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Current Projects:  Non-Fiction

The Ghost of Tenth Street    memoir

Paul Spillenger

On a cold February day in 2014, Paul Spillenger was going through the contents of the New York apartment he’d grown up in and where his father, the Abstract Expressionist painter Ray Spillenger, had recently died.  As he emptied the closets and pulled open boxes and portfolios long ago secreted away under beds and behind couches, he realized he’d discovered a cache of paintings he’d never seen before, and which it was unlikely anyone still living had ever seen: nearly 200 oil paintings, some in frames, others on canvas, still others on board, as well as over 2,000 works on paper.  As he catalogued, measured and photographed the art, another Ray Spillenger began to emerge, one Paul had never known He could discern in the work an intelligence and soul that was entirely new to him.  At first, he could not bring together his sense of the artist who had made the paintings and the father who had never been a father, a figure he associated mainly with rage, sarcastic criticism, violence and absence.  But over time he was able to start integrating the two as the same man.  This spurred him to delve into Ray’s past, through the papers and photographs he’d left behind and through interviews with artists and friends who’d known him


Ray Spillenger is the abstract expressionist that time forgot.  But he was anything but nameless to his peers.  His friend, the painter Pat Passlof, called him “the most brilliant unknown painter of his generation.”  He lived and worked in the heart of the AbEx movement on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and was part of a coterie that included Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, Milton Resnick, Joan Mitchell, Barnett Newman, Franz Kline and many other renowned artists of the era.  He was also Paul Spillenger’s dad, and Paul grew up against the backdrop of this unique time in the history of 20th-century art.


Ray was born in 1924 and lived in the Sheepshead Bay neighborhood of Brooklyn until he enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1943.  Following the end of World War II, he finished his degree in graphic design from Pratt Institute and attended the legendary Summer 1948 session at Black Mountain College in Asheville, North Carolina, where he studied with Josef Albers and Willem de Kooning and got to know John Cage, Buckminster Fuller and Merce Cunningham, among other artists.  In 1949-50 Ray lived and studied painting in Italy, and on his return to the States he moved into a loft on the Lower East Side.  He quickly reconnected with de Kooning, who became a good friend, as well as Pollock, Resnick, Newman, Mitchell, and Kline, with whom he was especially close.  He hung out regularly at the Cedar Tavern and was one of the early members of “The Club,” where the artists met to grouse, debate and drink.

In 1954 Ray and his girlfriend (later wife) Marian Katz moved into a cold-water flat at 90 University Place, and when their first son, Paul, came along in 1956, they relocated to a somewhat larger apartment on the corner of Third Avenue and Tenth Street, in the middle of the Tenth Street Co-op Gallery scene and right across the street from de Kooning’s studio.  The whole area was ground zero for the Abstractionist Expressionist/Action Painting scene.  In 1957 he helped found the March Gallery, with Pat Passlof, Elaine de Kooning and Felix Pasilis.  In 1960 Ray had his first one-man show and started selling paintings.  Then the bottom fell out that same year, when Pop Art began to attract attention.  By 1962 most of the co-op galleries had closed, and many of the painters had moved out of the city.  As the movement died, Ray grew withdrawn and bitter, and by the late 1970s, he’d stopped painting altogether.  He wouldn’t come back to it until the early 1990s.

Paul grew up in a tiny, cramped apartment on East Tenth Street in the 1950s and 60s, in the midst of Abstract Expressionist painters, writers and intellectuals of the time.  His extended family was comprised of brilliant, crazy, charismatic, self-destructive artists.  De Kooning was his go-to babysitter for a while; Kline was a familiar presence (Paul would name his son after him).  He shared a hot tub with Allen Ginsberg.  His first joint came from W.H. Auden (who had no use for it).  Frank O’Hara and Paul Goodman showed up at his parents’ Thanksgiving parties.  His first friend was Lisa de Kooning, Bill’s only child, who was born three weeks before Paul. At the Cedar and at the various loud and smoky parties he was dragged along to, he watched the goings-on and naturally believed all grown-ups were like this.  He experienced both the exhilaration of the group in its heyday and the pathos as it gradually broke up. 

