WRITERS who published books during the pandemic but were unable to have launches will be celebrated at the Cork World Book Fest (CWBF) at an event called ‘Lost Launches’.
This collaboration between Cork City Libraries and the monthly literary event, ‘Fiction at the Friary’, will take place at St Peter’s on North Main Street on April 24 from 3pm-6pm. It will give the public the opportunity to meet about 18 writers with Cork connections and chat to them about their latest books as well as enjoy readings from them delivered by an actor.
Fiction writers, Madeleine D’Arcy and Danielle McLaughlin (whose novel The Art of Falling has been shortlisted for the Dublin Literary Award 2022 worth €100,000) run ‘Fiction at the Friary.’ They are curating the CWBF event.
Over lunch in a Cork city hotel, Madeleine, author of the critically acclaimed short story collection, Liberty Terrace, published last autumn, points out that book launches are an important part of the publishing experience. Not being able to host one “has a psychological effect”.
“You’ve done all the work but if there’s no launch, the book is going to end up at the back of the shelf. There’s a moment in time where you get the chance to promote your book. But once a book is out for a while, it’s not a new book anymore,” she said.
She adds that online launches are very different from in-person ones.
Danielle says that a book launch is a celebration, shared with family and friends.
“Cork writers are so good at coming out and supporting each other. That was lost so many times over the last two years.”
However, the pandemic and its restrictions must have been good for writers, with little to distract them, allowing them to plot and write from home?
Madeleine, who has completed a novel, says she found it difficult to get work done during this time because of “various Covid-related family issues.”
And when the war in Ukraine broke out, that proved to be a massive source of worry for the author.
“I think there are two different types of writers. There’s the ones who are affected a lot by the world around them. And there are writers that really welcome having to stay at home and not think of anything other than writing.
“I’m a worrier that doesn’t get things done. But I know there are writers who can block out everything and concentrate on the work. Covid was possibly a godsend for them.”
Danielle went through different phases over the two years of on and off lockdown.
“In the beginning, when it started, I thought that being such an introvert meant I’d be great at coping. But I found, over time, the whole stress and anxiety built up and that kind of dragged me down. I had to get myself out of that.
“I was quite good at the beginning. I kind of slid down into a big ball of work. I actually got a good chunk of work done.
“Just before the pandemic, I was down in the remote Cill Rialaig Arts Centre in Ballinskelligs. I did a draft zero of a novel there, really really rough, over ten days. Later, I got to the point where I was able to send it off to my agent. Obviously, there were loads of rewrites. Over the course of the pandemic, it kind of came together.”
The novel is about a single mother from Dublin who moves to rural Ireland with her teenage son.
“It kind of looks at urban and rural lives,” she adds.
Madeleine has recently sent out her debut novel to an agent and has started work on a second one.
“My first novel has four points of view. This time, I’ve decided to be more sensible so it’s from the point of view of one character. Whereas my first novel has a connection with England, the second one has a connection with France.”
Madeleine says she was “doing great until the war in Ukraine broke out. And along with that there were new surges of variants of Covid. I found it all really stressful. It’s just incredible. You think you can separate your head into different parts. But what struck me was how pointless all of this writing stuff is. What are you writing about when there are so many important things in the world troubling your head? It’s hard to maintain a certain amount of enthusiasm and good humour. Not that you have to be funny in your writing. But you have to be sort of engaged and in a good frame of mind. So that’s difficult. I’m only just coming back (to myself) again.”
Both Madeleine and Danielle had careers as solicitors before the writing bug gripped them.
Writing is a difficult path. So what motivates these two hard-working ,award-winning authors?
Madeleine says she finds “the business of writing very difficult”.
“I find the demands on writers to be on social media and to present ourselves to the public gaze troubling. It’s not something I really want to do.
“The only thing about writing is that I feel worse when I’m not writing. It’s one of those weird things.”
But there is also the satisfaction gleaned from getting it right. Madeleine references Cork writer, Frank O’Connor’s book of correspondence about writing to New Yorker editor and writer, William Maxwell. It’s called The Happiness of Getting it Down Right and that is what sees Madeleine turning up at her desk every day.
“When you’re actually finished something and you’re happy that the words are in the right place, it’s a great feeling,” she said.
“Everything else is terrible. But once you’ve experienced getting it right, there’s always the drive to go back and the aspiration to write something again. You do it to the best of your ability. But most of the time, writing is incredibly difficult.”
A LOVE OF STORIES
Danielle keeps writing because she loves making up stories.
“I just love the freedom of being able to tell any story that you want to and spin it around a character.
“I love working with words on a very precise level and there’s the challenge of seeing what you can make the words do while you’re telling the story.”
Going back to law is something that has crossed Danielle’s mind from time to time.
“But I hope I have enough cop on to know I have quite a nice life, getting out of bed whatever time I want to in the morning and doing work in my own time. Law is hugely pressurised.”
And as Madeleine chimes in, “you can’t do it in your pyjamas!”
FICTION AT THE FRIARY IS BACK IN PERSON
Health regulations permitting, ‘Fiction at the Friary’ is now back in the Friary Bar.
“Funds permitting, we’ll be filming our events,” says Madeleine.
“During Covid, we weren’t in the bar but at least we had a record of everything we did because it was recorded on Zoom. It’s all on our Fiction at the Friary YouTube channel. It’s good to have a record of these things. In 30 or 40 years’ time, it might be of interest.
“Someone thought that making the black and white films of Frank O’Connor were a good idea. They may not have thought we’d be looking at them in 50 years’ time.”
‘Fiction at the Friary’ receives funding from the Arts Council, City Council, UCC’s English department, Hogan Architects and J Rap O’Meara.
Madeleine and Danielle are really looking forward to the Lost Launches event at the Cork World Book Festival. Writers taking part include Billy O’Callaghan, Catherine Kirwan, Cónal Creedon, Gráinne Murphy, Mel O’Doherty, Eimear Ryan, Alannah Hopkin and Eibhear Walshe to mention just a few. It promises to be a lively and stimulating event.
For more on Cork World Book Festival events see https://corkworldbookfest.com/