Friday, January 25, 2013




Shortly before my much loved grandmother, Vida Lentaigne died, I was inspired to write to her to say how much she meant to me.

I say “inspired” because I didn’t expect her to die soon. She hadn’t yet had the fall that led to her rapid decline, and she was only 78 and still active.

Nonetheless, I had the strongest possible premonition to write the best letter I could—so I wrote it and mailed it; and she received it, and understood it; and made it clear how much she appreciated what I was trying to say.

She said my letter was so wonderful she thought she was dreaming. But the letter was very real, and the sentiments it expressed were as loving as I knew how. I had always had a very special relationship with my grandmother, and dreaded her passing. I knew my world would never be the same—and it hasn’t been. Vida Lentaigne was an exceptional human being—and a genuinely good person.

I have made many mistakes in life, but sometimes I have done absolutely the right thing—and this was one of them.

Frankly, I doubt that my letter was that good—I was less practiced as a writer then, and still find it hard to express my feelings adequately—but it made her happy, and that was the whole point of the exercise. Since then, I have devoted more more attention to letters because I have found that they communicate in a unique way—let me stress this—and can truly make somebody’s day, even if bad things are going on all around them. How do I know? Because that is what people tell me—and that is what I feel when I receive a good letter. 

What is a good letter? It is many things—but, above all, it is from the heart. It is empathetic, thoughtful, honest, and it has content (it really does help if you have something to say). It also helps if it is well written—though that is secondary. Getting spelling, grammar and punctuation right is fundamental for a published work, but less vital for a private letter.

This week I received the nicest letter I have ever read in my life—and probably ever will. It knocked my letter to my grandmother into a cocked hat, and was packed full of fascinating content into the bargain because it was about a fellow writer’s life—something I could truly relate to. In fact, I feel like telling the writer that he really should not write to me again, because he will find it impossible to top this week’s achievement. I just hope it is not a sign I am about to keel over. I have stories to write as yet.

The author of the letter was my son, Christian. He is an award-winning playwright who has also had the distinction of having one of his works made into an excellent, and very touching, movie:

OctagonFeature film – Story By Christian O’Reilly
*Edinburgh Film Festival – Audience Award
*Irish Film & TV Awards – Best Script
*Irish Film & TV Awards – AIB People’s Choice Award for Best Film

The movie was also marketed under a different title—RORY O’SHEA IS HERE.

Why do producers do this stuff? I am including the poster for that as well. Either way, the story was written by my son, Christian. I am as pleased as a fellow writer can be (We authors are always supposed to be madly jealous of each other. Whereas it is true, that can be the initial feeling for a micro-second—thereafter it is frequently not true.

Indeed, I doubt I would ever have sold a book but for the generosity of fellow writers like Niall Fallon, Anthony Summers, and others. Authors rock in my opinion. Others who I would like to praise include Sam Llewellyn, Peter Cunningham and Jim Webb (the senator).

In addition, Christian writes for the BBC—an achievement in itself. He is very happily married to Ailbhe and is proudest of all of his son, Coilin (whose name should have accents but I don’t know how to do them in this program). They live in Galway, in the West of Ireland—not to far away from where my fictional protagonist, Hugo Fitzduane, lives (“supposed to live” just doesn’t sound right).

But I didn’t bring up this topic just to both praise and thank Christian—because the fact of his writing to me is scarcely a surprise (though the contents certainly were). Instead, I have been delighted, amused and pleased to hear from a whole bunch of other people who—mostly—I never knew existed. And most of this latest group have had some family connection.

This is great, though I wonder why they have all come at roughly the same time. Is telepathy at work? But, whatever be the reason, I am decidedly not complaining.


Orso Clip Art



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