It Takes a Library to Raise a Child: My Final dlr Writer in Residence Post

For the past year I have been Writer in Residence for Dún Laoghaire Rathdown, based in the stunning Lexicon Library beside the sea. During this time I've been hosting book clubs, writing clubs, events and drop in writing clinics for children of all ages, from babies and toddlers up to teens. My term has now finished so this is my farewell post. 

 With my niece, Rosie at the Lexicon Library 

With my niece, Rosie at the Lexicon Library 

The Highlights of My Year 

My Writing 

 I finished a book, A Sailor Went to Sea, Sea, Sea, out on 11th September, wrote a second book, Blazing a Trail: Remarkable Irish Women Who Changed the World (out in 2018), came up with 3 further book ideas - 1 is about to be signed by O'Brien Press, I'm still working on the other two, and I also write a children's play. So plenty of writing! 

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Young Writers' Club 

 I also worked with some inspirational young writers in the dlr Lexicon Young Writers' Club and in the Drop in Writing Clinics. Amazing children with such imaginations! I especially enjoyed watching helping one young writer achieve the target we set at the first Drop in Clinic - to finish her first book. Over the year she wrote two and proudly read from one at our end of season young writers' prize giving and reading. I've always loved this Picasso quote - he's so right!

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The young writers in the Writing Club are fearless, the pieces they write are honest, moving, original, and in many cases also extremely funny. They know they can write and write they do! They pick up their pencils and as Seamus Heaney once said, they dig. 

Events and Exhibitions 

I also organised events with Lauren Child - the current UK Children's Laureate, Judith Kerr - the author of The Tiger Who Came to Tea, who at 94 is still writing, Chris Riddell - ex UK Children's Laureate, Eoin Colfer and Marita Conlon-McKenna. 

I adored curating The World of Colour exhibition - the work of Beatrice Alemagna and Chris Haughton, two of my favourite picturebook makers of all time. Marian Keyes helped me put together the exhibition and we had a wonderful launch after an event we held with Children's Books Ireland, When are You Going to Write a Proper Book?.

 Here's me at the launch of The World of Colour Exhibition, with Rosie again!

Here's me at the launch of The World of Colour Exhibition, with Rosie again!

I'm proud of all the different projects we managed to squeeze into one year 

My Thanks To

I'd like to thank the people who made the year possible: Mairead Owens, Marian Keyes and Susan Lynch at the Lexicon who did so much to help me feel at home and to support my activities. Susan put a huge amount of work into the year and special thanks for all her input and ideas. When I came to her or Marian with a plan, they rarely said no. Thank you for having faith in me!

To the Lexicon library staff, especially Lisa, Vita, Helen and Shelley, fellow children's book fanatics. It was a pleasure talking to you all about children's books. The librarians, security guards, cleaners, staff at Brambles, to a person they were all so nice to me and so helpful. Nothing was ever too much trouble. One of the librarians, Nigel, helped me source books for Blazing a Trail which was invaluable. 

I'd also like to thank all the parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends who brought their charges to the library to meet me. They say it takes a village to raise a child, well I think it takes a library to raise a creative child. And creative children who get the chance to express themselves, their authentic selves - and that's what I tried to encourage in the Writing Club, for the young writers to use their own unique voice in their work - they are lucky children indeed. 

A Poem for the President

Another highlight was writing a poem for the President of Ireland with the children at Shanganagh Park House in Shankhill - he was visiting to celebrate their work over the years. It's called I am Shanganagh and the President read from it during his speech. Lucinda Jacob helped greatly with this poem and also the I am Dún Laoghaire poem below. Thanks to Lucinda for all her hard work. 

 I am Dún Laoghaire - written by the dlr Lexicon Young Writers' Club 

I am Dún Laoghaire - written by the dlr Lexicon Young Writers' Club 

What I Have Learned During the Year

It's been a wonderful year, full of discovery. I really enjoy working with the dlr Lexicon Young Writers, they are so full of optimism and wonder, and have such brilliant ideas. I will continue to work with young writers independently in the future. I have recently set up my own organisation, Story Crew: Write, Draw, Create, to provide writing clubs and creative workshops for children. We will also provide courses and workshops for adults who love writing for children. More details here. 

I loved working in my special room in the library - what a privilege - and got lots of work done. I found the evenings, when the library was quiet highly productive and spent many happy hours working on new ideas.

I greatly enjoyed working with colleagues who love children's books as much as I do. I was a bookseller for many years and still work as a consultant to an independent book chain and I've always enjoyed working with other people. Being a writer is a lonely old job and it was so nice to be surrounded by interesting, engaging people. (Sorry if I asked you all too many questions!) I will miss that daily interaction. 

Overall it has been a highly positive and enriching experience for me. Would I do it all again? In a heartbeat! But it's time for the 'adult' writers to get a look in now. I hope I served the children and children's writers of Dún Laoghaire well. 

Here are some of the events I organised during my dlr Writer in Residence year:

Roald Dahl Day Show 

Culture Night with myself and Alan Nolan - Smashing Stories and Dashing Doodles

Canada Day with Children's Books Ireland - JonArno Lawson and Sydney Smith

Children's Book Clubs, Writing Clubs, Teen Creative Clubs with a host of teen writer + a writing workshop for Junior Cert students with Dave Rudden, Drop in Writing Clinics for Children, Teens and Adults

When are You Going to Write a Proper Book? with Children's Books Ireland - it was such a success we ran a second day, devoted to picturebooks

World Book Day Show with Chris Judge and Marita Conlon-McKenna

Lauren Child event for children and a second event for adults and older children

Bookworms for Bumbleance event for schools with Siobhan Parkinson

Outreach events for schools in Loughlinstown and Shankhill

A Photo Diary of the Year - Click on the photo to move to the next one

Goodbye, Lexicon. I won't be a stranger!