Blog

Freelance Reflections #40

After doing well with the updates, I’m very late with this one due to a horrible cold. I’m hoping that I’ll be recovered by my birthday this Friday – my final day of antibiotics! I’ll likely keep this one short as I’ve only managed to do about an hour a day of content writing until today, when I’ve done about 3-4 hours. I’ll do some more tomorrow as I’ve had some work cancel due to my colleagues being off for Eid. It’s nice to know that I might be in Allah’s good books, especially as my partner is from a Muslim background. Hopefully it’s also a sign that their parents will like me despite being a heathen.

As I’ve had to cancel so much tutoring work in order to recover, basically having been off a whole week, losing hundreds of pounds, I would greatly appreciate book purchases from my Big Cartel. I can make a dedication of your choice and sign it if you purchase through this way. You can even PayPal me at carminamasoliver@hotmail.com if you’re feeling generous! When I am feeling better, I would be happy to provide you with your very own bespoke poem for a donation of £10 or more. Remember, my latest published book ‘Circles’ from Burning Eye for £10, and I’ve also just put out a mixed media poetry pamphlet, ‘Selected Poems: 2007 – 2012’ (it’s $10, so the price is cheaper in pounds). My most recent painting, ‘Footsteps’ is also available for £200.

I’m meant to be walking 300,000 steps in the month of May to raise money for Leading Lights, so I’ll have a lot of catching up to do when I’m fully recovered! After a couple of days of celebrations, I hope to walk to Peckham for the vintage poster market and a hot chocolate at The Melange, and maybe check out some of the Dulwich Art Festival. I’ve found it very difficult being ill, and also feel I easily overwhelm myself with plans. If I’m not working, I’m doing SOMETHING. I need to learn that I really need my me-time, and the self-care on a regular basis. Rather than constantly going from work to busy activities, I need to listen to my body and my soul. I need to realise that I may need more down-time that over people, and not beat myself up about it.

There are many ways I am taking care of myself, but it’s just not good enough when you continue in bloody-minded stubbornness to pretend nothing’s wrong, and work through Sunday and most of the week thinking that honey and lemon and garlic will cure a cold without RESTING. I need to remember the time I was so badly ill with what started as a sore throat and cold that my blood cell count needed monitoring for leukemia. I get really anxious when sick because of this. Although the illness ended up being some kind of sickness related to glandular fever, it was never really diagnosed, but I know that if I don’t take more care, this is how people end up with ME. I need to give myself rest BEFORE I don’t have a choice and am sapped from energy.

Lastly (aware this has gone on longer than intended… my energy is coming back – wahey!) – poetry pal and ex-team member and co-host for She Grrrowls Ibizo Lami, is doing loads of stuff at the moment. As well as Self-Care Saturday Instagram Live sessions, a nf a forthcoming poetry publication, she’s also fundraising to bring a new show ‘Chosen Family’ as part of the Living Record’s Brighton Fringe digital programme. She’s nearly half-way and has until the end of the month to fund it, so go ahead and donate now.

Freelance Reflections #39

The best part of this week has been working with Simon Mole and a group of other poets on Zoom workshops to write and perform poetry for children. I wasn’t the only one feeling nervous, as the children joining were not only to be our audience, but also our “poetry bosses”.

The children were amazing and it was such an incredible experience, even being online. It was so lovely to hear positive feedback from them, but also how engaged they were in the topic, that my poem got them thinking and debating about it.

It was interesting to also hear what the other poets came up with, and next week will be the final workshop, where we’ll get so share some of the other work we produced. Hopefully we will get to perform our final poem in front of a live audience in the summer.

Otherwise, the week has been pretty normal. Emails are piling a little bit again. I’ve had applications rejected from ACE’s DYCP fund, The Museum of Banksy, and a content writing job. However, I’m also now thinking more long-term about the work I’m doing, and planning to apply for a part-time MA in Art Psychotherapy, for which I would get a loan out to pay the tuition fees.

