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 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!

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!

CBI Conference Round-Up

This year’s CBI Conference was held on the 18th and 19th of May, in the Lighthouse Cinema. The theme was Rebels and Rulebreakers.

Cool goodie bag and name tag!

Cool goodie bag and name tag!

I was helping out at the conference with a friend, and was lucky enough to get into every talk but one. Here is my round up of the talks, and the things I learnt:


Hervé Tullet:

Hervé Tullet’s talk was great, really interactive. He engaged with the audience, reading the books with us (I Am Blop was particularly fun, and I love Game of Shadows). He said the audience weren’t as good at performing his books as kids are though! There was also a baby on hand who he read the World of Mirrors book to! He also got Sarah Webb ( up to help him demonstrate Press Here. I hadn’t encountered Hervé’s work before, but his talk definitely converted me! His books are fun, and kids would love them. Hervé spoke about books as making noise and singing, and that definitely came across in his talk!

John Boyne:

This was a very interesting interview; I thought Robert Dunbar asked some great questions. John Boyne said he didn’t prefer writing for adults or children (‘I enjoy just writing’), he writes one book for adults, one for children etc. In terms of children’s books, he tends to focus on 8 or 9 year old books as protagonists, and he intends to continue with this in the future. He sees children’s literature as being defined by having a child at the centre, but beyond that he sees little difference from literature for adults. He tends to write in first person for adults, third for children. We also got a sneak peak of John Boyne’s upcoming book for children Stay Where You Are, And Then Leave, set in WWI. It sounds brilliant!

Comics Panel: Superheroes Eclipsed


This was an interesting panel, about how comics are about more than just superheroes. The panellists (Sarah McIntyre, Alan Nolan and Rory McConville) talked about their influences, and their own work. It was all about pushing boundaries, and expanding the comic form to encompass different genres. I’m a big fan of Sarah McIntyre’s work, and really want to read Nelson, a collaborative graphic novel with several other artists dealing with the life of one girl over 43 years. Alan Nolan’s graphic novels for kids – The Big Break Detectives, and the Murder Can be Fatal Series (with titles such as Death by Chocolate) – sound like great fun, and Rory McConville’s use of the graphic novel to reinvigorate Irish history is similar to what Colmán O Raghallaigh is doing for Irish myths. (see below)

Alex T Smith:

As a child, Alex T Smith wanted to be a writer/illustrator, a chef or a rabbit. This was a fun talk! The Claude books sound fab, especially Mr Bobblysock, and the cheeky bits that he managed to slip into the books! Alex spoke beautifully about how his grandfather inspired him to write. He showed us some of the stories his grandfather had written for him, and some of his own work as a child. He told us that ‘A good book needs heart in it, and sometimes soul.’ We got a sneak peek of some of his upcoming work, including a picture book Hector and the Big Red Knight. In the spirit of the Conference, he encouraged aspiring authors or illustrators to take risks with their work. And then he taught us all to draw Claude!

My Claude

My Claude

Alex T Smith's Claude

Alex T Smith’s Claude

DAY 2:

Sarah Crossan:


Yay! Sarah Crossan was the speaker I was most excited to hear, and I loved her talk. She gave us a lot of insight into her writing process, and also about how her own experiences as a child had subconsciously influenced The Weight of Water (read my review here: I was really interested in how she wrote this novel – she said all the poems were written in a notebook first, in a non-linear order, and then she rearranged them and filled in the gaps. She showed pictures of her plans and notebooks. Despite the fact it is quite a personal book, Sarah Crossan said she doesn’t think good art can be therapy. Her latest novel, Breathe, is very different to The Weight of Water. It is a dystopian YA prose novel. She  said writing in prose was necessary to cleanse her palette after all the poetry, and that Breathe was much more plot-driven. She spoke about issues with genre constraints, and a little about writing Resist, the sequel to Breathe. She spoke about possibly writing a YA poetry novel in the future (yay!). She wants her writing to say “I hear you” to her readers. Also, Sarah was really lovely when I spoke to her after her talk, and got my books signed.


