Freelance Reflections #51

I’m a little delayed starting up my new music-themed blog series as I’m yet to receive the funding, so have been focussed on the preparation stages, and somehow feeling really busy and overwhelmed despite having hardly any students. I would love to feel on top of things before the school term properly starts, with tutoring easing back next week, and on a full timetable come the second week of September. With the weather looking like storms for ‘Latino Life’, which I would have loved to go to, it’s likely I’ll use tomorrow to do some catching up.

I’ve had some time off to see my gran, who took me to see Amelie and for tapas for my birthday (which was in May). I’ve attended a few meetings, and in the process of arranging more for various aspects of my work, including this week for my work in providing alternative education, and at The Norwich Radical, who I last wrote for here. This Sunday, I’ll also be taking part in the SoLo Craft Fair at ‘Between the Bridges’ at London Southbank, holding a stall with all my books etc.

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I’ve just had to spend £80 for the year on PIL insurance. I don’t do stalls much, and they are costly to do (this one being £60 a pop!), and even then you’re lucky to sell anything or break even on the day costs, not taking into account your own labour. I really hope it goes well, and that we don’t get rained on! The market in Camberwell before was amazing, as even if it did rain, the table was fully covered.

I woke up feeling pretty tired today, and really craving a night in, despite only having really left the flat for food shopping and gym classes. I’m fighting negative body image feelings at the moment too, as despite sometimes having gone to the gym twice a day, I’ve put on weight rather than lost it, and whether it’s muscle or fat or both, I find it hard to see my body as it actually is, and I find it hard to accept that I will probably always have a “belly”, despite trying my best to have a healthy relationship with food and exercise. These feelings stemmed from I ended seeing someone who liked a post because I’d done a #pancakes on Instagram.

They had so many photos of delicious pancakes and claimed they eat them too, yet had unreal body proportions. I hate getting into a mindset like that, but we all have insecurities, and I honestly think that for most people, having a “belly” is normal, and I know my body well enough that I would have to deprive myself of a lot of food to look like that Instagram girl, and I bloody love food; cooking and eating brings me so much joy, and I know that if I ever had a stomach like that, I wouldn’t be in a healthy place physically or mentally. Anyway, I don’t know why I felt like sharing these feelings today, but to end on a cheery note, here’s a screenshot of my Soca class’ Boss Wine, if you can spot me doing one of the things I love the most!

Freelance Reflections #45

So, first thing I have to mention is that tomorrow I’ll be at Camberwell Arts Market on Camberwell Green selling my poetry books, merchandise and artwork. I’ll be there from 9am-5pm, so please do drop by if you’re based in London! There will be 12 stalls in total and South East London is lovely if you’re exploring the area from further afield! I’ll be attempting to do some bespoke poetry at bargain prices throughout the day. I’ll also most likely be on my own… and I have no idea how busy it’ll be, or how in demand the bespoke poems will be, so wish me luck!

As the sun was so glorious on Wednesday, I treated myself to a four-hour holiday in Beckenham Palace Park, where I was also on Sunday doing pretty much the same thing – swimming, sunning, reading and eating ice-cream. I had to leave at 3pm, and I did not want to. As I’m working all day on Saturday, I wanted to take that time out for myself, and I’m so glad I did, especially as it’s been raining since then!

Aside from work, I’m also into keeping fit… although I also love food, so like many people, I’ve put on over a stone since last August when I was at my lowest weight (a healthy weight, I believe of 9 stone, 2 pounds)! My muscle mass has gone up to, but poor portion management and too much pick ‘n’ mix has meant my body fat is a bit too much at the moment health-wise. And with high blood pressure and high cholesterol in the family, I need to be aware of this. Don’t worry, I have just ordered a new pick ‘n’ mix 1kg bag for a trip to Catford Film Festival next Friday! I need to exercise to keep me mentally stable, but food is important too, as is sleep (which I don’t get enough of). For me, it’s about a lifestyle and enjoying moving my body as well as eating what I love, without too much restriction (I am very anti-diet).

