My story ‘How to Build a Space Rocket’ has made the shortlist for the Short Story of the Year Award at the 2018 An Post Book Awards. I really can’t believe it. The story featured in The Broken Spiral (ed R.M Clarke), an anthology published in aid of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre. I’m hopeful that this shortlisting will help to promote the anthology and to raise awareness of this incredibly important cause. You can read and vote for your favourite story here.
6am, amidst the morning mayhem today, I received an email with some exciting news. One of my stories has made the long list for the Writing.ie Short Story of the Year. I’m in good company on the long list, alongside well-known and up-and-coming Irish writers. Here’s the long list of 12 selected writers…
Here's an article I wrote for The Irish Times about my experience of being published in The Long Gaze Back, a ground-breaking, award-winning anthology of Irish women's writing...
Back in 2015 one of my stories 'Infinite Landscapes' was selected for inclusion in a very special anthology... This year, The Long Gaze Back, an anthology of short stories by Irish women writers, has been chosen as the book choice for the Dublin One City: One Book festival. I couldn't be happier for all the fantastic women writers involved in this groundbreaking literary project, and for New Island Books.
Throughout the month of April there will be readings and other events to celebrate The Long Gaze Back. The book has been selected as the choice for the Irish Times Book Club, and the Book on One for RTE radio. The event listings are now live on the Dublin One City: One Book website. Here are a few photos from the launch...
I'm delighted to have a short story extract in 'Reading the Future' a new anthology from Hodges & Figgis bookstore in Dublin, which is being published to celebrate their 250th anniversary. Featuring 250 Irish poets, novelists, short story writers and essayists, the book is edited by Alan Hayes and published by Arlen House. Details of the launch to follow in January 2018...
"Trans-genre in contents and including both experienced and newer women writers, this landmark anthology features women writers playing with different modes, forms, and innovations – from magical realism and surrealism to humour and multi-perspective narratives – and celebrates fiction, poetry, drama, essays, life writing, and photography. It considers how much has changed or stayed the same in terms of scope and opportunity for women writers and for women more generally in Northern Irish society (and its diaspora) in the post-Good Friday Agreement era.
Northern Irish women’s writing is going from strength to strength and this anthology captures its current richness and audacity."
Here's Dr Caroline Magennis's fascinating lecture 'Unsettling Intimacy - Northern Irish Short Fiction after the Agreement,' featuring a discussion of 'The Seventh Man.'
The International Rubery Book Award is 'a prestigious international book award seeking the best books by indie writers, self published authors and books published by independent presses, judged by reputable judges. Creative writing is such a key part of life for those who enjoy writing yet it is increasingly difficult to become traditionally published. Through our reputation of finding quality and outstanding books we aim to bring recognition to the works that win and heighten an author's profile. The Rubery Prize is now a well-established name in the publishing world.'
I'm thrilled to have been shortlisted. The judges described Wild Quiet as 'interestingly cosmopolitan'... 'an entertaining and varied collection.'
You can now listen back to the reading I did with Danielle McLaughlin as part of the Dublin City Libraries reader series. In this extract, Danielle reads from the stunning title story of her collection Dinosaurs on Other Planets, and I read from Infinite Landscapes, which appeared in the BGE Book Award winning anthology The Long Gaze Back. Enjoy!
I'm honored to be reading alongside the wonderful short story writer Danielle McLaughlin on Friday 7th April as part of Dublin Central Library's Contemporary Irish Writing Series. The event will take place at the Illac Centre Library at 1pm. Entry is free, but it's advisable to book tickets in advance. You can reserve your place by calling the Central Library on 01 -873 4333 or email email@example.com. You can find out more information here.
'A magnificently astonishing, totally arresting collection'
Wild Quiet was recently reviewed by the wonderful folks at STORGY Magazine (London). You can read their review here.
I also completed an interview with STORGY - probably my most in-depth interview in my writing career so far! They kept me on my toes with some interesting questions. Here's my interview with Ross Jeffery.
'Why do Irish writers set their works abroad?' Wild Quiet features in this brilliant piece by Martin Doyle in the Irish Times. The article features an interactive map, where you can find listings of Irish works set across the globe. That's my reading list sorted for the next decade!
