ACES- Three Months In

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So I’m three months in to my year of ACES funding from Arts Council NI and I’m sure you’re all dying to know what I’ve been up to. Three months has gone incredibly quickly and it’s useful to pause and take stock of what I’m doing with this opportunity.

First and most importantly I’ve been busting a gut, writing away at the new novel, Roundabouts. I’ve a very careful chapter plan, (something I’ve never done before, but then again I’ve never written to such a tight deadline before). There is to be a prologue and 8 chapters, each of which will be prefaced by a short extract from the fictional biography of Bob Dylan which one of my two lead characters is writing. I’ll be writing the Dylan extracts after my fact finding, road trip to end all road trips, through the Midwest in August. So far I have managed to write the prologue and three of the eight chapters. It’s going to be a beast of a novel- think Hilary Mantel or Jonathan Franzen- as I’m already cruising towards 40,000 words. My friend Zosia claims, “this book will be to Ballymena, what Ulysses is to Dublin,” and if I continue to write this volume of material the whole town is likely to sink under the weight of it. I’m pretty happy with what I have so far but I’ll admit it’s been like pushing boulders up a mountain trying to juggle full time work and meeting my own novel-writing deadlines. Roll on my three month career break in August, September and October; guilt free writing time is something I can only dream about at the minute.

Secondly I’ve been programming some readings for my fellow ACEes. We’ve a couple of readings already arranged for late spring and are looking opportunities to showcase all six readers, (4 prose writers and 2, lovely, poets), at festivals and venues from March onwards. Please do get in touch if you have any suggestions for reading opportunities. We polish up well and are very grateful for any opportunities to share our work.

Finally, I’ve been prepping Malcolm Orange Disappears for a release in late May. Everything is coming together remarkably smoothly and we seem to be actually ahead of schedule. I’m trying to set up readings for the novel, interview opportunities and, this weekend, will be working on the final copy edit from my editor before sending the completed novel off to a number of kindly readers to gather up cover quotes. It’s terribly exciting and a little bit terrifying and no doubt, by the end of June, you’ll all be sick to the back teeth hearing about Malcolm.

It’s been a busy season. Ulster Hall work continues to be a privilege and a grand commitment. I’m trying to read outside my comfort zone to hone down the rough edges of my writing and this takes up a lot of my “spare” time. I’m also writing some articles for Culture NI, training to be an arts facilitator for adults with dementia and watching far too many movies at the QFT. Occasionally I get distracted from the novel, (or if I’m entirely honest, downright fed up with it), and have to write the odd short story. Life is full and just about as adventurous as it gets for bookish people. What a year.

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