Listowel honours President, McKeon and Meehan

Encore Award shortlist; Cairde and Echoes festival; Saturday’s books pages; Little Island expands

In The Irish Times this Saturday, Kevin Barry tells me about his brilliant new novel, A Heart in Winter. Jane Coyle talks to the team behind the Ulysses European Odyssey, a vast cultural project, stretching across 18 European cities, that has produced varied artistic responses to themes in Joyce’s novel. Jan Carson writes about her misadventures on the road as a writer. And there is a Q&A with Ben Kane, the bestselling Irish historical fiction writer, about his latest novel, Stormcrow.

Reviews are Roe McDermott on Harpy: A Manifesto for Childfree Women by Caroline Magennis and Others Like Me: The Lives of Women Without Children by Nicole Louie; James Hanrahan on Paul Strathern’s Dark Brilliance: The Age of Reason from Descartes to Peter the Great; Vona Groarke on the best new poetry; Ronan McGreevy on The Eastern Front by Nick Lloyd; Lucy Sweeney Byrne on All Thing Are Too Small: Essays in Praise of Excess by Becca Rothfeld; Conor O’Clery on The Stalin Affair: The Impossible Alliance That Won The War by Giles Milton; Liam Carson on Sweeney: an intertonguing by Rody Gorman; John Boyne on The In-Between by Christos Tsiolkas; Oliver Farry on The End of Everything: How Wars Descend into Annihilation by Victor Davis Hanson; and Val Nolan on Mouthing by Orla Mackey.

This weekend’s Irish Times Eason offer is Aisling Ever After by Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen, just €5.99, a €5 saving, with your newspaper.

President Michael D Higgins was presented with the John B Keane Lifetime Achievement Award by the playwright’s son Conor yesterday at the opening night of Listowel Writers’ Week 2024 in recognition of his service to the arts in Ireland. President Higgins was in Listowel to accept the award in person.


Festival curator Martin Dyar said: “The President’s literary and political achievements are abundant. In so many remarkable ways they are also intertwined. We are proud to recognise that abundance, together with the ways that President Higgins has united poetry and politics, and indeed poetry and the presidential office itself.

“We are also celebrating Ireland’s good fortune in having a President who is an unwavering and influential advocate for the arts, and who has so consistently communicated an authentic vision of human experience and human dignity. This year’s festival programme is based on ecological themes. President Higgins is of course a kind of icon with respect to the need for imaginative responses to such things as biodiversity loss and climate change. To the benefit of us all, he represents what literature and culture can mean in a troubled time.”

Darragh McKeon received the €20,000 Kerry Group Novel of the Year Award for 2024 for Remembrance Sunday and Paula Meehan won the €12,000 Piggot Poetry Prize Award 2024 for The Solace of Artemis.

Now in its 53rd year, the festival continues until June 2nd.

Irish writers Megan Nolan and Una Mannion have been shortlisted for the Royal Society of Literature’s 2024 Encore Award for the best second novel. Previous winners include Sally Rooney, Colm Tóibín, Eimear McBride and Caoilinn Hughes.

This year’s judges are Fergal Keane, Malika Booker and Maura Dooley, who selected the following five shortlisted books: A Spell of Good Things by Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀; The Glutton by AK Blakemore; Enter Ghost by Isabella Hammad; Tell Me What I Am by Una Mannion; and Ordinary Human Failings by Megan Nolan.

The judges said: “Tell Me What I Am centres around an absent mother and the tissues of lies that surround that absence. Moving back and forth in time, and between the protagonists’ perspectives, Mannion creates both a subtle mystery and a tender and moving portrayal of the complexities of domestic abuse, coercion and grief. Cleverly paced, the novel is as much a psychological thriller as it is a careful exploration of damage across generations. This is a book that explores disturbing cruelties with sensitivity and nuance, always subtly through character and landscape. Balanced, complex, lyrical, confident, we thought this an outstanding second novel.”

Mannion, who was born in Philadelphia and lives in Sligo, made her debut with A Crooked Tree. She said: “For many writers, the second novel can feel lonely and difficult after the excitement and tumult of the debut. The Encore shortlist is a lifeline, a validation of the work and encouragement to keep going. I am so heartened and utterly grateful. Thank you.”

Nolan, who is from Waterford and is based in New York, made her debut with Acts of Desperation, said: “It’s always a welcome surprise to have one’s work celebrated, but I am especially thrilled to be nominated for the Encore Award. It is so easy in this industry, as with many other creative fields, for focus to be drawn disproportionately toward first timers – an understandable impulse but one which can feel discouraging when contemplating the hopefully long career ahead post-debut. This award is unique in providing a much-needed boost in a sometimes precarious moment in an author’s career, and I couldn’t be more honoured to have received the nomination.”

The judges said: “Ordinary Human Failings, set in the 1990s, centres on an Irish family newly-arrived in London in the hope of a fresh start. Their world is turned upside down by the death of a young girl on the estate. Suspicion for the death falls on their own young child. Nolan turns this compelling narrative framework aside to unfold a picture of the twists and turns of family life that have led to this point; false starts, disappointments, resignation and quiet despair. The characterisation is superb: precise, tender, unshowy. Full of insight, compassionate and clever, we found this a moving and haunting novel capturing the mood of the times.”

Tickets have just gone on sale for Echoes, Ireland’s only literary festival with Maeve Binchy at its heart. Maeve Binchy was loved the world over for her insight, humour and empathy. With an exciting line-up of events and speakers, Echoes 2024 celebrates the best of home-grown and international writing, bringing together some of the finest contemporary creative voices to share their stories. Held in Dalkey Castle and Heritage Centre since 2017, it runs October from 4th-6th.

