I’m now enjoying the satisfaction of a successful official launch in Dublin, designated European City of Literature, of ‘Pretty Ugly,’ a novel I‘ve been working on for a number of years that links Donegal and Belfast with the US and Romania.
I’m even more delighted that the celebratory event brought together diverse leaders in business, arts and diplomacy including Tony Canavan, editor of Books Ireland, the foremost literary organization supporting publishing here; Richard Moat, CEO of national telecoms company, eir; and the Ambassador of Romania to Ireland, Manuela Breazu, who all gave short speeches, with much-appreciated compliments about my book.
A perfect complement to my readings was the rich voice and fine guitar-playing of well-known musician Pat Gallagher, lead singer of ‘Goats Don’t Shave,’ including a song he wrote inspired by the tradition of turf-cutting in Donegal, entitled ‘Turf Man Blues,’ which matched several dramatic scenes that take place in the ‘Pretty Ugly’ linked to the bogs of Donegal.
The book launch event at The Gutter Book Shop even included a fun ‘test tasting’ of the first whisky made in Donegal in over 100 years, ‘Silkie’ from the new Sliabh Liag Distillery. With Boston, New York, Washington and Kansas City playing location roles in ‘Pretty Ugly,’ it was terrific US Embassy representatives could come along, as well as members of the Donegal Association and the Arts Council, all obviously enjoying themselves.
With my working as a reporter and editor in print, television and radio journalism in the US and Europe for so many years, I was keen to point out that – while such experience didn’t qualify me to write a novel – basic rules do link journalism and creative writing, especially adherence to the five ‘Ws’ – who, what, why, where and when. Adding another ‘W’ – the ‘what-if’ factor – to the equation can help make for interesting ideas for novels, as happened with ‘Pretty Ugly,’ when I learned how many people had been injured by chemicals in cosmetics yet the law regulating them had not been changed since 1938.
I was also delighted to mention that I will be a writing coach at the annual June international ‘Ireland Writing Retreat’ in Gaoth Dobhair and have the chance to teach a special workshop entitled ‘IQ for Creative Writing’ on the links between journalism and creative writing.
Much of the drama in ‘Pretty Ugly,’ which pits an unlikely trio of a skin specialist, a celebrity model and an investigative journalist against the might of a rich and powerful corporation in the American cosmetic industry, with high-level political and media intrigue.
Now I'm very much looking forward to my US book tour, starting at one of the most prestigious literary festivals in North America, the Tucson Festival of Books in Arizona. I will then speak at the international Diastole Center in Kansas City, Missouri and at Mary Washington University in Virginia. Hopefully, I'll meet some of you in one of these states.