A Love Letter to Lincoln

For Culture Night Belfast this year, the theme was love. Women Aloud NI had two events in the programme. At the one I read at, each of the readers was given a letter and told to write a love letter to it. I got the letter L, and this is what I made of it:

Lincoln, Lincolnshire, England: the place I lived for three years in my late teens/early twenties.

When I thought about what I wanted to write about for this love letter, there were a lot of options, but I think a part of me will always come back to Lincoln.

While at university there, I learned a lot – a lot of it the hard way and absolutely none of it to do with the actual subject I was supposed to be studying.

I fell in love with the city before I had even visited, having poured over guidebooks, maps, and watched a ton of tourism videos. Then, when I did get to see the place in person, for an open day, I knew it was all going to go well from the moment I slipped on some wet leaves while walking down the big hill and ended up with brown sludge smeared all over my backside for the rest of the day as I met other prospective students as well as my future lecturers.

It was all uphill from there. Then downhill for a bit, then uphill again, before finally going up in flames. Which is to say, my experience in those three years was… mixed.  Continue reading

10 Writers I Look Up To

It seems to me that, in most cases, the people we admire and aim to emulate often have no idea how well they’re thought of. Particularly, I think it’s true of women. We often don’t know our worth, and how would we when no one really talks about their inspirations?

I’m here to change that. Because I know that, on the occasions people have given me encouragement and/or praise, it makes a world of difference. It matters because those people you think are so great have just as much imposter syndrome as the rest of us. Sometimes more, if they’re successful.

It can be easy to think that there’s no need to tell someone with awards coming out their ears how their work impacted you – because surely they should already know, and doesn’t it go without saying?

Dear reader, say it. Always tell your heroes how you feel, just in case they’re not feeling so heroic.

I’ve been thinking some more about the specific people I really respect in terms of writing. This is in addition to Colin Dardis and Anna Sheehan, who I have previously recommended on this blog, and in a similar vein to a post I wrote for ‘Women Writers, Women’s Books’ a long time ago.

My list is as follows:

Jen Campbell

I found Jen through her YouTube channel and have been falling in love with her words ever since as she continues to bring out wonderful book after wonderful book – short stories, bookish non-fiction, poetry, and children’s books.

Malorie Blackman

When I started to read as an adult, Malorie’s books were the first I picked up. No matter than most of her writing is targetted at under eighteens. I actually have a picture book by her that I tresure.

Claire Savage

Claire impresses me on multiple fronts as she turns her hand to poetry, copywriting, journalism, and books for children and is fantastic at all of them.

Continue reading

A Women Aloud NI Appreciation Post

I’m nearing the end of my series of posts about the John Hewitt International Summer School but, before I truly give it rest, it would be remiss of me not to give a special shout-out to the members of Women Aloud NI I spent my week with.

Of course there were fantastic people in attendance not of our number and yes I’d met many of my fellow WANI women before, but getting to know these particular women better was a real highlight for me.

I’m not a particularly social person, usually liking to keep my own company and spend my time behind either books or computer screens, but the company and conversations during my time in Armagh were really precious to me; maybe more-so because I’m naturally introverted but mostly, I think, because these women are brilliant – both individually and as a group.

I’m nervous to list them lest I accidentally leave anyone out but, really, they deserve their own individual praise. So, thank you Gaynor, Angeline, Karen, Byddi, Annie, Trish, Sarah, Jo, and Yvonne for being part of such a short but valuable time in my life. I trust it was just as good for you.

Birdsong (a Poem)

This time last year, after our main events for International Women’s Day, the Women Aloud NI crew went cross-border the following Saturday to do a day-long event there too.

Tomorrow, we’re going to do it all again.

So I thought I would share the poem I wrote for the event – I began it as I waited for the bus that would take me to the train that would take me to Dublin last year, and I finished it just now.

At the time, someone suggested we wear pin badges of birds so we could identify each other, seeing as most of us had only ever met online to that point, but I’m happy to report there’s no need for such an identifier this year, as we’re all familiar faces now.

Birdsong

Bright as shining pins,
we paraded through the Dublin streets;
Pins working double time
to keep up with the rest of the flock.

Then, at the roost, we gathered;
more of us – a murmuration.
Silence fell, we opened our beaks,
and sang.

