Tag Archives: Joe Armstrong

March 11th: Insights into Non-fiction publising

Irish PEN presents: A Fact-Finding Mission:  Insights into the World of Non-Fiction publishing.

Was Dickens’s Thomas Gradgrind secretly the first non-fiction commissioning editor, when he exclaimed: ‘Now, what I want is, Facts…. stick to Facts, Sir!’? Or did he just have a healthy respect for the breadth and wondrous world of communicating factual information, recording lives and historical events, exploring and enthusing over hobbies, art, music or architecture?  Not to mention the ‘how to’ books on a range of topics from personal finance to making your will, guides to relationship survival or growing your own vegetables.   

Irish PEN is delighted to invite writers of all genres to attend this very informative and broad-reaching discussion on non-fiction publishing in Ireland.  Our panel on the evening will include: 

Ivan O’Brien, publisher and MD of The O’Brien Press;  Seán O’Keeffe, publishing director of Liberties Press, Joe Armstrong, non-fiction author and commissioning editor for international academic publisher Peter Lang and Gillian Hick,  a vet who has penned her memoirs, Vet on the Loose  and a forthcoming title Vet Among the Pigeons.

WHEN:         8.00pm.  Thursday, March 11th 2010

WHERE:       United Arts Club, 3 Upper Fitzwilliam Street, Dublin 2.

COST:          €3 members, €5 non-members.


Tel:  087-9660770,  email:irishpen1@gmail.com

The Panel:

Ivan O’Brien is Managing Director of O’Brien Press, Ireland’s leading independent publisher of books for adults and children.  Born into the family firm, Ivan started his own publishing at the age of eight – and sold copies in the Hodges Figgis.  After an extended academic interlude, he began to work full-time at O’Brien Press in 1997, where he was held roles in production, sales and IT before becoming MD.

Seán O’Keeffe is the publishing director of Liberties Press and has been working in book publishing for 15 years.  He is also a published poet.  Seán co-founded Liberties in 2003 with his business partner Peter O’Connell. The press has quickly become one of Ireland’s leading non-fiction publishers, with more than 100 titles in print across a range of genres, including best-sellers by Garret FitzGerald, Richard Crowley and Michael D. Higgins. Liberties Press has an active foreign-rights programme and will be launching a fiction list in spring 2010.

Joe Armstrong’s book  Men’s Health – the Common Sense Approach was published by Gill & Macmillan in 1999 and translated into several languages. He also self-published Write Way to Stop Smoking in 2004. He co-authored another non-fiction book in 2009: From Special Care to Specialist Treatment – a History of Muckamore Abbey.  For the first title, he was commissioned by a publisher. For the second, he set up his own imprint. For the third, and most lucrative, he was paid by the hour. In his role at international academic publisher Peter Lang, Joe commissions books for publication and in 2009 commissioned 45 new titles in Ireland.

Gillian Hick was born in Dublin and has practised as a vet both in Dublin and in Wicklow for the past seven years, where she now has her own practice. She also works for the Irish Blue Cross. Her first humorous memoir was Vet on the Loose, and her second title Vet among the Pigeons will be published this year with The O’Brien Press.

Irish PEN acknowledges the ongoing support of The Arts Council and Dublin City Council’s Arts Office.

Spring Newsletter, 2010


Newsletter, Spring 2010


irishpen.com.  Tel:  087-966 0770 email: info@irishpen.com  

Irish PEN acknowledges the ongoing support of The Arts Council and Dublin City Council’s Arts Office.




When we emerged out of hibernation from the early January snow, it was great to have such a range of social events lined up.

January went out with a memorable bang, with the Annual Irish PEN dinner and presentation of The Irish PEN Award for Literature 2010 to Brendan Kennelly held on Friday 29that the Royal St George Yacht Club, Dun Laoghaire.   The magical tone of the evening was set by the glorious full moon, which bathed the harbour and moored yachts in a glorious light, and ever the poet, Brendan Kennelly commented on the beauty of the setting, as he made his way out from Trinity to join us. 

It wasn’t long before the room filled with well-wishers, colleagues and members, some of them old friends of Brendan’s.  To those of us privileged to be there, the note of sincerity in all the accolades was set when our Chair, Anne Le Marquand Hartigan, introduced Brendan and his achievements to the gathering in warm and affectionate terms.  Presenting the award, former TCD colleague and close friend, Senator David Norris was his usual effusive self and regaled us with tales of Brendan grading his essays, when the senator was an undergraduate and the poet his ‘prof’.  In his usual extraordinary and humble way, Brendan Kennelly expressed his delight at being honoured by Irish PENand then to everyone’s delight recited several poems from memory, some by Patrick Kavanagh, followed by lines of his own.  The hearty applause which ensued was prolonged and genuine and as several members commented, it was a ‘vintage’ evening, a privilege to share. 

See Photos on irishpen.com.

 In February,Our President, Brian Friel, saw his ‘Faith Healer’ back at the Gate and Edna O’Brien’s play ‘Haunted’ starring Brenda Blethyn, had a run at the Gaiety.  Friel fans won’t have long to wait until that theatre lifts the curtain on ‘Philadelphia Here I come’, directed by Dominic Dromgoole, which will run from March 9th – April 10th.

Down the road at the National Library, Kildare Street, novelist and elegant octogenarian, Jennifer Johnston co-launched the exhibition of the original Lifelines’ letters, to mark the 25th anniversary of the project.  The Library has purchased the collection and they make interesting reading.


