Tara O’Grady will sign books on this Friday at Kew &Willow Books, 81-63 Lefferts Blvd., Kew Gardens, Queens, New York City, at 7 p.m. PHOTO BY RICHARD VELASCO
Page Turner / Edited by Peter McDermott
So first the Hollywood elevator pitch about Tara O’Grady’s “Migrating toward Happiness.” The New York-based entertainer said: “Imagine 'Eat, Pray, Love' meets 'Thelma and Louise' on the yellow brick road, soundtrack included.”
Indeed, this, her first book, is subtitled “The Soundtrack to My Spiritual Awakening.”
O’Grady adds: “It's a true story about how I was single and depressed, lost my job, was hit by a taxi, and then started to notice to the signs the Universe was sending me via songs and through the spirits of my deceased Irish grandmothers. I end up going on a cross-country road trip with my best friend sponsored by Chevrolet in order to replicate my Waterford-born granny's 1957 trip, which she took in her Bel Air from New York to Seattle and back.
“She died soon after her memorable journey, so I felt this urge to chase her spirit on her exact route to discover if the American dream still exists, the one my Irish-born mother and paternal grandparents came to New York to find.”
She said: “There are plenty of flashbacks to memories of summers on the farm in Ireland with my Donegal granny. And by the end of the story, I feel like I've finally discovered the meaning of life, but actually, it's only the beginning. If you are searching for your soul's purpose, then this book is for you and will help you get on the right path to live a happy life. There's also a great sound track within each chapter title, from Van Morrison's 'Into the Mystic,' to Judy Garland's 'Get Happy.'”
O’Grady, who is well-known within the New York Irish artistic community, told us a little more about herself and her philosophy: “I was a high-school English teacher straight out of graduate school, and after multiple jobs became a jazz singer, recording artist, songwriter and finally an author, which is what I've always wanted to be.
“I have a ‘thing’ for butterflies. They symbolize transformation and change. We all have the capacity to grow, shed old skins, and learn new tricks,” she said. “Life is a constant classroom and we are all here to learn how to connect and love. Sounds simple, but sometimes it takes a lifetime to wake up to our destiny. It is never too late to learn how to fly. My new goal is to teach others how to find happiness in the power of now.”
Date of birth: April 11, ageless eternal spirit
Place of birth: Queens, N.Y.
Residence: Woodside, N.Y.
Published works: 5 music cds: “Black Irish” (2010), “Good Things Come to Those Who Wait” (2011), “A Celt in the Cotton Club” (2013), “Irish Bayou” (2015), and “Folk Songs: Songs About Real Folks” (2017); 1 memoir: “Migrating toward Happiness: The Soundtrack to My Spiritual Awakening.”
What is your writing routine? Are there ideal conditions?
I wake up and write down my dreams before I even make coffee. I keep a dream journal on my desk. My dreams are lucid and reveal all sorts of things I put into my stories. After coffee I basically spend the entire day at my computer. I light a candle and play meditative music or the sound of birds singing. I forget to eat, shower, or get exercise because I can focus for eight hours a day writing and editing.
I think my discipline comes from teaching writing and working as a copywriter, plus all those years as a student at Catholic schools. I usually don't even change out of my pajamas unless I have to sing that night at a jazz club. Sometimes if I get stuck on an idea, I go for a walk in my neighborhood. The fresh air and exercise help me to figure out how I want to rephrase a sentence or paragraph, then I race back and keep writing until midnight.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Write every day. Keep journals. Scribble down every little thing you notice. Make lists of your favorite words or phrases. Read constantly. Write on Post-it notes and napkins and just about anywhere when an idea strikes you because I have learned that ideas are always floating in the ether and if we don't write them down, they disappear. That's how I write some of my songs. The lyrics suddenly come to me, even if I'm driving, and I need to pull the car over, because if you let the time pass, the idea evaporates or finds another artist to hover over. Sometimes I don't return to those notes until a year later, and I realize I've collected a bunch of ideas that have been on my mind that now want to be collected into an album of music, or into a book. Don't dismiss the weird ideas or sudden questions that enter your mind. Curiosity leads to inquiry which leads to something on paper that someone else will indeed find interesting because we are all connected.
Name three books that are memorable in terms of your reading pleasure.
“Angela's Ashes,” by Frank McCourt; “Eat, Pray, Love,” by Elizabeth Gilbert; “The Awakening,” by Kate Chopin.
What book are you currently reading?
“The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity,” by Julia Cameron.
Is there a book you wish you had written?
“50 Shades of Gray,” by E. L. James (Only for the Hollywood contracts, not for the awful writing.)
Name a book that you were pleasantly surprised by.
“Whose Boat is this Boat? Comments That Don't Help in the Aftermath of a Hurricane.” (A picture book made entirely of quotations from President Donald Trump, put together by the staff of the “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert”.)
If you could meet one author, living or dead, who would it be?
What book changed your life?
“Many Lives, Many Masters: The True Story of a Prominent Psychiatrist, His Young Patient, and the Past-Life Therapy That Changed Both Their Lives,” by Dr. Brian Weiss.
What is your favorite spot in Ireland?
Slieve League cliffs in Donegal near my mother's house.
You're Irish if...
you have a story to tell, and you tell it well.
For more information about the author and her book, go to her website.