Why Fact is Stranger Than Fiction

The wonderful Nora Ephron summed it up beautifully when she said in one of the essays from her memoir I Hate my Neck:

“ I can’t believe how real life never lets you down. I can’t understand why anyone would write fiction when what actually happens is so amazing.”

She sings my song. Ephron, of the classic scripts such as ‘When Harry Met Sally’, ‘You’ve Got Mail’ and ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ also wrote about real life in her fictional movies…. because real life is extraordinary. They didn’t have to be thrillers, or mysteries, or fantasy worlds to be fascinating and furiously intense.  She had a skill – a skill that memoirists should have – to pull the extraordinary from the ordinary life.

I recently hosted a memoir workshop for the Dalkey Creates Festival, and before we began, I asked all the participants to look around the room and take in the other faces.  We were all strangers to each other but I knew, that at the end of this long day, we would all have shared extraordinary elements of our lives.   And we did.  There were tears, and laughter, and genuine moments of connection.  And that is the beauty of writing about self in a way that makes a connection to another person’s experience – even if, despite the fact, the details of their experience are very different from yours.

The popularity of creative non-fiction in recent years has given the idea of memoir a new, modern lease of life.  From it’s early form of letters and essays it has now been dominated by the the 70,000 word manuscript in the shape of a book.  But for those of you who wish to write about your own experiences and are intimidated by the thought of a full-blown tome, it’s important to remember those early, less wordy forms, as well as new modern ones. Memoir, in it’s true sense of the word, is simply writing about our experiences and reflecting on them with a way that connects to another, whatever the length.

I encourage people to think about memoir in all it’s forms: essays, letters, journals, blogs, short stories, flash fiction, books, articles, newspaper columns, and even short moments of deep shared experience like RTE’s Sunday Miscellany.

Although my memoir about surviving my sandwich years came out this year in the form of a book, I feel I have been ‘memoiring’ most of my life. From magazine travel pieces in my 20’s about my adventures around SE Asia, to a decade blogging about parenting and writing newspaper articles in the ‘i’, I have used my personal memories and experiences to share and connect to others.

Another one of my favourite authors, Alice Walker, a black woman from the southern states of America once said,

“We have the capability to connect to absolutely everyone and everything, and in fact, we are all connected…When I write about my family, about things from the South, the people of China say, “Why, this is very Chinese.”

Glancing over the memoir shelves in recent years, you can see how this area is expanding into all kinds of formats.  From Graham Norton’s recent memoir structured under his favourite passions (Ireland, New York, dog etc), to collections of essays (Nora Ephron, Anne Enright), from memoirs developed from blogs (Julia & Julia, mine!), to topic based (Bridget Christie’s book on feminism) to meanderings and thoughts (Ursula le Guin), the traditional idea of memoir is constantly evolving and developing. Personal and subject driven bogs are allowing people to memoir in real time, connecting to people through experience.

As writer of several memoirs and essays Susan Cheever has recently said:

I believe that the memoir is the novel of the 21st century; its an amazing form that we havent even begun to tap…were just getting started figuring out what the rules are.”

And that is the key difference of a memoir.  You can only write one autobiography but you can write several memoirs.

One of my favourite memoirs of all time is Brian Keenan’s An Evil Cradling, in which he wrote about the very specific experience of being taken hostage, yet his exploration of that experience, which his readers won’t have gone through, connected to everyone who read it and made it such a successful bestseller. What he actually wrote about was humanity.  The hostage trauma was not the story of his life. It was merely a story from his life.  He recently published another memoir on growing up in the streets of Belfast.

The story you write about – childhood abuse, parenting, loss, love, illness – is your own. But what you actually write about belongs to the reader.

In my memoir, Mother, Daughter, Me: a memoir of love, loss and dirty dishes, I wrote about one aspect of my life – learning to self-care amid the maelstrom of child-care and parent-care.  My experiences are unique, but my theme isn’t and it’s the theme rather than your particular experience that will make it relatable to others.   It’s not enough to just tell your story…. there has to be a point.  This is the most important part of planning your memoir writing – be it in blog form, book form, essay form or whatever.   Every memoir has two aspects;  the internal – your experiences; and the external – the reader connection.

What is the point of writing this particular story?  Who exactly will you be speaking to, and ultimately want to connect with?    It is not enough to tell your story. You have to reflect on it, and it is this reflection that forms the point of your message. Once you have that figured out, you can answer all the questions that come up when writing.

