Category Archives: Books

Christmas anthology writers!

In my last post I mentioned that myself and fellow author, Kelly Creighton, were publishing an anthology of Christmas stories this year through a new organisation we’ve set up (Sesheta). The publication is kindly being funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, which means that we can pay each writer a fee for their story and can also cover the associated publication costs. We had lots of submissions for the book – which made selecting our writers incredibly difficult – but we now have our final list of contributors!

In no particular order, the writers we chose are:Sesheta logo

  • Gary McKay
  • Angeline Adams and Remco van Straten
  • Eddy Baker
  • Stacie Davis
  • Morna Sullivan
  • Samuel Poots
  • Sharon Dempsey
  • Stuart Wilson
  • Jo Zebedee
  • Simon Maltman

There will be more details on the book over the next few months, as we prepare to launch it in November and of course, the cover will be revealed along the way too. For now, however, we’d like to congratulate the ten writers above and just say thank you again to everyone who submitted their work for us to read.

I have to say, sitting on the other side of the fence as one of the people tasked with choosing the stories for this project has been a great reminder that when you submit your work to publications and agents etc. rejection doesn’t necessarily equate ‘not good enough’. We had lots of submissions for the anthology and ten slots to fill, so you can imagine how tricky it was whittling them all down. To do this, the quality of the writing and the stories was key, but we also had to balance out the genres of the work we were including as well.

As such, it’s good to remember that it really does pay to keep submitting your writing and not to get too downhearted when you get those rejections, which we all have along the way.

Which leads me onto my own recent submissions, as I too, have been sending some work away and am currently awaiting news of rejection or acceptance for a short non-fiction piece and a couple of short stories. We shall see what happens!

Novels…

In terms of my novel-writing, I may be publishing my third middle-grade children’s novel in the coming months but, realistically, I think it will be early 2021 when that will be available. There’s a lot of other stuff going on over the next few months with various work projects and family things, but I will keep you updated as things progress. One of those other projects is a mini biography like the one I wrote last year. I find these really interesting to write as I love hearing about people’s life stories and turning their lived experiences into books they can keep for their families.

Anyway, as you may have noticed, my sub-heading here says ‘novels’ plural, which means that – yes – another new book is in the pipeline! What’s more, this one is not a children’s novel and that’s about all I’m going to say at the minute. 🙂

NB My short stories are always predominantly written for an adult audience and I did also write a manuscript or two for adults years ago (which have never seen the light of day and are still in notebooks somewhere!), so writing an adult novel is something I’ve always thought I’d do at some stage. Having written three children’s novels, however, I would like to make it clear that no, I did not write those first as a way to ‘work up to’ writing a book for adults. There’s a big misconception amongst many adult readers (and authors) that writing a children’s novel is somehow easy and not on par to writing an adult book. Not so, my friends. Writing children’s books isn’t a way of ‘warming up’ to an adult book – a novel is a novel and they are all of them hard work to write! (And let me tell you, an audience of 10 year-olds will not hold back when they read your book.)

Anyway, I just felt that needed to be said! I still intend to write more children’s fiction too, in the future. 🙂

GC book club june

 

GC Book Club

On to book club and we had our June meet-up last night, via Zoom, of course. Our book was a thriller called Distress Signals by Irish author Catherine Ryan Howard, who also kindly joined us for a chat about the book and her writing. (See pic, bottom right).

This was Catherine’s debut novel from around 2015 and we all enjoyed it, agreeing it was well-paced and kept you reading on, as a good thriller should. She has a few other books published and her latest, The Nothing Man, will be available in August, so keep your eyes peeled for that one!Eva Luna FB cover

Our July book choice is a novel in translation and is Eva Luna by Isabel Allende. I found a variety of lovely book covers for this online and the book itself sounds very interesting, so hopefully it will go down well!

Anyway, that’s all the bookish chat for now. More as I have it. 🙂

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Stories, stories, stories…

Submissions open for Christmas anthology

It’s been a few months in the planning but at last I can share the exciting news with you all that myself and fellow author, Kelly Creighton, are editing and publishing a new anthology of writing later this year. And … submissions are now open!