Anyway, I had a taster PT session today with my gym, and we overran because we were having such interesting chats. His boxing classes are likely to be the only thing that gets me up for a 7am start… I’m also doing around 6 workouts a week, enjoying my mix of ‘legs, bums and tums’, spin (yet to start!), swimming, SOCA (my favourite), and the occasional yoga and Pilates class. What I love about being freelance is being able to do these things that are important to me, which I may not otherwise have the time or energy for.

Freelance Reflections #43

So, I smashed my 300,000 steps goals for May, raising money for Leading Lights. You can still sponsor me and donate here. I also missed some steps when I went to play basketball and left my phone, but I recorded 307,372 steps.

I took some time off for the interment of my grandad’s ashes, and spent time with family. It was sad, but it was nice to be together finally and look back at these old photographs. I hope to visit again in the summer and reminisce some more through more photo albums.

Having had the half term break, this usually means less students for me, and I only had two, so it would be a great time to buy some of my books from my Big Cartel. Also, if you’re based in South East London, I’ll be part of the Camberwell Arts Market on Saturday 19th June, 9am-5pm. I’ll also be doing some bespoke poems there; you give the ingredients, and I’ll create a short poem for you.

I’ll also be doing my first in-person live show on Sunday 4th July as part of Simon Mole’s Poetry Picnic at Arts Depot, where I’ll be sharing a new poem written especially for children, aimed at a slightly older age range, probably between 9-13. It’s just under a month away, so I’m sure it’ll come round soon enough!

Otherwise, I’ve been keeping up walking alright, not always keeping to the 10,000 goal, but enjoying some sunsets ping pong along the way. It’s also been nice being indoors again at board game cafes, and now the sun is peeking through the clouds now and again, I’ve taken a few breaks to sit in the sun and read. I’m currently reading comedian Rosie Wilby’s The Breakup Monologues, which I’m reviewing for The Norwich Radical, so technically it’s also working. I’m really enjoying it so far.

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 #12

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.

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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?

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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.

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The best bag for work – fits in water bottle and umbrella on each side, doesn’t squish my folders, and has some other little pockets for ease of access (plus a charging section).

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.

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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.

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Found this dress in a vintage shop in Kingston & couldn’t resist!

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.

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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She Grrrowls & Politics

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With She Grrrowls just finding its feet and me just about recovering from a post-launch cold, I think it’s about time I wrote about its first instalment. I arrived at The Gallery Café over 3 hours before the event’s start time. As I can’t afford to fork out £50 on a sound technician, I decided to bring a pad of paper and pen to note down the basics. It seemed easier enough and despite some initial problems, it was working. That was when things started to take a turn for the worst. There was a party of 30 people due an hour before the event for a buffet, which did no good for my pre-show anxiety. Then, my comedy act got in contact to say she was too ill to do the show. I was further sent into a panic when part of the She Grrrowls team was taken down by a kidney infection. I was on the edge of a meltdown. Still, guest host Joelle Taylor turned up and got her hands dirty moving tables with me, providing a welcome relief.

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Twenty minutes before the start, I tested the music again. No sound came out. No sound. We had no sound. What was I going to do? The events manager was off sick, and I hadn’t a clue how to work out what the problem was, let alone fix it. The café never closed its doors, so people were coming in and I was running round like a headless chicken. Joelle kindly jumped on stage to tell people to pay and I ran back and forth to collect money and check on the sound. Time was a blur, and somehow, with the help of the café staff and the band, the sound began to work through one speaker – not the ones above, but one sat on the stage. Booking a six-piece band for the first event was probably a bit ambitious, but through working together, it all turned out okay and we were able to start the show before 8pm.

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My head was a whirlwind, but I was thankful I didn’t have to worry about the audience and the artists. The open mic’ (themed ‘politics’) was a great success… from a rather unusual but expected ‘alternative view’ to established poets like Pete the Temp and Mark ‘Mr T’ Thompson, as well as emerging artists I was glad to see take to the stage, including a lovely lady called Imogen who rhymes under ‘Average White Female’. The audience looked packed – we ran out of seats (mostly because I didn’t have time to remove all the tables) and I counted around 40-50 people. The best part of this means that each act took away around £30 payment (although the ever-supportive Joelle tried to give the money back to She Grrrowls) and I would love to increase that amount by getting bigger audiences. What’s more is that the event had positive feedback – one couple who had come in for food (the guy had just arrived back from Canada) were convinced to stay for the show and left telling Joelle that this was just the kind of event they had been looking for: good quality poetry without the pretence.

