Northern Ireland – often overlooked, or dismissed as “troublesome” – has generated some of the best contemporary writing in the English language.
Invited by Guest Curator Paul McVeigh, Darran Anderson and Wendy Erskine are some of the most exciting new literary voices coming out of the nation, and they’re just the tip of the iceberg.
Come and find out what wonderful fiction you’ve been missing out on, and who you should be looking out for next.
Chaired by Paul McVeigh
About the speakers:
Darran Anderson is an Irish writer living in London. He is the author of Imaginary Cities and Inventory. He has co-edited The Honest Ulsterman, 3:AM Magazine, Dogmatika and White Noise. He writes for the likes of the Atlantic, frieze magazine, and Magnum, and has given talks at the V&A, the LSE, the Robin Boyd Foundation and the Venice Biennale.
Wendy Erskine lives in Belfast. Her work has been published in The Stinging Fly, Stinging Fly Stories and Female Lines: New Writing by Women from Northern Ireland. She also features in Being Various: New Irish Short Stories (Faber and Faber), Winter Papers and on BBC Radio 4.
Two of the UK’s most exciting voices in queer writing, Julia Armfield (Our Wives Under the Sea) and Paul Mendez (Rainbow Milk) talk to our Guest Curator Paul McVeigh about their novels, their writing and the LGBTQ+ writing scene, which is finally seeing the celebration it deserves.
Julia Armfield is a fiction writer and occasional playwright. She was shortlisted for the 2019 Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year. She was commended in the Moth Short Story Prize 2017, longlisted for the Deborah Rogers Award 2018, and won the White Review short story prize 2018.Her critically acclaimed short story collection, salt slow, was published in2019. Our Wives Under the Sea is her first novel.
Paul Mendez is a British writer, based in Birmingham. His debut novel Rainbow Milk (Dialogue, 2020), an Observer Best Debuts choice, was shortlisted for the Polari First Novel Prize, the Gordon Burn Prize, the Jhalak Prize, the Lambda Literary Award in Gay Fiction and a British Book Award (Fiction Debut). He has written for Vogue, AnOther, Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar, The Face, the London Review of Books, the TLS,the WritersMosaic and the BBC. He is currently adapting Rainbow Milk for television, and is a student on the MA programme in Black British Literature at Goldsmiths, University of London.
Birmingham, the city that raised me: Kit de Waal & Osman Yousefzada
****PLEASE NOTE: the time of this event as printed in the programme is incorrect. The event is 7pm – 8pm. Oct 7th.****
Two memoirs set in the same part of Birmingham: geographically, very close – but culturally, miles apart.
Kit de Waal grew up to a white Irish mother and Black Caribbean father in 1960s Springfield, South Birmingham, with 4 siblings, not enough food and huge expectations imposed by her Jehovah’s Witness mother. Not 3 miles away, 15 years later, Osman Yousefzada grew up in a closed-off Pakistani immigrant community where everyone knew his and his family’s business and he and his siblings – especially his sisters – were under permanent scrutiny.
Kit and Osman join us at Birmingham Literature Festival in the year both their memoirs have been published to talk about their childhoods in the city, their families, and how that set them on the track to stride out and break with expectations to forge their own careers and lives.
Chaired by Paul McVeigh
Sponsored by Newman University
About the speakers:
Kit de Waal is the author of the novels My Name is Leon, which was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award and won the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year, and The Trick to Time, which was longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction, and a short story collection, Supporting Cast. She is also editor of the Common People anthology, and co-founder of the Big Book Weekend festival. My Name is Leon was adapted as a one-hour film for BBC1, and broadcast in June 2022 to rave reviews.
Osman Yousefzada was born in Birmingham to migrant parents who are illiterate in English and their mother tongue. He is an interdisciplinary artist and designer who studied at SOAS and Central Saint Martins, and went on to obtain an MPhil at Cambridge University. He has exhibited at international institutions including the Whitechapel Gallery, Dhaka Art Summit, V&A and more. The Osman Yousefzada clothing line is worn by celebrities including Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Lupita Nyong’o, Thandiwe Newton, Gwen Stefani, Emma Watson, Freida Pinto and many more.
