As I write this I am only half-awake, completely exhausted by the last week of pure madness. But one of the chestnuts of advice I got this week is that “you have to learn to write when you’re tired.” I’ve no excuse to put this off.
The John Hewitt Summer School met and exceeded all my expectations.
The first thing to say is that the programme was exceptionally well run. Often events only had 15 minutes between them and went on from morning to midnight. The organisers didn’t make things easy on themselves by packing so much into every day. But everything ran on time. Nothing was cancelled or delayed. If the John Hewitt Society could take over Belfast’s Metrobuses I’d be very grateful.
The authors talks and readings were just fantastic. I bought more books this week than I want to admit. Having a pop-up No Alibis bookstore just outside the venue is too much temptation for any bookworm to endure. There were a lot of writers that I had been excited to see but also writers that I had never heard of that have become new favourites of mine.
The daily discussion panels were informative. The panel on “Conflict Transformation” genuinely changed my opinion on what Conflict Art can achieve. Kabosh theatre’s Green and Blue showed these possibilities in action.
The generosity of professional writers this week, whether in workshops, in talks or just hanging out in bars and coffee-shops in-between events, has been so much more than I could have hoped for. There is a widespread confidence in attendees work. “What are you working on?” “What kind of stuff do you write?” “Have you finished anything?” Your writing is treated seriously. The summer school attracts writers who want to see the Northern Ireland literary scene flourish.
In particular I should mention Jan Carson. It is usually a mistake to meet people that you admire – it is very hard for someone made of flesh and blood to live up to the ghostly image in your head – but I’m glad I risked it with Jan. She was unreasonably generous with her time. She was kind and wise in conversation. And she gave me numerous suggestions of things to read. She’s a credit to the Northern Ireland literary community.
But perhaps the most important part of the whole week was being surrounded by other amateurs trying to write. I cannot remember the last time I made so many friends in such a short period of time. There is so much I have learned from just talking to them. I’m taking a wealth of new contacts with me. It sounds naff, but I feel that I joined a community this week.
On Monday the magic will be all over. I’ll be travelling into work and life will seem even more ordinary than it ever was. But I will carry with me some truly miraculous memories. Roll on the 2018 summer school.