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I managed to relax enough to talk to a couple of friends who came to watch, and to be able to enjoy the rest of the show. Momina Mela offered us beautiful poetry with words that melt your soul, each word spoken slowly, carefully, as if each word was a jewel offered as a gift to the audience. Momina has an uncanny way with words and amazes with each line of poetry. Aisling Fahey then wowed the audience with her raw honesty; lines like ‘how to hold their frame without wishing there were less of it’, although about eating disorders, was both horribly relatable and undenyably tragic. A poem that goes beyond the experience of eating disorders and makes you wonder why you would ever want to be less of yourself, like you’d be destroying a part of yourself.

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Sunshine in Mae finished the night and left everyone with a smile on their face. Fronted by Sula Mae, this six piece band also had some guys in it (see – showcasing female talent, not completely banning men). I knew Sula Mae from university as a solo artists so it was incredible to see her songs grow to such a level, hearing new tracks and old favourites like ‘Wake up Mr. Billy’. People hung around after and chatted, before Joelle helped me pack all the equipment away (what a star!) I was left exhausted, but elated, and so so thankful to everyone who was involved in making She Grrrowls a success.

Watch some of the poetry from the launch on the She Grrrowls Youtube Channel.

Since then, I encountered yet another hurdle! The booking system at The Gallery Cafe hadn’t registered future She Grrrrowls events. After waves of panic via email and feeling sick all day, I was able to sort it out and have spent the last week re-arranging bookings. The next event will be on Saturday 5th October – I had to change a couple of acts but you can see the confirmed line-up below… the change of theme to ‘sex’ seemed appropriate (well, we couldn’t do ‘space’ without Helen Keen)! I’m excited as I won’t be tired from work and my boyfriend will be there to enjoy the show (and help me out) – poetry on a Saturday night, what a treat! The rest will be every THIRD MONDAY of each month.

She Grrrowls Oct 2013 NEW

xxx

11.09.13 – She Grrrowls, The Gallery Cafe

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Podium Poets Unite!

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to be in the final twenty ‘Podium Poets’ in the competition to eventually become London’s first Young Poet Laureate. As I write, the panel of judges are making (or have made) their decisions on who shall make the cut to the final six poets! All of us now eagerly await the result, sat with laptops or smart phones, freshing our email inboxes. With around sixty applications, everyone deserved a massive pat on the back for making it to this stage, purely on the basis of the quality of our poetry.

And quality it was! Apparently there were people there who didn’t normally perform… this was incredibly difficult to tell. Everyone was so amazing on every level; I certainly would find it impossible to narrow down to the final six. All I can do is keep my fingers crossed and whichever way the wind blows, be proud to be part of the Podium Poets. I had such a great day and I also have to be enormously grateful to my work for granting me leave (as I work at a school, non-holiday leave is quite tricky!)

It was really cool to meet other poets and also pretty unbelievable that we didn’t already know each other – an indication, if anything, of how much talent is in London. Here are some of their details so far: Deanna Rodger (who I know from when I started out and who is pretty much a poetry celebrity), Ben Jacobs (who I’m working with at the Writing Room), Sarah Perry, Bridget Minamore, James Massiah, Rosie Knight, Warsan Shire, Sophie RobinsRobert Somynne, Sonority Turner, Mary Akin, Dizz Tate, and Nik Way. We’ve been trying to get in contact via twitter but I’m yet to find some of them.

Anyway, during the beginning of the day we got to know each other, played games and did different exercises. In the afternoon, nerves were distracted by lunchtime conversation, only to return once the judges stepped in the Red Room, at The Albany. We relaxed playing games, and once we got started, I was engrossed in each performance, and my own went by all too-quickly. I was sandwiched between two of my favourite performances (Sarah and Wasan) but I hope that I managed to stand out. Below is a two-part limerick that I wrote during the morning.

Limerick Part I

In Chelsea, there’s a lady of class,
Who evokes etiquette of the past.
But one day whilst complaining
That decorum was flailing
The wind blew and uncovered her arse!

