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Emerging Writer Member Profile

Esther Hoad

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Today, Tuesday July 16th 2019, is somewhat of a milestone day for me and I just want to share. Without knowing how many of you or who at all will read this, I will at least have the satisfaction that I first marked this auspicious day HERE, on writing.ie

So, I have sent a submission to a Welsh publisher and here is my synopsis. I might add that it took me all afternoon to compose this synopsis ... anyone else find it difficult to 'sell' themselves ...? Aaaaggghhh!

Synopsis of: Salvaging Sweetness – a memoir.

It’s 1988, Esther Hoad is in her early twenties and she lives in Ireland; she hears a clear, truthful radio interview and realises, for the first time ever, that she was raped.

Growing up in rural mid-Wales during the sixties and seventies, her eclectic, ‘alternative’ childhood was one of neglect, suffering, starvation and multiple abuses, not least being raped on a daily basis going to and from school. Despite all of this, she was a gregarious, curious and a happy child. As an adult, having identified what happened to her, via that one radio interview, she just gets on with life.

Decades later, in her early fifties, she has a life-changing accident. As she struggles to come to terms with chronic body pain and monumental upheaval in her personal life, one night she has a dream in which a woman’s voice says, ‘And that’s the day my daughter turned eleven.’ Through subsequent weekly psychotherapy sessions, with a practitioner who specialises in childhood trauma, she begins to unravel the truth about her childhood and the sexual abuse she survived. Forty years on, she acknowledges that while this man is still alive, he continues to pose an ongoing threat to children and she makes an official police statement.

In September 2016, through a joint effort over two years, involving the Irish police service, An Gardai Siochana, and Dyfed Powys Police, the unrepentant predatory paedophile who abused her is found guilty at Swansea Crown Court on four sample charges of crimes against a minor. He is later sentenced to three years in Usk prison.

Written with humour, depth and skill, at first in the voice of an innocent child and, later, in the voice of the awakened adult, this memoir is fascinating as a stand-alone story. However, Salvaging Sweetness offers so much more: it serves as a stark warning about the subtleties of grooming and the relative ease with which predatory child sexual violence occurs. It also smashes the myth that all mothers are kind and loving; hers wasn’t, and Esther’s life was in danger so often, it’s a miracle she’s alive today. Most importantly, her story gives other survivors hope, and perhaps some comfort too that, just sometimes, legal justice is served.

Salvaging Sweetness is an unflinching story and represents a strong voice that will resonate with many readers, especially in the #metoo era, and it’s a voice which needs to be heard. The core message is clear: listen to all survivors; never give up looking for active help and support; justice is a bonus, sometimes it takes years, but never give up. Ultimately, through finding renewed joy in her own life, Esther encourages all survivors of sexual crimes to salvage sweetness where they can.


And now my watch begins ... standing by for whatever comes next by way of a response. All of it will be good learning; none of it will be wasted experience. I will update on how I get on. Fingers crossed ...

Following a successful career in the Irish civil service as an Adult Literacy Educator, I had a life-changing accident in 2013. Since my enforced retirement I’ve been developing my own creative writing & in 2015 my poem, Atonement was published in the Leitrim Guardian & won 1st prize.

In October 2018, I was awarded a Writers’ Mentorship Programme by Words Ireland who noted the merits of my ‘strong emerging voice; frank, with lots of integrity’.

What was a part-time endeavor has become the start of a serious writing career. I intend to continue developing strong creative non-fiction writing of socio-political relevance to modern Ireland.

Not on Facebook, not on Twitter, but you can check out my public postings on Instagram where I masquerade as: polly_tunnel

Writing sample

Extract from Salvaging Sweetness:


Donegal Ireland 1988

I was in the kitchen of the bungalow making myself a cup of tea. The back door stood wide open and both my girls were outside playing on the tarmacked yard; it was a lovely warm spring day and I was happy to let them run around. The winter had been long and gloomy; it was time they had some fun outdoors.

One of the girls ran in shrieking with the other chasing her. I said, ‘Sssshhhh…’ to them both because I was listening to a programme on RTÉ Radio One. The presenter said that after the next ad break she was going to interview someone from the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre. The topic under discussion was clerical child sexual abuse, which was in the Irish news a lot at the time. I went to check on the girls who’d gone back outdoors again, then I sat in the sunshine on a stool beside the open door where I could keep an eye on them both. The radio presenter welcomed everyone back to the programme and introduced her female guest.

‘So, for clarification purposes, can you perhaps give our listeners a definition of what exactly rape is, please? There seem to be so many conflicting opinions out there at the moment, which does make it very confusing for people, so perhaps you’d clarify that for us.’

‘Sure. It’s straightforward and simple really. Rape is sex without the consent of both people.’

The presenter said, ‘Oh-kay, so just to be clear that I’ve understood you correctly, what you’re saying is that anytime two people have sex, without consent from both parties, that’s rape?’

‘Yes, that’s correct. The simplest definition of rape is exactly that: sex without the consent of both people.’

I switched off the radio and took my tea outside into the fresh air. The girls were still chasing one another, having fun in the sunshine; I smiled and waved at them both as they ran around laughing.

Rape is sex without the consent of both people.

I looked down at my hands clasped around my teacup. I looked up at the wisps of white clouds in the otherwise blue sky. I glanced across at my girls, playing ‘dollies’ now, sitting on a carpet of dried golden pine needles blown off the fir trees during the winter storms. Rape is sex without the consent of both people. I was struggling to comprehend what I’d just heard. And then it hit me.

Oh. My. God. That’s what happened to me.

*** *** ***

Current project

Having written since I was seven years of age, I have access to a unique and priceless resource for authentic writing from which I draw in order to add veracity to my current writing project. Through the Words Ireland Writers’ Mentorship and with Brian Leyden as my mentor, I’m now reassured and certain about three things:

1) that creative non-fiction writing is the direction for my work;

2) that my current writing project, Salvaging Sweetness is not only relevant to a wide audience, but also timely, pertinent & significant to the socio-political landscape of modern Ireland;

3) that I identify as an emerging writer, of the ‘late bloomer’ variety. To that end, it is my intention to produce strong writing and to be published here in Ireland, where I’ve lived since 1980.

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