The Poetry Cafe, 22 Betterton St, London WC2H 9BX
The Poetry Cafe, 22 Betterton St, London WC2H 9BX
Wow! It’s been over half a year since my last update! Time has gone unbelievably quickly. What have I been doing? Creatively, it’s been a time for things in the pipeline, so it seems like I haven’t done much, but it’s all been behind the scenes for the most part. I’m planning the next She Grrrowls tour and hoping to produce an audiobook of the anthology. She Grrrowls was featured in Time Out (see image above) and Eventbrite, which meant a couple of busy periods where I had to refuse people entry, which was really tricky to deal with, but much better than the opposite problem in South East London. The show was also a part of Attic Arts Club, which also presented a problem audience-wise, but the event had a great vibe anyway, it just sadly meant I lost a lot of money. The risks we take for art. I’ll also be going with my new co-host Ibizo Lami to Edinburgh Fringe, and it’ll be the third time She Grrrowls has been there and at 7-8pm at The Banshee Labyrinth’s Banqueting Hall from 3rd-16th August.
Aside from She Grrrowls, I got to do my first proper headline feature outside of London… at A Lovely Word in Liverpool. I mean, I have performed at different festivals, and abroad in Spain, but this was the first time I was specifically asked to feature. You can listen to the podcast from the event here. I’ve also been writing an essay on spoken word and Feminism for an anthology due to be published in 2020. I’m going to be putting my own work out later this year, with the final event of the year due to be my book launch – watch this space! I haven’t had time to dedicate to my show idea, but I have been putting together a pamphlet for future submissions, which I finished but have been writing so much more that would go well in it that I will likely expand it and then reduce it again.
A big thing that happened in my personal life: I turned 30. This meant that I went with my family on another expensive holiday as my mum also turned 50 (last year my cousin got married in Mexico). My mum has always wanted to go to Cuba, and it was great to read about it before going, and then whilst there I read some Cuban poetry in Spanish with English translation, a memoir called ‘Before Night Falls’ by Reinaldo Arenas, and ‘Generation Zero’, an anthology of short stories. On my actual birthday, I did a skydive for Mind, and at first it was terrifying and then it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I would love to do it again and again. As soon as I came down, I wanted to go back up.
As well as mine and many of my friends’ 30th birthdays, so far this year has also seen the launch of two of my friends’ debut books. I supported Sophie Fenella at her launch for ‘The Rich Nothing’ published by Invisible Hand Press earlier in May, and just recently Tyrone Lewis published ‘Blackish’ with Burning Eye Books. I also wrote my first professional (i.e. paid) book review for DIVA, which should be out this month. The book is by Lucy Powrie, who is so young it makes me sick with jealousy haha, in the nicest possible way… I do run workshops for free at The Albany called ‘Don’t Get Bitter, Get Better’, for a reason.
Other than getting on with my usual work, and having busy periods taking on additional work, I’ve also been continuing and starting up new hobbies. These include boxing, learning Spanish, and salsa dancing.
I got my sixth tattoo this year too. Inspired by a person, a time, many people, many times. Forget-me-not. The past is behind me, but always alive in my memories, whether in pain or joy or in between. As poets, we mine our pasts, but also we must move forward. I also got a new undercut (which I am rubbish at maintaining), and I’m now so old that I forgot I actually had it twice before, and also think I’ve been asked for ID at least twice, not had it and ‘I’m 30’ has actually been good enough.
Headliner at A Lovely Word, Everyman Theatre, 5-11 Hope Street, L1 9BH Liverpool, 7.30pm
Well, it’s a new year and the perfect time for reflection – though having always worked in education, I always see September as a good time as well. In fact, I think it’s important to reflect on how things are going, which is obviously why I started this blog series! I finally started the bullet journal that a friend got me a while back, and I’m going to see how well it works in combination with my current system of using my iCalendar. I used to use an Excel spreadsheet, but I think I need to better utilise this in combination with my calendar system for specific tasks such as submitting work. For example, I have put ‘submissions’ into my calendar to repeat for an hour a week, but I would be better to work through these in my spreadsheet. What I’ve been doing instead is just having the tabs open, which is less effective, cluttered and stress-inducing.
Despite being happy with the work I’m doing, as I’m thinking of moving out of my parents’ place, I am becoming concerned that my income needs to be higher. I’ve applied for a few poetry jobs – one editor role and a producer role. I’m even thinking about applying for more part-time EFL work, and have gone for one that is three days a week… the issue is that it is 20 hours, and this often refers to contact hours rather than total hours, so lesson planning could mean that more of my time is eaten up. I think I’m still questioning what I’m doing too much rather than just getting on with things and enjoying it.
When thinking of the year ahead, I’ve used the bullet journal to plan poetry-related activities as the other work I do is pretty consistent. There’s a couple of key submission deadlines at the end of February, so I really want to focus on getting these two projects I’m (supposed to be) working on completed by then. This means that the show stuff might have to wait until the beginning of March, but I’m sure that time will come around quicker than expected! When I wrote out all my goals on the yearly timeline, it made it easier to see. I need deadlines in order to actually make things happen creatively, otherwise I tend to let the paid work takeover.
I have found myself being annoyed when people ask about work, especially when there is an assumption that you are only working when you ‘go out’ to work. In fact, most of the work I do is at home, and most of the time I ‘go out’ to work is spent travelling rather than teaching (with the exception of maybe one day when I have three students). Planning lessons is work. Marking is work. Content writing is work. Checking emails is work. Writing poems is work. Updating bloody financial records is work (this is what I spent all day yesterday doing, finished with a bit of content writing and admin). When I am at home, I spend a majority of the time working, so even if I’ve been at home all day, it is pretty damn safe to assume that YES I have been working.
