2022 in review!

Time has done some funny things this year, hasn’t it? It’s sped by, and yet hung heavy at times. Perhaps we are all still in pandemic recovery. I heard it described as a collective ‘languishing’- and although I do feel like I’ve done a lot of languishing on my couch, trawling through my photos has encouraged me to relive some favourite moments…

First up, I was so lucky to have been invited to take part in the international Connect and Collaborate residency at beautiful Moniack Mhor. Not only is it the perfect place to rest, recuperate and write, it also gave me the opportunity to make friends with some amazing people from across the globe. Here is Moniack Mhor in sunset splendour and some of my co-conspirators lost in the woods! (Nadine Aisha Jassat, Gemma Rovira Ortega & Carly Brown).Not forgetting the all important glass of red wine poured by my Moniack pals after I finished the first draft of my next novel Waterbound! (Look out for more news on that in 2023)

In the summer, Angus Writers’ Circle had the chance to undertake a group residency in Arbroath Abbey’s New Scriptorium, as described in a previous post. Here is an image of my Tree Folklore Workshop, inspired by the humble Arbroath Pippin!

I was very excited to be invited by Fife Writes to deliver two creative writing workshops for Book Week Scotland. One was online and one was IN-PERSON! Myself and my lucky hat travelled to beautiful St Andrews, which was a real novelty after the lockdown years. Here I am, with said hat, at the old harbour…

There was also that fiery trip to Bloody Scotland! Again, so good to be back in-person. I think we’ve all been caught between longing to socialise and veering towards recluse-dom. I know I have, but once you’ve levered yourself from the couch you realise what you’ve been missing!

Thanks to a generous award from Creative Scotland, I was able to take part in a third residency (and I thought nothing much had happened in 2022!) in Ireland. Grateful thanks also to the lovely Noelle Harrison at Aurora Retreats for holding such a special place for us all in the Limerick countryside, somewhere close to my heart. Noelle, writing as Anya Bergman, has a stunning novel out VERY soon. Keep an eye out for The Witches of Vardo (Manilla Press). I have read an advance copy and I loved it!

The book I was working on at the Springfield Castle retreat is tentatively entitled The River Takes Her Name (suggested by my fellow retreater Petra!)

Legend has it that the ancient goddess Sionnan ate the Salmon of Wisdom, with its nine hazelnuts of truth, in order to gain all the knowledge of the world, only to drown in the river that now bears her name. In 1980s Limerick, nurse Anya Kildare has nine pieces of information which, if revealed, could alter the lives of those around her forever.

 If knowledge is power, and power might bring death, how much would you be willing to give away?

Intrigued? I’ll tell you more about that, and indeed Waterbound, my great hope for next year, in a future post, but I’ll leave you with some wonderful images of Ireland and finally, finally, Newcastle Noir, which proved a bright and warm and friendly end to the year (despite the title!)

WISHING YOU ALL THE VERY BEST FOR 2023!

Newcastle Noir

20180505_093016A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of travelling south to my old stomping ground of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. As a teenager, I lived in nearby Morpeth, and my Dad worked for many years in the Post Office Garage in Pottery Lane. Oh, how I remember him cursing the rush hour traffic on his daily commute! The reason for my visit? The very special NEWCASTLE NOIR festival! I’d never been to it before, but a chance meeting with the lovely Dr Noir herself (Jacky Collins) secured me a place on the New Blood panel. The venue is literally two minutes from the train station (unless you ask directions from a non-booky person who sends you the wrong way…).

The very distinguished-sounding Literary and Philosophical Society of Newcastle- affectionately known as the Lit & Phil – is out-of-this world; the largest independent library outside London. It houses over 160,000 books, and yes, I’d love to move in for a couple of weeks!

But back to business- the first thing you notice about Newcastle Noir (apart from the grand surroundings) is the warmth and enthusiasm of Dr Noir and her helpers.

Dr Noir

Dr Noir & the Noirstars

A big welcome awaited us, and a lovely Green Room packed with goodies. It was a real treat to be introduced to my fellow panellists; Vicky NewhamG.B.Williams  and Robert Scragg ,and to hear all about their journey to publication. We were guided along the way by the amazing Vic Watson. Hats off to both Vic, Dr Noir ,and others, who go to such lengths to bring writers together and to encourage new talent.

This is one festival which you will not want to miss next year. I say this about every festival I attend- my diary is getting seriously packed – but we have such vibrant creative communities across the land, and such passionate individuals dedicated to bringing them together, and making those vital connections between writers and readers. Lots of love and support to you all!

Meeting friends old and new- Claire MacLeary and the New Blood panel, with Vic Watson and Dr Noir.

 

Footnote.

20180408_130344My trip to Newcastle was nostalgic in many ways; a full circle. My dear Dad, who passed away in March, would have celebrated his 94th birthday on May 5th, the day I attended Newcastle Noir with my brother, Jack. The warmth of the welcome at the Lit &Phil was such that we both agreed it was the best possible way of spending the day. Dad would have approved!

True North

Last week, I took an exciting trip back to my roots!

Vic Watson and Jacky Collins, organisers of  Newcastle Noir kindly invited me along to Noir @ the Bar, in the Town Wall, Newcastle. Newcastle Noir is a literary festival celebrating the best in contemporary crime writing, bringing together writers from the North East, across Britain, as well as from further afield. By all accounts, the 2017 festival was a huge success, and it’s already on my calendar for next year! Noir@the Bar (there are quite a few versions of this across the country) is a fun, informal evening of readings…in a pub. Writers’ paradise, pretty much!

When I last visited Newcastle, I was too young to drink, but unfortunately, on this occasion, the bar staff saw no need to I.D. me. We had a fabulous night in a great venue, and I really enjoyed listening to chilling extracts from some must-read novels and short stories.

I chose to read the opening pages from my novel Beneath the Skin, and I was very conscious that my central character, Walt, was  coming home too. As a nod to my own upbringing, Walt grew up in rural Northumberland, but I could just imagine him meeting his mates for a few pints in a place like the Town Wall, having a laugh and a bit of banter. Beneath the Skin is about what happens when the laughter stops. When you come home but your best mate doesn’t. It’s about how trauma changes people.

 

bts very small

Beneath the Skin (Polygon)

My trip ‘down south’ was much too brief, but I couldn’t pass up the chance to check out a few Gothic locations for my next project….!

 

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