Tuesday, 26 September 2017

On the radar and in the orange chair... with CBI

At the weekend, Dad's Red Dress and I found ourselves in the famous orange chair that belongs to Children's Books Ireland, at their annual conference in the Lighthouse Cinema, Dublin. Have to say, it felt very comfortable and would fit nicely in front of our fireplace! 

Earlier this year, CBI gave this little first book of mine a wonderful review in their online Ínis magazine, so it felt right to feel celebratory. Not only because the weekend was full of success stories on stage, all peppered with very real journeys, often difficult and challenging, but because I was talking for two days with fellow writers, with magnificent illustrators, enthusiastic librarians and educators from all around the world. 

Review by Children’s Books Ireland of Dad’s Red Dress by L.J. Sedgwick

Jessie Keane just wants her family to be normal… utterly, completely normal. Having moved from L.A. back to Ireland, normality would offer a chance to avoid the ‘looks’, the rumours and the bullying that she has dealt with in the past. But ‘normal’ is hardly possible. Not with a little sister who claims to have been abducted by the Virgin Mary (twice), a wildly contemporary artist stepmother and a creative architect father with a penchant for cross-dressing. As she tries to balance this eccentric, yet loving family, and what she hopes will be an ordinary school life, Jessie is put to the test when a new development shakes the façade she is working so hard to craft. She must stop this! Or so she thinks…
When I picked up Dad’s Red Dress, I expected a book that was quirky, entertaining and funny. What I did not expect was a novel that spoke to the heart of what it means to grow up. Filled with vivid, genuine characters and complex, conflicting family drama, it is joyous, loving and truly unique among the vast canon of coming-of-age stories. Each character is intricately drawn. Difficult subject matter is handled with great sensitivity. The dialogue is realistic and relatable for any young person. And while the situation may be unusual, the emotional impact is not. It gives the reader much to consider about life, friendship, who we really are and what makes a family. Dad’s Red Dress is indeed humourous; a delight to read. Simply wonderful.

Review by Mary Esther Judy

Some pictures from the conference. 

Monday, 11 September 2017

Short chapters... or long?

One of the surprising aspects of publishing my first novel has been the number of people who seem to be delighted that it has short chapters. The gist of the feedback is that you can read the book without feeling locked into a long portion of pages when you might not have that much time - but, if you do find a few more minutes, you can keep going and finish another; and that it makes the book easy to read. Life is busy, there are so many demands on our time that maybe it makes sense to do as screenwriters are always advised and make your material easy to read.
In the case of screenplays, that means lots of white space on the page, breaking up huge long paragraphs of action into 'beats' and not having scenes in which nothing happens... In a novel, maybe it means (as well as an exciting story, gripping characters, pace, momentum, colour etc...) short chapters so the reader feels they are propelled forwards?


Thursday, 7 September 2017

Culture Night cometh... 22nd Sept

I'm not sure why Culture Night is always on a Friday evening, rather than over the course of a whole weekend day. It's impossible to get to half of the events that you want to see or hear but the buzz around those you didn't make it to see is always huge!

This year's a little different for me. I've been asked to read from Dad's Red Dress in Galway (Charlie's Bookshop, in a slot somewhere between 6 and 7pm) and then in Celbridge's Kildrought Lounge (near the library) in a slot somewhere between 9 and 10pm.

What happens to my muse when there are not chocolate biscuits
 around and I've been editing for too long.
I've never been asked to take part in Culture Night events before and I am chuffed to skinny bits.

I'm also munching into a chocolate shortcake biscuit I've been saving all afternoon while composing letters to libraries. It is seriously good biscuit. The sort that makes you feel there should be a Chocolate Shortcake Biscuit Night, where we all wander around our respective towns and cities and tap our chocolate biscuits against each in celebration of creativity, which is often fed by chocolate bribes such as these.

First, I just need to get my daughter off to UCC and into the next exciting phase of her life - do any of you envy your children heading off on these adventures? New people, new accommodation without any of the debris of a lifetime, all those new potential friends and activities.

Musing on the review she will write...

Holiday reading, even for a
city cow..
... or a parrot

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Dad's Red Dress photobombs Dublin City!

As my teenage daughter explained, it wasn't really photo-bombing but I'm not sure how else to explain taking my little book out and pairing it with all sorts of interesting objects, murals and views around Dublin.

From a cow behind Jervis Street to the Tram Cafe steps, from a children's ride in the Jervis Centre to the roof of Liberty Hall and one of my favourite sculptural installations, the wonderful red squirrel on Tara Street by the Portuguese environmental artist Artur Bordalo who creates 3D animals from a city's waste.

So here it is, Dublin hand in hand with Dad's Red Dress

Inside Liberty Hall - this is the effect Dad's Red Dress has on people!
Obama has a pint but Lynott has the book!

Doesn't Phil look happy!
Let us raise books together!

The ultimate/ first book club?

At the pot of gold, you may find Dad's Red Dress... In the lobby of the Leprechaun Museum.

Friday, 1 September 2017

Dad's Red Dress and Dublin's red squirrel...

During a recent wander of its home city, Dad's Red Dress met the work of Artur Bordalo

He has created sculptures in 24 countries at this stage, using all sorts of waste from bike wheels, radiators, damaged car parts... city waste becomes art. Somehow!

Apparently Bordalo chose the red squirrel because it's endangered - I don't know the last time I spotted one. They're a native species since before the ice age, believe it or not and dependent on woodland. They tend to forage within the canopy and are far more elusive.

The brasher grey squirrel was introduced in 1911. I was told once that two grey squirrels were given to some aristocratic couple as a wedding gift and that's when our indigenous squirrel met its match. They grey squirrel also carries the squirrel pox virus that only affects the red squirrel and is almost always fatal. It has only been identified as present in Ireland quite recently.

If you have time, it's well worth crossing Butt Bridge and staring across at it until you finally start identifying what's in there. Mind you, it does make you wish there were more of these wonderful sculptures around the city, using up our rubbish inn such a magnificently creative way.