‘Finding a Home for your Writing’ – our Associate Member night this year was held on February 11th   2010 in the United Arts Club.

Our expert panel included, Eoghan Corry, editor of Travel Extra and travel correspondent to the Pat Kenny Radio show, Aine Toner, editor of Woman’s Way, and Sue Leonard, freelance journalist and author.

An informative and interesting evening, this helped members, in very practical terms with regards to how to submit articles to both Eoghan and Aine.   From her experience as a journalist, Sue gave a realistic account from the other side of the submission process of how to find an idea, hone it, build business relationships and eventually get your pieces published.  The wide-ranging experience of our panellists made the road home for your writing seem that little bit straighter.


Observant members will have noticed that our website, irishpen.com, has undergone something of a facelift.  We are very keen to post information of interest to writers and members and keep it as live and up-to-date as possible.  Log on to see news of recent events.  Sincere thanks to Joe Armstrong for his work on the revamp.  The really sharp among you will have also noticed a changed email address.  The new address is: info@irishpen.com. Over the coming months, we hope to use this address exclusively.  For the purposes of database management, this is an impassioned plea to members to send us mail to our NEW address above, confirming their email, and postal addresses, marking the subject line ‘Full Member database’ or ‘Associate Member database’ as appropriate.  In this way, we hope to be able to communicate more effectively with you all.

Please remember to renew your membership as we depend on the support of our members.  Any outstanding memberships for 2010 may be paid by following the links on the website, irishpen.com.  

Full Membership: €40.00        Associate Membership: €30 .00

There is a PayPal facility available.




CONGRATULATIONS to Leland Bardwell on being the first recipient of

The Dede Korkut Literary Award’, from Turkish PEN for her collection of short stories ‘Different Kinds of Love’, translated into Turkish.


Sarah Webb’s ‘The Loving Kind’has recently been published by Pan & MacMillan (see irishpen.com.)  Marita Conlon-McKenna’s new book ‘Mother of the Bride’ about a big family Wedding was published on March 4th

‘City Pick’ Oxygen Books will feature Dublinlater this month with an introduction to the fifty writers, who bring Dublin to life by Orna Ross.  

Orna may also be found on The Creative Intelligence Blog. 


Patricia O’Reilly’s latest novel ‘A Type of Beauty, the story of Kathleen Newton (1854-1882)’ will be launched at Listowel Writers’ Week, 2010.

About the complications of love, it is set in Victorian era London, Agra and Paris.


Shelley Goodman’s extensive work ‘Volf Roitman: The Wizard of Madi’, a long illustrated biography of her late husband, Roitman, a novelist, playwright, cineaste and master sculptor, will be published by Red Swan Press in the USA and in Italian, by the University of Florence.



Dublin Book Festival: Over 40 free events, 100 writers and three days of fun for all the family, Dublin City Hall, March 6th– 8thwww.dublinbookfestival.com

Inkwell Workshop:  Writing for Children Workshop, facilitated by best-selling

authors Sarah Webb and Oisin McGann, March 20th, Fitzpatrick’s Castle Hotel, Killiney, Co Dublin.  9 – 4.30pm, includes lunch, writers’ tips information pack. €175.  For further information:  Contact Vanessa O’Loughlin at vol@esatclear.ie.

'I see you dancing, Brendan'

Words by Joe Armstrong, Photo by Caroline Brady

Senator David Norris, Anne Hartigan and Brendan Kennelly, recipient of the Irish PEN lifetime achievement award for literature

Senator David Norris, Anne Hartigan and Brendan Kennelly, recipient of the Irish PEN lifetime achievement award for literature

Brendan Kennelly is probably the best-loved figure in Irish public life, said Senator David Norris, speaking at the Irish PEN award ceremony on Friday 29th January 2010.  He described Kennelly as one of the world’s greatest teachers. In a funny and entertaining speech that had the captive audience at the Royal St George Yacht Club laugh loud and often, he revered Kennelly for imagining himself in poetic form inside the mind of Cromwell, his nation’s bitterest enemy, and Judas. To the appreciation of those gathered, he quoted from one of Brendan’s acclaimed poems ‘I See You Dancing, Father’ which ends: ‘Whatever happens or cannot happen/In the time I have to spare/I see you dancing, father.’

He thanked Brendan on behalf of Irish PEN for all that he has done to enrich our lives. ‘You have been my teacher, my mentor, my advisor. It is a great privilege to be here presenting this award, in this most distinguished company of your peers, your fellow artists. It is appropriate that you should receive this. You are a brilliant poet.’

‘I can’t say how honoured I am. It’s an amazing award,’ said Brendan Kennelly of the Irish PEN accolade. He peppered his softly lilted twenty-minute speech with several recitations of poetry in English and Irish. He recited poems from memory, such as Kavanagh’s ‘The Dawning of the Day’ first in Irish and then in English. He recounted a tale of Kavanagh asking someone for a large whiskey and then a fiver. He then asked for another large whiskey and another fiver. He continued in this vein, requesting whiskey and fivers until eventually the other man said No and Kavanagh, twinkle in eye, called him stingy. All who heard Brendan speak and recite felt honoured to be there, privileged to share the moment. It was like what a sacrament is meant to be: a recreation anew of eternal truths of humanity. The priest: Kennelly. The liturgy: the poetry.