2016 Wrap Up!

2016 was an incredibly mixed year. Professionally, things couldn’t have been better, but there were some personal lows that certainly kept my feet on the ground and made me question many aspects of my life.

The year began with The Book of Learning – Nine Lives Trilogy 1 being chosen as the 2016 Dublin UNESCO City of Literature Citywide Read for Children. An initiative that encourages reading for fun, this is very close to my heart because if it wasn’t for books, my life would be very different indeed. Books were my childhood sanctuary and I can’t extol the value of reading enough – books really can change lives.

As for the UNESCO events from January to April, words can’t explain how amazing an experience this was. Walking into a room where all the children have read and enjoyed your book is just incredible, as was reading in the beautiful National Library of Ireland and the grand finale – a St Patrick’s Big Day Out event in a Georgian house based on 23 Mercury Lane in my book (with real pet rats).

The UNESCO team – particularly Jackie Lynam who has now become a true and valued friend – was incredible to work with; both professional and human. It was during this time that I lost two close friends and they were so incredibly supportive, I can’t thank them enough – so a huge thank you goes out to everyone involved. (Look out for Dave Rudden’s Knights of the Borrowed Dark events from January to March as the 2017 Dublin UNESCO Citywide Read kicks into action – they’re going to be amazing).

Publication wise, my first young adult book, Caramel Hearts, was released in Ireland and Australia in June, and I was honoured to have Sinead Gleeson launch the book for me. Sinead is an incredible woman whom I admire very much because of her kindness, her honesty and her integrity. Sinead’s writing and interviews always have a profound effect on me and I’m looking forward to more in 2017.

img_6895Later in the year, The Book of Shadows – Nine Lives Trilogy 2 was published, and this went on to be shortlisted for the Irish Book Awards! This was a wonderful night, shared with many great friends who were also shortlisted and I also got to see my husband in a tux! In addition, The Book of Learning was optioned for dramatic rights by the lovely and enthusiastic Ripple World Pictures – watch this space!

There have been over 100 events in schools and libraries this year, including a rather busy October, spent touring for joint events with Alan Early. The Children’s Book Festival is exciting yet hectic, but Alan really made the month fly by with plenty of laughs – if you haven’t already, you should check out his Arthur Quinn series. It’s brilliant.

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Festivals have been kind to me also this year, including West Cork Literary Festival, Doolin Writers Weekend, Ryedale Book Festival, Mountains to Sea, Belfast Book Festival and Listowel Writers Week – each was a pleasure and a joy and I can’t wait to return.

Festivals provide so much for writers; the chance to get in front of an audience, some income, time to meet with other writers and also attend their events to keep the whole writing side fresh and interesting. Writing festivals are a highlight in any writers’ calendar, so thank you to everyone who works tirelessly to keep them going!

However, on the flip side, some very close friends died this year, and the loss of their smiles, their chat, their talent, is keenly felt. In addition, with so much success comes lots of hard work and I have to admit, even though I’m a born grafter, I found the workload crushing at times. I’ve had to sometimes neglect those close to me and have struggled to maintain friendships without any free time. My husband, my friends and my village have all been so understanding – it’s an incredible thing to have finally found a home.

And so, what has 2016 shown me? To make sure you look after and cherish those close to you, as well as your own health – because that’s what really matters. And so, that’s exactly what I intend to do in 2017. I have many more people to thank for their support and encouragement this year, but that’s a post for New Year.

Happy Christmas all and see you in 2017 x

Winston Gallery!

Everyone has a different favourite character from The Book of Learning, but Winston is proving rather popular – especially during our illustration demonstrations. If you’ve drawn a character from my book, I’d love to see it! You can send me a photo or post your drawing (everyone likes happy post!) to:  ER Murray, c/o Mercier Press Ltd, Unit 3b Oak House, Bessboro Rd, Blackrock, Cork, T12 D6CH

I’ll be demonstrating how to draw Winston in The Book of Learning House on Merrion Square (March 20th, part of the Big Day Out, St Patrick’s Festival in Dublin) so come along and join in! There’ll be real rats, a magician, writing and art workshops and more… and I’ll be there. Stop by and say hello!

In the meantime, here’s some of my ‘Winston Gallery’ drawings so far…

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(Photos taken during a Dublin UNESCO Citywide Read event in the National Library of Ireland)

Best Ever Reader Feedback!

