Tag Archives: O’Connell Street

The Eye of the North Book Launch

The author, modelling her book, at the launch of The Eye of the North. Photo credit: Jan Stokes

The author, modelling her book The Eye of the North, at its recent launch! Photo credit: Jan Stokes

Last Thursday evening, in Eason’s of O’Connell Street in Dublin’s city centre, I had the great joy of welcoming my book into the world in style. With the support of my publisher Stripes Books, and the fantastic organisational skills of Eason’s management and staff, I got to drink wine, make a (terrible) speech and read the first chapter of The Eye of the North to a motley crew of friends, family and well-wishers.

It was a truly wonderful experience, and I will be grateful to everyone involved for as long as I have full use of my mind (which, hopefully, will be quite some time).

However, because I made rather a mess of the speech I had prepared – including forgetting to thank some very important people – I’ve placed the text of it here, to give those who couldn’t attend a sense of the night and to assuage my own guilt at the bits I forgot. So. Without further ado:

The first thing I think of when I look around this room full of dear and beloved people, my friends and family, is this: have yiz nothing better to do in Dublin on a Thursday evening? Thank you all for being here. Every one of you is here because you’ve been in some way helpful or encouraging or supportive – perhaps you sent a Tweet, perhaps you did more than that – and you’ve all had a role to play in bringing this book to life. Thank you all.

I particularly want to thank, of course, the staff and management of Eason’s for hosting the event for us here and making us so welcome, and my publisher, Stripes Books, who have been a dream to be involved with. Beth Ferguson and Lauren Ace are absolute gems, who’ve managed to get me out of my comfort zone as kindly as possible, and they’ve helped arrange this fantastic event which is more than my tiny culchie mind could ever have dreamt of – so thank you, Beth and Lauren. Thanks to Katie Jennings, too – Katie is my editor, so she deserves your sympathy and admiration as well as my gratitude. The whole team at Stripes are just wonderful, and they’ve made me look very good, so they have my eternal devotion. I also need to thank two people in absentia – my agent, Polly Nolan, is the first of these. Polly’s hard work, her belief in me and in this book, and her commitment to me before we’d even signed up to work together, meant that I had the encouragement I needed to keep going when it seemed like a book deal was an impossible dream. The other is author Kieran Fanning, who has believed in this book since before it was even a thing – and that support has meant more than I can express.

I won’t detain you long, but I do want to say a few small things while I have a fairly captive audience. The first is this: I don’t come from power, or wealth, or influence. My grandfathers both worked in factories, among other things; my grandmothers were in service, taking in washing to make ends meet, doing whatever they could to support their large families with very little. Neither of my parents had the opportunity to follow any artistic or educational dreams they might have had, as such things weren’t for people like them. I am fiercely proud of all of them, and of all my family, and of where I come from. The fact that I stand here today not only as an author launching her debut novel but also as a person with a PhD is an overwhelmingly emotional thing. I wish my grandparents were alive to see me do this thing, this thing they could hardly have imagined, and I hope they would have been proud of me as I am of them.

The second is: I began my reading life at home with my parents, who did everything they could to feed my mind and my curiosity, to give me access to books, and to encourage me. Sometimes I think I scared them a bit with my appetite for words and knowledge, and I think at times they didn’t understand where it came from – but I think they always knew they were raising two children, my brother and me, who had artistic leanings and a sensitivity to creativity. They helped us fly. I want to thank them for all they have done, for being entirely unsurprised at the fact that my brother is a playwright and short-story writer, not to mention the editor of a literary magazine and the holder of an MA degree, and I am what you see before you, and for loving our odd little ways. I don’t think it can be overstated that doing as my parents did and giving a child access to books, encouraging their literacy – both in terms of reading books and in reading the world around them – and allowing them to know their dreams are realisable are the best gifts a parent, teacher or carer can give. As an author and a parent, I am so proud to be a small part in that huge and wondrous process, that amazing thing where I get to share what I have been given and light the flame anew. Mol an óige agus tiocfaidh sí.

My two wildest dreams are in this room. I’m holding one, and my husband is holding the other. I am so glad to have both my babies here with me this evening, and I am so glad to be sharing all of this with all of you. Thank you.

So. If you were there – thank you so much. If you weren’t, but you’re reading these words – thank you, too. Nobody writes a book alone, despite how it feels at the time. We all need our net of support to keep us going. I’m so lucky to have one like you.

Wednesday Write-In #51

This week’s words were:

elastic  ::   rule of thumb  ::  spire  ::  conference  ::  wheel

The Commute

The bus conked out with a shuddering cough as it passed the Gresham Hotel, and there was just no time to wait for the next one. It’d be a long walk from here, but judging by the traffic oozing its way down from Parnell Square like thick dark blood through a clogged artery, getting a taxi would be no quicker. Not that she had the money handy to pay for one, anyway.

‘Damn it,’ she muttered. ‘The one morning I can’t be late…’

She passed the Spire in a click-clacking hurry, trying not to feel her knicker elastic as it dug into the soft flesh of her hip. The warm morning was making her sweat through her light blouse, and her skirt was starting to ride up at the back, a teasing breeze trickling over her newly exposed skin. She tucked her paperwork into the crook of her elbow as she yanked her clothing straight, hoping nobody was watching, and then on she strode, through the blue and hazy morning, her mind full of photocopying and ringing telephones. As she walked, she adjusted her bundle of documents again, getting a grip on the handle of her satchel, full to bursting with conference handouts and copies of last month’s minutes.

She was crossing O’Connell Bridge when she noticed someone on the central median, all alone. No more than six or seven, and skinny with it, he looked small enough for a seagull to carry him away. Sitting on the edge of one of the large planters, nestled amid the scraggy, dying flowers, he was staring fixedly at something in midair, his small hands resting on his knees and his face completely at peace. She almost tripped over her own feet as she came to a halt, her eyes filling up with the sight of him. The crowd bumped and jolted around her, muttering as it went, but the boy was perfectly still. Only his hair, light and golden, stirred in the breeze.

He was a star in empty darkness, or a distant beacon. He was a lighthouse in a roaring storm.

‘Hey!’ she called, not knowing why. Rule of thumb, she told herself. You see a kid alone, you don’t just ignore it. ‘Son! Are you all right?’

Traffic roared all around him. Three lanes separated them, but she knew he’d heard.

‘Here! You! Where’s your mammy?’

The child made no response. She took a step, and then another, toward the pavement edge. A bus screamed past, blocking her view of the boy and making her close her eyes against the gust of foul, hot air it threw up in its wake. When she looked toward the child again, he’d moved from his perch on the planter, and for a few, panicked seconds she searched for him. Her gaze swung back and forth until it eventually came to rest once again. His hair gleamed in the dusty air as he stood, uncertain, on the pavement edge, gazing wide-eyed at the roaring traffic all around.

‘Don’t!’ She shouted, heaving her papers around to free one arm. She waved at him, desperate to attract his attention. ‘Little boy! Don’t cross there! It’s not safe!’

He didn’t hear. His eyes full of fear, he stepped out, and disappeared.


The documents spiralled around the bridge like a white, flickering wheel of fortune, some landing in the waters of the Liffey far below, and some coming to rest under the wheels of passing traffic, and some smacking into the legs and faces and bodies of other people, struggling and hurrying and running past, unseeing. They pulled the sheets of paper free and threw them into the wind, irritated at the interruption, closing their ears against the shriek of the ambulance and shuttering their eyes against the sight of a satchel, battered and scuffed, lying by the railings of a city bridge.