Lexicon Reader and Writers’ Day – Saturday 5th November 

After the success of last year’s event, we are back with another packed day of readings, interviews and chat. Hear thriller writers, Liz Nugent and Sam Blake discuss dark psychology with journalist and writer, Dave Kenny; bestselling UK writer, Lucy Diamond and historical novelist, Hazel Gaynor will talk to broadcaster and writer, Sinead Crowley about their paths to publication; and find out how the book industry works and what agents and publishers are looking for in 2017. Plus enjoy lots of book chat with fellow readers over coffee and lunch. Bring your book club or come and make new friends – see you there! Bookshop on site with thanks to Dubray Books, Dun Laoghairereader and writers day poster

Booking: https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/lexicon-reader-and-writers-day-tickets-28356676583

Cost: e20 (includes coffee and light lunch)

Venue: Lexicon Studio, Dun Laoghaire   Registration from 9.30am


10.00am Welcome by Sarah Webb, dlr Writer in Residence

10.10am to 11.00am Dark Psychology: Research and the Writers’ Psyche

Bestselling authors, Sam Blake (Vanessa O’Loughlin) and Liz Nugent talk to writer and journalist, Dave Kenny about the research behind their crime and thriller novels.

11.00am to 11.20am Coffee and Signing

11.20am to 12.10pm In Another Man’s Shoes: Creating Characters

Award winning writers, Catherine Dunne and Adrian White talk to journalist and writer, Sue Leonard about creating realistic characters.

12.10pm to 1.00pm The Glass Shore: A Celebration of Short Stories from Women Writers from the North of Ireland

Writer and columnist, Martina Devlin and writer, Evelyn Conlon talk to fellow writer, Lia Mills about their stories in The Glass Shore collection, edited by Sinead Gleeson.

1.00pm to 2.00 Lunch and Signing

2.00pm to 3.00pm Paths to Publication  

UK bestseller, Lucy Diamond and historical novelist, Hazel Gaynor talk to broadcaster and writer, Sinead Crowley about their journey to publication, and share some of their writing secrets.

3.00pm to 3.15pm Break and Signing

3.15pm to 4.15pm The Business of Books:  An Insider’s Guide

Martina Devlin hosts our panel of publishing experts: Vanessa O’Loughlin from The Inkwell Group and Writing.ie; Peta Nightingale, UK Agent with Lucas Alexander Whitley (LAW); and Michael McLoughlin, MD at Penguin Random House Ireland and Publisher at Penguin Ireland.

4.30pm Close


Writer in Residence: Events, Book Clubs and Writing Clubs

All events and clubs are in the Lexicon Library, Dun Laoghaire

I’m delighted to be hosting a wide range of events, clubs and workshops for children, teens and adults during my residency. Here are the events from now until the end of the year.

I hope to see you at the dlr Lexicon very soon!

Yours in writing,

Sarah XXXsarah reading to a child


13th September (school day)

Roald Dahl Day for Schools – Celebrating 100 Years of a Master Storyteller

Events and workshops inspired by the work of Roald Dahl with Oisin McGann, Alan Nolan, Grainne Clear and Enda Reilly.

Booking: dlrlexiconlib@dlrcoco.ie


16th September (evening)


5pm to 7pm Story and art fun for all the family with Sarah Webb and Alan Nolan – no booking required.


Friday 16th September (school day)

Schools Events – Canada Day with Children’s Books Ireland

School events with award winning Canadian writers and illustrators, JonArno Lawson, Sydney Smith and Katherena Vernette. Find out how a book is made with our international guests.

Booking: dlrlexiconlib@dlrcoco.ie


Children’s Book Club

Age 9+

Max number: 15

1st Wed of every month: 7th Sept, 5th Oct, 9th Nov, 7th Dec

3.15pm to 4.30pm – Level 3 Meeting Room

BOOKING: dlrlexiconlib@dlrcoco.ie

Do you love reading? Would you like to chat about stories and characters with fellow young book lovers?  Whether you’re a Harry Potter fan, or eat up Judi Curtin or David Walliams books, this is the club for you! For our first meeting we’ll be talking about our favourite Roald Dahl book, in honour of his centenary on 13th September.


