Irish Writers Respond to the Election Result, for the Irish Times

And it takes some scrolling down, but I’m in there amongst some excellent commentary, and some other commentary that’s…well I’ll let you decide for yourself.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Irish Writers Respond to the Election Result, for the Irish Times

The Shortest Post Ever on Reading, Sex, Crime, Workshops & Wine. You’re welcome.


I’ve lived in San Francisco for over twenty years and I’ve never been to Los Gatos! That will be fixed this Friday when I travel to the 2016 Los Gatos – Listowel Writers’ Festival.

I’m giving a free talk at the Los Gatos Library on Sat., Oct. 8 at 2 pm on my love of reading and why we should all be at it (kinda the same re sex for us adults, I suppose).

On Sun. at 10 am at Village House of Books, I’m reading FOR THE FIRST TIME from a galley of The Weight of Him (also free).

I’m taking Claire McGowan’s crime workshop on Sunday afternoon because I LOVE mysteries and I think it’s about time I wrote one. Crime workshop details here:

I’m excited. I’m nervous. About all of it. If you can, PLEASE JOIN ME. There will be more wine.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Press Release for Inaugural Los Gatos Listowel Writers’ Week

The heart and soul of Irish culture comes to the Bay Area with the debut of the Los Gatos-Listowel Writers’ Week. Listowel is not only the sister city of Los Gatos, but also home to one of Ireland’s most established, influential and internationally acclaimed literary festivals. The inaugural US program—featuring over 15 Irish writers and poets traveling from Ireland to join their local counterparts—will consist of over 40 events designed to bring together writers and audiences in the historic town of Los Gatos over the course of four days and nights, October 6-9, 2016.

Irish writers participating include Mike McCormack, shortlisted for the 2016 Irish Book of the Year; Hugo Hamilton, Irish-German author and award-winning playwright; and women crime writers Louise Phillips, Niamh O’Connor and Claire McGowan. The four-day event includes a year-end tribute to Ireland’s uprising of 1916; tributes to Dermot Healy, Flann O’Brien and Lucia Joyce, and readings from local Irish writers Emer Martin and Ethel Rohan. With more than 30 invited writers—and even a politician or two—everyone is invited to join this lively contingent for the first annual literary festival.

October 6-9, 2016; program and tickets available at

“We are very proud to showcase Ireland’s top contemporary literature and welcome our local writing community to our very first annual Los Gatos Listowel festival,” says Festival Co-Founder and Director, Catherine Barry.

In addition to the authors, journalists, poets and others who will participate in the festival, Los Gatos Mayor Barbara Spector, Irish Consul General Phillip Grant, and Jimmy Deenihan, Minister for Arts & Heritage, Irish Parliament, 2011-2014 and co-founder of Los Gatos Listowel Writers’ Week will also be in attendance to foster community and welcome audiences. 

The exciting array of events will feature poets, novelists, short story essayists, artists, filmmakers and playwrights who will read, teach, discuss and perform. Adding education and fun to the children’s program, there will be free Irish dancing classes and youth poetry workshops.

Michael D. Higgins, President of Ireland has sent a message of support which includes, “Perhaps now, more than ever before, do we need this power of words and thought to help us re-integrate ourselves, our culture, our forms of life.”  

Some Festival Highlights:

• Mike McCormack, short-listed for Irish Book of the Year 2016 and winner of the Rooney Prize for Literature for his recent novel Solar Bones.

• Hugo Hamilton, award-winning novelist, and Order of Merit by Germany recipient for The Speckled People, his unique memoir on growing up in a German-Irish family in Ireland.

• Irish Women Crime Writers, Louise Phillips, Niamh O’Connor and Claire McGowan join a panel reading and discussing the new wave of young Irish women crime writers

• Opening night introduces the “Pat O’Laughlin Contribution to Literature” award, named for former trial attorney, passionate writer, and mayor of Los Gatos who passed away in 2008

• Rose Doyle, Dublin writer and journalist, whose new book Heroes of Jadotville is the story of Irish soldiers in the Congo. A film version of this story will be released by Netflix in the Fall

• Rich Moran, President of Menlo College and credited as creator of “Business Bullet” books.

• Jane Clarke, a multi-award winning poet who won the 2016 Hennessy Literary Award.

• Frank Shouldice, investigative journalist and playwright whose book Grandpa The Sniper about his grandfather’s role in the 1916 rebellion has received accolades in Ireland this year

• James Walsh, former San Jose State University history professor on Irish-American Senator James Phelan and the story of Villa Montalvo

• The Farrell Brothers of Tile Media present their docudrama on the 1916 Easter Rising
, and discuss their collected “Stories of 1916.”

• Joseph McBride, author and professor of Cinema at SF State, explores the blend of comedy and tragedy in the films of John Ford, including Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, written in Los Gatos
. Joseph also reads from his recent book, The Broken Places: A Memoir.

