The Children of Lir

So much work, thought and creativity go in to making a book. This autumn we are publishing an illustrated edition of the Children of Lir written in verse. Laura Ruth Maher submitted her wonderful rhyming version of everyone’s favourite Irish myth. Once accepted, Emma, our designer, set out to commission an illustrator. Three weeks ago, our wonderful illustrator, Conor Busuttil flew from his home in the UK to hand-deliver the stunning art work. I spoke with Laura, Conor and Emma about the exciting process of making a book.

Laura

While working as a Montessori teacher I have always tried hard to incorporate Irish myths and legends into the curriculum; they’ve always been a favourite of mine. From a young age they sparked a love for all things magical and enchanted, something I have always tried to instil in the children in my care whether through storytelling or art, the development of imagination, wonder and curiosity knows no bounds. Our lovely myths and legends, however, can be quite difficult to simplify for pre-school children, especially when the only books available have few illustrations to accompany a text that has beautiful big Irish words such as Tuatha de Danann, Emain Macha and Mochaomhóg.

While researching the importance of storytelling for the dissertation of my degree in early education, I was reminded of how crucial rhyming stories are for the development of literacy skills in children. Rhyme gives children the confidence to participate in the storytelling process, as well as the ability to predict what might come next. I had a pure lightbulb moment of how a rhyming version of the Children of Lir might just hold their attention and interest as their favourite rhyming books have done over the years.

The Children of Lir felt like a perfect story to begin with as it tells how love and bravery can give you the determination to keep going no matter how hard things get – a little lesson that you are never too young to learn. So, you can imagine my excitement when O’Brien Press felt the same and accepted my submission for publication.

I was slightly apprehensive when I was told that the illustrator would be chosen by O’Brien Press as through the whole process of writing, I knew where the characters lived, their faces and what the magic looked like around them so it was important to me that the illustrator chosen would be able to see the same. When I was sent Conor Busuttil’s work as a prospective illustrator for the book I was overwhelmed by his imagination and talent. I knew instantly that he would work wonders on the illustrations for this book and he has surpassed all my expectations and then some! He has such a wonderful style of drawing which has managed to capture the love, fear, panic and magic throughout the entire story, truly making it come alive.

The Children of Lir is one of my favourite legends and I couldn’t be happier to know that this early introduction into the magical world of Irish myths and legends is keeping our traditional stories alive for children of all ages to love and retell!

Conor

From the mention of this project I was excited to get started. It was after pulling out books I have had since a was little based on the old Celtic myths and legend, rummaging through my dad’s (keen metal detectorist) history books on jewellery and buildings to the point I was told to go get my own, to going out in the field and drawing bits first that I slowly started to compose the basis for the proper direction I wanted to go.

From the get go, I felt I wanted Fionnuala to be the natural leader of the group. Being the eldest and the mother figure to her brothers, in a few scenes I have tried to make her the focus of the others’ attentions. In terms of how the children looked as human, I did try and give them individual personalities through their mannerisms, but the ideas for how they looked came from watching nieces/nephews and a few sketch attempts. While reading Laura’s script I had my sketch book beside me and drew whatever popped into my head. I think the first image was the children grouped together as swans. Fionnuala standing stern while the brothers nervously huddle around her looking for direction as they look out at this new version of their lives and the challenges they might face.

I think the main challenge was with it being a naturally sad tale: these children have been bewitched for hundreds of years, but I needed to keep the images child friendly. So there was a little back and forth with ideas on that, but just as important were the colours. We naturally associate certain colours with certain characteristics, like a bold dark red as danger or a light washy blue as healing and soft. Just choosing the colour of the magic on the cover took a few attempts; hopefully the reader will get that warm, happy welcome when picking up the book.

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Marketing & Publicity Internship

Irish publishing house The O’Brien Press is seeking a Marketing & Publicity Intern.

The position involves providing administrative assistance to the department across all areas of marketing, publicity and events and offers the opportunity to gain valuable knowledge and experience in marketing & publicity as well as other aspects of the publishing environment.

The successful candidate will be energetic, enthusiastic, highly organised and will be able to work well on their own and as part of a team. They will be able to work well under pressure. They will be proficient in MS Office (Word, Excel) and Outlook. Experience with InDesign and/or an interest in social media would be a bonus. This position would be ideally suited to graduates who are seeking to gain experience in publishing, and in the area of marketing and publicity, in particular.

This is a paid internship starting in July, finishing end November 2019, 5 days a week.

Please apply with CV to The O’Brien Press at publicity@obrien.ie

Closing date for receipt of applications is 5pm on Friday 14th June.

From the Air to Publication

Raymond Fogarty, author and photographer of From the Air – Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, chats with us about his journey along the Wild Atlantic Way, his inspiration behind it and what he found along the way.