Ray was for the most part an absentee father – either giving the best of himself to painting and the coterie with whom he felt most himself or, even when he was around the apartment, not really wanting to be there, feeling that domestic life was stealing precious time and energy from what he really wanted to be doing.  He never talked about art with his family, and when he painted at home, Paul and his brother Clyde were not permitted in that corner of the apartment.  So there was a wall between both the man and his work, on the one hand, and his children, on the other, that did not allow for any kind of intimacy.

But in the end, the son was able to slough off the old stories, the core narratives that had helped him process the lasting pain of a dysfunctional childhood and explain who his father was and why he was the way he was.  He allowed the art to reveal the artist, an artist who was also his father.  Gradually, he came to know the father as the complex, imperfect person he was, forgive him for it and accept the gift the father had, in death, given him.

Structured as series of vignettes from his father’s life, the author’s life and the world of the Abstract Expressionists of the 1940s, 50s and 60s, The Ghost of Tenth Street paints a vivid picture of what it was like to grow up in the midst of the vibrant lower Manhattan art scene of the period and to live with a painter who suffered from the depression and rage of watching the movement from which he drew his principal sense of self disintegrate in the early 1960s.

The Ghost of Tenth Street is structured, not chronologically, but thematically, because the experience that led to these epiphanies – and, indeed, to the writing of this book – is not amenable to chronology.  The first chapter is about Ray’s death, the last about the birth of a relationship between father and son.  Each of the book’s chapters hearkens back to ideas developed in the previous one and plants a thematic seed for the reading of the following one.  Each vignette calls for its own tone and style – sometimes starkly narrative, sometimes analytical, sometimes humorousTaken as a whole, the memoir is a compelling and exquisitely written mosaic that depicts the movement from anger and resentment to understanding and forgiveness, a transformation made possible only through the medium of art.


Paul Spillenger is a born-and-bred New Yorker who grew up in what came to be called the East Village.  Early on he was a fairly serious musician and then a practicing poet.  He earned his Ph.D. in Comparative Literature (Medieval Studies) from Columbia University in 1992 and taught English and literature for several years before becoming lead reporter and columnist for a trucking newspaper in Little Rock, Arkansas.  In 2000 he started writing documentary scripts for National Geographic, Discovery, the BBC, Animal Planet and other broadcasters and was nominated for two primetime Emmy Awards for writing and producing the 11-part series Life, a joint production of the BBC and Discovery.  Since 2023 he’s been semi-retired and focused on writing, selling his father’s paintings and building a house on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia.  He is the proud father of a son, Franz, and grandfather to a pair of gorgeous identical twin girls, Maya and Fiona.  Paul has been married to Leslie Schwerin for 22 years, and they share their life with the remarkable dog, Isabelle.  He currently divides his time between Cape Breton and Silver Spring, Maryland.

The Prison Reader            Narrative Non-fiction

Working with Men and Women in Northern Ireland’s Jails


Susan Bennett


This is a book about the stories that bring light in the darkest place. Susan Bennett leads reading groups with the men and women in Northern Ireland’s notorious jails - HMP Maghaberry and Hydebank Wood Young Offenders’ Centre & Women’s Prison. In this most unlikely of settings, and after a shaky start, she watches in awe as the power of words begins to work its magic.


Interspersed with a first-hand account of the rough, spiky conversations between the participants in the prison groups, some of the stories and poems that have led to the most fruitful conversations are included. You can read works from authors ranging from Roald Dahl to Shakespeare, stories that cover everything from regret to redemption. Reading the stories in the context of the conversations that they sparked in prison will show why they mean so much to readers who have nearly lost all hope.


This honest and often funny book will bring the reader beyond the iron bars and barbed wire to find humanity in all its forms. Behind those locked doors you’ll meet inmates from all walks of life who have one thing in common: they have committed a crime. But as they reluctantly, gradually engage with the prison reading groups, they soon learn that getting together every week is transformative. Trust and openness and empathy start to blossom.


As we read along with people on the inside, we confront major life issues including regret, faith, hope and love. What word or phrase will hit home for someone? Can a story really make a difference?


Most of all, this book will show that literature has the power to heal and transform, even in the darkest place.