Children’s Writing Club

Age 9+

Max number: 15

Thursday 15th Sept, 29th Sept, 13th Oct, 10th Nov, 24th Nov, 8th Dec (last of the year)

3.15pm to 4.30pm

3.15pm to 4.30pm – Level 3 Meeting Room

BOOKING: dlrlexiconlib@dlrcoco.ie

Do you love writing stories and poems? Would you like to find out more about creating fantastic characters and gripping plots? Then this is the club for you!


Teen Creatives

Age 12+ (1st year students upwards)

Max – number 15

10am to 12pm       

Venue: Lexicon Lab on Level 3

17th Sept, 1st Oct, 22nd Oct, 12th Nov, 26th Nov, 10th Dec (last of the year)

BOOKING: dlrlexiconlib@dlrcoco.ie

 ‘To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.’ Joseph Chilton Pearce

Teen Creatives is for all teenagers who love to write and draw, and would like to learn how to create video blogs and edit movie clips. We will be talking about how stories work, writing, drawing, cartooning, making short movies and vlogs, and exploring the practical, behind the scenes side of the arts world, from hanging an art exhibition to curating a book festival.

Artists, writers and arts curators will be invited to talk to the group about their work, such as writer and cartoonist, Alan Nolan and award winning writer, Sheena Wilkinson.


Drop in Writing Clinic for Children and Teenagers 

Age: 8 to 18 years

Wednesday 28th Sept, 26th Oct, 30th Nov

3pm to 4pm

Writer in Residence Room, Level 5

Are you a young writer? Would you like our writer in residence, Sarah Webb to read your work and offer advice? Drop in to her writing clinic. No need to book.

Please bring a copy of your work for Sarah to read. Children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult.

Drop in Writing Clinic for Adults

Writer in Residence Room, Level 5

Wednesday 28th Sept, 26th Oct, 30th Nov

4pm to 5pm

Are you an adult who is writing for children or teenagers? Would you like some help and advice? Our writer in residence, Sarah Webb is hosting writing clinics for emerging children’s writers. No need to book.

Sarah is happy to read short extracts from manuscripts during the clinic. Please bring a print out of your work.

One of my favourite parts of being a writer is talking to young readers about my work. Every week I visit 1 or 2 schools or libraries to talk to students. Here’s the diary of one of those trips.

7am Get up and walk dog – I always pack my bag the night before my event. I have all kinds of things in my green event bag – books, photos, toy whales.

My Green Event Bag
My Green Event Bag


8am Say goodbye to my dog, Lucky and get on the road in my Mini Cooper. Yes, I have the same car as Clover in the Ask Amy Green books!
IMG_7082[1]10.00am Arrive in Loughboy Library in Kilkenny and set up for my first event with the children from St John of God’s National School.

IMG_7085[1]Can you spot the whale and dolphin models? There’s a shark in there too – his tail goes from side to side, as he’s a fish. Sea mammals’ tails go up and down.


10am to 11.30am Talk to the students about growing up (I was late to reading and I talk about this and how having heart and grit are more important than being top of the class), my favourite books, how I became a writer and sea mammals. They ask me some great questions about writing, publishing and whales and dolphins. We do a sea mammal quiz – teachers against the pupils – and the pupils win!

Sarah Webb Visit 2016 004 (2)

My latest book (out in March) called Aurora and the Popcorn Dolphin is all about a dolphin and I have a huge love for sea mammals, especially bottlenosed dolphins and humpback whales. I spent 2 years researching it and I’m still reading up about these amazing creatures. I don’t think I’ll ever know enough about them and new discoveries are made all the time.

My New Book, Out in March
My New Book, Out in March

Sarah Webb Visit 2016 006 (2)12.00 to 1.15 Here I am talking to the second school, Gael Scoil Osraí about my school days. I’m holding a copy book from when I was 5! Their teachers were pretty smart and when it came to the quiz they drew with the pupils (who are also very smart). This gang were particularly talented at singing humpback whale – it was a beautiful symphony of strange wailing and snorting noises!

1.30pm Hop in the car again after grabbing a sandwich and drive home again.

3.30 Arrive home and say hello to Lucky and the kids.

Writers, do YOU enjoy school visits?

Readers, has a writer visited YOUR school? I’d love to know all about it.

