Getting It Write – #YAieDay Panel Round Up

On October 3rd I hosted a panel as part of #YAieDay, which was organised by Michelle Moloney King. My panel was all about writing, and I talked to authors Judi Curtin (Alice and Megan series, Eva series), Tatum Flynn (The D’evil Diaries), E.R. Murray (The Book of Learning), Nigel Quinlan (The Maloney’s Magical Weatherbox) and Deirdre Sullivan (Primrose Leary trilogy). Below are some of the conversations from the panel, and some great writing tips from the authors.

When and where do you write?

We also found out how incredibly productive E.R. Murray is:

All these tweets proved to be too much for my laptop, and I had to rush to a desktop computer:

The writers had mixed feelings about listening to music, but agreed that reading work aloud is good for dialogue:

Do you have any writing rituals?

And finally, some writing tips:

And a tip from brilliant author/illustrator Oísín McGann:

Check out the rest of our discussion (and all the great panels throughout the day!) using the hashtag #YAieDay. Thanks to the lovely writers for answering my questions, and to Shelly Moloney King for a fantastic day of bookish fun 🙂

#YAie Day Schedule – October 3rd


YA fans, get ready to tweet!

October 3rd will be the first #YAie Day. Inspired by UKYA, Michelle Moloney King (writer, blogger and all-round wonder woman) set up #YAie, it’s Irish counterpart. #YAie has provided a great space for the Irish YA community to talk books, and #YAie will have lots of great panels with such authors as Jennifer Niven, Catherynne M Valente, Deirdre Sullivan, Sheena Wilkinson, Ruth Long, Sarah Webb, Judi Curtin and Sally Nicholls. There will be panels about publishing, language, themes and issues in YA, writing practices (including my panel!) and more. Also, competitions to win lovely books! Use the hashtag #YAie to get involved. Read on for the full schedule:

#YAie Day: The Impact of YA

10:10  –  10:50am  Lack  of  parents in  YA – thoughts?

Sheena  Wilkinson

Helen Falconer

11:10  –  11:50am  Food  in  literature  –  how  do you  write  it and  is it important to have lashings of  ginger  beer?

Lucy  Coats

Oisin McGann

11:50  –  12:10  Readers please  tweet your  thoughts to #YAieDay on  your towering TBR pile.

12:10  –  1:00pm  –  Please  tell  us about your next book  –  inspiration, drafting,  editing, marketing.

Lauren James

Sarah Crossan

Sarah Webb

Brian Conaghan

1:10  –  1:50pm  Bad  language  in  books  with young protagonists  –  thoughts?

Sally  Nicholls

Kim Hood

R. F. Long

2:00  –  2:40pm  All  YA  need  is love  –  thoughts?

Jennifer Niven

Catherynne  M. Valente

Sarah Rees Brennan

Readers, tweet your shelfies.

2:50  –  3:30 pm  –  Debut  authors.

Simon P. Clark

Martin Stewart

Dave  Rudden

3:40  –  4:20pm  The  publishing  world – tweet your questions to these publishing pros.

Vanessa O  Loughlin

Gráinne Clear

4.30  –  4:55 Children’s Books  Ireland  –  Book  Doctor Clinic  –  ask  the book doctor for book recommendations.

5:00  –  5:40 Hosted  by book  blogger  –  Christopher  Moore,  Co-founder of  @YAfictionados  –  writing  in  the  age  of  the internet.

Brenna  Yovanoff

Samantha Shannon

5:45  –  6:15 Hosted  by book  blogger  –    Jenny Duffy  of  The  Books, the Art, and  Me.  Let’s talk writing practises  –  how  to ‘get it  down.’

Tatum  Flynn

Judi  Curtin

Nigel Quinlan

Elizabeth R. Murray

Deirdre Sullivan

I am very excited about #YAie Day, especially the panel I will be hosting. Mark October 3rd in your diary, and get tweeting 🙂

Review and Launch: One by Sarah Crossan

Cover image from Goodreads

Cover image from Goodreads


Sarah Crossan

Bloomsbury 2015, YA 

Grace and Tippi are conjoined twins. They are used to being different, but they have always been homeschooled and somewhat sheltered from the world. But now they have to go to school. This new experience is scary and daunting but also wonderful, as they make friends and learn more about themselves.