Susan Bennett is a Northern Irish writer. Her work has appeared in The Simple Things, Books Ireland and she was shortlisted for the Oxford Flash Fiction Prize in October 2023. She’s also a regular contributor to BBC Radio Ulster’s Thought for the Day. Susan works for The Reader as a storyteller in prison settings across Northern Ireland. Her travel and health memoir, What if this Road? is currently on submission.

What if this Road. . . ?                    Memoir


Rediscovering Awe and Wonder on a Mid-life Gap Year


A Memoir by Susan Bennett


When each of them receives a diagnosis of the same life-changing illness in the same week (from the same neurologist), Susan Bennett and her husband Chris are left reeling. After the initial shock however, the 30-something couple quickly decide with typical stoicism to simply ‘keep calm and carry on’ – Chris with his job as a pioneering chaplain in Belfast city’s new Titanic Quarter, and Susan with their joint social enterprise projects in the same community.


But as the years pass and Susan and Chris continue to pour all their energies into their work, while living with the uncertainty of MS, a sense of burnout begins to set in. The tragic death of Susan’s brother, followed by a series of ‘final straw’ practical tribulations, leaves them both on the verge of breakdown and Susan in particular finds herself questioning everything she once held dear.


Radical action is clearly needed before they both hit rock bottom. The couple, now in their 40s, resign from their jobs, give up their house and put all their belongings into storage, deciding that the time has finally come for to take the road trip they’ve been dreaming of for the two decades of their married life. Dusting down the Hymer Exsis campervan which has been sitting in their drive for many years, they take to the open road on a journey around western Europe and Scandinavia and far, far away from everything about their lives in Belfast.


Seventeen countries, 361 days and 16,000 miles later, Susan and Chris have been on not only a physical journey, but in parallel with this, on a spiritual and emotional voyage of discovery. As well as making new connections, and experiencing art, beauty and many different cultures, they have learned how to look up at big skies, how to stop and breathe, and how to find courage. Looking inward too, Susan has found the space to say goodbye to a lost brother, and emerged with a renewed sense of her place in the world, and with replenished faith in the power of nature to heal and restore.


What if this Road. . . is a life-affirming true story of stopping in order to start again. It’s about coming to terms with grief and illness but it’s also about our capacity for joy and hope.


Susan Bennett is a writer and media commentator based in Belfast. She’s a regular contributor to BBC Radio Ulster, and has been writing her weekly blog, Shedwriting, since October 2020. In her day job, Susan works for The Reader initiative as a storyteller in prison settings across Northern Ireland.


World Rights:


The Voice Beneath the Quince Tree         Memoir

A Memoir of Growing Up in Ceaușescu’s Romania

Maria-Cristina Necula


November 9th, 2024 will mark 35 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall. While, in domino-effect reaction, regimes behind the Iron Curtain crumbled peacefully after the fall, there was one collapse that brought about the sole bloody revolution in the Eastern Bloc, ending in the swift execution of one of the worst dictators of the time. On Christmas Day, 1989, Romania was forever liberated from the megalomaniac, oppressive, often deadly embrace of Nicolae Ceaușescu's 25-year reign.


Stories of resilience, survival, tragedy, and attempts to flee the communist regime abound, exposing the harsh and sad realities of various former Eastern Bloc countries. But this is a different kind of story. Told from the perspective of a child who knows no other universe and sees her Bucharest home with eyes of wonder, this is a story of growing up in a world that, to this child, seems as infused with magic as it is brutal.


Maria-Cristina Necula’s published work includes the books Life in Opera: Truth, Tempo and Soul (Amadeus Press, 2009), and The Don Carlos Enigma: Variations of Historical Fictions (Academica Press, 2022), two translations: Europe à la carte and Molière’s The School for Wives, and the collection of poems Evanescent. Her articles and interviews have been featured in Classical Singer Magazine, Opera America, Das Opernglas, Studies in European Cinema, Opera News, and the New York City-based website Woman Around Town. As a classically trained singer she has performed in the New York City area at Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall, Merkin Hall, Florence Gould Hall, and the Westchester Broadway Theatre, and has presented on opera at The Graduate Center, Baruch, The City College of New York, and UCLA Southland. She speaks six languages, two of which she honed at the Sorbonne University in Paris and the University of Vienna, and she holds a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from The Graduate Center, CUNY. In 2022, Maria-Cristina was awarded a New York Press Club Award in the Critical Arts Review category for her review of Matthew Aucoin's Eurydice at the Metropolitan Opera. She is a 2022-24 Fellow of The Writers' Institute at The Graduate Center. She lives in Westchester County, NY.


