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.
I’m attending the 16th International Conference On The Short Story In English in Calabria, Italy, 24-27 June 2020. This will be my third conference (following Vienna and Lisbon) and this time around I’m honored to be asked to teach a class. The details are below.
Paul will share what editors, first readers and judges look for in a short story. He will discuss how to get your story published, 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. For the workshop, you write an opening and get feedback on that. We will look at submission opportunities; how to find them and where you should be sending your stories.
Winner of ‘McCrea Literary Award’
I am delighted to have been awarded the McCrea Literary Award 2018/19 for my short stories. I won the award previously for my debut novel The Good Son. The award is given biannually by the University of Ulster. Have a great day!
“I devoured it in a day, but I’ve thought about it for many, many more.”
Bailey’s Prize-winner Lisa McInerney
“A triumph of storytelling. An absolute gem.”
Chris Power, Namita Gokhale and Navtej Sarna in conversation with Paul McVeigh. This episode is a live session from JLF London at The British Library, June 19, 2019.
I hope you enjoy this conversation about the short story.
You can read my latest short story, The Swimmers, in Faber’s ‘Being Various’ Anthology of Irish Short Stories.
‘A very impressive tale from a writer I always enjoy reading – a powerful and gripping story’ Storgy
Here’s an excellent piece from Lisa Frank of Doire Press in Irish Times Culture on the new anthology we edited called ‘Belfast Stories’.
You can come to the launch at Belfast Book Festival this Sunday 5pm at Crescent Arts Centre.