The Times were also kind enough to publish an essay I wrote on the topic of magical realism in Irish fiction. I was interested to explore why Irish writing (and particularly Irish short stories) have traditionally been associated with realism/naturalism for much of the last 50 years. Why have Irish writers been shying away from the fantastic?
Wild Quiet was recently named one of the Irish Times' Favourite Books of 2016. It was selected by the talented short story writer Danielle McLaughlin.
Friday 11th November, 12:15 - 1:00pm, Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin
A trio of debut authors will take you on a journey to other realms found within the pages of their new books. Oisín Fagan’s fresh voice blends wit and fury as he reads from his gripping collection of sci-fi tales in Hostages (New Island Books). R.B. Kelly shares a snippet of her futuristic thriller Edge of Heaven (Liberties Press) which questions the ghost in the machine, while Roisín O’Donnell’s collection of short stories in Wild Quiet (New Island Books) examines the hurts and triumphs of being human. These bite-sized lunchtime readings are sure to satisfy every appetite, and will be lead by Jan Carson, the breakthrough author behind Malcolm Orange Disappears(Liberties Press) and more recent book Children’s Children (Liberties Press).
Free entry, but booking is essential.
New Island Books will celebrate the publication of "The Glass Shore: Short Stories by Women Writers from the North of Ireland", with a launch at the Ulster Museum. Patricia Craig, who wrote an introduction to the collection will launch the anthology and contributor Lucy Caldwell will speak. There will also be readings by some of the featured authors. Books will be on sale on the night, thanks to David in No Alibis.
New Island Books will celebrate the publication of "The Glass Shore: Short Stories by Women Writers from the North of Ireland", with a launch at Hodges Figgis bookshop on Wednesday October 5th. Laureate for Irish Fiction Anne Enright will launch the anthology and contributor Martina Devlin will also speak.
Everyone is most welcome to attend the launches. Several of the writers featured in The Glass Shore will be present for book-signings at both launches. Come along, have a chat and help us celebrate this wonderful new anthology. If you'd like to join us, please RSVP to Hannah.Shorten@newisland.ie
I'll be taking to the soapbox on Culture Night to take part in a special event at the Irish Writers' Centre. Each writer has been given the theme; 'into the arms of the neon night...' We each have four minutes to unleash our creations!
7.30pm – 8.30pm: The Soapbox: see well-known and emerging writers take to the platform for some old-school entertainment. Guests include Colin Barrett, Alvy Carragher, Gavin Corbett, Tara Flynn, and Henrietta McKervey.
8th September at 4pm @ Cork Central Library (Grand Parade) - Admission free
I'll be reading alongside Joanna Walsh, author of the short story collection Vertigo. It's a real honour to have been invited to take part in this prestigious literary festival, and I'm extra-excited that it's a festival dedicated to the short story form. I'm looking forward to listening to other short story writers read from and discuss their work. Ben Okri says 'the short story is the hardest form to master, after the sonnet.' I'm always listening out for thoughts and advice from masters of the form, so this festival promises to be a real treat.
You can find the full festival programme here
"Acclaimed writer reveals her first stories were letters to her granda in Derry."
As a kid, Roisin O’Donnell says she always looked forward to her visits “home” to Derry. The Sheffield-born, Dublin-based short story writer says the summer sojourns spent in her parents’ home town were anticipated with “great excitement.” “For me, Northern Ireland was a paradise where we would spend summers building castles on Knockalla Strand and being spoiled rotten by relatives who only got to see us once a year,” she says. “Tayto crisps, clove rock, brandy balls and Club Orange were the flavours of my childhood summers and I saw Derry-Londonderry as a magical place woven from family stories.”
Roisin - whose debut collection of stories, ‘Wild Quiet’, has just been published by New Island Books - says her parents grew up on “opposite ends of the same long road” in Derry. “They also came from opposite communities in what was, at that time, a more mixed Protestant and Catholic area. My maternal grandad had had fought at the Battle of Al Alamein while my paternal grandfather remembered being in Dublin at the time of the Easter Rising.”
“At school, my mum learned about the Battle of Hastings while dad learned about the Battle of Clontarft. Growing up a short distance from each other, in some ways, they might as well have come from two different cities.”
