I’m not one for talking about my personal life online – that’s another story – but on occasion something smashes that self-made separation.
Recently, it was the first year anniversary of my mother’s passing. Not long after came the news that an old friend’s mother had died, a woman I had felt very close to over the last 30 years.
This was followed soon by my mother’s birthday and then by Mother’s Day. All in a matter of weeks. It seemed mothers were in my air. My atmosphere. It was hard.
On Mother’s Day, I woke and decided to walk up Cave Hill. I thought. I came back and cooked a rare Mother’s Usual Sunday Roast for one. I opened the wine before one. I played Doris Day. I sang loudly. For hours. I sang for my mum. I sang in celebration. I sang in remembrance. I sang because of her. I sang in defiance of my neighbours. I sang in vanity. I sang, as the saying goes, my heart out. There were not a few tears.
I woke to two messages on Monday morning. Both talked about my story Tickles, written in 2014, before my novel came out, aired again, without my knowledge, on Mother’s Day. The story is about a man visiting his mother in a home. She has dementia. She hugs him and won’t let him go. In that forced fit, he time-travels (we call it remembering), and finds that, although she is the one with the disease that dissolves time and memories, he is the one that had forgotten, the key to understanding the fracture in their relationship. There is pain, there is remembering and then healing.
I don’t believe in God. I believe in little that has not been in front of my eyes, at some point, and I’d have included that which fuzzes in the corner but disappears in full gaze.
Do you believe in coincidences? Do I? What is it I just felt? Is it a thing people call God?
Here is something I wrote. You can hear it for the next month.
“After an unexpected stay in hospital, Ben seems like a different person.
An original short work for BBC Radio 4 by the Northern Irish writer Paul McVeigh. As read by Tony Flynn.
Writer ….. Paul McVeigh
Reader ….. Tony Flynn
Producer ….. Michael Shannon”
My second short story commission from BBC Radio 4 was recorded today at the BBCNI studios. It was read by the excellent Belfast actor Tony Flynn and produced by Michael Shannon. The transmission date is down for November 22 at 3.45pm.
‘Cuckoo’ is a departure for me so I’m a little nervous. I hope you like it.
On the day of the ceremony on BBC Radio 4 Front Row I go behind the scenes of the BBC National Short Story Award with one of its founders and BBC Radio Books Editor Di Speirs. Find out all you need to know about the judging process in Irish Times Culture.
“Over the last few years I’ve worked with a number of literary awards and prizes, and it’s been an education. The behind-the-scenes processes have varied quite significantly. To illustrate with one example; for the £30,000 International Dylan Thomas Prize we read the longlist of twelve books then re-read our chosen shortlist of six, for the Edge Hill Short Story Prize we didn’t read the longlist only the five collections on the shortlist, for the Seán Ó Faoláin International Short Story Prize I was the only judge and reader, tackling around 750 short stories.
This year I was asked to be an ambassador for the BBC National Short Story Award. I first worked with the award a few years back for an event at the London Short Story Festival, which I co-founded and programmed. Now in its 13th year, the award has become a landmark on the short story landscape in the UK and internationally. I have long been a fan of their excellent website, for podcasts and recordings of previous winners and specially commissioned short stories from the best writers in the form. On that note, a little known astonishing fact, BBC Radio 4 is the world’s biggest single commissioner of short stories, attracting audiences of over a million listeners to short fiction.
Due to its unique and powerful position, at times, questions are asked about access to the BBC’s short story feast. As I watched the twitter reaction to the news of the fifth all-female shortlist and the issues raised re its selection process, I realised there were some questions even I had about the way the award worked.
I used my role as ambassador to gain an interview with Di Speirs, founding judge of the award and BBC’s editor of books, who has gone into detail about every step of the judging process, and shares her love for the short story form.”
Head here to read the interview.
BBC Radio 4’s Open Book has Lisa McInerney discussing religion in the modern Irish novel. Her segment starts around 10.27 minutes and its a great listen – not just because ‘The Good Son’ gets a good mention in some fine company.
N Ni Chonchuir, Sarah Clancy, Lisa McInerney at our reading in Kinvara recently.