Being freelance means I work every day, and I choose to do that because it means I can be more flexible at times. Sometimes I have to fit things around work, and sometimes work can fit around other things I want to do. I would love to have more rules for myself about what work I do on a Sunday (ideally these would be reserved for reading, writing and relaxation), but at the moment they are just another day I can fill with things I want to get done. By implementing a slightly better system, I hope this year that I can work more towards spending time in a way that is closer to my ideal, because certain tasks end up piling up because they’re not “important”, then they just seem like such a mountain to climb. These things that pile up tend to be the financial record keeping, my scrapbooking, and copying quotations from books I’ve read (instead, I prefer to read more books and add more to this pile).
I’m really happy with how the year is going so far. In fact, I’m going to break down what I’ve been up to each day briefly.
1st: I’d been at a small gathering with three others for NYE and it was perfect. I woke up without a bad hangover. When I have a really bad hangover, it tends to be the only time I do actually have a day of relaxation, because I’m physically forced into it. However, this day, I met my friend for brunch and then we went for a walk through Clapham Common. I spent the afternoon writing until past 11pm.
2nd: I hadn’t finished the writing I’d wanted to do, so I also write this day after starting the morning off with Zumba. I also did some admin, such as telling the tax credits office about my actual earnings since completing my self-assessment. I went through some emails before seeing my first student of the year, then spent the evening marking work that I’d collected from another student. I added a prompt for the ’12 Days of Form’ writing group I’m in, for the next day, and finished at 10:30pm.
3rd: I had my final session with one student in the morning. I’d stayed up late the night before watching a film, so I was a bit tired. I came home to do some planning and marking, and had to do a quick update on my ACE evaluation before doing some more writing. After working through a few more emails, I then met friends for dinner and a final festive celebration with a panto.
4th: I did Zumba again, after writing the poem of the day. I then spent just six hours updating my records. It took me a lot less time than I expected, so that was great. I did some content writing and some admin for She Grrrowls. Still allowing myself some time to wind down from the holidays, I watched another film before reading in bed (this last activity is one I want to get into better habits with).
5th: Today I have been to the gym (I last went on NYE – go me!), written the poem of the day, and I’m about to have lunch, get ready, and go to Words Aloud in Sutton. It’s a great time to go to an open mic when you’ve not got plans. It’s quite local to me and my mum’s even offered to give me a lift! Then I’m meeting a friend from college for the 30th birthday of our old friend. It’s fancy dress and I’m using the ‘growing up’ theme for an excuse to wear all my old dance gear, tap shoes and all!
Tomorrow I’ll get working on those piles!
Happy New Year!
It’s been about a month since I’ve written here. At the moment, I feel as if a big mountain has piled up and I’m still working my way over it. I’m slowly getting on top of things that I tend to avoid doing, whether it’s admin stuff or less important things that I do out of my own interest. The admin stuff involved sorting through papers (I missed one pile under my bedside cabinet and another near my computer is creeping up once more), and I’m still a few months behind on my fiance records. I did do my self-assessment though as I had all my records from October 2017-April 2018! I just need to pay them and inform the tax credits people.
Like bits of paper, emails can also pile up, so I got on top of those and the numbers in my inbox are creeping up once more. Today I’ve had a fellow freelancer round mine and I’ve sewn some things I hadn’t got round to sewing and updated my scrap books. I know I’ll be working Saturday due to doing this, and having spent much of yesterday studying and completing my Spanish assessment, but if it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have had a day like this and I think it is just what I needed. Another thing I will probably leave for over the Christmas holidays (when I don’t have students) is taking quotations from books. I actually used to be really good at posting these online, as well as a few snippets of my own stuff. Why wait for New Year’s Resolutions to get back on these habits?
I’ve had a cold for a couple of weeks. As a freelancer, obviously you don’t get sick days. Or rather, you don’t get paid sick leave. It never got too bad that I felt I couldn’t do any work, but the day of the Bristol tour date I wasn’t feeling up to travelling home the next day and then doing lessons the same evening, so I cancelled them. When it came down to it, I ended up doing some content writing at home to make up for the loss of income. I still socialised when I was ill, and never really rested properly, which was probably why it dragged on for so long. At times, I began to feel feverish and worried I was getting worse, but three weeks on, I’m back to my usual self.
Another thing that I did, whilst probably feeling at my worst, was go all the way to the other end of the Northern line (my nearest tube station, still buses away). This was to get my photograph taken for an agency for being a supporting artiste. It meant hours out of my day for a very short thing that may come to nothing, but it could also provide some fun days out for some alright money. Another thing I’m doing for extra cash is tutoring a mature university student. Other than that, it’s more or less the same stuff I’m doing.
In terms of poetry, I actually recently judged a poetry slam at a university, which was a great experience. It was lovely to hear how varied these young voices were and providing feedback for them was really enjoyable because of how talented they all were. We got some flowers and chocolates as judges and felt very special on that day. Otherwise, spending more time on my own writing is one for the New Year’s Resolutions, especially with the Christmas break coming up as I’ll be trying to to get a bit of income whilst also read more into the texts that my GCSE student is studying so I can do my best to help her.
The She Grrrowls Autumn 2018 Book Tour is now over, with the last event ending in Hackney and ending on a real high. Tonight is the final She Grrrowls event of the year, and we’ll be back in February at The Poetry Cafe, which I am so happy about! It has been a struggle for years, changing venues a lot, but I hope it continues to thrive in this wonderful space. Now I just need to complete the evaluation for ACE and plan the next steps for the ideas I have for She Grrrowls.