Successes and failures (and yet…)

So, tools down, decisions made…what happened in the year and what do I plan?


I rewrote my big new novel, The Zebra and Lord Jones. That went on agency submission six weeks ago. We will see.


I was offered publication of my second short story collection, Ravished. That will be out, autumn 2022, with Reflex Press.


My work – opinion pieces to short stories – was featured widely in anthologies and journals and twice in the national press.

Yay again.

I became a Bookseller columnist

Absolutely delighted

I think I have proved I am able – and I so love doing it – to write novels and short stories, but also a range of other creative pieces, features and opinion pieces.

Exciting innt

Got asked to speak to Creative Writing graduates at two universities, made a podcast about Joyce and my own Saving Lucia, alongside Trinity College Dublin, pitched and got a year’s worth of events and taught courses with Jericho Writers, began a new novel, a novella and a book on gentle productivity, for which – alongside other things – I took the plunge and applied for Arts Council DYCP funding – we will see.

I am proud of myself for this lot, especially when I think about what the last three years have been like for me and for my immediate family.

WHAT DID NOT WORK – or, rather, work YET?

The non-fiction anthology The Alchemy of Sorrow, went on agency submission in February. We said that, come December, we would assume it was unsold. Here we are. I had 37 exceptional writers to work with me, three of whom are NYT lauded, folks. The feedback was amazing. My proposal was considered excellent, the book important and all of it was interesting. It still did not sell. This is tough. Was I upset? Yes. Will it stop me writing? ARE YOU KIDDING? Also, the people I have met!

My memoir, These Envoys of Beauty, went on submission independently as my agency is very cool and happy for me to do side projects. I am going to be blunt here. I sent this to eight independent publishers and waited some months. Of those, I had two replies. Very favourably, but that does not mean the project is doable.


As for the people who don’t reply? It happens a lot. To a lot of people. I am sympathetic but, as I end a term, though it’s not a competition, I want to say that I work, I have three offspring, I live with chronic illness and one of those offspring has been seriously ill so I have been his carer for three years. I have – on top of mental health stuff and neurological damage – been coping with Long Covid. I have still written these books and these articles and features and answered my emails. So here is what I think. I think that people are busy; I think that we have all been stressed and fearful. But at this stage in my publishing career, I STILL don’t understand why or consider it acceptable – across queries and submission – at least half the places and people you contact simply do not reply.

Moan over. Honestly, though: I feel tender when I think of people I work with – because I think, WILL THEIR WORK GET READ?


Lots of teaching – with me increasingly as a creative writing teacher and there is more to be firmed up early in the new year. I aim to finish my novella by the end of January and the book on gentle productivity by June. If I get my ACE funding, there will be workshops and mentoring on offer in the second part of 2022. I want to try and get some university teaching if I possibly can and I would like a second column in an industry or literary journal or newspaper. I am also going to be firmer about looking after myself. On the no-reply thing, one chase, put it down, move on. Be firm and don’t look back.


I would like someone to offer translation – particularly in Italian – of my Saving Lucia; I hope my podcast with University College Dublin leads more readers to my Saving Lucia and roots me in the Joyce communities because the book is totally threaded through with Finnegans Wake and Ulysses; all its language is indebted to James Joyce. I would like Ravished to be enjoyed and also to lead readers back to 2020’s Famished because I wrote one to follow on from the other as companion texts. I hope that The Zebra and Lord Jones finds a beautiful home and that, with this, I get to take things to the next level. I’d like – we are talking dreams – to see both Zebra and Lucia as film and I’d like one of my older sons to write a film score for Lucia, if so. And I want to do all I can to help others find a voice and use it. THAT is both dream and plan.

Merry Christmas my darlings.

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