North Star: Lockdown spawns new anthology by local women writers.
A group of women writers from across Northern Ireland have used the global lockdown to fuel a powerhouse of literary creativity.
The writers of Women Aloud Northern Ireland – among them published authors, novelists, poets and broadcasters – are publishing an anthology of short stories and poems, some based on the theme of the virus that is keeping them indoors.
Not content with merely print, they are also staging an online literary festival, bringing their sparkling storytelling to audiences they would usually be entertaining through workshops, readings and other events, were it not for the worldwide restrictions on their movements.
North Star was conceived by WANI chair, Angeline King, who suggested members turn their quarantine time into a collective creative effort with a marketable product at the end.
Her fellow writers rummaged through their back catalogue of best prose and poems to produce a tome awash with myriad themes and issues. Some even penned fresh pieces, reflecting the strange times of life during the coronavirus, such as Kerry Buchanan’s The Drumlin’s Tale – a story of life across the aeons that drips with metaphor.
Angeline King, author of Snugville Street, explained: “North Star is all about being creative, keeping the mind busy, encouraging friendships forged through Women Aloud NI, and continuing the energetic collaborative spirit upon which WANI was founded in 2016, and which otherwise has been curtailed by the pandemic.”
“North Star – An Anthology of Literature by Northern Irish Women’ was born out of the wish to portray writers’ homeplaces – our villages, towns, counties, or wherever we have found ourselves firmly rooted at the moment. It is a theme many of our members often depict in their writing, so we already had a deep vault of material to mine.”
The Facebook Live Weekend Festival takes place next weekend, Saturday and Sunday, April 25 and 26th, using the social media platform’s live facility to bring a diverse programme of fiction, prose and poetry to audiences in their homes.
WANI member Vicky McFarland suggested the festival as a way of giving a voice to the creativity simmering behind the scenes.
She said: “The festival gives us the chance to celebrate ourselves, to give our community something to look forward to, and to fulfil some of our goals by raising the profile of women writers living in, and from, Northern Ireland. It also gives us a chance to enjoy some great writing.”
Co-editor Kerry Buchanan added “It was a pleasure to co-edit with Lesley Walsh. We had the services of Orla McAlinden and Shelley Tracey carrying out proofreading, and Shelley is also our poetry editor. Angeline King, Chair of WANI, is the brain behind the anthology.
“Editing North Star has been a whirlwind experience, with tight deadlines and an eclectic mix of poetry and prose from every corner of the province.
“As this is a community project, we have had writers who have never seen their work in print before all the way through to published authors who’ve won prizes at home and abroad for their work.
:This should have felt like a mis-match, and perhaps should have been difficult to deal with as an editor, but the reality has been very different.
“The energy and enthusiasm we’ve seen from each and every contributor has made North Star a dream project. Women have helped each other out, mentored, supported and cheered each other on. I only wish all my editing projects could be so uplifting!”
North Star, due to be published by Leschenault Press, will be available online through a print-on-demand service, and through Gardners Books, from June 2020 to June 2021.
The Facebook Live Weekend Festival takes place this weekend, Saturday April 25 and Sunday, April 26 with members reading live at 11am, 3pm and 8.30pm on both days.
Women Aloud, a collective of women writers from across Northern Ireland, founded in 2016, aims to support, promote and raise the profile of women writers across Northern Ireland.