World Rights



Translation Rights


Being with Cows                Mind, Body, Spirit/Memoir


Dave Mountjoy


An intensely transformational story of how grief became gratitude in the presence of a humble herd of cows.


Being with Cows is an intensely powerful yet heart-warming antidote to the stresses, strains and suffering of modern life. Through a deeply tangible sense of gratitude, it tells of how tragedy became healing and transformation in the midst of a humble herd of cows and how acceptance is the key to unlocking the door to our most natural self and happiness.


The world is crying out in pain. War, climate change, health concerns (COVID – 19) and the wholesale destruction of the natural world feeds billions a daily diet of fear, confusion and uncertainty. Masses are slaves to their mobile phones and the swirling circus that is social media. Being with Cows, though apparently gentle and rhythmic in nature, smashes right through the illusion of our plastic selves and reaches out to touch the heart that lives inside us all.


The author’s brother committed suicide by shooting himself in the head in October 2016. The shock of his loss was total. Devastation does not come near it.


Being with Cows was inspired by his tragic death, for out of the ashes the phoenix does rise. It focuses both on the fallout from such a deeply shattering event and most importantly, how Life, at each and every turn, provides an opportunity for healing and total acceptance.


Healing and acceptance came in the form of the herd of cows Dave raised on his organic farm in the French Pyrenees mountains. Unlooked for and unexpected, he discovered complete and utter acceptance of the loss in their company, a healing so clean and deep that not a trace of grief remained, just gratitude for having known such a brother as he.


The book details the incredibly moving story behind these events, how a personal quest for inner healing and transformation received such unimagined support in the midst of such tragic and painful circumstances.


Dave Mountjoy is a cattle breeder, founder of Being with Cows Retreats and father of two slightly wild young boys. He is inspired by living in dedication to quietness, to acceptance and the understanding that behind the rough and tumble of everyday life, the unchanging presence of Love seeks only to guide us back into the lasting peace of the Heart.


World English Rights to Bedford Square Publishers


Translation Rights: 

Never Waste a Good Hysterectomy:                 Memoir/Women’s Health

Life lessons from a crisis


Melanie Verwoerd



“I’m a very level-headed person,” Melanie Verwoerd told the gynecological oncologist. “However, I feel like my dogs during a thunderstorm. I’m desperately trying to find somewhere to hide, but everywhere I go, it is still there.”


A week earlier, another gynecologist had paused mid-sentence during a routine ultrasound examination. Something big was wrong.


Blood tests showed elevated tumour markers and scans revealed a huge ovarian tumour with at least a 70% chance of being cancerous. A few days later a radical hysterectomy was performed.


As the terror grew, the only way for her to make sense of what was happening was to write. This book is the brutally honest reflection of the year that followed the operation.


Although it is brutally honest, it is also hope giving, and insists that women’s voices be heard.


Melanie Verwoerd is a former Member of the South African Parliament, South African Ambassador to Ireland and Executive Director of UNICEF. She is a published author, columnist and top-rated political analyst from Cape Town, South Africa.


Melanie was born into an Afrikaner family and grew up during the height of Apartheid in South Africa. At the age of twenty she married Wilhelm Verwoerd, the grandson of the former Apartheid Prime Minister HF Verwoerd, generally regarded as the architect of Apartheid. In 1990, after a brief spell at Oxford in the UK and following the unbanning of the ANC, she and her then husband returned to South Africa.


Shortly after their return Melanie met with Nelson Mandela, who encouraged her to “use her surname and voice for the bigger good”. She stunned many by joining the ANC. Her political involvement also led to her being ostracized by her community and numerous death threats from the far-right Afrikaner movements. During the first democratic elections in 1994, Melanie was elected as a Member of Parliament for the ANC under the presidency of Nelson Mandela. At the age of 27 she was the youngest female MP in the history of the South African parliament. During her time in parliament she worked closely with, amongst others, Nelson Mandela and participated in the writing of the South African Constitution. She was re-elected in 1999 and in 2001 was appointed as South African Ambassador to Ireland.


