If ever there was cause to celebrate the end of a – personally and globally – bad year, tonight would be the night! Now is a time for looking forward, but as with anything, if you don’t recognise bad with good there is no moving on. So here goes:

Personally:

❌ My day job in London didn’t work out. I worked in an environment that I thought would have been supportive to writing, but wasn’t. I have since learned to keep my day job and writing career separate. Promoting my work is a job now reserved only for literary events away from the 9 to 5.

✔ Joseph Robert and I moved to a smaller, quieter place (Belfast) away from big city life in London, where we can focus on writing and our work/life balance. We have been enjoying a slower way of life, long walks in the countryside for creative stimulation and great, locally produced Northern Irish food. You can’t beat that.

✔ The lower cost of living in Northern Ireland means money goes much further. In the new year, we will be moving to a proper writer’s pad with loads of room to accommodate our huge collection of treasured books. However-

❌ These beloved books had previously been crammed into a tiny studio apartment in London, where at £970 a month, we paid more than double what our soon-to-be new home will cost. Add to that the fact that our poky little rip-off apartment was mould-ridden meant for regular white-spirit rub downs of our beautiful leather bound and antique books. Bleurgh!

✔ Belfast has a connected and supportive writing community. Words Ireland holds events to give resources to local writers.

❌ However, I miss attending spoken word events at The Poetry Café in Central London and getting to meet up with fellow London-based poets at the pub, such as John Agard, Shelley Roche-Jacques, Todd Swift, Samantha Jackson, Paul McGrane, Vernal Wright and many more. We had some good times!

✔ Belfast has great bookstores, such as No Alibis and Waterstones. But-

❌ I do miss shopping at Foyles in central London.

✔ As a former archaeologist, I do love perusing the Ulster Museum. Although-

❌ I miss the British Museum, especially the floor on Mesopotamia, my favourite.

❌ Most of all, I miss seeing my London friends!

Worldwide:

❌ Do I need to mention Brexit? As a writer, I had hoped to steer clear of mixing politics with art, but found it unavoidable. Still living in Hammersmith at the time of the referendum, I was shocked to find out that Leave had won, and gutted to see the London I loved become a hostile, dog-eat-dog world. Joseph Robert and I showed our support for tolerance in Hammersmith – a majority Remain borough – by marching against racism and discrimination. That’s not to say that all, or even most, Leave voters are racist – I have many Leave friends who were simply protesting against their deteriorating quality of life through Tory cuts and austerity – but there were some people who used Brexit as an excuse to vent their frustration at immigrants, rather than look at the rich elites eroding their lifestyles in the first place.

❌ And what about the US Presidential election? Conflict in Syria? Ongoing racism against refugees in the UK despite their plight? Numerous celebrity deaths? Ugh…

Reflection:

✔ Tomorrow is not only a new year, but a new start. May it be a good one. It would be hard to be worse!

About Leilanie Stewart

Leilanie Stewart is an author and poet from Belfast, Northern Ireland. Her writing centres around protagonists who are on a journey of self-discovery and who explore their identity by overcoming adversity. She began writing for publication while working as an English teacher in Japan, a career pathway that has influenced themes in her writing. Her former career as an Archaeologist has also inspired her writing and she has incorporated elements of archaeology and mythology into both her fiction and poetry. In addition to promoting her own work, Leilanie runs Bindweed Magazine, a creative writing ezine, with her writer husband, Joseph Robert. Aside from literary pursuits, Leilanie enjoys spending time with her husband and their lively literary tot, a voracious reader of construction vehicle books. CONNECT WITH ME ON SOCIAL MEDIA: https://mailchi.mp/17e6ca162ff3/leilanie-stewart-author

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