Yoko Ono, performance artist and activist, was the Bjork of the 1960s. In 1966, she exhibited an interactive artwork known as Ceiling Painting at the Indica Gallery show in London. The viewer was invited to climb a white ladder and, at the top, find a magnifying glass hanging from a frame on the ceiling. The glass revealed the word YES written in tiny letters. It this art work that led to Ono meeting with John Lennon. He later reportedly said if the word had been no he wouldn’t have been interested.
Friday, the 25th May 2018 in Ireland, YES was very much the word of the day. I suspect it may end up being the word of the year, if not the decade. Friday, as you may recall, was the day of the historic 8th Amendment referendum in Ireland. It was also the National Day for Writers and pal Una and I spent it at a day long event, courtesy of Words Ireland.
Picture, if you will, the pair of us strolling around the exhibition stands, chatting gaily, and encountering the word YES! every few minutes. And not just adorning the ladies’ bosoms either. Many a manly chest was emblazoned with a no-nonsense yes or tá (yes in Irish). There was something almost Douglas Adams about it.
The event was held at the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA). It’s a gorgeous venue and well worth a visit if you find yourself in town for a few days. Even if the art isn’t your cupán tae (cup of tea).
Tickets to the event had been arranged for us by our local librarians (thanks Emily and Rose!) and what a day it was. The air fairly crackled. It was as if we knew, you know? That quiet revolution isn’t so quiet when you’re standing at the epicentre with many of the revolutionaries all around you.
But for the day that was in it, we were talking books. Books, writers, sunshine, 20 degrees centigrade (in Dublin?), and a gorgeous setting. Yes, boys and girls, I couldn’t ask for more. OK, a seven-figure publishing contract and a date with Pierce Brosnan wouldn’t have gone amiss, but I’m not greedy. I got to spend the day talking to people who work in writing-related areas. They teach, run programs celebrating lions of Irish literature like James Joyce, they are publishers, are writers union reps, and are, all of them, writers.
I got to pitch my work in progress to a few publishers some of whom seemed very excited indeed, and I got some suggestions that I would not otherwise have thought of (don’t submit in January. EVERYBODY submits in January.) Have an idea for a second book even while you’re submitting your first. I didn’t have a glimmer of a notion at that moment, but I did half-an-hour later, and it’s a corker. Of course, I think that now, before the grueling work of writing begins. Don’t worry too much about the synopsis, put your effort into a smart cover letter. Who knew?
The sessions were interesting and many of the speakers inspiring. As usual, when it started to get truly exciting, I stopped taking notes and just listened in rapt attention. The bits that stood out: Kit de Waal talking about the writer’s manifesto and being brave enough to explore cultures not our own… John Boyne nearly getting lynched for suggesting the state does not owe the author a living. Say what?… Publishing Ireland sharing the good news that book sales are up an amazing 8% on sales this time last year… More, much more. Oh, I must try to take notes.
It was a wonderful, positive day, with exactly the right number of participants and the right sort of energy. If you’d like to know more about the event and the speakers, here’s the Program of Events.