I had the scary dream again last night – the one where the public reading goes badly wrong. It’s a version of the dream I used to have years ago when I worked as administrator for Big Telly Theatre Company. A night or two before the show was due to go up, I would dream that some injury had befallen a cast member and I would have to go on in their stead. The worst was the one in which something calamitous had happened to the entire cast and I was told I would have to perform The Colleen Bawn single-handedly. I left shortly afterwards.
Last night’s dream was particularly vicious. It was a late night reading in an unspecified (but intimate) venue somewhere in Belfast. There were several readers scattered on the sofas around the room. I was waiting to be called. The night wore on. Eventually, at around a quarter to one in the morning, my turn came. Most people had gone home. I’d forgotten my glasses. The book from which I was reading had inexplicably transmuted into a sort of slippery spring-loaded cabbage. I prised open the leaves to find my place and peered, in the dim light, to try and make out what I’d written but each time I looked up to deliver a line, the cabbage snapped shut and sprung out of my hands and I had to scrabble about on the floor to find it. The remaining few punters wandered off. The staff came in to say they were shutting up. There was that dispiriting moment when the cosy, atmospheric space you're in is suddenly flood lit by fluorescent lighting and you can see all the stains on the carpet. I left. It was raining. I’d missed the last train. I had no way of getting home.
There are a couple of possible explanations for why the dream has returned now. There are some readings coming up in September (details below) – I may already be getting the jitters about those. Or it may be because I’ve asked a few writing friends to give me some feedback on the current work-in-progress and, before I even hand it over, I’ve been spending a lot of time making up excuses for why it’s not better than it is. Either way, I don’t suppose the dream is going anywhere. The fear of humiliation and rejection, whether that be in a room full of friends or in front of a sofa of strangers, seems to be part of the writer’s lot. Parting with your writing is all part of the process of owning it. (Nice oxymoron for you there – you’re welcome.)
On Thursday 11th September, I’ll be reading from Sleepwalkers at Omagh Library at 8pm and on Saturday 13th September I’ll be facilitating a writing workshop at Strule Arts Centre, Omagh at 3.30pm. Both events are part of the Benedict Kiely Literary Festival that includes readings by Bernard MacLaverty, Pat McCabe, Claire Keegan, Mary Costello and Billy Ramsell and discussion with Eamonn Hughes, Sinéad Gleeson, David Hayden and Declan Meade (of The Stinging Fly) as well as poetry and film screenings. For more information and to book, contact Strule Arts Centre on 028 8224 7831 or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The full programme is available to view on the Benedict Kiely Festival website.
On Friday 19th September, I’ll be reading along with writers Lucy Caldwell and Paul McVeigh at a Word Factory event at the Cork International Short Story Festival (scroll down – Cork Central Library, Grand Parade, 4pm!) The Festival runs throughout the week and includes readings, seminars and workshops by a host of international writers as well as the presentation of the Seán Ó Faoláin Prize and the Frank O’Connor Award (the latter to Colin Barrett for his excellent collection Young Skins) and the launch of the Davy Byrnes Short Story Award Anthology. If you’re a short story aficionado, it’s the place to be. Full programme available here.
And finally, on Thursday 25th September, I’ll be at Aspects Festival in Bangor reading at Bangor Museum at 1pm. The full programme is downloadable here and includes readings and events featuring local writers Tara West, Tony Macauley, Pauline Burgess, Sheena Wilkinson, Alf McCreary, Rebecca Reid, Jan Carson, Damian Smyth, Nathaniel McAuley, Michael Smiley and David Park, as well as journalists Martin Bell, Fergal Keane and Paolo Hewitt, columnist Virginia Ironside, war veteran Simon Weston, and as if that wasn't enough, cooking from (my favourite radio chef) Paula McIntyre. No harm to the rest of you but that last event sounds like the highlight for me. I’m thinking of going along with a mystery ingredient challenge – ways to cook a spring-loaded cabbage (and exorcise your writing demons in the process).