March Events

I’ve said elsewhere that March is set to be a busy month for me. It got off to a slower start than intended, with my first lot of appointments called off or postponed because of the storm at the weekend, but things are back in full swing now. Here’s the up to date list of what’s happening:

This Thursday (the 8th of March) is International Women’s Day and, as such, Women Aloud NI are gathering again across the country for a series of readings. There are two in Belfast, one in the afternoon and one in the evening. I’ll be reading at the evening event – 7 to 9pm – at Easons bookstore, Donegall Place. It’s a free event, and you don’t need to be a woman to attend.

Then, on Saturday, the Women Aloud crew are heading to Dublin, where we’ll be engaging in a readathon at the Irish Writers’ Centre alongside writers from the south. Because there will be so many of us, it unfortunately has to be a closed event – no other people will be able to fit in the building! But, afterwards (at 3.30pm), we’ll be gathering in Parnell Square where there will be a public mass reading (as in, we will all read en masse). It’s really a sight to behold.

Later in the month, on March 22nd, there’s a poetry showcase in at Waterstones Belfast followed by an open-mic session where anyone can come and read. I’m one of the eight poets being showcased (the rest are in the image, above). Kick off is at 6.30pm.

I hope to see you there!

December Update: News, Events, and 2018 Plans

I’m sure I’m not alone in having a lot happening at the moment – December seems to be an ultra crazy month for most people. But, aside from Christmas, there are three biggish things in my life right now, and I’m here to tell you about them.

New Job

Starting in January, I will be teaching a class! With actual students!!

The class is Social Media for Creatives: How to Build & Maintain an Online Platform for you & your work, and the initial run will be two hours a week for ten weeks but, if it goes well, I might get to run the class again.

Women Aloud NI 2018

Women Aloud have just announced their programme for International Women’s Day 2018, and I’m taking part. As well as reading at events in Belfast and Dublin, I’ve been put in charge of coordinating this year’s cross-border in-train recital.

Novel Update

The novel I rewrote during NaNoWriMo last month now has a new title, and I have two sequels planned as well.

Those of you who follow me on Patreon will be able to see the details I have already released there but, for everyone else, I have added a specific page here on my website where you can keep up to date with how things are going. (Spoiler alert: they’re going well so far. I am so excited!)

Aloud All This Week

In celebration of International Women’s Day 2017 – which is tomorrow: Wednesday 8th March – Women Aloud NI have once again put together a fantastic program of events. Below are just the ones I’m involved with, with many more listed on their website.

Feel free to come along – both men and women are welcome to join the audience.

Wednesday 8th:

Saturday 11th:

  • A Reading on the Train to Dublin! – 8am Enterprise Service leaving Belfast Central
  • Readathon at the Irish Writers’ Centre (this one isn’t open to the public)
  • Mass Reading – Outside the Irish Writers’ Centre, 3.30pm (please flock to this one if you can, it should be quite impressive!)

Wonderful Women Poets

Women Aloud NII’m pleased (not to mention extremely relieved) to tell you that the very first Women Aloud/FSNI poetry recital (as coordinated by yours truly) was a success. It was a really lovely night, coming together with fellow ladies of literature to share and enjoy our craft.

The first video is online now, and there are some more photos over on my official Facebook page.

If you’re local to Belfast, please come along to the part two on September 1st – more details here.

Event News: Women Aloud Poetry Recitals

Poetry Recital 1After the successful events Women Aloud NI put together for International Women’s Day earlier this year, FSNI asked us if we wanted to put together a poetry event to help promote the National Poetry Competition. Well, we said yes, and I was made coordinator!

It soon became clear that we had so much local talent that two events were needed, so I’ve been busy putting them together. I can now proudly announce:

Recital #1 on 4th August @ James Brown & Sons, Newtownards Road, Belfast

Recital #2 on 1st September @ Houston & Williamson, Crumlin Road, Belfast

(click through for more info. or to RSVP via Facebook)

Poetry Recital Banner 2

 

Women Aloud at the Belfast Book Festival

Belfast Book Festival CakeOn Tuesday I was at the Crescent Arts Centre for the launch of this year’s Belfast Book Festival. I was there as the Women Aloud NI representative, as Jane Talbot (founder of the Women Aloud movement, who also has an event in the festival program) wasn’t able to make it.

As it happens, there are quite a few other Women Aloud women taking part in the festival, which runs over the course of eleven days (9 – 19th June).

Keith Acheson, director of Crescent Arts, says 2016 has more of a focus on women writers than ever.

I’m personally very excited to take in as many events as I can. There’s a good range, in both genre and price, with many events being free.

Belfast Book Festival Speaker

Jan Carson

See a digital version of the program here.