Edge of the Page:

In this slot, speakers discussed books by Irish authors/illustrators that they thought had been forgotten about. The selection included Spooky Irish Tales for Children by Eddie Lenihan which features a creepy face-stealing druid (!), The Second Best Children in the World, a charming picture book about 3 children who take off on a trip around the world to give their parents a break, the Whoosh series by Bernard Shane and William Bolger, with Irish themes and beautiful hand screen printed illustrations. The Hounds of the Morrigan by Pat O’Shea, a precursor of the contemporary trend of fantasy in children’s literature ‘All this, because a boy was about to try to buy a book in the second-hand bookshop, in the small grey city of Galway.’

Sheena Wilkinson & Deirdre Sullivan

Deirdre signed this for me!

Deirdre signed this for me!

Unfortunately due to flight difficulties Ana Maria Machado couldn’t make the conference, but Deirdre Sullivan and Sheena Wilkinson, and their publisher Elaina O’Neill stepped in with a very interesting discussion on breaking taboos in YA. Deirdre spoke about how she writes what she wants in her first draft, and later cuts out the ‘bold bits’! They both deal with tough topics (such as grief, suicide and self-harm) and agreed on the importance of not turning their novels into ‘issue books.’ Elaina O’Neill noted that, as a genre, YA allows rule breaking. Their conversation was illuminating and entertaining (ponies in space (!!!), Deirdre ‘cheating’ on one idea with another, or Sheena’s declaration ‘we have no morals!’)

Colmán O’Raghallaigh

Irish language publishing is a very important area, and Colmán O’Raghallaigh gave a very interesting discussion of how it has developed over time. He showed how many different books, age-groups and genres have been tackled, and how exciting the world of Irish language publishing is. I was particularly interested in his graphic novels, which are bringing ancient Irish myths to a new audience.

Jon Klassen

Extra Yarn

Extra Yarn

Another great talk, and a worthy close to the conference! Jon Klassen is very popular, and the signing was huge! He spoke about his background in animation, and his issues with drawing characters/emotion. A lot of his early work was based more on ‘things’, stories around inanimate objects. He went through his picture books, explaining the processes and the stories. I loved Extra Yarn, it is a really sweet story and I love how he uses the pattern of the stitches throughout. He also spoke about his work on birthday cards with animals who couldn’t care less about your birthday. The deadpan look appears again in I Want My Hat Back, in which he described the animals as bad actors, just reading their lines, going through the motions. It was fascinating to get an insight into the process of making picture books – Jon also discussed This Is Not My Hat, House Held Up By Trees, The Dark (which also looks brilliant!) and some projects that never made it. He doesn’t like outlines, which gives his work a cut-out feel, and is trying to get a more traditional in his work. Beautiful books, that parents and children will love.

Phew! I had a very busy, but great weekend at the Conference, and learnt a lot.

Having fun at the CBI Conference!

Having fun at the CBI Conference!

Here are some more round ups you can check out:

Claire Hennessy:

Sarah McIntyre: and

And lots of pictures here:

In which John and Hank Green are awesome!


Yesterday I met John Green! I love his books, so it was pretty amazing to hear him speak, and to get to meet him in person!

John and Hank Green were in the RDS in Dublin as part of John’s “The Fault in our Stars” Tour. On his Facebook page John said “‎1,000 people in Dublin tonight sounded like 100,000. Never felt anything like that in my life before. Thanks, Ireland! #tfioslive” And yes – it was loud, and crazy, and totally amazing!


John talked about The Fault in our Stars and then did a reading. He said that with “The Fault in our Stars” he aimed to show that a short life can be rich, full and fun too. During the questions later he commented on the significance of Augustus’ name, and how a true hero’s journey was from strength to weakness. And in response to the ending, and the fate of a certain character “I did not verb anybody!”


Hank Green played some songs – Accio Deathly Hallows was in my head for hours! He also played the Quark Song, which was rather amazing, and a beautiful (but very sad) song about “The Fault in our Stars.” (And many more!) It was a brilliant event, a mix of a book reading and a concert, and there was an amazing atmosphere!


And best of all – we got to meet John Green at the end! I told him I love his books, and he said my t-shirt was cool (!!!)

DSCF2080 (My t-shirt for the event!)

John was really lovely, and it was so amazing to meet him! I have all my John Green books signed by both him and Hank now! It was great to meet Hank too, I love his songs (especially the Harry Potter ones!) I will be following this post up with reviews of John’s books. Readers – what is your favourite John Green book? And were any of you at this event?