Belfast.

The fellowship, created as part of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Queen’s University Belfast’s joint 10-year Seamus Heaney Legacy project, is worth £20,000 annually.

Doty will take up his post next autumn, when he will be based for four weeks at the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry at Queen’s, presenting public readings, workshops and masterclasses, and engage in outreach activities at the new Seamus Heaney Homeplace in Bellaghy.

Some of the best known names in Irish poetry came together to consider the unique invitation – Ciaran Carson, Ireland Chair of Poetry Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Gerald Dawe, Leontia Flynn, Michael Longley and Paula Meehan – and Prof Fran Brearton, representing Queen’s University, and Nóirín McKinney from the Arts Council.

Doty’s nine books of poems include My Alexandria (1995), which won the US National Book Critics Circle Award and became the first book by an American poet to win the TS Eliot Prize in the United Kingdom in 1995. A former Guggenheim Fellow and Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, he lives in New York City.

The announcement follows the appointment of Myra Zepf as Seamus Heaney Children’s Writing Fellow in May.

Noirin McKinney (Arts Council) and Prof Fran Brearton (Queen’s University Belfast), with poets Leontia Flynn, Paula Meehan, Gerry Dawe, Michael Longley, Ciaran Carson and current Ireland Chair of Poetry Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin. Photograph: Brian Morrison


Broadcaster Olivia O’Leary, presenter of RTÉ Radio’s Poetry Programme, and Catriona Crowe, one of Ireland’s foremost archivists, are to receive honorary doctorates at Trinity College Dublin tomororw, along with former Irish rugby captain Brian O’Driscoll, neuroscientist Gero Miesenböck and astronomer George Miley.


The National Library has announced details of a major Heaney exhibition, Seamus Heaney: Listen Now Again, to open next summer.

A partnership project between the NLI, the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and Bank of Ireland, the exhibition will draw on the National Library’s extensive archive of Heaney documents and will feature Heaney’s original manuscripts as well as letters, unpublished works, diary entries, photographs, note books and multi-media recordings.

The exhibition will be the first to be housed in the new Bank of Ireland Cultural and Heritage Centre within Bank of Ireland’s College Green complex. Curated by Prof Geraldine Higgins, director of Irish Studies at Emory University, and designed by Ralph Appelbaum and Associates, the exhibition will take the visitor on a multi-sensory journey from Heaney’s origins through his remarkable poetic career.

Director of the NLI, Dr Sandra Collins, said: “When Seamus Heaney left his writer’s archive to the National Library of Ireland we knew we wanted to do something really transformational to open up this wonderful archive and share it with the world. The opportunity to be the first exhibition in the historic building on College Green was a perfect chance to achieve this ambition. We are very excited to announce the plans for this new landmark exhibition now.

“The exhibition will be an emotional, intimate and inspiring encounter with Heaney’s work. At its core is the idea of transformation – from earth to air, dark to light, beginnings to completion, and the everyday to the extraordinary – and the sense that language has a transformative capacity that can help us “listen now again” to our world and our surroundings.

Speaking on behalf of the family, the poet’s daughter Catherine Heaney said: “In 2011, my father donated his literary papers to the National Library so that they would find a permanent home in Ireland and be accessible to anyone with an interest in his work. That those manuscripts and notebooks should now be at the heart of this ambitious and visionary exhibition, in this historic setting, would have meant a great deal to him. And we, his family, are extremely proud and honoured that his archive is being brought to life and celebrated in this way.”


Penguin Random House imprint Fig Tree is to publish the first novel by Derry writer Geraldine Quigley in spring 2019. Quigley has been taking part in WriteNow, a PRH mentoring scheme which aims to find and publish new writers who are under-represented in books and publishing.

Juliet Annan, publishing director at Fig Tree, acquired world rights to Music Love Drugs War, which tells the story of a group of teenagers and their families in Derry in 1981. The friends’ interests are music, love, drink and drugs but some of them will become increasingly consumed by the ongoing war going on around them.

