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love letter to pathetic fallacy

Dear friend, I’m writing a thing about pathetic fallacy which isn’t any of the things I’m supposed to be writing but is the only thing I’m able to write right now, which would be stressful except we’re smack bang in the middle of Storm Emma & the snow’s piled up outside my door, all sprinkled with cat pawprints & rose petals & it’s so different & dramatic it’s almost okay that my work’s all messed up because of it.

My work’s messed up for a lot of reasons, but I’m happy to blame the snow — powdery, deep & beautiful. Pathetic fallacy & all that.

It’s March now, suddenly spring. The eclipse season of the past two months dragged me through the dirt, not gonna lie, but here’s this moon in Virgo, first of two full moons this calendar month. Here’s the start of spring comin in on a snowstorm bringing the entire country to a halt. Here’s pathetic fallacy, bright snow nights, the street lamps all reflected & that moon just thrown right back up at the sky.

Every year on New Years Eve I spread out my cards in a wheel with one card for every month & one for the year as a whole. I pick a word for the year to return to over & over. I write my resolutions. From the start of the new year I knew that March would be the queen of swords, my guiding card, the one I write poems about, the one I have conversations with by lakesides. Get to know your cards, have deep chats by bodies of water. They’ll work with you better that way.

Here’s a spell for a full Virgo moon when the Sun’s stuck in all the feels of Pisces:

Pick a queen. Any queen. Queen of swords, queen of cups, queen of wands, queen of coins. Queen of hearts, queen of diamonds, queen of clubs, queen of spades. Pirate queens or fairy queens, witch queens or warrior queens, drag queens or queen bees, queens in constellations, queens of the underworld. Pick a queen to guide you.

Set up an altar to your queen (here’s a hint, the queen is you, doesn’t matter your gender, doesn’t matter the gender of the queen you choose). Put up a picture of her — a tarot card, a photograph, a painting, a doll, a crayon stick figure. Light candles. Scatter rose petals. Cut out hearts. Place down rose quartz. Massage your hands & neck with rose oil. Unclench your jaw. Breathe deep into the scent of it, the warmth.

Consider how you can embody your queen in the coming month. Stretch your spine. Imagine your crown, whatever that means to you — a symbol, a garland, a witch’s hat. Consider how you can wear it until the next full moon. Consider what that means to you. Feel the weight of it around your forehead, pressing against your third eye. Listen to what that weight tells you. Listen for clarity.

Draw whatever symbol comes to you. It could be a heart, a word, a picture, a number. Drawing it seals it: it’s now your sigil. Breathe into it.

When you’re ready, take your rose petals & open a door or a window. Throw them out into the snow. On the threshold carve your sigil into the snow. Invite knowledge, invite clarity. Breathe the cold air. Bring some of that clear, cold energy to bed with you. When you wake up in the morning, first thing, feel for your crown.

love letter to the new moon

I wanted to start writing a newsletter but I’m bad enough at being consistent on social media without adding another format to the list. I haven’t posted here in months. How would I write this if it was a letter? A missive straight into your inbox, quiet and private?

Dear friend,

I’ve been writing a book, but I’ve been writing a book for about as long as I can remember. This one’s wild and authentic, rough around the edges. This one’s an avalanche of old stone. I’m crazy about it. The second draft is starting to crack open and there’s light everywhere, like a Leonard Cohen song. There’s this one scene that makes me cry every time I read it. I don’t think that one will change much in the edits.

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I’ve been writing a story, too, at the same time, that’s different to most of the stories I write – fewer ghosts, notably; less psychological trauma, more self-affirmation. Before starting to play with it (because that’s how stories begin, as a small and haphazardly-curated selection of snippets and half-ideas that you play with until they grow into something you could love), I took four giant crates of old notebooks down from the topmost corner of the wardrobe. Dust and spiders and secrets live there. So do the one hundred and fifty diaries that I’ve kept since the age of six.

Sorting through them was a gargantuan task — not just because the crates were heavy & stored several feet above my head, but because teenage Moïra did not believe in dating her diary entries. There are entire notebooks without mention of a year & even a whole diary without a single date. Not the day, not the month, no indication that a day has passed except for a small dash between paragraphs.

This is probably metaphorical. I had a difficult adolescence.

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I didn’t set out looking for inspiration but I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised if some of these diary snippets end up making their way sneakily into my story.

