Irish writer wins Discoveries Writing Prize

Books newsletter: Michel Déon Prize shortlist; Stinging Fly/FBA Fiction Prize; walking tours

In The Irish Times tomorrow, author Sarah Crossan tells Niamh Donnelly about her pivot from teaching to writing and her latest books on forbidden love affairs and sex dolls. Richard Ford writes about the race between Trump and Biden for the US presidency: “Neither of these gibbering, teetering old grandpas should be able to beat anybody”. Tennis player Conor Niland tells Lauren Murphy about his memoir, The Racket. And there is a Q&A with Michelle McDonagh, author of Somebody Knows.

Reviews are Chris Kissane on Plentiful Country: The Great Potato Famine and the Making of Irish New York by Tyler Anbinder; Ian D’Alton on Ulster’s Lost Counties: Loyalism and Paramilitarism since 1920 by Edward Burke; Michael Cronin on the best new translations; Val Nolan on The Ghost Mountain by Ronan Hession; Nicholas Allen on Exile by Aimée Walsh; Anna Carey on All the Rage by Virginia Nicholson; Karlin Lillington on The Everything War: Amazon’s Ruthless Quest to Own the World and Remake Corporate Power by Dana Mattioli; Alice Kinsella on The Eighth House by Linda Segtnan, translated by Elizabeth Clark Wessel; John Boyne on Great Expectations Vinson Cunningham; John Walshe on Around the World in 80 Years by Ranulph Fiennes; and Mia Levitin on Long Island by Colm Tóibín.

This weekend’s Irish Times Eason offer is Booker Prize winner Prophet Song by Paul Lynch, just €5.99 with your paper, a €5 saving.

Irish writer Niamh Connolly has won the Women’s Prize Trust’s 2024 Discoveries Writing Prize.


Connolly was chosen from almost 3,000 entries. Her novel-in-progress, Game Theory, is set in Co Cork and deals with bereavement, friendship, financial disparity, miscommunication and loneliness. As the winner of the prize, Connolly receives an offer of representation by Curtis Brown, a cash prize of £5,000 and a place on a Curtis Brown Creative six-week online course. In July, she will also join Curtis Brown Creative’s specially designed two-week Discoveries Writing Development course alongside the other 15 writers longlisted for Discoveries 2024.

Connolly is completing her MA in creative writing (prose fiction) at the University of East Anglia and has a BA degree in English and history from University College Cork.

Additionally, Zeynep Kazmaz has been announced as the Discoveries Scholar. Her novel, Viscid Residue, explores a relationship between two people from fundamentally different backgrounds, as a woman struggles to find home, and herself, as an immigrant in London.

Now in its fourth year, Discoveries, run by the Women’s Prize Trust in partnership with Curtis Brown literary agency, the Curtis Brown Creative writing school (both part of The Curtis Brown Group) and Audible, aims to find and support emerging female writing talent from across the UK and Ireland.

The judging panel was chaired by Kate Mosse CBE, bestselling novelist, playwright and Founder Director of the Women’s Prize for Fiction and Women’s Prize for Non-Fiction; Jess Molloy, Curtis Brown literary agent; Anna Davis, Founder and managing director of Curtis Brown Creative writing school; and award-winning authors Natasha Brown and Rowan Hisayo Buchanan.


The Royal Irish Academy (RIA) in association with the Department of Foreign Affairs has announced the six shortlisted titles for the 2024 Michel Déon Prize for non-fiction: All Down Darkness Wide by Seán Hewitt; An Irish Atlantic Rainforest: A Personal Journey into the Magic of Rewilding by Eoghan Daltun; Hereafter: The Telling Life of Ellen O’Hara by Vona Groarke; Landscape Design and Revolution in Ireland and the United States, 1688–1815 by Finola O’Kane; Making Empire: Ireland, Imperialism, and the Early Modern World by Jane Ohlmeyer; and The Celestial Realm by Molly Hennigan.

Titles were nominated by both members of the public and the publishing community through the RIA’s website and the judging panel made their choice from the eligible titles. In shortlisting the titles, the judges were looking for originality, quality of writing and contribution to knowledge and/or public debate. To reflect the work and interests of the French writer Michel Déon, who made Ireland his home from the 1970s until his death in 2016, the eligible categories for the prize were – autobiography, biography, cultural studies, history, literary studies, philosophy, travel. Authors of any nationality normally resident on the island of Ireland at the time of nomination who had published a non-fiction book in the period April 12th, 2022 to April 8th, 2024 were eligible.


Moso Sematlane is the 2024 winner of the Stinging Fly/FBA Fiction Prize. Now in its third year, the €2,000 prize is sponsored by Felicity Bryan Associates and awarded annually to an emerging fiction writer published in The Stinging Fly during the previous year.

Sematlane’s winning story, A Fern Between Rocks, is his first published story, and appeared in The Stinging Fly Issue 48 Volume 2, published in Summer 2023. Judging the prize were author Mike McCormick (Solar Bones), Stinging Fly contributing editor and author Mia Gallagher (Beautiful Pictures of the Lost Homeland) and Felicity Bryan agent, Caroline Wood. The panel was chaired by Felicity Bryan agent, Angelique Tran Van Sang, and Eoin Rogers, programme manager of The Stinging Fly.

Sematlane said: “Receiving this award came as a total surprise to me, being published in The Stinging Fly last year was already a highlight, now receiving an award for that story just blew my expectations off the roof. I am glad and deeply honoured to have this story recognised in this way. I had the best time writing it, so witnessing how it is still moving in the world is a source of great satisfaction for me. It no longer belongs to me in the way it once did, but I am honoured that short fiction from Lesotho can be recognised on such a big scale.”

Awarding the prize, the judges stated: A Fern Between Rocks is an exquisitely written story about a young man, newly arrived in Lesotho, obsessing over a man he spies in a jazz club. Atmospheric, transporting, subtle, touching and full of longing – it is an incredibly mature piece of writing with a wonderful sense of place.

This story grows with each reading. A thing of immense beauty, spiked with shocks so subtle it takes a moment to realise what’s just happened. Like jazz itself, it circles with great delicacy around its themes – war, manhood, desire, loss, the need for belonging and the power, perhaps, of art to knit together the impossible in a way that makes sense, if only for a moment.

The judges also commended Stars by Greg Thorpe and The Big Why by Brendan Killeen.


Author and former diplomat Eamon Delaney is giving some popular new walking tours in Dublin, exploring some fascinating connections to artists, political figures and international events. A particular focus is James Joyce, with a tour of the Phibsborough and Eccles Street where there are so many associations, most famously with Joyce’s great novel Ulysses.

Another tour is of the area is Westland Row, Lincoln Place and the north side of Merrion Square, which is deeply connected to three big writers – Joyce, Samuel Beckett and Oscar Wilde. The tour will explore these connections, both in their early lives and their works, with readings at various locations. This next tour takes place this Saturday, 25 May at 11am. Price is 15 euros.

Locations include Sweny’s Chemist on Westland Row and Holles Street hospital, from the Oxen and the sun chapter of Ulysses as well as Oscar Wilde’s two homes and the old Finns Hotel where Joyce first encountered Nora Barnacle, the love of his life.

Other locations include the office of Samuel Beckett’s father where young Sam wrote his first novel and the family home of Mary Swanzy, the modernist and cubist painter ahead of her time.

Full details, including booking, here.