The write stuff

Louise O' Neill

Posted on: 7th April, 2014

Category: Arts & Entertainment

Contributor: West Cork People

Louise O' Neill’s debut novel, Only Ever Yours, has been described as ‘The Handmaid's Tale meets Heat Magazine’, and has received a glowing endorsement from Jeanette Winterson who said, “O' Neill writes with a scalpel”. It will be published by Quercus in August 2014. Louise is a native of Clonakilty. Over the next six columns/editions Louise will describe, step-by-step, how she went from that initial idea for a novel to signing a two book deal with a London publisher.

Writers often talk about their childhood incarnations as the ‘nerdy kid’ who ‘read all the time’. It’s akin to when supermodels recall being teased for the crime of being too tall and too thin; we all pretend that it’s something that we’re embarrassed by when truthfully I suspect we’re secretly a little proud of this early indication of the path our future selves will follow. So yes, I will admit to living up to the cliché. Reading was my favourite pastime as a child. I read voraciously, I often preferred books to people, the punishment my parents meted out for any particularly nefarious crime I committed was to ‘ban reading’, like something out of Ray Bradbury novel. In those desperate times, I took to reading the back of cereal boxes and washing instructions on clothes. I was incredibly popular, as you can imagine.

At 18, without a clue in the world what I wanted to do with my life besides getting drunk on Saturdays and kissing as many cute boys as I could find, I decided to read English at Trinity. My main criteria for this choice was a)It was very, very far away from home and b) figuring that since I liked to read, English Studies was an easy option. I imagined myself like an Evelyn Waugh character, hanging out with intellectuals in tweed jackets and leather elbow patches, all of us dropping witty bon mots like the spiritual descendants of Oscar Wilde. ‘Oh Tristan, stop it, you’re just wickedly funny’, etc. In truth, I found the course difficult that first year, the standard of academic writing something that I was unprepared for, and my classmates dauntingly brilliant. I loved the texts we were reading, and the lecturers were world class but I found the critical analysis oppressive, leaving little or no room for creativity. In my spare time, I started writing terrible, Sylvia-Plath style poetry, and short stories, which were thinly veiled autobiographical tales. In second year, I began my first attempt at writing a novel, but abandoned it after the first 10,000 words. Everyone wants to write a novel, I’d tell myself. What makes you think you’re so special?

I graduated from Trinity. I completed a post-graduate degree in Fashion Buying, and I moved to New York, to work for the then senior Style Director of Elle Magazine, and street style superstar, Kate Lanphear. I had a job ‘a million girls would kill for’, a boss who was kind and fun to be around no matter how stressful the work was, and I was living in the Greatest City In The World™. ‘And are you happy?’ My father asked me when I came home for Christmas, fashion-thin and worn out. ‘No.’ I answered honestly. ‘I’m not. I want to write. That’s what I want to do.’

‘Well, write then.’ he told me. ‘Get up at 5am and write before going to work. Write on the subway. Write in bed before you go to sleep.’

My father is the sort of man who thrives on self-imposed challenges, on tightly organised schedules, on taking pride in doing a job perfectly, all attributes that are reflected in the manner in which he runs his butcher shop in Clonakilty. I couldn’t explain to him that twelve hour days on my feet, sometimes without a lunch break, meant to that the subway ride home was often spent pretending to fall asleep so I wouldn’t have to give up my seat for the pregnant woman opposite me. (I still feel bad. Honest!) So, I left New York and came home to Ireland in 2011, saying I needed some ‘space to breathe.’ My relationship broke up, and I couldn’t find a job, giving me all the space I could ever want, and I didn’t know what to do with myself besides watching a worrying amount of One Direction interviews on YouTube and marvelling over Harry Styles’ hair. When people asked what I was going to do now that I was home, I said I was going to try and write a novel, of course.

September passed. Then October, November, December, January. I had been home nearly six months when my birthday arrived in February. I tore the paper of my parent’s present eagerly.

A new laptop.

‘For your novel!’ My mom said, delighted with herself.

Oh crap, I thought, pretending to smile gratefully at her. I’m actually going to have to write the damned thing now.

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Submarines, American Sailors, and the Underwater War in Irish Waters, 1917-1918
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on Thursday Oct 26 2017 at 8.30 pm

In 1917, unrestricted submarine warfare by German U-boats brought the United States into WWI and created a crisis in Britain. To defeat the submarine menace, an American naval fleet was dispatched to County Cork, bringing about 10,000 sailors with it. This talk will explain the circumstances of this extraordinary event, and how Cork residents dealt with their unexpected American guests.

Dr John Borgonovo is a lecturer in the School of History at UCC. His publications include Spies, Informers, and the 'Anti-Sinn Féin' Society: The Intelligence War in Cork City, 1920-1921; The Dynamics of War and Revolution: Cork City, 1916-1918; Exercising a close vigilance over their daughters: Cork women, American sailors, and Catholic vigilantes, 1917-18; Something in the Nature of a Massacre: The Bandon Valley Killings Revisited (with Andy Bielenberg). His latest publication (with co-authors John Crowley, Donal Ó Drisceoil and Mike Murphy) is the highly acclaimed and magnificient Atlas of the Irish Revolution. In July of this year, he organised a very successful conference on Winning the Western Approaches - Unrestricted Submarine Warfare and the US Navy in Ireland 1917-1918.
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11th October, 2017  ·  

Apple Juicing Day in Clonakilty next Sunday Sept 30th. All welcome to bring their apples from 2-6pm to the Clonakilty Community Garden (on entrance road to Clonakilty Lodge).

Building on the success of its inaugural 2016 event, local voluntary environmental organisation Sustainable Clonakilty invites people to bring along their apples and press them to extract their own juice to take home, using the group's Apple Press.

Volunteers will be at hand to assist in the procedure. Bring along your apples washed; clean containers to freeze your juice (milk/juice bottles or cartons, plastic bottles with caps); clean, sterilised glass bottles to pasteurise with swing caps or suitable for 26 mm diameter metal cap.

A limited number of new 3 litres juice bags that are suitable for freezing and pasteurising, can be purchased for a nominal fee on the day also.

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For further information, please contact Xavier at or text at 086/0476124.
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