Children’s Books Ireland and Tyrone Guthrie Centre Bursary Awards for Mid-Career Children’s Books Artists

Despite the current Covid-19 pandemic, associated restrictions and social-distancing guidelines, Children’s Books Ireland is dedicated to providing deeply worthwhile professional development opportunities for children’s books authors and illustrators at all stages in their careers and we look forward to being able to continue to do so.

With this in mind Children’s Books Ireland and the Tyrone Guthrie Centre are pleased to announce an opportunity for five artists to avail of a week-long residency, to take place in December 2020. These bursaries are designed specifically for mid-career Irish children’s books authors or illustrators. Following 2019’s very successful residencies, Children’s Books Ireland is delighted to offer the bursaries again this year with a focus on creative exchange and collaboration. While several other schemes support emerging and debut artists, these bursaries exist to support more experienced, published authors and illustrators who require time and space to focus on their craft to the benefit of their continuing careers. Laureate na nÓg Áine Ní Ghlinn will be in attendance and the Laureate na nÓg project will fund two of the five bursaries. Preference for one of these places will be given to an artist published in the Irish language. In addition, Waterford City and County Council and Fingal County Council will each fund one bursary should a successful applicant reside in either jurisdiction.

Applicants must have at least two books for children published by a recognised publisher. Applications will be accepted by email only to info@childrensbooksireland.ie. Please include a cover letter including a statement of artistic intent, outlining the project you would like to focus on during your stay at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre as well as an up-to-date Curriculum Vitae (max two A4 pages).

The deadline for applications is 4pm on Tuesday 2nd June. Applications will be assessed by a selection panel comprised of representatives of Children’s Books Ireland and the Tyrone Guthrie Centre. The successful applicants will be notified in mid-June. All bursaries will take place from 14th to 21st December 2020 so as to allow for creative exchange and collaboration between artists where appropriate.

Feedback from previous bursary recipients:

The bursary enabled me to bring 1.5 years’ worth of work to a close, ready for submission. During the week, I redrafted an entire 40K word manuscript that is the proposed Book 1 of a series aimed at middle grade readers. This manuscript has been awaiting completion since November 2019, but in these final stages, I require completely uninterrupted time, and this had been impossible to salvage from the usual working week. 

In addition to completing the manuscript, I also wrote the synopsis and several suggestions for future books in the series. My agent is currently preparing these documents for submission to publishers later this week. Without the residency, I’d have been lucky to have completed this submission before June, so the impact is huge. 

Another element of the residency is that it also enabled interaction with other children’s writers who understand 1) the craft but also 2) the business. This led to many in-depth discussions about teaching workshops, submission opportunities, writing styles, which inevitably fed into the work. 

Author E.R. Murray

I set the bar high, aiming to complete a draft of each of two chapter books, and was delighted to actually achieve this.

I definitely recommend bursaries being awarded for the same week, to strengthen the network of children’s author/illustrators, to foster support within the children’s books community, and to share truly useful information and ideas. Niamh (Sharkey) and I were already friends, but we now more readily ring each other, and bounce ideas off each other.

Author and illustrator Mary Murphy

The group who stay over the same period as I do include another children’s writer, an Irish Times editor, a radio documentary maker, various other breeds of writers and poets, a songwriter, a retired composer working on a novel, painters, printmakers and a film and theatre director.

I keep the work to just two projects; a children’s non-fiction book that is demanding a lot of research, which means a real stop-and-start process of reading and writing. The long periods of focus make a huge difference. Sometimes I’m up, pacing back and forth trying to find the few specific words that will lead into the next stage in the book. The other piece is a novel that I’ve finished, but had to put aside and which I now want to go back over.

My brain is busy and tired, but in this calm, relaxed atmosphere you can keep going for long periods and stop when you need to, to talk shop with other artists and let the beautiful surroundings have their effect on you.

It’s the kind of existence that, when you were young, you thought would be the lifestyle of a writer, not realizing how the rest of life crowded in on the pure work that makes this weird career worthwhile.

Author and illustrator Oisín McGann