Selected Poems 2007 - 2012

Most art therapists are employed on a part-time basis (I’ve seen jobs between 4-22 hours a week) and can work on a self-employed basis once on the HCPC register, and being an artist is an important aspect of the role. With this in mind, I’m excited to put out my book ‘Selected Poems: 2007 – 2012’, which is a selection of poetry and mixed media illustration from the first five years of when I started to get into poetry on the stage and page. I’m still awaiting for the final proof copy to approve, but I’ve added it to my Big Cartel and it will also be available on sites like Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Freelance Reflections #38

Last weekend was the ‘Free Spirits: Loss in Lockdown’ exhibition. I went with my parents, and my mum could especially relate to Rachel Sambrooks’ beautiful poetry, alongside the visual artwork, since also losing her dad at the start of the year. Two of my poems were on display: the first one I wrote after his death, and the other simply titled ‘Grandad’, which I had written about last week in relation to the Muddy Feet Poetry video.

This week, I have started with a few more students again, and I’m slowly getting on top of things and starting better habits, with writing at least. I’ve felt quite stressed out with work at times, still feeling overwhelmed, but I’m feeling a bit lighter now. I also have made a few tweaks to a new book I’m self-publishing, ‘Selected Poems: 2007-2012’.

With my Nasty Little Press having came out in 2014, I felt this period would be nice to have as a kind of time capsule. I previously published ‘Carmina’s Poetry Tease’, but this work combines poetry with a kind of visual mixed media. Initially produced during my MA in Creative Entrepreneurship, it’s a third of the size of the original. I got the proof copy, and needed to make some adjustments, and once I’ve approved the next copy, it’ll be available for global distribution via Lulu.

‘Leopard print is my favourite colour’

I’ll also make some available on my Big Cartel, though as it’s print-on-demand, it’ll take a little longer to come through, but much better for the poet than buying on Amazon! In other news, I treated myself to this lovely rose and peony candle from Art Wow, which is a cool website with affordable artwork. The candle is in my favourite colour combo (also the colours of the pansexual flag) – blue, pink and yellow! As I write this, I’m also wearing my Biffy Clyro ‘There’s always space for the arts’ t-shirt*. I’m excited about seeing them live in November! I also got to eat this lovely lunch with my flatmate for her birthday, from The Guava Kitchen in Forest Hill (I recommend the guava balls!)

*100% of proceeds will go towards supporting Create (Arts) Limited to improve the lives of society’s most vulnerable and disadvantaged people through creative arts. (Registered Charity No 1099733).

Freelance Reflections #37

This week I’ve only had one student, and I also did my tax for 2020-21. Let me tell you, ignorance is bliss! It looks like I’ll be paying a third of my income until the end of the year, with the other third on surviving (and hopefully the last third on saving for the next tax bill…) My head is buried deep still. Now would be a good time to buy a copy of ‘Circles’ off me from my Big Cartel: https://carminamasoliver.bigcartel.com.

The plus side, I’ve been sticking to having at least an hour of poetry writing each day, and have started workshops with Simon Mole to produce poems for children and families, alongside the ongoing Red Sky Sessions with Apples and Snakes. This week we had Adam Kammerling, and it was nice to see fellow Roundhouse Collective (Kid Glove) member, Antosh Wojcik get a name check. 

Muddy Feet Poetry also put out my video ‘Grandad’ out on Tuesday. As I said in my Instagram post, poetry has always been my way of processing difficult things. I am nowhere near processing this, but it felt good to honour my grandad in this way, in a poem that is sad, but also joyful in that it touches on fond memories. I hope others grieving in this time especially enjoy this piece and that it allows you time to grieve. 

I ventured out this week for a meal outdoors, trying to balance between the overwhelm of unfinished to-do lists and enforced relaxation. I’m a little worried that summer may still be bad work-wise, but even if it is, I can comfort myself that I’ll still have some savings and at least I’ll be able to focus on some creative projects. And hopefully sunshine. 

I’m actually writing this on my phone in a park in between my second vaccine appointment and a massage (to support the beauty industry y’know). Some kids just walked past and one asked where I got my “Jordon’s” from and I said I couldn’t remember, “some vintage shop”. One took the piss two steps away and I realised what a middle-class hipster wanker I must have sounded like, all the while they were probably from eBay.

