Love for her mother expressed in a new award

A new literary award, sponsored by a Cork-born former senior executive at Apple in the US, is worth €3,000 and is open to writers of both fiction and non-fiction.

California-based Christine O’Sullivan is financing the K Award in honour of her late mother, Kathleen Furlong. O’Sullivan, who retired from Apple five years ago to raise her two children and run a vineyard in Napa Valley, says she always wanted to commemorate her mother "who touched many lives in a low key way".

Furlong, who died 13 years ago from cancer, was brought up in Greenmount Crescent in Cork. One of nine children, she came from a household of meagre means. Furlong’s father was in the army and her mother was a housewife.

“I grappled for quite a while about what I could do in memory of my mother,” says O’Sullivan. “She was an avid reader and had a complete weakness for Nora Roberts-style paperback romantic novels.”

On one of her frequent visits to her home town, O’Sullivan found herself in Cork’s central library listening to President Michael D Higgins opening the ‘Crucial 100 – One hundred Books which inspired a Revolution’ exhibition.

“I was quite taken by Michael D and sitting in the library brought back huge memories. My mom had the foresight to give her children opportunities. We always had a library card and I have many memories of going into the library as a child. I decided on a writers’ award but preferably for an unpublished author, someone with a real passion for writing.”

She discussed the idea with Cork graphic designer John MacMonagle and city librarian Liam Ronayne.

The theme of for the K Award is ‘zest for life’ which, says O’Sullivan, sums up her mother’s way of living. “She interacted with people, sometimes in a very quiet supportive way with meaningful words, and sometimes with forceful words when she wanted her opinion to be heard. She was a real feminist in her time but not in an activist way. Everything was equal in our house. I have three brothers and mom never asked me to do anything that she wouldn’t ask Martin, Leonard and John to do.”

O’Sullivan was always encouraged by her mother to follow her dreams. “That never left me. I was never afraid to take the next step. I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve had an amazing career in the US. There isn’t any doubt in my mind that without my upbringing and the values my parents gave me [O’Sullivan’s father is aged 85] and particularly, the confidence my mother instilled in me, I wouldn’t have succeeded.”

Furlong, who died on Valentine’s Day in 2001 (befitting a reader of romance stories), made an impact in her own non-showy way. O’Sullivan recalls the time her mother was out canvassing for a politician.

“Mom tripped on the footpath and broke her wrist. But she didn’t stop canvassing that night. When she was done, she had her wrist seen to. That was an example of her doing something for somebody who was important to her.

“On the day of her funeral, the politician was in the house. That day, a corporation worker came to the door with a card. He said he didn’t know my mother very well but when he was working on some pipes down the road my mother used to bring him and the other workers freshly baked scones every day. She was a real lady.”

Cork City Libraries, with Christine O’Sullivan’s support, is running the K Award. The deadline for entries, which must not have been published, is September 26, 2014. Entries, of fiction or non-fiction, should not exceed 1,000 words. Email entries to libraries@corkcity.ie.


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