Ah … That’s Gas!
This week, I chatted with authors Sarah Cassidy and Kunak McGann about their most recent book, Ah … That’s Gas! – The ads, fads and mad happenings that swept the Irish nation. I wanted to know about their favourite ads and fads as well as the ones they had never heard of before writing this book together!
Sarah and I had such a good time wandering down memory lane while writing this book, re-visiting favourite feelgood moments from our own childhoods as well as those from more recent times. There are so many events and experiences that we have shared as a nation, they give us a collective memory and a sense of who we are and where we come from, and it was a real joy to put those down in a book. Here are my three favourites.
I can still remember the rush of watching Riverdance for the first time. From those first haunting vocals from Anúna to the gazelle-like Jean Butler in the first solo dance, then Michael Flatley bounding onto stage with his bouffant hair and batwing-sleeve shirt, and Irish dancers flooding the stage in synchronised beats. Who knew Irish dancing could actually be cool?? Our hearts were full.
It is an undeniable fact that Ireland has the best butter in the world. It’s always been a prime export for us and Kerrygold were tapping into that with these crossover ads featuring our French friends. Made before anyone really knew the phrase ‘lactose intolerant’ and possibly the most iconic Irish ads of all time. Surely I’m not the only person who still walks into a room and asks ‘Zere is sumzing I can ‘elp?’.Continue reading “Ah … That’s Gas!”
My Little Blog Post of Dublin
This week Juliette Saumande, Tarsila Krüse and Helen Carr tell us all about the making of My Little Album of Dublin and their favourite places in the Fair City!
Juliette Saumande is a French writer based in Dublin. She has published over 40 books in French and English. When she’s not writing, she can be found translating books, reading books, recommending books, talking about books and building forts with books. She enjoys things like tapdancing and liquorice, but hates Crunchies with a passion. Come and say ‘hi’ at juliettesaumande.blogspot.ie
The Wheels of Fortune (on a Dublin Bus)
Between Dublin and thirteen-year-old me it was love at first sight. Coming from the suburbs of Paris, where the French capital felt like a limitless maze packed-full of numberless strangers, I was struck by how small, how homely and friendly Dublin was. You couldn’t get lost! You couldn’t set half a toe in town without meeting someone you knew! It was great. I knew straight away that I wanted to come back and spend longer than the few days I had that first time. So I did. As a dedicated tourist initially (brownie points to my family for humouring me, then becoming Emerald Isle enthusiasts), then as an Erasmus student, and eventually as a Dubliner.
So I’ve been here for well over ten years, reading, writing, translating, chatting, making friends and making it even harder to feel lost or lonely. And after all that time, I still feel quite excited about the city, the new bits, the old bits, the eating places, the meeting places. My favourite haunts, if you can call it that, are Dublin buses. I’ve had some of my best ideas on the number 78 (as was), some of my best rants on the 7 and the elusive 68, some of my strangest conversations with total strangers on the 13 or 40 (about the weather, food, books, kids… or what the Irish use their churches for these days).
And I’ve had some of the best views over the city, just above pedestrian level (because, obviously, the whole point of a double-decker bus is to sit upstairs, right at the front where possible). From up there you can see beyond fancy hedges and building site fences, into first-floor shops and balconies, on top of people’s heads and bus stops (where you sometimes make interesting discoveries)…
An Amazing New Children’s Sports Series Begins….
We at the O’Brien Press are delighted to be publishing the first two books in the all new Great Irish Sports Stars series: Cora Staunton and Colm ‘Gooch’ Cooper. Ivan O’Brien, Eimear Ryan and Donny Mahoney chatted with me about this new series.
Sport is becoming an ever-increasing part of the lives of many children, and it really gets them excited. We have published quite a few novels for young readers with sporting themes (you can see them here: http://www.obrien.ie/childrens/sport-childrens) and seen the way young readers devour them! Fiction is great, but it’s not real life, and role models are hugely important, so we had an idea: why not create a series of books about Ireland’s greatest sporting heroes, written for children? Unlike sports biographies for adults they would focus on the hero’s childhood and the key moments in their lives that made them a success. We approached some writers who we knew would do a great job, and Great Irish Sports Stars was born!