Written in verse, this is a beautiful and poignant read which flows beautifully. The economy and beauty of Crossan’s language is praiseworthy. As ever, Crossan deals with difficult issues in a sensitive manner, One is in no way sensationalist. Grace’s voice is very strong in the book, and her experiences are heartwrenching. Grace grows throughout the book as she has her first encounters with new friends and with love, and as she examines her identity – on her own and with Tippi. Ultimately, this is a book about love and connection – between sisters, friends, family. While The Weight of Water is still my favourite Sarah Crossan book, One is one of my favourite reads of the year and it is definitely one I will be reading again. A powerful and emotional read, that will stay with you. Don’t miss it!

I was delighted to attend the Dublin launch of One last week in Eason O’Connell St. It was a lovely evening with many of my bookclub buddies, and I was delighted to meet Sarah Crossan again and get my book signed. One was launched by Sarah Bannan, author of Weightless.

Sarah Crossan reading from One.

Sarah Crossan reading from One.

Review and Event: How To Be Bad by E. Lockhart, Lauren Myracle and Sarah Mlynowski

Cover image from Goodreads.

Cover image from Goodreads.





Jesse is an uptight Christian, a Goody Two Shoes who wants to control the behaviour of those around her. But she is also  hiding an awful secret.

Vicks is confident and outgoing, a badass who isn’t going to cry over any boy. But deep down, Vicks isn’t as tough as she seems.

Mel is the new girl, rich and fashionable. But she is filled with self doubt, and all she wants is a friend.

The three girls take an impromptu roadtrip to Miami, to get out of Niceville and visit Vicks’ boyfriend Brady, who hasn’t called her back since he left for college. On this trip they visit the bizarre attractions in the Fantastical Florida guidebook, fight, bond and listen to a great playlist. They become closer, but their secrets can’t stay hidden forever. Through meeting Old Joe (a stuffed alligator), braving extreme weather conditions and toll booths, and encountering cute boys the three girls  learn more about themselves, and about each other. They realise that sometimes, you have to be a little bit bad…

This is a fun read, but it also has heart. You get a real sense that the three authors really enjoyed working together. Each character is strong and memorable. and has a distinctive voice. I really enjoyed that friendship was at the core of the book, and seeing how the authors examined how our ideas of our friends can change. The story is fast paced, and the trip is packed with funny and touching moments. The dialogue is excellent, with many laugh-out-loud moments – a perfect summer read. There are some extras at the end of the book; including a quiz and a playlist.


E. Lockhart is taking a roadtrip, visiting different bookstores to promote How To Be Bad, which has recently been released in the UK and Ireland. I attended her Dublin event in Easons on O’Connell Street. Her talk was very interesting and funny – she told us about the collaberative writing process and read from the book. She also talked about the hugely successful We Were Liars.  After her talk was an q&a – I asked questions about the use of footnotes in The Boyfriend List (always planned, Lockhart loves playing with narrative form and believes this was the first use of footnotes in a YA novel) and the title of How To Be Bad (the only thing the authors fought over). E. Lockhart signed books after the event, and had bookplates for How To Be Bad also signed by Lauren Myracle and Sarah Mlynowski. Below are some pictures from the event.

E. Lockhart speaking at Easons O'Connell Street.

E. Lockhart speaking at Easons O’Connell Street.

E. Lockhart reading from How To Be Bad.

E. Lockhart reading from How To Be Bad.

Meeting E. Lockhart!

Meeting E. Lockhart!

Mountains to Sea 2015 Round Up

This was my fifth year volunteering at the Mountains to Sea Book Festival in Dún Laoghaire, and as always it was a lot of fun. I was working with the Family and Schools Programme, and this is a round up of the events I helped out at.

Cakes in Space Show – Sarah McIntyre and Philip Reeve


Dynamic duo Sarah McIntyre and Philip Reeve put on a great show for the school groups who came to the Pavilion Theatre. With readings, a demo of how to draw a robot, a message from aliens about spoons and the Cakes in Space theme song this was a jam-packed and fun-filled event.

