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Trinity Long Room Hub Rooney Writer Fellow Caitriona Lally in Focus

June 9, 2022 – On May 25, 2022, author Caitriona Lally was joined by Orlaith Darling, PhD candidate from the School of English, in a discussion and a reading from her latest novel, Wunderland (2021), to mark the inaugural Trinity Long Room Hub Rooney Writer Fellowship.

After the success of her first book Eggshells (2015), which won the 2016 Kate O’Brien Debut Novel Award, author Caitriona Lally found the task of writing another novel daunting. Then, in 2018, she was notified that she had won the prestigious Rooney Prize for Irish Literature, awarded by Dr Peter Rooney and the Rooney Prize Foundation.

“I kind of thought my writing career was done, but that gave a massive boost to me”, Caitriona said. “If you don’t 100% believe in what you’re doing, if you don’t 100% have that confidence that some writers do have, then [you] need that external boost to say, ‘Ok, I’m going the right way.’”

In January 2022, Caitriona—a graduate of Trinity’s School of English—was awarded another honour from the Rooney Prize Foundation, joining the Trinity Long Room Hub as the inaugural Rooney Writer Fellow. Launched by Dr Rooney, the Rooney Writer Fellowship enables a creative writer to work with the research community in the Hub and to engage with the institute’s many research projects and initiatives.

In her conversation with Orlaith Darling, a specialist in contemporary Irish writing, Caitriona opened up about her process as a writer, her part-time work as a cleaner, and some of the struggles facing her and other contemporary authors. She spoke at length about her long-held work in the housekeeping department of Trinity College Dublin, and how it has helped to both balance and subsidise her creative work.

“Cleaning for me, I chose it because it’s the opposite of writing,” Caitriona said. “There’s no thinking involved, which is perfect for me. It’s kind of meditative.

“Writing is stressful, parenting is hugely satisfying, but also can be stressful. There’s some days that cleaning a stainless steel sink and getting that shine up in work is my most satisfying moment.”

In 2021 New Island published Caitriona’s second novel Wunderland, which is set in Hamburg, and explores an awkward sibling relationship. Along with this, Caitriona’s writing has been published in the Irish Times, Observer, Guardian, the Lonely Crowd journal, and Guts magazine, and broadcast on RTE and BBC Radio 4.

Caitriona is now working on a screen adaptation for Eggshells while writing her third book — a non-fiction work that will explore her life as a writer, parent and cleaner.

"The thing that always strikes me about Caitríona's work is its specificity”, said Orlaith Darling. “The care she pays to language — be it word-choices, turns-of-

phrase, or descriptions — and the clear delight she takes in lexiconic oddities means that, stylistically, her writing is a sensorial joy."

Though her tenure as a Fellow ends in June, Caitriona believes her time in the Long Room Hub will benefit her work going forward.

“I think the main way the time with the Hub has helped me has been in seeing the benefits of collaboration,” she said. “I haven’t had a huge amount of experience working with other writers or researchers, but being part of this group in a small way has shown me how sharing work or ideas about work can really spark something in your mind and make you think in a different way.”

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