Remember this Saturday is the free exhibition Free Spirits: Loss in Lockdown, by Jo Sharpe and poet Rachel Sambrooks at Studio 9 Oaks Park Studios in Carshalton on the 17th and 24th April, which you can register for online on Eventbrite.

Freelance Reflections #36

Last week’s She Grrrowls wasn’t as smooth as usual, but it was nice to see both the poets involved sharing poems, as well as audience members. I made a point of not bringing my laptop away when visiting family in Hastings for a picnic, but ended up writing a draft of a book review for The Norwich Radical on the journey on my phone!

I still worked on Bank Holiday Monday, but on Tuesday I got to use my wetsuit and booties for the first time in the 9-10 degree pool in Brockwell Park. It was so freezing, and strangely difficult to swim more than two lengths at a time. I’d never been in such cold water to my mind.

With less of some work, I’ve been trying to get on top of boring admin tasks, but also been writing a lot more and catching up with NaPoWriMo prompts, as well as attending the amazing Apples and Snakes’ Red Sky Sessions with Bohdan Piasecki, which have so far included Malika Booker and Jacob Sam-La Rose, two absolute poetry heroes.

I found out today that after being longlisted for Butcher’s Dog, I didn’t make the cut, which I’m gutted about. I never expect to be accepted when submitting poems, so to get so close makes it extra disappointing somehow. Then again, it is also all the more reason to try again in future.

To end on a positive note, successfully recorded two poems with Muddy Feet Poetry on Thursday outdoors in Deptford. I had learnt one by heart, and was super nervous, but Pete and Stanley were so lovely and supportive throughout, I felt really happy afterwards.

The main poem we recorded is also part of Free Spirits: Loss in Lockdown, by Jo Sharpe and poet Rachel Sambrooks. There will be a free exhibition at Studio 9 Oaks Park Studios in Carshalton on the 17th and 24th April, which you can register for online on Eventbrite.

It’s a strange experience writing about something like grief and putting it out into the world; sometimes I feel like artists get it because we all do it, but maybe it’s a bit odd to other people, but it is all part of how we process the world and how we connect.

Freelance Reflections #35

One of the perks of being self-employed is that sometimes it’s possible to change around your schedule. Why might you want to do this? In the middle of a national lockdown that feels like all there really is to do is work, when it hits 20-degrees, that’s the reason.

I worked all Sunday, with my eyes to the weather forecast, and met the necessary deadlines. If anything, I wish I had made the most of that sunny Tuesday even more. I did some work until around midday, then headed out to Brockwell Park to read and sunbathe, after having been there for a sunset stroll the night before, and a morning jog. My partner has a balcony, so after lunch there, I continued reading and eating ice-cream until I needed to leave for work.

The next day, I expected at least another couple of hours of sun, but sadly it was more of a grey day. Still, I went for a read and walk in Dulwich Park, and did a little skateboarding too. I also have a lot of the next couple of weeks to catch up with stuff, and begin to put into action some of the writing and studying routines I want to implement into my daily structure.

I attended the first Zoom workshop for the ‘Red Sky Sessions’ by Apples & Snakes, with Bohdan Piasecki, featuring Malika Booker. She spoke a lot about writing routines, so I really have no excuse to not get started this week. Although Bohdan did also say that my diary writing is a valid form of writing!

I also have some good news about a project that I’ve been accepted onto, which feels really great but I’m unsure if I can reveal the details right now. It’ll involve creating and workshopping new material for a show in the summer months, likely at an outdoor venue.

I’ve also managed to memorise the poem I am recording next week, so I just need to keep going over it to really ingrain it into my mind. I don’t find memorising poetry easy (even when it rhymes, as in this case), but it’s something I want to do more, and really requires daily practice to do. At least, for me, like Malika Booker was saying, having such routines means I actually do it, whilst it’s when I slip out of the routine, or at least that intention, that the danger can be to just NEVER get anything done.

Today, I’ve managed to do the work I wanted to do, and will be exploring a new park for a walk, as well as seeing some family outdoors this weekend, despite the disappointing weather. Next week, I’ll be catching up on emails and my many open tabs, as well as making sure to carve out some time for writing projects, whether that be editing or writing.

