Deirdre Sullivan On Writing I Want to Know That I Will Be Okay

I Want to Know That I Will Be Okay was written over a decade, in between books. But it really took shape over the last year. I was remote working, as were we all, and getting to grips with the way the world had shifted. When school ended, I would walk around my neighbourhood, looking at the fancy gardens and trying to name the plants. Dandelion, Red Valerian, Borage, Sorrel, Hawthorn. And Bay, so much Bay, reminding me to dream. Confined to five kilometres I tried to notice little details, what had gone missing from rich peoples’ skips. I ordered a mask on Etsy. I made to-do lists.

Trying to juggle writing work and teaching is hard at the best of times, but there was a weight to the pandemic and I found the book to be a refuge, a haven from that. I would sit underneath my kitchen window on the meditation cushion I bought on impulse, knowing I would never actually meditate on it, between the bins and the washing machine, in a sunlit space and read three short stories a day to try and get my mind working that way.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, Daisy Johnson, Helen Oyeyemi, Maeve Kelly, Maeve Brennan, Jenny Diski, Nicola Barker, John McGahern. Three stories, a cup of tea and then I’d launch into I Want to Know That I Will Be Okay for two hours, before making some sort of elaborate dinner from The Happy Pear to prove to myself that there were some things I could control. I bought a massive thing of onion powder. I used it once.

One of the reasons I write is to try to make sense of the world around me. We got used to a daily death toll on the news. I wrote about old houses, haunted dolls. I wrote about women who read the world around them as a threat.

I wrote.

Every day I wrote.

And word by word the work got done.

Deirdre Sullivan is a writer and teacher from Galway. She has written seven acclaimed books for young adults, including Savage Her Reply (Little Island 2020), Perfectly Preventable Deaths (Hot Key Books 2019), and Tangleweed and Brine (Little Island 2017). She was the recipient of the CBI Book of the Year Award in 2018 and the An Post Irish Book Award for YA in 2020. Her short fiction has appeared in Banshee and The Dublin Review. I Want to Know That I Will Be Okay is her first book for adults

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