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!
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:
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.
“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.
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.
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.