The story’s for Proud, an LGBTQ+ YA anthology for Stripes Books that’s being curated by Juno Dawson. The illustrated collection will include short stories & poetry from eight established authors & will also include four stories from new talent so if you are or know of an unpublished & unagented writer who falls under the LGBTQ+ umbrella, there’s a link to submission guidelines in the Bookseller press release.

It’s a thing of awe and honour to be part of a book I’d’ve loved & needed as a teenager – the proof is in these diaries. I said it already on Twitter but in an attic bedroom in a suburb of Dublin in 2001, 15-year-old Moïra is using an antiquated internet to look for a book like this that doesn’t yet exist & couldn’t possibly imagine she’d ever be writing a story for one. My heart’s huge with it.

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It’s Thursday and the moon is new. Here is a spell for dark moon days, just before the moon is new, when your past is gathered up in your bedroom in one hundred and fifty notebooks and even though you know you are strong enough to carry them (both metaphorically and back into the top of the wardrobe), you don’t have to keep it all strapped to your back. You can put some of it down, sometimes. Makes it easier to move around.

You’ll need:

A red candle, or several (the more the brighter the burn)
Fresh, dried sage
Old words: diary entries you can afford to lose, scraps from another life, photos, letters, clippings, or even just a piece of paper on which you’ve written things from the past you’re ready to put to rest
A fireplace, stove or otherwise flame-proof space in which to safely burn what you’ve come to move past

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The spell:

Light your candles. Sit comfortably. Take deep, cleansing breaths. If you have a daily meditation or affirmation, breathe through it now. Ground yourself. Centre. Concentrate on feeling who you are now & why you are strong.

Light your papers, scraps and secrets with the candle. Drop them into the fireplace & watch them burn. Whisper, chant or say I love you, I love you, I love you to your past self with every flame.

Watch the fire until it’s only embers. Close your eyes. Burn the sage. Listen to the last of the heat crackle the cinders. Don’t open your eyes until you can’t hear it any more, until the past you’re ready to move on from is only ashes. When you’re finished, blow out your candles with one more I love you for the road.

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Spellbook UK & Ireland launch week: a roundup

It’s Monday. My second novel, Spellbook of the Lost & Found, is published in the UK & Ireland on Thursday. Over the last week I’ve slipped from nervousness to mild terror to high anxiety to bright excitement & that last one’s where I’ve landed. Here we are. Spellbook hits the shelves this week.

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On Friday (June 2nd) I’m launching Spellbook in Dublin. It’s in Easons O’Connell Street from 6 to 8pm, at Dept51, the YA section on the lower ground floor. (There’s a Facebook event for it & everything.) It’s free & open to all so if you’re around, do come along and say hi!

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I was interviewed by Eithne Shortall for yesterday’s Sunday Times Culture section & chatted about writing routines & magic realism, tarot cards & coffee. The link is in my interviews page.


I’ll also be chatting about various & sundry things on at least one of the YALC weekend days. I can’t wait & I’m over the moon to have been asked back. Check out my events page or Twitter for updates when I have them.

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I’ll be hosting a couple of giveaways over social media this week so keep an eye on my Twitter, Instagram & Facebook page for more details.

I’m also setting up a crossword competition for people who have read Spellbook of the Lost and Found & who feel up to trying to crack my dad’s cryptic crossword at the end of the book. All of the details are here but you can also drop me a line if you have any questions.

Happy end of May, happy start of summer, happy Gemini season. x

things i read

I read The Miseducation of Cameron Post & tasted love & frustration & sunburnt shoulders. I wrote out my favourite passages because they remind me of what it’s like to live as somebody who believes in narrative above almost all else.

I read We Come Apart & thought in/
line breaks/
for days.

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I read Wing Jones & teared up with the heartbreak but also with the uplifting magic of power & optimism & girls owning their bodies & their stories & the complicated feelings for their families.


I read Teeth & for days after everything was salty.


I read Bone Gap & it was like reading a familiar fairy tale set in a different forest.

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Right now I’m reading What is Not Yours is Not Yours & I’m in deep navy blue & lovesick, barely coming up for air. Nobody writes like Helen Oyeyemi. Reading her is always a specific kind of longing.

What are you reading?

