How it’s New York: Several writers from New York traveled to Spring Lake, NJ, a popular shore point for New Yorkers, to support the Jersey Shore and to read and sign books in the first Author’s Den at The Irish Festival, a Spring Lake Homecoming.
How it’s Irish: The Author’s Den was part of the The Irish Festival, a Spring Lake Homecoming, in the “Irish Riviera.” The authors were Irish and Irish-American.
The afternoon at the Author’s Den at The Irish Festival, a Spring Lake Homecoming began in uncertainty. The sky didn’t seem to be able to make up its mind what to do. It was not raining. It was not sunny. Yet the clouds were hanging around waiting for their chance. Plus, as organizer Mike Farragher told me, the Author’s Den was an idea that had not been tried before. When I got to the clean, bright room in the Coldwell Banker building, it was filled with empty white chairs. All we could do was see how it would go.
I set up my books on the counter and put out some Irish American Writers and Artists membership forms and the IAW&A credit card machine, in case anyone wanted to join and pay with a card. By 12:30 people started to filter into the room and take their seats. We were just a few minutes past the scheduled start time and we already had a respectable crowd.
Mike Farragher introduced the Author’s Den and said a few words about the IAW&A. He expressed his gratitude for the New York writers who had come to Spring Lake to support the Jersey Shore in its recovery from Superstore Sandy. Then he introduced me.
I read excerpts from two short stories from my collection, Dreams and Dull Realities. Since we were by the shore, I thought it fitting to choose stories that had to do with the sea, land, and air. The first excerpt was from “Flight,” a short story about a five-year-old boy named Terrance who tries to fly like the birds in his yard or the astronauts on TV. The second excerpt was from “Tulip Street” a story about a little Northeast Philadelphia girl named Danielle who did not want her sailor father to return to sea. When a nor’easter ruins her patch of the community garden, she gives her father the one flower that survived. I also presented two excerpts from my novel, The World, about a young man’s discovering his Irish heritage and about a 4th of July fireworks display.
John Liam Shea chose two selections from his novel, Cut and Run in the Bronx. The first told how a real police officer of the old days had to arrest people he knew from his own neighborhood. He read about a bank robbery in the Bronx in which the Irish cops had to arrest Irish robbers. The second excerpt was from the beginning of the novel in which Officer Dunphy finds a crack baby in a dumpster, a baby who can talk. Quite eloquently, as it turns out.
In an entertaining presentation, Mike Farragher read from This is Your Brain on Shamrocks 2: 50 Shades of Green. He explained what it means to have a brain on shamrocks, to have a little voice in your head that reminds of what you should fee guilty about. He also shared touching story about his grandmother in Galway who had gone out of her way to prepare everything she thought suitable for the young Mike’s meal, only to have him ask for ketchup. She sent someone to buy ketchup for him and for years afterward it became a running joke. His grandmother was forever slipping bottles and packets of ketchup into Mike’s coat pockets and suitcases.
Maura Mulligan read from her memoir, Call of the Lark. The first excerpt told how she and her father rode bicycles to the house of her first employer on the day she left her parents’ home for the first time. It is a tale of sentiments unspoken, yet deeply felt. She also read about the the American Wake her family and neighbors had for her the night she left Ireland to cone to America.
Seamus Scanlon read a short story from As Close as You’ll Ever Be, a poetic and brutal collection of stories about the war in the North of Ireland. He shared the story, “The Long Wet Grass” about an IRA gunman who must kill an ex-girlfriend. Seamus has also turned this story into a one-act play.
Colin Broderick read from his new memor, That’s That, which covers the first twenty years of his life, which he spent in Altamuskin, County Tyrone. He remarked about how if he had been an English king, he would have conquered someplace sunnier. He read a visceral tale of working in the bogs in the wind and the driving rain.
Although the day had started out in uncertainty, it wound up being a very successful afternoon of readings poetic, humorous, violent, and touching. The authors sold and signed books and even swapped copies of their works with one another.
I am proud that I was part of the first Author’s Den in Spring Lake Irish Homecoming Festival. I hope there are many more to come and that other festivals take note and include author’s along with the musicians and dancers.