I had an amazing time at the Belfast Book Festival last weekend. I took part in an event with fellow New Island début novelists Doreen Finn and Gerard Lee which was chaired by the wonderful Jane Wenham-Jones. We each read the opening from our respective books and then chatted about writing, publication, our influences, and our advice for aspiring authors.
Our event took place in the Crescent Arts Centre, a beautiful multi-purpose arts space. Many of the festival events took place there and it also played host to SacrumProfanum, an exhibition by Kimberly Campanello and Benjamin Dwyer which used poetry, visual art, video installation and music to explore sheela-na-gigs.
Stevie, the main character in my novel Skin, Paper, Stone is researching sheela-na-gigs so the fact that this was on while I was in Belfast felt particularly fortuitous. There’s so much mystery surrounding these stone carvings and the exhibition managed to capture some of that enigma.
As editor of Short Story Ireland, I’m always on the lookout for literary magazines and publication opportunities for short story writers, so The Incubator Journal is something that’s been on my radar for some time. I had time to make a flying visit to their launch of issue 5 on the way to catch my train back to Dublin. It took place in The Black Box (which looked like another great arts space). There’s something wonderful about hearing writers reading their own work and there was a lovely, eclectic mix of poetry, short story and memoir.
The Belfast Book Festival has only been going for four years but has already established itself as a key event in the literary calendar. It’s definitely worth a visit. Roll on 2016!