17.01.21 – 22.02.21

Audio of ‘Circles’ (Burning Eye Books, 2019) as part of the Living Record Festival. Buy tickets here.

Freelance Reflections #24

The Living Record Festival is why we do what we do. The creative work is why I have pursued the path of being self-employed. At times, I can lose sight of that, so it always feels good to be a part of something that nourishes the reasons for our being.

Tomorrow, Living Record Festival officially launches, and you will be able to listen to my audio for ‘Circles’, and use the PDF to print and use as you listen. You can buy tickets now and listen every day from tomorrow until 22nd February. I’ve also included a Q&A session for free, which will take place on Zoom on Friday 12th February 5-6pm. Tickets to listen cost just £5, and there’s also a link to buy the book, which I can sign and dedicate to you.

I’ll probably continue to bang on about the festival throughout it. As well as my own show, I’d recommend checking out Maria Ferguson’s ‘Alright, Girl?’ reading her book (which I’ve read) published by Burning Eye Books and Leanne Moden’s Skip Skip Skip (which I’ve seen live at Edinburgh Fringe Festival). I’d also like to recommend Elian Gray’s show as he kindly helped me when recording my piece, and it sounds exciting! With the national lockdown, it’s the perfect time to support artists and listen to something different each day, perhaps using the money that may otherwise be spent on your lunch break!

Freelance Reflections #22

The start of the year will begin with the Living Record Festival, where I’ll be sharing ‘Circles’, as previously mentioned. I’ve been challenged as things have not gone as expected. My binaural experiment failed as it appeared the microphone was broken after spending an hour and a half setting it up, with lots of phone calls for support. I’d realised when I collected it that I could only test it out in the studio, and everything went perfectly in terms of set up, but it was just sod’s law that it didn’t work.

However, this has all been put into perspective and I’ve given myself more time to rest than ever. Yesterday, my maternal grandad died. It is still so raw and the shock is intense as he was in hospital only a week. As many others have experienced this year, it is the worst time to lose someone, as my parents and my nan are having to self-isolate after having seen him. But I am grateful they at least had that. He turned 80 just as we went into lockdown, and although we never got the celebration, we managed to see him in August.

I had 25th – 27th off to rest and relax, and likewise, I have given myself most of the time from the evening of New Year’s Eve until now to do the same, and just taking things slowly. Tomorrow is ‘Blue Monday’, but work may end up being a welcome distraction at the moment. Perhaps grief will allow me to work more in the way I want to, rather than with the stress and pressure I have been putting on myself on the lead up to and between these holiday breaks.

Freelance Reflections #21

The main news this week is that I am in the process of recording audio for the Living Record Festival. I’ve done one recording already, but I’ll be experimenting with a binaural microphone to see if I can do something a bit different. I’m going to try to give myself three solid days off for spending time with my bubble, walking, reading, watching films and eating good food, then I’ll be back in the studio recording and at my laptop polishing the piece.

I saw fellow Burning Eye poet Maria Ferguson post about it and thought I would also apply. After many years after doing Scratch That Hackney, I’ve been working with producer Ellie Barr as part of the festival, which I believe is where I may have performed some of ‘Circles’ before. To find out more about the festival and the other artists involved, please sign up to this mailing list.

As part of this digital festival, I’ll be featuring an audio version of my book ‘Circles’, with a ticket option to include a copy of the the physical book. Whilst listening, I’ll also include a PDF of an activity with every ticket. The festival launches in January 2021, so make sure to sign up to the mailing list to keep updated.

Freelance Reflections #20

December always seems to be the time where people start to take stock of the year that’s coming to an end. It is also a time that seems to be extremely busy, making sure to meet deadlines and get everything prepared for the holidays, even though these holidays will be very strange. I don’t like to think about it much as it makes me sad, but I also know I have a lot to be grateful for this year.

I haven’t had time to do much reflection at the moment, so will save that for nearer to the close of the year. Meanwhile, the reflection I have been doing is for how fortunate I am for the work I do. I love working with children one-on-one, and I’ve just started working with a new agency for a 4-hour placement each week, giving tuition to those who wouldn’t otherwise be able to access it. I’ve also started tutoring someone in Spanish, which is great as I am only around B1 level, and they have just started learning.

