Tag Archives: John Hewitt Summer School

‘Speaking Fluent Human’

Having finally completed the tedious submission process for my novel, the last week and a half has been spent busily covering various editions at the newspaper where I work, so next week’s imminent journey to Armagh for the 26th John Hewitt Summer School is now even more eagerly anticipated!jhiss

Amongst those who will be speaking at the Summer School is the Baroness Shirley Williams, along with lunchtime readings from Sally Vickers, Gavin Corbett, Pat McCabe, Deirdre Madden and Anne Enright. There will also be poetry readings from the likes of Simon Armitage, Medbh McGuckin, Penelope Shuttle, James Byrne and Pat Boran, amongst others, so there will certainly be plenty to get to grips with throughout the course of the week. Add to this a mixture of drama performances and music, as well as three exhibitions and the launch of John Hewitt’s autobiography, ‘A North Light Twenty-Five Years in a Municipal Art Gallery’ and you have all the right ingredients for the perfect literary getaway…

I also hope to enjoy one of the creative writing workshops on offer, which will be run by several writers, including Carlo Gebler, James Byrne, Eoghan Walls, Nessa O’Mahony, Heather Richardson, Kimberley Lynne and Stuart Neville. As a JHSS bursary recipient I have the option of attending a course led by one of these tutors and I’m sure that whichever one I end up in will be suitably enlightening!

The Summer School has actually come at a good time for me, as I am currently in the ‘in-between’ stage of having written one book and poised to start the second. I have a good idea of how it’s going to go and have already been making notes about it, but I think that ‘time out’ is definitely needed before launching straight into writing another all-comsuming manuscript.

That said, I’ve been thinking back to what kick-started a lot of my more recent writing activities – the creative writing class I attended at Flowerfield Arts Centre in Portstewart last winter. It certainly spurred me on to be more proactive in pursuing my writing dream and helped instill confidence in going to more writing classes and events. It also inspired me to begin a blog, after I met up with a fellow writer from the class and since I therefore never had the opportunity to include the details of what we did, I shall begin now…

The course was led by Damian Gorman – who I have mentioned before on this blog – and it was entitled ‘Speaking Fluent Human’… the focus being on how writers can ‘carry to other people the felt observations of what we feel’.

We began by putting onto paper a few lines about ‘My Writing Life’, before going on to look at some Principles of Writing:

  • Begin with energy
  • Read a lot
  • Be precise
  • See things anew each time you write – ‘creative writing that walks in the company of strangers should be written from the outside in. Write it from the point of view of someone reading it. What do they see? What is it saying?’

Very good advice to begin with, I think you’ll agree.

As writers we should always remember to ‘write from the outside in’ and write for the company of strangers’…

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Words with Wilson

Hot on the heels of last week’s wonderful news regarding the John Hewitt Summer School bursary, I was delighted to receive another invitation for coffee with Ulster Scots bard, Wilson Burgess, in Coleraine. It’s always a pleasure to chat with fellow writers and, as I said before, Wilson is very encouraging in this respect!Image

Whilst I’m now more forthcoming about my writing activities on the blog (it serves its purpose well!) and whilst I now do properly call myself a writer as opposed to simply a journalist, there is still this hesitation which seems to surface when it comes to speaking about my own work, but I was flushed out of hiding by Wilson, who has found my blog and knows all about the writing!

His words of wisdom were refreshing as always – as he said to me – no-one would have known about Seamus Heaney if he didn’t put himself out there to begin with. There’s a time for squirreling oneself away and writing but equally, there must be a point when the writer takes their work out of hiding and presents it to the public, whatever the outcome. If you don’t tell people what you do, if you don’t show them…, well, they aren’t mind-readers! I know this and I think I’m getting there but of course, when your writing (and I refer here predominantly to my novel) isn’t yet published (and you don’t know if it will be!), an aura of not being properly established tends to hang around and whisper words of discouragement in your ear.

Anyway, everyone should have encouraging writer friends and non-writer friends and luckily that’s something I have, so the idea is to attempt to follow their advice!

Moving on… I was flattered to be asked to read over a short story recently written by Mr Burgess and as per usual, it was immensely enjoyable. I’ve read many of Wilson’s very funny and well written short stories before, which have been published as an ongoing series in The Big Issue and he certainly has a way with words! In my opinion, this particular story blended together beautifully the elements of lust and longing, hope (and a little despair), wistfulness, dissatisfaction and secrecy. It was both amusing and poignant and a very nice read – one to look out for!

Thanks to Wilson, I now also have another poet to look into as well – James Simmons, who established The Honest Ulsterman, an important literary journal which published work by many well known names, including Paul Muldoon.

So, after a discussion of everything from blogging, to literary festivals (Wilson is also reading at Coleraine’s Twelfth Festival this week!), short stories, networking and everything in between, it was great to catch up again so soon with Ulster Scot’s great local poet. 

I look forward imminently to the John Hewitt Summer School experience and of course, there are many  other events to follow and although I might not get to them all, I’ll certainly do my best! Here’s a flavour of what’s ahead…

Stendhal Festival of Art – August 16/17

On Home Ground Poetry Festival 2013 – September 20-22

Aspects Irish Literature Festival – September 26-30

[PS The pic is of Wilson and his Ulster Scots poetry anthologies with Patricia Saunders, Deputy Directo, and John Killen, Librarian at Belfast’s Linen Hall Library.]

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John Hewitt Summer School!

John Hewitt masthead

Following on from my jaunt to Carnlough for Cherry Smyth’s creative writing class in May, which was part of the John Hewitt Spring Festival, I decided to apply for the bursary for the 2013 John Hewitt Summer School in July. Having perused the programme for the School the past few years, I had never yet managed to get down to experience it for myself, what with clashing schedules, dog-sitting arrangements to organise and the cost etc etc.

ImageSo, it was with much delight that I read an email from the John Hewitt Society yesterday which informed me that I had been granted one of the bursaries to attend this year’s Summer School! The bursary is one of two grants made available by the Coleraine Borough Arts Committee, which I was able to apply for via Flowerfield Arts Centre in Portstewart. In fact, this year they actually made two awards available, so I await news of the second recipient!

As part of the award myself and other bursary holders will stay in Armagh for the duration of the five-day Summer School, with access granted for all workshops, talks and events. The guidelines stipulate that we should attend at least 70% of these but I don’t think that will be much of a problem, as I fully intend to make the most of the opportunity and go to everything that I can! I will also write a report of my Summer School experience afterwards and will of course be blogging about it all and writing an article or two for The Chronicle.

It will be the best kind of busyness and I look firmly forward to July 22!

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