Rod Smith: The Importance of Books

Writing.ie | Magazine | Children & Young Adult
Michael Collins – The Big Fellow

By Rod Smith

Books have played a major part in my life.

Years ago, when I was seven, I was sitting in second class stuck in the middle of the collection of stories in English Book One. I was in a hurry to finish it so that we could move on to English Book Two.

“Mr. Smith…Mr. Smith…!”

It was my teacher. “Mr. Smith, put your stuff in your school bag. You have to go home,” he said to me softly. “Your Dad is not very well.”  I looked up to see my next door neighbour standing beside him waiting to take me home. As I left the classroom and walked down the hall, one of the boys in the class ran after me. “You forgot your book,” he said. I took it and walked outside to where the neighbour had parked her car. Two of my older brothers were sitting inside. We were delighted. A day off school!  When we arrived home, the house was full of neighbours and family.

“Sit down there and I will make you some beans on toast,” another neighbour said. I sat at the kitchen table. Beans on toast?  In the morning? Brilliant! As I sat there in great expectation, the local priest came and stood beside me. He put his hand on my shoulder and spoke so quietly that nobody else could hear. “Your father passed away during the night.” I looked around the kitchen and suddenly realised what I was witnessing – grief, bewilderment, sadness, loss.

I got off my chair and wandered around our house. Each downstairs room had groups of people huddled together talking in whispers and pointing. “Look, there he is… he is one of the sons…eight children…and the youngest child only three weeks old…”

The house began to fill up with people. Many were there to pay their respects. Others hovered expectantly for the endless supply of sandwiches, sweets and tea.

I retreated upstairs to my bedroom.  There I spent the rest of the day with my books for company, undisturbed. My father had his own small book collection. I took them out and over the next few months began to read them all. Lots of hard backs whose names I cannot remember, except for one – “A Wife for Giles”. I always wonder what happened to that book.

I spent that summer with my cousins in Leitrim. A wonderful summer – fantastic weather, lots of fields to run in, wonderful people, and lots and lots of books to read. Every morning, my Aunt D would walk into my bedroom and laugh. “Another book! Good man yourself! Do you ever sleep?”

“I don’t want to sleep – I want to read!”

“Well you go right ahead! That’s what the holidays are for!”

As I continued to read, the urge to write began to manifest itself.

I began to write short stories, long stories, limericks, ditties, songs. I sent in manuscripts entries to TV, radio, magazines, newspapers, publishers, all in the hope of being broadcast or printed, but to no avail.  But I persisted. I loved to write.

In the late 1990s I won third prize in a short story competition sponsored by L’Ecrivain restaurant. One of the judges was Hugh Leonard. I got to meet him. Imagine!  Me!  Meeting Hugh Leonard! I could not believe it. This was going to be the start of a wonderful writing career for me.

Rod Smith and Oisin RugbyFast forward another 18 years….still writing….still hoping….still sending manuscripts…..rejection slips piling up…but still persisting….one day…one day…..!

And then, Paula Campbell, Poolbeg Press, tells me that she likes a draft I have sent. It needs a lot of work, but it has potential. I had to pinch myself.

Soon, I am visiting schools and libraries to talk about books.  One child has made a banner – “Welcome Rod Smith, Author”.  Author? Me? Well hang on a second. In my travels I have met wonderful creative people like Eoin Colfer, Oisin McGann and Cat Hogan. They are authors.  Me? I just like to write. I still pinch myself  now (I really must stop doing that!) when I realise that I have had six books for children published in the last two years, with (hopefully) more to come: Get Out and Play GAA, Get Out and Play Football, Get Out and Play Rugby (my first trilogy!). And an historical series: Padraig Pearse and the Easter Rising 1916, James Connolly – Working Class Hero, Michael Collins – The Big Fellow.

It took me over thirty years to get published and I am truly grateful for the opportunity. I know it could end tomorrow, but I would still continue to write, because I love it. I know how frustrating it can be for writers who want to see their works in print. Don’t give up. Forget the rejection slips. Keep writing. Be persistent. There may be another Paula Campbell waiting for you out there somewhere….

(c) Rod Smith

About Michael Collins- The Big Fellow

Michael Collins had many roles in his short lifetime.  He fought in the 1916 Easter Rising. He was head of the Irish Army, Minister for Finance,  leader of a network of spies battling against the British forces and a chief negotiator in the Anglo-Irish Treaty. He was killed in 1922 in an ambush at Béal na Bláth at the age of 31. His death robbed Ireland of one of its finest leaders of its time. Admired by many and feared by his enemies, this is the story of Michael Collins – “The Big Fellow”.

Michael Collins- The Big Fellow is in bookshops now or pick up your copy online here!

 

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