Tag Archives: Poetry

Hallowe’en happenings…

This spooky season has brought with it a fair few surprises and treats (thankfully, not too many tricks!), the first being that I’ve gone and launched myself on YouTube as a BookTuber! (Of sorts…)

I explain it all in the video (which, yes, was done on Movie Maker and could be better quality but I’ll get to that later. For now, it’s just about trying something new and getting the content out there.) but essentially, I discovered BookTubing earlier this year and have been following a few channels since then. I enjoy the book recommendations and the general relaxed fun and good spirit of it all, so I decided I wanted to give it a go myself.

The end result is this: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCOkAIMwEnXrX4j5FieCdePQ/videos

(Check it out if you can; like and subscribe as you wish!)

SBOOKY Hallowe’en Festival 2017 

St Joseph's College Derry

St Joseph’s College pupils.

As well as my BookTubing efforts, October also saw me deliver five creative writing workshops as part of the SBOOKY Hallowe’en Festival in Derry – a book-themed festival aimed at getting kids reading and writing, which I really enjoyed. There are more photos over on my author FB page (link to the right!), and details on the schools I visited (Oakgrove Integrated Primary School, St Columba’s PS, Sacred Heart PS, St Joseph’s College and a group of kids who are part of the Verbal Arts Centre’s Reading Rooms project).

The festival was organised by the Verbal Arts Centre in Derry and extended into the Hallowe’en weekend, with events taking place in the city’s Easons store and throughout Foyleside Shopping Centre.

It was a bit of a baptism by fire for me in one way, delivering so many workshops in a short space of time (and asked to do so just the week before), but I really enjoyed meeting all the pupils and was very impressed with their reading and the stories and poems they produced in the workshops.

Arts Council Northern Ireland AwardPrint

With the SBOOKY Festival just over (for me anyway!), some more good news then arrived in the form of a letter of offer from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland for a General Art Award. Supported by The National Lottery through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, I’ll use the award funding to draft my second novel (the follow-up to MM) and to create a support structure for Magical Masquerade.

Some of my fellow Women Aloud NI writers also received awards through the scheme, so it was great news all round!

Off to Dublin Book Festival 

dfw-cs-mm-cover-3d-nologoIn between all of this, the Dublin Book Festival bookshop, which is run by The Gutter Bookshop, contacted me to say they want to stock copies of MM during the festival, so I’m hot-footing it down there tomorrow to deliver said books and hopefully also to have a wee coffee at the recently refurbished Bewley’s Grafton Street Coffee Shop, as I always call in when I’m in town and I haven’t been there since it reopened. 🙂

My own DBF event takes place in Portstewart next Friday, so it’s wonderful to have my book included in the official festival bookshop while the rest of the events are going on in Dublin itself. Hopefully they will all find a new home while they’re there!

Spooky short (very short!) story for DBF

Some of the DBF writers, including myself, also wrote some spooky stories for Hallowe’en, which are now up on the DBF website here: http://www.dublinbookfestival.com/category/news/welcome-2015/spooky-tales-by-irish-writers/

Short story on Lagan Online

Lagan Online also published one of my short stories here last month: http://laganonline.co/new-writing-claire-savage-field-mice/

Bodies, Belonging and Borders…FullSizeRender (25)

A cross-border reading tour funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Bodies, Belonging and Borders features two of my fellow Women Alouders NI, who have both recently been published by Doire Press – Kelly Creighton with her book of short stories, Bank Holiday Hurricane, and Emma McKervey with her debut poetry collection, The Rag Tree Speaks.

