The Box is Unequal to the Task of Containing Them

Sinead O’Hart has written a beautiful, powerful post promoting the short story competition I’m running, Walking on Thin Ice. I’ve fully funded it, with some help from donations, but we’re in need of lots of subs, so I’ve extended the deadline to November 15. Here is a quote:

I wish we existed in a society where those who battle with a heavy mind could feel that help was at hand whenever they needed it. Instead, people are slotted into ‘boxes’, made to believe they are faulty when the box into which they’re put is unequal to the task of containing them, and forced to conform, under threat of shame. 

Walking on  Thin Ice aims to start the process of correcting that. I’ll be doing my bit to help, and I hope you will, too.

I also came across a wonderful piece of art by Susie Cambell here (link contains strong language.) It makes a great point about how we stigmatise mental health issues. I can think of several very recent, high-profile examples of this, which remain unatoned-for by the stigmatisers.


Looking forward to getting more subs 🙂

Good News – Publishing Agreement with O’Brien Press

I have just returned from the launch of the Brandon imprint which is a new branch of O’Brien Press set up to publish commercial and literary fiction. The launch took place in the National Gallery of Ireland and featured authors Frank McGuinness and Mary Morrissey as well as two wonderful actors who read out extracts from the two books. I was particularly taken with Maria McDermottroe’s reading of a demented nun in McGuinness’s Arimethea, which had the audience laughing out loud. And my name was announced (just at the point where everyone headed off for the bar or something) so I think it’s ok to talk about this now:

A few weeks ago I mentioned I’d signed an important agreement in Paris. This agreement made in the presence of agent and publisher, in a café called Les Editeurs (appropriately enough) was my publishing deal with the O’Brien Press for the novel I pitched in the Irish Writers Centre Novel Fair back in February. The intervening months had been the long struggle of refining the novel, gaining representation along the way, then submitting the manuscript. But the Novel Fair was crucial in getting me to meet Michael O’Brien from the O’Brien Press as well as the other publishers. I cannot overemphasise how important it has been to my fledgling writing career.

I’m delighted to be on the Brandon imprint, in such distinguished company, and grateful to everyone who helped get me there. I’m looking forward to working with the team from O’Brien; I had the pleasure of meeting many of them this evening. 

More to come about this, but I think I will sign off on that piece of happy news. 

Reviews: Books Read this Past Month

One of the great virtues of being out of the office and, more significantly, not writing is that one is free to pick up a book. Or, since I have now been gifted a Kindle, hoover it down from Amazon. It’s scary how easy it is to do that. I rarely review books on this site, mostly because I know too many novelists 🙂 but I’m going to make an exception just this once.

The books reviewed are:

Hunting Shadows by Sheila Bugler

HHhH by Laurent Binet

The Things We Know Now by Catherine Dunne

Love and Summer by William Trevor

Longbourn by Jo Baker

Continue reading “Reviews: Books Read this Past Month”

Walking on Thin Ice contest submissions now open!


I’m very excited to announce that submissions are open for the Walking on Thin Ice contest. Please go here for more information.

I’d like to add a special thank-you to James, who has been working behind the scenes to set up the submission board. Thanks a mil James, much appreciated!

This, for me, is truly a work coming from the heart. I want true, fierce writing. (Or gently barbed is fine too.) Fight the powers that be. Fight the stigma.

Have a good evening and weekend!

A Powerful Blog Post by Sinéad O’Hart


Sinéad O’Hart blogged the following, powerful entry today on “tipping points”. There was one paragraph in particular which really nailed how I feel about starting up Walking on Thin Ice and advocacy in general. Sinéad knows what my “tipping point” was in deciding to start the contest – she saw my many Tweets of Rage before I deleted them – and this quote really had me nodding my head in recognition.

I can’t change the world through politics or diplomacy, or with money or influence; all I can do is put words together into sentences, and hope they’re good enough to read. But if everyone did what they could – in fact, if everyone was permitted to do whatever they could, however humble – to add their thread to the picture, then I think we’d be in a much better position. However, because there are so many in the world who are not allowed to add their voice to the collective melody, it’s even more important that all of us who can do something actually do it. I am a privileged person – free, healthy, and protected – and I owe it to those who possess none of these gifts to do whatever is in my power to make the world better for those who will come after us.

“Permitted” – that is the word. That’s where it gets dangerous. Because once we admit that we are permitted but others are not, then we implicitly call out the powerful forces that permit, that do not permit. And that provokes the forces that we have traditionally tiptoed around.

Walking On Thin Ice Short Story Contest

Ooooh I’m so excited! Remember the short story competition I blogged earlier about wanting to set up? Well I’ve gone and done most of the preparatory work and sent an application off to so that I can fundraise for prize money. I’m still waiting on them to write back and say, “Yes, we believe you are going to use the funds for the purpose stated and not flee to the Cayman Islands with the swag” and then hopefully we are good to go.

So consider this post as advance publicity, if you will.

I feel so very very strongly about this. Mental health campaigning has been a lot about encouragement and charity, which is great – but less about advocacy, which is just as important. And as I say on the website, writers are in the vanguard of making sure such advocacy gets damn well…um, advocated!

So here is the video below that I will hopefully have on I’ve never made a video like that before so it was quite a challenge 🙂 And for more info, see the main page of the website. Fingers crossed everything will go well.


Summer Short Story and Novel Competitions

Fellow Novel Fairist (or should that be “fairest”?) Andrea Carter has mentioned a few short story competitions with upcoming deadlines for the summer. I’d like to add a couple more that I’ve heard of via twitter or just generally futzing around the internet.

Costa Short Story Awards – 4,000 words. Has to be submitted in Arial, possibly on the basis that if you still enjoy reading a story after that, it must be pretty robust, I guess

Abroad Flash Fiction Competition (500 words) – the first prize is a residential workshop and a chance to network with industry professionals. If, like David Drumm, you “need the moolah”, you might prefer a cash prize, though I think this definitely sounds worth checking out. And who wants to be like David Drumm?

Long Hidden anthology – this is an interesting one. A Kickstarter project that invites submissions for speculative fiction (i.e. kinda alternative historical universes) about marginalised people all through history. @crossedgenres at twitter have more info. They pay $5c a word, which adds up to a very respectable total indeed for a few thousand words. The guidelines are longer than War and Peace and rather daunting looking, but don’t let that put you off an interesting project.

The Marie Claire Début Novel Award – contemporary women’s fiction, first 6,000 words plus a 300-word synopsis. Judged by Cecelia Ahern, so if you’re not a fan of that lady, then obviously don’t submit. While I find her style a bit saccharine, I was intrigued by the novel she wrote where a woman befriends a younger relative’s imaginary friend, falls in love with the imaginary friend, and said i.f. turns her down. That’s a rather dark and interesting plot! Short Story Competition – up to 7,000 words. Writers must be Irish by birth, citizenship, or be living here for a good while. Apologies all the good readers here from other places.

And a late edition – the Bath Novel Award – organised by the same people behind the Bath Short Story Award I blogged about earlier this year. Judged by agent Juliet Mushens of The Agency Group. Closing date not till 28 February 2014 so that gives time to lash out a first draft 🙂

If anyone has any event they’d like to add, feel free to drop a comment.