"Author Brenna Briggs has created the perfect series of adventures for Irish dancers... Each one is a delightful read for dancers, lovers of Ireland and lovers of a good mystery. And a great way for kids to learn a bit more about their Irish heritage.” The Irish World: London
I was born into a family of Pittsburgh third and fourth generation Irish from Sligo and Antrim but I grew up in the shadow of the golden dome at the University of Notre Dame where my dad got his graduate degrees thanks to the GI Bill.
For me, the ND campus was a playground. Playdough not having been invented yet, I regularly helped myself to globs of soft, melting wax from the dripping candles at Notre Dame’s Grotto. It’s surprising I did not become a world-renowned sculptor. When my father, Anthony Black, got his Notre Dame credentials, he became a professor of Irish History and Church History at St. Mary’s College-ND for 40 years.
My mother, Virginia Morrow Black, was an English teacher and prolific writer. She wrote extensively for Catholic newspapers and published Tackling Notre Dame (Hallberg Press 1985). We lived in the Notre Dame married students’ version of suitable housing, aka a slum, called Vetville, which was built entirely from a dismantled prisoner of war camp’s barracks and shipped to ND on flatbed trucks. They were grim, colorless shoe boxes. Small shoe boxes.
ND saved some big money with that purchase. It was no wonder Vetville’s children were always roaming around the Notre Dame campus looking for something to do. It was impossible to play anything but tie up a sibling or dress up a doll at home. Fortunately, my mother was a highly motivated, very clever woman. We had zero money but she subsidized our sparse existence with the loot she won from writing contest jingles. Her biggest prize was an exact duplicate of a real, state-of-the art Thunderbird. Except it was a miniature car called a ‘Thunderbird Junior.’ It was the grand prize awarded by Minute Maid Orange Juice.
Lime green, made of fiberglass and capable of going six mph, it greatly reduced my hours of roaming the ND campus as I was busy giving rides most days to other desperate children. They lined up for them.
After the barracks, we moved into a real house on Angela Blvd. And Notre Dame’s Cedar Grove Cemetery (which bordered our backyard) became my new playground. If one of the cemetery groundskeepers came near me and my brother Robbie, we would fall on our knees at the closest grave and bless ourselves.In the fall, there were always HUGE piles of leaves to jump and roll around in before they were burned. Sometimes, if we heard the groundskeepers coming in our direction and we could not get out of the leaves to avoid capture, we buried ourselves way down in them. Both my parents are in ND’s cemetery now and I feel like I am eight years old again when I visit them there.
Later I became an Equity and SAG actress, documentary film producer and legal assistant in my husband’s law office in Wisconsin. After eighteen years of listening to tales of woe and horror (our office specialized in criminal law) I was ready to literally go crazy, as it was more than I could bear. So, I convinced my husband to move and we escaped with our children in 2004 to County Sligo where we lived for five years.
I began writing my first book, Liffey Rivers and the Mystery of the Sparkling Solo Dress Crown, in Sligo and completed three of the series books before returning to the U.S. in 2009. The Liffey Rivers Irish Dancer Mysteries are now part of The Irish Traditional Music Archive of Ireland-Taisce Cheol Dúchais Éireann–in Dublin. It is a national reference archive and resource center for the traditional song, instrumental music and dance of Ireland and I am thrilled and honored to be included.
I have written one book for grownups: Mothers Addicted to Irish Dancing: MAIDS
It’s the story of ten ‘driven’ mothers who will do anything to promote their dancing daughters’ dancing ‘careers.’
Excerpt: “Hormone treatments would cost roughly $35,000 an inch, but thankfully, money was not a problem. If that Mother Nature bitch was not going to waive her growth spurt wand, then Mother Dana was going to waive hers.
She knew her daughter would not be able to cope if the other team members kept growing and she did not. It might very well signal the end to her daughter’s place on her elite World Championship U-13 8-Hand Céilí A Team next year.
Attaching a large hair donut under Kaitlin’s wig had given her another few important inches and had fixed the ‘obviously way too short’ problem for now, but she could not continue extending her daughter’s height by propping it up with a prosthetic device under synthetic hair. Kaitlin would end up looking like Marge Simpson if she kept on elevating her wig like this.”
Finally, I have often been a guest author tent speaker at places like the Milwaukee Irish Fest’s Literary Corner and Hedge School and Celtic Women’s Literary Salon, Minnesota Irish Festival, Celtic Women Worldwide, the Sligo Reader-Writer Festival and so on… My favorite venue is the Dublin (Ohio) Irish Festival.
Except for my MAIDS book and my essays, I have become known as a children’s author and my first Liffey Rivers mystery has been a No. 1 Amazon Bestseller in the popular Teen Dance Fiction slot. It normally still is at Christmas and it was published in 2006. For this I am very grateful.
THE LIFFEY RIVERS IRISH DANCER MYSTERIES
“…pacey, well-written books.”
Writing Notes From the Sligo Arts Office
“Brenna Briggs writes with flair and passion
and her novels fill a yawning, gaping
hole in literature for Irish-American girls.”
Irish Culture Editor