December Blog: A Journey of One’s Own

The end of the year is always a time to reflect on the preceding twelve months, as well as look forward with hope to the coming year. I want to end 2017 on a positive note, so while I’m not exactly where’d I like to be from a writing perspective (as well as several other areas of my life), I am where I am and that’s okay. Instead of dwelling on what isn’t I’m going to recap on the things that I’m happy about in 2017.

What a year 2017 has been! Glad to have these nine to remind me of good times and places
#2017bestnine

I’ve been reviewing theatre for several years now, stating off in January 2015 and joining The Reviews Hub (then The Public Reviews) in May of that year. At the beginning 2017 I was invited to read poetry on Arena, RTÉ Radio 1’s daily arts and popular culture show. After this reading I was invited back to review theatre for Arena in February and I have been back several times since then throughout the year. This was an unexpected but wholly welcome development. The Arena team have been a pleasure to work with and it’s been a great experience, so hopefully it will continue into the New Year. With my day job I’ve also done a little bit of radio work but the subject matter (bowel health) is somewhat less entertaining…

In May I was allocated a place on a novel masterclass with Irish author Mia Gallagher, run by the Office of Public Works at Farmleigh. Mia was Farmleigh’s writer-in-residence for 2017 and the masterclass was run as part of her residency there. The first day took place on a rainy weekend but this didn’t dampen the spirits of the writers or detract from the exquisite beauty of Farmleigh. It was a really productive day and provided me with lots to think about regarding Attrition; I wrote about it here, including lots of good tips for writers in general. The second day of the masterclass took pace in September and was a follow up to the first day. It allowed participants to review what work they had done over the summer months and offered more guidance on what to do next with our respective projects. I summarise it here. It was hugely beneficial to me and my writing, and I’m already making some of the big changes to Attrition that I’d worked on in the masterclass, such as changing the point of view of the story. Importantly, it provided me with support from likeminded people and a little nudge in the right direction.

For a good chunk of the summer I was in the US, based just outside of Washington D.C. in the town of Bethesda, Maryland. While my stay there wasn’t directly related to writing it provided me with new experiences and I got to see and do lots that I otherwise wouldn’t have. It also reminded me of the importance of place in a story and how this element affects the characters, their experiences, and how they react to these experiences. I got to visit Baltimore, the hometown of John Waters and Divine, which was interesting to say the least, and I paid my respects at Divine’s burial place in Towson. It really was an unforgettable summer and it was great to live in a different place, if ever so briefly.

Bright blue skies over Bethesda, M.D.
Paying my respects to Divine at Prospect Hill Cemetery in Towson
…some are so young;
Some suffer so much –
I recall the experience sweet and sad . . .
Walt Whitman

Speaking of the good ole U S of A, I’ll be returning there for five weeks in springtime. In November I was notified that I am going to be a MacDowell Fellow in Literature during 2018.  The MacDowell Colony is a multidisciplinary artist residency programme in Peterborough, New Hampshire and I’ll be working on Attrition during my time there. I’m very excited about this and I really can’t wait to get there. Everything I’ve read about MacDowell has been so positive and I feel it will be the perfect place to get lots of work done (dare I say, get the first draft of Attrition completed). I’ll finish off my residency with a few days in Boston and a day trip to Salem to do some research for another story. No doubt I’ll be blogging about MacDowell more in the coming months.

One thing I’ll remind myself of as the New Year dawns is that everyone’s journey happens at a different pace. It’s not a competition and there’s no race. For 2018 I’m going to maintain my focus primarily on fiction, with my main goal being to get the first draft of Attrition finished. Beyond that, anything else will be a bonus. Here’s to a new year of happiness and contentment for us all.

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