Tips from the Top – Steve Cole, Judi Curtin, Sarah McIntyre and Philip Reeve


This panel discussion was chaired by Tom Donegan (of the Story Museum in Oxford) and offered much insight into the careers of these writers and illustrators. Steve Cole started out as an editor, Judi Curtin as a teacher, Philip Reeve as an illustrator and Sarah McIntyre worked in fine art rather than illustration and comics. Events like this are great for inspiring you to get back into writing, and the panelists offered good advice for emerging writers and illustrators – Sarah McIntyre advised setting small, achievable goals and not being afraid of creating bad books. Steve Cole said to write what you enjoy, and create for the love of it. One of the questions from the q&a was what careers the panelists would have if they weren’t writers or illustrators. Steve Cole would be a chat show host, Judi Curtin would still be teaching, Philip Reeve would still be a bookseller and Sarah McIntyre would be a milliner (she wore many of her fantastic hats and fascinators at the festival).

How to Catch a Star Workshops with Deirdre Sullivan


These workshops were a highlight of the festival for me, it was wonderful to see how much the kids enjoyed themselves. These multi-sensory workshops were designed for children with autism, and run by author and teacher Deirdre Sullivan. Based around Oliver Jeffers’ picture book How to Catch a Star, the workshops took place in a room decorated with stars, sails and lights. Deirdre read the book to the kids, and there were stars to find in buckets of sand, water and shaving foam. Best of all, there was a real starfish! I would love to see more events like this at the festival in future.

Sam McBratney in conversation with Robert Dunbar


Sam McBratney is best known as the writer of best-selling picture book Guess How Much I Love You, but this event really brought out the breadth of his work. His novel, The Chieftain’s Daughter, has the high praise of being children’s books critic Robert Dunbar’s favourite Irish children’s book. It was an engaging and entertaining discussion, I particularly enjoyed McBratney’s moving reading of Guess How Much I Love You. 

Being in my final year of college, I wasn’t as involved in the festival as I have been in previous years, but as always I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and am already excited for next year!

Happy International Children’s Book Day!

ICBD poster

International Children’s Book Day is happening on the 2nd of April and will be hosted by IBBY Ireland this year. The 2nd of April was Hans Christian Andersen’s birthday and so the event often centres around his work. A number of Irish children’s authors have collaborated on a rewriting of Andersen’s tales entitled Shoes, Ducks and Maids of the Sea – Retellings of Hans Christian Andersen. This collection will feature stories by Sarah Webb, Oisin McGann, Siobhán Parkinson, Paula Leyden, Deirdre Sullivan, Claire Hennessy, Sheena Wilkinson, Anna Carey and many more!  This e-book and IBBY Ireland’s new website will be launched at an event tonight.

As well as arranging a number of events during the day for children and adults, the host country is also responsible for the poster for the day and for selecting an author to write a message to the international community of child readers. The poster for 2014 was designed by the current Laureate na nÓg Niamh Sharkey and is very colourful, featuring one of her loveable monster characters. Former Laureate na nÓg Siobhán Parkinson wrote the letter, which can be read here.

“Without the writer the story would never be born; but without all the thousands of readers around the world, the story would not get to live all the lives it can live.”

One of the display cases in Trinity College Dublin

One of the display cases in Trinity College Dublin

To coincide with this event, the TCD Library display cases are showcasing a variety of collections of Hans Christian Andersen tales from the collection. There are many beautiful books on display, and I’ve just picked out a couple to show here.

The first is W Heath Robinson’s illustrations for a collection of Andersen’s tales published in 1913. I loved the two pages shown in the display, the detail is amazing and the contrast between the full colour image and the black and white illustration show the range of his style. The colour image illustrates The Snow Queen and the sumptuous colours and rich fabrics reflect her wealth. The black and white image is much starker, but the night sky is incredible and the skilful drawing is seen more clearly here.

