Category Archives: Musings on writing

WomenXborders

Last week was crammed full of bookish events and the like so, while I didn’t have time to blog at the weekend, I didn’t want to miss a week, as there’s lots to catch up on!

International Women’s Day 2017derry crowd

Rewinding back to Wednesday, which was International Women’s Day, I joined a group of my fellow women writers to mark the occasion with an evening of readings in Derry. Organised by Women Aloud NI 2017 and The Literary Ladies, there was a great turnout for this and we heard samples of all kinds of great work, including extracts from novels and poetry readings. I also gave my first public reading from Magical Masquerade (outside of the Kilross PS visit), which I think went down well!

Waterstone picWaterstones Coleraine poetry prize

Thursday saw me hotfoot it to Waterstones in Coleraine for the official photographs of the 12 prize-winning poets in their Women Aloud NI 2017 poetry competition, and I caught up with a few poets I hadn’t seen in a while, as well as meeting some new ones!

We also received gifts of three poetry books each, which was quite unexpected and a lovely surprise, as well as the one year’s free subscription to Carcanet Press’s PN review magazine.

Northern Woman magazine interviewNORTHERN WOMAN

In between all of this, Northern Woman magazine came out and this month, it includes a feature on me and Magical Masquerade, so that was great to see!

Local media support for the book has been wonderful so far, which is all very much appreciated!

International Women’s Day Readathon in Dublin

train crowdThe week’s main event however, took place on Saturday, when 50 of the Women Aloud NI crew travelled en masse to Dublin to take part in a whole host of events with women writers from the ROI. With the tireless Jane Talbot (author of The Faeire Thorn and Other Stories) at the helm, this was a day packed full of literary goodness.

Poet Anne McMaster organised the first part of the journey, which included a very well choreographed readathon on the Enterprise train from Belfast to Dublin (with breaks at the three scheduled stops along the way). Translink NI had very kindly reserved us seats in G carriage, so we were all seated together and almost everyone had volunteered to read some of their work in three-minute slots, so there was a great range of material shared.IWC

Once we arrived in Dublin, we then made our way to the Irish Writers’ Centre at Parnell Square – our hosts for the rest of the day. With everything running like a well-oiled machine, introductions were made, formalities (and health and safety stuff!) were completed and at 11.15am, as planned, the main readathon began…

… and continued without pause until 3.15pm.

Once the first writer read their three-minute’s worth of work, the next one followed and so on, until all 80 or so female writers had had their time at the podium and introduced their talents to a whole new audience. There was everything from poetry and crime writing, to romance stories, memoir, fantasy and yes, children’s fiction… It was a great example of the diversity of talent across Northern Ireland and the ROI. Writers were also invited to donate one of their books to the IWC library, so I believe we’ve now filled a good part of a shelf!SP panel (I will have to return with my own book when it’s published!)

In between all of this, myself and the other writers who were taking part in the three panel discussions, darted in and out to discuss everything from writing communities, to self-publishing and how to juggle a busy work/home life with a writing career.

I was on the self-publishing panel with Jo Zebedee, Angeline King and chair, Catherine Ryan Howard (who, yes, wrote the book on self-publishing which has helped me greatly with MM!). I really enjoyed chatting about my SP experiences to date and finding out more about Jo and Angeline’s experiences in this. We also had a few good questions at the end from audience members as well.parnell sq

The day didn’t end there however, as once the readathon and the panels were over, we had a mass reading to do in Parnell Square itself. So, we exited the IWC en masse and assembled ourselves on the steps in the square, just in front of a rather impressive statue of the Children of Lir. After a test run, we then filled the public space with the sound of more than 80 female voices – a wonderful demonstration of solidarity for women writers if ever I saw one.

Jane Talbot conducted us in this of course – first the playwrights began to read, followed by poets, literary fiction writers, children’s writers, crime writers and so on – the volume rising as each batch of writers joined in and read their work. RTE very kindly came down to cover the event, along with various other photographers, which was great. It was certainly a very moving and inspiring thing to be part of.mass reading

The official part of our Women Aloud NI Dublin day out officially ended there … but much more chat and storytelling was had at Connolly Station and en route to Belfast in the Enterprise. That, however, is possibly a tale for another day …

Magical Masquerade news!dfw-cs-mm-cover-3d-nologo

Meanwhile, as if that wasn’t enough excitement to be coping with in the week, I was finally able to upload Magical Masquerade to CreateSpace on Sunday and today … I got the go-ahead to order my proofs! So, they’ll be winging their way towards me soon and I hope to have them in my hands in a couple of weeks.

