ACES 2014

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About a month ago I received confirmation that I’d been selected for this year’s Arts Council Artists’ Career Enhancement Scheme, (ACES), funding. A lot of you have been asking what this means: am I taking a career break? Am I leaving the Ulster Hall? Can you have my job? This evening the five fantastic writers who are taking part in this year’s ACES Scheme had our first photo shoot together. It was great to meet them, less great to pose awkwardly, with books, on the lawn of MacNiece house like a gaggle of displaced librarians. Afterwards I thought today would be a good day to bring you all up to date on my plans for the ACES funding.

With Malcolm Orange Disappears, almost fully edited and due for publication in May 2014, my thoughts have already turned to the next novel. I’ve made a preliminary stab at this book, (currently going under the working title, Roundabouts), and have proposed to finish a first draft by November 2014, when the funding scheme completes. Roundabouts is mostly set in and around Ballymena, (place of my birth), and focuses on Bob Dylan’s early childhood and the Causeway Safari Park, (an unlikely partnership, I’m hoping will turn out somewhere close to the idea in my head). I plan to use my funding to take a three month career break from August to October 2014, part of which will be spent in the American Midwest, researching Bob Dylan’s early days, with the second two months spent completing the more factual sections of the book.

As such I am endeavouring to have the majority of the novel written before August 2014 and will therefore be spending most of my winter holed up in the Garret with a pot of herbal tea and a thousand-words-per-day, deadline. Don’t be offended if I don’t come out to play this winter, I plan on becoming the closest thing East Belfast has to a hibernating grizzly. I’m excited and honoured to have the opportunities afforded by the ACES Scheme, also a little terrified, but above all other emotions I am so thankful to have the prospect of some breathing/writing/resting space looming on the horizon of what has been an extremely busy season. I’m looking forward to keeping you all updated about my adventures, (and frustrations), over the next ten months.

(Mortifying publicity pictures of myself and the prolific, young poet, Nathaniel Joseph McAuley, frolicking beneath the Arts Council’s tall, tall trees, to follow, shortly).

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