Star (Of The Sea) Struck

I don’t do star struck.

I don’t do speechless.

I don’t do babbling.

Last Friday night, however, I managed to do all three at the Kildare Readers Festival.

Ireland’s best writer of the decade – Joseph O’Connor – was there. An incredibly gifted writer, he is also a consummate gentleman and a very charismatic person. When he talks to you – Β in that mellifluous voice you know from the radio – he addresses you as though you are the only person in the room.

I first came into contact with Joseph O’Connor (rather than his work) a year ago when The Big Book of Hope was still just an idea I’d had on a bus. Β I jotted off an email to him, asking him to be part of the project – the Big Book of Hope will raise funds for the HOPE Foundation – and he responded immediately. Without hesitation, he committed to the project and delivered -without fanfare – before deadline.

When I met him, finally, on Friday night, I turned into a babbling thing of God knows what. See? Just like that – I couldn’t string a coherent sentence together. Now, I’m fairly used to famous people. I’ve dined with ambassadors, royalty and artists of note and never found myself star-struck before.

I think the difference is that Joseph O’Connor is not just famous, he is talented and he is disarmingly humble. In fact, I think that must be what did for me. I was expecting someone who seemed at least a little aware of his own talent; and who wore that knowledge like a beautiful cloak that we were all expected to admire. But no. Mr. O’Connor seemed vaguely surprised that all these people were there and had turned up to see and hear him.

He was generous with his time – chatting with everyone who had a book to sign, allowing people to use their mobile phones to take snaps of them with him, and humbly accepting the praise his fans delivered. I had my children with me, and he took the time to acknowledge them and speak to them, too.

On our way back to the car, my daughters weren’t sure what I was so thrilled about.

‘That was Joseph O’Connor,’ I explained to them. ‘The writer!’

‘Oh,’ said the Eldest, obviously still not sure why this was such a big deal for me. ‘But you’re a writer too. And so are loads of your friends. Especially your friends on Twitter.’

‘I’m not in the same league,’ I assured her. ‘He’s an amazing writer. Very clever and very funny.’

‘He wrote on your book,’ the Eldest pointed out.

‘He signed my copy of his book,’ I told her.


‘That makes it more special.’


She paused for a moment.

‘When I met Westlife, they were fighting over who would hold my hand,’ the Eldest said in what I suspect may have been a stab at one-up-manship. ‘And there’s four of them. There’s only one of him.’

That’s right, Darling. There is only one Joseph O’Connor.

Published by

Hazel Katherine Larkin


11 thoughts on “Star (Of The Sea) Struck”

  1. Lovely post, and I love to hear that about famous people, its so refreshing and I loved the comparison to Westlife, good luck with the book.


    1. Thanks Brigid! The Big Book of Hope is all set to launch in September. There will be an update on this blog nearer the time – as well as in the national press, of course!



  2. Wonderful stuff, Hazel. Love the comment by Eldest about Westlife!! I Amplified your post so other around the world might read it too.


    1. Thanks, Maya! The girls didn’t get what I was so excited about. One day they will. πŸ™‚

      If I knew what Amplified meant, I’m sure I’d be thrilled about that too……I really must sign up for one of your workshops when you get back to Ireland.



  3. Lovely post Hazel. And yep I just love ole Joe’s voice. I am left however with two questions
    Where’s the photo of you and Joe?
    What celebs and royalty have you dined with – can we have a series of posts on that plse!!


    1. Oh God Barbara! I didn’t ask for a photo!! Didn’t occur to me, to be honest – and I’m not sure I could have managed to get the right words out in the correct order!

      As for other people I’ve met, I won’t be tacky and do a list – I’ll take your idea and pepper blog posts with dropped names over the course of the next few months. Some of the more interesting ones I’ll probably have to keep to myself, though. πŸ˜‰



    1. Thanks for your comments, Jane. You’re right – there are only certain people who inspire starstruckness. πŸ™‚ And they are usually the most gracious, least presuming of folk.

      Re Westlife, my 8 y/o still thinks that *they* were there to meet *her*. πŸ™‚



  4. I love your candid, joyful, dare I say child like enthusiasm for a real idol, rare these days. One really has to pass muster to get through our adult veneer.

    So glad to read this, not just to read a lovely personal account of Joseph O’Connor, but because it’s like you’re granting us permission for enthusiasm again. Yours flows through in the most genuine, un-tainted way.


    1. Thanks Kristi! And thank you for the encouragement to post this entry when I wasn’t sure it would be a good idea. A huge number of people have been in touch to say that they have encountered Joe O’Connor in various places and at various times and he was always kind, helpful and unassuming. THAT is star quality.


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