W Heath Robinson illustrations, 1913

W Heath Robinson illustrations, 1913

One of my favourite illustrators P.J. Lynch is represented with his illustrations for The Snow Queen. The pages shown depict Gerda travelling to the Snow Queen’s kingdom, and the depiction of the Northern Lights is stunning. It captures the adventurous spirit of the story really well, and the sky really seems to shimmer. It is a mesmerising image!

The Snow Queen illustrated by PJ Lynch 1993

The Snow Queen illustrated by PJ Lynch 1993

Check out the blog post about International Children’s Book Day and the TCD display on the library blog here.

My personal favourite Andersen tale is The Snow Queen. The illustrations for this tale are usually fantastic, capturing the majestic figure of the queen herself and the stunning landscapes crossed during Gerda’s epic quest. The reason why I love this story is how empowered the heroine is. Gerda goes on an incredible journey to save her best friend Kai from the cruel Snow Queen and is one of the bravest and most active fairytale heroines out there. Andersen wrote a number of very well-known tales, including The Ugly Duckling and The Little Mermaid (the original tale has a shockingly tragic ending). The fact that International Children’s Book Day, celebrated by 76 countries, is held on his birthday is a testament to the enduring appeal of his work.

I wish you all a very happy International Children’s Book Day, wherever you are and whatever you’re reading!

Exhibition: Pictiúr at IMMA

Story pod decorated by the illustrators.

Story pod decorated by the illustrators.

What: Pictiúr, an exhibition of contemporary Irish childrens’ book illustration.

Where: IMMA (Irish Museum of Modern Art)

When: Ends tomorrow (12th of Jan), so if you want to see it – hurry!

Story pod decorated by the illustrators.

Story pod decorated by the illustrators.

Today I visited Pictiúr, an exhibition of work by 21 contemporary Irish illustrators. The exhibition features 2 works by each illustrator, as well as display cases showing how concepts for illustrations are developed, and exploring the process of making a picturebook. There were also videos about illustration, and a library featuring books by the illustrators featured in the exhibition. My one criticism would be that the works situated in the café can be hard to see when it is busy, but overall I thought it was very well put together and catered for both adults and children. The exhibition was curated by Niamh Sharkey, current Laureate Na nÓg (Children’s Laureate) and is the largest ever travelling exhibition of Irish illustration. Today was also the family day and while my friend and I (at 21 and 20) were a little old for the events we got involved in Monster Doodling, and creating our own Beast of IMMA.

Monster Doodle!

Monster Doodle!

With my Beast of IMMA.

With my Beast of IMMA.

P.J. Lynch is one of my favourite illustrators. I love the soft tones of his work which are created by his use of watercolour, the detail, the emotion and the often fantastical subject matter. The works in the IMMA exhibition are from The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey, a very moving picturebook about an old man whose heart is softened by a young boy. These works illustrate beautifully Lynch’s mastery of emotion, and I love the warm, earthy tones. The sense of wonder on the young boy’s face as he sees the nativity figures reflects the touching message of the book.

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey - PJ Lynch

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey – PJ Lynch

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey - PJ Lynch

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey – PJ Lynch

The first display case gave an insight into the development of P.J. Lynch’s illustrations, focussing on the dragon story Ignis. The case features sketches, full spreads, mock ups and finished pieces. It gave a really interesting look into his working process, and into how a picturebook is created.

Loved the steps by the display cases for children visiting the exhibition.

Loved the steps by the display cases for children visiting the exhibition.

Section of the PJ Lynch display case.

Section of the PJ Lynch display case.

Niamh Sharkey, current children’s laureate and curator of Pictiúr, is represented by illustrations from her Mavis and Marge book. The bright colours and bold outlines of Sharkey’s work is very expressive, and there is a real sense of humour throughout the images. This warmth and humour is also seen in her book I’m A Happy Hugglewug, which has been made into the Henry Hugglemonster TV show by Disney and Brown Bag Films. Another display case shows Sharkey’s working process through sketches, storyboards, dummy books and more.

On The Road with Mavis and Marge - Niamh Sharkey.

On The Road with Mavis and Marge – Niamh Sharkey.

Section of the Niamh Sharkey display case.

