2 Minutes with…Raising Voices Fellow: Nene LonerganPublished 09/05/2022
For our second in the series of chats with our Raising Voices Fellows we spoke to Nene Lonergan, a Thai-Chinese artist living in Ireland and studying animation at Limerick School of Art and Design.
1) What do you think are the best things about children and young adult publishing at the moment? And the worse…
I don’t think I have the authority to make any declarations about the state of the publishing world at all! I can only speak from my experience as a bookstore-frequenter and reader. That being said, I am quite pleased with the emergence of more diverse voices in children/young adult literature. It’s so very nice to see stories from and about characters from all sorts of backgrounds. I read the ‘Heartstopper’ series by Alice Oseman recently and it reminded me so much of my secondary school days! I wish books like that were around for me back then.
2) What would you hope to achieve/learn from the Raising Voices Fellowship?
I’d hoped to meet like-minded creatives and get some much-needed direction and guidance in my career. I’d been drawing comics in my homework copies and declaring ‘I’m going to be a comic artist!’ since pretty much forever, but I have no idea what steps are actually required to get there. So far, this fellowship has been one of the best things I’ve ever applied for. I’ve already learned an incredible amount and the other fellows are so lovely and encouraging. I’m beyond grateful to have been given the opportunity to be a part of this program.
3) What would like to see more of in Children’s publishing?
I steal books from my little brother’s bookshelves from time to time to keep up with what the kids think are cool these days. I was pleasantly surprised by how genuinely laugh-out-loud funny these books are. I really enjoyed the ‘Dog Man’ series by Dav Pilkey and, of course, the ‘Danger is Everywhere’ series by David O’Doherty and my mentor Chris Judge. I think it’s brilliant that I and many others outside of the target age for these books can still find great enjoyment in them. I’d love to see more books like those around.
4) Who or what inspires your own work?
I am most inspired by feelings and ideas – I know that sounds a bit wishy-washy but it’s the truth. I’m not very good at taking photographs so I’ve been trying to immortalise certain moments and emotions in my work. Lately, I’ve been feeling more and more appreciation for the experience of being alive – in all its messy, confusing and terrifying joy. I want to capture these feelings for myself to keep and share them with others too.
5) Recommend one piece of essential Children’s/YA literature.
I thoroughly enjoyed ‘Tuesdays are just as Bad’ by Cethan Leahy. It was an extremely pleasant and easy read – I think I finished it in only a couple of hours. It approached very serious themes of depression and mental health through a uniquely sardonic and humorous voice while still allowing for brilliantly poignant and vulnerable character moments. It spoke to me personally because of some similar experiences I’ve been through and I’m sure it will speak to many others in the same way.
Over the next six months, children’s artists Conor Bredin, Nene Lonergan, Carol McGill, Kate Moore, Aileen Swansen and Jennifer Wallace will be connected to a welcoming community of practice and supported in developing their careers. As part of the Raising Voices programme, the fellows will benefit from a host of creative and practical supports throughout the year. The fellowships are run by a group of literature organisations including Children’s Books Ireland, Illustrators Ireland, Publishing Ireland, the Dublin Book Festival and the Tyrone Guthrie Centre at Annaghmakerrig.
What is the Raising Voices fellowship?
Raising Voices aims to develop and support aspiring artists who make work for children and young adults and whose voices have been underrepresented in literature. The fellowship aims to break down barriers to publication, progression and inclusion and to increase diversity and representation in the Irish literature sector for those whose voices have been underrepresented due to background or identity.
The creative and practical supports all six fellows will benefit from include:
- Mentorship with an experienced writer or illustrator
- A detailed critique from an editor/art director suited to the fellow’s practice
- A week-long residency at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre at Annaghmakerrig
- Access to a bespoke speaker series, bursary information clinic with the Arts Council, and various events and courses.
- Tools, information and guidance needed to finalise a manuscript or dummy, prepare work for submission, research the market, and apply for bursaries.
Nene Lonergan is a Thai-Chinese artist living in Ireland, currently studying animation at the Limerick school of Art and Design. The best part of her childhood was the nights spent on the staircase with a tower of borrowed comic books. Her intention with her comic style art is to create works that inspire such feelings in other people. Nene applied to Raising Voices in the hope of finding some guidance in improving her craft and honing her skills. She’s looking forward to meeting other creatives, immersing herself in the children’s books community and creating some collaborative projects in the future.