Tonight is also the next She Grrrowls Instagram Live show. So far, only one person has signed up, which is my fault for putting the word out too late, but hopefully more messages about signing up with come in today. Either way, the show must go on, and I will be back from my walk in good time to get going with it! I did my Instagram Live ‘Poetry Slumber Party’ on Monday, and if anything, it’s funny seeing my face as I get interrupted by my partner accidentally speaking aloud whilst playing a game, and by a knock at the door!

Freelance Reflections #34

I still feel like I’m just keeping afloat of things, and my dream for the next couple of days is to do some work today so I can have an extra-long lunch in the sun! This is definitely one of the perks of being freelance, and an example of when it can be worth scarifying some of Sunday to work.

This morning has been slow, I’ve just submitted some poetry to competitions/magazines, and I’m currently roasting some sweet potato for a Caribbean soup for lunch. I’ll try to do some content writing afterwards, but also thinking of going outside for a breather and maybe play some ping pong.

This week, I’ve attended some workshops, though the second one started whilst I was on my way back from a job, and in Sainsbury’s picking up some essentials. It’s a reminder to not do too much both in and out of lockdown. The main workshop was one by Cecilia Knapp, who I love as both a poet and facilitator.

I also watched a Zoom with Burning Eye Books (my publisher), featuring Agnes Török, Jonathan Kinsman, Laurie Eaves and a poetry film from Malaika Kegode. I thought the whole thing was fantastic, and want to re-watch the film, Wide as the Sea, which you can do online.

May be an image of 5 people

Aside from the usual work, I’ve been trying to memorise a poem I’m going to record, I hosted another Stanza feedback workshop for Forest Hill poets on Friday, and I’m really excited to edit the work, which I wrote during Cecilia Knapp’s workshop. So, creative moments are still sporadic, but by the first Monday April, I really have to change that! I can’t believe it’s spring!

Yesterday, I went on my skateboard for a few hours, had a great meal of tofu crispy bites, Korean beef wraps, courgette fritters, and bao pork buns, before watching Hamilton, which was amazing! Now my stomach is rumbling, so it’s time for me to finish the soup for lunch!

Freelance Reflections #33

This Saturday 20th March I am going to be a special guest on Ibizo Lami’s ‘Self-care Saturdays’ on Instagram Live. The show starts at 3pm and lasts for around half an hour. Simply tune in via the live feed and I’ll be sharing some of my personal self-care tips, especially useful if you have any traits of Borderline Personality.

This week has been a struggle, but I’m dealing with things surprisingly well, and I think that’s thanks to working so much last week, and having a little less work this week. That meant that when I was told that I don’t meet the threshold to get therapy via the NHS for my particular needs (essentially, the therapist told me I do need help, but I would need to pay for it thanks to the lack of resources i.e. fuck the Tories), I was able to finish a painting that I have submitted to Grayson Perry’s Art Club. However, I just realised that I forgot to send a 2-minute video about the piece, so I hope it can still be considered, as you never know!

I also recently found out that a friend who I had sensed was being distant was doing so intentionally, (trust your gut!) and after seeing they had unfollowed me on Instagram, I asked them about it. All my worst fears came true: they didn’t want to talk about it, and it was to do with my ‘intensity’. It sucks having issues with fear of abandonment, so then when someone does essentially abandon you, as well as dealing with the loss of that person, it also reaffirms the negative beliefs about your personality and being “too much, too intense”.

Well, in the words of Beyoncé: ‘I’m just too much for you’.

Being Borderline, it’s hard to not let such things make you think that all friends who you haven’t spoken to in a while are feeling the same way. Talking to another BP babe, they pointed out that the true friends are the ones who stick it out, even when you exhibit such behaviours. Everyone communicates in the wrong way sometimes, and the best way to deal with things is through proper conflict-resolution. If a friend isn’t willing to do that, then you’re probably better off without them anyway. For the first time in my life, my self-esteem is somehow high enough for me to truly believe it is their loss.