For that, I really cannot wait, but wait I must…

More as I have it. 🙂

 

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Bookish bits and bobs….

Well, it’s almost the end of the month and I’m looking forward to seeing The Ghastling journal in the flesh pretty soon, especially as they’ve had my story very beautifully illustrated by this issue’s featured artist, Anouk van der Meer. Here’s a little teaser of what that looks like!

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Aside from this, I’ve been working with my book cover designer to get things wrapped up that end, as I’m hoping to reveal what Magical Masquerade will actually look like in my next post…. Quotes are being added onto that as we speak (from professional authors that I am very excited about), so next time we meet, I fully intend to be able to show this to you at last!

I’m also working on some more promo content for MM – nothing too flashy as I’m on a very tight budget – but hopefully there’ll be a little extra something to help with the online promotion of that in the run-up to publication day. I’ll keep you updated on that one but enough for now because – spoilers. 🙂

Women Aloud NI

Things are also progressing nicely with the Women Aloud NI events in March and while full details of these will be announced in February, I can share this lovely image below, which the Irish Writers’ Centre has created to promote the Dublin event. (The link to that is here: http://irishwriterscentre.ie/collections/frontpage/products/international-womens-day-women-aloud-ni )

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I’m really looking forward to this – not least because I’ve never actually visited the Irish Writers’ Centre before (geography does tend to get in the way….) and it’s doing lots of great things for Irish writers north and south of the border.

Literary Salon

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Some of the literary salon writers.

This week I also attended the inaugural Literary Salon at the Thinking Cup Café in Belfast.

The idea of this is to connect local writers and run regular monthly events – I’m not quite sure how it’s going to proceed, as the original organiser has since moved on to pastures new, but the group seems willing to connect and create a community, so we’ll see what happens.

It was a great evening of writing chat anyway and I got to meet some new faces, which is always nice, as well as catching up with some I already know.

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With fellow writer, Erin Burnett.

 

Anyway, I think that’s my lot for now. Things are definitely progressing with the book (which is still with the copyeditor and expected back soon!), so I need to go back and reassess my list of things to do, as things ticked off are generally quickly replaced by new things hitherto forgotten or unthought of…

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Lovely artwork at the Thinking Cup Café.

Yesterday morning, for example, was spent on the chilly north coast getting some new author photos taken, so I can have them ready for marketing and promo purposes as needs be (she says hopefully!). For things like this, I’m very grateful to friends and family for pitching in and assisting. It does come in handy when you have a professional photographer in the family….

More as I have it!

 

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Autumn inspirations

With autumn comes, for me, an added compulsion to write. There’s just something about the season that’s infinitely more appealing and inspiring to me than the mugginess of summer. I like the coolness, the dark evenings, the subtle shift in ambience.

So, it was an added bonus that this autumn kicked off with a few special literary events, as the new Seamus Heaney Homeplace Centre opened its doors in Bellaghy. What better way to be inspired than visiting the home of one of our finest-ever poets and immersing oneself in both his words and those of other great writers? img_0157

Last weekend was filled with more than a few poems from the past with the launch of All Through the Night: Night Poems & Lullabies – an anthology edited by Marie Heaney – with Michael Longley and Marie herself reading from the book, along with Gerarld Dawe. Bronagh Gallagher also sang some of her songs, before putting one of the lullabies to music.

There was also Bach to Broagh, which saw Christian Poltera play on a 300-year-old Stradivarius cello, with Fiona Shaw reading Heaney’s poems in between. There was also a heck of a lot more, but these are the gems I managed to take in anyway.

Today, there’ll be Beethoven’s Opus 132 to enjoy in the atmospheric settings of St Mary’s and St Tida’s Churches in Bellaghy – the former church being where Heaney is buried. Both Heaney and TS Eliot were inspired by Beethoven’s music and we’ll hear The Play Way being read, while Eliot’s Four Quartets will also be put to music.

What could be more enchanting and inspirational than that…?fullsizerender-3

Poetry inspires all of my writing – the prose, the poems – and I think that not to read poetry, or indeed, not to read fiction as a poet, would leave my literary life just that little bit bleaker.

