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Freelance Reflections #9

It’s nearly a year on from becoming self-employed, and I’m finally getting a routine together. I have six students across Monday to Wednesday, which takes up about six hours on each day because most of this is travelling. It’s a constant battle in my mind between money and travel. I live at home, so I am able to save, but the sacrifice is time.

It begs the question: what is my time worth?

I figure I’ll stay put for now, and embrace the time travelling by reading, doing any admin I can on-the-go, and sometimes just daydreaming out of windows, listening to music. I’ll be turning 30 next May, so maybe I’ll freak out then and feel the urge to uproot. But at least by then I’ll have saved some more.

My mornings are spent planning lessons and marking. This takes up a lot of time as well, but it’s okay. If I stick at it, the work will get easier with time. The type of subjects the students are studying often means I have to go over each paper to make sure that I not only know the answers, but know how to teach the students how to get those answers.

The students themselves are lovely and a pleasure to work with. The other day, I was doing a creative warm-up game with Rory’s Story Cubes, and we made a story that was so funny that we both got the giggles. It was about dice that wouldn’t stop rolling. It relied on an implicit communication as we each continued the story, the dice still rolling in the story, and whilst it was seemingly unprofessional to laugh quite to the extent I did (barely being able to speak), we bonded in that moment, and it is those moments that will make it hard when the tuition stops.

The last couple of weeks, I have been focusing on trying to get into the routines that I want to continue. Sometimes I question whether I’m doing enough paid work. I have this mentality that I should be trying to make as much as I would need to survive if I didn’t live with my parents. But, how am I going to progress with my writing career if I don’t give it the time it deserves? When talking to fellow creative Daisy Dockrill a few months back, she said to do exactly this, for the reason that I would be able to give myself that time to write more.

As well as planning and marking in the mornings, I do content writing, and I said I wouldn’t do this past Wednesday, but this slipped into Thursday the last couple of weeks. Today I’m going to aim to do at least four hours of writing, but I also have a book tour to organise and there’s still (always) a lot to do for that! I’ve been trying to do bits and pieces to do with it, but as always, it never feels like there’s enough time. I’ve been socialising a fair bit too, but this week has been all work really. I’m looking forward to a couple of social things over the weekend, including Common Ground – a free festival I found out about. Hopefully the weather will be nice!

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Last week also saw the first instalment of She Grrrowls at The Poetry Cafe in Covent Garden. It was really lovely, with the most audience we’ve had in a long time. I didn’t make quite enough to cover costs now I have to pay for the venue as well as the acts, not to mention paid advertising. The features were Annie Hayter, who is a Barbican Young Poet; Anvi, who is on an ACE-funded stay from India; and Good Canary, who is a musician!

I’ve been exercising every day until today. I was really itching to, but I just got a new tattoo, so I can’t wear a tight sports bra over it. I’ve been doing a bit of Spanish, including some reading, but could push myself more with this to get up to scratch. I’ll be starting intermediate conversation classes soon, which is scary! Next week I’ll be in Leicester for the second date in the She Grrrowls Autumn 2018 Book Tour, and the first outside of London!

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Freelance Reflections #8

 

Nearly a week has gone by since the I’ve been back from this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Having done a week less than last year, I missed not having that extra week. On the other hand, I didn’t get ill this time. Although I didn’t get as much money through the door this time, I had a bit of money from all the crazy months of work I did before, which meant I could have some drinks now and again, and even went out for an Eid meal with Shagufta, plus went back to the same place again on my last day, and had some tapas with Rowena and Amani for a really extravagant last day.

Although I spent most of my time rushing from show to show, trying the write reviews in between, and doing some content writing in the mornings to get some actual income, I did have a chance to go to Portobello Beach one rainy morning. I think we could have got more money in at a different time of day, but with an 11.20pm show that ends gone midnight, people are wanting to spend on booze rather than books. What I loved about this year was not doing it completely on my own. With regular features, flyering and hanging out with Afshan, Shagufta, Celeste, Rowena and Amani, we formed friendships and it felt so good to have a team of poets to promote and perform with each night. Audiences were really lovely each night. The worst was when we had two poets we knew in the audience and nobody else. Other than that, they were small to medium and really positive and supportive. It was also great to meet Helen Black and Liam McCormick who did incredible shows before and after She Grrrowls, all as part of PBH’s Free Fringe.

