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Spirited launch of Lydia Littles new book in Schull

Sunday, 10th November, 2013 1:00pm
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Spirited launch of Lydia Littles new book in Schull

BY JACKIE KEOGH

WITH friends enough to fill the entire ground floor of Grove House in Schull, it was clear that Lydia Little’s book launch was going to be a launch unlike any other.

After Lydia’s – and her husband Arthur’s – brief short life as hoteliers, it should come as no surprise to learn that they know how to throw a good party and how to put people at their ease.

But before people even entered the period house – a sprawling cavern of rooms that appeared cosy last Saturday owing to the fact that it was richly lit with candles and had a profusion of tables groaning under the weight of bite-sized sandwiches, luscious brownies and soft cream scones, as well as every beverage imaginable from good red wine to frothy hot chocolate – they were stopped in their tracks outside. In the huge stairwell window there appeared a sombre-looking young girl in uniform. It was her stillness that made people stop and take a second and then a third and fourth look.

Those already familiar with the content of Lydia’s first offering in the Kylemore Abbey School series will know that this girl represents Ruth – the spirited twist in K-Girls, the first book in the collection.

In the foyer, more young uniformed girls, armed with leaflets about Kylemore Abbey and its Victorian walled garden, handed them out as if on duty in their own school and it worked because as soon as the guests crossed the threshold they felt like they were entering into the story.

The castle at Kylemore is the number one visitor attraction in the west of Ireland, but Schull has its advantages too and each of the spacious rooms at the award-winning Grove House, run by Nico and Katarina, were peopled with writers, poets, TV producers, graphic designers, svelte yoga teachers, nutritional therapists, belly dancers, talented photographers, drama teachers, young and old members of Schull’s talented drama society, mothers and father and children, all friends of Lydia and Arthur Little and the Farrell family.

Everyone there was treated to a mini-dramatisation of Lydia’s book: we got to see a girl – not too dissimilar to a young Lydia Farrell growing up in true tomboy fashion in Kinsale – hankering to go to boarding school; and, a little later, we got to see her in Kylemore on the point of discovering a new unearthly friend in Ruth.

Rob Heyland, the Bafta award-winning actor turned political writer, gave a wonderful speech about reading and how when you open a book all the characters start to live in your head – characters that didn’t exist until authors, like Lydia Little, gave them life.

Lydia was most eloquent too: not just in thanking everyone who helped her, but also in giving a very good depiction of life in creative West Cork. Lydia spoke to everyone when she said: ‘Thank you... It means a lot to me that you have come here today for my book launch.’ The day, Saturday, November 2nd, was All Souls Day – a day for remembering the dead.

It was an appropriate day to launch a book that honours the memory of Ruth Stoker, who died in Kylemore in 1923, and Dame Mary, Lydia’s old headmistress, who died in 2001, both of whom are key characters in K-Girls.

Lydia thanked everyone at Grove House too; Karen Moynihan for organising and directing the drama vignettes; and Rob Heyland for his few choice words, and then she gave people an insight into what it was like to write her first novel.

‘To be able to take the time needed to “turn up for the page”, the time that is needed to actually sit down and write, means that some part of the day has to be sacrificed,’ she said. ‘There are so many priorities, so many distractions. So, for me, to get the book down on paper meant having to turn my back on a few things... and a few people.’

Lydia was referring to some of her friends, but her family in particular, and she offered up a prayer that no one thought to phone social services. ‘Then there is all the work that has to happen after you type the words “The End”,’ said Lydia.

‘That is where the real work begins, and where writers rely so much on others. ‘I want to thank Jonathan Parson, who designed the wonderful cover of the book; my editors Maurice Sweeney and Tessa Gibson for cleaning up the grammar and spellings; those behind the actual production of the self-published book on Amazon, particularly Jeff Bezos; as well as Pauline Cotter and Helen Wells for helping me to promote the book.’

Lydia thanked John D’Alton who – if he wasn’t already busy with TJ Newman’s Corner House and Newman’s West restaurant in Schull, as well as the publication of his own book, The Coast Of West Cork – could start a whole new career as a portrait photographer, and her friend and colleague, John Walsh, who did an excellent job photographing the launch party on Saturday.

Other friends – Lydia’s writing sirens, Tessa, Terri, Lianne and Karen – were, according to the newly published author, ‘fundamental in getting K-Girls onto paper.’ Hermit Lydia said she had been negligent when it came to her own lifelong buddies and her extended family and she blamed her bad behaviour on becoming a hermit over the last two years – she said she became someone who was able to move seamlessly from her Amazon work desk to her laptop and the world of the K-Girls.

Finally, Lydia expressed a few special words of thanks to her family. She said it was her father who instilled in her the love of storytelling; her mother who dragged her to the library one day and handed her a copy of Mallory Towers; her sister, Sharon, who gave her her first school diary; and her brother, Fergus, who taught her to stand tall. ‘It takes so much more than one person to write a book,’ said Lydia. ‘The author is only the writer: the rest is down to really good friends and family. My family encouraged me and inspired me along the way.’

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