Book battles, motivation, & manuscripts

IMG_8448How is it March already? I can hardly believe it! But I am enjoying the stretch in the evenings and the earlier dawn. I love early mornings and being able to go for a walk at 7am makes a huge difference to my working day – though I’m finding it difficult to get up and out early in this wintry cold. West Cork is looking beautiful, but those hailstone showers! Even the dog doesn’t want to go out.

And so, a few things I’ve been up to… Firstly, I attended the grand final of Battle of the Book, along with fabulous author and friend, Alan Early, and we got to watch six schools fight it out in a quiz about our books. I loved the rainbow of coloured T-shirts used to identify the schools – and I also loved that the contestants knew more about our books than we did! Congratulations to Garristown on their win. Guess what the prize was? A behind the scenes tour of Dublin Airport! (Not jealous at all. Not even a little bit 🙂 )

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I was also really lucky to be able to chat to a roomful of students who graduated from the Suas numeracy and literacy programmes. The pupils were with their teachers, peers, and mentors, and the atmosphere was brilliant as they celebrated their achievements with certificates, photos and goody bags, before getting a tour of UCC. Well done to everyone involved.

image1-3I’m also delighted to tell you about short story I was commissioned to write for Folens Starlight Primary English Programme. The story is called ‘The Trouble with Lightning’ and it’s a fictional tale about a dog during World War 2. It was a lovely project to be involved in and I had no idea that there were going to be gorgeous illustrations too – it’s just been published and I have a copy winging its way to me. I can’t wait to see it in the flesh.

IMG_8445There’s a school that I write to in the UK, sending reading recommendations every few months, and they’ve written back with some of their own. Their choices: Wonder, Cogheart, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Anne Frank’s Diary and The Boy in Striped Pyjamas. I love getting mail as much as I love sending it, so this was a cracking surprise.

Other projects include seven weeks of READON workshops with teens, an article on writing.ie about my writer’s room (which turns out to be several rooms), and a few opportunities I can’t talk about yet – but I’ll keep you posted as soon as I can. I also hear that the script for The Book of Learning film is just about finished. Exciting times indeed!

But the biggest news is, I’m just six chapters away from completing my next WIP, ready to send on to my wonderful agent, Sallyanne Sweeney, for feedback. There’s been a lot going on and I was worried about falling behind with my manuscript, so I had a three-day retreat at Greywood Arts and got myself back on track. It’s a lovely retreat in a fantastic spot, with woods nearby and gorgeous owners and it was exactly what I needed to redress the balance.

IMG_8378I’m currently out of contract, which means I have to polish the manuscript before trying to sell it, so I can’t say much about the story right now. But wish me luck – firstly with getting it finished, and then the edits, and somewhere along the line, the submission! The publishing world is a rollercoaster of crazy so you never know where your writing journey will lead – but I wouldn’t change it for the world.

So, if you’re trying to get published, or you’re out of contract, or you’re on submission and not having much success, I’m sending you a hug, an extra cup of tea, a pat on the back, or whatever it is you need to keep going.

Remember, it’s a love of story, a love of words, that brought you to this point and that’s what will carry you through.

Happy writing! x

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Some news & updates!

Sometimes, things can get so busy that I’m caught up on the treadmill of writing, events, freelancing, pitching, and social media, that I forget to check in on my own blog.  I know, I suck. I’m sorry. I must try harder. And so, I thought I should share some bits of news…

Firstly, The Book of Learning has been included on the Junior Cycle English suggested text list for first year pupils here in Ireland (alongside Steinbeck! Pullman! Morpurgo!). I know the education system doesn’t suit everyone, but I fought for an education and it provided me with opportunities I’d never dreamed of – so here’s to opportunity! This is a big honour and I’m truly delighted (see list below).

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And secondly, the script and treatment for The Book of Learning screenplay is now underway with Rippleworld Pictures. There’s a long way to go but watch this space!

The Book of Learning is also on its fourth reprint, so if you’re having trouble getting a copy, hang in there – I have it on good authority they’ll be back on the shelves soon.

Event wise, I’ve been busy with drama groups in Dunmanway, Cruinniú na nÓg readings in Enniscorthy, the Hinterland Festival Kells, some school visits, and a week of workshops, events and chairing at the West Cork Literary Festival. Co-tutoring with Dave Lordan on the Words Allowed workshop was an exceptional treat; seeing Dave in action and getting to spend a week with enthusiastic and talented teens was a blast. I also got to meet some writing heroes, catch up with old buddies and make some new friends. All in all, this events malarkey is one of my favourite things about being a writer. I’ll have details of more events coming soon…

And as for writing; I got feedback from my agent on my adult WIP and I’m about to dive back in on the next draft. Meanwhile, I finished a draft of a children’s book WIP (8-12 years) and have sent that to a trusted reader. So although things are slow, they’re moving.

So, what else? There’s a lovely review of The Book of Shadows and Caramel Hearts up on Storgy Kids, – if you haven’t checked it out yet, do! – and the lovely Mia, one of my all-time favourite interviewers, did an amazing interview about The Book of Revenge over on Bleach House Library. I was also lucky enough to get to interview fabulous writer Carmen Marcus over on writing.ie; she has lots to say that matches my own heart re opportunities, class and making it as a working class writer.

hostelAnd finally, some books I’d highly recommend. First up, I am Thunder by Muhammad Khan – an incredible YA book that’s brave and honest, full of heart and hope. I was lucky enough to listen to Muhammad speak and if you can get to an event of his, do – he’s incredible. Next, This Hostel Life by Melatu Uche Okorie, a small but important collection of short stories and essays, from the perspective of different migrants. Also, Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins (adult fiction) – a disquieting look at human relationships in a precarious future.

But enough about me – what about you? What have you been up to? What have you been dreaming of/working towards? What books have you been reading? How’s your summer been? I look forward to finding out!

Pictures & Feedback from Readers :)

One of the best things about being an author is meeting readers. I love talking about books and writing, and I love to hear what readers think. My events are about books in general, not just my own, but I do love seeing how The Book of Learning has inspired people to create something else; a piece of art or work of their own.

Here’s a slideshow of some of the great work by St Patrick’s National School via Drumcondra library:

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And some more feedback I’d like to share, this time from Jamie, Realtín, Juli, Jack and Jamie…

  • Today was a good day. Thank you very much.
  • Elizabeth Murray’s talk was very good. We learned a lot.
  • We listened to a chapter from the Book of Learning.
  • We thought it was interesting but a little scary!
  • We then made up a story about a lady called Matilda.
  • Elizabeth told us that she keeps  a notebook for her writing. We think
    that this is a great idea. We met the author Rod Smith last week and he
    keeps a notebook too.
  • We asked Elizabeth lots of questions and she answered them all.
  • We thought she was very interesting and funny.
  • She told us that she takes off her shoes and socks when she writes!
  • We liked her blue hair!

Thank you so much to everyone for your comments and great work! Happy reading!