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When I was on my 10 hour coach journey back, as well as reading my new copy of Liam McCormick’s ‘Beast’ and eating lots of snacks, I discovered the above illustration by Scott Tyrrell. I had basically heavily suggested I wanted to be drawn (I said he could put me in Norwich instead of London, just fine), but to actually be part of this project is a dream come true. I was so happy to see it – he’s creating a whole poetry map with pictures and names of poets, and this will be made into posters and then perhaps even tea towels.

Since being back, I’ve been doing a little content writing, but mostly been planning lessons for next week and doing lots for the She Grrrowls book tour and future events. In fact, yesterday saw the very first book date in Sutton Central Library in partnership with Words Aloud host Rachel Sambrooks, featuring Aisling Fahey, Selina Nwulu and Rachel Long. Everyone was really pleased with the turn-out, and audience feedback was really positive, so I think things can only get better and I’m excited to continue with the tour!

Freelance Reflections #7

I’m currently at Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where I’m running She Grrrowls – 23:20-00:20 each night at The Banshee Labyrinth’s Banqueting Hall. The first week has flown by and I’ve seen so many incredible show. Lots can be seen in my reviews for The Norwich Radical.  Other shows that have been highlights include Antosh Wojcik’s How To Keep Time, Kit Finnie’s Mabel and Mickey, Alissa Anne Jeun Yi’s Love Songs, Jess Green’s A Self-Help Guide to Being in Love with Jeremy Corbyn, and Katrina Quinn’s Individual Medley. There’s also been other nights like mine that I’ve enjoyed such as Listen Softly, and That’s What She Said.

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Loud Poets

I’ve had the honour of performing at some shows in addition to She Grrrowls, and they’ve all been lovely. I was part of the Loud Poets’ game show. I had so much fun, and although I felt super awkward trying to read a poem imagining I was in strange locations like the moon, it was an amazing event, and I especially enjoyed the painting round. I got to do a 10 minute spot as part of Sez Thomasin’s show This is Awkward, which was filled with incredible poems. Fay Roberts’ Other Voices had the most heart-warming crowd I’ve had so far, and I’m lucky enough to be going back there a few times this month. I’ve read my diaries from 2002 and 2006 to audiences as part of Helen Black’s Dear Diary – this was the most hilarious and fun experience, and Helen puts on a great show, with diaries I could very much relate to! I’ve also wrangled my way into The Full Irish early morning show with some more lighthearted material. Finally, I’ve been featured at Well it’s Woody, which I recommend purely for Woody’s own beautiful voice and music.

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Sadly, Jess Green could only feature at the first event as she was hit wit laryngitis for the rest of her run. Afshan D’souza-Lodhi was so incredible to have as a regular feature in this first week, and we had a great time flyering. Being a late show, it is so lovely to be able to flyer with other women and then do the show like She Grrrowls. The last few nights I’ve been working with Shagufta K. Iqbal and Celeste Ramos, which has been great so far! Audiences in general have been small, and mostly lovely… last night was a bit weird, but we had a drink afterwards instead of rushing to bed, which was much needed on the first proper Friday night of fringe!

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Of course, calling out at strangers about feminist poetry as mixed responses, with some being really positive, other responses being ‘I’m good’… like, you’ve got enough feminism in your life? The worst have been drunk men bringing up washing up… and once when we weren’t even flyering and Celeste and I got told by two men that we should fuck. This was around midday as well. Tonight we reach the half way point, and it’s Saturday night! Let’s hope for big warm crowds of loveliness!

We need bigger audiences, and bigger bucket donations! We have lots of books that need to go! I can’t carry them all back with me… also I’m having to do content writing in the mornings to try to scrape together some income this month. So please spread the word about the show!

Freelance Reflections #6

So, I’ve not got around to writing for… nearly two months! I guess that means things have been going well. Although work is still unstable, this is an extremely busy period for some of the work I do. I’ve actually not been doing as much content writing as I would have liked because I just haven’t had the time. As for my own creative writing… aside from a few articles from The Norwich Radical, a couple of writing workshops, and copious amounts of notes in my phone, I’ve not been able to give myself any proper writing time.