Questions such as ‘Who Cares?’

Who will care when you write this?  Only when you can offer the reader – not just your experience – but your learning, will you be able to answer that.   You may well be plagued by self-doubt while writing about yourself – you may think you are being self-indulgent. I certainly felt that way. And the only way to overcome that is to know your point.  What did you learn from the experience that may help advise, inform, guide, comfort, others?

Questions such as what should I include? 

And most importantly what should I not include. Once you know your point, it helps you from digressing from issues on story not related to theme. Keep that for another book!   I took out whole chunks of copy that are now forming the basis for another memoir. You are not writing about all your life, so you have to decide what aspect are you writing about and stick to that.   You have to know what you’re writing about so you know what to leave out. You’ll obscure the story – and the point – if you fill it with irrelevant detours – even if they feel really important to you.

Questions such as where do you start?

Like fiction, you don’t necessarily begin at the chronological start of the story… you begin at the action. But it also answers the question where do you end?  There has to be a resolution.  Although my sandwich years were still going on when I ended the book, the resolution came in my own realisation that I could carry on.  The resolution came within me, not the experience.  My mum sadly died on publication date of my book, and I am now writing the final chapter for the paperback version which will be renamed The Sandwich Years and released in the new year. I will be adding more to the story – the death of my mum and the end of the experience, but it will only work, if I make sure I also add to the theme – what I have learned.

Questions such as can there be fiction in fact?

My truth and your truth are very different things. Think of a family event. Five people might attend but you will all have a different take on it depending on individual perspective, mood, role, emotions and history.  All truths are right. Memory can alter fact so knowing your point will help you when you possibly need to re-order to make sense, make up dialogue to keep the story going.

Questions such as how do write about the hard stuff, or the stuff that might offend, hurt or expose someone?

Knowing your point is crucial for this.  Will telling this bit help achieve the point of your writing, or not?  I had to write about some really difficult things relating to my mum’s care. Eventually I spoke to my family, and they told me if it was going to bring comfort to someone else in the same situation, then I should write it. We all knew the point of the book was not to expose intimate details, but to highlight an experience that is rarely talked about.  It is those bits I got the most letters about telling me how much my book had helped them.   Do not be afraid of offending if you treat the subject with respect and if it strengthens both the story and the point.   Other people will need you to tell the painful truth.

There are many more questions to ask when writing about self, and most of them can be answered by knowing the point of your writing.   In whatever format you start writing in the memoir form – blogs, letters, short stories or a full-blown manuscript, remember that everyone is just trying to make some sense out of his or her existence, to find some meaning in the world.

And that’s the value and opportunity of memoir. It’s therapeutic for the writer, and will hopefully go on to inspire, guide, comfort, engage, motivate, encourage, support, connect to the reader.

I will leave the last quote to Jeannette Walls, whose memoir details her escape from poverty to success but how her past came back to nearly destroy her.   It took her 20 years and 4 attempts to write it but when The Glass Castle was published, it was on the New York Times bestseller list for over three years, sold more than two million copies, has been translated into 23 languages, and will soon be a movie.

Memoir is about handing over your life to someone and saying, ‘This is what I went through, this is who I am, and maybe you can learn something from it.’ Its honestly sharing what you think, feel, and have gone through. If you can do that effectively, then somebody gets the wisdom and benefit of your experience without having to live it.”

This has also been published on www.writing.ie

Learning from the best

I learnt a few valuable life lessons this weekend.  The first is never to say anything bad about someone else  in public- they could hear you!  I was buying a copy of Emma Donoghue’s new book The Wonder, and I was LUCKILY talking about her kindly and how much I was looking forward to hearing her speak.  “I hope you enjoy it” came a voice from behind me. I turned to see the shy smiling face of said Emma Donoghue.  Could you imagine if I’d been saying we had trashed one of her books at my book club!  (We haven’t). Then social faux pas number two nearly happened when my pal and I then proceeded to follow said Emma Donoghue to the lecture hall where she was speaking, and practically followed her onto the stage before we realised that we should actually be using the audience door.

But the real lessons came from hearing her speak. As a busy mum of three, juggling jobs, it was a real bolster to hear her speak about the pressures of getting the writing done before the kids come out of school. She writes as a novelist, a screenwriter, and a journalist and fitting  them all in, on top of family life is a challenge.  She confessed that her children provide an inspiration to work hard wherever you are and not get precious about writing in a certain way.  I’m the Martini girl of writing – I have trained myself to write any time, any place, anywhere. I’ve had to. But often when you hear of writers sitting at their desk for 9 hours a day, or writing all evening, I feel insecure about the way that my life forces me to write – when I can.  So hearing Emma admit to the same was really encouraging.

