Call Out for Stories on The Dublin Marathon

Do you have a story to tell about The Dublin Marathon? Did you run it? Did you cheer someone on?

We want to hear from you!

Senior Editor, Helen Carr, tells us about the Dublin Marathon and what it means to her. Helen is delighted to be the editor for our forthcoming book: The Dublin Marathon: 40 Years of Running.

Helen and friend Denise Kelleher cheering on their friend and club mate Caroline Farrelly to her O50 prize in the Dublin Marathon 2018. Photo by Eoin Fegan.

“I’ve been aware of the Dublin Marathon nearly all my life – as a child, I remember standing in my native Raheny, watching Dick Hooper – local hero, Raheny Shamrock runner and 2hr 12-minute marathon runner – storm through the village on his way to winning in 1980, 1985 and 1986. In the mid-80s, I also cheered on my father, handed out glucose sweets to runners and admired his etched copper finisher’s plaque. Back then, my sister and I used to complain that our Hallowe’en costumes were always very thrown together and last-minute because most of the October Bank Holiday weekend revolved around the marathon!

My dad stopped running in the 90s and the marathon moved to the Southside so it didn’t loom as large in my life until I joined Raheny Shamrock running club in 2010. Raheny has a long record in the marathon, so from June to October EVERYONE was marathon training. My husband ran it in 2012, so I thought, ‘If he can do it, why can’t I?’ and we both ran in 2013. I’ve marshalled every year since – once again, the October Bank Holiday means marathon weekend! I like nothing better than cheering friends, family and runners from all over the world to the finish. In 2018, I and my fellow Raheny Shamrock marshalls screamed ourselves hoarse cheering our clubmate Mick Clohisey to his National Marathon win.

And now the Dublin Marathon has come to my workplace too! I’m so excited that The O’Brien Press will be publishing The Dublin Marathon: 40 Years of Running in October 2019! I can’t wait to edit this book on the history of the race, the various routes the marathon has taken over the years, famous Irish marathoners, and so on. We’re also doing a call out for inspirational stories and anecdotes from Irish marathoners, charity runners and volunteers. So whether you’re a runner, a spectator or a volunteer – send us in your stories and photos of memorabilia, and you might make it into the book!”

For more information on submitting material for The Dublin Marathon, please visit our website here.

Helen Carr, March 2019

Alan Nolan on World Book Day, Writing, Illustrating, Animals and Rock Star Grannies

Ahead of World Book Day 2019 on Thursday, 7 March, I chatted with Alan Nolan about his World Book Day book, Sam Hannigan’s Rock Star Granny, and the world of books, writing and illustrating!

What’s your favourite thing about reading?

A good book will put you directly in the shoes of the characters, helping you see the world through their eyes. That’s my favourite thing about reading – understanding and empathising with others.

What’s your favourite thing about writing and illustrating?

I love storytelling, and writing and illustrating are two great ways of telling a story. I enjoy them both equally, and I try to get them to work together and complement each other. I tend to think visually – if a character pops into my head, I have to draw them immediately; if a scene comes into my head, I reach for a pencil and get drawing. Then I’ll write some notes about what I’ve just drawn around the sides of the sketch. It always happens in that order: idea, drawing, writing.

Who is your favourite character to illustrate?

I love drawing Ogg the caveman from Conor’s Caveman and the Sam Hannigan series. I had a lot of trouble getting him right at the design stage – I knew he was huge and that he wore caveman furs and had chunky, hairy arms, but I just couldn’t get his face quite right. His big, stubbly chin worked, but there was something too open and modern about his eyes. Then I hit on it: a huge, bushy monobrow would hide his eyes, making him more enigmatic, and it would also make him look more Neanderthal-like. Ogg is an easy character for kids to draw as well – I can show them how to draw a very convincing caveman with only twelve pencil lines!

Sam Hannigan is a great character. What was your inspiration for her?

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a dog. My granny, Lizzie Bunn, lived with us (as did her mum, my great-granny), and she helped me achieve my doggy dreams. She made me a pair of doggy ears out of stuffed brown socks that she stitched onto a Healy-Rae flat cap, and a furry tail that I tucked into the back of my trousers. Sometimes when she’d call us down for dinner, I’d insist that she put mine on the floor. I would eat it on my hands and knees, my ‘tail’ (actually, my bum) wagging happily as I chowed down without the aid of a fork, knife or spoon, my doting granny looking on. Of course, this only happened when my mother was at work. She would have marmalised me and my poor granny if she knew these canine capers were going on every second day. So I think Sam Hannigan was based partly on me – a dreamer with a lightly loopy grandmother.