Section of the Niamh Sharkey display case.

Andrew Whitson’s work has a collage effect, achieved through his use of mixed media. His work in this exhibition is the cover imagery for Irish language books Cogito and Ó Chrann go Crann. Whitson works with An tSnáthaid Mhór, a Belfast based publishing house which is now developing apps of interactive picturebooks in both Irish and English. The image below is a section from the cover of Ó Chrann go Crann. I loved the different layers of the image, and the feeling of being lost it conveys. The typography is interesting, as is the contrast between the finished colour images and the pencil sketches.

Ó Chrann go Crann - Andrew Whitson

Ó Chrann go Crann – Andrew Whitson

This Paul Howard image is an illustration accompanying William Blake’s famous poem ‘The Tyger’. The bold use of colour, and striking image of the tiger prowling through the tall grass captures the vivid descriptions in the poem. It also brings the poem to life for the child reader. The image is taken from a collection of classic poetry edited by Michael Rosen.

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright - Paul Howard.

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright – Paul Howard.

I love the expressive use of line in this illustration by Donough O’Malley, taken from An Coileach Codlatach (The Sleepy Rooster). This image is one of the first in the book, and sets the atmosphere for the story. The sky is particularly expressive, and O’Malley makes excellent use of his medium – pastel with conté. There is a real sense of movement, created by his use of line, and I love how the rooster has been silhouetted against the moon.

An Coileach Codlatach - Donough O'Malley.

An Coileach Codlatach – Donough O’Malley.

Steve Simpson is another illustrator whose work I find very exciting. The images below are taken from Mise agus an Dragún, a tale about a teddy bear who dreams about an adventure with his toy dragon. The first image shows their travels in space, and is a very striking image, full of movement. I love how the constellations are mapped out in the background. In the second image, we see the end of the story. I love all the details – Simpson is written on the spine of the book on the floor, there is a makeshift telescope and a robot hidden behind a curtain! There are many more fun details to be found throughout Steve Simpson’s work.

Mise agus an Dragún - Steve Simpson.

Mise agus an Dragún – Steve Simpson.

Mise agus an Dragún - Steve Simpson.

Mise agus an Dragún – Steve Simpson.

Oliver Jeffers is a very popular illustrator at the moment, and has won a lot of awards. I love how distinctive his style is – details like the stick legs are unmistakeably his. The images in Pictiúr are taken from Stuck, an entertaining picturebook about a boy who gets his kite stuck in a tree. One picture shows Floyd carrying an orang-utan, the other shows the various objects he has used to try and dislodge his kite from the tree. There’s a submarine, the kitchen sink, a lighthouse and more! It is a simple story, but a very funny one.

Stuck - Oliver Jeffers.

Stuck – Oliver Jeffers.

Miss Brooks Loves Books, the story of a reluctant reader whose wacky book-loving teacher helps her find a story she loves, is one of my favourite picturebooks. The illustrations by Michael Emberley match the story very well, capturing the humour and the love of reading. This is a book any bookworm will enjoy, and the illustrations are fantastic!

Miss Brooks Loves Books - Michael Emberley.

Miss Brooks Loves Books – Michael Emberley.

Chris Judge’s Lonely Beast is one of the most recognisable characters in contemporary picturebooks. Simple but striking, the figure really stands out against the backgrounds. I love the stripy green and pink tie in one of the images! The story of the Lonely Beast is a touching and fun read, and I also love Chris Judge’s picturebook The Great Explorer. The Beast of IMMA workshop run by Chris Judge was a lot of fun too!

The Lonely Beast - Chris Judge.

The Lonely Beast – Chris Judge.

Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick’s book There won a Bisto book award, and two of the illustrations are shown in this exhibition. The first image shows the little boy carrying a small suitcase, about to set out on a journey. He looks very small in comparison to the green hills. It is a very sweet story, and the illustration of the little boy (in cute little wellies!) climbing a ladder to the stars is beautiful. The pastel tones give the illustrations a softness, and the journey throughout the book is very engaging.

There - Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick.

There – Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick.

There - Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick.

There – Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick.

