Belfast Book Festival 2015

IMG_4003I had an amazing time at the Belfast Book Festival last weekend. I took part in an event with fellow New Island début novelists Doreen Finn and Gerard Lee which was chaired by the wonderful Jane Wenham-Jones. We each read the opening from our respective books and then chatted about writing, publication, our influences, and our advice for aspiring authors.

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Our event took place in the Crescent Arts Centre, a beautiful multi-purpose arts space. Many of the festival events took place there and it also played host to SacrumProfanum, an exhibition by Kimberly Campanello and Benjamin Dwyer which used poetry, visual art, video installation and music to explore sheela-na-gigs.

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Stevie, the main character in my novel Skin, Paper, Stone is researching sheela-na-gigs so the fact that this was on while I was in Belfast felt particularly fortuitous.  There’s so much mystery surrounding these stone carvings and the exhibition managed to capture some of that enigma.

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As editor of Short Story Ireland, I’m always on the lookout for literary magazines and publication opportunities for short story writers, so The Incubator Journal is something that’s been on my radar for some time. I had time to make a flying visit to their launch of issue 5 on the way to catch my train back to Dublin. It took place in The Black Box (which looked like another great arts space). There’s something wonderful about hearing writers reading their own work and there was a lovely, eclectic mix of poetry, short story and memoir.

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The Belfast Book Festival has only been going for four years but has already established itself as a key event in the literary calendar. It’s definitely worth a visit. Roll on 2016!

Wandering Rocks For Bloomsday

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In honour of Bloomsday, here’s a short story I wrote back in 2013 for A Telmetale Bloomnibus. This was a reading event that took place in the Irish Writers’ Centre to celebrate Bloomsday. 18 writers were invited to use the 18 episodes, or chapters, of Ulysses as their source material to create their own original modern-day interpretations.

I loved taking part in this collaboration and the night itself was a lot of fun. The 18 stories were also published as an ebook which is still available if you fancy reading all of them.

Wandering Rocks

Billy, it’s me. Anto. I never wrote you a letter before. Never had reason to. Fiona suggested it. She’s been pretty cut up about things. Started seeing a counsellor and he told her it might help. Get her thoughts straight. She said it did, that I should give it a go. Just write to you and tell you what’s going on, how things are. So…

Your mam got a telescope from Argos. Said she wanted to see where you were headed. You shoulda seen the state of it, Billy. I told her she’d be lucky to see as far as the lounge in Madigans never mind Mars. She binned that and she’s after ordering another one now special off eBay. Cost a fair bit: computerised, multi-lens… I said to give me a ring when it arrives and I’d call over to her. We can watch the constellations instead of the Late Late. Says she’s getting bored of it these days anyways. Never wins those phone-in raffles. Reckons they’re fixed.

You should hear the lads, Billy. They’re all experts on science all of a sudden. Watching every documentary, reading every article. Shite-ing on about air locks, zero gravity, black holes, and space time continuum like they know what they’re talking about. Not like back in school. Mr. Boyle would be only delighted. Real science nerds at last, paying attention instead of spraying deodorant into Bunsen burners. D’ya remember back in third year when I told you to mix those two chemicals together in that plastic bottle, put the lid on it and shake it? And it all bubbled up and there was this massive bang when the lid went flying off and hit the ceiling. The lab was filled with smoke and there was this rank smell and Boyler was shouting “Don’t inhale, boys! Don’t inhale!” and we all had to leg it outside. You got detention for a week but you never ratted me out. Said it was all your idea.

I missed the trial. Your mam showed me all the papers when I got back. There were protests and all over it. They’re saying it’s like the way they’d send you to Australia years ago if you stole a sliced pan or something. One way ticket, no coming back. Except that’s not what you took. But maybe stealing laptops is like the modern version of stealing bread.

There’s been a bit about it on the news. They said it takes seven months to get there so you should be arriving soon. They said they don’t have the technology yet for a return trip. One way only. They showed pictures of it. Just this rock floating in space. It looked so lonely, so far away. I don’t… But you know, back years ago being sent to Australia was probably like that. It would’ve seemed like a life sentence. But now, sure half the country heads over there. Christmas day on Bondi Beach, living it up. Maybe Mars will be like that in a few years. We’ll all be coming up there to visit you and…

It’s strange you not being here. You were always here. Always. I can’t get my head around it, Billy. I keep going to ring your phone, knock up to your house and then remembering. And this letter, you won’t even get to read this. Unless you get to come back somehow. I don’t know… but what I wanted to say is I feel bad I didn’t get to see you before you went. Thought it’d be better to keep a low profile until it was over. But I’d no idea, Billy. I’d no idea that’s what was gonna happen. I thought community service, or a few months maybe. Jesus.

How were we to know what was on those computers? If they were as important as they said they shoulda kept them somewhere harder to break into, in fairness like. Stealing a few laptops is hardly treason. They weren’t even MacBooks. I can still see you there, dangling over that wall. The security guard dragging you back down. The dogs barking. I had to leg it, Billy. I know you’d have done the same. You would have. You would. You were my best mate… are my best mate.

We’re still mates, Billy, aren’t we? We are, Billy. Aren’t we?

