In a time when blogging has turned everyone into amateur authors, Anna Curran meets two UCD writers who have succeeding in turning their hobby into a lucrative career
Second year English student Leanne Waters’ place in the world of writing will be cemented on the 1st November when her autobiographical story and first full-length work, My Secret Life: A Memoir of Bulimia (Maverick House), will hit the shelves. The book focuses on Leanne’s two-year struggle with bulimia and her eventual path to recovery.
Leanne explains that she has always been interested in creative writing, however she discovered that her creativity could not be unlocked until her own personal struggle with the eating disorder was put to paper. “I realised that until I wrote this story, I’d never be able to write any other story. It would permeate its way into every other story and would undermine any authenticity those stories had or I had as a writer.”
The process of writing was difficult at first given the painful nature of the memories but, as she confronted them, writing immediately became easier and almost therapeutic. “Once I picked up the courage to write about certain things that won’t be very pleasing to read and certainly weren’t pleasing to write … it flowed because I was the one doing it, I was the one there.”
Those close to Leanne were wary when she first began writing the book because of fears that resurrecting such recent pain would harm her recovery, but she believes that ultimately it was worthwhile because of the liberation she felt on its completion. “A lot of bulimia revolves around cycles of fasting, binging and purging … now that this book has been written, this is the final purge.”
Although originally intended as a personal project, Leanne became much more aware of the potential the book had when her publishers, Maverick House, became involved. This led her to revise the book with an aim to making it as honest and unembellished as possible. She was encouraged to rewrite the book in a way that would allow the reader to gain a psychological insight into the mindset of a person with an eating disorder.
After four months of writing, Leanne completed the book on the 1st August this year. She has now returned to being a student at UCD, combining this with doing promotional work, such as appearing on Gráinne Seoige’s show Modern Life and The Late Late Show next month, and uploading a series of video blogs available via the book’s Facebook page. Although her struggle with an eating disorder dominates the first book, Leanne was keen to emphasise that it is not the only story she has to tell and hopes to expand her repertoire in the future.
Another successful student writer is final year English and History student Emily Gilmore Murphy. Her novel, You and I, focuses on the trials and tribulations of two university students in Dublin and will go on sale next year.
Having loved books from an early age, Emily began working on the novel in her final year of school and went on to rewrite it after meeting with literary agent Marion Gunn O’Connor from the publishers Transworld. The reworked version led to her being signed to a three-book deal with the publishers, and requests to have her work translated into German, an incredible success story for a first time writer.
Emily’s novel also began as a personal project, but she began to pursue the idea of getting the book published after receiving encouragement from her mother. Additionally, Emily found her college experiences to be a source of inspiration for the novel. “[UCD] was definitely an inspiration … my friends coming up to me and saying ‘you won’t believe what happened the night before, don’t tell anyone.’ Of course it’s in the book.”
Emily hopes to go on to write and publish more books, however she is also aware of the financial instability this career path can lead to. “You get this advance and it seems like this huge amount of money, but then you realise that technically it’s over a year’s wage and you mightn’t get paid again for another two years … I think you need the day job just in case.”
Having originally thought of doing a Higher Diploma in Education after graduation, the publication of You and I has changed her plans, and Emily will now be taking a year out after graduation in order to travel. Emily also explained that this would involve taking a break from the sometimes gruelling experience of writing, in order to go in search of a more stimulating environment and inspiration for future projects.
From James Joyce to Fintan O’Toole, UCD has a history of producing successful writers and it is encouraging to see the continuation of this tradition. Of course, both Leanne and Emily are only just beginning to cut their teeth in the literary world but they are making inroads and offer a shining example of the creative talents the UCD community has to offer.