Many people ask what it’s like to be an author, and I always say that the best bit is meeting the readers. Of course I adore the writing side; coming up with an idea, beating it into shape, then fine tuning it with the help on an editor or two. But once the book is in the public sphere, I also love the social side; literary festivals, interviews, radio, events in schools/libraries/bookshops.

Although it is also slightly terrifying, nothing beats getting feedback on your book. Whether it’s a review online (see goodreads and amazon) or it’s a person in front of you, telling you their thoughts about your book, meeting people that have enjoyed your work is an incredible feeling. And so, I thought I’d share some of the feedback… (keep going to see the video at the end!)

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Huge thanks to Bronagh for adding me in her school magazine!

And huge thanks also to the girls and boys that filled out feedback sheets after the UNESCO Citywide Read events. Here are some of the comments I’ve received so far – they make me chuckle SO MUCH I had to share!

Question: Did you enjoy the event?

‘Yes, it was a very scary story and it was good to meet the author’.

‘Yes, it was very good. It was good to meet the author. Her book was awesome’.

‘Yes, it was funny’.

‘Yes, it was the best’.

‘Yes, it was a great book and I can’t wait to read the next one’.

‘Yes, I enjoyed today so much. We enjoyed it a lot and had fun. I hope we come again soon’.

‘Yes, it was fun. She was funny’.

‘Yes, she’s so kind and happy’.

‘Yes 🙂  She likes death’.

‘Yes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Amazing. I love it sooooooo much’.

‘Yes!!!! 🙂 I think she’s funny because she likes death :-p . It was a great book!!’

‘Yep!! The Book of Learning is my favourite book! I can’t wait for the second one to come out!!!

‘Yes, for sure. I hope more will be coming from her soon’.

‘Yes, it was amazing. I can’t wait for the next books. It was so good, and it was spooky. She is really nice and funny’.

‘Yes I thought it was great, I learned a lot about writing. I am going to read the next one’.

‘Yes, I liked it, I’d say 10 out of 10’.

‘Yes, so much. It was good 10/10 and I hope that we do it again J’.

‘Yes, a lot. The ghost stories are creepy and really cool’.

‘Yeah it was great. I haven’t finished the book yet but it was great as far as I read. It was just so good and I’d say the next book will be even better’.

‘Yes!! I really liked the book and Elizabeth is really nice’.

‘Yes, I thought it was amazing and I was so sad when I heard that the second one isn’t out yet’.

‘Yes, I thought it was really good and interesting’.

‘Yes, I really enjoyed the book and the talk. She was nice’.

‘Yes, I liked it and mark it 10/10’.

‘Yes it was great. It was excellent to meet the author and her book was amazing’.

My favourite quote from a review:

“I loved this book so much that I made Lego figures of Zach and Ebony, and I don’t usually mix up my Lego figures! My mind was racing when I was reading this book, trying to piece together the clues, but I had to read to figure it out.” (Mia, aged 12)

And here’s a real treat – a surprise rat rap from Pied Piper of Hamlyn

 

 

 

Dublin UNESCO February Roundup

And so, the Citywide Read journey continues! There have been more amazing events, plenty of laughs, and a few surprises along the way…

IMG_4214Libraries visited in February were the National Library of Ireland, Ballyfermot, Inchicore, Coolock, Ballymun, Ringsend, Rathmines, and Pearse St. Author and illustrator Oisin McGann did an illustration workshop in the Hugh Lane Gallery based on The Book of Learning, and I heard that it was fabulous (not that I expected anything less). In addition, we had a lovely event in Waterways Ireland Visitor Centre where two groups of sodden children arrived through the doors on a wild, wet day, and listened to some readings of equally wild and windy sea scenes (thanks go to Ifty Finn for organising).

IMG_4296Our book trail and Illustration session in the National Library of Ireland also had a great turn out. Part of The Book of Learning is set in this iconic building, so we purposely scheduled the event out of hours so the kids could hear a piece read in the stunning Reading Room (they’d usually be too young). The idea worked; the tiny desks and vast, domed room created the perfect backdrop -so, huge thanks go to Brid O’Sullivan for making that happen! Amazingly, some of the attendees had been to a previous UNESCO Citywide Read event and wanted to come again! How lovely is that?

A few of the wonderful surprises I received this time include a massive group hug, a pitch perfect David Attenborough impression (I was asked what I’d like to be reincarnated as, and I chose Mr Attenborough, of course!) and some rat jokes.