She talked about finding the nugget of a idea, and researching around it and letting it build until it becomes a full blown story.   How dialogue drives her and that she has had to work on plot because she doesn’t find that comes easy to her.  Again, encouraging to hear as someone who wrote her first book (still in the back of a drawer somewhere) with lovely writing and real chapters and everything but not a single thread of plot!  It was good to hear that writers as good as her can still struggle with some aspects of the work.

She talked about not letting genre or fear of being pigeonholed stop you from writing the way you want to write.  That honesty is the best policy and to write what you feel.

But most of all, it was learning what the feeling is you want to inspire in a reader.  When Emma read from the first chapter of the book, everyone in the room groaned when she stopped. We wanted more.   That’s how a book should make you feel.  And when asked what inspired her, she said other writers, and other books.  Just like she is inspiring many others.

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Promoting Your Book: Why Writing The End is Only the Start

Your word count is high. ‘The End’ is written. And you may have even danced a little jig of celebration.  You’ve signed off on the cover and you’ve finally, finally agreed on your blurb. You can take a deep breath and let it out again. Your work is done.

Except…… actually it isn’t.

Now the work continues. After possibly months (even years) of hiding away from humanity, locked away with only the tapping of keys to keep you company, it’s time to go public.

The days are gone where your wrote The End, and waited for the publicity train to steam past, posting your creation to the top of the book shop shelf.

Now, authors are expected to do as much publicity as possible, and work hard to promote their books. This can range from the obvious book launch, to events, readings, promotions and social media campaigns.  Publishing is an extremely busy business, with a relentless roll out of new titles throughout the year. The UK, our neighbour and exporter to our shores of many authors, publishes more books per capita than any other country (nearly 200,000 per year), with every bookshelf spot competition for hundreds of books.   And this doesn’t take into account self-published books.  In the US for example, so many new titles are published that a book has less than a 1% chance of being stocked in an average bookstore.

Consider also the fact that the average person reads between one and five books a year (I know most of us writers will be aghast at this, but apparently it’s true), and you can see why putting everything into publishing your book is as worthwhile as writing it.   Also, it’s now expected.  Publishing is a very costly business, and there are no ‘big marketing budgets’ out there unless you are JK Rowling or a very successful author with a track record. There is no other industry that produces so many new products, and each one requires investment in the writing, the editing, the copy editing, the cover, the design, the manufacture, the pricing, the selling, the marketing, the storing, the distributing.  All of these costs have to be covered by sales. So increasingly the investment in marketing is limited, and the author needs to step up and deliver the audience as well as the words.

If you are not a recognised author, with a back-log of successful books behind you, then the publisher is going to be looking at your ‘author platform’ along with your submission, to see how much you can contribute to the marketing process.   This means, along with your work of art, what else can you bring to the table?

As much as you can, is the answer.

The book launch is an event really for you to get to wash your hair and hold up the book you have spent so long languishing over. It’s a chance to celebrate your achievement with friends, family and potential readers in a small and intimate way.  It also means the book shop of your choice, if you choose to have it at one, will sell loads of your books in one night.  But really, that is an internal event, and you have to be prepared to move externally. Finding an angle to your book is a good way to get newspaper and magazine articles written either about you or the book. Building your profile within the writing community also means you can write guest blog posts – do whole blog tours in fact, and ask the community to share and spread news about your book (as you will do for theirs). Building up that author profile is important and use it to promote, run competitions, share reviews.  Events are a great way to get out there and build some profile, meet real readers.  Social media is pretty much imperative these days, and being able to reach out to much wider audiences is crucial.  Being an author is not just about writing. You have to be prepared to market and promote your book in as many ways as possible.

To help give you a sense of what it means in ‘real life’ I asked 5 authors (including myself) to give advice on various aspects of publishing their books.

