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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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, 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:
I have loved nature, for as long as I can remember. My family always had at least one pet dog. There was Brandy when I was a toddler, then Fozzie, Sooty, Lady, and then Teddy, most of them mongrels, and each one a truly loved member of the family. I think it was probably these dogs that began my love of animals and nature.
I was always amazed that you could build this relationship with another species, that you found a way of overcoming barriers of speech, never mind language. That they understood your ways, your moods, and you learned their traits and their individual personalities. These four-legged hairy beasts opened up another world for me and led me out into it, following their wagging tails.
One of my earliest memories is lying in the long grass in the field behind our house with Fozzie, and hearing the buzzing of insects in the grass. That field was my playground and was full of wildflowers and grasses. I would lie hidden in the long grass, while Fozzie bounced up and down, trying to find me. I would pull my fingernail up along a grass stem, scattering its seeds to the wind. We made daisy chains, and made wishes as we blew hard on dandelion clocks and and watch the seeds float off into the sky. We held buttercups under our chins to see if we liked butter. Simple games, which even in the 1980s were still played.
There was a small, wet ditch at the bottom of the field that was home to frogspawn. Every spring I duly collected it and kept it in the bucket of my builder Dad’s old broken dump-truck, which was full of rainwater, to watch it grow. Little did I know back then that feeding the tadpoles plants only kept them happy for a while. When their legs develop, tadpoles became carnivorous — I don’t want to think too much about what happened when they were forced to start looking at each other in a new light in the bucket of that dump-truck! The Hunger Games comes to mind.
This week Blazing a Trail won the Children’s Book of the Year (senior) Award at the An Post Irish Book Awards 2018. This is a wonderful award and we, at the O’Brien Press, are very proud of this book and the remarkable women who created it. Blazing a Trail – Irish Women Who Changed the World was written by Sarah Webb and illustrated by Lauren O’Neill. Sarah and Lauren have chosen their favourite woman from Blazing a Trail with a disclaimer that this is very difficult to choose because they are all amazing in their own right!
I’ve spent the last two years in the company of some of Ireland’s most remarkable women and it’s hard to select one as my ‘favourite’. As I read about the women in turn, I discovered the truth about each individual journey – the obstacles they had to overcome, their tenacity, their determination, their hope that Ireland might be a different place for women in the future – and my admiration for all of them grew and grew.
However I discovered that one woman in particular had direct links to my family and also changed the course of my own education and that is Sarah Purser.
Sarah was an artist, patron and businesswoman who was born in Dún Laoghaire in 1848, the town where I live. She studied art in Paris as women were not allowed to study at the Royal Irish Academy (RHA) in Dublin at the time. Later, Sarah became the first woman to be given full membership of the organisation at the age of seventy-five.
She became well known for her portraits and painted some of the most famous Irish people of the time from Maud Gonne to Douglas Hyde.
In 1903, she set up An Túr Gloine (the Tower of Glass) and, thanks to her excellent business skills, it became a world-wide success, exporting glass to churches around the globe. It makes me smile to think that the stained glass windows in churches in Canada and New York and many other places were shipped over (and in many cases created) by Irish women at a time when women’s art was not widely appreciated or celebrated. Stained-glass artists Evie Hone and Wilhelmina Geddes and Harry Clarke all made glass for Sarah’s company.
Every Tuesday, Sarah held salons in her house for artists, writers and academics. My grandfather, WB Stanford, was a classics professor at TCD and wrote widely on the Greek language. He attended these salons with my grandmother.
Sarah also helped establish History of Art courses in both Trinity College Dublin and UCD. I studied History of Art in TCD; a course I loved. It is responsible for my abiding love of art, illustration and picturebooks.
And finally we share a first name.
Sarah Purser, I salute you!
It’s obviously very tough to choose a favourite among the Blazing a Trail women – they’re all very unique individuals. In terms of the artwork, Eileen Grey was probably my favourite to draw, or the aviators, Lilian Bland and Lady Heath. I love how those images turned out! I think the woman who made the biggest impression on me though was Margaret Bulkley, who lived her whole adult life as a man, Dr. James Barry. Her, or I should say his, academic achievements alone were amazing. But he was also the one who made the biggest leap in terms of how he wanted to present himself to the world. You have to admire that level of self conviction! Also he was a big animal lover, which deserves a big thumbs up. He was a very interesting character both to research and to draw.
The artwork for Blazing a Trail was actually a bit of a departure from my usual style in kids’ books. Generally I’m more focused on linework but for Blazing a Trail I combined line drawings with figures that felt a bit more painterly, which seemed to work well with some of the more historical subject matter. I mostly work digitally but I always use scanned textures in my work on some level. For Blazing a Trail I sketched out lots of small composition thumbnails in pencil for each image, and chose the one that I felt would work best full size. I would then take a photo of it on my phone, send it to my computer and paint over it in photoshop. At the end, I added in scanned paint textures to give everything a more organic and traditional feel.
The dynamic author duo, Sarah Cassidy and Kunak McGann, answered my quick fire questions this week on the making of the hilarious and unbelievably accurate The A to Z of Being Irish.
What inspired you to write this book?
