It’s been an inspiring few months. Writing has helped me to heal and find my voice, and I love helping others do the same. I’m really enjoying my time as the Irish Writers Centre Writer In Residence with Womens Aid. The work coming out is heart-warming and eye opening.
I was delighted to be part of the second curation of the Poetry Jukebox, alongside Maria McManus. There are many powerful poems on here looking both directly and indirectly at the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. Have a listen outside the Crescent Arts Centre in Belfast. This curation runs until 10th June.
I’ve really enjoyed some mini residencies with schools in the north as part of Poetry Ireland’s Writers In Schools scheme. I was moved to tears by some beautiful feedback from one school where every pupil sent me a personal note. One said she always thought poetry was boring but now she knows it is beautiful. Another said she’s now keeping a poetry notebook and writes in it every day.
I’m looking forward to the next few months when I’ll be working with people who have eating disorders. I love helping people to find their voice again.
I’ll also be running another Heartfelt Writing Weekend. Here’s a lovely comment from a previous weekend: “This was the first workshop where I was ‘given permission’ to be myself, to write from my spirit – my heartbeat. I feel free.”
It’s a real joy to see some of my mentoring clients getting published and being shortlisted for awards.
And I’m working away on a new sequence of poems, thanks to a SIAP Award from the Arts Council. Here’s hoping the rest of 2018 is just as inspirational.
Sometimes you do your best writing in bed. Give yourself permission to do this.
When I was writing for Fair City I used to lie in bed in the mornings running a scene over and over in my head until it was perfect, and then get up and write it down. My partner at the time used to ask when I was getting up, and laughed when I said I was thinking. I wondered if I was kidding myself until I got speaking to another writer on the series who said she did the exact same thing.
I remembered all this this morning when I was having a lie in. During this lie in I wrote a blog, a course outline, some tweets, this post and the answer to a question that’s been bothering me for a long time. Now that’s what I call a lie in.
Whatever works for you – do it!
PS During my lie in I also got this in a dream – God does not always come in lightning strikes but in a series of small kisses. You can replace God with the Muse, Inspiration, writing angel, whatever – just grab those kisses when they come.
As Terra Nova’s Arrivals 2 goes on tour across the north, here’s a little bit about how I found the writing process for my play The Lost Souls Party and about the challenges of writing for intercultural theatre.
I’ve been lucky to write for both Arrivals 1 and 2. I came to this process thinking ‘multicultural’. But the real friction is in the intercultural clash. I love Terra Nova’s idea of the clash of tectonic plates when two cultures collide. This is all so acutely highlighted in the mash up when people from different cultures come together in personal relationships; they are forced to create something new together. It’s a rich seam to explore.
The process has pushed me to write outside my usual safe limits. Initially this was terrifying. But I think the real strength of the Arrivals writing process is the Masterclass weekend where people from many other cultures who are living in N. Ireland come together and share their stories and experiences, as we share ours. The details of a life lived, the nuances of the daily rituals, the deep emotions that surface allow the writers to write authentically, to add the details that make the final pieces sing true.
The weekends also give an incredible insight into how those not born here see us – and it’s not always flattering. Last year all I could see were the differences between cultures. This year what struck me most was the similarities, the common ground we all shared.
The workshopping and readings of the plays at various stages of development means there is always someone on hand to check a fact or a detail with and this is so important.
However the intercultural element is only the foundation stone, and what you build on it can be anything. This year the plays have taken a real departure in both style and tone from the realism of last year. It’s vitally important to show different faces, voices, stories on stage – but at the end of the day it’s all about what it means to be human.
I’m having a great time running writing workshops with the over 50’s for Big Telly Theatre Company. The stories and life experiences they’re sharing are amazing. It’s reminded me of the importance of seeing the richness in your own life when writing. What may seem everyday to you can provide an amazing insight to someone else. Never underestimate your experiences or your view of the world when you’re writing.
My short film Two Little Boys is being screened at an industry launch at the Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast on Thursday 18th October at 6pm. I’m excited about seeing it on the big screen for the first time.
Actor Shaun Blaney, pictured here, has done a wonderful job of capturing the suppressed pain and trauma of the lead character Sean.
Thanks to director Ryan Tohill and all the cast and crew for all the hard work they’ve put into the film.
My new poetry collection The Return of the Buffalo has gone to the printers and I’m filled with a mix of excitement and fear, as it will soon be going out into the world. I’m delighted with the cover image – it evokes how I often feel, staggering out of the snow and trying to find my way.
It’s hard for a writer to describe their own work, so I’ll leave it to the publisher. Here’s what it says on the back cover:
Whether dealing with grief at the loss of a father, a devastating personal tragedy or the vicissitudes of married love, Deirdre Cartmill’s The Return of the Buffalo attempts to make sense of an often harsh and seemingly meaningless world.
Central to the collection is a poem regarding a visit to Alcatraz in San Francisco – the site of a Native American occupation in the 1960s. Struck by parallels to her own experiences, Cartmill finds hope and consolation in this meditation on the Native American myth that the birth of a white buffalo calf and the revival of the buffalo population will herald a new age.
Other poems in the collection echo and deepen this desire to begin again.
While refusing to shy away from painful realities, The Return of the Buffalo is ultimately about the possibility of redemption.