***

Review of Skin Paper Stone in the Galway Advertiser

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I was delighted with the review of Skin, Paper, Stone in today’s Galway Advertiser, particularly as it was written by the inimitable Kevin Higgins. Coincidentally, Kevin’s first review for the Advertiser was published 16 years ago today so — Happy Anni-review-sary, Kevin! (I realise that was terrible. I REGRET NOTHING.)

“Robinson’s contemporary Galway is as intricately drawn as Saul Bellow’s Chicago, Irvine Welsh’s Edinburgh, or Zadie Smith’s North West London: “Joe Kavanagh turned into Buttermilk Lane. A busker’s tune floated up and reverberated off the high buildings, bouncing back to his ears, plaintive and sweet. Even though it was just some cheesy guy with a tin whistle…” They are all here, in Robinson’s all too real Galway: the buskers, beggars, and “degenerates of every persuasion”.”

You can read the review in full here. (Although, if you haven’t read the book yet, maybe skip the last paragraph if you want to keep the ending a surprise.)

Also, I’m off to Belfast next week for an event with fellow New Island novelists Gerard Lee and Doreen Finn. I’m so looking forward to it. Do come along if you’re in the area. Or, you  know, even if you’re not in the area. (ROAD TRIP!) Tickets are available here.

Bring Skin, Paper, Stone On Your Holiers

skin paper stone coverBooks Ireland Magazine is running a ‘summer reader’s pack’ competition. All you have to do is enter your email address to win the following three books:

  • The Secrets We Share by Emma Hannigan
  • Skin, Paper, Stone by Máire T. Robinson
  • What Becomes of Us by Henrietta McKervey

“This trilogy of books by female Irish authors offers a wonderful selection to accompany an afternoon soaking up the sun at home or abroad.”

You can enter the competition here.

Reviews, Reviews, Reviews

dog reading books dachshund professor.jpg-500x400Skin, Paper, Stone has received some new reviews in the last few days. I appreciate the time and effort that goes into writing a review so I want to say a massive thank you. It’s lovely to get people’s subjective response to the book and it’s interesting to see how each reader has focused on a different element of the book which has appealed to them.

Laney Lenox of The Galway Review describes the sense of place in the book:

“In Máire T. Robinson’s debut novel, Skin, Paper, Stone, Galway becomes a character, transcending its place as the setting and interacting intimately with characters, their daily lives and actions influenced directly by the city itself.”

Author of White Feathers, Susan Lanigan, focuses on the prose style:

“What stands out about Robinson’s novel for me is the unfussy and humorous prose. It never gets in the way of the story it’s supposed to tell…”

While Bleach House Library‘s Margaret Madden had this to say about the plot:

“This is not just an average story of boy meets girl or friend becoming foe.  It’s a story of cause and effect. How a new friendship can change your perspective on life, how your goal posts can shift as the days and weeks progress. How one persons idea of love is another’s nightmare.”

You can read the reviews in full here:

The Galway Review

Susan Lanigan, Goodreads

Bleach House Library

Book Launch for Skin, Paper, Stone on April 9th

FullSizeRenderIt’s here!

I’m delighted to announce that my début novel Skin, Paper, Stone has been released into the wild. As we speak, it is giddily roaming in a book aisle near you.

I was thrilled with Sarah Gilmartin’s review in The Irish Times over the weekend (which you can read here) and hope everyone else enjoys it as much.

Come help me celebrate at the official launch party on April 9th, upstairs in Nealon’s pub at 6.30pm. You can join the facebook event here.

Hope to see you there!

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Ladies Who Launch

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I attended two book launches recently for two talented writers, Louise Phillips and Susan Lanigan.

Louise Phillips launched her third book, Last Kiss, which is published by Hachette Books Ireland.

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“In a quiet suburb, a woman desperately clings to her sanity as a shadowy presence moves objects around her home.

In a hotel room across the city, an art dealer with a dubious sexual past is found butchered, his body arranged to mimic the Hangman card from the Tarot deck.

But what connects them?

When criminal psychologist Dr Kate Pearson is brought in to help investigate the murder, she finds herself plunged into a web of sexual power and evil which spreads from Dublin to Paris, and then to Rome.

Will Kate discover the identity of the killer before it’s too late to protect the innocent? But what separates the innocent from the guilty when the sins of the past can never be forgotten?”

Susan Lanigan launched her debút novel White Feathers which is published by O’ Brien Press.

9522“Trapped by a remote father and hostile stepmother in 1913 London, Eva Downey finds love with her teacher Christopher Shandlin. But when war breaks out, her fanatical stepsister Grace forces a choice on Eva: to present pacifist Shandlin with a white feather of cowardice, or to save her sister Imelda with vital treatment in Switzerland…”

Congratulations to Louise and Susan! It’s a long, hard slog getting a novel over the finish line and I have such admiration for them both. I hope both of their books do brilliantly. Last Kiss and White Feathers are available now in all good bookshops.

Happy 4th of July

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4th of July, 2011. A yellow and orange sky. You can’t see the fireworks from Brooklyn, they said. You should cross the river. Or at the very least, find a rooftop, a tall building to look down from. But we chanced it, stood low on a quiet dock. And together looked up as the great expanse yielded and sang.