The Incubator

New literary journal launches at the Black Box in Belfast with readings from featured writers

On an intermittently sunny, then rainy Sunday afternoon, where better to be squirrelled away than inside the dimly-lit Black Box in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter, soaking up some fine storytelling?

From heartfelt memoirs to comedy, crime scenes and reflective prose to the city streets of Dublin and rural Africa, America, Japan, Spain and back to east Belfast, The Incubator journal offers up an eclectic mix of writing from a range of authors.

Described as being ‘a new home for contemporary writing from NI/Ireland’, The Incubator, which is now live online, has grand plans. So far, it appears to be living up to expectations, with the first issue packed full of original writing from some very unique voices.

As a quarterly publication, The Incubator’s debut edition focuses on memoir, but ultimately, the journal is intent on championing the short story. It is, as editor Kelly Creighton says, somewhere to enjoy stories which are 'well written, succinct and told in a voice that will leave little imprints in our minds'.

Meanwhile, sandwiched in between are book reviews, flash fiction (1,000 words or under) and whatever the current theme is – memoir, one-scene plays, essays and poems. The journal is presently available online, but there may be scope for print editions in the future, says Kelly, who, along with assistant editor Anne Caughey, is delighted with the quality of content submitted to date.

As she tells the packed room: 'It was a real joy to read them. We plumped for four very different memoirs for the journal. There was just a connection. They were instantly relatable.'

To the stories then. First to the lectern is guest reader Caroline Healy – freelance writer, novelist and short story writer – who points out that for those searching to define ‘creativity’ well, there is no such definition. Using ‘home’ as the thread to link her readings, she adds that The Incubator is itself a home – the new home for writing.

First to face the challenge of proving our Incubator friends right in their assertions is Eoin Murphy with 'Waking the Mammy'. Murphy evokes more than a few laughs with his poignant but humorous take on a wake where the deceased is not quite deceased – a situation soon remedied within the course of the tale.

Elaine Donnelly follows with a flash fiction piece richly poetic in form in 'The Writer’s Woman'. ‘Her feet are narrow and she balances herself on an invisible beam of light emanating from the Writer, causing her to take small steps, one foot precisely behind the other.' This piece is evocative and leads rather neatly into the first of the two memoirs to be shared.

'Rosemary for Remembrance' by Phil Young reflects on the ‘hot sunny days’ of childhood, when everything seems possible and holidays are cram-packed full of fun. ‘Perhaps we should never look back. Never try to retrace footsteps long since smudged,’ she says. It is a poignant note upon which to end, but of course everyone looks back.

Reading follows seamless reading in an afternoon busy with words, with another highlight including 'East' by Jan Carson (pictured above), a tale of a supermarket love affair which will definitely have you glancing suspiciously at shoppers loitering in the dairy aisle from now on…

The stories are vivid, with something that will surely please every reader, no matter their preference, and point to talent that has perhaps been largely rumbling along under the radar until now.

This is what The Incubator hopes to change, by introducing new writers alongside established writers for the reading public's satisfaction. Submissions are read blind, without biographies, so are chosen solely on the merits of their content, adds Kelly, who hopes that The Incubator 'will become a steady and vital addition to the Irish literature scene'.

Submissions for the next edition of The Incubator are open throughout the month of June, with the focus on plays, flash fiction and short stories. For more information and to submit writing, visit The Incubator submissions page.

Visit the Black Box website for information on forthcoming events.