Yours in books,

Sarah XXX

This blog first appeared on Girls Heart Books website.

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What Lies Beneath: A Readers’ Day

Saturday 7th November 10am to 4.00pm

Kate Beaufoy

Kate Beaufoy

Lexicon Studio Theatre, Dun Laoghaire

Cost: e15 (includes coffee and lunch)

Booking: http://www.paviliontheatre.ie/events/view/what-lies-beneath-a-readers-day-programmed-and-hosted-by-writer-sarah-webb

On site bookshop with thanks to Dubray Books

If you’re passionate about books and love talking to other book lovers, this is the day for you. Find out how bestselling UK author, Freya North and Irish bestseller, Patricia Scanlan got their first breaks; hear how Kate Beaufoy and Kate Kerrigan researched their latest historic novels; listen to Sinead Moriarty and Claudia Carroll talk about their favourite books; discover the inspiration behind Sinead Crowley, Martina Devlin and Marita Conlon McKenna’s new novels; and hear Sinead Gleeson talk about the wealth of short story talent in Ireland, past and present, with Lia Mills and Éilís Ní Dhuibhne. A stimulating and thought provoking day for all readers and writers.

Martina Devlin

Martina Devlin



9.30am – 10.00am Registration

10.00am – 10.50am   This is How it Begins . . .

Martina Devlin, Sinead Crowley and Marita Conlon McKenna will read from their new novels and talk to RTE’s Evelyn O’Rourke about the inspiration behind their stories and characters.

10.50am – 11.10am  Coffee and bookshop signing

11.10pm – 12.00pm  The Long Gaze Back: Ireland and the Short Story, Past and Present

Broadcaster and Editor, Sinead Gleeson will talk about putting together her new short story collection, The Long Gaze Back: An Anthology of Irish Women Writers. She will be joined by Lia Mills and Éilís Ní Dhuibhne who both have short stories in the collection.

Sinead Gleeson

Sinead Gleeson

12.05pm – 1.05pm This Writer’s Life: UK bestseller, Freya North and Irish bestseller, Patricia Scanlan in conversation with RTE’s Sinead Crowley.

1.05pm – 2.00pm Lunch and bookshop signing – meet the authors and get your book signed at our dedicated bookshop, kindly provided by Dubray Books.

2.00pm – 2.50pm  What Lies Beneath:  researching a novel set in the past

Kate Beaufoy and Kate Kerrigan both write historic novels and will talk to fellow novelist and journalist, Martina Devlin about their research.

2.50pm – 3.10pm  – Break and bookshop signing

3.10pm – 4.00pm  My Favourite Books

Sinead Moriarty and Claudia Carroll share their favourite books of all time and talk about how reading has inspired their own work. Discover new ideas for your own reading or your book club and share your own favourite reads with the audience. Chaired by Mary Burnham of Dubray Books.

Claudia Carroll

Claudia Carroll

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Martina Devlin and Kate Beaufoy will be talking about writing and their new books at What Lies Beneath Readers’ Day on Saturday 7th November in the new Lexicon Library in Dun Laoghaire. To mark the occasion, I asked them for their top three writing tips.

Martina Devlin

Martina Devlin

Martina Devlin

1/ Write early in the day, as soon as you rise. It doesn’t have to be a 6am writing spurt, but it does have to be first thing by your body clock.
3/ Take care with your characters, even minor ones, if you want readers to go on a journey with them. They need not all be likeable. But their actions should have an internal logic, or make sense to readers.
3/ Leave a note to yourself where you meant to take the story next at the end of a writing session. It’s amazing how much we forget, even in the space of a day.

Kate Beaufoy

1/ Try converting chunks of your text into a different font. That way you can read it with new, more objective eyes, and you’ll spot things you may not have noticed otherwise.

2/ Don’t advertise the fact that you’re writing a novel; you’ll regret it every time someone asks you how it’s going.