Quigley lives in Derry and works full time in a call centre earning minimum wage. She applied to WriteNow as a way to “try to get her voice – one which represents working-class women – to be better heard”, said the publisher.

Annan said: “This is a novel that is full of heart: it is moving and funny, it is so touching about this group of friends and their families, and it’s such an amazingly observant portrait of a time and place that you can imagine yourself there at that time and in that place.”

Quigley added: “Working with Juliet has been a privilege. With her guidance, I have been encouraged to tell the story of a different time, with as much humour and truth as I could manage. It is a tale of family, friendship, and being young in difficult times, of making the wrong choices for the right reasons.”

Working with Annan for the past six months in a mentoring capacity, Quigley feels that the programme has developed her skills and confidence as a storyteller: “WriteNow told me that I am a writer and that my work is important. They made themselves completely accessible, and for me that access has shown us that publishers and publishing can and should be for everyone,” she said.

The philosopher, cultural theorist and novelist Kwame Anthony Appiah is to chair the judges for the 2018 Man Booker Prize for Fiction

The philosopher, cultural theorist and novelist Kwame Anthony Appiah is to chair the judges for the 2018 Man Booker Prize for Fiction, the most prestigious award for fiction written in English. In the prize’s 50th anniversary year, he will lead a panel of five judges in choosing the best novel published between October 1st, 2017 and September 30th next year.

Appiah said: “Who could resist an invitation to join a diverse and distinguished group of fellow readers to explore together the riches of a year of Anglophone fiction, drawn from around the world? The excitement around the prize can help draw attention to brilliant books and worthy writers and creates one of the more interesting literary conversations each year. I’m delighted to contribute to that process.”

Appiah, who is Professor of Philosophy and Law at New York University, was born in London in 1954, and grew up in Ghana. Appiah specialises in moral and political philosophy, as well as issues of personal and political identity, history, colonialism, global citizenship and nationalism. In 2016, he gave the Reith Lectures on the subject of Mistaken Identities, and a book based on them, The Lies that Bind, will be published next year. His award-winning collection of essays, In My Father’s House, explores the role of African and African-American intellectuals in shaping contemporary African cultural life. He has reviewed regularly for the New York Review of Books and writes the weekly ‘The Ethicist’ column in the New York Times magazine.

Appiah, who is the grandson of Sir Stafford Cripps, the chancellor of the exchequer in Clement Attlee’s postwar British government, lives between New York City and New Jersey with his husband, Henry Finder, editorial director of the New Yorker magazine.


This year’s winners of the poet-in-residence bursary offered by Poetry Ireland and the Tyrone Guthrie Centre are Joseph Horgan, Kathleen McCracken and Lorna Shaughnessy.

This bursary was established last year and is specifically designed to appeal to mid-career poets. While many schemes exist to support emerging writers, the intention of this bursary is to focus on poets who have achieved a level of distinction in their field and who need time away from other demands to focus on writing poems. The winners of last year’s inaugral bursary were Michael O’Loughlin, Billy Ramsell and Maria McManus.

Horgan was born in Birmingham of Irish immigrant parents. He is the author of three collections, and one prose work. His forthcoming pamphlet collection, 21, will be published by Flarestack in 2018 and his collaborative poetry, film, music installation, Reading in Public Places, will be released later this year. He is a past winner of The Patrick Kavanagh Award, has previously been awarded an Arts Council Bursary and has been shortlisted for a Hennessy Award.

McCracken is a Canadian poet and academic. She is the author of eight collections of poetry and was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award for Poetry in 1992. She is currently lecturer in creative writing and contemporary literature at Ulster University.

Shaughnessy was born in Belfast and lives in Co Galway, Ireland. She has published three poetry collections and her work was selected for the Forward Book of Poetry, 2009. She is also a translator of Spanish and South American poetry. Her play, The Sacrificial Wind, was staged in the Cúirt International Literature Festival this year.