Continue reading “Alan Nolan on World Book Day, Writing, Illustrating, Animals and Rock Star Grannies”

Me and OBP

Our wonderful Publicity and Marketing intern, Aoife Harrison, wrote a blog post about her experience at The O’Brien Press.

Four months seems a relatively short space of time but, even including several Christmas seasons in retail, I think these were among the busiest four months of my life! In preparation for this blog post, I compiled a list of all my personal highlights during my internship and the events, books and general escapades I’d been involved in since I started…it was a long list.

Topping the charts, so to speak, was Culture Night 2017, which was one of my favourite experiences at The O’Brien Press. For Culture Night, The O’Brien Press offered people the unique opportunity to pitch directly to Ireland’s leading children’s publisher. Meet with a staff member at the office for a ten-minute, one-to-one pitch. It was guaranteed to be an exciting and busy night. It helped that I had spent the better part of that morning involved in the launch of Judi Curtin’s 25th book, Stand By Me, a children’s book set partly in the 1960s. The staff of Eason, O’Connell Street, were amazing and incredibly helpful. They didn’t even bat an eyelid when Ruth and I arrived at the store an hour early, laden down with yet more bags (despite the several boxes we’d sent them the day before) and proceeded to decorate their newly renovated shop with strings of paper records, blow-up flower-power guitars and multi-coloured fabric flowers strewn over every available flat surface. The school group, when they arrived, were suitably impressed with our recreation of the book cover on the stage next to Judi and I only got the mildest of funny looks before they decided I must be in costume (I was!)

After tidying the shop (and ourselves) up, we raced back to the office to help with the preparations for O’Brien Press’ Pitch Perfect Culture Night event. The excitement in the air was palpable as staff raced up and down flights of stairs. Soon, before we’d even begun to steady our nerves, though thankfully after we’d taken down the photos of cats in wedding attire (your secret is safe with me Geraldine!), the doorbell rang. It was like Opening Night of a new production, but instead of being the actors huddled in the wings, we were the audience. We just happened to be providing the stage!  Our first guests arrived and the next few hours were a whirl of handshakes, book chats, quick changes, muffled knocks and sheer exhilaration. The night was a huge success and we had so many exciting manuscripts to look forward to reading in the following weeks. Continue reading “Me and OBP”

Red Rover, Red Rover!

“England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Inside, Outside, Donkeys’ Tails!” Kunak McGann, author of Red Rover, Red Rover! Games From an Irish Childhood, shares her memories of playing games as a child with her family and neighbours!

The idea for a book of childhood games has been percolating in my mind for years. Every time I had one of those ‘Remember when…?’ conversations with friends or family, I thought to myself, I really must get a move on. So it was with much excitement and no small relief that Red Rover, Red Rover – Games from an Irish Childhood has become a reality.

I grew up in Drogheda, on an estate of about forty houses, and with families of four or five children not uncommon back in the heady days of the 1980s, playmates were never in short supply. I was lucky enough to have four of the best in the form of brothers and a sister. One thing you need to know about my family is that, like most 80s kids, we were particularly snappy dressers and had fabulous haircuts (with the photographic evidence to prove it). The other is that we were nearly always up for a game of something or other.

One of our favourites was Kerbs – there was a period of a few years where the irregular thump of the ball off a kerb was to be heard most days, up and down our road. I was never really gifted with the skill set required for that game, but that never stopped me. My brothers proved more skilful, although I did eventually make up for my lack of natural ability with sheer volume of practice. My abiding memories of Kerbs, though, will always be either waiting patiently as my opponent hit kerb after kerb after kerb (how long could they keep going??), or the sheer joy on my younger brother’s face when he tried the high-scoring backward, over-the-head throw yet again and actually managed to hit the kerb. I’m pretty sure that he would have consistently scored higher if he just threw normally each time, but I was always delighted with his high-stakes gambling approach to the game. Continue reading “Red Rover, Red Rover!”

Sockies 2017 – Best Blog of an SME!

The O’Brien Press were delighted to win a Sockie last night for the Best Blog of an SME! Congratulations and a huge thank you to all of our authors who write inspirational pieces for our blog and to the OBP team for their creativity and energy!



Don’t forget ‘the messages’!