I’ve already read Kelly’s book, which I thoroughly enjoyed – it’s a really gritty collection filled with beautiful language and straight-talking stories, with some interweaving between characters across the book. I’m just currently reading Emma’s poetry collection, which I’m also loving – so stay tuned for more on that! FullSizeRender (24)

Both Kelly and Emma will be appearing at Waterstones Coleraine on Saturday, November 18 at 2pm (and admission is FREE!), so I’ll definitely be along to that and will no doubt blog (and maybe also vlog…)about it. In the meantime, if you’re in the area, do come along. 🙂

I think that’s everything for now… With the Arts Council NI’s National Lottery grant I will definitely be getting stuck into writing book number two from hereon in, so I’ll be doing updates about that, and no doubt there’ll be other stuff along the way as well!

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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Snippets…

It’s been a busy couple of weeks on the writing front, both with book things and poetry. In the past few days I enjoyed reading some of my own poems (in my first poetry slam!), along with a Seamus Heaney one, at an event in Bellaghy which celebrated 50 years of Heaney’s Death of a Naturalist collection, and also his work in general. Held at Bellaghy Bawn and organised by the Poetry House, the day-long event brought together poets and artists, musicians and chefs, with something for everyone to enjoy.

Bellaghy reading

Reading ‘Blackberry Picking’ by Seamus Heaney at Bellaghy Bawn .

 

Earlier in the week, I was also delighted to discover that one of my poems had been selected in the Fourth Annual Bangor Poetry Competition. It’s now hanging (handwritten and framed) in Blackberry Path Art Studios in Bangor, after I dropped it off yesterday morning, and will be exhibited there for two weeks following the official launch event this Friday evening. All of the poems will be subjected to a public vote to decide the winner, who will then read their work at the upcoming Aspects Festival.

As for the manuscript… my self-publishing journey has definitely begun, as I did yet more editing of the book over the past couple of weeks (I have no idea what number I’m on in edits at this stage… I just know it’s been enough that I’ve lost count!) and I found myself some beta readers, including a few ‘age-appropriate’ ones. (Gulp). So, we’ll see what the kids have to say about it all – and I know they’ll be honest (as kids always are!) and won’t spare my feelings, so fingers are firmly crossed…elf-478330_1280

I delayed emailing about copy-editing and cover design in the interim, as I wanted to get the beta readers sorted first, but did make contact with a few people before the weekend, as I know that most of these guys are unlikely to just be able to take you on as soon as you email them. You need to assume it could be a few months and indeed, the editor won’t be free until November and the cover designer October, so that’s why we plan ahead!

This is no rush job though… there’s still lots to be done and, all being well, I’m aiming for publication in spring 2017. However, we’ll see what happens. No-one knows how long the editing process will take and if it’s going to be done, then it’s going to be done right.

News as I have it… 🙂

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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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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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Distilling words

‘Poetry is the breath and finer spirit of all knowledge; it is the impassioned expression which is in the countenance of all science.’ Wordsworth.

I’m not sure if I’ve shared this quote before but whether I have or not, it’s worth sharing again. Poetry is enjoying renewed popularity (depending on who you talk to anyway), and I for one think that it will always endure because it is a form of expression used by many when all other forms fail.dandelion-463928_1280

It seeks to represent a myriad of emotions and ideas by stripping back our language and refining it for maximum impact – putting on paper the very essence of our thoughts. What remains is writing that’s distilled down to the bare essentials; which is not to say the language isn’t rich or even complex in form but rather, that all other noise is muted and we’re invited to take float away with the words, wherever they take us…

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Notebooks and novellas

photo (2)On a day when the wind is gusting round the house and the rain is making the coals sizzle in the hearth, there’s nothing better than seeking refuge on the sofa with a stack of books. It is November now after all, and up here on the north coast of Ireland it does get rather blustery! Knowing I have time on a Sunday to do my own writing and read for more than a few snatched minutes makes up for all the missed moments during the week, when work and other commitments consume, although every week is different of course.

Today, I edited and re-wrote elements of two of my recent childhood-inspired poems, as well as writing a new one, so I have my selection for submitting to the CAP poetry anthology judges later this month. More refining may follow, but the skeletons are now in place.

