Get busy.

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If, like me, your New Year’s resolutions include writing a bit more and reading a bit more, you might be interested in some of the following bits and pieces. I was putting it together for the members of Flowerfield Writers’ Group - a couple of the events are happening in the Coleraine/Portstewart area - but some of them may be of interest to readers and writers a little further afield, such as the excellent 360° Scriptwriting Festival jointly run by Tinderbox Theatre Company and the BBC (and hosted in Belfast), and the writing competitions and workshops associated with Listowel Writers’ Week in County Kerry.  It's not a comprehensive list, I've just put in everything I've heard of recently. The best part is, unlike some other resolutions, none of it requires you to eat bran or walk very far. Happy reading and writing to you in 2012.


The Health in Mind Project is holding a free morning of ‘Poetry and Prose’ in Coleraine Library on Wednesday 18th January from 11.00am - 1.00pm with readings from: Damian Gorman MBE (Poet & Playwright), Bernie McGill (that’s me] and Patricia Canning (from the Get into Reading Project). Apparently, ‘This event will give the public an opportunity to sit back and relax and listen to speakers who will read to them from poetry and prose they have found personally inspiring or uplifting.’ So come along, be inspired and uplifted. For more information, you can contact Coleraine Library (Tel: 028 7034 2561 or Email: coleraine.library@librariesni.org.uk) or Health in Mind (Tel: 028 9039 5980 or Email: healthinmind@librariesni.org.uk). And for further details of all events and initiatives being held in Northern Ireland libraries to support the Health In Mind programme, go to the Libraries NI website here and search for Health in Mind.


The 360º Script Writing Festival, BBC, Ormeau Avenue, Belfast, Wednesday 25th - Friday 27th January 2012

360º is an annual festival of inspiring (there’s that word again) and professional workshops offering craft skills and industry knowledge across the different mediums: TV, Screen, Radio and Theatre. The festival is one of the best opportunities through the year to meet likeminded and industry people in Belfast. I’ve been to workshops and talks at this event for the past couple of years and they are always informative. I’m hoping to make it to the radio workshop on the Friday afternoon. The workshops are free. There is a limited number of places so book early by contacting Bronagh Taylor on Bronagh.Taylor@bbc.co.uk or call on 02890 338 845, stating clearly which workshops you are interested in. Full list of workshops and talks on the Tinderbox website here.


See Your Play on Stage in 2012, Saturday 28th January, 10.30am- 1.30pm at The Arc Theatre, Bloomfield, Galliagh, Derry

This is the first of two ‘Page to Stage’ workshops facilitated by award-winning playwright Felicity McCall. Writers are welcome to attend one or both sessions. Tea, coffee and snacks are provided. Applicants should forward six pages of their play (by e-mail, if possible) to olly@gsca.com; louise@gsca.com or bring six copies of the script on the day. Numbers are limited, so do book in advance. For more information or to book a place contact Greater Shantallow Community Arts at (028) 71 357443. There’s further information here on Facebook.


On Saturday 11th February (1pm-5pm) I will be at the Westville Hotel, Enniskillen to facilitate a Short Story Workshop with the Fermanagh Writers’ Group.  This is a practical workshop. We will be looking at aspects of short story writing and tackling writing exercises on the day. The aim is to have all participants leave with at least the outline for a new short story so if you're coming, come prepared to do a bit of work! Please book ahead by emailing fermanaghwriters@aol.com. There is a small charge of around £3.50 for tea/coffee/scones (yum) but otherwise the workshop is free.


At Flowerfield Arts Centre, Portstewart, on Wednesday February 15th at 8pm, author Jennifer Johnston reads from her new novel Shadowstory in association with Waterstone’s Coleraine. Admission £5 (includes interval refreshments). To book contact Flowerfield on 028 7083 1400. ‘Roddy Doyle called her the best writer in Ireland, and I’m not going to argue. Any novel by the great Johnston is an event,’ says The Times. There’s more information on the novel here  (if you scroll down a bit). I’m really looking forward to this.


And, finally,  some writing opportunities with upcoming deadlines: The Stinging Fly is accepting submissions of poetry and short fiction for its Summer 2012 issue from now until 31st January. Guest editor for this edition is writer Dave Lordan. Submissions received during February and March will be considered for the following two issues (October 2012 and February 2013). More information and Dave’s editorial statement here.  

The annual Accenti Writing Contest for prose works up to 2000 words in length closes on 7th February. Top prize $1000 Canadian dollars. More information here.  

The BBC International Short Story Award closes on Thursday 27th February. For this one, you have to have a record of prior publication in creative writing in the United Kingdom. Something worth thinking about: the first prize is £15,000. The judging panel will be chaired by broadcaster and comedy writer Clive Anderson and the winner announced on BBC Radio 4's Front Row. (Ah, to be announced doing anything by Mark Lawson on Front Row.) Full details here.  

Listowel Writers' Week takes place from 30th May to 3rd June 2012 in County Kerry. I’ve never made it to Listowel, but it’s definitely on my list of festivals I’d love to attend. Information on Writing Competitions (poetry, prose and drama) here.  The closing date for entries is Friday 2nd March - you don't have to attend the Festival to enter the competitions. Information on Workshops (including an Advanced Novel workshop with one of my favourite Irish writers, Eoin McNamee) here.

And finally, finally, Mslexia's Short Story Competition for Women Writers closes on 19th March. Judge Tessa Hadley. First Prize: £2,000 plus a week's writing retreat at Chawton House Library and a day with a Virago editor. More information here.  And that should be enough to keep you out of trouble for a while.


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