The Dalkey Book Festival must be one of the most gorgeous book events in the world. Apart from its location, nestled between the exposed rock face of the climbing Killiney Hill and the wild South Dublin coastline, Dalkey village is one of the prettiest and most characterful in the country; and with its bizarre micro-climate, often makes one feel as if they hopped on the DART in Dublin city and got off somewhere on the Amalfi coast. Every year that I can remember, the sun has spilled onto its little streets - which have become progressively fuller and more revelrous with each passing year - and the pubs and restaurants have overflowed with readers, fresh faces on the writing scene, and literary, political and musical giants. This year the locals and businesses pedestrianised the main (and only) road, and filled it with tables, market stalls and musicians, bringing that abundant continental energy to the festival in a bigger way.
This year, too, as well as enjoying the majestic line up - Elif Shafak, Donal Ryan, Mariella Frostrup, John Banville, Marlon James and (gasp) Bernie Sanders, to name a very few - and the magic atmosphere, I was also a speaker for the first time. Along with Kerrie O'Brien, Sally Rooney and the editor of Open Pen, Sean Preston, we discussed 'The Next Big Thing?' Renaissance woman Sinead Gleeson chaired, and the discussion ranged from how literary resources such as journals and competitions helped (or hindered) the author's process of 'breaking in' to the literary world, the lasting importance of self-belief in the face of inevitable rejection, and how all publishers were capitalist pigs living off the sweat of their authors. With a few publishers in the audience, this last point was a slightly contentious moment. I also - and hopefully this is the start of a pattern in my life - got to sit in an enormous gold throne.
Lots of budding authors turned out to brave the dripping heat in the cramped sacrificial chamber (!?) of the old Masonic Lodge; they took furious notes and asked shy and searching questions - and that was what we were there for. Kerrie, Sally and I are all at different stages of our writing careers, Sean and Sinead of theirs, but each stage has its own mirror, its own set of people both aspiring and beyond, and needs its faces. I certainly learned plenty, and was honoured to line up beside these wonderful creatives and thinkers. The after party cocktails were quite special, too.
If you made it down - thank you for coming. I hope something that was said stuck, and helped you move forward in some way. Hope to see you at the next one. In the meantime, keep writing.
For more info on the talk and the festival, head here.
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.