Alana Kirk on Press Interviews

As my book is non-fiction I have been able to create a lot of opportunities to write about the issues involved and get a daughter mother menumber of large features in several Irish and UK magazines and national newspapers.   I have also been able to talk on radio and TV about the issues and the book, and it helped establish myself as a voice on this subject.   The issues continue to be relevant, and so the opportunities to write and promote my book as a result last much longer than the initial flurry around the book launch. I am already building that platform as the voice of a subject for a possible second non-fiction book.  Making yourself available to as many publications, either by interview or by pitching and writing the articles yourself can give you access to an audience you just won’t get elsewhere. I made it a priority to accept and carry out every single opportunity for publicity, despite the publication of my book happening at a very challenging time personally for me.  It is a very small window when the buzz around publication exists, so prioritising these chances are essential – they probably won’t come round again.

Alana Kirk is author of the best-seller Daughter, Mother, Me; A memoir of love, loss and dirty dishes.

Sam Blake on your book launch and building relationships with book shops

Your launch is the perfect time to galvanise support for your book and get a lot of sales concentrated into one week – giving you the best shot at hitting the bestseller lists. If this is your aim you need to think about:

  • One of the reasons social media is important to authors is that every connection you make is a potential sale – just as it is in the real world. Don’t be shy about inviting people to your launch – invite everyone you know! Don’t rely on social media though – not everyone reads their messages on Facebook (I very rarely do!) or twitter. Be professional and create a graphic you can email or better still, post.
  • If you are expecting a lot of people and need an idea of numbers, make sure you include an RSVP – use eventbrite.ie (free for free events) to help you manage numbers. (Eventbrite also sends out a reminder email 48 hours before the event.)
  • Get business cards printed with your cover and contact details/link to your blog or website so people you meet randomly and start chatting to, can find you and your book again.
  • Launch date – release/publication date isn’t necessarily the best date for your launch – you need to give the distributors time to get your book out to bookshops and their staff time to unpack them. If your PR/launch event happens too soon you could end up with frustrated readers looking for your book in shops where it hasn’t yet arrived!
  • If you are planning a launch event in location special to you – I had one of my launches for Little Bones at the Royal St George Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire, ask a bookseller to come and sell books for you – the fabulous Dubray Books came to do mine. It’s important that those sales go through a till what is linked to the Neilsen Book Scan or they won’t be recognised for the bestseller count.
  • The bestseller lists are compiled on sales from Saturday at midnight to the following Saturday but are published a week in arrears (so your sales will be published the following week in the bestseller lists in the newspapers and Writing.ie) – if you are organising a series of events try and fit them all into one week!
  • Don’t forget to nominate/organise a photographer (Ger Holland is amazing and does all the Writing.ie events including the Bord Gais Energy Book Awards) – you can use the photos in social media and a book launch is a bit like a wedding – you can’t remember who you’ve spoken to by the end so the photos will be useful! Make sure the bookshop/bookseller is included and they will be able to share too.
  • Remember to come up with an original #hashtag for the event so you can increase shares and track back photos and comments on social media the next day. CHECK the # hasn’t been used by anyone else. Keep it short and easy to use (I personally think all books published today should have their #hashtag on the cover but that’s another discussion.)little_bones_b_1 280x420Booksellers are wonderful hard working people who love books, and the more information they have about your book in advance the better – your publisher will ensure that ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) are sent to bookshops so they can take a look at. Booksellers on the ground are incredibly helpful and if they are asked for help in choosing a book by a customer, as they often are, and they love yours, happy days!

    Pop into as many shops as you can to say hello and sign your books – readers prefer to buy signed books if they can so you are helping the bookseller and might win an extra sale!

    Sam Blake is the bestselling author of Little Bones that debuted in the bestseller list this May. Introducing fiesty young detective Cat Connolly, in the first of this thriller trilogy what appears to be a routine break-in has devastating consequences when Cat finds a baby’s bones concealed in the hem of a vintage wedding dress.  

    Hazel Gaynor on online (and off line) promotion

    Goodreads giveaways, competitions run through my author page on Facebook, and Bookbub promotions (all organised by my publisher) have been very helpful in reaching new readers, giving my books visibility and raising awareness of my backlist, as well as of new titles. Specific bookshop promotions such as Summer Reads, Buy One girl from the savoyGet One Half Price and special promotions like WHSmith’s Fresh Talent and Easons Book of the Month can all really help a new book to stand out from the crowd. Supermarket promotions in the US have also had a real impact on my print sales. While these are all organised by the publisher, I have run a number of promotions myself on social media to garner some more activity around the book. I also keep my author blog and website up to date with any interesting book news (reviews, foreign translations, events I’m speaking at and awards) and any new information to keep the buzz going. I share that as widely as possible through social media. There is, however, a worry that you end up sharing constantly with the same people, so it’s really important to combine social media with face-to-face events such as writing festivals, conferences, book clubs, library and bookshop readings to broaden your audience base as much as possible.