• Erica Goss, 2013-16 Poet Laureate of Los Gatos
 conducts Youth Poetry workshop.

• Emer Martin, artist and author launches new children’s book and exhibits new paintings.

• Ethel Rohan, Irish-born, San Francisco based short story writer and author of the upcoming novel The Weight of Him.

• Sarah Davis-Goff and Lisa Coen, Tramp Press founders support Ireland’s literary talent in traditional and new ways.

• Matthew Spangler, Playwright, Director and Professor of San Jose State University.

• Cara Black, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of 14 books in the Private Investigator Aimée Leduc series joins Irish crime writer Louise Phillips along with a detective from Ireland and one from the San Francisco Police Department.

• David Brundage: Professor of History at UC Santa Cruz

• Local historian Peggy Conaway, along with former mayor Sandy Decker, and “Lost Gatos” app developer, Alan Feinberg

• Special art exhibit at Gallery 24, featuring Irish artists Bridget Ryan and Emer Martin.

Speaking about the festival, co-founder Jimmy Deenihan, Minister for Arts & Heritage, Irish Parliament from 2011 through 2014 notes, “This has huge potential going forward. This festival has a stellar lineup and it makes sense to celebrate the greatness of Irish literature in a town twinned with Listowel where the internationally acclaimed Writers’ Week is held annually.”

Complete schedule can be found here:

Twitter: @lglistowel, #irishwriterslosgatos; #losgatoslistowel
Visit us on Facebook

What: Los Gatos – Listowel Writer’s Week

When: October 6-9, 2016

Where: The Los Gatos Library, Friends of the Library, Hotel Los Gatos, Village House of Books, NUMU, C.B. Hannegan’s, Adult and Youth Recreation Centers, Town Hall Chambers, Gallery 24, Los Gatos Lodge


About Los Gatos-Listowel Writer’s Week

The festival was founded by Dubliner Catherine Barry of local non-profit Irish Culture Bay Area, and Listowel’s Jimmy Deenihan, Irish Parliament Minister 2011-2014. “Folks might be surprised to learn what contemporary Ireland has to offer. As we bring our great literary brand to a California town rich with cultural appreciation, we believe this festival will grow to become a signature Bay Area event. The support and encouragement of the community is already making this a reality,” says Barry.

For more information, email Catherine Barry, Festival Director at or 415.424.4845.

LGLWF is a project of non-profit organization, Irish Culture Bay Area, a community events website presenting a comprehensive guide to Irish culture around the Bay Area.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Press Release for Inaugural Los Gatos Listowel Writers’ Week


St. Martin’s Press are giving away 30 galley copies of my first novel, The Weight of Him, on Goodreads. The novel publishes on February 14, 2017. That seems like a long way away. It is and it isn’t.

‘Valentine’s Day?’ someone said. ‘Is that a funny date for your book to come out?’ No, it’s not. It’s perfect. It’s the day out of 365 days marked for love. Much of my novel is about the great need for self-love.

Go take your chances at winning a copy of The Weight of Him here. Go love yourself, too.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Go


I just had my author photo taken for my novel. I have an irrational almost-fear/total discomfort with the camera. I carry my tension and anxiety in my jaw and in photos my mouth looks weird and my expression looks stern.

The photos were taken at home, which helped, and those taken in my kitchen seemed at-a-glance to be the best. I love to cook and entertain so maybe that has something to do with why I seem the most at ease and like myself in those photos. I think, though, it has more to do with what I was thinking about during those particular photos. I was thinking about how I dedicated my first novel to my dad. Not just my dad. I dedicated the book to Nathaniel J. Bergman which was the pen name my dad (Ned McDonnell) dreamed up for the books he would someday write.

My dad never did write those books. He never wrote much of anything. While he lay dying, I promised him I would finish the novel I was working on, I would make it the best I could, and I would dedicate it to him and his dream. I told him, I’ll do it for both of us.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

First Joe Plumeri Fellowship

I am thrilled and grateful to have won the inaugural Joe Plumeri Fellowship for my forthcoming first novel, The Weight of Him. The fellowship is in memory of Joe Plumeri’s son, Christian, and is awarded to writers pursuing a book project at the broad intersection of food and health, either a work of fiction or creative nonfiction.

The fellowship – a writing residency for the month of June, 2016 – carries a stipend of $5,000. The Wellstone Center is surrounded by a grove of redwoods and four stunning acres, a few miles from the Pacific Ocean and near Santa Cruz, California. I will spend June in the Zen Suite with a balcony overlooking forests and mountains and, in the distance, Monterey Bay.