As a young GAA-mad girl growing up in Tipperary, most of my idols were men. When I was pucking out the back, I’d pretend to be Nicky English or DJ Carey – or, if I was playing football for a change, Charlie Redmond or Maurice Fitzgerald. I knew of female GAA players, of course – the Downey sisters of Kilkenny, Laois footballer Sue Ramsbottom, and legendary Tipp camogie forward Deirdre Hughes. But you would only really hear about these players in September, when RTE broadcast the women’s All-Ireland finals. Unlike the men, they didn’t often get featured on The Sunday Game or turned into pull-out posters.
Then along came Cora.
Cora Staunton was one of the first crossover stars of women’s GAA. Crucially, Cora’s breakthrough in the early 2000s coincided with TG4’s sponsorship of the ladies football championship, so her career was televised from early on. Her undeniable prowess was there for everyone to see, and soon enough, she started popping up in Lucozade ads and in in-depth interviews in the sports pages. Not only was she a brilliant female player, she was a highly visible one.
In my research for the book, I took great inspiration from Game Changer, Cora’s aptly-named autobiography written with Mary White. It gives very honest insights not just into Cora’s football career, but into the personal tragedies she has lived through, such as losing her mother when she was sixteen. Later, she lost a teammate and friend, Aisling McGing, when Aisling was just eighteen. Time and time again, when faced with personal loss, Cora turned to football for solace. Her story demonstrates the importance of sport not just as a physical outlet, but as a mental and emotional outlet as well.
Cora is inspiring because of her swagger – her total belief in her own ability and the very high standards she set for herself. She is by no means a ‘safe’ player – she takes risks, and is rewarded more often than not. For most players, scoring an outlandish tally of 2-10 would be a career highlight; for Cora, it’s just another day at the office. At the same time, she’s genuine and down-to-earth off the pitch. Her unapologetic ambition, coupled with her down-to-earth attitude, is what makes her such an exciting player to watch.
What makes a genius? Are they born or made?
Colm ‘Gooch’ Cooper was a human highlight reel during his Gaelic football career for Kerry, a magician with the ball in his hand. But unlike many contemporary sporting phenoms who seem anointed for greatness from childhood, Cooper’s success was never a sure thing.
This was what drew me to the story of the Gooch for my book in the Great Irish Sport Stars series. I thought young readers would be drawn to the story of how a good footballer became one of the game’s greats.
From a young age, Cooper loved sport and was incredibly driven. He brought a Gaelic football with him everywhere he went. But in his teenage years, he was doubted and overlooked by coaches and selectors because of his size.
The book tells the story of Cooper’s GAA journey from his estate in Killarney to the steps of the Hogan Stand. It also tries to convey the mystique of Kerry football. For as long as I’ve been watching Gaelic football, I’ve been fascinated by Kerry football, and the Gooch has been central to that.
From researching and writing the book, what I found most striking was the enduring power of the club for Cooper. The Gooch experienced more famous days in Croke Park than the vast majority of GAA players, but what truly mattered most to him were the experiences with his club, Dr Crokes.
In a way, Colm Cooper’s GAA story is bookended by two experiences with his club: acting as a mascot when they won the 1992 club All-Ireland and winning the club All-Ireland with Dr Crokes in 2017. The story of the club is the story of so many Irish communities.
It was a privilege to tell Cooper’s GAA journey for young readers. Books about sport were so important to my own youth. They fostered not just a lifelong love of sport, but of storytelling too. All good sports books – no matter what age group they’re aimed at – touch on universal themes: hope, failure and glory.
These themes run across the great career of Colm Cooper, and hopefully young readers who may have never seen the Gooch in full flight will be fascinated by his story.