I also immersed myself in John Connolly’s Night Music: Nocturnes Volume 2 – a wonderfully creepy tome filled with bookish novellas and short stories, which is just perfect to read on a day like today. Unlike some other supposedly chilling stories which I’ve read over the years without so much as a shiver down the spine, Connolly’s haunting tales always deliver, so I’m savouring this book while I can. Hopefully some of his skill will rub off in my own writing… There’s no harm in hoping. 🙂books-20167_1280

Speaking of my own stories, I’m very pleased to say that one of these will be published in the next edition of a magazine which champions new writing over here in Northern Ireland – SHIFT Lit – Derry – so I’ll be picking up my copy of that this weekend. It’s one I wrote a few years ago, when I began writing again in earnest. My short stories are usually a minimum of 2,000 words and the requirement for the magazine was around the 1,300 word mark, so to me it’s not quite flash fiction, but somewhere thereabouts. The story was one I’d always quite liked but never done anything with, and it was also around 1,500 words, so I edited it and tightened it up and was therefore very happy to hear it had found a suitable home.

I’ll also be dropping into a double book launch next weekend, as Sam Burnside reveals his latest poetry collection and children’s book, so more will follow on that!

Anyway, that’s my writing story this week… 🙂

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Unlocking the poetic form

heart-773140_1280Mid last week, I went along to a poetry workshop aimed at facilitating us north coast writers in producing a new poetic work for submission to the 2016 CAP poetry anthology.

This is an anthology published yearly by the Community Arts Partnership in Northern Ireland, and I’ve been lucky enough to have featured in the last two editions. Which sort of puts on the pressure in making it a hattrick!

However, it gives one something to aim for, so there’s nothing wrong with that.

This time around, the theme for the anthology is loosely based on connections, so it’s a wide spec, which I think is their aim – it could inspire all types of poems. The question is – what to write? background-936710_1920The workshop I attended in Ballycastle (where I joined some of the wordsmiths from the Ballycastle Writer’s Group!), was led by Georgia Wilder, who chatted to us about poetic form, including the ‘found form’ as well as things like villanelles, sonnets and the like. As I usually tend to write in free verse, I enjoyed going into all of this, although I think writing in form does run the risk of distorting what you want to write sometimes, in order to make it fit the style.

However, I’m now suitably re-armed with thoughts on the poetic foot, meter and scansion, so all that’s left is to have a go at writing something new and exciting… or possibly editing one of those wee poems I recently wrote while under the influence of Plath and Hughes. We’ll see what happens. 🙂

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Meandering on…

Following on from last week’s flurry of poetic activity, I’ll admit, I haven’t been quite as proactive this week, although I did manage to pen four more poems and did a little bit of prose writing. I also managed to find Ted Hughes’ Birthday Letters in my local second-hand bookstore on Saturday (along with a few great books from some Irish writers, including Edna O’Brien and Colum McCann!).

photo (3)I really need another bookcase…

There are so many great books, stories and poems out there already that it seems sometimes futile to be attempting to add to their number, but then, this is why it’s so important to mix contemporary writing with what has gone before when reading. The oldies are great, but new writers shouldn’t be forgotten or ignored, as they’re the next link on the literary chain. However, on the other hand, modern writers shouldn’t, I think, be consumed without any enjoyment of their predecessors as well. It’s a balancing act, as I really believe the best reading experience is to have a blend of both. You can’t read everything in your lifetime but, well, you can try!

As for me – I’m currently in somewhat of a ‘what’s gone before’ phase, reading the likes of Hughes and Edna O’Brien and also just now, a book from the 80s by Polly Devlin, although I’m also reading the latest short story collection from Tramp Press and have got a few other new novels waiting on the sidelines. With books, as you can see, I have no issue with simultaneous reading!

Meanwhile, my own writing tootles along somewhere in between all of this, being both inspired and frightened off after reading all of these literary greats… 🙂

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