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An Introduction: Úna-Minh Kavanagh

An Introduction: Úna-Minh Kavanagh

We're delighted to welcome Úna-Minh Kavanagh to the Die Gute Fabrik team as Executive Assistant to the CEO -  a complex job which involves a bit - or rather a lot - of everything!

We first came across Úna-Minh when she applied for our 2022 Writing Internship - she was one of our excellent shortlisted candidates - and while we're sad we can only resource one position for the thousands of applicants for the internship, we always think of the folks we meet through the process when other relevant positions open up. That's why we were so delighted to invite Úna-Minh back to chat to us about becoming part of the Production Team at the studio and as a crucial support to Hannah Nicklin our CEO and Studio Lead.

Úna-Minh will now be working behind-the-scenes on our Production Team, and hope you're just as excited to hear from her here and - unlike our other recent additions - on our socials too, where she'll also be posting updates and news from all of us at Die Gute Fabrik.

Who are you and what’s your background?

My name is Úna-Minh (pronounced Oona-Ming (or /uːnə-mɪŋ/ in IPA) and I’m a proud Irishwoman who also happens to be based in Ireland. As I’ve had my hands in many pots over the years, it can quite the challenge to settle on an exact title for myself but let’s just say in a concise nutshell, I work as a journalist, author, and multimedia content producer.

In 2009, I moved away from my hometown and headed to Dublin - or the Big Smoke as we like to call it - and began my degree, a B.A. in Irish and Journalism in Dublin City University which is basically journalism through the Irish language!

The Irish Language (Gaeilge/Gaelainn) is an innate part of me for a few reasons. I’m a fluent Irish language speaker and at home in County Kerry, there were but three of us in our family, myself my mom and grandad. My grandad was a native Irish speaker from one of the Irish speaking regions in predominantly the west coast of Ireland, known as Gaeltachtaí and so, we spoke a mix of Irish and English at home.

Irish is part of my professional and personal life and when my head is not stuck in a book, I’m also doing other cool things like foraging for wild food which I’m frankly pretty taken with. Seriously, come to me when the zombie apocalypse happens, I'll sort you out!

A video I did on foraging for beginners. The video is in Irish but there are subtitles in Irish or English.

Aside from zombie-prep, I’ve been working as a freelancer since 2016 and when the opportunity came to work with DGF, it took little convincing for me to take it on. Challenge accepted.

I've worked with many, many different teams over the years and without a shadow of a doubt, DGF is the most diverse team I’ve been a part of.

What’s your practice?

When I left DCU, I went straight into a job as a journalist and worked in a company that focused on writing stories about the Irish diaspora. This was a crucial part of my 'hands-on' training. I had done a short stint as an intern in a fast-paced newsroom and to be able to go straight into the workplace was a thrill. I was eager to learn and quickly got to grips with adapting on the fly. Interviews? Check. Hunting down sources? Check. Being first on the scene? Check! It's a buzz and in one way it was the golden age of social media; fresh and new.

After a few years in the news and entertainment industry, I quickly decided that instead of pursuing a Masters, I would take some time off to train in a cookery school to enhance my skills and transition into food and travel writing. It was a fantastic experience and I filleted many a fish, but it left me in a bit of a pickle because following it, I had to 'break into' another industry.

Úna-Minh cooking prawns in front of a pot at Ballymaloe Cookery School

I continued to build up my portfolio and in 2016, I decided to take the leap to go completely freelance. And it was the best decision I ever made.

Not only did it allow me incredible flexibility and work from home, but it also forced me to 'grow up' quickly. Now I was in charge of everything, from setting my hours to doing the dreaded invoice chase.

While the vast majority of employers have been solid, you often have a rogue invoice to hunt down and I've learned to be firm and put my foot down. After all, it's all about a mutual respect.

During my freelance career I've been privileged to be able do such a vast variety of things. I've hosted talks, panels, social media masterclasses, I live-stream and manage the team that brought the official Irish language translation to Among Us and I've published four books, including my memoir and I co-authored a book with Lonely Planet. I'm one of those people who can't sit still. The world excites me!

So how do I do my work well?

Simply put, I write what I know. This is something that I always consider regardless of the brief and if I don’t know it, I do a lot of research. Aside from that I have a few productivity and life tips I stick to:

  • I use a plugin called Boomerang to pause my personal inbox. What it does is send a message back to the sender telling them that I'm not looking at my emails so expect a delay. Too often people presume that we're glued to our emails!
  • Because I'm on multiple socials, I bulk schedule content. So for example, if I'm out foraging on the beach, I'll record several videos and save them to drafts to spread them out a couple of weeks. I use Postoplan to do this which has its own network of interconnected apps.
  • I meditate every night before I go to bed. It's just for 10 - 15 minutes using an app called 10 Percent Happier.
  • Every time my feet touch the floor in the morning I say: "Today is going to be a good day"

These days most of my writing and narrative work is done through my Dungeons and Dragons campaign which I’ve been a Dungeon Master for, for many, many years.

I also love D&D because it requires quick thinking and I must adapt to a very flexible narrative when the players catch me off guard and the dice misbehaves.

What bit of story in the world are you really excited about right now?

Screenshot of two characters from Disco Elysium sitting on a swing set.
Screenshot from my playthrough of Disco Elysium with Kim and your lead character.

I finally got around to playing Disco Elysium (DE) and what a trip that was. I can’t stop thinking about it and how immaculate the writing was. It was complex and at a certain point you just had to simply go with it. Some games offer choices which end up being false choices but with DE, everything seemed to have some sort of impact on the story.

It was a fascinating, brilliant, and utterly chaotic journey. I’m itching to replay it already and for those who have, you will definitely get me when I say that Kim is my bestie and I would do anything for him!

What was the best advice about writing you ever had?

Many moons ago, I interned at a news organisation called Storyful. It was there that I got to work with a brilliant journalist called Áine Kerr (the Co-Founder and COO Kinzen) and it was she who imparted to me some key words of advice about writing:

“Write as if you’re talking to a friend”

At the time, I’ll be honest, I didn’t get it but over the years as I’ve honed my craft it’s made more sense. Being convoluted is not useful nor is it inspiring. This isn’t to say that everything has to be written simply, it just means it should make sense.

Can you tell us something unexpected thing about yourself?

I don’t think it’s CV worthy, but I can speed list all 32 counties in Ireland in the Irish language and under 11 seconds. I learned it in Primary School and the ability never left me since.

Where can we find you?

I’m all over the shop! You can find me on Twitter. Check out my good news only website and I stream in both Irish and English over on Twitch. Míle baochas!

Executive Assistant to the CEO at Die Gute Fabrik.
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