Inis 50: Former Editors Share their memories (Middle age)

In the second of our feature articles in which former editors write about their time with Inis, we feature Paddy O’Doherty, Patricia Kennan, Catríona Magner, and Marian Keyes, who edited Inis between 2009 and 2013. 


ISSUES 12–22 (2005–2007) PADDY O’DOHERTY
I was delighted to get the job as editor of Inis and proudly took the baton from the formidable editing team of Valerie Coghlan and Siobhán Parkinson … with perhaps a little trepidation. They were moving on from Inis to edit Bookbird, the prestigious refereed journal of international children’s literature published by iBbY. However, I was also pleased to have succeeded in getting the position while taking the platform of representing a particular cohort of readers: parents. Inis had to date been well guided by writers, illustrators, booksellers, publishers, librarians and academics; however, I thought that one particular reader, the average parent, had not been adequately catered for. I also believed there was an untapped population of interested parents out there who were potential members for CBI. Of course, the challenge was to reach new readers and to include material of interest to all the stakeholders, and this is what I set about trying to do over eleven issues.

A decade has passed since then and my strongest memory is of the children’s literature community and their willingness to help: discuss ideas, brainstorm, share contacts, write and contribute in any way they could – too many to mention here by name and all giving of their time so generously.
My involvement with CBI and its annual conference, the CBI/Bisto Awards and the MA in Children’s Literature in St Patrick’s College (DCU) had introduced me to some wonderful people – I’m thinking particularly of Máire Uí Mhaicín and Robert Dunbar who have since sadly passed away and are so missed.

I have a strong memory also of the late Siobhan Dowd, who blew us away with her lecture and vision of literature (and her subsequent wonderful novels) at a CBI event in May 2007. On the way out of that event I bumped into Robert who, echoing my thoughts, encouraged me to print her lecture in Inis. Siobhan kindly agreed and emailed me the transcript, which appeared in the following issue.
Being both content and reviews editor meant that I also had the enormous pleasure of opening boxes of new books from publishers and experiencing the joy of handling the latest much anticipated novels from, for example, Kate Thompson and Eoin Colfer, and the excitement of featuring then-new writers and illustrators such as Oliver Jeffers, Derek Landy and John Boyne.

I’d like to extend my thanks to team Inis: Mags Walsh, director, and Jenny Murray, administrator of CBI at that time; Kieran Nolan of Oldtown Design, magazine designer and typesetter; and Antoinette Walker, proofreader extraordinaire, for the brilliant back-up and support – and great memories.

Paddy O’Doherty, former editor with Puffin Ireland, is a freelance children’s and YA books editor.


ISSUES 23–40 (2008–2013) PATRICIA KENNON
I first became involved with Inis as a reviewer and then had the honour of representing and acting as a coordinator of the Inis family between 2008 and 2013, initially as a features editor and then as editor in chief. I’ve been lucky to have worked and become friends with so many inspiring and dedicated colleagues along the way. In late 2007 my accomplished and dynamic co-editor, Caitríona Magner, and I were faced with the challenge of filling Paddy O’Doherty’s eminent shoes while infusing the magazine with our own style and approach. We wanted to create an optimal balance between celebrating established children’s literature and exploring new narrative and publishing possibilities for young people. For example, in our first issue, number 23, we introduced a new ‘Uncharted Territories’ series, exploring the exciting emergence of multimodal tests and digital storytelling for young audiences. In 2009 the impressively capable Marian Keyes assumed the mantle of reviews editor and we continued the commitment to review and promote the best in national and international children’s literature. When Marian stepped down as reviews editor, David Maybury (now Stephens) took on that role with his usual flair and energy. As part of enhancing the reviews section, we introduced a new ongoing reviews feature where a range of books were each read by three experts with distinct tastes, expertise and reactions. This new review method allowed for more in-depth analysis and aimed to contribute to conversation and debate by presenting multiple viewpoints.

With the exciting inauguration of the first Laureate na nÓg in 2010, the increasing emergence of digital storytelling and associated changes in the publishing world, it felt timely to reflect on the range and reach of the magazine and to consider a new approach and blended mode of content and publication. In 2011 CBI, David and I embarked on a new adventure with an innovative new look and approach for the print magazine and the launch of the accompanying website,, which comprised online features and reviews. We were indebted to the elegant work of Conor & David (now WorkGroup) regarding the redesign of the print magazine and associated creation of the website. In response to feedback and comments from the Inis readership, we expanded the number of features and reviews, and later that year we were delighted to introduce the talented and insightful Claire Marie Dunne in the new role of Irish-language editor, responsible for Irish-language content online and in print. In order to develop the magazine’s and readers’ participation in a global conversation about children’s literature and to extend the magazine’s engagement with social media and online children’s literature communities, David moved to the new role of digital editor in 2012. I became editor in chief alongside features editor, and Juliette Saumande added her creativity and expertise to the Inis editorial team, particularly regarding works of translation, picturebooks and non-fiction, when she became reviews editor that year. The final issue of our editorial group was number 40 in winter 2013. I’m proud to say I’ve been part of the Inis fellowship and the magazine’s ongoing journey of change, continuity and commitment to the advocacy of literature for young people, and here’s to issue 50 and, moreover, to issue 100!

Dr Patricia Kennon is a lecturer in English Literature in the School of Education, National University of Ireland, Maynooth. She is the vice president of the Irish Society for the Study of Children’s Literature, a former editor in chief of Inis: The Children’s Books Magazine and a former president of iBbY Ireland.


