'As you were' wins Kate O'Brien award for 2021

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The winner of the 7th annual Kate O’Brien Award for a debut novel from an Irish female author is As You Were by Elaine Feeney.

The Award was presented as part of the 37th annual Limerick Literary Festival in Honour of Kate O’Brien today. It is one of Ireland's most vibrant and successful festivals which has been running since 1984 and it showcases in a diverse and eclectic programme the best in Irish and international contemporary literature.

The Festival took place online from February 26 to 28 broadcast from Limerick City via Zoom and YouTube to a digital audience for the first time.

The event continues to honour the life and works of the Limerick author, while attracting prominent participants from all over the world. Building on this significant history, the Limerick Literary Festival seeks to promote Limerick nationally as a place of literary excellence and to provide a platform where readers can meet their favourite authors and other readers.

The winner of the award was chosen from the following shortlist;

The Temple House Vanishing by Rachel Donoghue
Oona by Alice Lyons
A Quiet Tide by Marianne Lee
As You Were by Elaine Feeney
Big Girl Small Town by Michelle Gallen
This Happy by Niamh Campbell

Shortlist judge Vivienne McKechnie commented on the high standard of all the submissions - "It has been a wonderful year of debut novels for Irish female writers, the standard was very high this year with a wide range of genres including crime, intrigue, romance, as well as literary fiction and short stories, with  so many submissions of such high calibre that it was impossible to reduce the shortlist to four and we felt that the six chosen represented the wonderful range of talent emerging in Ireland today. We have a very strong shortlist and it will be difficult to choose a winner. We were delighted by the imaginative journeys we were taken on"

The panel of readers for the award included Limerick Literary Festival Committee members Vivienne McKechnie, Eileen O’Connor, Marie Hackett  and Donal Ryan and Niall MacMonagle.

Elaine Feeney was born in the West of Ireland and lives in Athenry. She published her first chapbook, Indiscipline in 2007, and has since published three collections of poetry, Where’s Katie? (2010), The Radio Was Gospel (2014) and Rise (2017) with Salmon Publishing.


Feeney was commissioned in 2016 to write a national screen and stage piece, WRoNGHEADED by the Liz Roche Company, which has toured internationally since its first run at Tiger Dublin Fringe Festival. She was Poetry Ireland’s Poetry Ambassador in 2018. Feeney was commissioned in 2019 by Minerva Projects to respond to the work of American artist, Daisy Patton.

Elaine writes about national identity, institutions and particularly women in Ireland. She teaches English & History at St. Jarlath’s College for Boys, Tuam, Creative Writing & Poetry at the National University of Ireland, Galway and she is the Creative Director of the Tuam Oral History Project at the same university, working with survivors of the Tuam Mother and Baby Home to archive their narrative.

Feeney’s work has been widely published and anthologized including, Poetry Review, The Stinging Fly, Oxford Poetry, Poetry Ireland, The Irish Times, The Manchester Review, Stonecutter Journal and Coppernickel.
Her debut novel, As You Were, was published by Harvill Secker/ VINTAGE in March 2020.

The Kate O’Brien Award comes with a E2000 cash Prize sponsored by Bill and Denise Whelan.