Well, that was some year folks. 2018 was a busy one. I think I peaked with working seven projects simultaneously. I edited one novel, wrote another one, plus a short story collection, curated three literary festivals, facilitated a rake of really wonderful community arts projects and spent about a third of the year gallivanting round the world reading in lots of exotic places. 2018’s not quite over yet, but as I’m putting my feet up for the next few days, I thought I’d take a few minutes to recap on my best writer moments of the last year. Here are my ten favourite in no particular order. Thanks to everyone who took part in projects, got involved in festivals, came to workshops and readings, encouraged, listened and helped to make this such a special year.
NB: Notable mentions also need to go to the fantastic Ian Cochrane retrospective at The Heaney Homeplace, LitCrawl Belfast, Sarah Perry’s reading at the Crescent in November, Ali Smith’s reading at Mountains to Sea, interviewing Carys Davies for BIAF, the Ian Sansom launch in No Alibis, Agreement 20, Emma Must’s reading for Bill Clinton and Senator George Mitchell, discovering Elizabeth Strout, teaching my first academic classes as a visiting lecturer at the University of Ulster, Everything Getting Worse All The Time, (the event not the concept), winning the Jack Harte Bursary from the IWC, the CS Lewis Festival (particularly Damian Smyth, Bernie McGill and the Darkling Air in Campbell College’s Great Hall and talking Flannery O’Connor with Padraig O’Tuama and Andrew Cunning), Wendy Erskine’s book launch, NI Library Tour with Barney Norris, Mountstewart Festival of Ideas and Janice Galloway’s ode to Muriel Spark at Edinburgh Book Festival
- Receiving the proofs for my next novel, The Fire Starters to be published by Doubleday in April. Holding your own book for the first time, never gets old.
- Workshopping, writing and recording a radio drama about being a Carer with a bunch of the most inspiring people I’ve ever worked with. Big thanks to Eastside Arts for having the vision to support this project.
- My week in Croatia for the Eastern European Short Story Festival, literally the most fun you can have on a tourbus with a bunch of very tipsy poets and some of the best short story writers in Europe. Also, some fantastic readings in Hungary, Austria, Norway and the Netherlands.
- Helping my ten year old nephew to write a first draft of his debut novel. It’s probably going to hit the bestsellers list around about 2020.
- Scripting and shooting short films with a bunch of truly wonderful older people as part of the QFT’s 50th Anniversary celebrations. (Special mention to the three feisty ladies who made a trailer for Jaws without ever seeing the film). Thanks to Marion Campbell for unswerving report and help with this project.
- Recording a Listening Project (lifetime ambition) for Radio 4 with the formidable Hilary Copeland. Tune in sometime in Spring 2019 to hear us wax lyrical about the Belfast Arts Community.
- Curating the inaugural Hillsborough Festival of Literature and Ideas for the John Hewitt Society; a lot of hard work, also a lot of fun. Yet another reminder that it pays to work with good people.
- Writing and recording a sound installation for the Tropical Ravine with Kwame Daniels and a bunch of brilliant Community groups. Thanks to Cailin Lynn for support and helping this project get off the ground
- Having an essay included in this year’s Winter Papers. I’ve always loved what Kevin and Olivia have done with WP over the last few years and it was such a treat to have a piece published alongside some writers I really admire.
- My three months as the Irish Writing Centre’s Roaming Writer in Residence, traveling all over Ireland, writing stories on the train.
What a hectic, brilliant, exhausting and inspiring year.