At Wellstone, I will complete the final edits on my first novel, The Weight of Him, which will be published by St. Martin’s Press on February 14, 2017. Set in a contemporary Irish village, The Weight of Him tells the story of Billy Brennan. At four hundred pounds, Billy can always count on food. From his earliest memories, he has loved food’s colors, textures and tastes. The way flavors go off in his mouth. How food keeps his mind still and his bad feelings quiet. How it comforts, pleasure and sates. Makes him feel like a giant. Makes everything better.

At least food did all that until the day Billy’s beloved son Michael takes his own life. In the wake of his son’s tragic death, Billy determines to make a difference and to stop suicide. But it is only when Billy confronts the truth of his suffering–pain and grief that go back long before his son’s death–that he, his family and the lives of countless others will be truly changed.

My novel fits the Joe Plumeri Fellowship because it is not only about the intersection of food and health, it is also a story about family, fatherhood, loss, addiction, body issues, the rejection of the self, and more. Ultimately, The Weight of Him is a call for self-love. I believe in the healing and transformative power of telling our stories. I believe we can make a difference, word by word.

Joe Plumeri, a New York-based philanthropist and former CEO of several Fortune 500 companies, shares in his national bestseller The Power of Being Yourself how his son Chris suffered from anorexia starting at age 13. At the time, the early 1980s, anorexia and other eating disorders were stigmatized and poorly understood, especially with regard to boys. Chris went from issues with eating to issues with alcohol and drugs, and he passed away in November, 2008. In sponsoring this writing fellowship, Joe Plumeri hopes to encourage writers with the passion to bring greater understanding to the nexus of food and health.

Thank you so much Joe Plumeri, and Steve and Sarah Kettman, the founders of Wellstone Redwoods Center. I plan to make the most of every moment at Wellstone, much-needed time away from the city and everyday busyness so that I can fully immerse myself in my novel, and in the solace and inspiration of nature.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

What Lies Between Us

I wasn’t immediately drawn into Nayomi Munaweera’s searing novel, What Lies Between Us. I found the prologue evasive and withholding rather than suspenseful, but thereafter I was quickly hooked. And the read just kept building until it culminated in a gripping and heartbreaking close.

The language is lyrical and sensuous, and outright gorgeous in places. The range of place, topics, themes, story, and characters is ambitious and expertly executed. And the honesty, wisdom and truth throughout make for a resonant and insightful read. Whenever I had to put this book down, I longed to get back to it again. I love that.

I also love when a book can make me feel deeply. This book made me ache.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on What Lies Between Us

It’s Book Cover Time!

My first novel, The Weight of Him, will publish from St. Martin’s Press in February, 2017. While I excitedly await what my editor, Brenda Copeland, and SMP’s Creative Director, Michael Storrings, magic up, I would love to see some of your favorite book covers.

Here are a few of mine:

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Exciting Writing Workshop & Banquet Dinner Giveaway

There’s not much to be said about the period except that most writers don’t reach it soon enough. – William Zinsser

I’m excited to return a second time to teach my ‘Brilliance of Brevity’ writing workshop with Abroad Writers’ Conference in Ireland. This year, the conference will be held in Dublin, at the gorgeous period residence, Butler’s Townhouse, Ballsbridge.

My workshop runs for three afternoons and will cover both short-short fiction and non-fiction. We will read and analyze stories and personal essays, and use their deconstructed skeletons to kickstart our own work. Those students who have repeated my class know I always teach new stories, use new prompts, and focus on new craft elements for every workshop. That keeps the class fresh, energetic, and inspiring for everyone, including me.

This workshop’s focus is on deconstructing the celebrated works of diverse and leading writers of short-short fiction and non-fiction and using those skeletons to kickstart our own work–bones that we’ll put the meat back on to create our own body of work. The workshop is ideal for students at all levels and although we’ll focus on short-short writing, my approach is to share everything I know about great storytelling and getting published, regardless of length. We will read and write hard and deep in a safe, fun, and enthusiastic setting.

I’m pleased to also offer my students an exciting giveaway. We’ll pull a student’s name from a hat each day of my workshop and those three lucky writers are invited as my guest, free, to attend the Abroad Writers’ Conference banquet dinner at Butler’s Townhouse on any night of their choice, December 12-19th (dinners are filling fast and dates are subject to availability. Currently, Dec. 15th is sold out). Attendees at these dinners include such literary and publishing luminaries as Mary Costello, Medbh McGuckian, John Banville, Kevin Barry, John Boyne, Declan Meade, and more. Literary agent, Jeff Kleinman, Folio Literary Management, New York, will also be in attendance. These dinners will be wonderful!

This scrumptious meal will be prepared by Nancy Gerbault, AWC’s Founder & Director, and world-renowned master chef, Michael Ruhlman. Ruhlman is an award-winning chef and writer, and has penned over twenty non-fiction books. He has also starred on several TV culinary shows including, Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations and Cooking Under Fire, and The Next Iron Chef.