Cora Staunton and Colm ‘Gooch’ Cooper will be published 12 August 2019 and will be available in all good bookshops and on www.obrien.ie
Ivan O’Brien, Eimear Ryan and Donny Mahoney August 2019
Finding the bold, brilliant and bad women in Irish History – an Interview with Marian Broderick
This week we had a chat with the brilliant Marian Broderick, author of Wild Irish Women and Bold, Brilliant and Bad.
Could you tell us about your experience researching extraordinary women from Irish history for both Wild Irish Women and Bold, Brilliant and Bad?
Researching history is an absorbing experience – but getting lost in the research is a risk known to every writer. To research Bold, Brilliant and Bad I mined reputable internet resources, walked around graveyards, galleries and museums, lived in libraries and read everything I could. Quite often I would start the day by pursuing a woman’s history – for example the legend of the murderer Darkey Kelly – become lured down a fascinating side road to gruesome executions in the seventeenth century, and spend the whole day reading about that instead!
What surprised and/or impressed you about these women?
My women are all multi-layered individuals. Many of them took their courage in their hands and flouted the conventions of their society one way or another during the course of their lives. This is true of women throughout history, but doubly so for Irishwomen, and trebly so for Irishwomen from less well-off backgrounds, such as Rosie Hackett and Kay McNulty. I was also interested to note just how many of these formidable women had had the disadvantage of losing a parent through death or desertion at an early age. These include Lizzie Le Blond, Dr Emily Winifred Dickson, Dr Dorothy Stopford Price, Sheila Tinney, Nellie Cashman, Carmel Snow and Eileen Gray.
Who are your favourite women in Irish history and why?
I have a particular fondness for the feisty working- and lower-middle-class women, such as Margaret Skinnider, Rosie Hackett, Margaret Hassan, Nellie Cashman, Winifred Carney, Kay Mills and Anne O’Brien. These people overcame obstacles to achieve prominence in their chosen fields.
Continue reading “Finding the bold, brilliant and bad women in Irish History – an Interview with Marian Broderick”
Pass Your Driving Test in Ireland with Kathleen Comerford
This month we chatted with the wonderful Kathleen Comerford about her experience as a driving instructor, her top tips for your driving test and all about her new book Pass Your Driving Test in Ireland!
What made you want to be a driving instructor?
I really love driving and teaching so, it’s a perfect match. My father and my grandfather also taught people to drive, so it must be in my blood.
Could you tell us 5 things to think about or focus on during your test?
1. It may sound obvious, but remember to breathe! Almost all my students forget to breath once I sit into the car, so I’m sure it happens more so when the Tester sits in.
2. Focus on the road in front of you and avoid thinking too much about what the Tester is thinking or wanting you to do. They just want you to drive safely.
3. Keep your driving as close to your natural everyday drive as possible, so you keep it automatic and natural and honest.
4. Avoid exaggerating anything like observation or mirrors in order to impress the Tester. Your checks should be timely and relevant, remember you are on your driving test, not looking for an OSCAR!
5. I teach my drivers to talk about the road ahead, which helps them greatly to keep focused and present, and reduces their anxiety levels.
What is the one thing people should say to themselves before they begin their driving test?
I CAN DO THIS! I’ve put in the time and practice. I’ve read Kathleen’s book so I know what to do!! It’s not rocket science. I’ll keep it safe and simple.Continue reading “Pass Your Driving Test in Ireland with Kathleen Comerford”
The Cover Design of The Woodcutter and his Family
Emma Byrne takes us through the fascinating design process that created the eye-catching cover of Frank McGuinness’s upcoming novel.
This is a novel that chronicles James Joyce as he lies on his death bed. A writer’s thoughts on his life, his children’s thoughts on their famous father, and a final story to defy them all.