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Today I finally finished Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo. I absolutely loved it, and having recently met with my old She Grrrowls co-host Ibizo Lami, who was listening to it on an audiobook for the second time, I really got the sense that it would be a good book to read again with the knowledge of having read it once. One of the things that I thought was so great about the book was that you would read something from one character’s perspective and agree with them, only to hear a counter-point from another character that made you think in a completely different way. It wasn’t so much about wrong and right, but it held multiple truths in coexistence.

I’ve been enjoying re-listening to all my top tracks on Spotify, and I’m slowly making my way through the ‘On Record’ playlist, which is incredible so far. I listened to Phil Taggart’s Slacker Podcast, interviewing Biffy Clyro, and it just really made me smile and laugh. ‘Switched on Pop’ was really interesting on ‘Unlocking the Rhythms of Rosalía’. A Zach Sang interview with Poppy was weird and wonderful, and I appreciated how she spoke about being softly spoken and commented ‘I like my volume’, when it was brought up. There were a couple of podcast episodes from Skullcandy, including one on Tommy Genesis, and so it was great to hear more about her. The podcast ‘Dissect’ came across as quite robotic in its delivery, but the dissection for Beyoncé’s ‘Lemonade’ was really intriguing.

I watched ‘Prince Avalanche’, which was a really moving story of two brother-in-laws painting road lines, which was equal parts hilarious. I want to share more about the things like this that I come across. I feel like I haven’t really achieved the things I wanted to this year, but seeing as we’re in a pandemic, maybe I should give myself a break and appreciate the things I have done. Next year, I would like to focus less on productivity and more on carving out the time for my creative practice as well as my more regular, paid work, and to have more time on Sundays for reading and relaxing and maybe even watching more films.

Freelance Reflections #18

As previously mentioned, last Thursday was the Roundhouse Poetry Slam. The results are in and Elliot Waloschek won first place, with the runners up being Syd Wilmot, SAF S2E and Amani Saeed. I was rooting for Amani, as well as Ruth Awolola and Oshanti Ahmed. When it came to it, I voted for Amani, but I wished I’d been able to vote multiple times for the others too. But alas, as host Toby Campion said: the points aren’t the point, the point’s the poetry. Though that prize money…

Anyway, I remember hearing Elliot’s first poem about “stealthing”, and it stood out and it was very rich in language, and I immediately wanted to hear it again. I felt like Ruth’s second poem was really joyous, and that is always refreshing to hear. Whilst Amani packed a punch with both poems, her second poem was really bold, a poem that seemed to be partly about white fragility, its ending open to interpretation, but perhaps there to provoke you into thinking about what the difference is between the list of insults given to white people to those of other races, as well as to feel the weight of hate speech, and what it actually means.

The thing about the Roundhouse Slam is that it has heats to go through, so everyone involved is a high-calibre poet. I remember being so upset at my final chance of being in the slam and I didn’t even make the heats. Roundhouse lovely, comedian and (ex)-spoken word artist (once a poet, always a poet…), Jack Rooke really cheered me up about it. I mean, it wasn’t like I was going to win if I couldn’t even get through the heats, was it? I did meet some amazing poets who I’m still in touch with today, such as Malaika Kegode and Ciarán Hodgers, who are doing great things in poetry still.

Meanwhile, this week has been hectic, and filled with admin and emotional upheaval after thinking I would have to self-isolate from the start of the week, to being told my contact’s positive Covid test was void.

Las Chicas del Cable & The Spanish Civil War

I recently finished watching Las Chicas del Cable and so I thought I would share some extracts from my poem on the topic that dominates the final series: the Spanish Civil War.

They greased their rifles with olive oil,
with Vaseline, with cold cream, with bacon-fat:[1]
an opera, with the occasional death.[2]

It was pneumonia they were fighting against, not men[3]
yet some of the voices that cried out in pain were still falsetto,
soon to be broken by the war with thousands dead.

I wrote this at least five years ago after reading George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia, which was recently in the news. You can see from the footnotes below, that the poem includes direct references to Orwell’s descriptions. Reading the book provoked me to have a conversation with my paternal grandfather, who lives just outside of Barcelona, after having lived as an immigrant for many years in London. Also a poet, there is tour about him, which the leaflets below are from.

