Bernie McGill was born in Lavey in County Derry in Northern Ireland. She studied English and Italian at Queen’s University, Belfast and graduated with a Masters degree in Irish Writing. She has written for the theatre (The Weather Watchers, The Haunting of Helena Blunden), short stories and a novel, The Butterfly Cabinet. Her short fiction has been shortlisted for numerous awards and in 2008 she won the Zoetrope:All-Story Short Fiction Award in the US. She is a recent recipient of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland's inaugural ACES (Artists' Career Enhancement Scheme) Award in association with the Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen's University, Belfast. She lives in Portstewart in Northern Ireland with her family and works as a Creative Writing facilitator.
As promised, I have returned with news of upcoming Spring/Summer events (and somewhat randomly, a clump of wild Rathlin fuchsia - because you’re worth it).
On Tuesday 23rd April I’ll be reading at Waterstone’s, Fountain Street, Belfast along with author Tony Macaulay (Paperboy and Breadboy) to celebrate World Book Night. Proceedings kick off at 6.30pm and wind up about 8.30pm. You’re very welcome to join us there. I’m told that there will be giveaways, refreshments and a quiz! Further details from: Waterstones, 44-46 Fountain St. Belfast, BT1 5EE. Telephone: 028 90 240159; E-mail: email@example.com.
As part of a project funded by the Garfield Weston Trust and the University of Ulster with additional support from Causeway Coast Arts, I’ll be leading a number of workshops and readings in the Causeway area in April and May. ‘The workshops will focus on how to approach the blank page. Using practical exercises and writing techniques to help generate creative ideas, participants will be guided to write something from scratch and will learn something about the approaches they can use to develop their own writing.’ So if you’ve always fancied giving writing a go, this could be the time to try it, and if you already give it a go on a regular basis, come and give it a go some more. (The workshops are open to anyone over 16. Under 18s must be accompanied by an adult.) Details of venues and times as follows.
On Saturday 27th April the first Writing from Scratch workshop takes place at Sheskburn House, 7 Mary Street, Ballycastle (10am-12.30pm), followed by a reading and Q&A at 1pm. If you’d like to book a place on the workshop and stay for the reading, you’re advised to bring a packed lunch. To book (workshop fee is £5; admission to the reading is free) contact Sheskburn House, Ballycastle – Tel: (028) 2076 3300. To download full details of this and other events from Moyle District Council go here and search for Creative Causeway.
On Saturday 4th May there’ll be a second Writing from Scratch workshop, this time at Roe Valley Arts & Cultural Centre, Limavady from 10am-1pm, again followed by a reading and Q&A from 1.30pm (so bring a sandwich). To book contact 028777 60650 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The fee for the workshop is £5; admission to the reading is free. For full event timetable for Limavady 400 go here.
The third Writing from Scratch workshop takes place on Tuesday 7th May, 7pm-9.30pm, at Ballymoney Town Hall, cost £5 and the reading (admission free) is on Tuesday 14th May, 7pm – 9.30pm, also at Ballymoney Town Hall. This final evening will also include readings from some of the creative writers who take part in the Ballymoney workshop. For further information and to book a place please contact Ballymoney Town Hall – Tel: 028 2766 0230.
Thursday 9th May is the launch date for my new short story collection, Sleepwalkers & Other Stories, published by Whittrick Press and launched during the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival. You’re very welcome to join us at the Belfast Barge, 1 Lanyon Quay, Belfast at 7pm (admission free), to smash a bottle of champers against its side and send it on its way. Full details here. For great events throughout May 2013, including comedy, music, theatre, visual arts, sound and vision and words and ideas see the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival brochure.
And since we’re plugging arts festivals, The John Hewitt Spring Festival takes place this year at the Londonderry Arms Hotel in Carnlough, Co. Antrim on Friday 10th and Saturday 11th May. It includes workshops by poet Cherry Smyth, the Great Northern Novel Debate (always a good set-to) with Kim Lenaghan, Anita Robinson and Kenneth Irvine, and talks and readings from the likes of Sarfraz Manzoor, Louise Doughty and Ronan Bennett. Cherry Smyth will read on the Saturday with local poets Heather Newcombe, Elaine Gaston and Michael McKimm. This is a great festival that supports local writers as well as attracting international names. You can attend individual events, book in for a half or a full day, or for the whole weekend. The hospitality is fantastic, the food is delicious and the craic is mighty so support it if you can. (I always come away with my brain worn out from thinking.) The novels under discussion this year for the ‘Great Northern Novel’ accolade are: Bernard McLaverty’s Grace Notes, David Park’s The Light of Amsterdam and Maggie OFarrell’s The Hand that First Held Mine. I am, of course, keeping an open mind until the debate is aired, but I LOVE Maggie O’Farrell's writing, plus we share a publisher and an editor so I may be just a little bit biased. Full programme details here.