Given the breadth of James Joyce’s life, and more importantly his work – a bridge, as it were, from an older tradition to a newer one – I felt that a cover inspired by the old technique of letterpress had an intriguing potential.
Letterpress was the normal way of printing text in Europe, from its invention in the mid-15th century by Gutenburg, until the late-19th century. (The Chinese had invented ceramic moveable type in the 11th century.) Much like our digital revolution and the huge opportunities brought about by social media, Gutenburg’s moveable type changed the dissemination of information forever. Texts were no longer written by specialist scribes for the select few. Words, knowledge and ideas, could be printed and seen by many. It was an invention that brought great power.
I had used a letterpress in college, and as a budding typographer was impressed by the sheer discipline, patience and respect it gave me for letterform. Today, anyone can type an essay on their phone, if they wish, but creating something in letterpress is a game of control and endurance. Fitting letters – wood or metal type – into a chase (a metal frame) is sometimes like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. So, we use furniture (metal, wood or resin spacing tools) various em-spaced leading in different lengths –to fit the letters into the chase. Continue reading “The Cover Design of The Woodcutter and his Family”
It’s All About the Socks for Mr Wolf
Tatyana Feeney, author and illustrator of the wonderful picture book Socks for Mr Wolf, shares her story about where this quirky character came from and shows us the awesomeness of socks!
Poor Mr. Wolf, he is so often mistaken for a fox! And although ‘socks’ and ‘fox’ rhyme, Mr Wolf was always going to be a wolf even before he had his lovely socks …
My stories usually start with a character. I like to draw the character and think about a story that might develop around them. I had been drawing a wolf character for a while; he actually started life when I was a student at art college, and I was always hoping that he would have a story, but there was never one that seemed exactly right.
I liked the idea of the wolf being a friendly character, rather than the typical ‘big, bad wolf’, but I wasn’t able to think of something that seemed like a great, original story for him.
So, I put him aside and started thinking about other stories. Continue reading “It’s All About the Socks for Mr Wolf”
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!”
On the Road with Sarah Through Ireland’s Ancient East
Our sales representative, Sarah Cassidy, tells us all about being on the road, exploring Ireland on a daily basis and Ireland’s Ancient East.
The job of being a sales representative for The O’Brien Press involves visiting bookshops and other retail outlets throughout Ireland. One day you can be in Belfast and the next Galway or Waterford. It is a great perk of the job to be able to visit every corner of the country, particularly when the sun is shining, the sky is clear and Ireland’s breathtaking scenery is at its best. Some days the Atlantic Ocean is so blue I think about pulling the car over and going for a paddle but I soon remember I’m in Ireland and the likelihood of my poor toes being frozen off is quite high! Instead I grab my lunch from the car, perch on a nearby stonewall and listen to the sound of the rolling waves as I munch on my ham sandwich. Feeling energised by Ireland’s natural beauty (or the bucket of coffee I picked up at Barack Obama Plaza), it is back to the car and on the road again to the next customer.
It is not just Ireland’s coastal roads that offer beautiful scenery; the countryside and rolling hills that are often dotted with the ruins of castles and monasteries can be so vibrant and green in spring and summer, riotous with russet and gold tones in autumn and captivating coated in early morning frost in the depths of winter. This year in particular, the O’Brien Press reps gained a new appreciation for the countryside and the sights that can be found on the eastside of our beautiful island. We have been selling Carsten Krieger’s fifth book with The O’Brien Press, Ireland’s Ancient East. Filled with fantastic photographs and captions from this talented photographer, Ireland’s Ancient East is the perfect book to guide you around the east side of the country. Linking the Stone Age period with Saint Patrick, the Vikings with the Normans, Ireland’s eastern counties are abundant with monuments and relics that bring to life the stories of our ancestors. Whether you are an armchair traveller or looking to get out and explore the delights of our ancient east, this book is a great place to start! We put it to the test as we took to the roads to sell our autumn list. Continue reading “On the Road with Sarah Through Ireland’s Ancient East”