This month, we’re celebrating all things Irish with the publication of You Know You’re Irish When … by Séamus Ó’Conaill. Seamus has compiled a hilarious list of iconic Irishisms, from classic Irish quirks to the more recent additions of what it means to be from the Emerald Isle. Here are some of the highlights:

You Know You’re Irish When …

  • You’ve no idea what is the difference between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael
  • Most of your overdraft in your thirties was going to friend’s country weddings
  • Until you were twenty-five, your favourite cheese was EasiSingles
  • Mammy let you watch all the violence and swearing on TV you liked. But God forbid there was any ‘sexy’ stuff going on
  • You vote for your local representative because, didn’t your father vote for his father?
  • You know where you were when Anne Doyle announced she was retiring from RTE News
  • After you turn forty, you find yourself buying the local paper for ‘the deaths’
  • They’re not ‘errands’. They’re ‘the messages’
  • You know what ‘I’m running five minutes late’ really means
  • You were warned as a child you’d get ‘square eyes’ from looking at the telly
  • You ask someone: ‘Are you goin’ out, or are you goin’ *out* out’

Anymore Irishisms you know of? Tweet us at @OBrienPress!

‘Seamus O Conaill has distilled our very nature into the pages’ Irish Daily Mirror

‘He’s compiled a list of things that are unique to us Irish – and he’s nailed it!’ Today FM’s Early Breakfast Show

A War Story

Best-selling author Nicola Pierce, talks about her time researching and writing City of Fate.

I am addicted to reading and have spent a lot of money on my book-buying habit, one book always leading on to another. For years, I limited myself to fiction until somewhere along the way, I began to buy and read books about writers: biographies, autobiographies, memoirs, essays, diaries and letters. At one point, I bought a second-hand book about the Russian poet Anna Akhmatova, Anna of all the Russias by Elaine Feinstein. As much as I’d like to admit to a deep appreciation for poetry, it just wouldn’t be true. However, I love to read about poets and their writing, even if I don’t ‘get’ their work.

Halfway through the biography, it struck me that I was revelling in reading about Russia. I was unaware of what the Russians had endured, before, during and after World War II. I’d no idea Stalin behaved as he did, killing more of his own people than anyone else.

Next I discovered A Writer’s War, a biography about Russian journalist and writer Vasily Grossman. This book not only introduced me to Grossman but also to the British historian, Anthony Beevoir, who wrote it. Grossman joined the Red Army to behold the fight against the invading Germans. This is where I first read about the Battle of Stalingrad. After finishing this biography, I read Grossman’s novel, Life and Fate about the battle and civilian life under Stalin. Inevitably, I bought Beevoir’s best-selling Stalingrad and by this stage was hooked on history and war. My library was expanding, as any decent library should.

There were two stories in Beevoir’s book that jumped out at me. Firstly, how a Russian teacher was ordered by the NKVD to enrol his class of thirty sixteen-year-old boys in the army to fight at Stalingrad. By the time he reached the registry office, half the class had vanished. Beevoir could not confirm the teacher’s fate but thought it highly probable that the man paid for this ‘infraction’ with his life. The second story concerned a massacre of a small Jewish village in rural Russia. The parents were shot first and then, following some debate, so were the children, aged seven right down to toddlers … even babies. This second story also appeared in William Craig’s book, Enemy at the Gates (much, much better than the film) and in a documentary I watched on The History Channel. It’s not the sort of thing one can easily forget. I’d absolutely no idea how I would incorporate it into a children’s novel but I was determined to include it somehow, though even now I can’t explain why. Perhaps I will be criticised for this because, well, I won’t make it too easy! In any case, it’s just a small mention but I stand by it.

From the very beginning, I had two boys in mind. I didn’t know who they were but they kept turning up in my mind’s eye, walking through the ruined streets of Stalingrad, mostly oblivious to the two warring armies around them.

I wanted the story of the teacher and the fifteen pupils who stood by him. What is it like to be a schoolboy one minute and then an inexperienced soldier in the midst of a deadly battle? I tried to imagine the fear and confusion, especially when it came to actually having to kill another human being who was trying to kill you.

The story grew thanks to the characters. I don’t plan my books and generally have little or no idea what I will write, from day to day. This can be quite scary but I can’t seem to break the habit.

All I knew was that I wanted to include as much fact as I could, as I did in Spirit of the Titanic. Also, I wanted to show that there could still be beauty in wartime, whether it’s a solo rendition of Beethoven or a charcoal drawing of Mary and baby Jesus. Art might not change your life in such situations but it can help, even momentarily, to lift your spirits.

