Wednesday 11 December 2019

Writers' festival kicks off search for next bestseller

PITCH: Dublin Writers’ Festival organiser Vanessa O'Loughlin with aspiring author Rachel Collopy. Photo: David Conachy
PITCH: Dublin Writers’ Festival organiser Vanessa O'Loughlin with aspiring author Rachel Collopy. Photo: David Conachy

Joanna Kiernan

BOOK lovers and writers, both published and unpublished, from around the globe are flocking to the capital this week for the Dublin Writers' Festival. Big name literary agents from both home and abroad kicked off proceedings yesterday at Dublin Castle with a search for Ireland's next bestseller. The Date with an Agent event, saw 75 shortlisted budding writers from across the country participate in the day-long pitching session.

Agents included Simon Trewin of the WME talent and literary agency in London, who recently bagged Ireland- based debut author Jax Miller, a six-figure, two-book publishing deal with Harper Collins.

"Big money is much more common now – publishers would rather take big chances and fail big than small ones and succeed modestly," said Mr Trewin, who has also worked with Irish writers John Boyne, Jane Casey and Niamh Green. "You need to take the long view and accept that the first novel you write might not be the first one that gets published," Mr Trewin advised budding writers. "Ireland is an extraordinary place and you are a seductive group of people seeped in the importance of literature and story-telling."

Patricia Gibney from Mullingar began writing her novel after her husband's death.

"My husband died five years ago this month and through grief and depression I had to give up work, I worked in the local authority for 30 years. So my novel has been a sort of therapy," Patricia said. "I entered it into the Dublin Writers' Festival Date with an Agent competition, which I believe had a huge amount of entries, and I was lucky enough to be picked to come today, so I'm really excited about it."

The idea for would-be writer David Rafferty's young adult fantasy novel came to him on his J1 holiday in Boston.

"I'm not looking for mega-stardom," David, 23, said. "I just want to get it out there, whether it sells two copies or 200,000, I want someone to see it who is not my girlfriend or my family."

Rachel Collopy, 32, from Limerick, who is on maternity leave from her job as a psychiatric supervisor, had her hands full at the event, with her six-week-old daughter and partner in tow.

"I'd market my book as something between Martina Cole and Roddy Doyle," Rachel explained. "It's set in Ireland, but unlike other crime novels it doesn't have a detective as the main character."

The festival's opening day also saw a seminar on the business of being a writer, poetry workshops, children's events and the launch of multi-award winning Irish author Joseph O'Connor's latest novel The Thrill Of It All.

"As a Dubliner, I am delighted and honoured to participate in this wonderful festival of writing, and thrilled for my new novel to be launched at it," he told the Sunday Independent.

According to Derek Landy, the author of the best-selling young adult Skullduggery Pleasant book series, who is also taking part, making it as a writer is down to a mixture of hard work, self-belief and luck.

"When you're starting out you know how difficult it is to make it as a writer . . . but you still hope you can be one of the few who can make a living out of it and be successful," he said. "It very much depends on having the right idea at the right time."

"If I hadn't had the idea for Skullduggery, instead of being praised for always keeping the faith, I would have been condemned for being deluded," Landy laughed, "It's that close, the difference, it's a finger snap."

The Dublin Writers' Festival will continue until next Sunday, May 25 and feature over 90 different events from over 130 established and emerging authors and artists, including Sebastian Barry, Anne Enright, Joanna Trollope, Derek Landy and Hugo Hamilton.

For more information or to book tickets to any of the events go to: www.dublin

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