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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Freelance Reflections #10

As of last Wednesday, it has officially been a year since I registered as self-employed. I’m in a much better position than I was a year ago when I started. The main battle is with my mind, to stop questioning myself and live how I want to live. I have regular work to keep me going Monday to Wednesday, which spills a little over into Thursday. This means I have  between 3-4 days to focus on other things.

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The challenge is to stick to this routine and give myself permission to do the necessary creative work, and remember that this is a legitimate use of my time, as well as the work that I’m being funded to do for the She Grrrowls book tour. Yet, there are also times where other things come up, the routine gets disrupted… usually with work, but also with other things like seeing friends and family.

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Most recently, I went to Leicester for the She Grrrowls book tour with Joelle Taylor and Esther Poyer. It was a great night and from there I went to see my grandparents in Yorkshire, and my cousin in Nottingham. Last week, I did a week of TEFL work and it was intense. I taught 9am-1pm, had a nice lunch break before leaving to tutor 2.30pm-8.30pm, then did my planning for more tutoring sessions after a quick dinner, leaving just enough time to squeeze in a bit of Spanish and Netflix before doing the same again. It was also National Poetry Day that week, meaning I had an excuse to show a video of Joelle Taylor to the most advance group, tell them about Rallying Cry, and make them do some of their own poetry.

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Things eased up towards the end of the week, but as anyone who’s freelance knows… there’s always more work to do be done, so I filled my time with all the other necessary tasks. I ended the week by hosting She Grrrowls at The Poetry Cafe. It was so busy, I was regretfully having to turn people away or there wouldn’t be room for people who had booked tickets in advance… something I’ll have to think about in future in case of no-shows. A much better problem to have than being in a cold room in New Cross with just a handful of people.

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I took a train to Norwich with a friend, where we celebrated with a group of our uni friends as it has been 10 years since we started at UEA together. I came home to find that poet and artist Scott Tyrrell has completed his map of poets. I managed to wrangle my way onto the East Anglia section, which I’m not sure I am entirely deserving of, but I am proud to be there. Although back in London, Norwich was where I really grew as a writer, studying it in a couple of modules at university, but also being part of the local scene of live lit events thanks to people like Amy Wragg and Russell J Turner. I got to support acts like Francesca Beard and Kate Tempest, and gradually made connections with poets from Aisle 16 like Ross Sutherland and Luke Wright, that saw me getting into working with young people, getting my first pamphlet published by Nasty Little Press, and performing at Latitude. For these reasons, my poetry career has a deep connection with the East of England.

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I don’t get that many gigs to do my poetry, but really this is connected to my ideas of what it means to be a “success”. Really this is a a destination that I will never arrive at, because it doesn’t exist. As a creative, you will always keep striving for more, but really the goal should be continue to make work and do what you enjoy whilst having some kind of stability to enable the work. There are so many ways of doing this, and just because your way is different to someone else’s doesn’t make it any less valid. I want to focus more on creative goals and taking small steps towards bigger things, like the fact I’m going to have two videos from Muddy Feet Poetry in the autumn!

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The Norwich Radical: My One Year Anniversary

The other week I wanted to show Bande de Filles aka Girlhood, to 6th Form students in order to get them to come along to the Feminist Club. They had been keen after having Feminista UK coming in to run a workshop with them. Sadly, my efforts at putting colour-posters up, guying popcorn and even buying the DVD specifically to show the film were wasted at this time. It was rather depressing to hear the music at the start repeat in an empty classroom. I guess they’re overworked. And as an English Mentor, I keep giving them extra reading to do as it is!

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I’ve been writing for The Norwich Radical for a year now, where I look at the arts through a feminist lens. Girlhood was a film I highlighted for its Feminist credentials. So, I thought this would be an opportune time to highlight the articles I’ve written thus far. You can get a whole list by clicking here.

In order of appearance:

I’m Sorry You’re Offended

Sirens at Soho Theatre

Soho Comedy: Women, ‘It’s Like They’re Real People’

Emmy the Great: Oslo, Hackney

The Bechdel Test Fest

Women of the World Festival 2015: Part 1 and Part 2

Three Women Poets

Women Fashion Power: Not a Multiple Choice Question

Woman Verses World

The Place for Poetry: Fragment and Process, Visual Culture and Performance

The Last Word

Soon Every House Will Have One

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To Kill a Mockingbird – Is it Just Me?