    Hazel Gaynor is award winning author of the New York Best seller list The Girl Who Came Home, A Memory of Violets, and The Girl from the Savoy.

    Catherine Ryan Howard on social media

    Social media to me has been so beneficial, but probably not for the reason you think. Getting published is a bit of a weird experience, in that on one hand you’ve achieved your life-long dream and your biggest goal and now you get to work in your PJs, but on the other, it’s still a job and like all jobs, it has its ups and downs. There’s no point talking tordistress_signals_ukfriends or relatives about this, as every conversation would have to have a one-hour primer on all the ins and outs of the business before the real moaning/venting could begin. But I can easily talk about it with my writing friends, nearly all of whom I’ve met via Twitter or via someone I met via Twitter. So in that way, Twitter and Facebook has been vital to maintaining my mental health! In a more practical way, it’s called the publishing industry and writers are working in it. Therefore – just like any other professional – it’s a good idea to keep on top of what’s going on out there. Social media is great for that. Finally, we all know that authors with books to promote need a platform from which to do it. I remember once a small publisher hired me to do some social media for them, and when I asked them what they wanted, they said, ‘To use Twitter.’ But they had no Twitter account and neither did the author we were talking about. There’s a big difference between an author platform and an echo chamber.

    Catherine Ryan Howard is author of bestselling thriller Distress Signals.

    Elizabeth R Murray on readings and events

    I see events as an essential part of being a writer – and especially if you’re writing for children and young adults. Not only does it balance out those long hours of sitting alone making up words and characters and stories, it alsobook-of-shadowsconnects you with your audience. You’re helping to encourage a love of words, of books, of creativity – maybe you’ll even inspire a new generation of writers, or encourage young people to be brave enough to follow their dreams? And, on the flip side, the enthusiasm and interest is unbeatable – your readers will let you know their honest opinions and they’ll ask the best questions! On a business level, you also get paid for events so this helps to supplement the money you earn from royalties, and word of mouth is strong; you’d be surprised how far news of a great event will travel and the opportunities that can arise. But above all, it’s about meeting your audience, inspiring and being inspired, and creating a fun environment with storytelling at its heart. By the end of 2016, I’ll have done around 100 events this year, and that’s alongside completing and launching two more books. It’s an absolute joy.

    ER Murray is bestselling author of Caramel Hearts and the 9 Lives Trilogy, the first one of which, The Book of Learning, was the 2016 Dublin UNESCO City of Literature Citywide Read. The Book of Shadows is out now.

This post is also an article published on www.writing.ie

Is your story worth telling?

From essays to newspaper columns, from blog posts to full blown books, memoirs and all their variations are becoming an increasingly popular way of using personal experience to explore a societal issues.

I’m really looking forward to hosting a workshop on Memoir at the Dalkey Writing Festival this October. With lots of discussion, lots of writing and lots of discovering, I hope to help participants unlock some stories worth telling.

Tickets can be booked here

 

Why writing is a bit like a Taylor Swift album

Stay with me here…

Recently I was enjoying a lovely 5 hour car journey with my girls, a fixed grin firmly established on my face as they fought, fidgeted and fed their way through the journey. To keep the cheer cheerful and the miles mindful we listened to some music. Now there are many things that have surprised me about parenthood but loosing control of the car music was not one I expected quite so early. It actually began with the toddler age when I endured hours of Wheels on the Bus, and the years have been equally traumatic with various phases of Disney albums, Frozen album (a full year) and the occasional storytelling montage.

Thankfully tastes have matured and at least now we get some level of music I can actually screech out loud to in the car.  I don’t mind Taylor Swift at all, in fact I really like her music and really appreciate her wit and lyrics. But 4 hours of it, and I was ready to drive over the harbour wall when we finally arrived.  What did save me though was the talking bit at the end of one of her albums where she demonstrated how she wrote a few of the songs. In one, she had a ‘sick’ tune (meaning  it was pretty darn good) and she then just had to write the lyrics.  In another she had a story and she had to find the right tune. In another, she was given a beat and she turned it into a hit.

And it got me thinking about writing words.

As a writer, I tend to do a lot of writing. So far, so obvious.   But as I am preparing to host a workshop at the Dalky Writing Festival I’ve been planning some exercises and thinking a lot about my own writing techniques.   And what strikes me is the variety of ways in which I write every day, each different, each coming from a different part of me, each producing a different melody, beat and tune, but all essential to the album collection of writings.