New goal for September: balance work. Okay, this has been my goal from the beginning, but sometimes it takes you getting near breaking point to realise that you need to reassess things. I’m going to push towards working 3 days a week by simply informing the relevant people that my availability is only Monday-Wednesday, only making an exception to this rule for urgent work, or ad-hoc stuff. Without letting this take over the way it has done the last couple of months.

The additional work I’ve been doing has consisted of making nearly 200 English Language A-Level exam papers, and teaching EFL for two consecutive weeks at two different schools. This is on top of tutoring, so content writing very much took a backseat in this time and was near impossible. On top of that, I found out I was successful in my application for Arts Council Funding! I’d applied in the past, and had two rejected recently for regular She Grrrowls events, so I was very pleased. The news came at a strange time, as I was dealing with the possible loss of 4 years of data as my Mac desktop stopped starting up… a few days of uncertainty and around £900 later, my data was restored and I could resume action on the tour plans, as well as organising a 3 week run at Edinburgh Fringe festival. This meant it was even harder to celebrate the success… which is definitely something I don’t really do anyway. If something goes well, emotionally, I act like it is expected and just move onto the next, never pausing to take-in any kind of accomplishment beyond telling my parents, friends and sharing on social media…

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I’ve been working around other events and socialising around all this work, so it means where possible I’ve been getting up between 6.30-7.30am. I also almost forgot that I had spent some of the time prior to exam marking doing exam invigilation at a couple of schools. That was such a challenge for me, because it was very boring. I am used to being constantly active and mentally stimulated and so it was mentally and physically exhausting simply because of the long periods of standing and doing nothing more than looking at the students doing their exams. However, it got me into better habits in terms of waking up early, and I got some exercise in by walking to a local school about half an hour’s walk away.

 

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I thought by tutoring between 4-7pm, it would be perfect for me to then go to poetry events. However, I realised I’d become lazy and when I didn’t see my Spanish exchange partner, I went home to eat with my parents, or just didn’t want to stay out. I booked to see some shows, and tried to go to as many as possible with friends. I’ve realised that I really much prefer going to things with others. I know that I can go alone, but I feel anxious doing so, and sometimes it’s worth it, but sometimes it’s not. It’s hard to gauge. I went to Penned in the Margins’ summer party and saw friendly faces such as Raymond Antrobus and Nick Murray. I bought a book as a Christmas present (planning early is good). The next night I went with a friend and her new boyf to a memorial night for Frightened Rabbit singer Scott Hutchison and it was beautiful and healing.

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Despite being overwhelmed with work, I took a moment to have lunch in the sun in Deptford, before dropping in at the Apples & Snakes office for table space, cherries, and biscuits for National Writing Day. I used some notes from a poet called Jemilea Baako, who was kind enough to send me details of what I missed after I had to leave the BreakBeats Poets Workshop. It felt good to have some time to cool down and write.

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One night I went to an event by Octavia, a collective for women of colour, founded by poet Rachel Long. As well as powerful poetry and delicious cocktails, the event turned into a party and I enjoyed it so much I ended up taking the night bus home. I also went to R.A.P. Party at Southbank, organised by Inua Ellams, which had a similar vibe in terms of its impactful words mixed in with rap tracks. Despite two award-winning poets not being there in physical form, it was another incredible evening of absolute fire.

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She Grrrowls has been ticking along, with up and down audiences at regular events. I’m writing this just before the first show at PBH Free Fringe in Edinburgh, trying to keep the nerves at bay with such as late slot: 23:20-00:20 (Banshee Labyrinth). When I return I have less than a week before the first date in the She Grrrowls Autumn 2018 Book Tour! I had an early start today seeing Antosh Wojick’s show How to Keep Time, and have just seen Rosy Carrick’s Passionate Machine. I have a feeling they will both be firm favourites throughout the festival. I can’t believe it’s just the first day. I’m wondering how I’ll cope with these late night shows. I’m seeing one more show before doing a couple of hours of flyering, having put lots of posters up and stocked up on all my food and toiletries. Perhaps staying up to see ‘Beast’ after She Grrrowls at the same venue will make me less tired in comparison the rest of the run?