Sesheta logoYou can find all details about the project – and our new organisation, Sesheta – over on our website here: https://seshetawords.wordpress.com/

Essentially, when Kelly and I met for a catch-up last Christmas, we got to talking about writing (of course) and publishing, and from there we had the idea of creating what we believe just might be the first-ever Christmas anthology of short stories in Northern Ireland. It’s open for submissions from writers living in NI only, so if you’re from here and are interested, then head on over to the website!

GC Book ClubJunot Diaz

We’re still Zooming it with the GC Book Club and last month enjoyed discussing the graphic memoir, Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel, which went down rather well – and a lot better than I was anticipating for a group who have mostly never read graphic books.

Our May read is a book by an author outside of the UK and Ireland – The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz from the Dominican Republic. Our next meet-up is Thursday, May 28, so there isn’t long to go until I find out what everyone thought of it!

Bookworm pursuits

For those who are interested, I’m still going strong with my audiobook journey and am continuing to enjoy some great books in this format, alongside reading paperbacks and so on. I just finished the wonderful 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World by Elif Shafak and also recently listened to A Tiny Bit Marvellous by Dawn French and Here We Are by Graham Swift.

Anyway, that’s all for now. NI writers, get writing and submitting those festive stories, and everyone keep on reading! More as I have it. 🙂

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Creative conundrums

In the few short weeks since my last blog we seem to have journeyed into the plot of a dystopian novel which, unfortunately, has never been a favourite genre of mine … ‘Normal’ life has been put on hold – for now – across the world and books have become more important then ever to see a lot of us through the day! That being said, it can also be quite difficult to concentrate on reading sometimes, when there’s so much else vying for out attention right now and so many other things to sort out. My own reading has definitely been affected, which is why I’m now turning to books by authors that I know I love and whose writing I can safely get lost in.

Anyway, leaving aside all of the work and day-to-day shenanigans which have been affected by recent events, in terms of author stuff, there’s both good and not so good news.

Some good news: I mentioned in my last blog that I’d submitted a short story to a journal recently and I was happy to hear that it was accepted for publication. Of course, the launch for that is now off (I’m not sure if they’ll be doing an online/virtual launch) and I’m assuming the journal also won’t be published for the forseeable now either. I had also received word of some creative writing events which I was to deliver over the coming months, but again, these have now disappeared into the ether with all that’s going on.

However, an exciting project which myself and a good friend have been waiting to hear word on is still in the pipeline, so hopefully, we can share news about that soon. Of course, it too has been adversely affected by recent events, so we’re trying to iron out a few particulars. That being said, we’re hopeful it will still go ahead as planned over the coming months. More on that as I have it.

Lots of book launches have also been cancelled and one which I’d been looking forward to was Kelly Creighton’s event to release her latest crime novel, The Sleeping Season, into the world. It should have happened last Friday so if you enjoy crime fiction and would like to support her in buying the book, you can do so here: https://amzn.to/3bzujXw

GC Book ClubGC zoom pic

This month we enjoyed our first-ever online book club, taking to Zoom to discuss our classic March read – The Dead Secret by Wilkie Collins. We had a smaller gathering than normal, but as the months go on I’m sure some more might join us again (online meet-ups can seem strange but they actually work pretty well) and if not, we still have a nice number for discussion regardless. Overall, everyone seemed to enjoy it. This is regarded as one of Collins’ best works, along with The Woman in White, which he wrote next, and it was definitely suspenseful and had a cast of engaging characters. We scored it 7/10, which I think is a pretty good rating!

Fun HomeOur April read is another new genre for our book-clubbers as it’s a graphic memoir and our chosen title for this is Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. I’ve read a few graphic novels and memoirs myself and I do enjoy them, so hopefully this will go down well. I’ve heard really good things about this book (which I believe was also performed on the stage) so I think it’s a good one to read as a way of introducing the book club to this genre.

NN3

And finally, NN3 has undergone a further edit and is nearing that time when it should be flitting out to agents. The plan remains to publish it independently later in the year (all being well…) but I still want to see about sending it out, so that will be done this week. I gave myself until the end of March to email some agents so I’m now giving myself to the end of this week, as of course, that too has been pushed aside in favour of sorting out work stuff relating to you-know-what.

