Women with Extraordinary Stories

ocob2013_bookcover_finalI’ve been spending a little time dabbling with fiction recently, though none of it is polished enough to be published here just yet.  Tonight, I’m hoping to draw some inspiration from other writers at a special ‘Women with Extraordinary Stories’ event.

The event is being hosted by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland as part of this month’s One City, One Book initiative. Throughout May, events have been held across Belfast to celebrate the latest novel by local author, Lucy Caldwell All the Beggars Riding. The initiative is essentially a community reading programme, which has, over the last month, encouraged everyone to read and discuss Lucy’s latest novel.

I’ll hold my hands up at this point and admit that I haven’t read the book, but I do intend to. Regrettably, I’ve also missed a lot of the One City, One Book events this month but I’m glad to be getting along to this one.

Tonight’s event will feature the stories of two incredible women:

Journalist Letitia Fitzpatrick will join Lucy Caldwell to discuss her experience of living with loss, following the death of her husband from cancer.

Melanie Grimsley, who survived a horrific car fire as a child and endured hundreds of operations, will tell her story to journalist, Ivan Little. The Fermanagh mum of two is now training to be a lawyer and recently published her autobiography.

I have the greatest admiration for these women and hope that hearing their stories tonight will give me a renewed enthusiasm to get back to my own writing.  For anyone that’s interested in coming along, the event takes place tonight (Monday 27th May) at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Malone Road, Belfast at 6pm. The event is free to attend.

Stars in My Eyes

A retrospective look at some of my journalistic work…

I always wanted to write for a living. When I told my secondary school English teacher this towards the end of my A-Levels, she pointed me towards a degree in journalism. Soon after, I followed her suggested career route, joining the Journalism class of 2001 at Dublin City University. I’ve never really looked back. Until now.

Post-graduation in 2005, I spent a hectic year living in Dublin juggling three jobs; something had to pay the bills while I searched for that much-lauded and increasingly elusive paid writing job. My search eventually ended in spring 2006, when I was offered a job with a large independent magazine publishing company in Belfast. I upped sticks and moved to a city I’d only visited once – a risky move at the time. Seven years on, I’m still here.

Go front cover

GO April 2011 – one of the later issues I wrote for and edited

I was taken on for the launch of the company’s new launch title, GO Belfast (now GO Magazine) – a lifestyle and entertainment magazine for men and women. The title’s launch was a reaction to a new Belfast that was emerging at that time; a thriving, contemporary city with a blossoming social and creative scene.

I quickly rose up the ranks from an editorial assistant to reporter, deputy editor and then editor. All in all I spent five and a half years with the title, prior to moving into PR in July 2011.

My writing for GO was varied; I wrote on everything from fashion and food to music, arts, culture, film, current affairs and more. I also had the pleasure [and displeasure at times] of interviewing countless celebrities and stars; getting a relished glimpse into the lives of the rich and famous.

As a retrospective exercise, I thought it would be interesting to take a look back through the archives and revisit a small selection of my old articles and interviews, published during my time at GO, particularly those that are still viewable online. So, here goes:

Blondie’s Back – interview with Blondie’s Debbie Harry & Clem Burke

GO Belfast magazine, May 2010

Blondie's BackUndoubtedly one of my biggest musical crushes, Debbie Harry is a living legend. I am a massive Blondie fan, so when I heard they were coming to Belfast for a show, I made it my mission to secure an interview with Ms Harry. It was a slightly strange interview, to say the least. My questions were relayed first by email to her publicist, who then read them to Debbie via video link before transcribing them and sending them back to me. It was a strange set-up, however, I’m still glad to say that I was able to interview a true music icon. Read the full story here.

Arthur’s Day article, GO Belfast, November 2010

Arthur's Day 2010One of the perks of the job was getting to go to great events and one such event was Arthur’s Day in 2010. A very clever marketing construct by drinks company, Diageo for its flagship brand, Guinness, this was the second annual Arthur’s Day celebration and I got to spend it in the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin. I joined media from across Ireland and further afield to interview stars including Snow Patrol, Manic Street Preachers, The Script, Kelis, Westlife, Tim Robbins & Eliza Doolittle on the red carpet. Some Guinness was also consumed. Read the full story here.

Keith Lemon interview, GO Belfast, November 2010

Keith Lemon interview As a seemingly simple Q&A, this isn’t exactly a work of art writing wise. I’ve included it here however, as it was possibly one of the most bizarre interviews of my career. Fictitious TV personality and Celebrity Juice star, Keith Lemon (brainchild of comedian/actor, Leigh Francis) stayed in character for the entire interview; serenading me over the phone at the beginning and proving impossible to keep on track throughout the rest of it. I’ve kept the recording of the interview for safe keeping too – when you listen to it, the interview is peppered with uncontrollable spurts of involuntary laughter on my part. I’ll save you that particular horror. You can however, read the full interview here.

Neil Hannon interviewNeil Hannon (Divine Comedy) interview

GO Magazine, April 2011

An interview with one of my musical heroes – The Divine Comedy frontman, Neil Hannon. A true lyricist, I’ve always admired his beautiful and distinct way with words. Perhaps one of the most captivating interviewees, I’ve had the pleasure of speaking to, his love and passion for his work was inspiring. Read the full story here.

On the Front Line

On The Front Line, GO Magazine, June 2011

A profile piece on two of Northern Ireland’s leading war correspondents, Bill Neely and John Irvine, featuring interviews with both journalists – two men I greatly admired.

Read the full story here.