Guest Post: Tangleweed and Brine by Deirdre Sullivan – A Week in the Life

I don’t know about you, but as a somewhat frustrated NaNoWriMo participant, I am fascinated by those writers who can manage to produce beautiful stories, while still managing to keep on with all the everyday bits of life. I personally find it so hard to bring my creative muscles to bear when, with one hand I’m doing an online shop and with the other I’m picking up kids’ clothes off the floor!

That’s why, when I was asked to host a guest post by Deirdre Sullivan, I was interested to see how she balances her creative processes with her everyday ones – she’s been kind enough to put together a ‘Week in the Life’, and I’m definitely looking for tips!

Balancing writing and everyday life- a week in the life

Get up at 6 am, do fifteen minutes of yoga and make a cup of tea. I sit down at the table in my kitchen and the cat instantly begins approaching my tea, because he knows there’s milk in it. I re-read the notes my editor has given me for the new draft of Perfectly Preventable Deaths, and get to work. An hour later, I change out of my pajamas, eat breakfast, read a little bit of Ariel’s Gift by Erica Wagner, and get ready for a day of teaching Junior Infants at the special school I work in.

The day passes busily and happily, and I get home around half five (I do my planning and preparation at school if possible because I like home to be a writing and napping space), and my husband suggests we go for a walk. I cackle at the idea and answer my emails for an hour while eating cheese. I find the evenings are great if I’m writing a new thing because you’re completely in it, but the mornings are better for the clear head and distance that I need for editing.

I have a separate notebook for each project I’m working on as well, which is helpful and makes me feel better about all the notebooks I buy.

I press the snooze button so only do six minutes of yoga. The cat tries to hunt the ribbons on my pajamas, because he wants more breakfast. Most of Arthur’s actions are as a result of wanting more breakfast. We are very alike in that way. I read a brilliant book about witches and twins over the weekend so I spend a small amount of time staring into the dark abyss of the future, wondering what the point of it all is. Then I make a cup of tea and get stuck in.

I get to change a Raven’s name today. Not many people can say that. At school, we decide to all dress up as Minions on Friday. I realise that I already own a lot of stuff a minion would wear. And also that I know very little about Minions. Do they have a catch-phrase?

I decide that they do. It’s “LET’S GO MINIONS!”

In the evening I go see the new Halloween movie and then buy things so I can make a pumpkin vomit blue stuff to delight the Junior Infants.


I do eleven minutes of yoga today, and crack in. I’m on a really good bit, where the world is being coloured in around them, so it feels a little like lucid dreaming and I’m sorry when it reaches twenty past seven and I have to do real-world things. The cat gets a little bit of my coffee today and it does not seem to do him any harm.

After school, I have a phone call with my lovely agent, Claire about some SECRET GOOD NEWS. I laminate alphabet cards and cut velcro strips throughout the conversation, and when it’s over I finish up, organise my classroom (which smells a little bit like a chipper from the vomiting pumpkin), and get the bus home. On the bus, I read Drown by Esther Dalseno, which was recommended to me by @Jo_Scribbles on twitter. I love me a Little Mermaid retelling. Little Island is running a competition to give away a signed paperback of the new Tangleweed and Brine, so I keep tabs on that as well. I’m very interested in how other people’s brains would reshape old stories, and also what different people are drawn to. For me, it’s always The Little Mermaid because I feel like an outsider a lot of the time. Many years ago, before I qualified as a teacher, a little girl told me that she was scared of having friends. I knew exactly what she meant. There’s so much you can get wrong with human beings.

When I get home, I send an invoice for a writing gig I did, make dinner and watch many episodes of The Haunting of Hill House. Also, a book of poetry my pal Mark Ward wrote, Circumference has arrived and it looks BEAUTIFUL. Before I go to sleep, I plan my outfit for tomorrow and put some make-up in my work bag because reasons.

Morning routine is the same as ever, except I’m coming towards a tricky bit and it’s going to take a bit of thinking. The cat has learned to jump of top of the highest wardrobe and stare at us, like a golden batman. It’s very disconcerting but also I am proud of him.

I put on my fancy dungarees, and red lipstick, because a short story I wrote about a world where women can give birth to adorable animals instead of babies has been shortlisted for an IBA and it’s going to be announced in the GPO this evening. The school day passes, and by the end I am covered in paint and yoghurt. It is not an ideal look, so I ask my husband to bring in a dress for me when we meet up this evening. I bus into town for around five o’ clock, eat pancakes and change into a black dress with some flowers on it. I own a lot of dresses that are black with flowers on. It’s kind of a uniform.

My toe is broken, so I’m wearing a very glamorous support sandal while all this is going on. I buy a yellow t-shirt so I can be the best minion I can be tomorrow, and meet some pals for a drink before the event. The YA shortlist is basically a roll call of sound people, and it’s very cool to be at a lock-in in a big fancy post-office. An Post have also started this whole campaign where people can post books to each other for free using special boxes and envelopes. I get very excited about this altogether, as I love getting books and giving books. I need to leave the GPO early because of school in the morning, but I buy The Importance of Being Aisling by Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen on the way home as a mid-term treat.

I do not get up at six am, because I am very tired and also at a tricky part of the book that requires more time and energy than I have today. The cat is OUTRAGED his breakfast (and sneaky morning tea-dregs) is late, and miaows outside the door like he is reading us a letter of complaint. I dress like a minion, get the bus to school, teach all day, and then go vote for president Michael D. Higgins, who was very sound to me while I was a teenager, and had to interview politicians for civics class. At home, I change out of my minion costume, and fiddle with a few writing admin things. I put off edits because I am scared that I will do a bad job at them. Instead I eat pizza because cheese is the way forward, and order Fierce Fairytales by Nikita Gill, because it looks gorgeous and she is very sound on the internet.


I plan an outline for a short story idea I have, edit for about two hours and watch many episodes of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, about which I have mixed feelings. I finish knitting one hat and begin knitting another. Arthur wees on a spot where his favourite mat used to be because he misses it and we despair of him. I read the other shortlisted stories and realise there is no way in hell I can vote for myself. The sound guy wins the presidency and the blasphemy being a crime part of our constitution is good to go. Take that, Odin! In the evening, I do a tarot reading about something that’s bothering me, and it comes up murky but probably accurate.

I wake up at nine, do yoga, make coffee and intend to start edits. Instead I complain about a television series I mostly enjoyed on the internet and look at clothes I can’t afford. I need to buy a new keep cup because mine split in half from all the use it got. (I drink a LOT of tea, and some coffee). I find a really cool one, but shipping is too expensive, so I hiss at the computer screen like a feral cat. Then I make a list of blog posts I need to write and so we come full circle. It is half past ten, and I have edited 11,000 words this week, and want to do 5,000 more today. My little cat is napping on a mermaid cushion like a small croissant. I have an inch of coffee left to drink and it is safe.

Huge thanks to Deirdre for that – I am definitely going to build the cheese-eating and tea-drinking into my schedule for the week! There are also some really good reading recommendations there, which I have linked for you all.

If you’ve not yeat read it, Tangleweed and Brine (which I will review leater) is a beautifully written and illustrated collection of fairytales, retold with a feminist slant. I have got the hardback edition but, if you buy the new, paperback edition, there is an additional story in it just for you!

Keep an eye our for my review, and huge thanks again to Deirdre for a short peek into her writing/working/cheese eating week…

Tangleweed and Brine is published by Little Island. To find out more about Deirdre Sullivan, you can check out her website.

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