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Having mentioned Antosh’s fringe show, I think it’s also worth a mention of my fellow ex-Roundhouse Kid Glove poet, Sarah Perry. Whilst celebrating my Gran’s 76th birthday in Rye, swimming together in the sea, eating the most delicious Tuscan food, and drinking lots of wine with my family, I read Sarah’s debut novel ‘Let Me Be Like Water’. Being by the coast, grieving in my own way, the book found me at the perfect moment. I highly recommend it, especially if you’re reading by the British coast.

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Freelance Reflections #5

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything here. I’ve actually had a bit of time where I’ve not been working that much. I tend to make a big thing of birthdays, and my friends aren’t in one big group, so I did lots of different things for that – a night out north of the river, dinner and Francesca Beard‘s incredible show ‘How to Survive a Post-Truth Apocalypse’ at Battersea Arts Centre, Ballie Ballerson (which I found overrated), and Draughts board game cafe (which I love). I even added an extra picnic on the end the following weekend. On my actual birthday on 14th May, I went out with a fellow freelancer, and we had a DIY breakfast at Jack’s, and explored some galleries.

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Another highlight was going to Liverpool for the first time with the same friend. It was a lot to take in as we spent a lot of time at the International Slavery Museum, before going to a talk about Shy Radicals (Hamja Ahsan) and Shrinking Violets (Joe Moran), then exploring the Tate Modern and the Yoko Ono & John Lennon exhibition, and other galleries. I felt like there was obviously so much more to be seen as one can fit into a couple of days.

In terms of work, I’ve continued with content writing, tutoring, and exam invigilation that is now closer to home. Being freelance means always being on the hunt for more work, I find. I recently had an induction for remote minute-taking, and I’m due to have some training soon to become an assessor for an A-level English Language exam.  I’m also in the process of setting up some workshops in a school, which will be about shyness/quietness/introversion. I’m currently still in the middle of my workshops at Spread the Word, ‘The Femme Canon‘, and I’m loving it. There are still a couple of places available for just £10 this coming Saturday.

I’m constantly questioning what I’m doing, with part of me nervous about the future, and conscious I’m not doing EFL teaching as much as I’d like at the moment. I worry that if I want a job in the future that it will look bad, but then I figure the world is my oyster in that respect and I could go abroad again to teach. The one thing that is making me consider moving out of my parents’ house again is the amount of travelling in London I’m doing on an almost daily basis. I know as well that I would be happier being more independent, but it’s all a matter of perspective and I could probably last another year here. It’s best to take things a day at a time, I guess.

Currently, I’m getting up at 6,30am, and I’m travelling over an hour (walking) to and from my exam invigilation job in the morning. Thankfully I have some time in between, where I’ll either do some marking, planning, or content writing. I’ll leave at between 2.30pm and 4.30pm to tutor in the evening. The idea then is to still have some time to go to poetry gigs and things. For instance, tomorrow I’m going to a workshop put on by Apples & Snakes after my student.

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I had a week off for my cousin’s wedding in Mexico, where I was a bridesmaid and also read a poem written especially for the couple. This week away from work meant not getting paid two Fridays in a for content writing. Technically, I paid for the bulk of the week in Mexico with my compensation from donating my eggs. I’d not had much time to do any of the content work the week before either, so only got £15 from that before I went away.

The wedding was perfect, but so surreal at the same time – being on the beach in Mexico! I wished I had been able to explore more, but sadly I’m no longer with my fellow explorer, who I travelled through South East Asia and lived in Vietnam with. Instead, I was with my parents, who weren’t as keen on getting away from the resort as me. I was thankful to eat some incredible chimichangas in Playa del Carmen, and went to Tulum and Coba to learn about the Mayan ruins, climbing near (but not quite) the top of the 137 feet pyramid of Nohoch Mul. I made the mistake of looking down too soon, but the view was pretty incredible. I also read some Mexican authors whilst relaxing on the beach and by the pool. Carmen Boullosa‘s ‘Before’ was beautifully poetic as a novella, and I enjoyed Chloe Aridjis‘ ‘Book of Clouds’, since it was set a lot in Berlin, where I had my last trip away abroad. I’m in the middle of Carmen Maria Machado‘s ‘Her Body and Other Parties’ and this collection of short stories is incredible.

