It was the Irish book community’s unofficial Christmas party on Wednesday November 20, as writers, booksellers, publishing houses and the general literati convened to celebrate another year of outstanding talent at the An Post Irish Book Awards.
In its first year in a new venue, guests arrived wide-eyed at Dublin’s Convention Centre after fighting heavy traffic on North Wall Quay. The airy glass foyer was covered in green carpet and dotted in studio lighting, where nominees were photographed, interviewed and then whisked through to the main hall to enjoy champagne before the festivities.
Joseph O’Connor, Anne Griffin, Vicky Phelan, Andrea Corr, Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen, Sinéad Gleeson, Joe Duffy and Freya McClements, Sarah Maria Griffin and Jane Casey were some of the nominees who saw glory among a ream of serious contenders. Beloved Irish author and journalist Colm Tóibín received the Bob Hughes Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his 30-year contribution to literature. His most popular novels include Brooklyn, The Master and The Testament of Mary.
This year’s ceremony was hosted by Miriam O’Callaghan while each winner was interviewed by Evelyn O’ Rourke in the green room. Full highlights of the An Post Irish Book Awards will be broadcast on RTÉ One at 11.15pm on Saturday November 23.
Guinness and soda bread with herb butter
Starter: Cured salmon, salmon mousse, crisp breadstick, lemon aioli, pea purée and radish.
Main: Chicken breast, confit of duck leg croquette, shiitake mushroom, cauliflower fondue.
Dessert: Fleur de Cao chocolate cylinder, raspberry curd insert with velvet spray with textures of raspberries.
Red: Ulecia Tempranillo Familia Rivero Tierra de Castilla, Spain 2016.
White: Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie Doc, Allesandra Gallici, Veneto, Italy 2017.
The usual flutes of champagne, plus plenty of gin and tonics.
Each attendee typically receives a canvas tote bag filled with books, stationary and various treats. This year’s haul was particularly generous. In mine was For Ava by Vera Twomey, Behind the Lines 3: Great Irish Sports Stories From The 42, a special little An Post Vibers notebook made from biodegradable agricultural materials, a sustainable Sprout pen you can plant after use, a pack of An Post Christmas stamps, Specsavers lens spray, an Avoca 25% off voucher for their new Fodder restaurant in Ballsbridge, a box of Lily O’Brien chocolates, and a pair of Irish Book Awards novelty socks.
Cancer campaigner Vicky Phelan getting a standing ovation, straight out of the gates.
Both Jane Casey and Sinéad Gleeson mentioning crime novelist Liz Nugent in their speeches. Poor Liz is in hospital at the moment and her absence from the APIBAs was greatly felt.
Getting told throughout the evening that I was like a Gothic Elizabeth Bennet in my black Jane Austen inspired empire-line gown with organza sleeves, metallic jewellery and pewter brogues. I almost regret not taking any photos of myself in said gown, but I was having too much fun to remember.
Meeting short story nominee Amy Gaffney on my arrival, just after she had her photo taken with Orla McAlinden. She sparkled right from the top of her tiara to the tip of her shoes.
Sophie White’s spectacular neon maternity dress, showing her in full bloom.
Finding the lovely Aoife Dooley in the foyer after the ceremony, where she asked me to take a picture of her holding her Irish Book Award for 123 Ireland! She momentarily changed out of her black-and-white Vans slip-ons into black high heels, and kicked them off again when finished. I couldn’t blame her: I loathe wearing high heels.
Catching up with Claudia Carroll and Sinéad Moriarty: the pair of them would light up any room.
Carmel Harrington’s fabulous multi-coloured crown. She attended the APIBAs with best friends Hazel Gaynor and crime fiction nominee Catherine Ryan Howard. Later on in the night, we launched into a series of amusing selfies.
Hanging out with Sarah Maria Griffin and her husband Ceri Bevan, who were in flying form. I enjoyed telling them that barn owls make Kiefer Sutherland nervous: one of Sarah’s characters in Other Words For Smoke is a murderous owl.