‘Footprints’

My painting ‘Footprints’ is for sale on my Big Cartel for £200. Although I am a poet, my book ‘Circles’ features my own illustrations, I completed an Art Foundation Diploma at Central Saint Martins, sold my first painting prior to that, and I’m going to put out another mixed media poetry publication. I hope to carve out more time to combine my poetry with visual art, producing text-based canvases.

Freelance Reflections #32

Does anyone have actual realistic expectations of what they can do in a given time? I tend to expect too much of myself. I’m going through a particular busy period and have lots of deadlines coming up, meaning I’ll have to do paid work for at least a couple of hours over the weekend just to keep afloat.

Only seven pages in after waiting for a blood test appointment & already recommend it!

Without much else to report than the standard work grind, here are some photos of my food from today. Even when I don’t share photos of my food, I still take them. I’m that obsessed. I’m weird. I don’t believe in depriving myself too much, so all I’m doing is trying to manage my portion size. Today I added cocoa to my porridge. I’ve watched Fed Up, so I try to have half a sugar in my tea (unless I’m hungover), knowing I have a sweet tooth. I blended three kiwis with some water and lemon juice for lunch with a slice of toast and poached egg. For dinner, I cooked some fake meatballs with wine stock, beef stock, herbs and passata sauce. I love writing about food, but it does make you hungry. Aside from the pictured, I’ve had two oranges, a handful of walnut halves, and after over five hours of content writing, broken up with lesson planning and lunch, I had a handful of my pic ‘n’ mix too. I’ve tried to get a monthly sharer bag as I think before I got the biggest size possible! And I did not share.

This past week has been eventful in terms of global events, and not in a good way. After International Women’s Day, some media outlets and general public had the audacity to doubt what Meghan Markle said in the Opera interview. What people also seemed to forget is that Prince Harry was also involved in this. It was disgusting to hear about the comments the Royal Family had made about skin colour, and the media’s comparison between Meghan and Kate is a prime example of misogynoir, combining both sexism and racism, pitting the two women against each other and skewing the perspective negatively when Meghan is shown to be doing the same thing. Things as common as eating avocado.

I posted on Instagram about Reclaim These Streets on Saturday at 6pm at Clapham Common Bandstand, and Reclaim The Fight at 6pm in Trafalgar Square, inspired by Reed of Come Curious, posting messages from my phone of a selection of texts with the words “home safe”. This is a vigil in honour of Sarah Everard, whose tragic case has unravelled this week. On Monday, I was walking through Brockwell Park looking at the posters, and now a police officer has been arrested on suspicion of her murder. I cried when I read about her remains being found in Kent.

Yet the Met police even have the audacity to threaten people attending with fines when we have had many demonstrations in the past year that have gone ahead, observing social distancing, and even an anti-lockdown one that couldn’t give a fuck. Most of us spend our lives just getting on, but it’s times like these that we need to take action.

One of my friends also rightly pointed out that missing black women don’t get as much media attention, which leaves it to us to spread the word through social media and the like. Mariam Khan gave a reminder that Blessing Olusegun’s body was found on a beach in Sussex last year, and despite the death being unexplained, the police are not investigating it.

One last thought that I’ve been made more aware of through social media is the importance of language; we need to stop talking about the women who have been murdered and raped. Instead, we need to say men murder women, men rape women. I am done with this passive language.

Freelance Reflections #31

I’m currently offering the chance to win a free copy of my book, ‘Circles’, and to be in with a chance of winning, you should be following me on Instagram, and then like or share this post by midnight on Sunday 7th March. Here are some pictures from the post, celebrating the journey so far, which has seen a 4-star review of the audio, and a 5-star review of the book, as well as some really lovely words that people were generous enough to share with me

Meanwhile, I’m slowly starting to get on top of things to begin my new schedule. I’d love to start next week, but it will also depend on how the weekend goes. I’ve had assessment after assessment for Borderline Personality, and I’m still not getting enough sleep, so I’m feeling very drained as I write this. Alas, the show must go on, and tonight we have a full open mic or both new and returning guests, which is sure to fill me with fire once again!