Anyway, I think that’s about all for now. It’s a tricky time to be a creative and I don’t think we should be putting pressure on ourselves to create more than usual right now (if you want to great, but if you don’t, also great). I for one am just trying to do as much as I’ve always done and, if I end up doing a bit more or a bit less, then that’s OK. I’m not giving myself ridiculous goals, as I wouldn’t do that ordinarily and am not going to change things now! I’m looking forward to reading some good books and getting some writing done where I can and for me, that’s enough.

Keep well. More as I have it. 🙂

 

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Words with sparkle …

Chris Packham at the NI Science FestivalCPackham

Having ended my last post with a hopeful mention of meeting naturalist, environmental campaigner, author and award-winning photographer, Chris Packham, at the NI Science Festival, I’m very happy to report that this did indeed happen! I also got my copy of his memoir, Fingers in the Sparkle Jar, signed, so that is now an even more prized possession. It’s full of poetic and very visual writing and if you haven’t yet read it, then I recommend you give it a go.

The event itself was in two parts – the first saw Chris show examples of his photography and explain how he set up the shots, giving us an insight into how his mind works, which was fascinating. The second half then focused on the global climate and environmental crisis we’re all facing, with discussion on a range of issues and how we can help practically.   sparkle jar cover

All in all, it was a great event and definitely gave everyone much to consider and hopefully, to put into action afterwards.signed

Book three edits

I’ve now completed the latest edits of Novel Number Three (NN3), which essentially means I’ve transferred all the new pages of handwritten narrative onto the computer and jig-sawed everything together into what is now a more well-rounded story. I enjoyed this way of working, which is new to me in terms of novel-writing. With my previous two books I wrote in a pretty much linear style, in that I started at the beginning and wrote straight on until the end. Of course, I added in new bits here and there in later edits, but not as much as I have with this third novel.

With this particular manuscript I first wrote a rough narrative, which I knew I wanted to return to and add bulk, so the initial draft came in at around 30,000-35,000 words. It’s now around 45,000 words, so is more novel-shaped and still has a little more wiggle room if I feel I need to expand on any further plot points. For those who don’t know, middle-grade fiction (for 8-12 year-olds) can vary from anything between 30,000 – 50,000+ words. Modern MG books tend to be a bit chunkier than when I was growing up but I always believe that your story should be as long as it needs to be, so I don’t worry too much about word count, especially at the outset when I’m just starting a new novel.

Anyway, I’ve enjoyed having a basic book structure drafted and then being able to jump back in and add new sections and characters, working them into what’s already there and bringing more flavour to the overall narrative. (Well, I hope!) It’s a little like how William Boyd writes his novels – he’s told interviewers before that he too handwrites his initial drafts, but that he doesn’t write in a linear fashion – he writes different scenes at different times and then knits them all together later.

It’s fun to experiment with different writing styles and this way has worked well for me with NN3. It may or may not be what I do for the next book (whatever that is), but for now, it’s certainly been a method I’ve enjoyed.

Anyway, the next stage is going back to edit the manuscript again, now that all the new material has been added to the typed version, and make sure it reads seamlessly and does what I want it to do…

I haven’t written very many short stories recently, but I did do a light edit of a story I wrote a few years ago and submitted that to a journal in February, so we’ll see if anything comes of that. I’ve been a bit lax on sending work out to publications these past couple of years, but it’s something I would like to do more of again.

GC Book Club March book

Onto reading, then, and I’ve read lots of great books so far this year, one of which was our February book choice for the Giant’s Causeway Book Club – the first in the Winternight Trilogy by Katherine Arden, entitled The Bear and the Nightingale. This is an historical novel set in Russia and is rich with Russian folklore, mystery and adventure. It offers a fascinating insight into medieval life and conjures up lots of great imagery with its vast, snow-filled landscapes, although it certainly doesn’t shy away from the hardships of living through a Russian winter. Beauty sits right alongside brutality in this novel and for me, it was just a really great read.

Our March selection is also historical and is a gothic classic by Wilkie Collins – The Dead Secret. He wrote this novel just before his perhaps more widely known title, The Woman in White, and I believe it contains similar themes to this, so it promises to be packed full of intrigue and seems like perfect reading for the tail-end of winter…

The Sleeping Season book launchkelly

In other bookish news, my friend and fellow author, Kelly Creighton, is launching her latest novel – and her first police procedural – on Friday, March, 27 at No Alibis Bookstore in Belfast, so if you’re a crime fiction fan, then do come along! It will also feature discussion from crime writers Simon Maltman and Sharon Dempsey, so you can look forward to an evening packed full of all things crime-related.

