The Librarian’s Cellar Book of The Week: Her Kind by Niamh Boyce

HER KIND is beautifully written and authentic. Niamh Boyce has succeeded in creating a compelling reimagining of an historical era steeped in turmoil, religious fervour and mysticism. I highly recommend it.

“1324, Kilkennie. A woman seeks refuge for herself and her daughter in the household of a childhood friend. The friend, Alice Kytler, gives her former companion a new name, Petronelle, a job as a servant, and warns her to hide their old connection. Before long Petronelle comes to understand that in the city pride, greed and envy are as dangerous as the wolves that prowl the savage countryside. And she realizes that Alice’s household is no place of safety. Once again, Petronelle decides to flee. But this time she confronts forces greater than she could ever have imagined and she finds herself fighting for more than her freedom.”

 

Chiari Malformation: Coming to Terms with a Neurological Disorder- and keeping my sense of humour!

I gave some serious thinkage as to whether to share this or not, and to paraphrase from the legend, Frida Kahlo, I am not sick… though I may be a little bit broken. In the bigger scheme of life, I see where I am today and count my blessings. Life is short, too short to ponder on what others might think of you – that’s not your business as another popular saying goes – so I’m getting on with things. And more thinkage.

I’m one of the millions who deal with pain, often chronic, on a daily basis – always have. Back and spine issues have been the bane of my life, but also migraines, neuroglia and a host of other maladies that would make me sound like a hypochondriac if I were to list them here! I’ve also battled serious anxiety and depression, some of it, though not all of it, I can certainly link to carrying pain, physical and emotional. I am not divulging this information for sympathy. Like I said, I am one of the millions, but if I am to write about this health issue, it has to be done with an all or nuthin’ honesty!

A couple of months ago, I was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease in two areas of my spine, which although is a pretty grim result, actually helped me to come to terms with a lot of the symptoms that have been getting progressively worse. I can handle DDD – I just need to mind my back and take appropriate care to try and slow down the degeneration.

However, other ‘symptoms’ prompted my neurosurgeon to investigate further, and that’s when the real bombshell hit. Something else had shown up, a rare (though the jury is still out on the rare bit, from what I can gather) neurological disorder called Chiari Malformation.

And yes, I was as dumbfounded as you might imagine – WTF??? being the questioning phrase of choice!

So, with this, let’s face it, pretty shitty diagnosis on top of the DDD, and the further examination and treatment plan that lies ahead for me, I decided to try and find out more about this unknown thing that I could quite possibly have had since birth. It can be congenital, with serious complications for infants and young children.

There is a lot still to be discovered about CM, it appears, and information is constantly being updated.

If we are honest, we can all admit to trying Doctor Google for what ails us, but I am steering clear of anything that is not verified and documented by experts. And, I have decided to write about it in the hope that this process might help me to drill down into a disorder I must learn all I can about, but also to share my experience so that anyone else who is presently, or might be diagnosed with this in the future, can at least have a place to check in with a fellow soldier!

So here are the deets! (A brief amalgamation of information I researched from medical websites – without the gruesome graphics!)

Chiari Malformation is a condition named after Hans Chiari, an Austrian pathologist who first described it in the late 19th century. It is a disorder in which the cerebellum is smaller than normal (YES, I do have a rather small head, thank you very much for noticing!) causing the cerebellar tonsils to migrate into the spinal canal. (Mine have travelled 10mm). If the cerebellar tonsils obstruct the opening of the skull that connects the brain to the spinal cord, the flow of cerebrospinal fluid can be blocked, pushing the cerebellar tonsils down even farther and exerting pressure on the lower stem of the brain.

Yes, it all sounds yuck and quite serious, which it is, though I’ve been told that if properly diagnosed and monitored, with accompanying pain relief of the constant and serious type, it can be manageable. An invisible disorder, (because ya don’t look sick!) the condition can cause headaches, fatigue, dizziness, difficulty swallowing, muscle weakness and balance problems. It can also produce hoarseness, sleep apnoea, weakness or numbness in legs or arms, neck pain, pain across shoulder blades, general body pain, ringing in the ear, trouble walking, blurred vision, mood changes, anxiety, and problems with memory or concentration.

Apart from the sleep apnoea, I have been dealing with all of the above in varying degrees for more years than I can count. Insomnia is also another problem for me, and I can only assume that this too is linked to CM.

Searches on pain management and associated issues of fatigue brought up a couple of helpful links. This LINK for more detailed information and also, this useful LINK from writer and broadcaster, Andrea Hayes, who has also been diagnosed with CM. These are not definitive portals of information by any means, but they may help in gaining a basic understanding of the condition, and in Andrea’s case, her personal account as detailed in her book, Pain Free Life, my journey to wellness. 

So for now, I’m dealing as best I can with it all, staying positive, though I’d be lying if I said I didn’t worry about what might be waiting for me down the years. Anyway, I’ll keep you posted! And I’ll keep doing what I do, writing out the thinkage! And if anyone reading this has CM, hugs to ya!

Talking Publishing at CelticCon | JuneFest2019

What better way to spend a bank holiday Monday than chatting alongside a panel of talented fellow writers at the CelticCon2019 | JuneFest2019 event, happening in Newbridge Town Hall, County Kildare, this coming Monday, June 3rd from 11:00am – 6:00pm.

