Many people who follow my blog will have met my partner – my beloved, my editor, my co-facilitator – Tom Sigafoos.
In the spirit of Charles Dickens, Margaret Atwood and Stephen King, Tom has serialized his novel “The Cursing Stone” and is making it available online for free – click here to subscribe. Here’s Tom’s message:
I’ve published The Cursing Stone, an Irish historical novel, and I’d like to invite you to read it at no cost.
County Donegal, Ireland, 1884. Your island home is threatened with evictions. How far would you go to stop them?
The fates of two men – Ruari Mullan of Tory Island, and Sub-Lieutenant William Gubby of HMS Wasp – intersect in the disastrous arc of the Irish Land Wars.
If you’ll sign up to my mailing list, I’ll send you The Cursing Stone in weekly instalments. I’ll also send Bonus Materials – photos, maps and unusual background information.
There is no cost to sign up or read the instalments. If you enjoy the novel, I’ll appreciate it if you’ll write a review. That’s the entire proposal – no strings attached.
To subscribe to The Cursing Stone, please follow this link and sign up at www.tomsigafoos.com. If you change your mind, you’ll always have the option to un-subscribe.*
Paperback and ebook versions of The Cursing Stone are also available from Lulu and Amazon.
If you know others who’d enjoy reading a lively historical novel, please forward this invitation to them as well. Questions? Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks and best wishes,
*You’ll receive an email in your primary inbox within an hour of your subscription. Others will follow every 3-4 days. If you don’t see them, please check your alternate email folders, like Social, Promotions and Spam. If you can’t find the emails, please let me know.”
I’ve just donated to VaccinAid, helping UNICEF deliver 2 billion vaccines in 2021, so the whole world can be safe from COVID-19. Join me and #GiveTheWorldAShot at http://VaccinAid.org.
Making a donation is good, but it’s nowhere near enough. We also need to TAKE ACTION FOR A PEOPLE’S VACCINE
“Our best chance of ending this pandemic is to ensure that everyone, everywhere has access to COVID-19 vaccines, tests and treatments. But pharmaceutical monopolies could leave countries in the global south waiting up to 2023 for widespread vaccination. This threatens everyone as no-one is safe until everyone is safe. People from around the world are calling for a #PeoplesVaccine – freely available to everyone, everywhere.” Join them at https://peoplesvaccine.org/take-action/#join_the_action
Tune in to the Glens Centre YouTube channel https://bit.ly/3cdFExe at 7pm on Tues 23rd Feb 2021 to view eleven micro-films on the theme of “the border between us”.
These micro-films / visual-poems / digital-stories were created during a twelve week online programme facilitated by Rachel Webb and Monica Corish, supported by Across the Lines and the International Fund for Ireland.
On 25 August 2020, after four years without a single case, the African region was certified free of wild polio virus.
In 1994, a few days after I arrived in the border town of Nimule in South Sudan, I woke in the night to a bone-chilling cry. It reminded me of an Irish caoineadh, a keening for the dead. In the morning I heard that a baby had died of measles. I was stunned. I knew, from book-learning, that measles can damage the nerves, the eyes, the ears, the brain. I knew in my head that measles can be fatal, but in my heart I still thought of it as a benign childhood disease.
The epidemic raged through the small town, taking the children who were weak, malnourished, immuno-compromised. Night after night I heard the songs of grief – five children dead, still more facing lifelong disability – and then silence. The epidemic had burned itself out.
I was in Nimule to train community health workers, and to help with a programme of immunisation. With a team of South Sudanese and Kenyan health workers, I visited local villages and camps. Everywhere we went we offered immunisation against diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, measles, tuberculosis and polio.
I met a young woman in one of the villages. She held her baby to her breast, in a wrap made out of a food sack. I asked how old her baby was. One week, she said. I asked if I could see. She unfolded the wrap and showed me her child. I can’t remember if it was a boy or a girl – I can’t remember the young woman’s name – I only remember her grace, her weathered hand holding her child, the newborn’s sleeping perfection. I asked the young woman if I could take a photograph of her baby. She said yes.
In 1994 an estimated 75,000 children across Africa were paralysed for life by the polio virus. Thousands of those children died when the virus paralysed their breathing muscles. Nelson Mandela, the recently elected president of South Africa, refused to accept this ongoing tragedy. “When people are determined,” he said, “they can overcome anything.” In 1996, in partnership with Rotary International, Mandela launched the “Kick Polio Out of Africa” campaign. Footballs with the slogan showed up everywhere – in stadiums, in school yards, on dusty soccer pitches. Communities, parents, health workers, volunteers, churches, mosques, governments, donors – they all came together, united by one aim – to immunise every child on the continent against this crippling disease.
On 25 August 2020, after four years without a single case, the 47 countries in the Africa region of the World Health Organisation were certified free of the wild polio virus. Today, because of the committed work of thousands of health workers and volunteers, more than 18 million people are able to walk, people who would otherwise have been paralysed by the virus.
But the fight against polio in Africa isn’t over yet. In Ireland, children are given an injectable vaccine that contains a dead form of the virus. This injectable form is expensive. Less well-off countries have to use an oral vaccine which contains an weakened form of the virus. In very rare circumstances this weakened virus can itself cause polio.
And so, although a huge milestone has been reached, immunisation and outbreak surveillance continue, and efforts are underway to make the injectable form of the virus available to everyone, everywhere. The journey continues, until the day when polio, like smallpox, is completely eradicated from the face of the earth.
That photo I took of the mother and her newborn has stayed with me over the years. I keep it close, on the door of my fridge, tucked into a diary, pinned to a corkboard.
I imagine this child grown to adulthood – I like that I don’t know whether it’s a girl or a boy – not knowing increases my sense of the possible lives this child may have led. I imagine that the infant in the photograph is a parent now, with children of their own. I imagine a baby, grandchild to the mother in the photograph, born into a world that is entirely free from the threat of polio.
Excellent opportunity for anyone in the Leitrim / Fermanagh region who wants to learn the skills of visual storytelling, while exploring the political, personal, real, imagined and socially-distanced borders that impact on our lives.
This 12 week series of free, online workshops is hosted by the Glens Centre/Across the Lines, and facilitated by writer Monica Corish and visual artist Rachel Webb. Full details, including how to book, at http://www.facebook.com/events/414642819525558
My creative-nonfiction piece Dobhar Chúhas been published in Trasna, a literary journal / blog originating from Lowell, Massachusetts. Many thanks to Margaret O’Brien for offering me the opportunity to submit work to Trasna, and to Jeannie Judge for writing a wonderful introduction.
Edited by Christine O’Connor, Jeannie Judge and Margaret O’Brien, Trasna explores the well-traveled route between Lowell and Ireland, introducing Irish writers to an American readership. All pieces will have a bio and links to the writers’ works. Trasna will be seeking and promoting new, emerging, and established Irish writers. There will also be a focus on Irish traditions and customs that have been lost to time or to an ocean crossing.