I wanted to explore what motivates a person to fight and keep fighting when all seems lost. I think I managed to work it out: I think it’s about the importance of “home”.

Just before City of Fate went to the printers, I unexpectedly received the new sixth edition of Spirit of the Titanic. I am writing this essay a month before City of Fate reaches the book shelves and – there’s no denying it – I am nervous. Recent sleepless nights have been spent trying to distract myself from visions of readers finishing the new book and finding it inferior to my Titanic story.

However, I have to remind myself that no matter what the reception is or what anyone else says about City of Fate, I did it. I wrote a second novel. And it’s a book that I would like to read.

I simply have to accept that I have no control over what happens next!

Nicola Pierce

City of Fate is now available at and most good bookshops.

Guest Post: Will Sliney on his new graphic novel, Celtic Warrior – The Legend of Cú Chulainn

Celtic Warrior came about from my lifelong ambition to tell a story within the world of Irish mythology. I still have scraps of paper from when I was a child with detailed descriptions of the Cú Chulainn video games and animated series that I would dream up!

I’ve been lucky enough to have worked for the top comic properties in the world with Marvel and Star Wars. As much as I love working in a universe with Spider-Man and the Avengers, nothing will come close to the sentimental ties that I have with Celtic Warrior. It was great to have a launch in my home city of Cork which my family and friends could attend and I was overwhelmed by the turnout of comic and Irish mythology fans that came along.

I broke into the comic book world over a number of years by following a simple rule of drawing every day for five hours. Posting my work on the internet enabled me to share my work with anyone and so far I have got the chance to work on properties such as Star Wars, Farscape, MacGyver and Fearless Defenders amongst others.

I’m hoping that Celtic Warrior: The Legend of Cu Chulainn will inspire the next generation to pick up their pencils and draw out the scenes from their own favourite Irish mythological stories, or even to create their own!

Video of the launch of Celtic Warrior: The Legend of Cú Chulainn in Waterstones Cork

Will Sliney chatting to Two Tube TV about his work with Marvel and his new graphic novel Celtic Warrior

Celtic Warrior is the first Irish published graphic novel to hit the Top 10 bestseller list in Ireland, reaching No. 8 in the Original Fiction Irish Bestseller list in its first week of publication!

For all the up to date news on Celtic Warrior check out Will’s blog.

He will also be attending lots of festivals and signings over the coming months, check out the venues’ websites for more information:

Workshops at Cúirt International Festival of Literature – Friday 26th & Saturday 27th April
Signing in Subcity, Dublin – Saturday 11th May, 12-3pm
Signing in Forbidden Planet, Belfast – Thursday 30th May, 4pm
Signing in Waterstones, Coleraine – Friday 31st May
2D Northern Ireland Comics Festival – Thursday 30th May – Saturday 2nd June
London Film & Comic Con – Friday 5th July – Sunday 7th July

Delivering The Irish Dad’s Survival Guide by David Caren

The notion of ‘from a dad’s perspective’ first set the wheels in motion. I recall when my wife was expecting, and like the majority of most new Irish expectant dads, I was feeling elated but at the same time nervous as to what lay ahead.
Thankfully, I worked in pregnancy book central, a major bookstore, and on the day I found out we were pregnant I (discreetly!) popped over to our ‘sex & pregnancy’ section. I flipped through what was on offer on the shelf for expectant dads, making sure my suspicious behaviour didn’t appear like I needed any help from any of the relationship manuals!

The selection was limited to ‘laddish’ style bloke guides that did nothing to quell the nerves. When I investigated further on the Internet, I discovered amongst the information, heavily pink mothering sites with only a few tips written by good-hearted mums on how best to support your pregnant partner in ‘her’ pregnancy. I suppose it was this factor which made me think ‘but what about poor little old nervous me? Don’t I feature in all of this?’

This triggered my paternal quest to establish an information hub for Irish expectant dads who could visit a website and find articles written by other dads who were either in a similar boat or whose boat had already docked and could tell tales about their travels. was formed shortly after we learned that we were expecting our second daughter. Though I had gathered plenty of material for the site prior to this, it seemed more substantiated now that we were expecting again and that the information featured on the site was relevant to where we were in our own pregnancy.