I absolutely loved watching Las Chicas del Cable, and the parts that were about the Spanish Civil War touched me even more because of my familial connection. The ending was so moving and powerful, it brought me to tears. I highly recommend it.

A granddad I’ve never named as such, now through phone-lines
brought closer, he tells me at the end of the conversation

how proud he is to have another poet in the family. I smile,
as my bloodline extends back in time. My family, I think, with war wedged between them, yet in the end, they remained intact.

To read the full poem, you can sign up to my mailing list.

[1]  George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia, p. 37 [2]  George Orwell, (Georges Kopp), Homage to Catalonia, p. 34 [3] George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia, p. 37

Poetry Slumber Parties

When we went into ‘lockdown’ in London, I started doing weekly poem shares via Instagram Live as a ‘Poetry Slumber Party’, called such because you can watch it in your PJs. I shared brand new material and I was writing weekly through a prompt group called ‘Poetry in a time of being alone’ on Facebook. This was a lifeline to me at times, and I enjoyed being able to connect with people watching, who would sometimes send me messages about certain poems they related to. As the world got back into motion, I have started doing these on a monthly basis.

This is just a short post to say to tune in via Instagram Live (@carminamasoliver), which is where I have found it easiest to share my work. It’s every last Monday of each month, when I figured maybe people are staying in more now there are less restrictions, as it’s near many people’s pay day. It can also be viewed later on IGTV. It’s very off the cuff, and all new material, where I chat around it, and sometimes the chat is longer than the poems.

I like it, as I feel YouTube videos need to be more polished, whilst on Instagram Live, part of what can be lovely is that it’s a little bit messy and raw. A couple of weeks later, I also host an online open mic on the She Grrrowls Instagram account (@shegrrrowls). It’s a strange time now as the rules are continuing to change, yet some people still are at home with very little human contact, whilst others are at the opposite end of the spectrum. I’m somewhere in between. I really enjoy doing these little streams anyway, so if even one person gets some enjoyment out of it too, it’s worth keeping up!

Freelance reflections #13

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).

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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.

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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!

Freelance Reflections #11

It’s been a month since I’ve written, and another busy one at that! My room is a mess with big stacks of papers, I’m behind on my record keeping for finances, and I haven’t had proper dedication writing time towards the three main projects I want to focus on in what feels like an age, so this weekend I plan to do a lot of that boring admin stuff, as well as a bit of personal writing today (including this blog!) I’ve worked five days already this week, yet it’s still difficult to reassure myself that doing this today is worthwhile, and I’m going to take some time to de-stress by going to a swimming class after writing this.

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I have deadlines looming over me for content writing, and last night I did a last minute job working with a university student from Malta to help with their English. I have an almost full time table of students, which includes a couple of days where I’m out 2.30-9.30pm, including the travel time. It means I’m able to get into more of a routine, but planning and marking takes so much time at the moment that it’s quite difficult to fit in the content writing and meet the deadlines. On top of that I’m doing events and tour management and yesterday I did a big chunk of this once I’d finished my lesson planning.

There are now only two tour dates left for the She Grrrowls Autumn 2018 Book Tour! In October, we went to Norwich and Cambridge and both dates were lovely. The next two are in Bristol and London. I’ve also been trying to run some informal workshops, but because the tickets are free, I’m getting a lot of dropouts on the day. The workshops are called ‘Don’t Get Bitter, Get Better’ and I managed to meet up with a poet who is local to me called Rachel Sambrooks, and it was honestly so refreshing to actually talk about our work. We both found it incredibly valuable… now to find the time to go back to those poems to make those edits!

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Last month’s regular She Grrrowls event went really well again, and I’m so happy to be at The Poetry Cafe. It ended up being a rather northern evening, featuring Sophie Sparham, Fran Isherwood, and Sarah Crutwell. It was particularly enjoyable to see Sarah Crutwell as I had never seen her before and I could really relate to her poetry, plus she gave me this cool POWER pin! I can’t believe that it’s just over a week until the next date and soon enough it will be over! Amongst all the work, I’ve also found time to have fun socialising, plus go to Spanish lessons and salsa classes!

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