(Works cited:
The Miseducation of Cameron Post by emily m. danforth
We Come Apart by Sarah Crossan & Brian Conaghan
Wing Jones by Katherine Webber
Teeth by Hannah Moskovitz
Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
What is Not Yours is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi)

in which rapunzel chops off all her hair

My mum takes my author pictures. I figured it was about time I changed them because the official photo – the one on the inside flap of The Accident Season – was taken in 2012. Also my hair is about four shades darker & sixty centimetres shorter now than it was then.

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This summer I got my hair cut. This is particularly noteworthy because prior to that my hair was long enough to sit on.

I’d had long hair for a really long time. I liked that it was the longest. I liked that small children could climb up my plaits. I liked that seaweed tangled in it when I swam, that small birds set up nest in my perfectly messy bun, that when I shook my head it rained hairpins.

When people saw it they assumed I’d always had long hair. Those who knew me as a child recognised me by it. They remembered how at the age of eight I’d have panic attacks before getting routine trims at the hairdressers. They remembered how after I read the book Strongbow: The Story of Richard and Aoife by Morgan Llewellyn, I started threading stones through my plaits like the Celtic princess so I could fight my enemies. (Mostly I just gave my own arms bruises.) They could picture me at eleven, hair a long brown blanket down my back.

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But I didn’t always have long hair. I got it all chopped off – the whole blanket – just after I turned fourteen. For years I kept slicing it shorter & shorter, dying it darker or bleaching it lighter, until one day at seventeen I got my mum to buzz it all off with a razor.

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My hair grows fast. Like that character in A.S. King’s I Crawl Through It, it Pinocchios whenever I tell a lie or a story – & I tell a lot of stories. When I went to university at nineteen it wasn’t so much that I grew my hair out than I just stopped cutting it. Within days it touched my shoulders. Within weeks it reached my waist. By the age of twenty it’d passed my tailbone. I snaked it into braids that developed a life of their own, stroking friends’ cheeks and strangling my enemies.

When my hair grows it forgets. It forgets its ends ever belonged to a teenage girl who wore mismatched boots and denim dungarees with poetry books in the pockets. It forgets its roots grew from the same scalp as the girl with bitten fingernails and kohl-rimmed eyes. It forgets each follicle also belonged to the girl who climbed abandoned buildings in the middle of the night, who jumped off piers fully-clothed, who snarled at strangers, who sang sad songs in hospital beds.

You could argue that hair can’t remember in the first place, so it couldn’t possibly forget. But look at the two-inch curl I just grew telling you that story.

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So I got it all cut off. Fifty centimetres donated to a charity for children going through chemotherapy & another ten, later, to my bedroom floor.

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These days I cut my own hair, alone in front of my bedroom mirror, with just a couple of clips and a very sharp scissors. I don’t have a plan or a pattern. I just sort of hack at it until it looks the way I want it to. But I’ve learned that my hair is forgiving. If I amn’t trying to tame it, it looks good. It remembers. It doesn’t want perfection. It gives fewer fucks. It’s choppy and uneven and thick and unpredictable but it’s also the perfect metaphor. I used to spend so long straightening and pulling, plaiting and pinning, chasing perfection. Now I just put a bit of curl cream on my palms, fluff my hair up and go. Magic.

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novels in november

It’s November, it’s the end of the accident season, we’re safe for another year.

I wrote the first words of The Accident Season on the first of November five years ago. It wasn’t my first year participating in NaNoWriMo, but it was the first year I got this funny half-a-thought somewhere part of the way through. A thought that said: I have a good feeling about this.

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I fell so fast in love with writing it I barely had time to breathe – and there’s not a lot of room for deep breathing during NaNoWriMo in the rush of a thousand and a half words a day every day for thirty days – I raced from start to finish in six weeks and finished, dizzy, lovestruck and hopeful, halfway through December. I spent six months revising it before I sent the manuscript to agents. I revised it three more times before I signed the publishing deal. I revised the whole thing nine times in total (including copyedits and US-specific edits) before it went to print.

It’s a good thing I was so in love with it.

Usually, this is how I write: I have an idea, a thought, a kernel of story. I have a couple characters, maybe, floating around in my head from things I wrote when I was younger. I have some images I want to include, an energy, a mood. I have nothing else but my fingers on the keys.

When I sat down to write The Accident Season I had Elsie. I had mousetraps and butterfly nets, flypaper on the trees. I had a main character who was in love with someone she wasn’t supposed to be in love with. I had tarot cards in the school canteen. I had a bonfire in an abandoned house. I had an idea of the dreamy darkness I wanted to write, the magic realism, the slipperiness of reality and fantasy. I had no idea how I was going to thread it all together to make a story.

