Cecil Day Lewis Literary Bursary Award

Earlier this year, I submitted an application to the local arts council for the Cecil Day Lewis Literary Bursary Award. I really didn’t expect it to lead to anything, but as someone on the telly used to say (or maybe it was something to do with the lotto?), ‘you’ve got to be in it to win it’. So, off my application went and I duly forgot all about it, until an envelope arrived in the post a few months later confirming that I was the recipient of the Cecil Day Lewis Bursary Award for Emerging Writers.

I was thrilled! Me? Really?!

My first reaction was surprise. ‘But, I never win anything!’ And then I realised that I hadn’t won this award – I had been awarded it. Somebody, somewhere had read the chapters of the novel I’d submitted, had read the idea for the novel I was working on – and for which I would use the bursary to assist with research – and they liked what they read. Any writer will tell you how much it means to have their work appreciated; to have their words read by somebody who isn’t their sister, husband or mother-in-law; by somebody who thinks that their writing is worthy of supporting, financially or otherwise.

So, I was absolutely thrilled to receive the award at the closing event of the Kildare Readers’ Festival at the Riverbank Arts Centre in Newbridge last Sunday. The festival took place over three days and was extremely well received. Highlights of the programme included sessions by Paul Howard and Joseph O’Connor, who spoke to a packed house at the Riverbank Theatre. There was also a great author panel featuring Martina Reilly, Roisin Meaney, Colm Liddy and Adrian Millar.

The final event of the festival was hosted by Dermot Bolger who spent a fascinating hour talking and reading poetry with Paul Durcan and Aidan Murphy before the bursary awards were announced. For a rainy Sunday morning the event was very well attended and after receiving the award, I was given the opportunity to read a chapter of my novel to a full theatre, which was a wonderful – if totally terrifying – experience!

Am I glad I submitted that application all those months ago? Absolutely. The bursary gives me a chance to make that research trip and attend that conference I wouldn’t otherwise have attended, but, apart from that, it is the acknowledgement that my writing is worthy of support which means the absolute world to me.

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The name’s Faulks. Sebastian Faulks.

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So, I had the very great pleasure recently of meeting literary legend Sebastian Faulks. Yes, I was nervous. Yes, I was star-struck. Yes, I asked him if he’d read Fifty Shades of Grey (no,he hasn’t!)

Sometimes, it’s hard to grasp the enormity of an author’s influence and ‘celebrity’ status, especially when you meet them face-to-face and they turn out to be thoroughly decent and very down-to-earth chaps – like Faulks. It’s not until you then take a trip to London and see huge posters all over the underground stations for the novel you’ve just interviewed someone about, that you fully appreciate how lucky you were to talk to the author in person.

Faulks’ new novel A Possible Life is getting rave reviews by the critics. I asked him all about the novel and about his incredible career as an author. The full interview is available to read over at writing.ie where there is also an opportunity to win a copy of A Possible Life.

Philippa Gregory in Person: Part 2

In the second part of my interview with the fabulous Philippa Gregory, she talks about the screen adaptation of her Cousins’ War novels, her YA series and shares the wonderful story of her path to publication. She also offers some great advice for aspiring authors.

Read all about it over at writing.ie and click here for Part 1 of the interview.