Friday 4th features a Maeve Binchy stage double bill: Minding Frankie, adapted by Shay Linehan, performed by Michael Heavey, directed by Margaret Dunne; and a rehearsed reading of her short story, Chancery Lane, a new adaptation by Margaret Dunne, directed by Conall Morrison. Events on Saturday 5th feature: Cecelia Ahern, Jan Carson, Colm O’Regan, Liz Nugent, Oliver Callan, Edel Coffey, Anne Griffin, Jamie O’Connell, Zoe Miller, Brian McGilloway, Andrea Mara, Kevin Curran, Melatu Uche Okorie, Olha Khoroshevska, Sam Blake, Billy Keane, Andrea Carter, Caroline Erskine, Katherine McSharry, Niall MacMonagle, John Patrick McHugh, Sarah Binchy and Gordon Snell. On Sunday 6th, Echoes runs the Marvellously Maeve Guided Walk, and a production of her hilarious Aches & Pains, adapted by Shay Linehan. Programme and booking at


There are two unmissable literary highlights at this year’s upcoming Cairde Sligo Arts Festival (July 6th-13th): acclaimed Palestinian author Adania Shibli in conversation with Louise Kennedy about her work, most notably her novel Minor Detail. Shibli has twice been awarded the Qattan Young Writer’s Award-Palestine in 2001 for her novel Masaas (translated into English as Touch), and in 2003 for her novel Kulluna Ba’id bethat al Miqdar aan el-Hub (translated into English as We Are All Equally Far from Love). She was honoured as one of the Beirut39, a selection of the most promising Arab writers under 40 by the Hay Festival. Her third novel, Minor Detail, translated by Elisabeth Jaquette, was published by Fitzcarraldo in 2020.

Sínead Gleeson will be in conversation with Una Mannion to discuss her debut novel, Hagstone. Beautifully written, prescient and eerily haunting, Gleeson’s fiction debut takes in the darker side of human nature and the mysteries of faith and the natural world.


Little Island Books has announced a significant expansion of its in-house team. Órla Carr and Sinéad O’Callaghan will join this summer as editors, doubling the press’s workforce and boosting its capacity to deliver books for young readers.

Carr joins Little Island from UCD Press, where she has been part of a two-person in-house team since 2022. Carr brings a passion for children’s literature, and her experience includes reviewing children’s books for Inis and Paper Lanterns magazines; bookselling with Charlie Byrne’s bookshop in Galway and at the Irish Museum of Modern Art; internships with The O’Brien Press and Children’s Books Ireland; and founding her own ebook-only small press, Castles in the Air. She holds a publishing master’s from NUI Galway.

O’Callaghan is an editor with The Folio Society in London, where she has been responsible for helping to develop the children’s and fiction lists. Previously she worked as assistant editor with Granta, as scouting assistant with Eccles Fisher Associates, interned at Bloomsbury, and volunteered at Cúirt International Festival of Literature, Galway. She holds a publishing master’s from University College London and will relocate to her native Ireland to take up her new role.

CEO and publisher Matthew Parkinson-Bennett said: “By prioritising the expansion of our editorial capacity we are sending a message about our commitment to developing books of the highest quality for young readers, and to working closely with our community of creators to give them the best possible publishing experience. With Órla and Sinéad taking up their roles over the summer, I look forward to devoting more of my time and energy to our continued growth as a business both in Ireland and internationally.”


Irish poet and Seamus Heaney prize laureate, Glen Wilson, has won this year’s Artemesia Arts international contest with his poem, Setting Bones, a beautifully evocative imagining of soldiers healing after injuries in the first World War ... “a withered hand / extended out in hope / will grow to the healing / given time ...” The poem is premised on the invention of plaster casts for broken limbs by two sculptors, Anne Acheson and Elinor Halle, whilst treating wounded soldiers.

Wilson said: “I am excited and honoured to have won the Artemesia Arts Poetry Competition, my thanks to esteemed judge Matt Harvey for selecting my entry ... my congratulations to all the other amazing poets on the shortlist.”

Artemesia Arts is a not-for-profit arts and literature collective based in Treignac, in the Correze in southwest France. Along with the cash prize, the winner takes pride of place in a new anthology to be published this summer by Mosaïque Press.


The next event in the National Library of Ireland’s Celebrating Ireland’s Booker Winners series, curated by Alan Hayes, is on June 11th at 6.30pm with Roddy Doyle in conversation with Rob Doyle. Seats are extremely limited so early booking is recommended.


The Human Library®, a not-for-profit learning platform which hosts personal conversations designed to challenge stigma and stereotypes through dialogue makes a welcome return, for the third year, to Earagail Arts Festival in County Donegal (13th – 28th July).

The Human Library® is, in the true sense of the word, a library of people. The organisation host events all over the world where readers can borrow human beings serving as open books and have conversations they would not normally have access to.

The Human Library®, presented by Earagail Arts Festival and Donegal County Council Library Service, will be held in the mediums of both English and Irish this year, in the Central Library, Letterkenny, on Thursday, July 18th, from 1pm – 8pm). Visit


Dalkey Book Festival, Europe’s leading literary and ideas festival, has today announced that award-winning artist, illustrator and author Charlie Mackesy, renowned for The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse, will make his Irish debut this year on Sunday, June 16th at 4pm. Tickets are now on sale at