In Defence of Telling Girls They Can

Let’s Talk About Sex: The Institute of Sexology and Sex in the Afternoon

Feminist Picks: Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Homework: Molly Naylor and Katie Bonna

Arts Funding: Young People, Women and Intersectionality

Suffragette: The Fight is Not Over

The Hollow of The Hand

Hannah Silva’s ‘Shlock!’

The World Goes Pop

Warsan Shire’s Her Blue Body

Richard Yates: An Accidental Feminist?

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Norwich Love – from Art in My Mouth to the Waterfront

I have spent a few days with my boyfriend in Norwich. I read and wrote, and memorised and recorded poems. On our day off we went for a Chinese buffet, and went to an art gallery and to see a band. Here are some photographs from Moosey Art’s exhibition at Stew Gallery, Art in my Mouth. I really recommend checking out all the artists and the work is really affordable, so I really hope some people get behind these guys.

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Funnily enough I saw someone post something on Facebook about the coins above. Check out the Tales You Lose page to find out more and see some of the other designs.

These pineapples are only £30 each! I really want one… but then, you can’t really just get one can you? They look so scrumptious, I’d love them to go up in my house, if I ever move out of my parents’ house! The wall below was completed as part of the live art they had at the opening night. IMG_2563 IMG_2566

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That evening I had booked tickets for Annie Eve the day before. I felt like we were a bit of a rubbish audience, as everyone seems too shy to come forward and lingered at the edges the whole night. Matt’s house is quite a walk from the city centre, so we were quite happy to follow suit and sat on the floor for the gig. Matt spoke to the support act that we saw, and so we think this was Norwich lad, George Cheetham (and not Harry Edwards, whose name was also on the line-up). He was a great support act, with loop pedals and tricks up his sleeve in the form of a harmonica and melodica. He was a bit too self-deprecating at times, but he mostly appeared confident and friendly.
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Whilst Cheetham had fully enunciated his words, my only criticism of Annie Eve would be for her to open her mouth wider so we could hear her beautiful lyrics more clearly. Cheetham’s words were very clear, but with lyrics such as ‘she’s as drunk as a skunk’, they didn’t have the emotional depth of Annie’s. Still, I think it’s great that he played both old and new material, and with tales of working in shops and taking five years to make his album, he seemed like a pretty inspirational guy. So, with that in mind, I felt like my ears were straining to make out the words Annie Eve was singing, which hindered my enjoyment a bit. However, I was really glad to see her live, and she can only grow as a performer, which her change between acoustic and electric shows. Maybe with time and more confidence and experience she will sing more clearly, as I really think her lyricism is a big part of her appeal. I’ve given a few hints to Matt to get me her album, so hopefully he will take note – and hopefully it will contain lyric sheets (my main reason for still wanting to buy CD albums). Click below to view her song ‘Ropes’ on YouTube.

Sex Haikus and Other News

Writing Room banner[2]Coming up is a showcase of the work I’ve been doing with a group of writers at Rich Mix in Shoreditch. I’m determined to learn my lines for it today as we have a meeting coming up when I’m back in London. Fellow writer Ben Jacobs (also a Podium Poet) posted a series of poems by Benedict Smith on Facebook: A Haiku for Every Girl I’ve Slept With. I thought it was a great series of well-executed poems and would love to see the whole series as an illustrated chapbook. Amongst the poems was this one:

8. Tried your fantasy

And pretended to rape you.

It felt a bit forced.

Initially, I felt uncomfortable with the comic intent of the last line: an awkward double entendre. I felt that it undermined real rape by making a joke of it. My opinion on a ‘rape fantasy’ is that it is nonsensical – the very act of rape is something unwanted. Therefore ‘rape fantasy’ is an oxymoron. I thought about a better way to address this issue, assuming that these poems are based on real-life experiences. I came up with this:

A girl says ‘rape me’.

She doesn’t know the meaning.

Singing Nirvana.

However, then I thought that actually, my version is far too obvious. How can I say that this is a better version just because the point is clearer? Is it too didactic? Perhaps, Smith’s poem is actually more successful because of its subtleties. Perhaps his humour points out the ridiculousness of such a request from a girl. It got me thinking about the meaning of the poem, which is surely a sign of success. I’d be interested to know what readers think of this.