Kelly’s book is called The Sleeping Season and is the first in her new DI Sloane Series, featuring Belfast Detective Inspector Harriet (Harry) Sloane. You can pre-order your copy here:https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sleeping-Season-Sloane-Book-ebook/dp/B081K8QQSR/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=the+sleeping+season&qid=1583256779&sr=8-1

Bookish surprise from Savidge Reads …

My last bit of bookish news relates to an unexpected windfall from Simon over at Savidge Reads (you can find his brilliant book-related YouTube channel here).

compSimon ran a giveaway competition over on his Instagram account a little while back and I’m delighted to say that I was randomly selected as the winner of that, so I’m eagerly awaiting the postman delivering my copies of two Stacey Halls novels. The giveaway included a signed copy of her first book, The Familiars (which I’ve already read, but I borrowed it from the library, so I’m excited about having my own copy as I really enjoyed this book), along with a proof copy of her latest novel, The Foundling, complete with Simon’s annotations (he interviewed Stacey at a recent event in England).

Suffice it to say that this bookworm loves getting free books, so thanks again to Simon for organising the competition!

Anyway, that’s all for now. More as I have it. 🙂

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Winter writing

The festive season is upon us and, normally at this time of year, I’m blogging about the joys of curling up with a good book (or a notebook and pen to write) beside the fire … All of this is still relevant as we speak, but the real wintry weather isn’t yet upon us, despite it now being December, so the season feels a little out of kilter to me.christmas-tree

That being said, the fire is crackling in the evenings and today, the wind has picked up again here on the north coast so, although it might be reading 12 degrees (in December!!), I’m sure ‘winter proper’ is right around the corner…

Editing, editing, editing…

Since my last post in October (I somehow missed blogging in November!), I’ve been busy finishing off writing and editing the biography I was doing for a client and have also completed a structural edit on a fiction manuscript for another client. Now, that’s no excuse for not working on my own novel, as there’s always work on the go, but I haven’t done as much editing on that as I had planned. However, the edits are ongoing and I’m still happy with my progress on this – my Christmas ‘break’ will allow me more time to work on the book and get the first three chapters into shape for sending out next year to agents.

However… Having already published two novels independently, part of me is leaning back towards that option again, as I do like to be in control of my work! We’ll see how it goes, but at the minute, I still intend to send it out to a few people, anyway.

GC Book Club 

Since October, we’ve had both our October and November book clubs, reading The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley and One by Sarah Crossan. Of the two, One was much preferred by the group, as we felt The Loney promised more than it delivered and wasn’t really creepy enough for our Hallowe’en read! It had lots of atmosphere but the group was also dissatisfied by the ending and the various things left unanswered in the story. One, meanwhile, is a YA novel written in a poetic form and tells the story of conjoined twins, Tippi and Grace. The group was very surprised to find that they loved a YA book and, not only that, but one written in poetry, which I was very happy about!

Miss MoonshineI dislike labelling books as I do think it puts people off reading some of them. Children’s and Young Adult novels are just as suited to adult readers as those specifically labelled ‘adult fiction’ and you miss out on a lot if you don’t consider other genres. Also, lots of people don’t even consider reading poetry because of bad experiences at school, but there’s so much accessible poetry out there by modern writers and, again, you miss out on a lot by ignoring the genre. So, the lesson is… read widely and leave those preconceptions behind! 🙂

This year, we’re also meeting in December and our Christmas read is a collection of festive short stories by a group of UK authors (Authors on the Edge). The book is called Christmas at Miss Moonshine’s Emporium and I’m looking forward to getting stuck in! It’s also nice to be supporting the writers more directly, as they’ve published the book independently and, as a fellow indie author, I know that’s no mean feat!

