Tag Archives: creative writing workshops

Autumnal events

Book launch

dfw-cs-pp-cover-smallAs I write this it’s just a few days until the official launch of Phantom Phantasia, so hopefully in my next blog post I’ll have some lovely pics from that to show you!

There’s been a lot more to organise for this book launch as I was keen to make it into a more social event/book party than previously, and that means sorting out refreshments and lots of other bits and bobs. It’s all the little details that you might not really notice, or that you take for granted on the night, which actually, take a bit of time to create!

Anyway, if you’re coming along, then you can expect a Q&A as I chat with Denis McNeill (formerly of Q Radio) and then I’ll do a reading from the book and the audience can ask me questions and whatnot. coastal zine

After that, it’ll be book signing and mingling  as with any party – with some little treats thrown into the mix… If you’d like to come along and celebrate launching PP into the world, then please do!

PP scrollsEntry is of course free and the more the merrier. The kids will also enjoy exploring the Coastal Zone itself, as it’s full of interesting aquatic objects and displays.

As well as my online invites to the launch, I sent out some written invitations to family members and then got creative with some messages in bottles, which I hide along the North Coast at the weekend. Girls PP

One woman posted this lovely pic (right) on Facebook after finding a bottle, so I’m very happy that it worked! 🙂 And the Coleraine Chronicle also printed an article about the launch, which is always much appreciated (see below).

Free Magical Masquerade e-book

dfw-cs-mm-cover-ebookTo celebrate the pending launch for Phantom Phantasia, book one – Magical Masquerade – is currently free to download as an e-book for Kindle, so if you want to grab a copy of that, please do! You can download it here: https://amzn.to/2DGhjmO

The offer is running until Wednesday noon (UK time), so there’s still a few days left to get your hands on this. If you read it, let me know what you think!

Love is Blind ARC

Speaking of books, I was excited to receive an ARC of William Boyd’s latest novel, Love is Blind, earlier in the month from Viking Books UK. The book was published on September 20, so you can get a copy of that now if you’re interested. I’m a big Boyd fan, after being introduced to his work by a friend a few years ago. I particularly enjoy the novels where he tracks a character’s entire life (e.g. Any Human Heart, The New Confessions, Sweet Caress) and, while this one didn’t quite do that, it did follow a sizeable chunk of Brodie, the protagonist’s life. WB book

This was a bit of a slow-burner of a book and centred on Brodie’s obsessive love for a singer called Lika Blum, taking us around the world as Brodie worked as a piano tuner, first for a company and then exclusively for an Irish pianist. I enjoy Boyd’s richness of writing, as he spends two years before writing his books just researching everything. Personally, I always learn something from his work – this time around it was mostly to do with pianos – and as a reader, you trust that what he is telling you about places is how it was at that time. I enjoyed this book and am glad to add it to my Boyd collection. 🙂

GC Book Club

hill houseOnto last month’s Giant’s Causeway Book Club then! In September we read Yoko Ogawa’s collection of short stories – Revenge – and I’m happy to say that it went down very well with the group! Only one reader didn’t like it (and didn’t finish it) – saying that it was a bit too dark for her, while one other also thought it was fairly dark and creepy… Quite a few of the rest of us, however, thought it wasn’t as dark as we’d expected, but we all agreed that it was well-written, engaging in its style of linking the stories together, and yes, was a bit weird. But then, aren’t most good short stories ‘a bit weird’? 🙂

Our overall book club rating was a healthy 7/10, which is the highest score yet! For October, we’ve decided to read a spooky book for Hallowe’en and have opted for The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson…

Creative writing workshopscreative writing

From books to the writing of! I’m looking forward to delivering a series of creative writing workshops for Antrim & Newtownabbey Borough Council, beginning October 2 at Crumlin Leisure Centre. These will run for eight weeks and will hopefully inspire those who come along and get their creative juices flowing! You can book via council – Tel: 028 9445 2733.

I’m also doing a workshop at the Irish Writers’ Centre on marketing for self-published authors on Saturday, October 13. You can sign up for that here: https://bit.ly/2Oph9UV

Craft Day at the Causeway

Meanwhile, on October 6, the Giant’s Causeway Visitor’s Centre is hosting a craft day, where members of the public can come along and meet some of the crafters and creators whose work is sold at the centre. I’ll be heading to this for a short while in the morning to sign copies of Magical Masquerade, so if you’re in the area, call in!Chronicle PP

And finally…

Once the busyness of the PP launch is over, I intend to start thinking about my next writing project – though as yet, I’m not quite sure what form this will take. MM and PP is being left as a duology, so Felicity and her friends are being set aside for now. I do have a previously half-written manuscript which was abandoned when I decided to publish MM a few years ago, so perhaps I’ll finish that. Or maybe I’ll start something completely new… We will see!