Ever since I was a boy, I was enchanted by the Irish landscape with its rich heritage and timeless beauty. To me, Ireland was its own little planet with its ever-changing scenery that beckoned to explore beyond the horizon. When the Wild Atlantic Way touring route was announced, I immediately wanted to travel there. Never before had I seen a definitive compilation of locations along the west coast and, with my new drone hobby and the opportunity to see beyond that Irish horizon, it made for an irresistible proposition. I was already in awe at seeing Cork city from above; and delighted to see the reactions of others at this new perspective. So now, I had a chance to do this – to have the adventure of a lifetime, and to see the places I knew and the places I’d never seen before, from the air.

Kerry- Conor Pass

I gave up smoking in 2013, to improve both my health and my finances. It wasn’t an easy challenge, so I gave myself an additional incentive at the outset: I would use the money saved to embark on a new hobby. My first thought was to invest in a fully featured telescope, and to explore the night sky. But around then I became aware of drones, and was blown away at the aerial photos and videos that were beginning to appear online. Rather than explore the universe, I resolved instead to get a drone and explore Ireland from the air. I was always fascinated by gadgets and technology, and I love photography, so drones ticked all the boxes for me.

I purchased a DJI Phantom 2 drone with a GoPro camera in early 2014. Flying it took a bit of practice, patience and planning, particularly on the west coast where weather conditions can be unpredictable. When flying, a number of factors have to be considered, such as temperature, wind speed and direction, and just making sure that it’s safe to fly. The Irish landscape, however, is hugely rewarding, with its many shades of stunning colours in any season, constantly shifting and changing throughout the day.

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A Giant Blog Post

Author and illustrator Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick tells us the inspiration for The Sleeping Giant and the little girl, Ann.

In 1988, my sister Bernardine and myself were spending a week in the Kingdom of Kerry. Our neighbours, the Kennedys, ­happened to be there at the same time so we dropped around to their holiday rental to say hi. Their cottage faced the sea. Mary pointed out over the wall and said to her little girl, ‘Look, Eva, we can see the Sleeping Giant from here.’

‘The Sleeping Giant?’ I asked. A dozen family holidays in Dingle and I’d only ever heard Inis Tuaisceart referred to as ‘An Fear Marbh’.

‘I don’t want to scare Eva by calling it “The Dead Man”,’ Mary whispered. ‘Not when she can see it from her bedroom window.’

Hmm, I thought. So if the island is a giant, why is he asleep? And what happens when he wakes up?

An unfamiliar name for a familiar landmark caused a shift of perception inside my brain, which, in turn, sparked an idea. I spent the rest of the week imagining the giant waking up and watching him roam around the Dingle Peninsula in my mind’s eye. My sister and I toured and walked and sunned ourselves by day, and I snapped photos with my trusty Olympus OM10 as we went, already thinking of these shots as research. We met the Kennedys at Coumeenole a few times, and I painted them into the beach scene in the book to mark the fact that it was Mary (yes, that Mary Kennedy) who sparked the idea for the story.

Evenings were spent in local pubs. The sessions were mighty, and I captured one of them in the book. In my memory, the pub was Páidi Ó Sé’s in Ventry, but my sister remembers that session being in An Cúinne, Feohanagh. Who knows which of us is remembering the venue correctly, but we do concur on the singers and the craic!

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Maternity Cover: Receptionist/Editorial Administrator

Maternity Cover: Receptionist/Editorial Administrator, The O’Brien Press (Publishing Company)

Independent Irish publishing house The O’Brien Press is seeking maternity cover for a Receptionist/Editorial Administrator role. This is a great opportunity for someone with an interest in publishing, and we welcome applicants who are well-organised and enthusiastic team players. This is a short-term contract position with immediate start, and salary will be commensurate with experience.

Apply with CV and cover letter before 5pm on 26th April 2019 to:

E: jobs@obrien.ie

www.obrien.ie

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”

Where Are You, Puffling? and Where Did You Come From?

This week we chatted with the wonderful Gerry Daly, co-creator and illustrator of Where Are You, Puffling?. Gerry’s uncle Sean came up with the initial idea, and the story developed from there! Gerry tells us all about the journey of this adorable picture book, including working with the brilliant Erika McGann.

What inspired your uncle Sean to write this story to begin with?

When Sean was visiting the Skellig islands he noticed that the puffins and the rabbits seemed to be getting along together as they went about their business. He heard they even share their burrows! Or at least the rabbits move back in once the puffins head out to the ocean for the winter. Sean imagined they might help each other out in times of need, and he thought this could make a good story for his grandsons.

What was it like to work with Sean on this?