More bookish stuff

Aside from all of that, I’ve been reading a lot of good books recently outside of book club and, I know I’m reading more when I might be writing, but the book bug has still got me at the moment and I’m sticking with it. I keep a book journal throughout the year, where I basically just note down each book read and score it out of five (I tried Goodreads but I’m a pen and paper girl and I prefer to keep my hard copy journal!), so I must tot those up and see how many I’ve read this year. I do this just for fun – I don’t set myself a reading goal, as that seems too much like giving yourself homework, even if it is nice reading homework!Santa

Maybe I’ll share my top ten reads of 2019 here on the blog. I’ll try to remember to do that amid the Christmas busyness but if I don’t, then you can keep up with all my bookish activities over on Instagram (link in the right sidebar). Re my own books (Magical Masquerade and the sequel, Phantom Phantasia), I’ve had some nice messages recently from people whose young readers have been loving these, so if you’re looking for some festive books to gift this Christmas, you can get these on Amazon/Book Depository etc. as both e-books and paperbacks. 🙂

Anyway, if I don’t blog between now and Christmas, have a great Yuletide and a happy New Year. Keep reading and writing (if writing you do) and enjoy the holidays! 🙂

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Autumn editing etc.

Novel update

Autumn is upon us at last and with it, my novel editing has begun and is indeed, ongoing. I’ve already completed round one of this on my hard copy printout but have yet to transfer the changes onto the computer. Best get on that!

In my defence, I’ve been hard at work ghost-writing a biography, which has been very interesting and a project I’ve much enjoyed, alongside all my copywriting work, but this also gives my manuscript space to breathe and allows me to approach it with fresh(ish) eyes once I get back to it. All the better for the editing.

I have, however, scribbled out a poem since my last blog and some bits of a new short story (abandoned at the moment but there to return to at some point), so the creative juices are still flowing.

LemnLemn Sissay book event

I did mean to post about this before now (!) but I very much enjoyed attending a reading and discussion event with Lemn Sissay at the Black Box in Belfast on Friday the 13th (lucky for some!), to mark the publication of his memoir, My Name is Why. Always the performer, Lemn kept the audience (it was a sell-out event, might I add) entertained with his witty asides, but also reined in the focus as necessary when discussing the harrowing accounts in his book, which explain how he grew up in care in England, despite his mother wanting him back when he was a baby …

My advice? Go read it, as it’s a powerful book and is peppered with Lemn’s beautiful poetry, which appears at the beginning of each chapter.

I got my copy of the book signed, of course, afterwards and was surprised but pleased when Lemn immediately remembered where we’d met before (at the Verbal Arts Centre in Derry) before I could even open my mouth. 🙂

Giant’s Causeway Book ClubKelly Creighton GC BookClub

I attended Lemn’s event with my friend and fellow author, Kelly Creighton, who was also our guest at the GC Book Club in September, where we discussed her novel, The Bones of It. We had a very interesting evening, with a reading from Kelly and then a Q&A session and chat. The book clubbers scored the novel afterwards, giving it a very respectable 8/10. Again, this is another one I recommend reading, if you haven’t already.

Our October book choice is The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley and we’ll be meeting a week earlier this month, as our regular spot clashes with Hallowe’en night itself and, well, the ghouls among us have things to be up to that evening! So, come along to the Causeway Hotel on Thursday, October 24 if you want to discuss this one… I haven’t started it yet myself, but plan to get stuck in this weekend after I finish my reread of the His Dark Materials trilogy (which I’m rereading ahead of the BBC 1 TV series and am very much enjoying again).

mindful-movement.jpgMindful movement 

Aside from all of that, I managed to skip away for an hour on International Mental Health Day on October 10 as the National Trust was hosting a ‘mindful movement’ session at the Causeway Hotel, led by one of our talented book clubbers, no less, Ettaline Hill. Ettaline is a Shiatsu Therapist and Qigong Teacher and she taught us some moves which I have to say definitely left me feeling more relaxed but also energised afterwards. It was a very busy week for me that week, but it was well worth taking time out, especially on that particular day.

Anyway, I think that’s my lot for now. More as I have it. 🙂

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Myth and Memory

Namita Gokhale, Jan Carson and Vayu Naidu in conversation with Paul McVeigh at JLF Belfast 2019 at the Lyric Theatre

Myth, memory and culture were the ingredients for a lively panel discussion between writers Namita Gokhale, Jan Carson and Vayu Naidu, facilitated by novelist and playwright, Paul McVeigh at this year’s Jaipur Literature Festival in Belfast.Myth and Memory

One of the JLF founders and co-directors, Gokhale has written 19 books and has worked a lot “on myth and the constant reinterpretation of myth in current India.”