ISSUES 23–27 (2008–2009) Caitríona Magner

Opening the covers of Inis magazine for the first time, is akin to opening the doors to an exciting and new world, or so it felt for me when I read my first edition of the magazine in 1999. Over the course of its’ fifty publications, Inis magazine has presented its’ readers with excellent articles about children’s literature, in-depth analysis of the work of authors, illustrators, publishers and book sellers as well as hundreds of reviews of childrens’ titles. I had the privilege of serving as reviews editor of Inis in 2008 and for part of 2009, and it really was an enormous pleasure.
One of my most vivid memories of this time is an image that still springs to mind of me sitting on the floor in the front room in the CBI offices on North Great George’s Street, the sun streaming through the Georgian windows, surrounded on all sides by boxes and boxes of children’s books just waiting to be reviewed; needless to say I was in seventh heaven.
My early days as reviews editor were spent in consultation with my co-editor Patricia Kennon, more often than not in her office in Froebel college, exploring our new ideas and concepts for the magazine. I spoke too at length with former editors Valerie Coghlan and Paddy O’Doherty and sought their advice on how to compile lists of reviewers, matching titles with reviewers, ensuring review coverage of Irish titles, cover design etc. Sound and practical advice was also proffered by Mags Walsh and Jenny Murray on timelines, design requirements and printing schedules. Once I’d got my head around these details, I set to work with relish.
The role of reviews editor is that of a mediator, connecting children, teachers and librarians with the latest and greatest titles from the world of children’s publishing.  I was determined to ensure that books of quality, literary substance and with a powerful story to tell were chosen for honest critique. Inis is a literary publication read by adults about books for children, and quite obviously adults want children to read books that will broaden their understanding of the world, challenge them with new ideas and introduce them to great writers. Children, however, don’t always concur with adults on what is a good book; their selection criteria is based on books that are fun, interesting and usually they select titles that they want to devour in one-sitting.
I saw it as one of my challenges as reviews editor to marry the two approaches to book selection and deliberately set about trying to identify new and exciting authors with new stories to tell; so came about the ‘New Voices’ interview section, where we posed questions to the likes of F.E. Higgins author of The Black Book of Secrets, Tom Kelly author of The Thing with Finn and Celine Kiernan of the Moorhawke Trilogy. As well as placing an emphasis on Irish authors and titles for review, we included the voices of Irish children by asking them to review some of the latest titles. The Real Critics, as it was called, was a good way of keeping in touch with the titles that children like and their reasons for enjoying a particular title. Through the Looking Glass appeared in each edition showcasing exceptional, recent works of international children’s literature. Two titles that were of outstanding quality examined in this series, included Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret as well as Shaun Tan’s The Arrival, a copy of which should be sent to the Oval office forthwith.
Highlights of my time as reviews editor included the Christmas drinks with our reviewers; getting to know them better, discussing the titles that they had reviewed and what they liked to read made for great conversations as well as ensuring a better match between reviewer and title. The holy grail of those working in the area of children’s literature is a trip to the international children’s book fair at Bologna, and in 2008 Patricia and I boarded our Ryanair flight to Bologna with glee. We spent the following days purveying all the international stands with books from an array of different countries and cultures, enjoyed a productive meeting with Valerie and Siobhan at the IBBY stand and a fabulous Italian meal courtesy of The O’Brien Press. Warm memories indeed.
Like 99.9 % of Inis readers, I have loved children’s books ever since I was a child, and becoming reviews editor of Inis magazine has been one of my own biggest personal achievements. I look back in regret that the necessities of being a working first-time mum prevented me from continuing the job. Had I the time to do again, I suspect I would have chosen otherwise and thereby changed my own story.
ISSUES 28–31 (2009–2010) MAIRÍN KEYES
Over one calendar year, from summer 2009 to spring 2010, I had the pleasure of working with Patricia Kennon as the reviews editor of my favourite children’s books magazine! It was an exciting period for me – not only was I on a career break from Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, but I was also working hard to complete my PhD with Mary Shine Thompson in St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra. It was the perfect balance for me, switching back and forth from the drama of nineteenth-century children’s books publishing to the excitement of all that was new and stimulating in the first decade of the twenty-first century. My dissertation focused on the children’s books written by Anna Maria Fielding Hall (1800–81) but her bread-and-butter income came from her editorial work on numerous journals, plus she reviewed over a thousand published books in her lifetime. I felt that I was gaining increasing insight into her working day through my work with Inis magazine!
I loved the thrill of popping into 17 North Great George’s Street to delve into the latest book piles stacked inside, the angst involved in making difficult choices over what could and couldn’t be included and the satisfaction at being able to match books and reviewers. I enjoyed getting to know their likes and dislikes and I was always keen to welcome new reviewers to the fold, especially librarians, teachers and teenagers who were passionate about children’s books. A highlight of each issue was when the moment came to award my editorial stars for my Editor’s Choices in each of the age categories. I read a great deal over that intensive year and it was satisfying to feel that I had an excellent overview of the best of children’s book publishing during that year. The excitement when each issue arrived in my letterbox was immense. Looking back over the magazines now, the vibrant covers by Shaun Tan, Emily Gravett and Dave McKean bring back many happy memories – a real snapshot in time. I was particularly pleased to remember that Robert Dunbar’s photo was on the editorial page of the autumn 2009 issue along with Patricia and me – he had just been awarded an honorary doctorate from Trinity College Dublin, a great day for the most wonderful champion of children’s literature in Ireland.
I was sad to say goodbye to the role but happy to hand over to David Maybury – I had six months to complete the PhD before I returned to my day job later that year so, difficult as it was to relinquish the role, I knew I had to work full time on that important project. It was a privilege to work with a great bunch of people at the pulsating nerve centre that is number 17 North Great George’s Street – I was so proud to be a part of it all!

Dr. Marian Keyes is a Senior Executive Librarian at dlr LexIcon with responsibility for exhibitions and event programming, including the Mountains to Sea dlr Book Festival.