I’ll be chairing an event with Joanne Harris author of 20 novels & journalist, editor and interviewer Sarah Shaffi. Pretentious? Moi?! ‘In this light-hearted session, we look at the heavy-handed writers who allow their imaginations to be overruled by their egos, and think about how to avoid the pitfalls of authorial pretension.’
The second event also sounds like a lot of fun.
Dear Kit and Paul… ‘Need help? Why not join our literary agony Aunt and Uncle, Kit de Waal and Paul McVeigh as they offer advice and solutions to all of your writerly (and other) problems.’
This year’s lineup includes Jordan Stephens of hip hop duo Rizzle Kicks; bestselling author and screenwriter Juno Dawson; podcaster Viv Groskop; screenwriter and author Abi Morgan (The Iron Lady, Suffragette, The Split); social media influencers Alex Light and Natalie Lee aka StyleMeSunday; superstar musician La Roux; multiple-award winning writer and Primadonna Kit de Waal; TV presenter and writer June Sarpong; Sunday Times bestselling-author Cathy Rentzenbrink; top crime writer Erin Kelly… and many more famous names and emerging talent from the world of books, entertainment and music. Plus walkabout Alice in Wonderland, late-night disco sessions, pop-up dance classes, nature walks, stand-up and loads of things for kids to do. And if you’re a writer (or want to be) Primadonna offers you the chance to rub shoulders with agents, authors and publishers or take our ‘MA’. And loads more still to announce!
‘Prophets, Makers and Risk Takers: A Showcase of Writing from Northern Ireland’ is a 2-day festival that brings leading writers in Northern Ireland together, in person and online, to share their ideas and skills with emerging writers, and to promote the best of Northern Irish writing across the world.
I’ll be taking part in the Panel Discussion: Understanding the Industry at 12noon March 9th.
You can check out the website here and ticket link below.
‘Paul will share what first readers, editors and judges look for in a short story and discuss how to get your story published.
Paul will discuss how to get your story onto that shortlist and how to avoid the rejection pile. Paul will take you behind the scenes of anthologies, competitions and journals, explaining the psychology of the decision-making process and the importance of ‘That Killer First Page’. He will highlight the essential ingredients to create that crucial story opening. In a form and genre where every word counts, you will get tips on staying focused on your story and where to start the action; you will also get clues on when to stop. You will write an opening and get feedback on that. You will look at submission opportunities; how to find them and where you should be sending your stories.
Paul McVeigh’s short stories have been read on BBC Radio 3, 4 & 5 and performed on Sky Arts TV. They have also appeared in many publications including Faber’s ‘Being Various: New Irish Short Stories’, ‘The Art of the Glimpse’, The Irish Times, The London Magazine and The Stinging Fly. ‘Hollow’ was shortlisted for Irish Short Story of the Year at the Irish Book Awards in 2017 and he was longlisted in 2021.’
His debut novel ‘The Good Son’ won The Polari First Novel Prize and his work has been translated into seven languages. He reviews for The Irish Times and the TLS.
Paul has edited the Southword Journal, the ‘Belfast Stories’ anthology from Doire Press (2019) and is the editor of ‘Queer Love’ and ‘The 32′, which includes new work from Roddy Doyle, Kevin Barry and Danielle McLaughlin.
He is associate director of Word Factory ‘the UK’s national organisation for excellence in the short story The Guardian and is co-founder and Director of the London Short Story Festival. Paul has judged many international literary competitions including The Dylan Thomas Prize, The Edge Hill Short Story Prize, The Sean O’Faolin Short Story Prize and currently the V. S. Pritchard Prize for the Royal Society of Literature. He is presently head of Literature for the Arts Council of NI.
