By Samantha Dempsey
The An Post Irish Book Awards, a set of industry-recognition awards set up by a coalition of Irish booksellers in 2007, took place last week on November 23rd.
The awards are owned by Irish Book Awards Ltd, a not-for-profit company presided over by a board comprising of Executive Director: Alastair Giles, Maria Dickenson, Larry Mac Hale, Brendan Corbett, and John Treacy. These individuals also attend an advisory board along with representatives from publishers and partners.
Thousands of ordinary readers vote to select the winners every year. Libraries and bookshops showcase the best books of the year in the critical sales period of the fourth quarter. The Awards Dinner has become the major event in the literary calendar with Taoisigh and Presidents as guests of honour. Since 2011, highlights of the awards have been shown on RTÉ television.
Among this year’s winners was Deirdre Sullivan, an award winning novelist from Galway, who won the ‘writing.ie short story of the year’ for her book, ‘I want to know that I will be okay’. The book details the life of a teenage girl who tries to fit in at a party held in a haunted house, with unexpected and disastrous consequences. A mother and daughter run a thriving online business selling antique dolls, while their customers get more than they bargained for. And after a stillbirth, a young woman discovers that there is something bizarre and wondrous growing inside of her.
With empathy and invention, Deirdre effortlessly blends genres in stories that are by turns strange and exquisite. “I wrote ‘I want to know that I will be okay’ “over the course of a decade, so the inspiration came from a lot of different places. Each story developed at its own pace and from different ideas and places”, she explained.
She always wanted to be a writer, but didn’t think of it as a realistic career goal. “In many ways I still don’t. It’s a terribly uncertain business.” Deirdre works as a full time teacher, or did up until this year as she now takes care of her daughter at home. “I currently have no childcare, so I get about two days a week, and the odd naptime to work. Before Covid, I used to work in coffee shops, as I liked being away from home while working. Obviously that’s changed now”, she explains.
When asked how long it takes her to complete a book, Deirdre explained the process simply by saying, “between nine months and ten years”.