2017 Year in Review

If you follow my blog, you’ll know I haven’t posted for some while [the last post was in May]. 2017 has been some year and I’ve barely had time to catch my breath. Now, as the year draws to a close, it’s lovely to look back at some of the highlights.

April – June 2017 Big Telly Theatre Company’s stage version of The Faerie Thorn completed a 27-date tour, playing the UK, Ireland and Dresden. It was a joy to be part of the creative team and to collaborate with so many talented people. I loved every minute of the development process and I learned a huge amount. The resulting show really honoured the spirit of my stories and brought a vibrant energy to them too. If I ever have grandchildren, the story of how granny went hunting for faeries [and how those faeries put stories into her dreams and how those stories came to life on the stage] will be told over and over again 😉 .

May 2017 You may remember that I founded Women Aloud NI, an organisation to raise the profile of the women’s writing scene in Northern Ireland, back in December 2015. In May 2017, the organisation won two prestigious Saboteur Awards: Best Wildcard [for Women Aloud NI 2017]; and Best Collaborative Work [for Women X Borders, a collaboration with the Irish Writers Centre in Dublin]. With a solid constitution now in place, and a robust organisational structure supported by a committed team of volunteers, Women Aloud NI is set to go from strength to strength. The programme for Women Aloud NI 2018 has already been launched and the buzz is … well … buzzing.

August 2017 For three weeks in August, I was the artist-in-residence at Bressay lighthouse, Shetland. I can’t tell you how lovely it was to be able to ‘get away from it all’ and focus on writing and collecting ideas for new stories. My daily routine was: walk, write, walk, cook, read, sleep. Once a week I took the day off and visited places on mainland Shetland: beaches with not a soul on them, archaeological sites, museums and places from Anne Cleeves’ Shetland book series [I read the first book while I was on Bressay]. It was the trip of a lifetime, I’d say. I’d also say that I brought a little bit of Shetland back with me somehow. That place has worked its way into my bones.

September 2017 Not only did I get to perform my one-woman storytelling show at Aspects Festival this September, but I also started Tinderbox Theatre Company’s Play Machine, an intensive 7-month-long theatre-training programme for performers, writers and theatre-makers. Expertly facilitated by actor, theatre-maker and artistic director Patrick O’Reilly, the sessions have been playful, challenging and productive. It’s been brilliant to put myself in the shoes of actors – and I’ve even begun to see myself as an actor and theatre-maker too! It’s also been great to get into the habit of making new things quickly, of trying things out, of not getting too hung up on perfection, of doing things – rather than just talking about things, and of getting out of my head and into my body.

The energy of the group is amazing and I’m learning a huge amount from the other participants too. Collaborating with artists who have a genuine commitment to improving their craft, and to creating new work, is both satisfying and inspiring. Oh, and I must mention that a) I’ve done actual cartwheels on this programme b) my bird landings and bird take-offs are really quite something to see [I’d be tempted to use the word ‘legendary’] c) this programme has changed the way I think about writing and storytelling in profound ways. [Image credit: Carrie Davenport]

October 2017 In October 2017, I signed a contract with the Australian publisher, Serenity Press. I’ve been commissioned to write a collection of feminist faerie tales for a series of YA books. I’m thrilled to be in the company of authors Kate Forsyth and Sharon Blackie, and I’m so excited to be working with such forward-thinking and committed publishing professionals as Monique Mulligan and Karen McDermott. The icing on the cake is that Lorena Carrington will be illustrating my work!

November 2017 I was thrilled to be the recipient of an ACES award from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. The award will be used to support a collaboration with sound designer and composer, Garth McConaghie [he wrote the score for the stage production on The Faerie Thorn and we collaborated on the songs for the show]. Garth and I are going to co-write an album of songs to go with my next short-story collection: I’m writing the lyrics and he’s writing the music!

December 2017 December’s been a lovely month for two reasons. Firstly, I got to perform in Belfast’s Grand Opera House [in the Baby Grand] with actor, storyteller and theatre-maker, Noel Harron. I met Noel on Tinderbox’s Play Machine programme and I’m looking forward to performing with him in The Wonder Tales next summer.

Secondly, I got to work with the fabulous folk at Big Telly Theatre company AGAIN! This time I was a writer for one of their famous interactive adventures. A Quirky Tale of Quality Streets, set in Coleraine, sent players/audience members on a high-octane quest to save Kitty of Coleraine. There was an Ice Queen, a real horse, a myopic psychic, a boat-ride on the Bann and a whole lot more [yeah, and there were trolls, obviously 😉 ]. You know what? Writing it was so much fun, I’m doing it again! I’ll be working with the unstoppable Zoe Seaton, Big Telly’s artistic director, to create a new adventure for next summer. [I’ll keep you posted about that 🙂 ].

2017 has been packed with fun, new adventures and enriching experiences. I’m all set for 2018. BRING IT ON 🙂 🙂 🙂