With over 150 speakers from 31 countries, this year’s UWRF lineup is a literary treasure trove of discoveries. Each week in the lead up to the Festival, we’ll speak to a writer whose work you may not yet have encountered, but who could well turn out to be your Festival favorite. For the sixth installment, we spoke to Paul McVeigh, award-winning short story writer and Founder of the London Short Story Festival.
What issues and ideas are you hoping to explore during your UWRF17 sessions?
I love writing about children and how they see the world. I grew up during the Troubles in Northern Ireland, just like Mickey, the young boy in my novel, The Good Son, so I would also like to talk about how children survive in war zones – not just physically but emotionally and spiritually.
Also, Mickey isn’t like the other boys in the streets where he lives or in his school. He’s an outsider. I think we are all outsiders to an extent and recognise the feeling of wanting to fit in while staying true to ourselves. How do we treat those not like us in society? Kids are wondrous beings, so resilient yet so fragile but they also have the potential to be terribly cruel. If you are an outsider you can be the object of that cruelty. I’d like to explore these observations and discover if they are as universal as I suspect.
Who do you hope will be in the audience?
Readers and writers and everyone in between. I hope there are people who like to laugh and who like to be emotionally engaged with a story. I’d hope I get a chance to learn from the audience too.
What’s the most extraordinary place your career has taken you?
I suppose in terms of distance, travelling to Melbourne in Australia all the way from Ireland amazed me. It was a moment realising that my work had really travelled the world.
I’ve seen postcard-beautiful Vienna and felt the raw energy of Mexico City but I’m already imagining Ubud and Bali as the most beautiful and exotic. Am I right?
What’s the best piece of creative advice you’ve received, and what’s the best you can give?
Oh, I’ve been given so many… ‘read your work aloud’ was a great piece of advice given to me. It helps with hearing rhythm and flow, and in the editing process you find the unnecessary words you can take out. If you stumble while reading then the reader will stumble too.
My advice – DON’T GIVE UP! Honestly, I judge literary contests and I understand now that there is only one winner (sometimes two or three places) out of hundreds, maybe as many as a thousand entries. I used to get so disheartened by rejection – gave up for years once! The decision can come down to what the judge is feeling on the day the decision has to be made. At times, I’ve change my mind daily. And if there is more than one judge then sometimes the work that wins is not everyone’s choice. You can expand this to editors at publishing houses.
What are you most looking forward to at UWRF17?
I’m looking forward to meeting writers and readers from Bali and beyond. I want to hear writers read from their work and perhaps find some new favourites. Hopefully some local writers too! I’m looking forward to making new friends and colleagues – maybe even budding future collaborations. I love literary festivals – the energy, the excitement and the inspiration.
Of course, I’m looking forward to seeing your beautiful country too.
Paul McVeigh is appearing in Dazzling Debuts on Day 2 of the Main Program, in The Last Taboo? on Day 3, and in Funny Bones on Day 4. He’s also conducting the workshop A Competitive Edge.