Happy days for writer Mary

Local woman Mary O’Donoghue who now lives in the USA is currently on holidays in Ireland where she has just celebrated the launch of her latest book. She’s also taking time out to visit family and friends in Galway, Clare and further afield. She tells JUDY MURPHY about the power of stories, especially when they are short.

As a child, Mary O’Donoghue, who grew up in Kilkeedy on the edge of the Burren, “was always inventing and making things up”.

“I’d write short stories and plays and we’d perform them”, says Mary about herself and her three younger sisters.

But most children are creative, she feels.

In Mary’s case, that need to create continued and, in adulthood, she realised she could and should pursue it.

The US-based author, who’s currently on holidays in Ireland, has had a busy few weeks, with her new short story collection, The Hour After Happy Hour, having had two launches.

The first was in Dublin, where the publishers, Stinging Fly, are based, and the other was in Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop in Galway City where Mary went to university after secondary school in Gort.

In Galway, The Hour After Happy Hour was launched by fellow writer Mike McCormack and Mary was impressed at how closely he had read the book and found themes running through the 12 stories.

There are definitely common threads, whether the stories are set in Ireland, the US or elsewhere. What’s especially quirky is that the first and final stories, which are two sides of the same coin, share a title, The Rakes of Mallow.

The first Rakes of Mallow – which opens the collection – was written some years ago, while the second one was created earlier this year.  They offer a fascinating insight into the Irish emigrant experience in the US and to Mary’s working process.

The final line in the first Rakes of Mallow is the beautiful, ‘We never have dreams in which we star for good or bad’.

Earlier this year, she “wrote that line down again in a notebook that I start things in”. And, having pondered on it, this became the opening line of the new story.

Then, in February, Mary was invited to read at the Irish Consulate in Atlanta for St Brigid’s Day. She decided to read this new piece, although she hadn’t finished it when making that decision. It’s not her usual method, she says with a laugh.

“It was the energy the story was giving me.”

She finished it just before the reading. And when she delivered it that night, “in a room full of women, it received such a strong reaction that I knew it had to be in the book”.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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