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Celebrating women writers

International Women’s Day events

This time last week I was in the midst of celebrating International Women’s Day with a collection of women writers from the North Coast, so this week, I thought I’d reflect on how it all went.

Claire Savage, Bernie McGill and Margot McCuaig at Waterstones.

With Bernie McGill and Margot McCuaig.

 

All of the writers taking part were members of Women Aloud NI, which you will know all about if you read this blog regularly but if not, just click the linked text above. Basically, it aims to raise the profile of women writers from Northern Ireland and last week’s events are one example of how this is done.

Anyway, we gathered at Waterstones Coleraine, where the staff once again kindly hosted us for the afternoon, talking about our work and sharing it with members of the public by reading short extracts. First up was a panel discussion entitled A Sense of Place which saw myself and Portstewart author Bernie McGill discuss how the local landscape has influenced our work with Glasgow-based filmmaker and novelist, Margot McCuaig. Margot splits her time between Scotland and Rathlin Island on the North Coast, where she has her roots, and is also heavily inspired by the rugged landscape on this northerly part of Ireland.

Back (L-R) Claire Savage, Elaine Donnelly, Antoinette Bradley, Hilary McCollum, Anne McMaster, Bernie McGill, Yvonne Boyle. Front (L-R) Julie Agnew, Mandy Taggart and Jane Talbot.

Some of the read-a-thon crew.

 

It was great to have the opportunity to chat about this and to hear from Margot and Bernie about their writing processes, but of course, all too soon, our time was up and it was on to the next event – a read-a-thon filled with everything from poetry and prose, to memoir and travel writing.

If you’ve never been to a read-a-thon before then you really should give it a go as it provides a flavour of a wide variety of writing and introduces you to lots of great new work. We each read from our work for up to five minutes, with timing carefully controlled by Women Aloud NI director, Jane Talbot. It was lovely to see a healthy crowd assembled for each of the events and hopefully, some of them will have been inspired to look up one or more of the writers in attendance and check out their work.

Magical Masquerade in the library

Claire reading

Reading from MM.

Women Aloud is a great support for women writers and, as well as our public Facebook page, we also have a private members group, where we can chat about all sorts of writing-related things. And so it was that, during a chat last week about getting books stocked in our local libraries, I was reminded that my own book is available in branches throughout Northern Ireland and I’ve never really told anyone about it!

You may recall that I took part in a Dublin Book Festival event last November, which was held at Portstewart Library. Libraries NI very kindly bought in 35 copies of Magical Masquerade, which were given to a class to read before the event. Those copies were subsequently dispersed throughout the Libraries NI branches so, if you’d like to have a read, then please do call in and pick up a copy! And … if your branch doesn’t have any, then feel free to request that they get some in. 🙂

The sequel…

Which brings me onto the next instalment of Felicity’s adventures. Writing is continuing to progress with NN2 (Novel Number 2) and I’m on the downward slope to completion of the first draft. My aim is to be typing up the completed handwritten manuscript in April, which will see the first cycle of editing, as I find that once you start typing it up, you make little changes along the way. Once typed, it will then rest a while, before the serious editing, re-editing and, well, editing again commences.

The story has taken another turn recently into an area that I just hadn’t predicted and to me, this is all part of the joy of writing. I know my destination, but my pen continues to present me with fabulous new ways of getting there. (Well, I hope they’re fabulous – at the minute, I certainly think so anyway, but we will see what future editing Claire says!)

Bits and pieces

Other than that, I’m very busy reading and yes, I managed to upload a couple of BookTube videos recently, so you can watch those here if you feel so inclined: http://bit.ly/2HBVYbv 

I may also be getting involved in another exciting bookish project, but more on that if it comes to fruition… Apologies for being cryptic but I’ll let you know when I know more myself!Culture NI pic

And … if you missed it, or are interested, I interviewed NI Children’s Writing Fellow, Myra Zepf, and also wrote a little about my own path to becoming a published author for Culture NI recently, as part of its creative careers initiative for Creativity Month this March, so you can read that here: http://www.culturenorthernireland.org/features/literature/why-theres-no-right-way-becoming-writer

Think that’s all for now! 🙂

 

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‘Chasing the Cheerless Gloom’

On a cold winter’s night which followed a day of ferocious gales and stormy seas – when the wind tore through the north coast and the rest of Northern Ireland and left havoc in its wake – I really wouldn’t have been criticised for staying inside beside a nice cosy fire with my little dog. However, I had, rather ironically, booked tickets to an evening of Christmas poetry and prose at the Riverside Theatre in Coleraine entitled: ‘Chasing the Cheerless Gloom: An Antidote to Winter’ – so off I went.

Devised and directed by Tony Bareham from the theatre – a stalwart since 1977 – the evening’s performances, for me, did just what they had promised, as inside the theatre, a modest crowd gathered to celebrate the season in ye olde olden days style – and what a delight it was.

A complimentary programme was the first gift of the night – a welcome treat crammed full of a variety of the beautiful words we were to hear throughout the show. From Frost and Hardy to Longfellow, Kavanagh, Burns and Keats – there was a literary gem to please everyone.

A polished black grand piano stood off to the left of the stage, to be played expertly by musical director, composer and pianist, Bill Rodgers, whilst squat little potted plants stood proudly at the front of the stage, a large screen behind the readers and singers portraying festive images and scenes to accompany the acts.

It was an evening interspersed with readings both melancholy, high-spirited and somewhere in between the two, punctuated by renditions of classic Christmas songs – and by classic, I mean truly classic – I had never heard a single one before and they evoked perfectly the Christmases of old with their haunting melodies and lyrics.christmas-tree

Here, I must mention that, whilst each singer was to be commended for their own unique style, my personal favourite was a young woman with a snowy white pixie crop of hair who, rather fittingly, kept singing about snow in what can only be described as a beautifully ethereal and angelic voice which sent tingles down the spine.

‘Silent, and soft, and slow

Descends the snow… The troubled sky reveals

The grief it feels…’

The magic of snowy woods and forlorn landscapes was vividly evoked, the singer’s voice like song itself, as it ever so softly floated from the stage and settled gently on our ears.

I’m afraid that I couldn’t identify who was exactly who in the line up but, suffice it to say, from the bleaker festive readings, read rather magnificently by the well-spoken and wry voice of choice, to the more exuberant renditions of Christmas prose which brought to mind mummers and fiery Christmas puddings and kisses under the mistletoe, all suitably wrapped up an evening which, for one night only, brought the gloriousness of Christmases past to Coleraine. {The contributors were, however: Sally Andrew, John Donnelly, Grace Loughrey, Helen McKeown and Ken Ward singing; and Tony Bareham, Jeremy Lewis and Des Cranston reading; Tony and Bill Rodgers devising the show}.

I shall leave you with a piece by Thomas Campion:

Now Winter Nights Enlarge

Now winter nights enlarge

The number of their hours,

And clouds their storms discharge

Upon the airy towers.

Let now the chimneys blaze,

And cups o’erflow with wine;

Let well-tun’d words amaze

With harmony divine.

Now yellow waxen lights

Shall wait on honey Love,

While youthful revels, masks, and courtly sights

Sleep’s leaden spells remove.

This time doth well dispense

With lovers’ long discourse

Much speech hath some defence,

Though beauty no remorse.

All do not all things well:

Some measures comely tread,

Some knotted riddles tell,

Some poems smoothly read.

The Summer hath his joys,

And Winter his delights.

Though Love and all his pleasures are but toys,

They shorten tedious nights.

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