3/ Find one or two readers whom you can trust to be straight with you in the nicest possible way. NEVER petition Facebook friends to read your work.
Hear more from Kate and Martina about their books and how they write at What Lies Beneath Reader and Writers Day – Sat 7th November. Lexicon Library, Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin  Book here. Or ring 01 231 2929 12pm to 5pm
Kate Beaufoy

Kate Beaufoy

What Lies Beneath

If you’re passionate about books and love talking to other book lovers, this is the day for you. Find out how bestselling UK author, Freya North and Irish bestseller, Patricia Scanlan got their first breaks; hear how Kate Beaufoy and Kate Kerrigan researched their latest historic novels; listen to Sinead Moriarty and Claudia Carroll talk about their favourite books; discover the inspiration behind Sinead Crowley, Martina Devlin and Marita Conlon McKenna’s new novels; and hear Sinead Gleeson talk about the wealth of short story talent in Ireland, past and present, with Lia Mills and Éilís Ní Dhuibhne. A stimulating and thought-provoking day for all readers and writers. Book here. 

Patricia Scanlan

Patricia Scanlan

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Having the Chats with Judi Curtin - It's Good to Talk!

Having the Chats with Judi Curtin – It’s Good to Talk!

Well done to Shelly for putting it all together – Ireland’s 1st YA Day on Twitter – tune in and chat!

When: Oct 3rd

Oisin McGann

Oisin McGann

Where: #YAieDay will be an online festival taking place on the hashtag #YAieDay on Twitter.

The authors, bloggers, and publishing peeps will be chatting about topics and having the LOLs throughout the day. Anyone can join in and chat to their favourite author.

Also, lots of very cool publishers will be holding competitions where you could win books.


Remember to use  the hashtag #YAieDay on Twitter

10:10  –  10:50am  Lack  of  parents in  YA  –  thoughts?

Sheena  Wilkinson and Helen Falconer

11:10  –  11:50am  Food  in  literature  –  how  do you  write  it and  is it important to have lashings of  ginger  beer?  

Lucy  Coats and Oisin McGann

11:50  –  12:10  Readers please  tweet your  thoughts to #YAieDay   on  your towering TBR pile.

12:10pm  –  1:00pm  –  Please  tell  us about your next book  –  inspiration, drafting,  editing, marketing.

Lauren James, Sarah Crossan, Sarah Webb and Brian Conaghan

Sarah Crossan

Sarah Crossan

1:10  –  1:50pm  Bad  language  in  books  with young protagonists  –  thoughts? 

Sally  Nicholls, Kim Hood and R. F. Long

2:00  –  2:40pm  All  YA  need  is love  –  thoughts? 

Jennifer Niven and Catherynne  M. Valente and Sarah Rees Brennan

Readers, tweet your shelfies.

2:50  –  3:30 pm  –  Debut  authors. Please tell  us  about your  new  world  of  being  a  published author.

Simon P. Clark, Martin Stewart, Dave  Rudden

3:40  –  4:20pm  The  publishing  world- tweet your questions to these publishing peeps.

Vanessa O  Loughlin and Gráinne Clear

4.30  –  4:55 Children’s Books  Ireland  –  Book  Doctor Clinic  –  ask  the book doctor, Claire Hennessy for book recommendations.

5:00  –  5:40pm  Hosted  by book  blogger  –  Christopher  Moore,  Co-founder of  @YAfictionados  –  He  will be  asking the  authors about writing  in  the  age  of  the internet. 

Brenna  Yovanoff and Samantha Shannon

5:45  –  6:15pm Hosted  by book  blogger  –   Jenny Duffy  of  The  Books, the Art, and  Me.  Let’s talk writing practises  –  how  to ‘get it  down.’ 

Tatum  Flynn, Judi  Curtin, Nigel Quinlan, Elizabeth R. Murray and Deirdre Sullivan

The End


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Chatting to Judi Curtin at the West Cork Literary Festival

Chatting to Judi Curtin at the West Cork Literary Festival

I’m at the West Cork Literary Festival this week, teaching a workshop for adults – Writing for Children – and talking to children. At festivals I always make the time to listen to other writers read and also to attend a masterclass or talk about something that interests me.

On Monday I listened to Julia Churchill speak and I was very taken with her honest, direct and open manner. She talked about her role as an agent and what she’s looking for in a new writer. She spoke real sense and is a gifted communicator. I took lots of notes so that I could share her words of wisdom with you.