Naidu, also born and raised in India, has been “very influenced by myths and mythologies” and said they’d helped her to write about history in her fiction. However, for East Belfast author, Carson, her interest in mythology was more about “making up my own myths – contemporary myths.”

Indeed, growing up, Carson was surrounded by stories from the King James Bible rather than Celtic myths, which she said made her feel a bit more disconnected from traditional mythology than her fellow panellists. She added that her reworking of myths was subsequently coloured by this particular storytelling language from her childhood.

Asked by McVeigh why she created modern myths and what they allowed her to do, Carson said her magical realism style allowed her to address topical issues in a more indirect way.

Jan

Jan Carson

“For me, Northern Ireland is a prime candidate for that,” she said. “It amazes me that we don’t have more writers here working in that field.”

She added that in a society where people have “become numbed to the status quo,” surrealist writing was a way to “stop people in their tracks” and help them take stock of things.

During the discussion, Gokhale described how India was steeped in mythology and said there were two epic myths – the Mahābhārata and the Rāmāyaṇ – which were originally told in oral form before being written. She herself has retold the Mahābhārata in Mahābhārata, The Book of Shiva.

“It’s a very vital and living topic in India,” she said. “Myths dominate and control every aspect of life [there]… There are many different levels of gods and goddesses in India – and a lot of goddesses who are goddesses in their own right.”

Naidu, meanwhile, who performs epic literature as well as being a writer, said Indians tended to “think in a kind of poetry.” She added that, living as she does now in England, she carried Indian mythology with her as a way of viewing the world.

lyric ceiling“For me, the myths are a memory for how I understand the Western world,” she said. “I won’t give up that way of thinking.”

Each of the writers shared some of their work with the audience, with extracts read by Carson and Gokhale and a special oral storytelling performance from Naidu.

Reflecting on the differences between oral storytelling and writing, she said: “The oral tradition is action-driven. When you’re writing, you’re in isolation – it’s more immersive.”

Going on to discuss memory, Carson, who also works with people who have dementia, said she’d learned that memory was something that wasn’t fixed. “As you grow and gain life experience, it changes your perspective of the past,” she said. “The memory [of things] begins to change.”

Collectively asked by McVeigh if holding onto memory too much could also prevent cultures from growing, Naidu said people could indeed get very fixed into the past. However, she added that, “collated memory can be a transformative thing.”

With Gokhale previously explaining how Hindu icon Radha is “the subject of every Bollywood film,” the event finished rather fittingly with an impromptu rendition of a Bollywood song from another festival participant.

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Foremothers: Women and Freedom

Bee Rowlatt, Lucy Caldwell and Namita Gokhale in conversation with Vayu Naidu at JLF Belfast 2019

The second event I attended at the Jaipur Literature Festival in Belfast back in June as official festival blogger involved an all-female group discussion about strong women – those foremothers who had inspired the assembled writers and also, the importance of remembering women, who are all too easily erased from history.

Foremothers

Facilitated by Vayu Naidu, she posed this initial question: “Foremothers appear in the domestic and the political. But what is this thing called a ‘foremother’?”

Namita Gokhale, who hails from the Himalayan Mountains, said she had recently been handed a matriarchal family tree going back nine generations, which is unusual, as patriarchal family trees are more common. She said that this had given her a distinct feeling of where her inner strength as a woman came from. She added later in the discussion that she had always been part of a family of four living generations and that being part of that had also helped hone her identity as a strong woman.

“We’re told Indian women are shy,” she said. “We’re not… I’m very religious and I always identified with the bad-tempered Indian goddess.” She added that she liked the mantra, ‘fear nothing’.

For Northern Irish writer, Lucy Caldwell, highlighting foremothers, particularly in the writing world, is incredibly important. Having been involved with two all-Irish female author anthologies in recent years – The Long Gaze Back and The Glass Shore – she said that she considered those part of her history. She added that her mum had always taken her to the library as a child and was another influential woman in her life. Becoming a mother herself had further helped to shape her writing.