Events you can still attend…

There are still a few events coming up in March, including an open event in Cabra Library (March 8th at 3.30pm) and a really special event as part of the Big Day Out St Patrick’s Festival on March 20th, when a Georgian building on Merrion Square will be transformed into 23 Mercury Lane from my book! Check out www.dublincityofliterature.ie for more details and I hope to see you there!

I’d like to leave you with a few extra photos…IMG_4216 FullSizeRender (26)

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Dublin UNESCO January Roundup!

FullSizeRender (18)And so, the Dublin UNESCO Citywide Reading Campaign has begun! As an author, these past few weeks have proved to be a really exciting time, and as a debut author, I’m still pinching myself.

Up to now there has been a photo shoot in the National Library of Ireland, and events in seven Dublin City Public Libraries – Raheny, Donaghmede, Central Library, Charleville Mall, Walkinstown, Dolphins Barn, and Marino – as well as a visit to Scoil Chiarain Special Needs School in Glasnevin. The library staff have been warm, welcoming and supportive, and the response from both teachers and pupils has been incredibly positive. Jackie from UNESCO has been a godsend, making sure the packed schedule runs smoothly, and all in all, I’m feeling really grateful to everyone involved – especially the readers.

As The Book of Learning has only been out for a few months, usually when I do events, I’m introducing myself and hoping people might like my book as I read. Imagine how different it feels walking into a room with between 30 and 60 pupils at a time engrossed in the book and full of questions! That’s more than 400 readers up to now – and you should hear how smart their questions are! Here are some of my favourites so far:

  • IMG_4142Did you ever nearly have a nervous breakdown writing a book?
  • Who is your favourite baddie?
  • If you weren’t a writer, what would you like to be?
  • If you could write a book with any other author, who would it be?
  • If you could meet any author, living or dead, who would you meet?
  • If you had a Book of Learning, what do you think you would see?

IMG_4130Reading is so important to me, and being part of a campaign that encourages reading for fun is an absolute honour. So far, the atmosphere is exactly what I hoped for; a space where we can all celebrate books and reading. We talk about what the books and authors we love and why, and what reading means to us. We reveal a few secrets, explore ideas, share our passions and laugh plenty. There are quizzes, illustration demonstrations, and games thrown into the mix – it’s all about fun and looking at books and reading from a fresh perspective.

There are lots more events coming up over the next two months, including a book trail in the National Library of Ireland, an illustration workshop with the wonderful Oisin McGann in Hugh Lane Gallery, and a really special event as part of the Big Day Out St Patrick’s Festival in March. Check out www.dublincityofliterature.ie for more details!

I’d like to leave you with a couple of surprises that I wasn’t expecting. The first is the sighting of posters on Dublin Bus – don’t they look amazing?

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And the second is the fantastic window display in Hodges Figgis Bookshop that blew me away. It’s every writer’s dream to see something like this!

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I do hope to see you at some of the events over the coming months – remember to visit www.dublincityofliterature.ie for more details on what’s happening and how you can book your space. And don’t forget to come and say hi!

Thank you everyone!

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That wonderful feeling, when people read your book!

2015 was a busy year and a bit of a rollercoaster, but oh so exciting; not only did my debut The Book of Learning hit the shelves, but it was also named Dublin UNESCO Citywide Read for 2016! This is a huge honour as a new author, and I’m looking forward to the many events that have been planned for next year as a result (I’ll provide more details on those in January).

In the three months since my book has been published, I’ve been lucky enough to meet many readers through the Children’s Book Festival (run by the incredible library service), as well as Dublin Book Festival, Creative Ardagh FrightFest, the CBI Conference and various school events. It’s been a dream come true and there’s nothing like getting feedback on your book – it really is the best feeling ever!

The next book to be published, March 2016

The next book to be published, March 2016

Two more books have already been delivered to their respective publishers, and so there’s plenty more to come. But I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for the part they’ve played in making my first year as a published author so special.

To everyone who bought my book, reviewed my book on goodreads or amazon or their website, attended a launch, sent kind words of encouragement or feedback, gave heartfelt advice or simply a hug when I looked tired, thank you so much. I couldn’t have done it without you.

And for those of you seeking a book deal -whatever you’re writing, keep going. I know you’ll get there, and it will be worth the slog.