Bold Girls

On International Women’s Day, I’m very proud that Following Ophelia has been included among the recommended books for the Children’s Books Ireland BOLD GIRLS campaign.

There’s so much to love about this.

“BOLD GIRLS aims to break down societal barriers and to instil confidence in girls and young women by showing them female characters in children’s books with agency, power and opinions, addressing at a young age some of the issues that stand in the way of women achieving their ambitions, whether that be in leadership, in government, in the arts. BOLD GIRLS will highlight and review books that feature strong, intelligent, self-possessed female protagonists in children’s books, as well as celebrating twenty female Irish authors and illustrators, both emerging and established, who have made an exceptional contribution to the canon of Irish children’s literature.”


I’m all about instilling confidence in girls. It’s why the specialist talk I give in schools is called Winning Like a Girl. All my heroines gain confidence to become strong and able to take care of themselves and each other (and occasionally men too) in the books I write. In Following Ophelia, Mary Adams has to break down all the barriers of class, sex and money imposed on her by Victorian society to do what she knows to be right. Men just want to stand and look at her. She wants so much more.

But talking of women taking care of each other, one of my fondest memories as a new writer was getting in touch with Sarah Webb – children’s author, adult writer, festival curator, reviewer for the Irish Independent and all round legend. I simply wrote to her to say thank you for her lovely review of Threads. Next thing I knew, Sarah was organising a tour around Ireland for herself, the wonderful Judi Curtin and me, courtesy of Children’s Books Ireland.

We called itYour Wildest Dreams. It was my first book tour – brilliant and funny and lovely. Judi is an absolute star in Ireland and such a great person to know. Sarah knows absolutely everyone and is kind, considerate and inspirational to them all. How she finds the time to do everything she does and be a hands-on mother to her children is quite beyond me. Happy International Women’s Day, Sarah! And Happy Mother’s Day on Sunday too. Sarah picked me up and looked after me and made me feel so special.

Since meeting Sarah I’ve encountered lots of other Irish children’s writers – and there are lots. We all know that Ireland takes literature seriously on both sides of the border and many of the best writers are Irish – from Siobhan Dowd, Derek Landy (who knows something about how to write a bold girl) and Eoin Colfer, to Sarah herself, Judi, Sarah Crossan, Brian Conaghan, Shelia Wilkinson and Roddy Doyle. I’m so happy that some of these authors are friends. (Others I simply fangirl over.) So being part of a Children’s Books Ireland initiative that ALSO celebrates bold girls feels pretty good to me.

Happy International Women’s Day. May you be lucky enough to know inspirational women. And if you are a bold girl yourself, may you grow up to be as inspiring as some of the women I’m lucky enough to know.


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