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?
I’m excited to be heading to Qatar soon for JLF Doha. Here are my events at the Qatar National Library.
Fri 13th, 6:20 PM TO 7:05 PM, SPECIAL EVENT AREA
Writing Conflict: Paul McVeigh, Ahmad Dallal, and Prayaag Akbar in conversation
In a world fraught with conflict, eminent writers speak of how they make sense of the disturbances and dystopias around us. Prayaag Akbar’s award-winning novel Leila, adapted into a popular Netflix series, addresses the ongoing conflicts in society. Paul McVeigh’s debut novel, The Good Son, tells the story of the Irish Troubles in turbulent Belfast. Writer and academic Ahmed Dallal has examined the conflicts of the Middle East.
2:55 PM TO 3:40 PM AUDITORIUM
What is Not Said: Celebrating the Short Story: Alex Shaw, Kaltam Jabor M. Al-kuwari and Paul McVeigh in conversation
The brevity of short fiction, illuminating transformative moments in life, eliminating all that is unnecessary, takes it to the heart of the reader. A session which investigates and celebrates the form and function of the short story. Conversations and contextual readings featuring Alex Shaw, author of the popular Aidan Snow SAS series, Kaltam Jabor M. Al-kuwari, the first Qatari women to author a collection of short stories, and Paul McVeigh, author of The Good Son and director and co-founder of London Short Story Festival, Paul McVeigh.
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.
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.
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!