More as I have it. 🙂


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JHISS Poetry Workshop with Eoghan Walls

John Hewitt masthead

Having missed posting last week and, given the wealth of infomation I have to convey from the JHISS, today brings the second blog of the week and I have decided to summarise my creative writing workshop experience at the Summer School!eoghanphoto-300x224

As a bursary holder at the JHISS, I had the option of attending one of a variety of classes and was pleased to be allocated a poetry workshop with former Derry man Eoghan Walls. As well as writing great poetry, Eoghan also teaches at the Open University and of course, participates in readings and literary festivals. (One of his OU students very handily posted this interview with the man himself.)

After the introductions were over on day one of our workshop experience, Eoghan dispensed some advice on the art of poetry writing:

“It must be the language of the body,” he said. “You  must grab them (readers) by the senses and punch them in the soul… The only way to reach abstracts is through the visceral.”JHISS week 009JHISS week 011

With that said, we were given 10 minutes to wander around Armagh Market Place on a lovely sunny day and simply look. When we returned we subsequently wrote what we had witnessed and then swapped our writing with each other, picking a couple of stand-out lines from our partner’s work to read to the group afterwards. My walk took me up out of the sticky heat of the Market Place to the cathedral overlooking the city and the shady gardens around it – a welcome respite from the strong sun and suitable inspiration for my poem-in-progress (which I’m now tweaking).JHISS week 015

The lines from my writing which were picked out included, ‘a corridor of flowers heralds the way…’ and ‘little boxed off quarters of calm’, which were then incorporated into our very own group poem, ‘The Marketplace’, which saw each person read the two lines chosen from their writing to create one full poem. I have to say – it read well! I’ve included some pictures here of my walk through the cathedral gardens… the poem may follow at a later stage!

Throughout the workshops, we had the opportunity to bring in our own poems and ‘workshop’ them together, that is, give constructive feedback to each other and my offering was one previously published on this blog as part of National Poetry Writing Month – formerly entitled ‘Toast’, now re-titled as ‘Variations of Brown’ (a work in progress!) I will again, post the revised poem at a later date (otherwise this blog post will be huge!) It was this poem I was asked to read, along with others from the workshop, on the final day of the Summer School, but unfortunately I had to forgo this in favour of a family wedding, which was not to be missed!

On the subject of critiquing, Eoghan advised:

– Use positive statements first (definitely helps!), picking out any particular elements you liked

– Give three areas where you think improvements could be made

– Omit the personal – keep it on the poetry!

“In poetry, everything makes a statement,” he said. (e.g. punctuation) “Inconsistency with punctuation is risky!”

As for what poetry actually is…

“A poem is something where the sentence ends before it normally should. It has a different form of punctuation.

Our next task was to consider the poem ‘Terezin‘ by Michael Longley –

‘No room has ever been as silent as the room

‘where hundreds of violins are hung in unison.’

I will leave this open for those who know/don’t know the poem to consider. I didn’t immediately know what it referred to, but still took from it the sense of loss. The point being here also, that the title of a poem can be very powerful and should be chosen with as much care as the actual words within it. A title can carry weight and levitas and tell a lot about your poem without requiring the poet to include lengthy explanations in the piece itself.

We also looked at the poems ‘Seeing Fresh’ and ‘The Day Lady Died’ as examples of how to structure poetry and of course – LINE ENDINGS! For example, ‘glistening torsos sandwiches’ doesn’t look as if it should go together but in the first poem it does – it makes sense within the writing and how the lines are structured subsequently packs an extra punch to the reader. Again, the titles convey additional meaning without having to refer to specifics.

Poetry is ‘language punching you in the soul’ and requires, said Eoghan, the same components as a painting: a foreground, background and between the two – a surprise.

This is again, just a glimpse into my personal workshop experience at the JHISS and I came away from it with increased confidence in my poetry writing, more knowledge on form and content and with some useful advice on titling work and line endings! Indeed, another poem we studied was ’13 Ways of Looking at Line Endings’ (original title insert ‘a blackbird’, by Wallace Stevens!) We were tasked with deciding where the poet had inserted the original line endings, which was a good way to focus in on this aspect of poetry writing.JHISS week 024

Amongst those at the workshop, I made some good friends – including Sinead Coll (pictured above beside Ben Simmons and Annie, from another workshop). I should also note here that, given that I had blogged before I went to the JHISS about the poet James Simmons and looking up his work, I didn’t twig until I came home that I’d been sitting beside his son for most of the week…

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