Olwyn Whelan’s illustrations accompany Spellbound, a retelling of Irish myths and legends by former Laureate na nÓg Siobhan Parkinson. Whelan’s illustrations are enchanting, and capture the magic of the stories. I love her use of patterning and bright colours, and detail in elements such as the castles. Seeing the illustrations in person, I noticed Whelan’s use of glitter and could really appreciate how detailed her work is. I discovered her work through Pictiúr and I am spellbound by it!

Spellbound - Olwyn Whelan.

Spellbound – Olwyn Whelan.

Spellbound - Olwyn Whelan.

Spellbound – Olwyn Whelan.

These are just a selection of the illustrators and illustrations featured in Pictiúr, see the exhibition or the Laureate Na nÓg website for more. This is a really excellent showcase for Irish childrens’ book illustration, which is really going through a golden age at the moment!

A video about Pictiúr’s travels abroad:

Writers Web TV

I had a great time working as part of the social media team with WritersWebTV for their workshop on Writing for Children and Young Adults on the 28th of September. The workshop was excellent – I learnt a lot from the different speakers, and from working backstage and connecting with the audience. People were watching from all over the world – South Africa, Scotland, Belfast, the Irish Writers Centre, Kerry, Wexford and more! Getting feedback and having exercises sent in gave us a good idea of how the audience interacted with the workshop. Vanessa O’Loughlin interviewed the different speakers, and an in-studio audience took part in the writing exercises.


Hard at work behind the scenes!

First up were picture book makers Marie Louise Fitzpatrick and Michael Emberley. This session got a lot of questions in from the audience, and was very informative. Issues discussed included the pacing of a picture book, the idea of picture books as a repeat performance, and also about achieving the balance between appealing to both children and adults. It was interesting to get two perspectives on picture book making, and they also kicked off the interactive writing exercises.

MLF and ME

Norton Viergien of Brown Bag Films was on next. He is currently working with Niamh Sharkey on the adaptation of her Happy Hugglewuggs series for Disney, and his previous projects include Rugrats and The Wild Thornberrys. He gave a really interesting insight into what makes a book appeal to filmmakers, and on the process from page to screen.
Children’s book agent Polly Nolan offered some very valuable advice on preparing your submission, and on what agents can offer authors. From formatting your submission, to writing a clear and concise cover letter, to creating authentic child/teen characters her session was full of helpful tips!

Meg Rosoff’s bestselling book How I Live Now has been made into a film starring Saoirse Ronan. Meg came to speak to us at Writers Web TV and gave lots of great tips on writing for young adults. I love Meg Rosoff’s writing, so it was really interesting to get an insight into how she works, for example character comes before plot in her work. She spoke powerfully about finding your writing voice – describing it as something that comes from deep within you, and that to find it you must take note of what your brain notices.

Meg Rosoff

Meg very kindly signed my copy of her new book, Picture Me Gone, and gave me some writing advice.

Meg very kindly signed my copy of her new book, Picture Me Gone, and gave me some writing advice.

Oisín McGann, illustrator and writer (for children and young adults) was the last speaker for the workshop. He spoke about creating fantasy worlds saying that a slightly twisted version of the truth can be the best fantasy. Also – fun fact, Oisín likes to work at a stand up desk, as he paces about when he writes. His exercises were all about world building, something which is crucial for fantasy, sci-fi or dystopia writers.


Personally, I learnt a lot from the workshop, and I’m sure it will really benefit my writing. Working on the social media with Carrie King and Paul Fitzsimons was also a very enjoyable experience – promoting the workshop, and engaging with the audience showed me a whole new side of events like this. There are more Writers Web TV workshops coming soon – on women’s fiction, crime writing and getting published. Stay tuned in, and keep writing!

Papergirl Dublin Photos

Today I visited the Papergirl Dublin exhibition, in a nice café called Lurve at Lucy’s at Temple Bar. It’s a really interesting show featuring photos, poems, posters, drawings, paintings, prints, stamps and much more. Read my interview with Papergirl Dublin founder Mice Hell here. The exhibition runs until the 18th, don’t miss out!








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