There are only five spaces left in this workshop. Join us!

Brilliance of Brevity Writing Workshop
Fiction & Non-Fiction
Monday, December 14-Wednesday, December 16; 1:15-5 pm
Butler’s Townhouse
Ballsbridge, Dublin

To register: Contact Ethel Rohan: or Nancy Gerbault, Abroad Writers’ Conference Founder and Director:


“I’m a poet. As far as I know, I’ve always been a poet. It’s the way I’ve chosen to tell my stories. But lately many of those stories have spilled over their boundaries, asking for something more than I’m able to give them. I knew I needed an entry into the intimidating world of fiction, and Ethel Rohan’s flash fiction workshop, during the Aboard Writers Conference in Ireland, was beyond perfect. She was just the guide I needed — she made it easy to realize the parallels between my poetry and longer prose works, and led stimulating group conversations that left me feeling more than capable of not only beginning work in a new genre, but in conquering it. In fact, I’m using two pieces crafted in her workshop as the basis for a new book of short prose pieces. She gave me that much confidence!” –Patricia Smith, National Book Award Finalist, Winner of the 2014 Rebekah Bobbitt Prize from the Library of Congress, and Winner of the Academy of American Poets 2013 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize


Ethel Rohan’s first novel, The Kingdom Keeper, will publish from St. Martin’s Press in early 2017. She is also the author of two story collections, Goodnight Nobody and Cut Through the Bone, the former longlisted for The Edge Hill Prize and the latter longlisted for The Story Prize. She wrote, too, the award-winning chapbook Hard to Say (PANK) and the award-winning e-memoir single, Out of Dublin (Shebooks).

Winner of the 2013 Bryan MacMahon Short Story Award, and shortlisted for the CUIRT, Roberts, and Bristol Short Story Prizes, her work has or will appear in The New York TimesWorld Literature TodayPEN America, Tin House Online, The Irish Times, BREVITY Magazine, and The Rumpus, among many others. She has reviewed books for New York Journal of Books, and elsewhere.

Her most recent work appeared in the anthologies THE LINEUP: 20 Provocative Women Writers (Black Lawrence Press, 2015); WinesburgIndiana (Indiana University Press, 2015); DRIVEL: Deliciously Bad Writing by Your Favorite Authors (Penguin: Perigee, 2014). She is also a contributor and associate editor to the anthology Flash Fiction International (W.W. Norton, 2015).

She will/has guest-lectured and/or taught writing at Book Passage; San Francisco State University; the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto; San Francisco Writers’ Conference; Green Mountain Writers Conference; The London Short Story Festival; The Abroad Writers’ Conference; Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP); the inaugural Los Gatos-Listowel Writers’ Week, 2016; and the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Festival, among others. She received her MFA in fiction from Mills College, CA, 2004. Raised in Dublin, Ireland, Ethel Rohan lives in San Francisco where she is a member of The Writers’ Grotto and PEN America.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Exciting Writing Workshop & Banquet Dinner Giveaway

A Master Plan for Rescue

Bay Area Friends, one week from today, on Thursday, July 16th at 7:30 pm, I’m in conversation with Janis Cooke Newman at The Booksmith, San Francisco, to discuss her tender, imaginative, and gripping new novel, A Master Plan for Rescue.

Already, BBC named the novel a Top-Ten Summer Read and it made Vanity Fair’s Hot Picks list. A Master Plan for Rescue publishes on July 14 from Riverhead Books. I look forward to a truly special evening next Thursday when Janis and I will chat about this novel in particular (both its content and its crafting), and the writing life in general. I’ll also be asking just how valuable are books in the modern era, anyway? Please do join us!

Set in 1942 New York and Berlin, a magical novel about the life-giving powers of storytelling, and the heroism that can be inspired by love. It’s the innocent love story of a child and the family he has lost. And it is is the romantic tale of a young man who discovers the love of his life, then witnesses her decline, which changes the arc of his future forever.

Propelled by history and imagination and set against a vivid period backdrop, A Master Plan for Rescue is a beautiful, hopeful novel that suggests that people’s impact on the world doesn’t necessarily end with their lives.

Peter Orner says Janis Cooke Newman, “has a rare ability to completely inhabit totally disparate characters. Here, in this World War II-era story, two strangers come together and attempt the impossible. And once again, Newman breathes pulsing life into what we thought was history.”

Janis Cooke Newman is the author of the Bay Area Bestseller, Mary, Mrs. A. Lincoln, a Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist and USA Today’s Best Historical Fiction of the Year. Newman is also the author of The Russian Word for Snow, a memoir about adopting her son from a Moscow orphanage. Newman’s travel writing has been published in numerous newspapers and magazines, including the LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, and Backpacker.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on A Master Plan for Rescue