From October 2014 until at least January 2015 I will be in Northern Ireland, working on my book: working title Dear Bird. I have decided that I want to devote myself to my artistic self and to this project I have already given so much to. Frankly, I will never finish the book until I go back and spend a significant amount of time in Northern Ireland, learning with and from the people, as well as devoting time to do some serious writing work. There is no time like the present to take a risk and go for it.
In my Junior year at the Perpich Center for Arts Education, where I studied creative writing, we were given an assignment: write a short story that takes place in a country with political conflict. I chose “Ireland” not even realizing there was a separation on the island between the North six counties and the Republic at the time. Always obsessed with character development as a writer, the final draft I turned in for this assignment was 54 pages long and unfinished, which started the novel.
|From my first trip to Northern Ireland:|
Murals warn those coming into a Protestant community in
Belfast who's territory they are entering. Summer 2009
When I was a freshman in college, I sent a draft to the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts and received National Honorable Mentions in their annual Young Artists competition, as well as some extra money from the state of Colorado, where I was living at the time. I was able to travel to Northern Ireland with this cash in the summer of 2009 and begin exploring the place I had been studying and writing about for two years at that point. I only spent about 3 full weeks in Northern Ireland. It is clear to me that though I have read many books about Northern Ireland and the history of the island, there are nuances and details I will never know or understand without spending a significant amount of time there and developing relationships with people and places.
The book is set in 1972 Derry (or Londonderry, depending on if you are ethnically British or Irish). This is the city where Bloody Sunday took place – an event in which British soldiers opened fire upon peaceful Catholic working-class protesters and killed thirteen unarmed men. The story takes place in the months after this tragic event and focuses on a Catholic family in the Bogside slum of Derry. There are three speaking characters – James, Meghan and Lucy – three siblings in the Crilly family who each stand at the edge of adulthood in different ways. They all have very different styles of speaking and ways of interpreting the world. In the same way that if you spoke to three different people about any event which they all experienced, you’d hear three different stories, I hope to create a sense of uncertainty about exactly what’s happening based on their unique experiences of the events taking place in the lives.
In the 1960's-70's Northern Ireland had the worst slums in all of Western Europe and they were most centered around working-class Catholic neighborhoods. There were virtually no jobs, especially for Catholic men. Women mostly worked in linen or shirt factories. There was little to no ability to get a career in any white-collar industries. The whole area was gerrymandered and voting was consistently rigged to disproportionately affect the Catholics, putting Protestants in power even in areas where Catholics were in the majority. Violence was escalating as the IRA terrorist group was on the rise and British soldiers were occupying the cities. The book takes place during one of the periods of the “sovereign state” “Free Derry”, an area in the Bogside neighborhood completely walled off by barricades of trash and protected by IRA members. If a man was outside of Free Derry and soldiers claimed there was any reason to arrest him, he could be interned, or taken to jail indefinitely without a trial, bail etc.
|The original borders of the Bogside, a slum community|
of working class Catholics in Derry, where my novel takes place.
Here, three young people are trying to process their own coming of age, hopes and goals, as well as loss and fears.
I have created a Go Fund Me campaign page, where my friends and family can donate to this research and artistic journey. The money will come to my bank account where I will allocate it only towards this portion of my upcoming trip. I am overwhelmed with gratitude each time I am given monetary support, and I must say a huge Thank You to everyone who has so far contributed. It is humbling for me to receive support in this way.
The campaign will remain opened until I have completed this trip! So please know you will be able to help in the late summer or fall, if you are interested but now is not a good time!