Author Archives: Orla Shanaghy

We need to talk about Tubridy.

Feminist Ire

Listening to Ryan Tubridy is annoying in the same way that stepping on a bit of lego is annoying. It happens, it’s irritating and sore for a little while, then you forget about it and go about the rest of your day. But if you got up and stepped on a piece of lego at 9am every weekday morning it would, no doubt, begin to have an impact. It would eventually start to leave a bruise, kind of how his insidious daily sexism has an impact on the people listening to it. Repeated everyday, it eventually leaves a mark.

I’m sure underneath it all Ryan Tubridy is a nice person but his brand of entertainment is about as amusing as a dose of thrush. Then again, his show is not aimed at me. It’s aimed at people who think that a Carry On Celtic Tiger smarmy sense of humour is…

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“Comics Aren’t Just For Boys Anymore” Or “How Not To Be A D**k”

This is a superbly argued and beautifully expressed slap-down to sexism in the comic book world, courtesy of Derek Flynn of Rant with Occasional Music blog.

Rant, with occasional music

215. GirlsDontRead

The phrase “Comics Aren’t Just For Boys Anymore” is hardly revolutionary. If you’re a female comic’s fan or creator, you’re probably saying, “Duh, obviously. We’ve known that for thirty years.”


Here’s the thing. It would seem that not everybody in geekdom has gotten the memo. In fact, if recent events are anything to go by, the memo is still in the “Out” box. One of the recent events I refer to is a critique of a comic book cover that Janelle Asselin – a former comic’s editor – wrote called “Anatomy of a Bad Cover”. Asselin was an editor and associate editor on such DC titles as Batman, Batwoman, and Detective Comics, amongst many others. So, we’re talking the big leagues here. The cover she wrote about was this:

214. Comics Aren't Just ...

This is the cover of the first issue of the new Teen Titans comic. You don’t need to be Brainiac…

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The 33-minute productivity technique in practice

Ah, procrastination. The little devil on the shoulder of most writers.

There are as many techniques for enhancing productivity as there are ways to procrastinate. The most effective one that I’ve come across is Eugene Schwartz’s 33-minute rule. This is how you do it, as explained at the link above:

iphone-timer-200x300“Get a kitchen timer and put it on your desk.

Set it for 33 minutes. Now start writing.

Write anything.  Just fill the page.

If you can’t write, then sit there and stare until you start sweating blood.”

Yep, that’s right – blood. You are not allowed to move for the 33 minutes.

This may sound like a massive restriction. In fact, it’s liberating. You can do anything you like in those 33 minutes, as long as you don’t move from the chair. After staring out the window, examining your fingernails, and generally fidgeting for a bit, what else is there to do but write something?

The aim of the exercise is not to produce wonderful work. The aim is to get you writing – anything. Because writing is better than not-writing.

Here’s the product of my 33 minutes this morning. What do you think – of the piece of writing, or about the whole issue of productivity? Have you tried the 33-minute technique or any similar anti-procrastination methods? How did it work for you?

I’d love to hear from you in the Reply section below.

Coffee, break

The pressure built up slowly in her vascular system. The coffee she had drunk at breakfast delicately burned the backs of her eyeballs. Rachel felt that she was fizzing on the inside.

Three hours until she had to stand up from her desk and collect Josh from play-school. What to do with this free time? She stared at the blank computer screen and tried to breathe her circulation back to normal.

It had never been like this when Mark was here. She guessed she had never felt the need to take a deep breath. Back then, noticing how she was feeling would have seemed like a frivolity, something that people with time on their hands did.

She looked down at her hands, crouched like crabs over the keys. Last night she had picked up a magazine and read about how to do a DIY manicure. Oh, the rubbing, the filing, the buffing, the warming, the wearing gloves overnight – did people really do this?

The fizzing was reaching her fingertips now. Ridges of cracked skin framed her fingernails. She thought about cuticle oil. Did such a product really exist?

She had once read a story, back in college, by the American writer Annie Proulx. In it, a teenage married couple set up home together on the American frontier. Rachel had blanked out the mundane tragedy of the story, but the frontier spirit described in it stayed with her. The people fought to acquire a patch of land, built their home from the ground up, created a life for themselves with unquestioning determination. If they had been handed three hours, they would have built a fence round their acre or chopped and piled enough firewood for several weeks.

