Northern Ireland

Shirley-Anne McMillan named as Children’s Writing Fellow for Northern Ireland

The Co Down novelist will be based at the Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen’s University Belfast for two years.

Shirley-Anne McMillan is the new Children’s Writing Fellow for NI
Shirley-Anne McMillan Shirley-Anne McMillan is the new Children’s Writing Fellow for NI

A Co Down novelist has been announced as the new Children’s Writing Fellow for Northern Ireland.

Shirley-Anne McMillan will take up the role that was created as part of Queen’s University Belfast and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s (ACNI) joint 10-year Seamus Heaney Legacy Project, supported by the Atlantic Philanthropies.

She will be based at the Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen’s for two years, working with students and engaging in outreach activities.

Ms McMillan said: “I am delighted to be appointed the new Children’s Writing Fellow for Northern Ireland at Queen’s, following the success of previous fellows, Maire Zepf, Kelly McCaughrain and Paul Howard.

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“My field of interest is young adult writing and I’m passionate about helping young adults engage with reading and creative writing in order to find ways to tell their own truths.

“Over the term of my fellowship I hope to work with young people to encourage literacy and confidence in writing, particularly within groups which have traditionally been marginalised in Northern Ireland.

“I also hope to work with teachers of creative writing and to create opportunities for adult writers of children’s fiction to sharpen their craft.”

The author, whose novels are all set in Northern Ireland, previously worked as a school teacher and online writer in residence for the Irish Writers Centre in Dublin and now teaches creative writing at the Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast, and offers mentoring through the Irish Writers Centre.

Speaking on behalf of the Estate of Seamus Heaney, Catherine Heaney said: “With her years of experience in the classroom, we are sure Shirley-Anne will bring her own energy, vision and passion to the role, and help and encourage young people to share their own stories.”

Professor Glenn Patterson, director of the Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen’s University Belfast, said: “Shirley-Anne’s work speaks compellingly (and beautifully) to readers in the later school years.”

Damian Smyth, joint head of literature at the Arts Council for NI, said: “In this role, Shirley-Anne will act as an ambassador and mentor for young people, hosting creative writing workshops, readings and events over the next two years.

“She brings with her a background in teaching, her own experiences of writing for YA audiences and, most importantly, an infectious passion for books and stories.”

McMillan will take up her post as the Children’s Writing Fellow for Northern Ireland in the spring.