But I think writing is somewhere between a kind of magic and a kind of madness. When I sat down on the first of November to make a story about all of the little images and thoughts above, the first thing that came out was, It’s the accident season, the same time every year. And it kind of all just went from there.

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Usually, this is how I write: the first draft is chaos. There’s no other way to word it. The first draft is a mess of thoughts and ideas that go nowhere, half-formed moments and too many characters. It’s a storm of metaphors. It has no plot. It exists only to get gutted.

NaNoWriMo is perfect for writers like me. But it’s also perfect, I imagine, for writers who over-plan, who over-edit, who never get to the end because they want everything to be perfect the first time around. Nothing is ever perfect the first time around. If you’re anything like me, the first time around is absolute rubbish. But it’s supposed to be. I love NaNoWriMo because it’s a fantastic first step to making a book out of a story.

When I wrote the first draft of Spellbook of the Lost and Found it wasn’t November and I was on deadline. Actually, I was several months past deadline. (Having a baby six weeks before a book tour will do that to you.) But I used the basic principles of NaNoWriMo to blurt out the first draft. I didn’t fall in love with this one. It was a rough, rocky scramble to write those words down. I didn’t fall in love with this one until several difficult drafts later. I’m telling you this because I used to think you had to fall in love with your writing, that it was the only way you’d stick with it. I’m telling you this so that if you happen to come across this post midway through November and the book you started to write is a lead weight around your ankles and you just want to sink down with it – don’t. Stick with it. You might not have fallen in love with it yet, but you will. After the relief of getting to the end of the story, and of carving the whole mess of a mouthful into something you can stand to look at, you’ll fall in love with it. I did. If it’s meant to be your story it’ll bloody well mould itself into one. Mine did.

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I’m not participating in NaNoWriMo this year, and it’s not because I amn’t writing a book. It’s because I’m writing my third book in a very different way to my first two. I’m planning. I’m plotting. I’m doing research. I’m taking notes. I’m trying something new. I don’t know that it’ll work. I don’t know that the story will follow the plan. But this is a slightly different kind of book that needs a slightly different approach, I think. I’m interested in this process. I’m interested in documenting how it goes. So: for now, I’m plotting. I’m planning. I’m fifteen thousand words in and I’m crying every morning over the research I’m reading and I’ve fallen fast in love with my story and I’m really excited about how I’m going to tell it. Slowly. With more time to breathe.

But to everybody taking part in NaNoWriMo this November, I salute you. Breathe deep, drink tea, roll out your wrists. Light candles when it gets dark. Dream of your characters. Don’t look back, just keep telling your story. If you aren’t in love with it now, you will be.

let me tell you about my new book

So my second novel, Spellbook of the Lost and Found, has a cover, which means it’s another step closer to being a real book. The cover was revealed earlier this week on Sugarscape (UK) & Bustle (USA) & it’s stunning – dangerous & sexy & dark & burning bright at the same time – & fits the story perfectly.

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Here’s what it’s about:

Olive, Rose, Laurel, Ivy, Hazel, Rowan.
Six teenagers, connected in ways they could never have imagined.

After the town’s summer bonfire party, Olive and her best friend, Rose, begin to lose things. It starts with simple items like hairclips and jewellery, but soon it’s clear that Rose has lost something much bigger, something she won’t talk about, and Olive can’t stop feeling that her best friend is slipping away.

Then lost things start appearing. Fields are filled with odd treasures; the lake sparkles with trinkets; seductive diary pages written by a girl named Laurel show up all over town. And Olive finds Ivy, Hazel, and her brother, Rowan, secretly squatting in the nearby abandoned housing estate. Hazel and Rowan are wild and alluring, but they seem lost too, and like Rose, are holding tight to their secrets. 

It’s the damp, tattered spellbook that changes everything. Full of mysterious hand-inked charms to make things go missing and to conjure back others, it might be their chance to find what they need to set everything back to rights. Unless it’s leading them toward secrets that were never meant to be found . . .

It has tattoos & rusty keys, poteen & patron saints, two silver lighters & a lot of cycling down country lanes. It’ll be published in May 2017 & if that seems like too long to wait (I know it does for me, despite the fact that the book’s not actually, y’know, finished yet), I’ll be periodically updating my Spellbook Pinterest board in the meantime. You can also add it on Goodreads or pre-order it on Amazon.