It’s just a few weeks until my novel will be in the hands of my editor and I know that once I get that back, there’ll be lots more to do with the manuscript. So, in the meantime, I’m thinking that some new poetry or a short story or two might just be what’s needed in the interim. My cover design for the book is also pending – all details have been sent to the designer so hopefully I’ll see how that’s taking shape soon. There’s lots to do – and lots more to be inspired by…

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Wanderings…

FullSizeRenderFive days into June and my literary wanderings (aka dog-walking) are somewhat askew, with 10pm presently the norm for our evening rambles (which are usually around 6.30/7pm), and 7am or earlier being the usual preference for the morning. I find the coolness and the quiet of these mornings and evenings much more peaceful and inspirational than the heat of the day could ever be – when visitors and weekenders and those just taking a trip outdoors after work are nowhere to be seen.

Would I walk at these times without the pup to prompt me? Hmm… I’d love to think so but I know I would not. I never did before he arrived – not in the early morning anyway! And yet, I’ve mentioned before – as others have too – of the positive effect solitary walking can have on a writer. Whether it’s flooding your head with ideas or siphoning off cluttered thoughts to clear your mind, walking is great for granting new perspectives on just about everything and opening the door to creativity – or at least pointing you in the general path towards it.

Where I often used walking in recent times for teasing out ideas to write, I’ve become more prone of late to letting it simply still my thinking. Aside from the fact that the pup is a complete scavenger and I’m always watching him in this sultry weather to make sure he doesn’t start scoffing baby rabbit carcasses in the dunes (this happens more than you’d think!) – which does tend to break up one’s train of thought – when you have too many ideas floating about, sometimes it’s just good to forget them for a while.FullSizeRender (1)

When you return, you then feel refreshed and ready to write… Well, that’s the ideal outcome anyway!

Since we last spoke, I’ve written my poem and, whether it was due to walking out those thoughts or not, I managed to pen it in one go with just a little editing afterwards, and am very happy with the result. I’ve also written a little more of my formerly stalled story and remembered that I have an unfinished short story which had been started with the view of submitting to a competition. This closes at the end of June, so I’m still within deadline and just might have to get that completed and sent off.

In the meantime, I’ll be keeping up with those refreshing summer walks. They might just do the trick…

 

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Rainbow writing

Arcadia flowers

Sometimes a little time apart can help your writing to grow…

When you’ve left a piece of writing aside for a little longer than intended, the time between the last word written and the next letter to touch the page often grows exponentially.

The rule of thumb being – the more distance there is between you and the writing, the more difficult it becomes to dive back into it and pick up the story. So, you leave it a little longer still, you think perhaps it’s too much effort to reacquaint yourself with the intricacies of the plot and eventually, the poor old story is relegated to the ‘forget about it’ pile.

I don’t like to leave anything incomplete however, so my own piece of writing in this scenario, which started off well but sort of stalled as day-to-day workload consumed my time. has now been revived. (It was a ‘in the wee small hours’ sort of a revival). Let’s just say the story has been on simmer for a while, but now the heat’s being turned right back up. Inspiration/the creative urge can strike at any time and, while I’ve written other things since I last tackled this particular tale, it seems the time is right now to pick this one back up.

I’m not quite sure where it’s headed, but I have a skeleton trail to follow, so we’ll see where it takes me…colorful-1312799_1280 Indeed, having been away from it for a while, I now feel refreshed and more excited to delve into it.

Having just finished a short story last week, I think these will perhaps take a backseat now for a little while, as I focus on this longer piece. I’m interested to see how it will all end and I think that this time around, less distraction will be good. There’s just one wee poem waiting in the wings, but it won’t detract too much from ‘the plan’.

After all – it’s good to keep a little bit of rainbow in your writing…

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Reading:writing ratio

In the past couple of weeks I’ve been doing a heck of a lot of writing – just not necessarily the fictional kind. Yes, copywriting has been consuming my time, but my own stories have not been totally neglected – I’m currently editing one I wrote a little while ago to send out to a journal and I’m determined to get more words on the page during what’s left of this weekend.Flying letters

I’m in a bit of a reading haze at the minute though. Some writers don’t like to read a lot or indeed, at all, while they’re writing – particularly books in their own genre – but what can I say, I like to multi-task. Reading feeds the imagination and to me, not to read while you write is to deny yourself literary sustenance for no good reason. Plus, it’s just good to take a break from your own words for a while with someone else’s.

I think most people are tuned in enough to stop themselves from blatantly copying work they read, and the great thing is – you just never know what ideas it might spark off for your own story…

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Inspired by…

photo 1 (2)After reflecting on the magic of writing last week, and how the extraordinary often lies in the ordinary, I thought I’d share a few things which have inspired my own writing this week.

