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Fiction at the Friary by Danielle McLoughlin

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Fiction at the Friary

Danielle McLoughlin

AN ACCOUNT OF LOST LAUNCHES – A FICTION AT THE FRIARY EVENT, IN COLLABORATION WITH CORK WORLD BOOK FESTIVAL 2022. HELD AT ST PETER’S CHURCH, NORTH MAIN STREET, CORK CITY, ON SUNDAY 24th April 2022.

On the last Sunday in April, with the clock edging toward 3pm, Madeleine D’Arcy and I shook jellybeans into bowls as light streamed through the high windows of St Peter’s Church, North Main Street.

Fiction at the Friary events usually take place across the river at The Friary Bar, but a larger venue was required for ‘Lost Launches’, the final event of Cork World Book Festival 2022. We believed that the book launches lost to Covid restrictions should be marked in some way and so when we were invited to curate an event for the festival, we knew what we wanted to do. A collaboration between Cork City Libraries and Fiction at the Friary, the afternoon was a celebration of books published during the pandemic by Cork-based fiction writers.

St Peter’s, an historic building on the grounds of a 12th century church, is an amazing venue: high ceilinged, airy and spacious. The open plan space suggests both calmness and creativity and was the perfect venue to host a community of writers and readers, especially since many of us hadn’t had the opportunity to meet up in quite some time and needed to re-acquaint ourselves, gently, with the concept of socialising! Soon, thanks to the wonderful John McLaughlin, who stepped in at short notice to take care of the drinks,  people were milling around with glasses of wine and sparkling water and there was the buzz of conversation, tinged with near giddiness. Zoom has its uses, but even for a confirmed introvert like myself, it felt good to be out ‘in person’ again. And what a joy it was to meet with people we hadn’t seen since the pre-Covid era.

Cork writers published A LOT of books during the pandemic. Among the writers who joined us for the afternoon were Billy O’Callaghan,  Catherine Kirwan, Conal Creedon,  Gráinne Murphy, Mel O’Doherty,  Eimear Ryan,  Eibhear Walshe, Laura McKenna, Susan Lanigan, Michelle Dunne, Caragh Bell, Alannah Hopkin, Afric McGlinchy, Colm O’Ceallachain,  JP Quinn and Tadgh Coakley. Their books spanned a wide range of genres including crime, romance, historical fiction, literary fiction, children’s books, among others.

The mood that afternoon was fun and celebratory – we were, after all, making up for lost time. Or perhaps, to put it more accurately, lost encounters: all those ‘in real life’ book launches that didn’t happen over the past two years. It’s an achievement to finish a book. The process takes so many hours of the proverbial blood, sweat and tears, and the majority of those hours are spent alone. When a book finally makes its way out into the world, when Story meets Reader, it’s an occasion to be marked.

When planning the event, we decided that it should be an opportunity for writers to relax and bask in the glory of their books. With this in mind, we didn’t give them any jobs to do. No readings to deliver, no questions to answer. Instead, Cork actor Rosie O’Regan read extracts from each book as images of author and cover were projected onto a screen by our projectionist-for-a-day extraordinaire Andrew Lane.  It’s a treat for writers to hear someone else read our work. It was amazing to hear Rosie’s interpretation of each piece, the nuances and detail she called forth, the finely calibrated emotions.

As a memento of the day, each writer was presented with a cloth-bound notebook made by Hubert Book Binding of Tobin Street, https://www.hubertbookbinding.com/ which practises the ancient craft of hand book binding using a range of gorgeous materials. The notebooks came in an array of colours that rivalled the jellybeans and had the name of the writer inscribed in silver foil on the front cover and, inside, an inscription of the date and occasion.

As with all good launches, much book buying took place over the course of the afternoon, with John Breen from Waterstones manning a great book stall.

If you weren’t able to make it to St Peter’s on the day, you’ll be glad to know that the event was filmed by Dominic Moore, thanks to funding provided by Cork City Libraries. We’re very grateful to Patricia Looney, Senior Executive Librarian, for her on-going support of Cork writers and readers. Once the film becomes available, we’ll post details on our social media platforms. I for one am definitely looking forward to re-visiting those readings so beautifully delivered by Rosie O’Regan. In the meantime, if you’d like to check out some photos from the day we have a selection posted on our website: www.fictionatthefriary.ie.

Huge thanks and congratulations to all the writers who were a part of Lost Launches and to the team at St Peter’s who looked after us so wonderfully. Thanks also to everybody who came along to say hello and raise a glass and help us celebrate. We look forward to seeing you again at future events.

And on that note: if you’re in or near Cork City on Sunday 29th May, why not join us for our next Fiction at the Friary event at the Friary Bar, North Mall between 3pm and 6pm. We’ll be chatting to the brilliant Danny Denton about his latest novel, All Along The Echo. There’ll be more jellybeans and conversation, writing exercises(optional) and an open mic. So whether you just want to sit and enjoy being read to for an afternoon, or if you’re looking for a friendly atmosphere in which to read your own work, do come along. Open mic slots are allocated on a first come first served basis, and we ask that you read for no longer than ten minutes, please. The event is free and there’s no need to book. All welcome!

(c) Danielle McLoughlin

The photograph above shows Danielle McLaughlin (Writer and Co-Curator of Fiction at the Friary),  Patricia Looney (Senior Executive Librarian, Cork City Library) and Madeleine D’Arcy (Writer and Co-Curator of Fiction at the Friary). 

Fiction at the Friary is a free monthly fiction event open to all: readers, writers, aspiring writers, anyone who loves a good story. Our events take place on the last Sunday of every month (excluding December and July) from 3PM to 6PM at the Friary Bar, Cork.

About the author

Danielle McLaughlin is the author of the short story collection Dinosaurs on Other Planets. Her stories have appeared in the New Yorker, Irish Times, the Stinging Fly, and various anthologies. She has won the Windham Campbell Prize, the Sunday Times Audible Short Story Award, the William Trevor/Elizabeth Bowen International Short Story Competition, the Willesden Short Story Prize, the Merriman Short Story Competition in memory of Maeve Binchy, and the Dromineer Literary Festival short story competition. Her first novel is The Art of Falling.

Fiction at the Friary is a free monthly fiction event open to all: readers, writers, aspiring writers, anyone who loves a good story. Our events take place on the last Sunday of every month (excluding December and July) from 3PM to 6PM at the Friary Bar, Cork.

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