“Cupid’s arrow” struck for Roisin’s parents in the 1960s. “It wasn’t easy for a ‘mixed’ couple in the Northern Ireland of that time,” she says. “This, coupled with the lack of job opportunities at that time, was one of the reasons why parents moved to England and got married. Yearning for home, after a few years they moved to live in Sheffield because they’d heard that the surrounding Yorkshire countryside looked ‘a bit like Donegal’.
In their house in Sheffield, Roisin says her family were “simply Irish”. “Although my parents were from different communities in the North, the beauty of growing up in England was that, with the benefit of distance, I was able to feel included in both worlds.”
During holidays in Ireland, she says, the family would spend long summer days on the strand at Portstewart, being treated to ice-cream from Morelli’s, fish and chips in Portrush and a trip to Barry’s Amusements. “The dodgems, the Ferris wheel, the ghost train with its host of illumious-green-and-pink plastic ghouls - all of this was heaven. Sometimes we would rent a house in Inishowen for a fortnight and, once, we stayed in a house on Inch Island. The place was like a time warp, with saints watching us from the walls and a turf fire in the grate, and from the windows we had a view down to the lake and its colony of swans.”
When she was in her mid-20s, Roisin lived in the North for a year while attending university. During her first week in the city, she spent all her free time walking the city, “gradually getting to know the streets where my grandparents and parents had walked.”During her first week in the city, she spent all her free time walking the city, “gradually getting to know the streets where my grandparents and parents had walked.” However, she says, living in the North only reinforced her status both as an outsider and as, somewhat, of an anomaly.
She recalls: “With a name like Roisín, people would generally presume I was Catholic and would then give me funny looks when I casually mentioned calling over to my aunt’s house in the Waterside - a largely Protestant neighbourhood - for dinner. It made me realise that being equally comfortable in the living rooms of both Northern Irelands is not that common in some areas.”
Roisin acknowledges that, while always loving Northern Ireland, for years she avoided writing about it, feeling “crippled by a feeling of inadequacy”. “Not having grown up there, I felt that I didn’t have the right to say anything about it.” Eventually, however - with the urge to articulate something of her connection with her ancestral home pursuing her - she found her voice in a story called Ebebezer's Memories.
Recently Roisín was commissioned to write a story for a new anthology by women from the North of Ireland, which will be published by New Island Books in September. "I think the title of the anthology – The Glass Shore – beautifully articulates the fragility of the invisible boundaries in the North," she says. "For me, Northern Ireland is still one of my favourite places in the world, home of so many beautiful landscapes, warm and friendly people and happy childhood memories. I hope these invisible boundaries will one day fade away. "
“I will always feel a strong connection with the North, and I’ll always yearn for a deeper understanding of my family roots.” Roisín says her first “stories” were letters she used to dictate to her mum who would write them down and send them to her granddad in Derry. “Writing to the North was my first instinct as a writer, and, when I wrote my first novel at the age of fifteen, it was an awful across-the-barricades romance set in the Troubles. Looking back, I see this as my first scrambling attempt to articulate my feelings towards Northern Ireland; something I’ve been trying to do ever since.”
Roisin O’Donnell’s debut story collection, ‘Wild Quiet’, has just been published by New Island Books
This article first appeared in the Derry Journal on Friday June 24th, 2016.
So she tells you that she’s a writer and you ask what she writes and she says “short stories” and you say: “Are you working on a novel?”
I was delighted to be interviewed by January Magazine for their July issue. We had a great chat about the merits and challenges of the short story form, and I tried to answer the question 'why write short stories instead of a novel?' Stories can be harder than novels; with a novel, you create a world and then sustain it for a few hundred pages, but with each new short story you have to build a new world from scratch. But stories can also be incredibly liberating...
"Lucy Caldwell, Bernie McGill, Jan Carson, Roisín O’Donnell and a new anthology edited by Sinéad Gleeson are raising the profile of North’s female short story writers," writes Caroline Magennis in The Irish Times
Having had the pleasure of meeting Bernie, Lucy and Jan at various literary events, and having heard them read from their work, I feel honoured to be included in their company. Also named as one of the five collections is The Glass Shore: Short Stories by Women Writers from the North of Ireland, edited by Sinéad Gleeson.
The Glass Shore is now available to pre-order here.