Who Are You? Meet SCBWI Ireland
By Colleen Jones
Maeve McMahon and award-winning writer Jane Mitchell together established the Irish Chapter of the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) in 2007. Our chapter has maintained a small but active membership, recently increasing from 22 to 30 members. We have jointly held several events with Children's Books Ireland, one of the premier organisations supporting children’s literature and literacy.
With new volunteers on board, we are now providing social events in Belfast, Dublin, Galway, and Cork, and are planning webinars and other face-to-face events for members.
Ireland has a small market for children’s books, but successful publishers include O'Brien Press, Penguin Ireland, Mercier Press, and Little Island. There are also more children’s books being published in Irish. Siobhan Parkinson, our first Children’s Laureate/Laureate na nÓg, led the way for more books in translation from other languages, such as German, into English and Irish, and vice versa. While small, Ireland has produced quite a few popular and award-winning authors, including Sarah Webb, Judi Curtain, Kate Thompson, Eoin Colfer, Darren Shan, Sheena Wilkinson, Patricia Forde, Oisín McGann, Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick, Siobhan Dowd, and many more.
We are small but mighty!
I asked two of our up-and-coming writers, Caroline Twomey and Kieran Fanning, to talk about being a writer in Ireland.
|The Dream Catcher |
by Caroline Twomey
It is fantastic being a writer in Ireland. The friendly Irish community inspires and supports creativity on a daily basis. I live in a rural community, an hour and a half from the nearest city, but even so, we have local writing groups and writing festivals such as the West Cork Literary Festival, which takes place in July on a yearly basis.
Writing communities such as SCBWI offer a fantastic opportunity for writers to connect either in person or online. I am also a member of numerous online writing communities engaging in webinars and courses — all of which offer advice, information, support, and comradery!
Yes, it is true that the majority of these groups originate in America, but in my experience, geography has very little to do with writing and what opportunities your geographical position affords you.
Writing is a personal exercise; all you need is a notebook and pen or your laptop—depending on your personal preference.
The Internet opens up a world of opportunities for writers.
Most submissions are done through email. Online writing courses are numerous and of a very high standard. There are multiple online writing competitions and local Irish-run competitions. In short, all the tools we need are available right here.
The overall literary market in Ireland is looking very positive — book sales are up, especially in the children’s and YA markets, showing that parents and teenagers are still choosing the physical, printed book. This is important in order to keep our local bookstores open.
Caroline Twomey, author of The Dream Catcher, is a children’s book writer residing in West Cork. She is a critique group leader for SCBWI Ireland, member of Children’s Books Ireland, and Julie Hedlund’s 12 x 12, a postgraduate of University College Cork and The Publishing Training Centre, London.
|The Black Lotus|
by Kieran Fanning
Stories are an integral part of the fabric of everyday life here.
Often, there is no such thing as a short conversation or a quick phone call in Ireland, because one story leads to another and before you know it, you’ve entered a Rip Van Winkle time vortex. It’s no surprise that we have such a wealth of storytellers in the form of artists, actors, musicians, poets, comedians, and writers.
We punch above our weight in terms of children’s literature with heavyweights like Eoin Colfer, Derek Landy, John Boyne, Oliver Jeffers, and Shane Hegarty blazing a trail in the international market. Writers are held in high esteem here, and every second person is “writing a book”. This leads to a wealth of support and inspiration for aspiring writers — from writing groups and workshops to literary festivals and events.
I am involved in two online writing groups, one which is somewhat international in flavour. The other is entirely Irish and linked to SCBWI Ireland. Children’s Books Ireland is a wonderful organisation that brings the cream of literary and artistic talent to Ireland for events and conferences. This abundance of inspiration and support has greatly helped me to complete my first novel, bag an agent (she’s Irish too!) and find a publisher. Chicken House will publish The Black Lotus in August 2015.
By day, Kieran Fanning is a school teacher, who enjoys helping his pupils to write and publish their own books. By night, he writes his own stories, and has published school textbooks, and a series of interactive puzzle books for children. The Black Lotus is his first novel.
Colleen Jones is the Regional Advisor for SCBWI Ireland and is writing a lower middle grade fantasy.