Limerick Part II

This lady, she let out a gasp
When she felt that sudden air blast.
She heard many sniggers,
For she’d forgotten her knickers!
That lady from Chelsea with class!

The Albany is becoming a regular haunt – and I should probably visit Apples & Snakes to get a copy of my Word’s a Stage performance soon! Tomorrow I’m actually heading there for a Writing Room meeting, so that may be a good time. After the day was over, I went to ‘Kid I wrote back’ as planned. I performed ‘Paradise’ again, as well as a few others. I got speaking to David Marshall, and a young girl who I encouraged to take to the mic the next time. It was also good to see Kayo Chingonyi again, as I didn’t realise he was featured. All in all, I wished that every day could be like that day, and maybe if I managed to become Young Poet Laureate for London, that dream could come a reality sooner than I thought.

Christmas Catch-Up and a Cuppa

Grab yourself a cup of tea and join me for a much needed Christmas catch-up! I’ve not written in over a month as I’ve been so busy. Now I’m writing I can’t think of much that is new. But what is new is pretty big!

My major news is that I have now found out my grade for my Creative Entrepreneurship MA – DISTINCTION!! I was feeling nervous so am relieved and happy with my result! I can now either wait until July for the congregation, or pick up my certificate in February  I’m not sure which to do as I won’t know many people there – if anyone!

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Secondly, I performed my piece at The Gallery Cafe for ‘Word’s A Stage’. I was really pleased with how it went and spoke to lots of lovely people afterwards who showered me and my fellow poets with kind compliments and conversation.

I performed the piece again at The Place, in Bedford, as a part of ‘New Write Nights’. As I had work the next day I had to dash off during the interval. The organiser was kind enough to be my taxi for the night and I got paid expenses so it was great to get out from London for something different. I also met a woman called Jan, who works for the Arts Council and I had the pleasure of talking to her on the train back.

Here is the feedback I got from the night at The Gallery Cafe:

Carmina’s piece was nicely written and touching. I enjoyed how she used the tube stops as beats.

Great! Really interesting combination of content with structure (circular) – worked really well to express emotion of a breakup. But slight overuse of pop culture references, I thought (didn’t add anything).

Great [illegible word – simile?]. It flowed lovely. Would love to hear more. I love the excellent references. Q: What is your main influences [sic]?

Beautiful & moving, really drew me in.

Great control, structured by the underground stations – would love to read it. Wonderfully consistent rime [sic] scheme.

Nice – great use of the train journey as a structure for the piece. Some beautiful lines – “not trying to make you jealous – I want you to come back.” Lovely delivery, could perhaps play more with pace. Reflecting in the Indian meal for example, this is a bright moment.

Beautiful – train lines like a web was wicked and revisiting this was great – you had my stomach in knot. Very powerful.

Really liked the Circle Line framing for this piece – something all Londoners can relate to – as well as the excruciating heartbreak too.

Carmina’s words just escaped being too tragic to bear. The train metaphors link could mesh more.

Graceful, passionate, emotive, soulful, honest, scarred.

I’m feeling the urge for a clearing as I have a few scraps of paper and books etc. under my bedside cabinet that needs sorting. I have pieces of poetry in books, on my iTouch and on the tip of my tongue. I started a novel in November but will need to save that for the future, having written no more than 5,000 words.

For now, I’m awaiting the response of the Arts Council for my funding application for my event for Poetry & Paint. The event will go ahead nevertheless, but funding would make an amazing difference. It will be quite intense organising the event for March 31st 2013 but I’m confident I can do it. I’ll also be making a book to go along with the event and act as a kind of programme, showcasing the featured artists as well as others that have produced work for the concept and a piece introducing the topic and outlining why it is important for writers to engage with other artforms.

So, with the new year approaching, I am concentrating on this event, as well as working towards gaining a publisher for my own poetry. I also want to focus on extending the piece I did for ‘Word’s A Stage’ to a full-length show, and from Spring, look at setting up more regular events. I also want to reflect on my Arts Plan to see how much progress I’m making.

As for my new years resolution; it can be summed up by two words: appreciate life.

At times I have been overwhelmed, taken too much on,
burned the candle at both ends,
felt like I was losing friends,
and before I knew it the year was gone.

To a new year, and truly appreciating life.

xxx