What more could a writer wish for than to spend an afternoon in the presence of one of Northern Ireland’s top authors and playwrights? Add in a hot pot of tea, a chocolate muffin and a crowd of fellow scribes all cosied together in the Verbal Arts Centre on a snowy afternoon and you have (for this writer anyway) the perfect ingredients for whiling away a few hours.
The first of what will be weekly installments of my writing life (or thoughts on it anyway) begins with a reminiscence of Saturday afternoon just past, when I enjoyed a book reading at Cafe Blooms in Derry by Lucy Caldwell.
Lucy’s latest book – ‘All the Beggars Riding’ – has been selected as this year’s One City One Book Belfast 2013, which means that in theory, everyone in Belfast (and beyond if they so wish) will be settling down to devour it in May. The idea behind all of this is to encourage reading and promote the creativity of Belfast and I have to say, the idea of everyone reading the same book simultaneously is certainly an interesting one… although, I may just have given in and read it before May comes around.
Anyway, back to the book reading, where Lucy imparted some literary words of wisdom after reading aloud a short extract from her new novel. For all my interest in these sort of events, it was actually only the second reading I’ve been to in the space of a year, the other taking place at Flowerfield Arts Centre in Portstewart in 2012 with Paul Charles.
Lucy’s novel looks at the repercussions arising after a Belfast plastic surgeon develops two separate lives – with a family in Belfast and another in London – something which apparently is not such a rare occurrence as one might have thought… The idea of living like this is to many people, a deeply disturbing one, but on a much less serious level, everyone, I think, lives layered lives. How I act with family differs from how I act with colleagues, with friends and with strangers – everyone is a slightly different person to everyone else, this just takes it a giant leap further.
Without getting too deep though, I for one am looking forward to reading the book and will post something here on it when I’m done!
Asking the bulk of questions to Lucy at Saturday’s reading was Marie-Louise Muir from the BBC’s Arts Extra show, with queries also taken from the floor. A couple of the main points from this are as follows. (Most writers will no doubt have heard them before but it always helps to hear a few words of advice, especially when you need a little inspiration and encouragement…)
- Persevere – when the words won’t come, re-type a previous page of your writing and it might just inspire you where to go next, or, at the very least, will keep the story fresh in your head.
- Paris Review – a great recommendation from Lucy was to read author interviews published by the Paris Review for writing tips and advice.
- Outside input – getting someone trusted to give you impartial feedback on your writing is important, be it an agent, friend or writing group member.These are just a few pieces of advice from the day which I think are worth sharing. I myself will be acting on some of this on March 10, when I will meet with Portstewart author Bernie McGill to hear feedback on the first 2,000 words of my debut children’s novel… The outcome, no matter what, will be dissected here! In the interim, a meet-up with a couple of local writer friends will no doubt keep the inspiration coming, which in my case, revolves around honing my story, approaching agents and hoping for the best!