Said inspiration refers to both writing still locked away in my thoughts for later, and also actual writing written. 🙂photo 3 (1)

My coastal walks with the pup offer a daily source of reflection of course, with the landscapes either inspiring in themselves, or simply allowing the space to think on other things.

But I also picked up the violin again over the weekend, after a fairly long break in playing, and have included this in my reflections this week, for I think music is another great way to step outside of yourself and give the mind free rein to wander and explore new ideas.photo 2 (1)

Music and words – whether we’re playing and writing, or reading and listening – can conjure up a torrent of emotions and ideas if we let them.

We can lose ourselves in both and maybe even make a few discoveries along the way…

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Making magic with words

‘I am sure there is magic in everything, only we have not sense enough to get hold of it and make it do things for us.’ – Frances Hodgson Burnett.

The extraordinary very often lies in the ordinary, if only we take the time to look and find it, though writers of course, are more likely to focus on the minor details of life than anyone else. A poem or a short story feeds off the seemingly mundane, presenting it in a way which makes the reader stop and think and re-examine. It uses language to convey new meaning, insight or wonder, shutting out the noise of the world to zone in on one particular thing.photo 1 (1)

I found myself, this weekend, at the foot of Seamus Heaney’s grave in Bellaghy. I hadn’t planned to go there and it was my first visit, but I was in the area and so it came about. Heaney of course, was highly skilled when it came to writing about the everyday in a way which enchanted readers of all ages. He found the magic in the mundane.

The spot where Heaney lies appeared fairly magical in itself on Saturday – well, as much as any plot in a graveyard can be – but on a cool spring day, with the sun dappling the ground with shadows, and the fields just visible through the branches which shelter the grave, it seemed the perfect contemplative corner for a poet to rest. photo 3

Making your readers spellbound with your words is what every writer wants, I imagine, but it can often seem an impossible task. I doubt I’ve ever achieved it myself. However, I do believe that if we take the time to pause, and look again at the world, we might just have a chance of conjuring up some of that magic in our writing after all…

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Writing refreshed

photo 2I’ve mentioned before how the dark winter evenings inspire my writing, the bleakness of the season the perfect fodder for creating ghostly tales and the like. Similarly however, I find that spring in all its brightness and abundance is equally as inspiring and that my writing often reflects this in some way. I guess I’m a seasonal writer then, and it may be something to do with the fact that I’m out and about twice a day every day with my pup, trekking around the north coast come hail, rain or shine (coincidentally, all of which featured on yesterday morning’s walk!), soaking up the scenery and letting the mind wander off into the sights and sounds around us.photo 1

Of late, my writing has been sporadic enough – it’s inevitable that when I write business content all day, journalism, professional blogs and so on, the writing that forms my hobby can sometimes be squeezed out due to sheer lack of mental energy! To write something is often better than nothing, but I like to write knowing that there’ll be a story or a poem at the end of the process that I’m happy with, and prefer not to waste my energies on writing just for writing’s sake.

Anyway, over the past week, I’ve managed to scribble out a poem and work at a short story, with an idea for another one floating around in my head. With each new season comes the opportunity to renew focus, I think, and for me, it’s as good a time as any to get back into the swing of things… 🙂

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Writing from experience

All writing is somewhat autobiographical, whether we’re aware of it at the time of creation or not. Snippets and tippets of our life experiences seep into sentences, be it a memory, something we’ve read, a conversation overheard, or a mish-mash of all of the above. We may write ‘real’ with intent or without, but undoubtedly what we’ve encountered in life will affect what it is that we write.

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I usually write fiction without overtly intending my characters or scenarios to be reflective of my own personal ‘real-life’, in that I aim not to write characters identifiable as anyone I know, or to have a situation occur where readers might link it to something which has happened to myself or to someone I know. However, I’m currently breaking with tradition in that my latest story is very obviously based around a person and their work who would be easily identifiable by a fair few people in NI. There are elements of truth woven into the fiction and the task I now have is deciding how best to present the story.

We all source our ideas from the life we see around us, but if the person in question was to read it, what would they think of it? How much does this matter to us as writers, and how much creative licence do we have when writing about people we know? I think these questions take on a more serious tone if the writing in question is dealing with sensitive or controversial issues and in this instance, my writing is not. It’s a tale inspired by the work of another creative soul and would cause no offence to them or anyone else.

The question remains however: How would you feel if you picked up a story and saw yourself – albeit a slight distortion of yourself – ensconced in a piece of fiction someone else had written…? 🙂

 

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