The idea of The Irish Dad’s Survival Guide to Pregnancy & Beyond, was always there really, even prior to launching over three years ago. There still existed a gap on the shelf for a pregnancy title aimed at Irish expectant dads that included information appropriate to the Irish marketplace and more importantly, accounts from other Irish fathers about surviving the pregnancy.
I am very fortunate over the years to have made many friendships through with other Irish fathers. Many of whom have contributed to The Irish Dad’s Survival Guide to Pregnancy & Beyond. This fraternity of fathers, though professing not to being writers themselves, were wise enough to insist that their surnames be omitted in the final print run – oh the bravery of Irish dads!

In writing The Irish Dad’s Survival Guide to Pregnancy & Beyond, I strived to make the content accessible, fresh and reassuring. When it did call for a more medical approach to certain topics I called on the help of a GP pal (who was an expectant dad at the time too!) to ensure that any terminology appeared in dad-friendly plain speak.

To put expectant dads further at ease, I enlisted the services of a seasoned midwife and lecturer in midwifery who patiently answered all the important questions regarding the delivery including; ‘Where do I stand in the labour ward?’ and ‘What if I feel faint?’…

‘Surviving the first six weeks’ after the birth plays an integral part in the book. Naturally, becoming a dad is probably one of the most important life-changing events to occur in a man’s life. However, in the months leading up to seeing his baby, the dad can often feel side-lined, with the reality of the situation not kicking in until he is cradling his newborn in his arms for the very first time.

Finally, if I could pinpoint the one word that best describes The Irish Dad’s Survival Guide to Pregnancy & Beyond it would be reassuring. Reassuring for any expectant dad that whatever he is feeling is perfectly normal, and that through reading this book he will discover that other Irish dads have gone through the same.

The Irish Dad’s Survival Guide to Pregnancy (& Beyond) by David Caren is available now in all good bookshops and at

Launches Galore!

We’ve had a few extremely busy weeks so now that it’s all calming down (slightly!) I can tell you about the two wonderful launches we recently had. They were both in the same week, both had subject matter important in Irish culture and both were based around the same time in history!

On Wednesday 28th March the launch of Dublin: One City One Book 2012 took place at the Mansion House in Dublin. We were delighted to publish the official edition of Dubliners as part of the Dublin: One City, One Book campaign. Not only is this book integral to Irish culture, the publication also marks the momentous event that James Joyce’s work is now out of copyright. Dubliners was the chosen book as it is the most accessible of Joyce’s work but also one of the most enjoyable. Joyce is one of Ireland’s most celebrated writers so the Dublin: One City, One Book campaign wants all of Dublin (and Ireland!) to read Dubliners for the month of April! The new edition also includes a fantastic introduction by Irish author John Boyne. He is a lover of Joyce and says ‘… Dubliners is interested in all of us, rich and poor, old and young, men and women. It’s filled with humour and love, pain and loss. Above all, it rings out with a love of these streets, of the voices of the people who inhabit them …’

The Dublin: One City, One Book campaign is supported by a huge range of events around the city which are being run by Dublin City Libraries. The highlight is a concert with The Dubliners at the National Concert Hall, on Friday 13th April. This event will of course be tinged with sadness with the passing of the last founding member, Barney McKenna this week, however the group has decided to proceed with the concert and will dedicate it to his memory.

The launch of Dubliners was attended by many well-known faces including John Boyne, John Sheahan of The Dubliners, Lord Mayor of Dublin Andrew Montague and even James Joyce himself! There was music, singing, sunshine and a yummy tea reception! The streets of Dublin couldn’t have looked better bathed in the fabulous sunshine and the fantastic Dubliners banners dotted around the city designed by our superb designer Emma, stood out like shining beacons!

The second launch of the week was for a groundbreaking biographical series about executed leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising. 16 Lives was a huge challenge but one that was taken on with huge relish by all involved with the project. Over the next five years the sixteen books in the series will be released leading up to the centenary of the Rising in 2016. On the night of Thursday 29th March we launched the first three biographies, James Connolly by Lorcan Collins, Joseph Plunkett by Honor O Brolchain and Michael Mallin by Brian Hughes. The evening was a great opportunity for everyone to see how their hard work had paid off. In the most appropriate and awesome surroundings of the G.P.O. on O’Connell Street, the night was a huge success with over 300 people in attendance. Each of the authors and series editors (Lorcan Collins and Ruan O’Donnell) spoke about what their books and the series meant to each of them and it was clear that the audience held the authors in high regard and esteem with the applause that greeted each of them at the end. It was a fantastic way to kick-off the entire series but it definitely set the bar high for the rest of the series! For more photos of the launches visit our Facebook page and for more information on the books click on the links below:
16 Lives