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Another couple of things in the pipeline for September include the She Grrrowls launch party at The Gallery Cafe on Wednesday 11th. There are so many talented women out there that we want to feature at future events, so we really hope it takes off! On Saturday 14th I’ll be leading an all-day workshop on the theme of ‘Loss’ at Red Door Studios. It ties into the next issue of Poetry&Paint, so come along to the workshop and get the chance to have your work in the September/October issue of Poetry&Paint.

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I’ll also be getting down to as many open mic nights as possible and hopefully get some gigs, preferably paid! I’m excited about the next year (working at a school, I still work in academic years!) I’ll be super busy as I’m also wanting to take up the ukulele! Wish me luck!533626_564521246927232_1283506101_n

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve been staying in Norwich the last week or so and don’t want to come back! I’m going home tomorrow and it’s all gone so quickly. I’ve had a great time and even managed to do an open mic over my time here (as a city so famous for literature, there’s surprisingly few events compared with London). I went to the launch for the Lighthouse anthology, which I’ve now submitted some poems to for the next issue! I got a chance to catch up with poets Chris Ogden and Russell J Turner. Chris told me about this project to do with made-up words, so I wrote a poem on the word ‘Elagon’ – have a go yourself!
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I’ve done a bit of work most days I’ve been in Norwich, but I’ve also managed to have a bit of fun and relaxation. One of my favourite days was the trip to Cromer with my boyfriend and his family at a family friend’s caravan. I had seen the forecast of showers so I didn’t expect we would be able to go. The others went by car whilst my boyfriend and I rushed to the station to make the train to Cromer. The sun was shining through the clouds and I thought I’d dip a toe in the sea. I ended up walking further in and we swam all afternoon. It felt amazing. After we dried off, we had some chips and headed to the fun fair. I’ve also done a bit of shopping, had some drinks at the Rumsey Wells, got an Indian takeaway, saw my boyfriend’s grandparents and tonight we’re having a nice romantic meal.

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Now it’s goodbye Norwich and hello London. I’ve got a performance at Red Door Studios (also where the workshop on Loss is) on 8th August, a trip to visit my friend Hannah in York, then I’m back to the home of Alan Partridge the following week. Maybe another trip to the beach, if I’m lucky.

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Shake the Dust: East Regional Finals

Friday saw the East Regional Finals for Shake the Dust. I was working with the Netherhall School in Cambridge as a Poet Shadow with Ross Sutherland. I had never done anything like this before so was quite nervous but very excited too! For my first workshop, it was going well as I was over an hour early. However, I got the bus from the wrong stop and ended up being 10 or 15 minutes late. Typical.

As soon as I entered the classroom I had to introduce myself and perform a poem. I hadn’t brought any material, but thankfully my memory didn’t fail me and I did Cinderella (which you can preview here from my book/eBook). It feels like a long time ago now but at the same time it went so quickly. It was great hearing the poetry the students generated and as the first workshop was based around autobiography it was nice to feel like I was getting to know what they were like already.

Although it doesn’t feel like that long ago that I was their age, I am nearly 10 years older than them! At the same time, I did feel a lot older than them, especially when I encountered some rudeness from a couple of girls from the non-competing team. All a learning experience anyway! I also didn’t expect how easily distracted they were, especially as the two hour sessions went so fast. That said, they produced their final poems with great timing.

After celebrating turning 23 I was back at the school and the students had mostly memorised their poems, and by the final session were all performing their pieces really well. Ross and I had swapped the groups we’d been working with and so it was amazing to see the transformation of them both from the mish-mashed bits of texts they had started out with when they were forming the poems. I learnt so much from shadowing Ross, and was also given lots of opportunities to share my ideas and work independently with some of the group. One girl had to join the group for the last session and she picked up the poems fantastically, and ended up being given the “Most Changed” award.

The day of the final was a long one, but an amazing experience. the excitement started at 10.30am when we picked up our t-shirts. The schools started to arrive and it wasn’t long before we headed into a studio for the first workshop with half of the students. The workshop I was in was lead by Tim Clare and consisted of different drama games. It was quite nerve wracking due to the fact that being in a position of authority it was vital I showed that I was experienced and confident through the games. It was really fun and useful in terms of my own pre-performance preparations.