Rachel let her wrists slump to the edge of the keyboard. Life, as she knew it, was something that happened to you. You just had to play along and it happened.

Her coffee high was ebbing away. Rachel felt herself able to observe the process within her body. A familiar dullness was seeping through her. The expanse of time that lay open before her darkened in her mind’s eye. She could no longer see it. Her paralysis eased and her fingers came to life.

She opened Facebook.


An Open Letter to President Higgins

Fellow blogger Margaret A. O’Brien has written a thoughtful and beautifully expressed open letter to President Michael O’Higgins on the occasion of his state visit to the UK this week. As an Irish writer and creative writing tutor, Margaret is ideally positioned to comment on the current state of writing as an art form in Ireland. Here is her letter in full.

Writing Changes Lives

President Higgins

Dear President Higgins,

You are about to start a historic visit to the United Kingdom and I have no doubt that the schedule planned for you and Mrs. Higgins during this trip is interesting and full.

In a recent article in The Irish Times you raised some interesting questions. “What is necessary to human flourishing? What human capabilities does Irish society encourage, genuinely enable, or block?” I suggest that you may find some answers to those questions if you include in your visit a meeting with John Moat and a visit to any of the four Arvon houses in the UK. What is The Arvon Foundation? In its own words “Arvon is a charity that works to ensure anyone can benefit from the transformative power of writing.” Don’t you find that wonderful? That anyone can benefit? John Moat, with the late John Fairfax, founded what became Arvon over 40 years…

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Pregnancy, birth preparation and getting pinched by a German midwife

Oh-three-oh-three-oh-three. That was the date I had had in my head for forty whole weeks. The date I had first heard spoken out loud by the doctor around eight months earlier. The day my first baby would arrive.

It seemed like magic from the start. As a child, I had mystic notions about the number three. I think I had read in a library book that it had magical properties. That was all I needed to begin a lifelong attachment to the number. And now, twenty-plus years later, on March 3rd 2003, here I was, due to have a magical “three” baby.

Or perhaps that should be a “drei” baby. My husband and I, recently married, were living and working in Germany. We both had well-paid “knowledge” jobs in the IT industry, a beautiful apartment in a leafy suburb of Heidelberg, one of Germany’s most gorgeous cities, and lots of free time to spend doing whatever the hell we liked.


Heidelberg, Germany

And what do people in the Western world do when they have everything? They want more everything, of course. We wanted a baby.

All the books and websites said it can take up to a year to become pregnant. That sounds like a good time frame, we thought. Plenty of time to practise.

Four weeks later, said baby was on the way. Oh right, we thought. That didn’t take much practice at all.

My husband and I were academic types. I was one of those annoying students who always had their hand up in class and liked nothing better than a good long essay for homework. My husband was one of those even more annoying students who appeared to do no work whatsoever but still got straight As. We set to work on our latest assignment.

The beautiful apartment soon began to pile up with Babykram. Kram is a fantastic German word. It means “stuff”, but it sounds so much more like it actually means “stuff” than in English. Books, videos, sheets printed from the internet, the cot, the nappy changing unit, cushions in bizarre shapes – if it was Kram, and had anything to do with babies, we got it. We spent evenings with our noses buried in books and our fingers became deformed from over-use of Allen keys.

Then there was the birth preparation course. The course leader was an imposing, broad-shouldered midwife named Hannelore. The course was specifically for couples who were first-time parents and Hannelore was determined to disabuse us of our naive notions about childbirth.

Did I say dis-abuse? She declared in one of the first sessions that to create an idea of what the pain of labour would be like, each non-pregnant partner was to grab the groin muscle in their pregnant partner’s upper inside thigh between their finger and thumb, and pinch as hard as they could. Hannelore was unimpressed with the mild “ow”s that emanated from the pregnant women in the room. So she rolled up her metaphorical sleeves and went around and pinched us all herself. The pain was excruciating. There were actual screams coming from the room.

I limped out to the car afterwards beside my shell-shocked husband, feeling that not much magic remained in our baby journey.


Baby, or Casper the friendly ghost?

