When I put the call out for writers for The Broken Spiral, I was overwhelmed with incredible work from those I had long admired, as well as new work from authors I hadn't yet had the pleasure of reading. I was seeking stories and extracts with a sense of homecoming and return, and was open to the different ways that might show up. I wanted the anthology to be a beautiful collection of writing that would act as a restorative to survivors of trauma who have spoken out and survivors who remain in silence through the redemptive power of storytelling, and to raise much-needed funds for the centre. In the year since it was published, The Broken Spiral has been sold all over the country, and is now resident in university libraries in the US , including Harvard and Boston. It is available in Trinity College Dublin and Dublin City libraries and now, because of Roisín O'Donnell's wonderful 'How to Build a Space Rocket,' is associated with an Irish Book Awards winner. All incredible achievements for an anthology that I felt I pulled together with sheer will!
I chose Roisín's story to open the anthology and to represent it in the writing.ie Short Story of the Year Award as much for its compassionate heart as its beautiful writing, and admired how she navigated the layered dual perspective of an Irish child of immigrant parents with sensitivity and grace. By bringing the story's journey back to its human heart, the fierce, pounding desire in all of us to be loved, Roisín's story wisely reminds us of our commonality despite apparent differences, a quality that feels woefully lacking in many areas of society at this time. A collection in aid of a rape charity usually strikes fear into the heart of many potential readers, but opening it with a story which is ultimately about the urge to connect felt like the right way to ease readers in. Universality is a tricky concept, but 'How to Build a Space Rocket' felt close to achieveing that, both conceptually and emotionally. I'm absolutely delighted for Roisín, who represented the power of a pivotal, all-female shortlist by collecting the award while about to give birth to her second child! If there wasn't a more perfect metaphor for feminine might. Congratulations Roisín - and The Broken Spiral! The little anthology that could.
Buy The Broken Spiral and read the winning story here.
I'm delighted to share that one of the stories from The Broken Spiral anthology, Roisin O'Donnell's 'How to Build a Space Rocket' has been shortlisted for the Writing.ie Short Story of the Year Award at the An Post Irish Book Awards 2018!
Absolutely over the moon for Roisin, and for the anthology itself which I feel like I created out of sheer will!
You can read the stories and vote for your favourite here.
I wrote something for writing.ie about The Glass Door, and how a novel about female memory, though I finished writing it seven years ago, says more about the times we are living in now than it could have had it been published then.
Go here for more.
Wow. Seven years has certainly flown in. Seven years of winning awards and winning losing and winning again agents, and countless publishers saying, not for me. And now The Glass Door, my debut novel that I began writing a decade ago, is published.
And yet I feel like it's exactly the right time, even if there have been times (many) where I have felt ignored, persecuted, hard done by. None of that was real, or did me or anyone else justice. Everything has its season, and this is Rosie's. I'm so grateful to let it loose into the world at last. My intention for it is to give whoever reads it something of value, whether that's escape, meaning, resonance, or even catharsis. Or something else entirely. I so excited to see where it travels from here...
The Dublin launch is taking place on October the 17th at 6.30pm at the Mutiny (Old Focus) Theatre on Pembroke Place.
Come by and raise a glass with me...x
The Broken Spiral is going on tour. Wonderfully, we have been invited by the London Irish Centre to do an evening of discussion about the anthology and its place in a time of shifting power dynamics in our society.
In the wake of the #MeToo movement and the Belfast Rape Trial, anger and betrayal rippled through a very large area of Irish society who recognise there is a deep injustice at work in this country, and want to see that change.
The Broken Spiral was created for this purpose, to enact social change at the fundamental level of our belief systems, as well as to raise funds to support the work of the Dublin Rape Crisis centre, who tackle fundamental belief systems both personal and systemic across Ireland every day.
This event will discuss literary activism, as well as literature as a healing art form.
Chaired by me, and featuring a panel of The Broken Spiral authors, Mia Gallagher, Lisa Harding and Sam Blake, this event will feature readings from the anthology and discussion about what drew us all to getting involved in the project, as well as the impact of related current events upon us and our writing.
You can book your tickets here.
"Failure is a normal part of life. It's not the end of the world, it's the beginning of a new one."
Author, culinary wizard, podcaster and journalist, Sophie White, interviewed me for Image Magazine about my upcoming debut novel, The Glass Door, and being a failure.
"We love stories of success. We love to hear about disappointment, hardship and failure, but only as long as the final act contains a gloriously vindicating flood of success. All these viral videos telling us how Oprah was fired from her first job and The Help was rejected eight thousand times before it was published, gives us a little dopamine hit. We like a little bit of adversity but ultimately the story has to deliver big in the form of respect and success at the end. However, the success narrative is not really teaching us anything of value because it rarely dwells on the most vital part of succeeding: Failing."
Speaking of failing, I discuss the decade long journey I've been on with The Glass Door, from writing it on scraps of paper in my London flat while I was auditioning for acting jobs, to Dalzell Press publishing it on the new Amazon White Glove publishing platform later this year.
