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Olivia Fitzsimons: Meet the artists showcasing at the Dean Art Studios

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by Olivia Fitzsimons
17th Aug 2022

Olivia Fitzsimons is just one of many artists exhibiting her work at the newly-opened Dean Art Studios on Chatham Row in Dublin. Here she shares more about writing, the most invaluable thing she’s learned in her career and her debut novel.

Did you always want to be a writer?
God no! I’ve always tried to live a creative life but writing is a new career for me, I only started writing fiction four years ago.

In college, I studied… history at Trinity, Film MA at DIT. My history professor at Trinity told me I should be a writer. I just shrugged it off, the idea of someone like me, a working class girl from a field, being a writer was too much for me to deal with. I got a job in advertising in London straight after college and forgot about the seed he’d put in my head. It took about twenty years for me to even start thinking about writing, never mind start putting words on the page.

My most formative work experience was… working as a suit in advertising in London in my early twenties back in the 2000s. It gave me skills that I still use today. It made me brave and helped me believe in my creative worth. It also taught me when to say no.

My first real job was… picking potatoes. I wish I was joking.

The most invaluable thing I learned early on in my career was… that I’m always attempting to live a creative life; success is about process as much as product for me and what I’ve learnt through challenging my vision of myself as an artist. I’m always trying to match my craft to my ambition and I’m not alone in that. Community fuels me and I’m so grateful for the writing and arts community in Ireland, it’s the best place to be a debut author. 

A common misconception about what I do is… that writers are all loaded. Most of us have second jobs but our first love is writing. I’m lucky that I get to work in film, screenwriting and in the arts. 

My main responsibility in work is to… make work that I feel passionately about and I want the reader to feel something when they engage with my work.

Do you have a career mentor or someone you look up to/seek advice from? 
I’m a great believer in mentorship and the benefits it can have at any stage in your career, not just from individuals but organisations. I’ve been so lucky to have incredible mentors like Kit de Waal and Mia Gallagher but I’ve also been supported by the Irish Writers Centre, The Stinging Fly and the Arts Council. We have such a supportive arts infrastructure but we need to claim spaces for our artists, provide more access for creators and community, there’s a huge need for connection. The Dean Arts Studio is proof of that. I’m so excited to be working here and to see what will come from this amazing collaborative space.

The biggest risk I have taken in my career so far is… getting started when I was a stay at home mum with two kids. There’s no age limit on creativity. It’s fear that holds you back.

I wake at… urgh I’m not a morning person!

The first thing I do every morning is… coffee. Black coffee. Then everything is possible.

My morning routine is… different depending on whether my kids are in school or not. The summer is less productive for me but I’m ok with that and we make it work.

I can’t go to work without… coffee, again. Kissing my children. Putting on suncream. Having a book to read in my bag.

I travel to work by… Dart or Luas. I’m loving having the studio at The Dean Arts Centre and the headspace it gives me.

On an average workday I… try to get some words down but each day is different depending on what I’m writing, what stage the manuscript or project is at. Sometimes I might be giving a reading at a Literary Festival or talking to producers about a screenplay or adaptation. That’s the joy in being a freelancer, you never get bored.

I start my working day at… 9am, after my sons go to school.

The first thing I do at work is… try to do the creative writing first and leave the emails and admin and chatting for the afternoon.

I spend the first portion of the day… writing; fiction, short story or screenplay.

For lunch, I usually have… a salad, or leftovers. Lunch meetings are my new favourite thing but I have to get some work done first.

The most useful business tool I use every day is… Twitter.

I save time by… reading on public transport.

I rarely get through my working day without… music. I have a soundtrack for the novel I’m working on, songs that connect me to character and place. 

The best part of my day is… every day, writing is a gift. Even when it’s difficult, I’m very privileged to be doing this, there’s a real joy in creating for me. Four years ago I hadn’t even considered writing a novel, now I’m halfway through my second. Writing has brought so many opportunities, new experiences and people into my life. Even on the lousy days, I’m so glad that I started tapping away at stories on my phone. Art has always changed my life for the better.

The most challenging part of my day is… talking about my work. I want the energy for writing but I’m getting better at managing it!

I know it’s been a good day if… I’ve written something new, or read something that’s going to shape my work in the future. I try to make every day a good day. Life’s too short and I’m very lucky that I love what I do.

I usually end my day at… it really depends what I’m doing, where I am or what stage the work is at.

I switch off from work by… I don’t really switch off. Ideas are always working away, even if I’m not writing, but as I said I love my job.

Before I go to bed, I’ll… kiss my kids when they’re asleep. Then read.

I often prepare for tomorrow by… writing a list. Doing laundry. There’s always bloody laundry.

After a long work week, I destress by… it’s been sort of a long three months launching my debut novel, so I went on holiday recently and it was fantastic. I want to go on holiday again. I think the whole of Ireland does.

The accomplishment I’m most proud of is… my debut novel, The Quiet Whispers Never Stop.

If you want to get into my line of work, my advice is to… commit to yourself that you are going to take it seriously, whatever that means for you. You don’t need to tell anyone else, just get started. Join the Irish Writers Centre – they have a wealth of information for new and established writers. Read the many brilliant literary journals we have in Ireland. Read, read, read. 

Tell us about your work on display at the Dean Art Studios… I’m working on lots of things but I want to focus on my second novel during my Dean Arts Studio residency. It’s set in Dublin, Paris and West Cork and it’s about a mother, Charlotte, and her husband Rob, who lost their only son, Max, three years earlier in a tragic accident. Charlotte’s marriage to Rob disintegrates under the pressure of their inability to share their grief and the impact that this has on their relationship with themselves and each other. I’m also really excited to leave room for the possibilities of the space, the things that will happen in this wonderful community. I’m open to opportunities that I can’t even imagine yet, the magic in the unknown. 

The DAS is a new multi-disciplinary artistic hub located in Dublin City Centre which provides fully serviced and funded artist workspaces for residents. This is a project fully funded and run by the Press Up Hospitality Group as part of their long-term Cultural Strategy which commits to investing, uplifting, and supporting Irish artists, arts workers, arts organisations, makers, and creators in a meaningful and practical way. To explore the profiles and work of the residents of the Dean Art Studios, Dublin see deanartstudios.ie.