“The thing that changed my writing life was having children,” she said. “It gave me a new fearlessness. I didn’t care what anyone thought about my writing anymore.”

For Bee Rowlatt, Mary Wollstonecraft – described as ‘the first celebrity feminist’ – has been an incredibly influential foremother and she spoke passionately about her during the discussion. Discovering Wollstonecraft’s story as a literature student, Rowlatt subsequently travelled the world with her baby son, mirroring Wollstonecraft’s own voyage back in the day and writing about the experience in her travel book, In Search of Mary.

“Mary Wollstonecraft went on a voyage – a treasure hunt – with her 11-month-old baby,” she said. “She wrote a bestseller along the way. I decided I would try this too…

“Everywhere I look in history it’s the women’s voices, the women who are vectors of information. They know what’s going on and you ignore that at your peril.”

The event closed with a Q&A from the audience, which saw some further discussion on the importance of recording women in history.

Gokhale had earlier urged everyone to “reach out to the older people in your lives and record.” She added: “It’s the lack of records in women’s lives which makes it more important to research them.”

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Patrick Gale and David Park

A few of my blogs from this year’s inaugural Jaipur Literature Festival in Belfast and Bellagy have now been published on the JLF website (see my previous blog post here for more details on this), but there’s a few from the Saturday which haven’t appeared, so I’ve decided to post them on my own blog in the meantime, starting with the first event I attended below. 🙂

Places Called Home

Patrick Gale and David Park in conversation with Elaine CanningDaviv Park1

Family is at the heart of the most recent novels by British writer, Patrick Gale (Take Nothing with You) and Belfast author, David Park (Travelling in a Strange Land). It was subsequently very much at the core of this event, facilitated by Elaine Canning at the Lyric Theatre.

With both writers brought up in very religious households, they agreed that this was something which had seeped into their work.

Park, whose upbringing was in the Baptist faith, said the first stories he ever heard were from the Bible. “The language of the Bible became cloaked around my brain,” he said.

Gale also had a “very religious upbringing.” Indeed, his father was the son and grandson of a priest and may have become one himself, said Gale, had he not married Patrick’s mother…

The event was interspersed with readings from both authors, including both their non-fiction and fiction.

David Park Me

With David Park

“When you write about yourself and your family, as Patrick has revealed, there are pain moments,” said Park. One of those ‘pain moments’ for Park was in writing about an instance at Primary School, when he told the class his father was a bread server, as he felt shame in saying ‘labourer’.

Both Park’s and Gale’s novels ultimately focus on the dynamics of family relationships and belonging. “What you’re doing is writing about interesting failures,” said Gale.

In Gale’s novel, his protagonist, Eustace, reflects on his youth while receiving treatment in hospital. His parents are going through a rocky patch and Eustace, who is dealing with the business of growing up and discovering who he is, subsequently finds solace in music. “It brings him into contact with people who become substitute family,” said Gale.

A cellist himself, Gale added that the discipline of learning to play music has helped him as a writer. Park agreed that music was a big part of his own life. “Music, for me, is a constant all day long,” he said. “It calms and motivates me.”

As Canning pointed out, place also plays a huge role in both Park and Gale’s novels and not just place, but enclosed spaces. Indeed, Park’s story plays out in a car while Gale’s sees Eustace reflecting in a confined room during his treatment.

“There’s no such thing as the perfect family,” said Park. “My book is from the father’s perspective and about how to be a father, which is a difficult thing to know. It’s about a journey from Belfast to Sunderland.”

P Gale me

With Patrick Gale

“Both books illustrate the way we carry our families in our heads,” added Gale.

The novels also explore the idea of self-love and self-protection, said Canning, who also touched upon the function of music in both narratives. The cello and classical music is integral to Eustace, said Gale, while for Park’s story, pop music takes precedence.

The event itself finished on a musical note, with Gale reading an extract about music from his novel, followed by an audience Q&A. During this, Gale was asked what book of his own he would recommend a young person to read with regards to understanding their sexuality, as he speaks a lot in schools and is often asked the same. He said Friendly Fire was what he would advise and added that it was loosely based on his own upbringing.

