Perseverance pays off for kids’ author Patricia

Patricia Forde pictured in Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop with her latest children’s book, Bumpfizzle the Best on Planet Earth. Photos: Joe O’Shaughnessy.
Patricia Forde pictured in Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop with her latest children’s book, Bumpfizzle the Best on Planet Earth. Photos: Joe O’Shaughnessy.

Lifestyle – The hilarious alien Bumpfizzle is Patricia Forde’s latest creation. Praised at home and in the USA, she’s now signed to a top UK publisher. She tells JUDY MURPHY it all began with her mother.

From the moment Patricia (Trish) Forde was able to read, which happened before she went to school – thanks to her mother Detta, who taught Trish and her siblings to read using the Irish Independent – the child had her head stuck in a book.

“My mother says she never saw the top of my head until I turned 14,” recalls Trish with a laugh. The inveterate reader went on to become a children’s author and now, three decades after her first book was published by local company Salmon Press, Trish has signed a deal with Penguin Random House Children’s section. It will see two of her illustrated children’s books being published by its Puffin imprint in the UK.

The former teacher and Artistic Director of Galway Arts Festival was born in Castlegar and moved to Galway City’s Market Street when she was 10. She has been writing all her life, even while working as a primary teacher and later as Artistic Director of Galway Arts Festival. The fluent Irish speaker then went on to write scripts for Ros na Rún and other TV dramas, in Irish and English. But children’s books are her first love and she has authored many, in Irish and English, with picture books being a particular passion.

The latest is Bumpfizzle the Best on Planet Earth, with illustrations by award-winning artist Elína Braslina. Published in Ireland by Little Island, it’s the hilarious story of a youngster who explains that he’s an alien on a mission to earth from Planet Plonk. Bumpfizzle is obliged to give regular reports to his Great Master on Planet Plonk and these are laugh-out-loud, as he documents life with his earthling family.

This fabulous creation, who’s trying to make sense of life on earth, was inspired by a voice Trish heard one day.

“I just heard this voice in my head saying ‘what to do, what to do?’ and got this idea of a family who has an alien living with them. He’s looking at the family baby trying to work out what it is,” she explains. Trish captures his confusion perfectly – one of Bumpfizzle’s observations about the baby is that ‘it leaks from both ends’.

Half way through writing the book, Trish had a dilemma. “Was Bumpfizzle an alien or simply a jealous older child?” With that in mind, she had “a delicate balancing act” to complete it and not lose the magic.

She succeeded and, ultimately, it’s up to the reader to decide whether Bumpfizzle is of this earth or not. In either case, he’s wonderful.

“It amazes me how your head works,” she says about how inspiration can strike. “For me it’s a pool of words that I hear in my head, or a voice, as it was with this book.”

For Trish, writing Bumpfizzle was the perfect light relief following her previous, more serious novel, The Wordsmith (also Little Island).

Written for young adults, it’s set post-apocalyptic location, Ark, where a despotic ruler, John Noa, has restricted people’s vocabulary to 500 words on the basis that words are destructive. Its heroine is Letta, a wordsmith’s apprentice whose job to give people the limited words they need. As the plot unfolds, Letta realises that Noa’s ultimate aim is to totally rid Ark of its language and therefore its culture and she must act.

Published in the USA as The List, it struck a chord in the Trump era, where language has become so debased.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.