The idea for the A–Z came from a conversation about what makes us uniquely Irish. We wanted a book to reflect both the Ireland we grew up in and the Ireland of today: everything from the Angelus to Zig and Zag, really! We thought a dictionary style would work really well, and so The A to Z of Being Irish was born. That’s when the real problems began! For some letters we had no trouble coming up with subjects (B, C and T were full to the brim), but there’s no denying that X, V and Z caused us a few sleepless nights!
How did you decide what to include?
There was A LOT of discussion about which entries made the grade. We aimed to cover a range of topics from all areas of Irish life, everything from what we like to eat (anyone for a black pudding sandwich washed down with a glass of red lemonade?), to how we speak and what we wear.
The O’Brien Press are absolutely delighted to have two of our books shortlisted for three Irish Book Awards.
Blazing a Trail By Sarah Webb and illustrated by Lauren O’Neill has been shortlisted for two awards:
The Journal.ie Best Irish-Published Book Of the Year
The National Book Tokens Children’s Book of the Year – Senior
The Pooka Party by Shona Shirley Macdonald has been shortlisted for the following award:
The National Book Tokens Children’s Book of the Year – Junior
If you haven’t already heard about these amazing books then here is a little bit about them and a sneak peak!
Blazing a Trail is a book for everyone who dreams of changing the world.
‘Dress suitably in short skirts and strong boots, leave your jewels in the bank and buy a revolver.’
– COUNTESS MARKIEVICZ, rebel leader and politician
From daring aviator LADY HEATH to savvy gold prospector NELLIE CASHMAN, fearless sea captain GRANUAILE to world-class dancer DAME NINETTE DE VALOIS,
scene-stealing actor MAUREEN O’HARA to record-breaking runner SONIA O’SULLIVAN, activist MAUD GONNE to President MARY ROBINSON, meet the remarkable Irish women who shaped the world we live in.
Discover their achievements, the ways in which they devoted their whole lives to making a difference, and with each original stunning illustration, feel the essence of these important trailblazers.
‘We are all made of star stuff.’
– DAME JOCELYN BELL BURNELL, astrophysicist
Packed with fun, fascinating facts and stunning, full-page illustrations, this book celebrates the trail blazers who have shaped the world we live in.
Ready to walk in their footsteps? A world of bravery and discovery awaits you.
Made by two remarkable women, author Sarah Webb and illustrator Lauren O’Neill.
Sneak Peak Below!!
The Pooka is a magical shapeshifter who lives in the mountains all alone; fixing things, painting, dancing and singing. Suddenly, none of this seems fun any more, the Pooka realises that its lonely and hasn’t seen its friends in ages!
After having some time to think, the Pooka decides to throw a big party and invite all of its friends. Join the Pooka as it attempts to throw the Pooka party of the century in this fun and beautifully illustrated picture book.
A madcap tale of what to do if you feel sad and lonely, starring one shapeshifting hero with some musical monsters, flying cakes and a guest appearance by the Moon.
After a long, hot summer, the sun has finally lowered the temperature from scorching to a low simmer, there’s a brisk chill in the morning air, and schools are throwing open their gates once more: September is here. This, among other things, means that Culture Night is almost upon us. Culture Night is a relatively new venture for us here at The O’Brien Press. We participated for the first time in 2017 and we had so much fun at our Pitch Perfect event that we’re doing it all over again this year!
Pitch Perfect is a unique opportunity to pitch directly to The O’Brien Press. We’re looking for the best unpublished writers to meet with members of our team in Rathgar for one-to-one pitches. This year, we’re on the lookout for children’s & YA fiction and non-fiction again, but we’d also like to see humour and sports (particularly GAA) books for adults. Places are limited so if you’ve got a great book idea (and think you can pitch it in ten minutes flat) we want to hear from you! For full details please see https://culturenight.ie/event/the-obrien-press/ or to make a booking email firstname.lastname@example.org.
But if you’ve missed the deadline for Pitch Perfect, don’t despair. The O’Brien Press is open to submissions all year round and all potential bestselling ideas are welcome!
Here are some top tips and a little advice to help you make your submission stand out from the crowd – in all the best ways.
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.
All of us at The O’Brien Press were saddened to learn of the death of author Gerry Hunt on Friday 29 June 2018.
Gerry was an architect who worked with the IDA for eighteen years. He took early retirement in 1986 to give more time to his beloved drawing. His first, self-produced, comic was a rhyming, Spanish-language work that he gave away to friends. In 2003 he created a short series of inner-city Dublin fables told in rhyme called In Dublin City, followed by his crime graphic novel, Streets of Dublin; Streets of Dublin was later included in an exhibition entitled ‘Artist’s Books’ in the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.
The first book that Gerry published with The O’Brien Press was his landmark graphic novel, Blood Upon The Rose: Easter 1916 – The Rebellion That Set Ireland Free. Gerry’s skills and heritage shone through his graphic art and his ground-breaking historical graphic novel brought the Easter Rising vividly to life in words and pictures. It was followed by the graphic novels 1913: Larkin’s Labour War (about the 1913 lockout), At War With The Empire: Ireland’s Fight for Independence (about the Irish War of Independence) and Bobby Sands: Freedom Fighter (the life story of hunger striker Bobby Sands).Gerry’s books were a labour of love, and in this spirit, he donated all his royalties to Smile Train, a charity for children born with cleft lip and palate, and to St Vincent de Paul. Continue reading “Gerry Hunt: an appreciation”