The final word of the day went to Park, who was asked if things had to happen in real life to be able to write about them, or of imagination was enough.Patrick Gale book

“Everything you need is in the world of the imagination,” he said. “It’s the richest gift humans have.”

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Summery artistic delights

Max Porter and Sarah Moss

Max Porter

With Max Porter

In my last blog, I chatted about a recent visit to the Seamus Heaney Homeplace in Bellaghy for JLF Belfast, which took place at the end of June. Just a couple of weeks later, I returned for another great event, this time an evening of conversation and readings with the authors Max Porter and Sarah Moss, interviewed by Sinéad Gleeson. I went along to this with friend and fellow writer, Kelly Creighton, and we both very much enjoyed listening to all the bookish chat, as well as meeting the authors afterwards.

Both Max and Sarah were very friendly and I was given a wee look at Max’s notes and doodlings in his copy of Lanny as he signed my copies of both this and Grief is the Thing with Feathers and chatted about the writing process. He told us during the discussion how Sarah often deletes entire manuscripts as well as other bits and pieces she’s written, if she’s not happy with them, while he (like myself!!) prefers to hold onto his work in case it later proves useful. Sarah added, however, that she’s a very fast writer, so it doesn’t worry her to get rid of work as she’s going along.

Sarah Moss

With Sarah Moss

Both Lanny and Ghost Wall, Sarah’s latest novel, hold a mirror up to today’s society, as Sinead Gleeson pointed out during the event. Both deliver tension in different ways but are reflective of what the world has become/is becoming and look at how (and perhaps why) people are the way they are. Def worth reading if you haven’t!

All in all, it was a really enjoyable evening and I look forward to reading The Tidal Zone, which is the book I bought by Sarah Moss at the event. I’d already read Ghost Wall from the library and have read both of Max’s books, so I await his next one!

Art in the Garden

Dali

Lady Godiva with Butterflies: Dali

Another great event I got along to at the end of June was Art in the Garden, which took place at the Culloden Estate and Spa in Belfast. (Click the highlighted text above for more info.) I just got along to it the day before it ended and was very glad I did, as there was a wealth of wonderful artwork on display both inside and out, including pieces from Salvador Dali – flown in from Switzerland – as well as Andy Warhol, Banksy, Picasso, Freud and many more.

I’m not in any way an art expert, but even I recognised most of the artists on display and I discovered lots of others too, including Northern Ireland’s Eamonn Higgins, who had a beautiful ghostly horse sculpture in the gardens outside, and Sicilian sculptor Giacinto Bosco, whose lunar sculptures were also amongst my favourites of the day.

Eamon Higgins

Legend of the Lough: Eamonn Higgins

It being Northern Ireland, the rain was pelting down as we arrived but we toured the interior exhibitions first, had a coffee and then walked around the garden exhibits in lovely sunshine! It was a great exhibition and I for one would love to do it all again.

I have so many fabulous photos from the visit, but just have room to share a couple here!

Giant’s Causeway Book Club

The last Thursday in June also saw our monthly GC Book Club meet-up, where we discussed our very short play – Peter and Alice by John Logan – which was our main book of the month, along with Jeanette Winterson’s memoir, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? We scored them 7/10 and 8/10 respectively, and I was pleased to hear how well the play had gone down, considering most of us there never really read plays. (Must rectify that!)

Giant's Causeway Book Club_one year birthdayIt was also our first birthday, so as well as tray bakes and tea/coffee, we had to have some chocs and cookies too. 🙂

Our book for July is Maggie O’Farrell’s Instructions for a Heatwave, so we’ll see how that is received on July 25!

Writing snippets…

As for my own writing, it is ongoing! I’m almost finished the first draft of my next novel… I had planned to get that tied up by the end of, erm, May, but my self-imposed deadline drifted away into June and now July. It’s simply because I just haven’t put the time in to complete it, as I’ve been distracting myself with editing a short story I’d written a while ago (which I’ve since submitted to a journal, having not sent anything off for absolutely ages), and have also written a new short story. I haven’t written short stories for a wee while, but I had something I suddenly felt compelled to write, so it’s being edited now and we’ll see what will be done with that once it’s done!

lunar

Altalena: Giacinto Bosco

(I’m still reading copiously, of course.)

Anyway, more as I have it. 🙂

 

 

 

 

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