Her #1 best-selling memoir, When We Dance, was published in Ireland in November 2012. It entered the Irish bestseller list at number two and reached number one the next week. It remained in the top 10 best sellers for six weeks. The book was also published in South Africa in May 2013 under the title, The Verwoerd who toyi-toyied.  Melanie’s next book, Our Madiba: Stories and reflections of those who met Nelson Mandela was launched in 2014 by Archbishop Tutu. In 2015 she co-authored 21 at 21: A nation coming of age which features interviews with South Africans born in 1994. It was published in Germany by Peter Hammerverlag in 2017 under the title Südafrika mit 21.


In 2007 Melanie received the Tatler International Woman of the Year Award in Ireland.


World English ex SA to Dalzell Press, SA rights to SheSaid Press


Translation Rights:

In Ordinary Time: Fragments of a Family History            Memoir


Carmel Maria Mc Mahon


In Ordinary Time is a hybrid memoir comprised of essays, poems and photographs (45,000 words). It looks at the ways “ordinary traumas”, personal and historic, reverberate through time and resonate through a life. Trauma interrupts the unity and linearity of temporality, so time is a central concern.


Drawing attention to different constructions of time, Carmel Mc Mahon sketches the evolution of a consciousness from her upbringing in the Catholic and conservative Ireland of the seventies and eighties to the New York City of today.


It is a beautifully written, unique and compelling memoir.


Carmel Mc Mahon graduated with an MA in the Liberal Arts (Biography and Memoir Track) from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York in September 2020. While there, she was made the 2018/2019 writer-in-residence of the Irish Studies Department at Queens College (CUNY). She is passionate about Irish literature and particularly interested in the ways writers make use of the material of their lives.


Carmel emigrated from Ireland to the US in 1993 at age 20. She carried $500, two suitcases and a ton of invisible baggage. It has been a long journey, and she is ready to return home. With her partner and their dogs, she looks forward to taking up residence again in Ireland in October, 2021. Her writing has been published in the Irish Times, A Woman’s Thing, The Irish Echo, the Humanities Review, Longreads, and the Australian-Irish Heritage Journal. 


World English Language Rights: Duckworth Books (Feb 2023)


Translation rights:

As the Smoke Clears        Memoir         


A True Story of Love, Loss, Resilience and Survival


Zoe Holohan


The harrowing true story of the Irish woman, who, on honeymoon with her new husband, was caught up in the Greek wildfires of 2018, in which her husband perished but she survived.


Zoe Holohan has worked in media for over two decades, in advertising, marketing and on creative campaign design. She has had numerous travel articles published in The Irish Independent and the Sunday World magazine . 


UK and Ireland Rights: Gill Books March 2021


All Other

The Upside of Down                   Memoir/Mental Health


Tara West


The novelist’s memoir of depression and recovery.


Published by Dalzell Press in October 2020.


Tara West is the author two novels. Poets are Eaten as a Delicacy in Japan (Liberties Press, 2012) and Fodder (Blackstaff Press, 2002).


Translation rights:

Afraid of the Dark            Memoir/Mental Health/Fatherhood


Jonny McCambridge


The Irish journalist’s memoir about his struggles with mental health issues as well as the trials and tribulations of being a full-time ‘stay-at-home’ dad to his infant son.


Published by Dalzell Press on January 26th, 2021.


Jonny McCambridge is an Irish journalist and blogger.


Translation rights:

Treasury of Mindfulness                       Mind, Body, Spirit

Tips and Techniques for Every Day


Paddy Brosnan


A collection of simple yet precious resources which will enhance readers’ lives and add to the quality of their everyday experiences Each page or entry in the Treasury will feature one of four different kinds of mindfulness tools: A Mindful Meditation, Everyday Mindfulness, Mindful Ideas, 1-Minute Mindfulness.


Published by Dalzell Press in March 2020.


Paddy Brosnan is a mindfulness teacher and inspirational speaker. A committed Buddhist, he has practiced mindfulness for 14 years and has been teaching for over four years. Paddy’s first book, This Works: How to Use Mindfulness to Calm the Hell Down and Just Be Happy was published by Hay House in October 2018.  


Audio Rights to Bolinda.


Translation rights:




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