This workshop has sold out in Adelaide, Armagh, Bath, Belfast, Brighton, Cork, Dublin, Galway, Kuala Lumpur, Lancaster, Listowel, London, Melbourne, Salisbury, Singapore, Ubud and West Cork.’
Join Dublin Book Festival for an evening of delving into Queer Love: An Anthlogy of Irish Fiction (Munster Literature). The anthology was conceived as an attempt to redress the lack of acknowledgement of LGBTQIA+ community and representation in Irish literary anthologies. At this online event, editor of the collection Paul McVeigh is joined by two of its contributors, Emma Donoghue and Neil Hegarty to discuss their contributions to the anthology, the importance of producing this anthology, and developing LGBTQIA+ presence and representation in the Irish literary community.
Queer Love: An Anthology of Irish Fiction is a new publication from Southword Editions which seeks to go some way to redress the lack of acknowledgement of the LGBTQI+ community in Irish literary anthologies, with a mixture of established writers of international standing, writers who have been making a splash in recent years and new emerging writers. The anthology has a mixture of previously published stories, newly commissioned work and those entered through our call out. Featuring stories by John Boyne, Emma Donoghue, Mary Dorcey, Neil Hegarty, James Hudson, Emer Lyons, Jamie O’Connell, Colm Tóibín, Declan Toohey, and Shannon Yee.
Emma Donoghue, born in Dublin in 1969, is an award- winning novelist, playwright and screenwriter, living in Canada with her family. Her novel The Pull of the Stars became a bestseller in the US (New York Times), Canada, Ireland and Britain on publication in July 2020. Room was shortlisted for the Man Booker and Orange Prizes and has sold over two million copies. She adapted the novel into her first feature film, Room, directed by Lenny Abrahamson, which was nominated for four Academy Awards for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director, Best Picture, and Best Actress (won by Brie Larson). Her short-story collections include Astray, Three and a Half Deaths (UK ebook), Touchy Subjects, The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits, and Kissing the Witch.
Declan Toohey is from County Kildare. His writing has appeared in Soft Punk, The Dublin Review of Books, The Blue Nib, Stone of Madness Press, and the anthologies Queer Love and Brevity is the Soul, among other outlets. Earlier this year, he was a co-winner of the IWC Novel Fair, and his debut novel, Perpetual Comedown, is forthcoming with New Island Books.
Shannon Yee is an award-winning writer and producer. Her perspectives as an immigrant, ethnic minority, queer artist-parent with a disability living in NI are deeply embedded in her work. Shannon has received a number of awards and grants, including the ACNI Major Individual Artist Award (2017). Her Reassembled, Slightly Askew sonically immerses audiences in her autobiographical experience of nearly dying and subsequent acquired brain injury (www.reassembled.co.uk) , touring locally, nationally and internationally in arts festivals and medical training settings since 2015. Shannon’s published short stories are ‘The Brightening Up Side’( Belfast Stories; Doire Press, 2019), and ‘Thumbnails’ (Queer Love: An Anthology of Irish Fiction; Southword Editions, 2020). Her first dance film, Pandemic Parenting: Pandemonium, will be aired this autumn on BBC as part of the Culture in Quarantine commissions.
Paul McVeigh‘s debut novel, The Good Son, won The Polari First Novel Prize and The McCrea Literary Award and was shortlisted for many others including the Prix du Roman Cezam in France. His short stories have been read on BBC Radio 3, 4 & 5 and on Sky Arts. They have appeared in print in journals such as The Stinging Fly, and numerous anthologies including Faber’s Being Various: New Irish Short Stories and The Art of the Glimpse. He is associate director of Word Factory, ‘the UK’s national organisation for excellence in the short story’ (The Guardian), and he co-founded the London Short Story Festival. He was co-editor of the Belfast Storiesanthology and was fiction editor at Southword Journal. He edited The 32: An Anthology of Irish Working Class Writers, which includes new work by Kevin Barry, Roddy Doyle and Lisa McInerney.
Image credits: Paul McVeigh photographed by John Minihan