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Should You be Best Friends With a Writer Daahling?

Article by Catherine Ryan Howard ©.
Posted in Resources ().

A recent Tumblr post by J.R. Blackwell answered the question posed by many writers aspiring to publication: should I make friends with a famous writer? Catherine Ryan Howard explains why she agrees wholeheartedly with Blackwell’s answer …

Sunday evening last, around about the time my interest in the latest episode of The Voice of Ireland began to wane (for ‘my interest’ read ‘gazing at Bressie’), a link to a Tumblr post popped into my Twitter stream. It took up barely half the length of my computer screen but already had 2,174 notes – Tumblr for re-tweeting, essentially – in its mere 20 hours of internet existence. Why the popularity? Because J.R. Blackwell, its author, was making an excellent point: should you ever find yourself wondering whether or not befriending a famous writer might be worthwhile, remember that you probably already have. Yes: you’ve already befriended a famous author. They’re just not famous yet.

You can read the full post here:


Go on. It’ll only take a second. I’ll wait.

Five years ago next month (can I just say: Five years ago? WHAT THE FUDGE?!), I took a train from Cork to Dublin, and then another, smaller train, from Dublin city centre out to Killiney on the coast, to attend a one-day Inkwell Writers workshop led by Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin.

My brother came with me so he could hang around the graffiti-covered gates of his idol Bono’s compound, looking suspicious, on Killiney’s Vico Road. Meanwhile I sat in a meeting space in Fitzpatrick’s Hotel listening to the likes of Sinead Moriarty and Monica McInerney share their best ‘get published’ advice.

If you think the next part of this story is me stalking Sinead and Monica, you haven’t gone and read that Tumblr post, have you? No, Sinead and Monica are absolutely lovely (*waves*) but this is about two other women who were in that class that day: Maria Duffy and Hazel Gaynor. They, like me, wanted nothing more than to be published.

These days, Maria has four – FOUR! – books on the shelves, regularly appears on the Irish bestseller lists and her books have even been translated in other languages and published abroad. (Most importantly, she invites me to all her book launches.) Hazel Gaynor has published two titles, the first of which, The Girl Who Came Home, sold a gizallion self-published copies before being picked up by William Morrow in the U.S. and she’s a – wait for it – New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. And this week she won the Historical Fiction Award at the Romantic Novelists’ Association Awards in London. (Most importantly, she invites me to all her book launches too.)

Hazel actually wrote a post about how her and Maria were together in that workshop and then, a few weeks ago, together in a bookshop, i.e. their books were side-by-side on a shelf. You can read that here:


Yes, go on. I’ll wait again.

My earliest memory of Dublin-based writer Sheena Lambert is seeing her in the front row of an event I did with Arlene Hunt and Adrian White at the Mountains to Sea Festival a few years back, another event Vanessa had a hand in. Sheena was eagerly leaning forward in the front row, ready with questions and there may have been a reporter’s notebook involved. She was preparing to self-publish but, like me, her ultimate goal was to get someone else to do it on her behalf. Along with Hazel Gaynor, she and I – collectively, we called ourselves The Lovely Girls – did an event at Waterford Writers’ Weekend and even appeared on TV3. This week, Sheena’s [fabulous – Ed, sorry to butt in] novel The Lake is one of the debut releases of Harper Collins’s ‘Killer Reads’ imprint.

I met Elizabeth Murray on Twitter through Vanessa and then in Scoozi’s, my favourite restaurant in Cork City, where we bonded over cheesecake. Again: she was writing, she was hoping to get published. This summer the first book in her [amazing – Ed; sorry, butting in again but really it is]  Nine Lives trilogy will be published by Mercier Press.

Sheena and Elizabeth, I presume the launch invites are on the way…?

There are others I’ve forgotten about, I bet. There will be more, I’m sure.

What did I get up to while all this was going on? Well, besides watching every subtitled Scandinavian crime/political drama I could lay my hands on and then re-watching them, several times, I signed with my dream agent – Jane Gregory of Gregory & Company – and just this past week, sent my finished serial killer thriller to her which will [insert abject terror here] be going out to publishers soon. Please: cross EVERYTHING for me.

What’s my point here? Well, besides the fact that the so-called odds (written a novel have you? Well, your chances of it getting published are less than one percent of one percent of one percent, you know…) are clearly horse faeces, my point is that if you have friends who are writers, writers who are serious and persistent and positive and don’t even entertain the notion of giving up, chances are you already have made friends with a famous writer.

As J.R. Blackwell points out, that famous writer might even be you.

(c) Catherine Ryan Howard

In 2006, Catherine moved to Orlando, Florida and went to work at a hotel in Walt Disney World. In 2008, she came back to Ireland and started writing a book about the time she moved to Orlando, Florida and went to work in a hotel in Walt Disney World. This became Mousetrapped: A Year and A Bit in Orlando, Florida, which she self-published in March 2010. Then she wrote a book about what she did after she worked in a hotel in Walt Disney World — she spent three months backpacking through Central America — and she self-published that too, calling it Backpacked: A Reluctant Trip Across Central America. Then she wrote a book about what she did after she spent three months backpacking through Central America — she started self-publishing books — and then (can you see where this is going?) she self-published that too. That one was called Self-Printed: The Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing.

But Little Catherine didn’t daydream her days away by picturing her book on a Kindle, and it wasn’t only because Kindles weren’t invented then. Self-publishing has been great fun and a wonderful opportunity, but her ultimate goal has always been to get published. Right now she’s putting the finishing touches to a thriller about a serial killer (and apparently she’s a poet and… Oh, you know the rest!) and is represented by Jane Gregory of Gregory & Company.