On Saturday 1st June at 7.30pm, we'll be hosting our annual Say the Word event at Flowerfield Arts Centre, Portstewart. Say the Word is a reading extravaganza to which the Flowerfield Writers’ Group invites writers from groups from across the country to join us for an evening of readings, music and song. We will be joined this year by students from Belfast Metropolitan College who are attending a writing residential at Flowerfield for the weekend, but we would like, as ever, to extend the invitation to anyone of a writing disposition who’d care to join us. We ask that you come prepared to read something of your own (up to three pages of poetry or five hundred words of prose) and to listen to the other writers. We also ask for a small donation to cover the cost of light refreshments. Our in-house band will be back in residence (one ukelele, one guitar – additional instruments welcomed). To secure a reading slot, get in touch at email@example.com.
That's your lot. Come out and let your brain dance and in the meantime, enjoy the fuchsia.
I’m back! Did you miss me? Don’t answer that. If you’re wondering where I’ve been, I’ve been at Libraries NI, blogging away like a crazy woman. If you don’t believe me, you can read what I’ve been up to here. See? Told you I’ve been busy.
I’ve just been named a Versatile Blogger – not once, if you don’t mind, but twice, so I must be extremely versatile indeed. (You would believe this if you saw me reach in to the back of the cupboard for the last remnant of the Easter egg which I hid from myself, but not all that well.) The Versatile Blogger is a kind of virtual tag-game in which you name seven interesting things about yourself, and then tag someone else. ‘Sure thing,’ I said to fellow-blogger Lesley Richardson when she mentioned it, ‘count me in,’ and then had a panic attack about the seven interesting things I was supposed to come up with, so didn’t do a thing about it. Then another blogger-friend, Ashley McCook invited me too and I reckon that’s the kind of serendipity you can’t ignore so here are seven interesting(ish) things about me. (It started off innocently enough, then took something of a romantic turn – Spring in the air?)
• I have seven brothers. This would be a more interesting fact if the seventh of them had seven sons. He does not.
• I love mushrooms. I once had a boyfriend who brought me a bouquet of mushrooms as a present. Both my daughters hate mushrooms with a passion. (I didn’t marry the mushroom man.)
• I love avocado too. The first time I bought one, I didn’t know what to do with it. I thought, because it was called an avocado pear, that it was something you made into a dessert. I was cooking for my then boyfriend for the first time and I ended up using it as a table decoration. I burnt the mouth off him with a peppercorn sauce but he still married me anyway. (He does quite a lot of the cooking.)
• As a student in Italy, I spent one memorable night, along with my friend Rachael, four floors up on the balcony of a hotel in Rome with the shutter between us and the Italian police who were searching the bedroom on the other side of the window. They weren’t looking for us, but had it occurred to them to raise the shutter, we’d have had quite a bit of explaining to do. This is a very long story involving shopping trolleys, car number plates, passports (or rather, the lack thereof) architects (doesn’t it always) and the inhospitality of nuns. (The man whose bedroom it was, is the man I later burnt the mouth off with the peppercorn sauce, in an unrelated incident.)
• Not long after we got married, my husband and I were staying with my Mum and Dad. When I got up in the morning, my husband’s wedding ring was on my finger, over my own wedding ring. I can’t work out how that happened. It’s not an easy thing to put a ring on a person’s finger, even with their full cooperation, never mind when both parties are asleep. I still don’t know what it means. (He says he was trying to make his escape, but he’s still here, eighteen years later.)
• My pet hate? When my husband leaves the floor sweepings in the corner of the kitchen beside the dustpan and brush. I mean, how much more effort does it take to actually sweep the freaking sweepings up and into the bin? (Should have married the mushroom man.)
• I like the words ‘escutcheon’, ‘architrave’ and ‘fenestration’. They’re all good words, I think, and they’re all words my husband uses. He speaks a whole other language. (A mention of this may mean he will forgive me, for the sweepings outburst.)
At this point, I’m supposed to tag a few other people, but to be honest with you, I’m all tagged out so I’m just going to send you back to Lesley’s and to Ashley’s excellent blogs which are well worth a look. I’ll be back again soon with some interesting(ish) upcoming events but here’s a little taster until then. See ya!
On Saturday 13th April I’ll be facilitating a day-long Short Story Writing Workshop at An Creagán (between Cookstown and Omagh) in a gorgeous room with a wall of glass that overlooks a miniature lake. We’ll be there from 10am till 6pm, writing like mad things, after which there’ll be a group reading by the fireside. Doesn’t that sound like a great way to spend a day? It looks like the workshop is all booked up but if you fancy joining us for the reading, it kicks off at 6pm. There are more details here.
Listen to the author read an extract
or read the first chapter.
Watch the book trailer (US)
Watch the UK version.
You had a story for me... I wasn't ready to hear it before but I'll hear it now.
When Maddie McGlade, a former nanny, receives a letter from Anna, the last of her charges and now a married woman, she realises that the time has come to unburden herself of a secret that has gnawed at her for over seventy years. It is the story of the last day in the life of Charlotte Ormond, the four-year-old only daughter of the big house where Maddie was employed as a young girl. The Butterfly Cabinet also reveals the private thoughts of Charlotte's mother, Harriet. A proud, uncompromising woman, Harriet's great passion is collecting butterflies and pinning them into her cabinet; motherhood comes no more easily to her than does her role as mistress of a far-flung Irish estate. When her daughter dies, her community is quick to condemn her. At last Maddie, and Harriet’s prison diaries that Maddie has kept hidden under lock and key in the cabinet she has inherited, will reveal a more complex truth.