I usually start the day with a furious flurry of free writing – I use the website www.750words.com but it’s essentially the same as Morning Pages, which anyone who has read Julia Cameron’s Artists Way will recognise. It’s like having a good old cough and bringing up all the phlegm that is building inside you, and ejecting it from your body.   Kinda gets it all off your chest.   But it has amazed me how many great ideas or thoughts, or sentences have come from that.

I also use free writing when I’m stuck.  I learned it recently at a writing retreat and it’s a technique where instead of getting bogged down in a structured plan (see below) you just start writing in a  feverish frenzy and don’t stop to fix spelling or grammar or ideas and kind of marathon tap until you’ve fallen exhausted over the edge of the page…. it’s amazing what can be freed up with that.  It is quite liberating, and allows you the freedom to write without thinking.

At the opposite end of the scale, I then love the structure of planning out of scenes or beats within scenes or chapters for my novel, and my non-fiction, and working methodically through the body of work. I use Scrivener which is a programme that helps you chart out plots and characters and plan how the book will be structured.  While typing I can just write notes all over my writing, move bits around, just list ideas I want to write about and worry about where they fit later.  You can ‘index card’ every section you write so you can play a lovely game of ‘move the cards’ every so often to see how things might look in different ways. (Or if you’re bored and procrastinating, it can provide endless amusement putting the end at the middle or seeing how many stories you can make by tumbling up your sections headings.) I love the boundaries of this, the borders around each section which allow me to focus on one thought or scene without being overwhelmed by the whole project.  When I write like this, it is the opposite of free writing, and is very thoughtful and nuanced.

As a day job, I work as a campaign copywriter for the non-profit sector, so much of that writing is very focused and has a very specific technique to maximise storytelling and donor engagement.  After the research and playing around with ideas and themes, the discipline of making every single word work is challenging in a really satisfying way.

As a freelance journalist I have to write facts without flourish, although I have to weave engaging words between them, and I love finding ways through an issue. Every piece has a clear Intro, question, exploration and conclusion.

Personally I also write a diary and have been advised to also start journaling to ‘deal with some stuff’ although frankly I find my morning pages and Gin do that just as well.

Professionally I write blogs (one topic driven, one writing focused and one work related) which often need to be courageous, complete, and succinct yet thorough. Again, taking a theme, mulling it over, playing with the words and making a piece of prose that informs, inspires or entertains.

taylorSo many ways to write, so many outcomes for the writing. Every day I learn a new rhythm, or discover a new tune to play on my laptop, I never run out of words (although I can easily run out of steam.) But then that’s when other words come into play. At the end of her album, Taylor Swift talks about listening to other music to nurture and inspire her, and that is what writers do too. When you need a break from writing, reading is the next best thing.   Or listening to music in a five hour car journey.   That even inspired this post.

Six month anniversary

Daughter Mother Me by Alana KirkHow time flies! It’s six months since my debut book Daughter, Mother, Me: a memoir of love, loss and dirty dishes was published amid a flurry of bookshop tours, book signings, TV, radio and newspaper interviews and twitter frenzies (mine).

A year since I sweated in a the chill of summer to finish the first draft, my arse glued to a chair, lest I succumb to the demons of doubt and never got to write The End.

It had been an incredible experience, and in no part a solo endeavour.   I was so lucky to have such a great editor and publisher at Hachette Ireland and agent, Sallyanne Sweeney.

It is a subject very close to my heart, and made more poignant by the fact that my mum, who the book was written about, died on it’s publication date.

I never intended to write this book. I wrote a blog about my sandwich years, sandwiched between caring for my three young children and my mum, who had a stroke four days after my baby was born.   That blog became a memoir, and I have been overwhelmed with the responses I have had from people all over the world who said my telling helped their living of this experience.

The book documents how I was caught in a perfect storm of care, and in the midst of parent-care and child-care, I finally had to learn self-care.

The book became an Irish bestseller, and spawned a series of articles in a variety of newspapers and magazines and the response to them from people going through similar experiences has also been phenomenal.  I’m delighted to have been part of a very important conversation.

The Irish Times – The Sandwich years

The Daily Mail (UK) – How to Survive the Sandwich Generation 

The Belfast Telegraph – Caring for parents and children

The Irish Times – when parent -child role reverses 

The Daily Mail (UK) – Fighting to Die right