Between traditional publishing houses having trouble identifying the 'market' for the book, and winning awards and agents with it, it has been a road both tempting and frustrating where the bright spots of its successes have threatened to dim and go out as it stretched ever further into an unknown distance. I was very honest about the difficulty of the journey, and how at times I have really struggled with the whole process, which forced me to re-learn the ways I value myself. This was made easier by Sophie's forthright, funny and grounded approach, and the fact that she, and many others who write or make art, are or have been in a similar situation to me. Not that knowing I'm not entirely alone in the process makes not getting what I want any easier, as this quote suggests:
"I don’t know, I mean you can say what you want about these things. Maybe it’s this, maybe it’s that. Maybe it’s just because it’s f*cking shit! You make any excuses you want but the fact of the matter is that I started writing it 10 years ago and for seven years it’s been rejected consistently."
To read the rant/use of expletives in full, go here.
Cover art by Baby Duka.
My debut novel, The Glass Door, is coming out soon. It will be published by Dalzell Press and will be available in book form, as well as on Kindle and audiobook (soon).
I finished writing this book many years ago, and since then it has been on a long, long, often times intensely frustrating journey to publication. When I won my first prize with it and was scouted and picked up by an agent I thought, This. is. it. That was back in 2012.
It went nowhere, was rejected and rejected and fell flat. Everything stopped. Then I was approached by my now (and very wonderful) agent, Paul Feldstein, through winning the Irish Writers Centre Greenbean Novel Fair in 2016, only to have the book rejected again by countless bricks-and-mortar publishers over the last two years. It has been a long and tiring road. And it has been at times beyond upsetting and discouraging. There were many moments I wanted to curl into the dark hole of giving up; but something - stubborness, insanity, masochism - has kept me following this path.
Going the White Glove route was not something I foresaw, but it is opening a new space in publishing that interests me, and it makes The Glass Door available worldwide at once, an exciting prospect.
I am happy to have this new way of sharing my work with readers when the traditional routes have not gone to plan. I have been nurturing this book for a decade, keeping it warm, whispering to it that there's still hope. I will be so glad to give it its wings at long last...
It will be launching in September 2018. Final dates to follow soon.
'Beyond the rosebush, where the rest of the garden once stood, now opened into the great mouth of the sea.'
Yesterday The Irish Times published my short story, 'Compost.' A few hours after it went live Mary Berry was on the RHS Chelsea Flower Show on the BBC talking about iris roots. This is only significant if you read the story, which you can do here.
As I mentioned previously, this piece was inspired by my involvement in The Irish Writers Centre x Arts Council Northern Ireland writing project Xborders:Accord, when, in our first session, Professor David Landy gave a lecture on the erosion of Palestinian-occupied land in Israel. This talk urged me to consider the many foundations we construct around ourselves, and the deep emotional impact when things that seem certain and immutable suddenly and unexpectedly fall away...
This Thursday the 10th, the Take Heart Pop Up takes off. This event, which sees scores of writers and artists across Ireland donate their work to raise funds for the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, began from one tweet. After the outcome of the Belfast Rape Trial and the public furore that followed it artist Ingrid Casey sent a painting of hers into the twittersphere. She wanted to donate it; she wanted to do something. Other artists and writers responded; they wanted to do something too. I asked if The Broken Spiral might do something as well. Fast forward a few weeks, and Take Heart is now a movement supported by some of the leading creators this country homes, including Claire Keegan, Francis O'Toole, Damien Flood, Joseph O'Connor, Conor Horgan, Pauline Bewick, Hugh O'Conor and Nigel Rolfe. As Ruth McKee (one of Take Heart's founders) said in her Irish Times article about the event: "How a movement ignites is unpredictable."
Amy Ni Mhurcu for Take Heart Pop Up.
The art we've received for this event is gorgeous. Prices range from a very manageable 10-15eu to investment pieces. There is something for everyone to come away with and admire and enjoy, and the enjoyment will be all the more sweet knowing the money paid for these pieces of great power and beauty will support some of the most vulnerable people in our society in their darkest moments.
Cathal Poirteir for Take Heart Pop Up.
As well as the art and literature for sale, there will be live poetry and short story readings that echo the Spontaneity Take Heart issue - a selection of authors, including myself, will read their published pieces alongside the art their writing is paired with (Kerrie O'Brien's evocative 'Rituals' in my case), making the night an interactive and multi-disciplinary one that shows how dynamic a thing can be when a community unites.
Pauline Bewick for Take Heart Pop Up.
To view and purchase the work and hear the readings, come to:
TAKE HEART POP UP. MAY 10TH. 6PM. BAGOTS HUTTON, 6 ORMOND QUAY UPPER, DUBLIN.
RM Clarke is a writer and voice-over artist. She has written for various literary mags and anthologies and won awards. She has put her voice to most things she can think of.