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Literacy Learnings
Léargais Litearthachta


Author name: Myles Dungan
Title of shortlisted book: The Great Irish History Book

1. What was your earliest memory of reading/being read to?
It’s also my earliest childhood memory. I was sitting on my grandmother’s knee in our back yard at the age of three. She read to me and then got me to read the (very short and illustrated) book back to her.

2. When did you first begin to write for an audience?
A dreadful rip-off of a detective novel I read at the age of ten was published in the Meath Chronicle by my uncle Garret who did a weekly column called ‘My Royal Meath Diary’ (or something like that – it was about a thousand years ago). I was eleven years old and he thought I showed promise. How wrong can you be?

3. What book inspired you most as a young writer? Why?
Probably the first book I ever read that didn’t have pictures, at least in my edition – Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.

4. What is the best thing about writing for a contemporary audience?
None of my readers are likely to challenge me to a duel. If I’d written in the 18th or early 19th century I probably would have been ‘called out’ and shot.

5. What is the most challenging thing about writing for a contemporary audience?
I suppose the fact that readers can now slag you off, or correct you, on social media. It’s like everybody gets to read the letters of complaint.

6. What inspired you to write The Great Irish History Book?
I would like to say it was my love of history and my desire to communicate that love to hundreds of young minds. But it was because the publishers asked me to write what was the third book in an ongoing series. And besides, David McCullagh of RTÉ had written the previous book in the series. I figured if Mac can do it then so can I.

7. What have you learned from the process of writing this book?
That you need to be able to write for a very specific audience when you attempt a book for children. You can’t patronise your audience, but at the same time you can’t use words like ‘pusillanimous’ or ‘paradigm’ – and that’s just the ones beginning with ‘p’.

8. What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?
Read. And when you’ve finished reading, then read some more. Then, when you’re through with that … guess what? Yes, keep reading.

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