There are lots of interesting guests and events throughout the day, and our panel will discuss ‘Our Publishing Journey’ from noon until 1:00pm, but we authors will be there until 6:00pm, so if you have any publishing, writing or filmmaking related questions that you’d like to ask, come and chat to me – I’ll be hanging around the MAGENTA section – Table 5 – see the plan below. 🙂 ↓ 🙂

And I’ll have copies of my novel LADY BETH for sale at a specially reduced price for the CelticCon. Make sure to say hello!

Irish Language Short Film Programme November 2018- May 2019 Season

The Maynooth Film for All Club season finished this month and will resume in October 2019. I was delighted to once again be invited to curate a programme of short films for the season, and had great fun selecting some wonderful films, all made in the Irish language. As always, the standard of productions was very high. Congratulations to all the filmmakers on their amazing work, and thanks also to Dingle Film Festival for providing contacts to their Fisín awardees.

 


‘An Mhallacht’

Written by Antoin Beag Ó Colla and directed by Coilin O Scolai. This dark comedy drama revolves around two brothers and how the Mayo GAA Curse of 1951 affects their daily lives – pushing them to the point where they go against all they believe to be true.

 

‘Bonsoir Luna’

Written and directed by Donncha Gilmore, is an Irish Language, musical romance, funded by the Arts Council: Street artist Duke loves the blind barista Luna, who runs the George’s Street Arcade coffee shop. However, Luna’s mother Paula distrusts Duke, so he must enlist his fellow street artists’ help to win her over.

 

‘Eadrainn Féin’

Directed by Daithí O Cinnéide and written and produced by Mairead Kiernan. A farmer’s life changes when his son begins to question his gender identity.

 


‘Stuama’

Starring Enda Clarke, Fred McCloskey and Joe Greaney, STUAMA follows David, a young man in his early twenties preparing to go prison for the first time. Winner of the Dingle Film Festival Pitching Competition 2012, the film was written and directed by Paul Webster and produced by Eamon de Staic.

 


‘Táimse im’ Chodladh’

Written and Directed by Denis Buckley. Produced by Ciarán Walsh. Starring Marcus Lamb. An Irish author alone in a room picks up faint sounds of a language falling and raising through the long wave frequency of his transistor. Winner of the Físín short film award scheme at the Dingle International Film Festival 2013.

 


‘Sile’

When an adolescent girl’s father becomes romantically involved with another woman, her world is torn asunder. Written by Seamus Moran. Directed by Cathal Ó Cuaig. Produced by Ciarán Ó Cofaigh. Starring Úna Ni Fhlatharta, Beartla Ó Flatharta, Caroline Ni Dhubhchóin and Conal O’Céidigh.


‘An Cat’

In the aftermath of his wife’s funeral Mairtín (Frank Kelly) frustrated and unable to grieve her loss pushes his family away and isolates himself at home. His only wish, to be left in peace, is respected by everyone except his wife’s beloved pet cat.

LADY BETH Wins an Eric Hoffer Book Award!

And the results are in! LADY BETH is the 1st Runner-Up in the Crime/Mystery Category and has received an Eric Hoffer Book Award!

To say that I am thrilled is putting it mildly!

Thanks so much to the judges and organisers at the #hofferawards and to everyone for the good vibes!

Lady Beth: Eric Hoffer Grand Prize Award Shortlist

I am extremely pleased – which also translates to HOLY SHITBALLS!!!! – to share that Lady Beth has been shortlisted for the Eric Hoffer Grand Prize Award. A previous finalist for the DaVinci Award 2019 and winner of the Carousel Aware Prize in 2017 – the years of slogging away on this little book have already come back tenfold. Never give up. That is all!

 

“As the annual judging draws to a close, the Eric Hoffer Award announces a small set of grand prize award finalists. This small list or “short list” of finalists is an honored distinction of its own and is announced publicly during the spring of each award year prior to the grand prize announcement. Below are the current and previous short-listed entries in alphabetical order by book.”

Shortlist HERE


 

The Librarian’s Cellar: Catching up on the recommended reads!

Apologies for the recent silence on here – I’ve been in the writing cave, but also dealing with severe back pain and spinal issues. That’s not to say I have not been reading – I have. A lot! With brief descriptions, here are three books that rated highly on my recommended reads list:

All We Shall Know: Donal Ryan

I do love a short novel. All We Shall Know is short. And really quite wonderful. Told from the perspective of Melody Shee, over the course of her pregnancy, Ryan’s beautiful prose delves into the life of a complex, and not altogether likable character. No indeed, Melody is a hard woman, but a fascinating one, and her actions will have far-reaching – and redemptive – consequences for other lives that so dramatically weave with hers.

At Home In The World: Joyce Maynard

In light of the news that J.D Salinger’s son and wife are preparing to publish his previously unseen writing, I was interested to read author Joyce Maynard’s memoir, which also details her experience as an eighteen-year-old, living with the reclusive (53-year-old!) Salinger. Maynard recounts such a strange and frankly, unsettling relationship, and although the book is not about Salinger, the legacy of his treatment of her permeates the text. Quite sobering in parts, but ultimately, Joyce triumphs in her life and her writing.

Mind on Fire: Arnold Thomas Fanning

A very honest and thought-provoking memoir from Fanning that recounts his devastating experiences of severe depression and mental health break downs that ultimately led to alienation, homelessness and institutional care. A successful playwright, the author recounts his path towards recovery through an intensely raw and painful narrative, but also a compelling one. A must read.