‘North Star: Short stories and poems by female Northern Irish writers is an anthology collected by the organisation Women Aloud NI. The Anthology was written and put together during the lockdown period and is officially released on June 4th 2020. I spoke to Kerry Buchanan, the Managing Editor of the project, about the book’s release and the process of making it happen.
Hi Kerry, can you tell us a bit about the background Women Aloud NI, how can people get involved?
Jane Talbot was the woman who first had the idea of Women Aloud NI back in 2016. She is an absolute powerhouse. Women Aloud NI started hosting events for International Women’s Day, we held events all over Belfast and Northern Ireland. We invited women from all across Northern Ireland to read their work in the likes of Eason’s book shop in Belfast and we got really impressive audiences. We also held flash mobs in the middle of Belfast, where we would all suddenly start reading our pieces at the same time. Since then, Jane has taken a bit of a step back from the organisation but our goal still stays the same: to give women in and from Northern Ireland a voice and a platform. We want to instil female writers with confidence. There’s an awful lot of imposter syndrome going on, and it feels as if women are being told all the time that they’re not good enough for the writing scene. They may be seeing men being picked up and published even if those men are writing at a completely different standard to them. We believe that women in writing are being overlooked, and we want to reverse that trend. You can join Women Aloud NI by checking out the Facebook page, where you can find all information about membership.
How has the lock down impacted the organisation?
Although we have missed a lot of performance opportunities that normally pop up at this time of year, we have held a virtual weekend reading festival to keep the momentum going. In fact, the lock down is actually how ‘North Star’ came about. Our current chair and project manager, Angeline King, decided that instead of sitting back and getting miserable about not being able to see each other and perform, we should get together and do something as a group. She has absolutely motored through this, and it has given us all such a lift.
Tell us all a bit more about the ‘North Star’ anthology.
One of our members, Byddi Lee, came up with the title ‘North Stars’ and then one of the editors of the book, Orla McAlinden, suggested we change it to ‘North Star’. It’s a bit of a double entendre. These women are both the ‘North Stars’ of Northern Ireland, and the North Star is obviously what sailors use to navigate. It is always there to guide people home. As it says on the back of the book itself “No matter where you are reading these poems and stories, North Star will guide you home”. The collection is all about celebrating Northern Ireland, so there is a chapter for each county and one for Belfast City as well. We have representatives from each of those areas writing pieces about those areas. There is some incredible, evocative, and local work in there, both in the short stories and the poetry. It celebrates the past, present, and future of Northern Ireland.
‘North Star’ is a must have for lovers of local writing, and an opportunity to add some very talented women onto your bookshelf. I especially enjoyed the opening piece ‘Belonging Time’ by Johannesburg born writer Shelly Tracey. Tracey captures the beauty of her surroundings in her new home of Lisburn, capturing natures small details in in a way that many may overlook. ‘Confirmation’ by Aislin O’Neill is a story that gripped me from start to finish. It tells a real life event through the limited perspective of a child, and does so fantastically. As for poetry, I personally loved ‘Derry’ by Mel Bradley, which so wonderfully captures an view of the city through time and experience. ‘North Star’ is truly a gift to the NI writing and reading community, a celebration of all of our differences, similarities, and voices.
You can find out more about Women Aloud NI on Facebook .
Interview and Review by Sam Dineen