Learning the secret to Deirdre O’Sullivan’s total absence of dark eye circles: Kat Von D concealer. I think I am going to buy it in bulk. As always, Dee is a joy to chat with.
Elaine Egan from Hachette and I packing ourselves into a taxi at 2am just to go across the road to The Ferryman because all the bridges were closed off due to roadworks. When we texted The Stinging Fly’s Declan Meade to see if he would join us (he chose to walk), he quipped – “It was a bridge too far.”
Observing The Ferryman’s recent transformation. Not so long ago, you’d be afraid to set foot in the place. On a different note, whoever had Dominos pizza delivered at 4am deserves a special award of their own: they were savaged by some ravenous and eternally grateful party animals.
As per usual, I was in delectable company. Just some of the people I spoke to were Shane Hegarty, Marie O’Halloran, Henrietta McKervey, Sinéad Gleeson, Kathleen MacMahon, Patricia Gibney, Andrea Carter, Louise Phillips, Banshee’s Laura Cassidy, Andrea Mara, Cormac Kinsella, Adrian White, Ian Maleney, Caelainn Hogan, Nicole Flattery, Louise Kennedy, Lisa Coen, Dave Rudden and Sarah Davis-Goff. My fellow diners at the press table included photographer Ger Holland, Sue Leonard, Sinéad Crowley, Nadine O’Regan, and Breda Brown from Unique Media.
And the winners are…
RTÉ Radio 1 Listeners’ Choice Award
Overcoming – Vicky Phelan with Naomi Linehan (Hachette Books) – Championed by Ray D’Arcy
Bord Gáis Energy Sports Book of the Year
Recovering – Richie Sadlier with Dion Fanning (Gill Books)
Avoca Cookbook of the Year
Cornucopia: The Green Cookbook – Tony Keogh, Aoife Carrigy, the Chefs of Cornucopia, Deirdre and Dairine McCafferty (Gill Books)
Irish Independent Crime Fiction Book of the Year
Cruel Acts – Jane Casey (HarperFiction)
Bookselling Ireland Non-Fiction Book of the Year
Constellations – Sinéad Gleeson (Picador)
TheJournal.ie Best Irish-Published Book of the Year
Children of the Troubles – Joe Duffy and Freya McClements (Hachette Books Ireland)
Love Leabhar Gaeilge Irish Language Book of the Year
Tairngreacht – Proinsias Mac a’Bhaird (LeabhairComhar)
[email protected] Teen & Young Adult Book of the Year
Other Words for Smoke – Sarah Maria Griffin (Titan Books)
Specsavers Children’s Book of the Year – Senior
Shooting for the Stars – My Journey to Become Ireland’s First Astronaut – Norah Patten, illustrated by Jennifer Farley (The O’Brien Press)
Specsavers Children’s Book of the Year – Junior
123 Ireland! – Aoife Dooley (Little Island Books)
Sunday Independent Newcomer of the Year
When All Is Said – Anne Griffin (Hodder & Stoughton)
National Book Tokens Popular Fiction Book of the Year
Once, Twice, Three Times an Aisling – Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen (Gill Books)
Listowel Writers’ Week Irish Poem of the Year
Salt Rain – Audrey Molloy (Mslexia, September 2019)
Writing.ie Short Story of the Year Award
Parrot – Nicole Flattery (The Stinging Fly, Issue 39, Volume 2, Winter 2018-19)
Ireland AM Popular Non-Fiction Book of the Year
Barefoot Pilgrimage – Andrea Corr (HarperNonFiction)
Eason Novel of the Year
Shadowplay – Joseph O’Connor (Harvill Secker)
This year, over 115,000 votes were cast by the public to choose the winners in each category. Readers everywhere are now invited to vote for their overall An Post Irish Book of the Year at www.anpostirishbookawards.ie.
The winner will be announced in January, and all voters have a chance to win €100 worth of National Book Tokens. Previous winners include Emilie Pine for Notes to Self, Mike McCormack for Solar Bones, Mary Costello for Academy Street, Donal Ryan for The Spinning Heart, and Belinda McKeon for Solace.