Back to School

August 28, 2018

The weather in these parts has the distinct feel of Autumn about it just now, a season I always associate with the true beginning of the year. It’s probably got a lot to do with all those years spent at school and University, followed by more years of ferrying offspring to school (and now also to University), but I think it’s to do, as well, with the changing of the seasons, the lengthening of shadows, the lighting of lights, the turning of the year. That sense of hunkering down, of the nights drawing in, is very resonant with me. It always feels like a creative time, a new beginning, and there’s plenty to look forward to in the weeks ahead.

As mentioned in previous dispatches, this September, I’ll be returning to Queen’s University to take up the post of Writing Fellow with the Royal Literary Fund. I’m looking forward to working with students across the University on their essay writing skills, so if you know of anyone, from any discipline, who would like some help, do put them in touch. They can make an appointment via Rachel Carson in the School of Arts, English and Languages (scroll down for Rachel’s contact details). I’d be very glad to see them in my little office in the Seamus Heaney Centre on University Square.

On 22nd September, I’ll be having a short sojourn in Italy, at Pordenone Legge Book Festival, celebrating the launch of the Italian translation of The Watch House, published by Bollati Boringhieri, and translated by Simona Garavelli as Le parole nell’aria (The Words in the Air). I studied Italian with English at Queen’s and I’ve spent some time in Italy over the intervening years, so in many ways, this feels like completing a circle to me.  I’m very excited to have been invited. The Book Festival programme is packed with events. (John Banville is there the same day as me. Nice company, indeed.)

Back in the country again, I’m teaming up with friend, hatha yoga teacher and life coach, Michelle Gibb, to run a series of workshops titled Dropping Your Gaze: A Day of Mindfulness and Writing. We’re running the workshop in the Festival Yurt (where else?) in Bangor Castle Walled Gardens at Aspects Festival on Friday 14thSeptember, at Seamus Heaney HomePlace, Bellaghy, on Saturday 27thOctober, and at Flowerfield Arts Centre, Portstewart on Saturday 10th November. Whether you’re new to writing or have been writing for a while and are looking for a way to rejuvenate your approach, this day of guided mindfulness and writing exercises, is designed to refresh and enhance your writing skills and leave you with a simple toolkit that you can use in your everyday practice. Alongside focused writing exercises, we will look at: the importance of breath work and how to calm your breathing; how reducing the mind chatter can help centre your writing focus; visualisation guidance and advice; short and simple brain gym exercises. All writing levels are welcome. (I’m hoping it’s going to do me some good as well.) There is a café at Seamus Heaney HomePlace. For the Festival Yurt and Flowerfield workshops, it may be wise to bring a packed lunch. Follow the links above for booking information.

Bookish events later in the year include Victorian Mavericks with writers Nuala O’Connor and Caroline Busher at the Pearse Museum, Dublin for Red Line Book Festival  (7.30pm on Tuesday 9th October); a panel discussion on The Glass Shore with Sinéad Gleeson, June Caldwell and Fiona O’Rourke at Strule Arts Centre for Omagh Literary Festival and the Benedict Kiely Weekend (12 noon on Saturday 13th October), and an event for the C.S. Lewis Festival, Belfast, on the evening of Saturday 3rd November. Keep an eye on my Events Page  for updates as we sail gaily on into the creative new year.