The birth preparation course left my husband and me feeling not very prepared, and very slightly terrified. On the more positive side, the wonderful German healthcare system granted us monthly ultrasound scans, so we were able to closely follow our baby’s progress from tiny black blip to the ghostly but unmistakeable features of a perfect little face staring back at us, back to a black-and-white blur as the baby got bigger, and bigger.

And I got bigger, and bigger. I had expected this, of course, but I was concerned for my centre of gravity. Surely the laws of physics would work on the magnitude of my tummy to make me fall over? Apparently not. I managed to remain upright until the end.

Ah, the end. Oh-three-oh-three-oh-three finally arrived. But it turned out to be a big fat oh-no. Not even a magic wand was going to get our baby out that day. It took five more days, a nice walk and a Thai curry to kick things off.

To be continued…

Penguin USA and Penguin Canada to publish Nuala ní Chonchúir’s new novel, Miss Emily

I’ve been trying most of my life to become an overnight sensation.

It started when I was about seven. I had read a series of books by an irritating twelve-year-old prodigy whose name I no longer remember. (One of her characters was Penelope Pomegranate – ring a bell with anyone?). Her photo was on the back of each book. She was a serious-looking girl with long, straight hair and a sensible woolly jumper. My seven-year-old self, who had previously entertained airy notions of writing books one day, was stung into action.

I began writing like a thing possessed. I had to outdo Miss Sensible Jumper before I hit twelve.

You can guess the rest. I slowly came to learn that overnight success can take a very long time.

I was prompted to reflect on all this last week by a brilliant piece of literary news. Irish writer Nuala ní Chonchúir has just signed a book deal with Penguin USA and Penguin Canada for her third novel, Miss Emily. Nuala got to write on her blog last week the words that every writer longs to type: “I am living my fantasy just now – Penguin USA and Penguin Canada are going to publish my third novel, Miss Emily…”

Nuala ní Chonchúir

Nuala ní Chonchúir

Nuala has certainly earned the joy of writing those lines. She is one of those talented, hard-working writers who puts in the hours, day after day, year after year. She is a familiar and much-loved name to anyone involved in the Irish literary scene, but up to now, she has not been a household name. Now, readers all over the US and Canada are soon to enjoy the work of a new overnight literary sensation.

I have written elsewhere on this blog about the cultural phenomenon of overnight success. Let’s look at Nuala’s case a little more closely. Her first work was published in 2003. Factor in a very conservative estimate of at least five years of serious, committed daily writing graft before that, and you’ve got a minimum sixteen-year lead-in to the Penguin deal.

I remember attending a workshop with Nuala three or four years ago. The topic was self-promotion for writers. Nuala told us that her income as a writer was small; I think the phrase she used was “laughably small”. This, from a working writer with several published works under her belt, as well as a steady stream of workshop gigs and appearances at literary festivals in Ireland and abroad.

I, for one, greatly appreciated Nuala’s disarming honesty about her income. It helped me to realise the magnitude of the mountain that writers have to climb.

So what can aspiring published writers learn from all this?

Before the gravy, comes the graft. The bad news is that in most cases, the graft takes a painfully long time. The good news is, when the gravy starts pouring, it tastes so, so sweet. And you get to write sentences like: “I am living my fantasy just now.”

Miss Emily, which is about Emily Dickinson and her Irish maid, sounds like a great read. Enjoy the gravy, Nuala.

Blog Awards Ireland 2013: The finalists

Huge congratulations to all the wonderful blogs that have made it onto the Finalist list of Blog Awards Ireland 2013. Even though Wait Til I Tell You isn’t in the final round this year, I am super delighted to have made it to the shortlist. Image

I must give a shout out to fellow blogger and Waterfordian Mark Graham, whose blog A Year of Festivals in Ireland is one of this year’s finalists. Mark recently released an app to go with his very popular blog. Unlike some (many?) apps out there, this one is actually useful and nice to look at.

The winners in this year’s blog awards will be announced at the awards ceremony in Naas on October 13th. Exciting!

PS. The whole Blog Awards Ireland effort is run on a not-for-profit basis by three women who are also full-time business women. No doubt they wear a wardrobe-full of other hats too. Thanks, Lorna Sixsmith, Amanda Webb and Beatrice Whelan!

