How Something in Common came to be written

somethin in commonWhen I was casting around for a theme for my new novel, I was having coffee with my mother in her house one morning – and I’m not sure how it happened, but the subject of Mam’s one-time penfriend Maura came up. And the second it did, I knew I’d found my theme.

          Here’s the story. When  Mam was a young married woman (and I was still a twinkle in my father’s eye) she read a letter from another woman in the Irish Independent. The subject matter was something to do with teaching – we’ve never pinned Mam down as to what exactly Maura was saying – and Mam, being an ex-teacher (she’d had to give up when she got married) disagreed with the point being made and wrote to Maura to tell her as much.

          Long story short, they corresponded for over twenty years. Mam lived in Tipperary and later moved to Limerick; Maura was in Dublin throughout. They never met.

          Maura’s letters were priceless. We all looked forward to them. They were written on the backs of used envelopes, bits of cardboard boxes and scraps of whatever paper seemed to be to hand. Reading them involved piecing the various bits together, like a verbal jigsaw. And the content was another matter: her life seemed to be made up of one drama after another. I won’t go into detail here in case any member of her family happens to read this, but we relished the catastrophes and calamities that each letter brought.

          In due course the letters stopped – ‘they just fizzled out,’ Mam says – and some years after that my father spotted Maura’s death notice in the paper. End of an era. They’d shared so much for so long, and had never come face to face.

          It was inspiring. I was inspired. And even though Helen and Sarah aren’t a bit like Mam or Maura, I hope Something in Common captures some of the intrigue, and the sort-of poignancy, of a long-established friendship conducted solely on paper.

And I hope Maura would approve.

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About roisinmeaney

Writer for adults (general fiction) and children. Storyteller. Creative writing workshopper. Child-friendly.

Posted on April 12, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Roisin,
    I love everything Irish! I use Kindle, on Amazon.com to find Irish Authors and found your books. I need to say that I have read every book written by Maeve Binchy, and saw your book being compared to hers so I knew I’d enjoy them. Well, I love the way you write. You weave an elaborate story into something fun and interesting to read. The characters are a joy to get to know and I actually hate it when I get to the end of the book. I have read most of your books, everyone available on Kindle and am looking forward to reading those I have to receive in the mail. (May I say, as an American, a few things you say had me confused. A press? I am fairly certain that must be a cupboard? I know several words are different and thought I was familiar with most if not all, but thanks to your books I am learning more!)
    My daughter and I will be in Ireland for two weeks! We arrive on Oct the 25th and have a week long bus tour, then a week free to wander about. My second trip there and we are looking forward to it so much it is all we talk about! I love seeing your blog and am looking forward to reading more from you. Thanks for the lovely stories. Dana M. Muir

    • Dana
      Thank you for your lovely message, I’m delighted to hear that you’re enjoying the books – and yes, a press is indeed a cupboard, don’t ask me why! Enjoy your trip here – pack the thermal vests, it will probably be pretty chilly by the end of October, already it’s getting a bit nippy. I’m back to turning on the heat in the evenings, and I’m looking meaningfully at the sitting room fireplace! Give a shout if you’re coming to Limerick, and I could point you in the direction of good places to visit, if you didn’t get to this part of Ireland on your last trip.
      Bon voyage,
      Roisin xx

  2. I had a pen-pal for years, Elsie, she lived in Malaysia. I lived for her letters and loved pouring my heart out to her. We have shared so much over the years. And yes we met 15 years ago and now have contact on facebook. She also now lives in London. But I stll miss seeing those blue airmail letters. Looking forward to the next book

    • Claire
      Isn’t that gas. Everyone has a story. My mother and Maura actually arranged to meet once – Mam suggested it and Maura agreed, but Mam says as the time drew near she began to wonder if it was such a good idea. Mam was due to travel to Dublin, but before it happened Maura wrote to say she couldn’t make it, and they never tried again. Probably not meant to be. Thanks for sharing your story, hope you enjoy Something in Common. Roisin xx

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