At lunch time I lost Ross and didn’t realise I was to stick with the school, who had already headed off to Chapelfield Gardens with their lunch. I managed to find them but Ross wasn’t with them. Still, I sat down and began to eat. However, mid-meal, there was a big ‘SPLAT!’ sound and we all wondered what it was. I looked down at my leg and I had been POOED ON BY A PIGEON! They all freaked out and one girl was sent into a panic that it had landed on her. No. It had landed on me. Yuck. I sat there in shock for a while, then scraped it off with a twig. Still in shock, I stood there whilst the others moved themselves further from the tree. Luckily, it didn’t land in my hair or anywhere else so I just went back to The Garage to take off my tights and wash my hands. Then it was onwards and upwards as I tried to tell myself that it was good luck…

We did the same workshop again but with different people and it was good feeling more prepared about what was to come and hearing what different people came up with on the spot. I spent our dinner time mostly with Catherine Woodward, who I knew from university, who had taken my place as Peer Mentor and was doing a great job. I’d met quite a few great people that day, including Lara who was from the Writers Centre Norwich, and sounded like she had a most enviable job! We had a quick warm-up with Drew Taylor and then took our seats.

The show itself ended up being fantastic. All the pre-show nerves were turned into adrenaline and everyone gave amazing performances. Although The Garage team were not included in the competition, their pieces throughout were inspiring and moving. As were Drew and Tom’s joint piece about the friendship they formed through the project. My team ‘Can Everyone Get Up And Leave?’ did a great job. Though one of the guys berated himself for forgetting a line, he pulled it off so smoothly that nobody else in the audience would have noticed. They went away with the ‘Best Line in Poem’ though the judges (Luke Wright, Charlotte Higgins and Francesca Beard) asserted there were so many great lines they couldn’t really pick just one! We also got inside info from Luke that he was rooting for us to win the competition overall, but didn’t quite make it to first place.

The National Shake the Dust Slam Final is held at Southbank between July 5-7th.

Shaking It, Like a Polaroid Picture Etc.


Shake off your dust; rise up, sit enthroned, O Jerusalem. Free yourself from the chains on your neck, O captive Daughter of Zion.

Well, it is Easter Sunday, if there was a time for a non-believing Catholic to post a biblical quote, this would be it. As my nearest and dearest have been contemplating their religion and the meaning of life, I have been getting involved in some actual dust-shaking in poetic form.

My past scrape with an increase in white blood cells has obviously not enforced the idea of resting enough. Prone to type A personality traits, I struggled into work at Sainsbury’s and kept up with my coursework until I couldn’t take it anymore. I eventually took a day off work and missed some of my classes for my MA, and it seems I am being punished for not taking work off earlier because apparently you need to take 5 shifts off and have a doctor’s note to be eligible for sick-pay. Long story short, I’ve done some overtime to make up the hours and eventually got some Amoxicillin which I’m hoping will mean I’m fully recovered by next week.

Anyway, back to the big news! As I mentioned previously, I was chosen as a Peer Mentor for Shake the Dust, the biggest youth poetry slam the UK has ever seen (organised by Apples & Snakes). However, now Sam Riviere had to pull out, I have been promoted to being a Poet Shadow! It’s a great surprise and honour to be selected as a replacement for someone so successful. I’ll be working with Poet Coach, Ross Sutherland at The Netherhall School in Cambridge, who I remember Tom Chivers of Penned in the Margins describing as one of the hardest working poets. I’ve seen him perform a few times and had the pleasure of reading the Twelve Nudes manuscript during my internship at PITM – and in the couple of years since Ross has managed to put out two more books!

Last Tuesday I went to a professional development day for the East region at The Garage and soon discovered I personally knew/had met about half of the people involved, and the rest I (mostly) knew of a poets anyway. I did feel a bit overwhelmed at first, being surrounded by so many admirable poets, but everyone was lovely and I soon got into it and ended up having a fantastic time. I’m feeling more confident about helping out at the workshops and think that it’ll be a really great experience! I feel so lucky to be able to participate as a Poet Shadow, and although I have applied for funding for my own event in August, I will now not have to worry about the financial side as the income from my role at Shake the Dust will cover my basic budget. So, everything’s pretty good right now, just need to be feeling healthy again and have a little bit of sunshine!

Also, my Gran got me a book about Angela Carter – someone I definitely think I should have read by now and want to do in the future. I’m now reading The Great Gatsby, which is also a long overdue read! Now, off to eat some egg-shaped chocolate!

xxx