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Ballymun Students Publish New Novel for Reluctant Teen Readers

Writing.ie | Magazine | News for Writers

By Vanessa O'Loughlin

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In an innovative move that is exactly the type of entrepreneurship we need to be fostering in Ireland, a group of Ballymun secondary school students have published a new novel ‘In Pieces’ for reluctant teen readers.

The group of eight second year students from Trinity Comprehensive School in Ballymun have teamed-up with author Kevin Mc Dermott (Valentina, Little Island, 2012) to write their own novel, a ground-breaking book  aimed at young people who prefer their books to be short and snappy. Although these have been available in the UK for some time via publisher Barrington Stoke, to date, there have been very few books like this aimed at young Irish readers.

‘In Pieces’ has been created as part of an innovative writer-in-residence project which is part of the JCSP Demonstration Library Project 10th anniversary celebrations and is set in the Natural History Museum and Glasnevin Cemetery.

Joe Kelly JCSP Librarian told us, “’In Pieces’ is aimed at young people who want stories they can get through in a single sitting of about hour. Unfortunately there is a dearth of books matching these specifications which are aimed at Irish readers. As good as similar books set in Britain, America or Australia are, they are just not our own. We need more books that use ‘mam’ instead of ‘mum’ or that replace embarrassed with the much more descriptive ‘scarlet’. So what are we to do? Should we just accept that Irish teenagers are simply going to have to make do with what is out there? In JCSP Library Trinity Comprehensive School Ballymun, we decided to take a different approach and tackle the problem head on. We decided to write our own book.”

1000 copies of ‘In Pieces’ have been professionally type-set and printed, featuring an eye-catching cover design by Michelle Anderson. These will be distributed to over 200 schools which take part in JCSP across the country and all primary and secondary schools in the Ballymun area.

As well as providing much needed reading material, this book has given a platform to eight new young writers, some of whom hadn’t thought about writing before, as Demetrius Sheekey,  JCSP student and author  explained, “I’d never really thought about writing a book or even speaking to an author before. Kevin is a really sound fella, who loves his job and I really respect him for that. I wouldn’t work with any author apart from him.”

Joe Kelly added, “We chose the eight authors based on meetings I had with English teachers. We felt that having one gender would work better in terms of creating a good group dynamic at that age. Second years were chosen as they don’t have the exam pressures of third years – we then chose the boys based not on who exhibited the best writing skills, but those whom we felt would grow and get the most out of the project. Part of this is based on the desire to produce something by those who may be considered ‘reluctant readers’ for others who fall into this category. As JCSP librarian the emphasis is always to encourage students to perform to the best of their ability in all aspects of literacy and learning. We believe that reading is essential for this to happen. Kevin Mc Dermott who worked with the students firmly believes that a love for reading often stems from a love for writing and not vice versa.”

Indeed, author Kevin McDermott’s contribution was vital to the process, as Joe Kelly says “We required someone who not only understood the creative writing process, but could also work with and get the best out of a group of young people. It didn’t take us long to find who we were looking for as a recommendation from Elaina O’Neill at Little Island pointed us in the direction of Kevin Mc Dermott.

‘From the first meeting of the group it was clear that we had chosen the right author as the students immediately took to the open, welcoming and imaginative style of Kevin’s workshops. Over the course of about two months Kevin returned to the school about 8 times, each time taking on and encouraging the boys’ ideas before assembling them together into what is about to become a book. It has been an exciting journey for all of us involved in this initiative. We hope that it will be enjoyed by all those who read it and that it will encourage writers, publishers and indeed young people to produce more books like it – although I don’t think any will be as good as ours!”

InPiecesgroup 001

The eight student authors are: Martin Steers, David Redmond, Aaron Geoghegan, Warren Greene, Marc Duff, Stuart O’Reilly, Craig Farrell and Demetrius Sheekey.

‘In Pieces’ will be launched by Mags Walsh, Director of Children’s Books Ireland, on Tuesday 28th May at 1:30pm in JCSP Library Trinity Comprehensive School Ballymun.

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