A great cause: Because I am a girl…

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In case you haven’t heard of it, Plan.ie is an international charity that dedicates it time and money to helping children around the world, promoting child rights to end child poverty. On their website, Plan.ie explains:

For almost 80 years we’ve been taking action and standing up for every child’s right to fulfil their potential. On a daily basis, our energy is devoted to making a difference for children living in poverty.”

Because I am a Girl is just one strand of this charity’s reach: a global equality movement which transforms communities by empowering girls.

singing kites school cambodia

Getting ready for school! Cambodia (author’s own photo)

I was delighted to be invited to write a blog post for Because I am a Girl, as my various travels – including my recent trip to Cambodia – have highlighted that this is an important area that still requires a lot of work.

You can learn more about the project, what you can do to help, and also read my blog post here.

 

Banshee: New Literary Journal Seeking Submissions

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banshee140x210There’s a new literary journal on the block and, knowing the people behind it (Laura Jane Cassidy, Claire Hennessy & Eimear Ryan),  this is going to be good quality stuff. Everything from the ethos, to the organisation, to the work accepted and the overall presentation, promises to be top notch – and they’re open for submissions. Personally, I can’t wait to see the results.

Over on writing.ie, Claire explains a little bit more…

We’re all writers; we know that talking and dreaming and hoping only take you so far. We also know what anything creative in any way is like – it is almost inevitably more work, and takes longer, than you imagine it will be.

But we’re doing this anyway. In part because several great outlets for Irish writing, such as The SHOp and wordlegs, are now closed; in part because there are lots of marvellous newer outlets, like The Penny Dreadful  and The Bohemyth  and Colony  and Gorse , going from strength to strength. In part because there are longstanding outlets like Hennessy (no relation, alas) New Irish Writing, now in The Irish Times , and The Stinging Fly , continuing to do a great job; and in part because there is always a need for new blood, for new editorial eyes, in anything creative. And mostly because we love words and language and what people can do with them.

Fair play to the girls. There can never be enough great journals as far as I’m concerned.

The first submissions window for Banshee is open until March 31st, and they aim to reply to all submissions by the end of May…

You can read the full details here: http://www.bansheelit.com/

 

Rural Ireland: More Photos of Spring

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rural ireland garden

Planting shallots

irish wildlife ladybird

1st ladybird of the summer (no, we didn’t plant her – we found a nice nettle)

potato drills ireland

The all-important potato drills

gardening ireland

Lovely red earth for planting (we use seaweed for manure over winter)

irish farm spring

A lovely Spring scene

irish farm dog

Our rather handsome dog, helping

rural irish garden

Shallots for planting

irish calf

A young calf, just days old

One of the spring lambs

One of the spring lambs

 

Spring in the Irish countryside

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One of the spring lambs

One of the spring lambs

Spring is here and this means lambs, calves, daffodils – and lots of ground to dig up in preparation for planting our vegetables. This is a wonderful time of year in the Irish countryside if you don’t mind a bit of hard work and gardening in the rain (or the hailstone, as I discovered last week).

My husband and I have tried planting as much as half an acre of vegetables in the past, all grown organically and managed by hand, but the amount of work involved was incredible and the crops return very little. With so much to look after, it’s really difficult to keep on top of the slugs, rooks, and rabbits, and so this year, we’re sticking with a few drills of potatoes and several raised beds – some in a field and one in the front garden – along with the tunnel.

rural irish garden

Shallots for planting

It’s still early, but so far we’ve got two decent drills of early potatoes sat, and this weekend we planted a bed of shallots. Next week, I’ll be able to plant some of the hardier seeds in the tunnel; lettuce, chillis, and purple beans to start, as well as various pak choi seeds I bought in Thailand.

I’ll wait a little longer for the herbs as they need lots of sun and I’m not convinced there’s enough just yet for them to grow properly. Our greenhouse (‘tunnel’) is built against a shed, so it doesn’t have 100% light – and this, we’ve discovered, means we have to amend the usual planting times for better results.

It’s such a lovely feeling having stuff planted – I love everything about it; the digging, manuring, watching things grow, planting out, weeding – and of course, eating! It’s a great way to get away from the computer, and let your head unwind. And every year, you learn something new.

Growing your own food is just wonderful and I can’t recommend it highly enough. You don’t even need to have a big space available – I’ve helped quite a few people grow their own veg in tiny spaces, including window boxes – so if it’s something you’re interested in but don’t know where to start, just shout!

You can also feel the stretch in the evenings now, which is a real treat when there are no streetlights nearby. This week, we’ve seen flowers burst open, a few pheasants, wild ducks and the first few ladybirds; the sun has been shining and the sea has been the most stunning turquoise imaginable. It all feels loaded with so much promise, it makes you glad to be alive.

Who else has that Spring feeling?

What does Spring mean to you?

irish calf

A young calf, just days old

 

Brain splurge & a burning question…

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It’s been quiet on the blogging front because it’s been hectic – so apologies to all.

Schull, West Cork

View from near my home

It ended up easier than I expected to adjust to the cold weather in Ireland after my Cambodia trip; partly because my husband is a great hunter gatherer and has us stockpiled with fuel for this winter and next, but also because – despite the constant hail stone – there have been plenty of blue skies. And everything feels easier when there’s a blue sky.

So, what have I been up to? Actually, quite a bit. In the last two weeks, I’ve completed and delivered the final edits of The Book of Learning (Nine Lives Trilogy Book 1), so next time I see it, it’ll be a proof copy (which means it’s almost a real book).

There’s been plenty of excitement while my cover was being designed – and bang! Now I have a cover! I absolutely love everything about it, and I’ll let you see it as soon as I can, I promise.

