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Writers Remembering the 2007 Children's Book Festival

Inis, September 2008

The Children's Book Festival is an exciting and busy time for everyone in the Irish children's book world. Here Malachy Doyle and Judi Curtin remember their experiences of being part of last year's festival.

Judi Curtin
Monday - I set off for Scariff, Co. Clare. (Agreeing to do five library visits in two days had seemed like a good idea at the time.) It's a beautiful day and as I drive through the countryside, I decide I'm glad not to be at home doing the ironing. I meet my young audience and am bowled over by their enthusiasm and exuberance - a most enjoyable reading.

Much, much later I arrive at my second venue. (What bright spark said it was impossible to get lost between Scariff and Killaloe?) I steal a few seconds to enjoy the lake view and then launch into my story, hoping that my audience won't realise that I'm repeating myself. The event goes well, and I'm almost sorry when it's time to go home.

Tuesday - another lovely day. First stop is Shannon. I manage to find Shannon all on my own, but struggle with finding the library. I somehow avoid arrest as I drive slowly behind a line of schoolchildren who I sincerely hope are on their way to the library for my reading. The children lead me to the venue and a great event follows. Afterwards I'm tired - who'd have thought that talking about yourself would be so exhausting?

Newmarket-on-Fergus next. There the children's weird and wonderful questions help me to ignore the waves of tiredness that are threatening to swamp me. As soon as the event is over, I climb into my trusty motor and head for Sixmilebridge. When I arrive, a charming librarian hands me a sandwich, a cup of tea and the newspaper, correctly surmising that small talk is now beyond me. Ten minutes later, chattering voices alert me to the fact that my next audience has arrived. I wonder if I can string a sentence together, or cope with a harder question than 'What's your name?' But then I meet the children and it's almost like the past two days haven't happened. Most exhausting days of my life? Undoubtedly.

Would I do it again? Roll on October!

Malachy Doyle
Eejit, or what? Every year at the end of October I say that was mad, Malachy - all those miles, all those kids - exhausting! Every year I do it again. Why? Because it's my link with Ireland, because the children are so enthusiastic, because the librarians are so welcoming, because I love it.

2007 was the best yet. Why? Because at long last I was home. In September, I'd sold my house in Wales, Liz and I had bought a cottage on the island off Donegal (there is a bridge - we're not entirely mad) and, after 35 years of living in the UK, I was back in Ireland.

October 4th, I did a day in Strabane - my first event in Ulster, as an Ulsterman living in Ulster. It felt great and I was delighted that the North was part of the festival at last.

The following Monday, I drove to Castlebar for two great days in Mayo (and one great night with David Donohue). On to lovely Galway then to do a day in the city, a day in the country, and head off down to Bantry to stay with friends and pick up a carful of houseplants that had somehow ended up down the wrong end of Ireland. Monday and Tuesday were Co. Clare (it's all Patricia Fitzgerald's fault - she's the one who twisted my arm to come over again in the first place). Wednesday was Limerick, then the long drive home. Phew!

Never again? This year it's Co. Donegal, then Co. Antrim, then ... It's my country, I'm rediscovering it, and there's something about Irish kids - they sure know how to have a good time.

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