Me and some friends in Afghanistan in 2004

I am going back to Afghanistan!
It’s at least eight years since I was last there, and I can’t wait to catch up with all my friends, and see how things have changed.
But this is not just a holiday. I am making the trip in order to create links between women writers in Northern Ireland, and women writers in Afghanistan. I’ve called my project Women Spread the Word. It draws on my background as a broadcast journalist, and my newly acquired skills as a creative writer. And it is relying on the generosity and creativity of a lot of women.
I have been carrying out interviews and recordings with women writers here in Northern Ireland. When I asked them to take part in the project, I asked them to choose a selection of their creative writing. I then recorded them reading their work out loud, and interviewed them about their life and their writing.
Among the women who’ve agreed to take part are Belfast’s first Poet Laureate –  Dr Sinead Morrissey, a former women soldier who served in Afghanistan, a woman who grew up during the Troubles, and a young mum from America who’s studying and writing in Belfast.
But I have also spent months emailing women in Afghanistan to take part. I have been helped by some amazing organisations – most notably The Afghan Women’s Writing Project – who have already published a book, in English,  of work by Afghan women writers. You can read some of the work included in the book here
When I travel to Kabul early next month I will take the recordings from Northern Ireland and play them to the Afghan women I meet up with. Then I will record the Afghan women reading their work, and bring those recordings back to Belfast.
Once back here I hope to run some seminars to play the work I collect and hold discussions – so hopefully there will be a chance for more people to hear their work.
And on top of all this, I will also be doing research for my first novel – The Game, which is based loosely on my time working in Afghanistan as a journalism trainer.
But I have to also thank the organisations which have encouraged and supported me to keep pursuing this project, even when it looked like it wasn’t going to happen.
The Arts Council of Northern Ireland have allocated me money to pay for my flights and Queen’s University in Belfast have also contributed money towards my costs.
All I need now is my visa!