In the late summer and early autumn Headliners ran an online creative writing masterclass with emerging author Louise Nealon.

The classes enabled young people from our bureaus in Belfast and Derry to explore their talent for and hone their skills in creative writing, focusing on a range of topics and themes. 

One of the most enthusiastic participants in the masterclasses was Derry bureau member Canice Cusack. At the conclusion of the masterclasses, Louise helped Canice prepare his short story, Breaking Routine, for entry into the Children of Lockdown writing award.

The staff at Headliners were delighted to receive the news that Canice won the award in his category, as judged jointly by renowned Belfast author Paul McVeigh.

I hope in the future I will take up writing and maybe write a  full on book, as it is a passion of mine

Catherine Courvet of contest organisers Ardoyne Youth Enterprise explained why Canice's story was chosen for an award: "I can't convey how impressed I was with his story personally, with the oppressive mood he created and the dystopian world he was able to suggest."

"I am overjoyed, I never expected to win joint first place. I am very pleased with myself," said Canice. 

"The creative writing workshop with Louise Nealon helped me tremendously. I already had a passion for writing and ideas, the creative writing workshop helped me put stories together and, if it wasn’t for the workshop, I would not have applied for the competition. 

"I had written a few short writing projects for the workshop, I remember that I wrote a short story about a killer mailman that went unfinished, but the Breaking Routine story is my only published story and the only one that won a competition. 

"I hope in the future I will take up writing and maybe write a  full on book, as it is a passion of mine," he added. 

Louise Nealon, whose eagerly awaited debut novel Snowflake is released in May next year, was impressed by the quality on display in the masterclasses she facilitated.

"When I facilitated an online creative writing masterclass with Headliners, I was struck by the amount of enthusiasm and energy shown by a group of teenagers in the middle of lockdown," she said.

"I always looked forward to the classes and I was impressed by the level of creativity and storytelling that the group brought to their screens each week. I am so delighted that Canice won the award, but I am not surprised.

"It proves what can happen when you sit down and spend time putting words on paper."

Read Breaking Routine here...