This past weekend was The Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators annual British Isles conference. Having won one of SCBWI’s Margaret Carey scholarships, I got to attend with all expenses paid. And wow, was it one heck of an experience, even if it didn’t quite go to plan.
Having studied in England for University, I’ve travelled back and forth there a lot of times over the years and it was not uncommon at all for me to return with tales of a wacky adventure and/or a war wound. This past weekend was a bit of a return to that.
I should start by saying that, before I even left, I’d been sick for about a week. Really, really sick. To the degree that, I spent most of that week wondering if I was going to make it at all. But I pushed through, packed my bag, and got on a plane.
Minor inconvenience number one (aside from being sick): a short delay taking off. This in itself would barely be worth mentioning if it weren’t the first of many, many things that went awry. How many things can go awry in three days? WELL!
Things kinda started off on the back foot for another reason: I was going entirely broke. Our rent went out the day I set off, the very start of the month, which means our bank account was empty. Over empty, in fact. Even our overdraft was gone. (October was a hard month, you guys.) But anyways, this shouldn’t have been too much of a problem because of the ‘all expenses paid’ bit. My travel was free, my accommodation was free, and of course the conference fee itself was covered. What I also had was £5 on a gift card leftover from my birthday that should work in a long list of places. I double-checked the balance and the list of places before I left, and I planned to get myself a bottle of water in the airport WH Smith once I’d gotten through security. Sounds simple enough, right? Except it didn’t work. Of course it didn’t. The person at the till conjectured it was probably because an airport WH Smith probably doesn’t count as a normal WH Smith.
Last Friday and Saturday, I was in Dublin for the fifth annual DeptCon: Ireland’s Biggest Young Adult Book Convention.
It was super fun and I’m now, almost a week later, almost recovered. Let me give you a rundown:
I couldn’t sleep the night before. I tried but, like so many other nights, just couldn’t manage it. So I caught the 10.35am train from Belfast on thirty minutes rest, fueled by tea and enthusiasm.
On the journey down, I finished reading Savannah Brown’s poetry collection and started reading her novel. I had them with me anyway so I could get them signed.
Savannah is someone I’ve been watching on YouTube for years. I’ve been meaning to get to her books since they came out, so this was the perfect opportunity to bump them off my TBR.
Once arrived at Connolly Station, I made the forty-minute trek to my hotel. It was in the north of the city: somewhere I’d never stayed before, but I’d charted the route via Google Maps in advance and found it easily enough. I had just enough time to pick up my key and dump some things out of my heavy rucksack onto my comically sized bed (more on that later) before walking forty-minutes back into the centre of town for event registration and panel number one: Natália Gomes, Savannah Brown, and Connie Glynn. Continue reading →
On Thursday the 10th of October I have co-ordinated a Short Story Showcase at Books Paper Scissors in Stranmillis. Then, hot on the heels of that, is DeptCon5: Ireland’s biggest Young Adult convention which I will be attending (just as a regular attendee, not as a speaker or anything).
November is, of course, National Novel Writing Month, and I’m hoping to get along to Purely Poetry in October and December, but by far the biggest thing I have lined up for the coming months is the SCBWI Conference.
I was absolutely thrilled to discover that I am one of SCBWI’s Margaret Carey Scholarship winners for this year. The start of NaNoWriMo will be a little delayed for me because, from the 1st to the 3rd of November, I will be in Winchester attending talks and panels and meeting literary agents face-to-face!
You can realistically expect plenty of blog posts on my return. I cannot, cannot, CANNOT wait!
Hopefully, from my first post on the matter, you got a taste for how great the John Hewitt International Summer School is. If you’re a writer who has never experienced it first-hand, I hope the jealously these posts no doubt engender within you push you to go next year. If you’re a sponsor of one (or more) of the bursary places, I hope you see what a wonderful thing it is you’ve enabled. And, if you’re a prospective funder, I hope this convinces you to invest in the arts. It is sorely needed.
Already, I’ve talked a little about what the summer school has taught me and shared some of the work it has helped me produce – I plan to share more on both those topics in the coming weeks – but what I want to do in this post is shine a light on specific events within the programme that particularly blew me away.
So, without further ado…
Day one, for me, started with an Ulster Fry at the Charlemont Arms. So far, so good. You’ve got to get a decent breakfast in you if you’re to make it through twelve hours of programming in a single stretch. Each day I ate lunch and dinner in a different place, trying to experience as much of what the city had to offer as possible.
I was not disappointed. The ice cream, in particular, was a favourite.
As someone who often finds themselves lacking in energy, I had a game plan when it came to the week. This was two-fold:
I was going to pace myself, aiming to attend the recommended 80% of events but not stressing if I came in at 79% by the end of it all.
I was going to avoid going back to my room during breaktimes, knowing full well that if I did I would get comfortable and fall asleep, despite my best intentions.
On both these counts, I was successful – as successful as I hoped but rather more successful than I actually realistically expected. I’m genuinely proud of how much I threw myself into everything. Continue reading →
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’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.
Starting in January, I will be teaching a class! With actual students!!
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.
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!)
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.
I’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.
After 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:
(click through for more info. or to RSVP via Facebook)