Great fun! Sean showed me his finished text, and had the idea that I might add some illustrations to it. He would then have just a few printed up, for the boys and the rest of the family. We had already worked together on a short family history book. That self-published book showed Sean’s great interest in genealogy, Irish history and places. His enthusiasm for the Skellig story was very infectious. It wasn’t long before we were working on ideas for images and layout. He’d often say, ‘I love it, now we’re sucking diesel!’

Unfortunately, around this time Sean had been diagnosed with cancer, and he passed away not long after. I was then back at college doing a masters, and didn’t have much time to look at the book for a while, but eventually I managed to add the illustrations. I didn’t have a title to the story, so my dad suggested ‘The Skellig Shenanigans’. I had a few printed up, which came as a nice surprise to family and friends, most of whom had no idea that this had been in the making. I didn’t want the story to just be forgotten, and felt it really had to be finished best I could manage.

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Top Five Tips For Bridesmaids

Ahead of the publication of the Irish Bridesmaid’s Guide, Natasha Mac a’Bháird, author of Irish Bride’s Survival Guide, chats about her bridesmaid experience and lists her top five tips for bridesmaids. 

It wasn’t exactly a surprise when my sister asked me to be her chief bridesmaid. She had been mine a few years earlier, I had already been a witness to her civil marriage ceremony, and quite frankly she’d have been in big trouble if she’d asked anyone else. But it was still a huge honour. Knowing someone is planning one of the most important days of their lives, and that they want you to be an essential part of it, is a special feeling. I’d be there for the hairdos, the make-up, helping her get dressed in her beautiful wedding gown. I’d be walking down the aisle ahead of her and holding her bouquet while she made her vows. I’d be at her side while she made a speech, and have tissues on hand for when she inevitably burst into tears.

Bridesmaid Sarah, Bridesmaid Natasha, Bride Áine.

After my own wedding I felt I had built up a whole store of knowledge that I wanted to share with other brides-to-be just starting out – so my first book, The Irish Bride’s Survival Guide, was born. With my new book, The Irish Bridesmaid’s Guide, I’m hoping to do the same for the bride’s right-hand woman. The bridesmaid’s role can be as big or as small as you (or more to the point, the bride) want to make it, but what all bridesmaids have in common is wanting to be there for the bride as she starts her married life, whether she needs a friendly ear to listen when she’s stressed, a party planner extraordinaire, or just someone to tell her she’s got lipstick on her teeth.

So if your sister or friend has popped the question, here are a few tips to get you started.

  1. Want to avoid having to wear the bridesmaid dress from hell? Sound out the bride to find out the general style and colour she has in mind, then go off and search for some ideas yourself. You’ll save the bride some work and improve the chances of her choosing something you’d love to wear! Win-win!
  2. Going dress shopping? Wear comfy clothes (it’s going to be a long day!), but do bring heels with you so you can try them on with the dress. Put your hair up (a simple ponytail will do) to get a better idea of necklines, and don’t forget to take lots of photos!
  3. Planning the most spectacular hen party of all time? Make sure it’s what the bride wants! There’s no point in organising a wild night of cocktails and clubbing if she’s more the afternoon tea sort (or vice versa!). And don’t forget to take the rest of the hens into consideration too.
  4. Want to ensure the hen party is one to remember? Make it truly personal to the bride. Come up with a theme based on something she loves; create your own games or quizzes based on how well you know her; or simply make a photo collage of special memories from throughout her life.
  5. Make it all fun! Don’t get so caught up in finding the perfect dress or hen party venue that you forget to enjoy what is a very special time. Combine dress shopping with cake and coffee, hen party planning with a trip to the pub, or just invite the bride around to your place to watch Say Yes to the Dress. Ten years from now, when you’re both at different stages in your lives, these are the moments you’ll look back on as the things that really matter.

Natasha Mac a’Bháird, January 2019

The Irish Bridesmaid’s Guide will be published 11th February 2019 and will be available to buy here and in all good bookshops then.

Vacancy: Marketing & Publicity Officer

Vacancy: Marketing & Publicity Officer, The O’Brien Press (Publishing Company)

Independent Irish publishing house The O’Brien Press has a vacancy for a Marketing & Publicity Officer. The position will involve assisting and providing support to the Marketing Manager in all aspects of marketing, publicity and events. It will involve working on new and backlist titles, as well as helping to roll out the overall marketing strategy. The successful candidate will be energetic and enthusiastic and will be able to work well on their own and as part of a team. They will be able to work well under pressure. A strong interest or experience in social media for business and online marketing is preferable. Experience in the publishing industry is preferable but not essential. This is a full-time position beginning in February 2019. Salary commensurate with experience.

Apply with CV before 5pm on Wednesday 16th January 2019 to:

Ruth Heneghan, The O’Brien Press

E: ruth@obrien.ie

www.obrien.ie