I’ve also been accepted on a three-week writers retreat in France later in the year, invited to participate in an exciting new Cork publication (more details to follow) and invited to speak on a panel in Cork on April 25th (again, more info later).

And, breathe…

When it comes to writing books, there’s no rest for the wicked. When you get signed up for a trilogy, there’s lots of work involved in kicking the first book into shape and then…you have to write Book 2! Aargh! Well, I’m happy to report, the day after Book 1 was delivered, I had a rest, then I glued my butt to the chair and started on Book 2.

Three days in and 8000 words have magically appeared on the page – and I’m delighted, because I was starting to get a little scared.

I always write my first drafts completely free form (I think Niamh Boyce uses this approach too, amongst others). Any planning kills the excitement for me and anyway, it’s the only time you get to play before the editing begins. I enjoy editing, but I like the freedom of the first draft. It’s exhilarating and I look forward to the exploration, watching the ideas form a story.

As everyone knows, writing doesn’t pay the bills, so the work front – I don’t include writing as work – has been hectic too. As well as my usual freelancing gigs, I’ve taken on more Reader Reports for the Inkwell Group, as well as Blogging and Beyond courses. I love both of these roles.

Editing or commenting on someone else’s work is useful for your own; it helps you to focus as you write, naturally avoiding mistakes you would make earlier in your career. And as we all need the support of other writers as we stumble our way along, it’s great to know you’re also helping by providing some support in return.

It’s also rewarding to watch people pick up on social media learn to love it, and then make it work for them. Blogging has opened many doors for me, and I hope it does the same for my students.

green fingered writer

The obligatory dog photo

But you’ll be pleased to know, it hasn’t all been work. We’ve managed to get our potatoes in the ground now – the ridges were waiting for ages but it was too wet – and I’ve been clearing other vegetable beds. In the hailstone. Which was pretty refreshing, actually.

There have been endless dog walks and library visits, and I’ve been watching a plethora of westerns (I love westerns) as well as enjoying some fantastic reads/rereads…

I was completely surprised by The Miniaturist and I’ve loved reconnecting with The General in the Piers Torday trilogy. And if, like me (and Barbara Scully, it seems) you’re obsessed with Antarctica, I’d highly recommend Empire Antarctica: Ice, Silence & Emperor Penguins by Gavin Francis.

The online world has been lots of fun lately too, with an incredible buzz and energy around the #YAie & MiddleGradeStrikeBack chats on twitter. There’s a thriving community of writers for children and Young Adults here, and it feels like there’s change – and plenty of excitement – in the air. I feel so pleased to be a part of it, and can’t wait to see how things develop. The World Book Day TeenFest tonight looks interesting – see you there?

And so, now I’ve finally managed to get the blog updated with a brain splurge of drivel that won’t matter to anyone but me, I’d better get back to it.

But I’ll leave you with my burning question…

Hands up, who loves westerns? :)

How do you do enough?

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Since I’ve returned from Singing Kites, it feels like something is missing. It is lovely to be reunited with my wonderful husband, and to be back in beautiful West Cork, but when I was in Cambodia, I felt like I was useful, like I was doing something truly worthwhile.

A young Cambodian boy rocking his baby brother to sleep - no money for education

A young Cambodian boy rocking his baby brother to sleep – no money for education

Now I’m home, I’m loving my work, my writing, my home, and my life – and I’m feeling extremely grateful for what I have – but I also feel, in some way, useless. Not unworthy, but like there’s a void. That’s the best way that I can describe it.

The more you delve into conservation or charity work, the more you realise how endless the need is for help. So where do you start?

Do you help defenseless animals like at the Elephant Nature Park, or do you teach voluntarily in developing countries? Do you look closer to home and volunteer with wonderful organisatons like Inner City Helping Homeless, or do you look even closer still and adopt a rescue dog or make sure you remember to do the little things that help your loved ones and neighbours? All of the above, probably, but how can you ever do enough?

There is no doubt that I will return to Singing Kites next year (I can’t wait!), and I have an exciting charity project brewing that I hope will come to fruition soon enough. But we have to pay the bills and can genuinely only do so much, so in the meantime, I’m left wondering, how exactly can I help?

The simple answer is, that as a writer, I hope that by creating I can provide something useful – whether it’s a blog post that raises awareness, a story that allows for hope or escape, a fun children’s adventure trilogy, or a poem or piece of short fiction that reaches out to someone or simply entertains.

It’s not much to offer but I hope my writing will be read and enjoyed and will somehow affect the reader. I guess that’s what we want as writers, and, while I try and get my charity project off the ground, I’ll have to stop questioning whether that’s enough.

Some nature… #WritingCambodia

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As everyone who reads this blog knows, I love the outdoors, so usually I bombard everyone with lots of photos of nature. In Cambodia, however, I’ve been so intrigued by the people, that I’ve neglected the beasties & the beautiful surroundings – so here are a few shots for you to enjoy. By the time you read this, I’ll be touching down on Irish soil….

scorpion cambodia

A wee scorpion.

 

skull, cambodia

A random find.

 

red ants Cambodia

A small colony of ants eating breakfast

 

Cambodian butterflies

I find these particularly lovely to watch when they fly

 

stick insect, cambodia

Love these critters – can’t get them to stay on my hand though

 

stick insect cambodia

This stick insect is carrying its youngster on its back

 

giant jackfruit

The most delicious fruit in Cambodia

 

jackfruit cambodia

This is what it looks like on the inside

 

Cambodian flora

Vibrant and beautiful.

 

mekong island cambodia

Village lanes on an island on the Mekong river, Phnom Penh

 

water lily pond cambodia

A water lily pond – these are pink when in bloom

 

silk worms cambodia

Silk worms at a family home silk farm