Blog Awards Ireland 2013: The shortlist!

More excitement in my house this weekend: Wait til I tell you has made the Blog Awards Ireland 2013 shortlist!


I’m also delighted that the following writerly friends join me on the shortlist:

Best of luck to all the other shortlistees for the next stage of the competition: the Finalist List, to be published on September 29th.

Here are the other blogs in the Arts and Culture category. Do check them out and subscribe to any that grab you!

Rhubarb Whiskey Cocktails

I’ve recently become a little obsessed with rhubarb. How is it that such an unattractive-looking plant can yield, with the addition of sugar and spices, a flavour so surprisingly sublime?


(Some years ago, German friends of ours came to visit and were very taken with Actimel rhubarb yogurt. There is no such thing in Germany as rhubarb yogurt. I’m not sure if this says anything significant about the German nation.)

Back to the here and now. This year’s rhubarb season is over, but thanks to the recipe for Rhubarb Tea Cake on the Wise Words blog, I had some rhubarb cordial in the fridge, crying out to be used. The cordial is a by-product of the rhubarb roasting process, flavoured after roasting with crushed cardamom and vanilla pods, reduced to a syrup on the hob, and left to infuse overnight with the roasted rhubarb.

And what better way to use up rhubarb cordial than in a rhubarb whiskey cocktail? (The recipe I used is the one contained in the tea cake recipe above.)

So I took advantage of a surprise evening nap on the part of my obliging seven-month-old and got to work.

The first task, as with all cocktails, is assembling the ingredients. I love this part. It makes me feel like I have practically made the cocktail already:

wtity20130831-cocktail ingredients

Ingredients for a rhubarb whiskey cocktail. The glasses are Riedel ‘O’ wine tumblers and the board is a Melbourne Breadboard Company camphor laurel cutting board.

Almost instantly, I made a mistake. In my enthusiasm to put my under-used ice crusher to work, I crushed the ice first. I then had to race through the rest of the process so the ice would not melt too much. So, crush the ice last, folks.

The Other Half wanted a cocktail, too, as Other Halves will. So I doubled all the quantities in Mona Wise‘s recipe. (Come to think of it, isn’t it strange that most cocktail recipes – the ones in my Mixology book, anyway – are for one drink only? Even if you’re on your own, you have two, right?)

I took the rhubarb cordial from the fridge with a graceful little skip of delight. (In my head, anyway.) It is almost viscous after the reduction process, flecked with dots of vanilla, cloudy with cardamom, and most deliciously of all, it is a seductive, flaming pink colour:

wtity20130831-rhubarb cordial

I got on with the work of juicing the oranges and lemons. Now for the mixing. In went the crushed ice (not too watery, luckily), citrus juices, rhubarb cordial (you get to drain the glass, woop!), whiskey, bitters, and sprigs of mint. Then a good mix. (I used the blade of the kitchen knife, slattern-fashion.)

I was out of ice at this point, so I couldn’t top up the glasses with crushed ice. The garnished results looked good, nonetheless:

wtity20130831-rhubarb cocktails

And they tasted MMM.

PS. Picking up on the German theme from earlier, our Teutonic friends at Lidl are stocking rhubarb, with cheerful disregard for the season. If you can’t wait til next year, you have my blessing to go and get rhubarb from Lidl now. If anyone objects, tell them the internet said so.

Blog Awards Ireland 2013 – I’m nominated!

The longlist for Blog Awards Ireland 2013 has just been published and… Wait Til I Tell You is on it! blog_awards_main_banner

I’m nominated in the Best Arts and Culture Blog category.

The Blog Awards Ireland competition has been running for a few years now. Last year’s winner of the Best Overall Blog award was Wise Words, the hugely popular food blog by run by writer and blogger Mona Wise.

I’m feeling pretty pleased to be associated, however loosely, with Mona. I had the pleasure of meeting her at this year’s Waterford Writers’ Weekend. Not only is she is a great blogger and food writer, she is also a lovely person and very generous with advice and feedback.

I’m also delighted to see many other bloggers whom I follow and chat to also included in this year’s longlist.

The Blog Awards Ireland shortlist is out on September 8th. The winning blogs are announced on September 29th and awards are presented at a ceremony on October 8th.



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