Although Una has always been a prolific reader, it wasn’t until she was an adult that she felt a hunger to write.
“That came at 20,” she says. “But I took another 20 years to actually do it.”
Una’s father was from Sligo; she visited as a child, and spent time there in 1987, before settling in 1992.
“Along with waitressing jobs, I worked on the journal, Force 10 with Dermot Healy – publishing new and established writing. I loved doing the spoken word interviews. It was a great training ground.”
For the past 22 years Una has worked at IT Sligo.
“I worked on the Performing Arts Programme, then, four years ago, I moved to Writing and Literature.”
Una has won numerous prizes for her poetry and short stories, and in 2016, taking an MA in writing, she turned to the novel.
“Mike McCormack said he wouldn’t take more short stories. He said, ‘You have to start something longer.’”
Who is Una Mannion?
Date of birth: 1966, in Philadelphia.
Education: Notre Dame High School in Chattanooga; The University of the South, Sewanee, English; NUI Galway, MA in English; University College Cork, PhD in early literature; NUI Galway, MA in creative writing.
Family: Husband Michael Holmes, a traditional musician. 3 kids, Dúaltatgh, 20, Brónagh, 17, and Aoibhín, 15.
The Day Job: Programme chair of writing and literature. “And I co-edit The Cormorant, a broadsheet of prose and poetry.”
In Another Life: “I used to garden before writing took over. I’d love my hands to be in the earth more.”
Favourite Writers: Flannery O’Connor; Toni Morrison; Lorrie Moore; George Saunders; Raymond Carver; Anne Enright; Claire Keegan.
Second Novel: “I’m working on it.”
Top Tip: “For me, it’s about getting over myself and doing it. It might be a mess, but you can go back and make it better.”
The Debut: A Crooked Tree. Faber & Faber: €16.85. Kindle: €5.14.
When Ellen is ‘left’ at the side of the road, and suffers a trauma, her five siblings decide to help her, without aid from adults. How far will they go to protect their mum’s reputation?
The Verdict: I loved this for its warmth and empathy. Reminiscent of Ann Patchett.
Published in The Irish Examiner on 30th January.
© Sue J Leonard. 2021