Julia Churchill

Julia Churchill

Julia is a children’s agent at AM Heath after cutting her literary teeth at Darley Anderson, where she was one of the first readers to discover Cathy Cassidy in the slush pile. She says Cathy’s manuscript made her cry and was one of the few manuscripts (along with Sarah Lean’s) that needed little or no work before being sent out to editors at publishing houses.

This is how Julia sees her job:

- to spot talent

- to develop talent

- to sell her clients’ books

- to create a career for her writers.

It’s refreshing that Julia puts so much emphasis on building a career for her writers and not just selling rights. I listened to another agent speak recently and she talked largely about selling rights and not about helping her writers.

Her core ‘day job’ is taking care of the authors on her books. However 95% of her writers come from unsolicited manuscripts so she reads submissions in the evenings and at weekends.

First she has a quick look at the submissions and sees if there is anything really exciting in there that she needs to act on immediately, before other agents pounce on it. She wants to be the first person on the phone to this kind of author. I was impressed by her competitive nature – this is the kind of agent I’d want representing me – quick, smart and ready for action! If my own agent wasn’t such a superwoman, Julia would definitely be on my list.

She said all submissions get read – which is heartening for debut writers. She reads ‘Until a point that I want to stop reading’ but did point out that this may be at the (bad) covering letter.

She wants ‘a voice that transports me’.

She said ‘most debuts will need work’. The most common problems are: too much going on – strip out anything that isn’t needed.

The market is tough at the moment she explained. There are more agents than ever before, more books out on submission and less books being published. Writers have to appeal to the marketing and sales team as well as editors.

In 2014 A M Heath took on 4 new writers but new agents will take on more writers.

Julia deals with a core group of 25 editors in the various children’s publishers. An important part of her job is contracts and getting the best deal for her writers.

How To Find an Agent

Julia explained that this is a marketing job. Finish your book and make it as strong as you can. There are approx 40 children’s agencies – look at the Writers and Artists’ Yearbook for details – the most up to date one. Find each agency’s submission details and follow them. Be professional from the start. Submit to 7/8 agents and take your time. Act on any feedback you get, rewriting your manuscript.

She says the secret of a good covering letter is simplicity and a good book pitch (the paragraph about your book). You can follow up (your submission) politely after 2/3 months.

Do not follow trends – you will be launching into an overcrowded marketplace. A book can take up to 2 years to get to market, the trend may already be over.

What Julia is Looking for in a Book:

- concept

- character

- setting

- theme

- story

- voice

A book has to work on all these different levels. A book also needs high stakes – the reader needs to care about the characters.

She said ‘Publishers can be heroic. They can take risks.’ She cited Sarah Crossan’s The Weight of Water as an example of this, a book in verse that went on to win many awards. ‘If a book is fabulous, it will sell,’ she said. water

Chatting to Judi Curtin at the West Cork Literary Festival

If you are looking for a strong, wise children’s agent it would be worth seeking her out.

Yours in writing,

Sarah XXX

Last weekend my friend, Judi Curtin and I were on stage at the Mountains to Sea Book Festival (I run the children’s bit of it in fact), talking about our friendship. We’ve known each other since her first book (for adults), Sorry, Walter was published in 2003.

Our First Meeting: Judi (who has a much better memory than I do), says I invited her to a writers’ dinner in town and we ate pizza and chatted about books and writing.

Since that time, both of us have written lots of books for young readers. We’ve also gone on two book tours together which I talked about in another post here:

During the talk last weekend the lovely Sarah McIntyre drew this sweet picture of us on stage together:

Sarah McIntyre's sketch of me and Judi


And took a pic of and me and Judi:

me and judi


And of the audience, plus the lovely Philip Reeve, her book writing partner:

me and judi audience


Afterwards we met lots of young readers and signed their books. We also caught up with lots of our writer friends at a big writers’ dinner: Sarah McIntyre and Philip Reeve (who were wearing the best costumes ever), Oisin McGann, and lots of others, and also met some new friends.

Best costumes ever!


Book festivals are a wonderful way of bringing writers and book lovers together. Over the next few months Judi and I will visit West Cork, Kerry, Dublin and many other places on our Friendship Tour. We’ve both decided that it’s much more fun touring together than alone. Roll on festival season!

What’s your favourite book festival? Who have you met at a book event? I’d love to know!

Yours in books (and festivals and friendship),

Sarah XXX

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