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The Irish Writers Handbook: How to maintain self-belief in the face of rejection, and other solid advice

This guide demystifies the writing and publishing process, a journey that can feel elusive even to writers themselves

The Irish Writers Handbook: Books Ireland Guide 2024
Author: Edited by Ruth McKee
ISBN-13: 978-1913934965
Publisher: Books Ireland
Guideline Price: €20

There’s a unique challenge in reviewing a book that contains not one but two essays on the craft of reviewing books. While I could find myself a little intimidated by Madeleine Keane’s warning “If you receive a commission, don’t blow it”, I chose to comfort myself rather with Kevin Power’s admission that, like smoking, he started reviewing books because he “thought it looked cool”.

The Irish Writers Handbook is a comprehensive guide on the nose-to-tail (should I say tale?) process of writing and getting your work published. While this guide veers towards the more literal, practical challenges of writing and publishing – finding an agent; copyright – it also addresses lateral philosophical obstacles such as maintaining self-belief in the face of rejection.

An essential reference tool for aspiring and accomplished writers alike, the guide includes essays from a selection of Irish writers and literary figures. Their advice on what Donal Ryan terms “the sublimation of imagination into art” and finding an audience for this art is encouraging without being cloying. Draft and redraft, not until the text is perfect but until you are ‘blind’ to its imperfections, advises Jamie O’Connell. “Before Enlightenment: chop wood, carry water. After Enlightenment: chop wood, carry water,” says Danielle McLaughlin, repeating the Buddhist mantra.

A comprehensive directory of publishers, writing services and competitions concludes this book

In a work of pointillism, the essays come together to draw a clearer image of the writing and publishing process, a journey that can feel elusive even to writers themselves. Essays range from dramaturgy to Irish-language publishing, academic writing to an essay on the art of children’s illustration that broadens the concept of what it means to “write”. Taboo-challenging information on the “uncouth” topic of financial remuneration is welcome, as is practical advice on self-publishing and ISBNs.


An accomplished essay by Yan Ge about storytelling in the intemporal Chinese script reminds us of the breadth of possibility that exists beyond our umwelt in writing and storytelling. Of equal value is the comprehensive directory of publishers, writing services and competitions that concludes this book.

While this book may best serve as a reference tool, it is equally enjoyable read cover to cover as an enlightening and reliable guide to giving life to the stories you choose, and the ones that choose you.

Brigid O'Dea

Brigid O'Dea, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes about health