The adjudicators of next year’s Listowel Writers’ Week’s annual Pigott Poetry Prize are Welsh poet Deryn Rees-Jones and US Poet Laureate Billy Collins.

The prize is awarded for the best collection of poetry by an Irish poet published between February 2017 and January 2018. It is the country’s largest prize for a poetry collection by an Irish poet. The first prize has been increased to €8,000 this year and the two shortlisted finalists each receive €1,000. The 2017 Pigott Poetry Prize winner was Vona Groarke for her collection Selected Poems which was published by Gallery Press. Vona Groarke will return to the 2018 festival and direct a three-day poetry workshop.

Listowel Writers’ Week takes place between May 30th and June 3rd, 2018. Details of next year’s Creative Writing Workshops will be announced later in December and include a master class on writing the novel from Alex Preston, Joanna Briscoe will direct the advanced novel workshop, Paul McVeigh short fiction, Sarah Webb writing children’s books and Irish Book Award winner Julie Parsons on writing crime. Returning next year due to popular demand is Michael Harding who will direct the memoir writing workshop and John Spillane on song writing.


The Pavilion Theatre in Dún Laoghaire is putting on a Christmas show with a literary theme on Sunday, December 17th, at 8pm. A Night Before Christmas will feature a selection of classic Christmas stories read by an all-star cast of Irish actors – Owen Roe, Michele Forbes, Cathy Belton and Phelim Drew – with music by Lisa Lambe and virtuoso harper Cormac De Barra.

Originally performed as a fund-raiser for the Dalkey School Project in the early 2000s, the show has been revived with new material and the addition of two world-class Irish musicians in Lambe and De Barra.

From Charles Dickens to Patrick Kavanagh, Frank O’Connor and Dylan Thomas, the tradition of Christmas storytelling is rich and authentic. Some of the pieces to be read will be familiar to Irish audiences but others may not be; all of them have been chosen to charm, enchant and to capture the true spirit of Christmas.


The IMRAM Irish Language literature festival is holding a season of Christmas events. On December 13th in An Siopa Leabhar, 8 Harcourt St, Obair idir Lamha features three writers reading from work-in-progress – Cathal Póirtéir, Lorcán S Ó Treasaigh and Réaltán Ní Leannáin.

On December 16th, Club Chonradh Na Gaeilge on Harcourt St hosts Diarmuid Johnson, Celia de Fréine, Paddy Bushe, Philip Cummings , Máire Ní Choilm and Cathal Póirtéir.

On December 18th, the Generator Hostel in Smithfield hosts a night of bilingual poetry and spoken word club REIC, for a special evening curated by Ciara Ní É, with poet Dairena Ní Chinnéide, guitar genius Steve Cooney. writers Alex Hijmans and Maitiú Ó Coimín, and singers Aoife Ní Mhórdha and Tara Walsh.


Penguin Ireland is to publish Her Kind, a new novel by award-winning author Niamh Boyce in April 2019. Her Kind is inspired by the story of Alice Kyteler, moneylender and richest woman in medieval Kilkenny, the only woman ever condemned for sorcery in Ireland.

Boyce said: “I’m delighted Her Kind will be published by Penguin. I’ve lived with these characters for four years and it will be wonderful to unleash them and their world, out into ours.”

Her agent Nicola Barr said: “Niamh is a fascinating, incredibly clever writer and storyteller. This is the perfect subject matter for her and it will be loved by readers of Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites and Sarah Schmidt’s See What I have Done. Penguin Ireland published Niamh’s bestselling and prizewinning The Herbalist brilliantly and we’re delighted to be working with them on this new novel.”

Boyce won the 2012 Hennessy XO New Irish Writer Of The Year Award and Emerging Poetry Award for her poem Kitty. She was named Newcomer of the Year at the 2013 Irish Book Awards for her first novel The Herbalist (“The most entertaining yet substantial historical novel since Joseph O’Connor’s Star of the Sea” – The Irish Times). The Herbalist was also nominated for the International Impac Dublin Literary Award.