The Making us Laugh session on Sunday at 2pm featured Paul Howard (of Ross O’Carroll Kelly fame) and Pauline McLynn. Damien Corless had the job of controlling these two live wires, but the talk was soon free wheeling with the questions left to one side.
The talk focused on their early years as writers and their various attempts to find their work in Easons on O’Connell street. They all feared that their work would end up at the end of the Labyrinth in the humour section. Pauline said the amazing statistic that anyone who buys two or more books per year is considered a ‘heavy book user’ according to marketing people. Paul talked of the first Ross O’Carroll Kelly book which he self published 5,000 copies of, he sold a 1,000 copies but the rest blocked one of the fire exits of the Sunday Tribune for several months before eventually being pulped.
They all talked of the ‘green pen brigade’ who are the cranks that write to them in green pen to tell them a few home truths. One irate reader was so galled by Ross O’Carroll’s deeds that he told Paul he was ‘a waste of skin’.
Pauline stated for the record that she did not snub the Father Ted documentary, but was actually working in Manchester at the time it was being filmed. She said that Father Ted was the one truly great thing she has worked in, and fully expects it to last the test of time. She also discussed a number individuals saying that they’d seen her do stand up in the Cat Laughs festival, despite the fact she has never done stand up! She enjoyed quizzing them on the specifics of the act.
The highlight of the event was when Paul discussed the time he was asked to meet the Blackrock Senior Rugby team, to give them a inspirational team talk before one of their matches. He laughed about how those he lampooned embraced the character and feel validated by him. A small boy at the entrance to Blackrock met him on the way to give the speech and told him that this was the most important thing he had ever done! Paul found it hard to argue.
Pat McCabe talked with Tony Clayton Lea and 4pm about his life and work. Pat talked of his home life, and the fact that his Father never differentiated between high and low art, as he brought home the Dandy to read himself and would only let the young Pat read it afterwards. He spent his youth in and out of the local movie theatre and always had a great love of obscure music.
He talked of his vague attempts to make it in rock and roll and mentioned some of his song titles, such as the ‘Wolfman of Ardee’ and ‘Bosco is a Bollox’. These gems are sadly lost to the world, as they were never recorded.
He considers those that write to have a disfunction and that he couldn’t live without writing, and feels he is compelled to do it, and would do it regardless of an audience. He talked of getting rid of the ‘editor on your shoulder’ and that you should try to let the words flow.
He talked of a very terse rejection letter for the Butcher Boy that hit him like a death in the family. He was left in mourning for several days before he decided to return to it and continue the fight. He considers his break with Picador to be as much luck as anything else, as Ireland was seen as a country of interest at the time, with the peace process and Sinead O’Conor.
The single theme of the day was that all writers receive much rejection and that it is those that stick with it and continue regardless, in the face of obvious failure, that eventually make it. You need to be thick skinned in this game, but for those willing to keep going, there is often light at the end of the tunnel.
The Dublin Book Festival finished yesterday, details can be found here.
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