The last She Grrrowls featured Laurie Ogden, Danielle Allen and Leon Craig. The audience numbers weren’t as high as I would have liked, but the three of them were so lovely and embraced the whole evening and we were in the upstairs room, so we could ramble on as long as we wanted in the Q&A!

On reflection, I need to have more gratitude for what I’m doing at the moment, and stress less about stuff. I’m such a type A. It has it’s pros and cons. I’m slowly making more time for creativity too, and with proper goals and deadlines for these kinds of projects, I’ll be able to shape things into a life with a good balance between making money, and everything else I want to do.

Freelance Reflections #4

The past couple of weeks, work-wise, I’ve done a mixture of exam invigilation, tutoring, and content writing. It feels like I’m slowly building something with more regularity, but work has taken over a bit from a lot of focused writing time.

The exam invigilation hasn’t really been worth it financially, but I’m going to give it a go at a school more local to me over the next month or so. It takes me 35 minutes to walk there (and just as long going on public transport), so that will tick off my exercise that day.

 

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Artistic Director, Lisa Mead

 

The last couple of weeks have included a lot of arts events. This started with Poetry Pioneers celebrating 35 years of Apples & Snakes, which was incredible – I enjoyed seeing those poets I know and love, as well as The Upper World, fusing music and poetry. She Grrrowls was a success this month, and I also saw 4.48 Psychosis and reviewed it for The Norwich Radical.

 

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Photo credit: Paul Point (Chocolate Poetry Club)

I had the privilege of attending a workshop with The BreakBeat Poets. Sadly, I had to leave early to cover a creative writing workshop for work. The fantastic Jemilea sent me notes on what I missed, so next time I carve some writing time out, I can return to this!

 

The following week, I saw Florence + The Machine at the Royal Festival Hall, went to my wonderful friend Sarah K. Perry’s book launch for her debut novel ‘Let Me Be Like Water’, and have generally commenced with my birthday celebrations, with the big day being on Monday!

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I tried to balance work with sunshine time since we had a little heat-wave, which meant a lot of drinking beer in pubs and parks with picnic food. It also meant I got a lot of my maths revision done. Now, I just need to be careful I’m not burning the candle at both ends too much, focus more time on writing, and make sure I have enough time to do all the paid work I’m committing to do.

Freelance Reflections #3

Another couple of weeks of freelance life, and I’ve now got three students I’m tutoring, and although other paid work has not been much over these last two weeks, I’ve been busy with lots of unpaid activities, such as planning workshops and tutoring sessions (which takes a long time at this stage) and writing a funding application. I’ll still be working on both of these things next week too.

I’m also using a maths revision book to brush up on my Maths, and have found there are a couple of different ways to do subtraction, and the new way I’ve found is actually the one recommended by the government.

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Joel Auterson at his book launch for ‘Unremember’

I went to Joel’s book launch, which was really lovely, and there I saw lots of old familiar faces, as well as a few new ones. The next evening I went to see The Head Wrap Diaries, and I ended up reviewing it for The Norwich Radical.

I’ve dedicated some time to writing, particularly on Sundays, but have been using my long journeys to take part in NaPoWriMo still, which ends on Monday. I’ve been sharing some extracts from my new poems via Instagram. I’ve also done a little bit of illustration as an experiment to get me back into visual art a bit.

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(L-R) ‘unnatural council hands in cold looked blue’ by Sara Barker and ‘Sleeping Beauty will hum about mine ears’ by Fiona Rae

Yesterday I decided to go to a few exhibitions around Old Street, including a visit to BEERS, Victoria Miro, and Parasol Unit. I went for an incredible tapas meal at Boqueria and then to a reggaeton and salsa night, where I danced until the early hours. I’m now feeling pretty smug because I’ve had so little sleep, but I’ve been super productive doing some content writing work, plus poetry and Spanish practice and this!

I also recently got an office chair for my bedroom and I love it! I was on a horrible wooden fold-up one all this time before. I can even put it on a massage function!

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‘Sea Painting, Dunwich’ by Jessica Warboys