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 #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!

Freelance Reflections #30

So, I’m currently decompressing after the Living Record Festival finished on Monday! As well as taking part in the festival myself, I also completed a total of 11 show reviews, pretty much all in the last week of the festival. These mini-reviews will be published on The Norwich Radical soon, so you can find out some artists to follow.

Here are some final images from listeners… though rather unusually, two printed with a black background, and one listener, unable to print, drew her own version. Next, I’m hoping to record a binaural version with the Living Record, and potentially put out a more permanent version of the audio. Watch this space!

I still have over 25 copies of the illustrated poem available in book form from Burning Eye Books, signed directly from me on my Big Cartel shop. Meanwhile, I’m looking to begin a new schedule realistically by the second week of March, which will allow me to carve more space for creativity.

Freelance Reflections #29

It’s the final few days of the Living Record Festival, and I’ve received my first review of the festival! The Reviews Hub writer Maryam Philpott reviewed my piece ‘Circles’. I found out via Twitter, seeing my photo (taken by Tyrone Lewis) and the four lovely little stars. I told my family straight away, and my dad, who’s a history teacher, immediately knew she was also a historian and author of ‘Air, Sea and Power in World War I’. How exciting! I’ve also managed to get a press pass to write some reviews of other shows for The Norwich Radical, so I can listen to as many as I can squeeze in until the end of the festival.

Aside from this, and doing a bit of a takeover tomorrow for The Bedford Place’s Instagram on Saturday, this week has been less hectic than others, though I’m still trying to get on top of things so that perhaps by March I may be able to test out a new schedule that will seek to bring more creativity into my life. Although I’d love to create a binaural version of ‘Circles’, moving forward, I’m looking towards other ongoing projects, including prose, poetry and a spoken word show.

For some reason, these have been printed with a black background, but here are a couple more activities I’ve been sent. You have until Monday 22nd February to ‘Circles’ and send me your designs via @carminamasoliver on Instagram or head to my contact page for other ways to get in touch. You just need to print out the design and colour with pens, pencils, felt tips – whatever you have at hand!

Freelance Reflections #27

The third week of the Living Record Festival has come and gone, with nearly 10 tickets sold so far, and some kind words from Sally Proctor, the Community Director at Slung Low. I hope to see some more colourful pictures in the final week. Please listen to ‘Circles’ and send me your designs via @carminamasoliver on Instagram.

Last week was also my grandad’s funeral; it was and is surreal and sad, but the sun shined that day. I’ve been watching films like ‘Saint Frances’ and ‘The Book of Life’, and have felt exhausted and overwhelmed, trying to be kind to myself, but still not fully giving myself what I needed. I listened a lot to podcasts like ‘The Good Grief Podcast’ with Alex Di Cuffa, and Griefcast with Cariad Lloyd.

On Friday, I tried to be kind to myself, knowing I had She Grrrowls on Instagram Live in the evening. I took myself off for a walk to my local park to make the most of the sunny weather, and as my grandad also had a sweet tooth, having eaten some lemon curd biscuits in his honour on the day of the funeral, before She Grrrowls, I made myself a hot drink to have with some shortbread biscuits and a blackcurrant and apple pie.

I was glad I didn’t cancel She Grrrowls, as with nine acts on the open mic, it was a full house. I read a poem about Yorkshire that my grandad had written, and a poem I’d written for him as part of his eulogy. In speaking of death and grief, I’ve also shared one of my favourite books on sadness: Sad Book by Michael Rosen.

As I write now, there is a flurry of snow outside my windows, and I’m safely inside after a long walk to Greenwich yesterday, covering 19km. Any sun soon turned to cloud and then rain. Exhausted, I had an array of Korean dishes for dinner, and played the ‘7 Wonders’ board game a couple of times. It is the unbelievableness of the situation that allows me to enjoy these moments, but at other times I lean into the grief, allow myself to feel the shock and sadness of such unexpected loss.

Freelance Reflections #26

It’s the second week of Living Record Festival, and after just five ticket sales, I’m being reminded that it’s better than nothing, and to hold on to the reasons why we do this, why we create and put it out to the world. It’s not the number of connections, but the connections themselves. So, I’m holding on to this lovely comment I’ve been given permission to share from Jodie Adams.

I’ve reached out to family members, which has been encouraging. After over a decade in poetry, it gets harder to ask for support from friends and family. A part of you thinks, shouldn’t you have an audience by now? Shouldn’t you not need them anymore? These kinds of thoughts can lead to a bad spiral, so sometimes it’s best to just ask directly, appreciate those who give the time, and understand those who don’t.

So far, my maternal grandmother and one of my cousins have sent me pictures of how they listened. I love how my gran has put her margarita inside the circle as something she loves, and how both of them have created such a nice space to give themselves that 15-minutes to focus on listening and colouring.

When you buy the audio stream of Circles, for £5 as well as the audio and the Zoom Q&A, you get a copy of this black and white PDF of the book cover to colour in and draw inside, following the instructions. I also had a go at it myself and just about got the flowers coloured in by the end, finishing with this new doodle that was inspired by an exercise my friend Natalie Cooper (who illustrated the She Grrrowls anthology poems). I have often doodled and actually, as someone who is more of a conceptual artist (when it comes to visual art, this is always what I say, tongue-in-cheek, having illustrated my ‘Circles’ book myself), this is something I’d love to do more in an active way. After talking to someone else about their art therapy, which sounded like it incorporated similar techniques, I find it fascinating how doodling allows the free flow of moment without a plan, in a way that is so opposite to how I often work and live.

Lastly, I also want to recommend the film ‘Soul’. With everything that is happening in my life and other people’s lives at the moment, it was just so heart-warming and appropriate. I also recommend the short film on Disney + that goes into the background of the film.

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 #23

Since my grandad passed away just over a week ago now, I’ve found how difficult it is to experience such close familial loss and try to work at the same time. This week has been a struggle, but when you’re self-employed, there is so much uncertainty about your finances and I didn’t find out about the funeral date until the end of the week, and which days of work would be impacted. It’s hard to even allow for time off, even when it’s so needed. Then again, my cousin has also been in the same position, unable to take time off from her job, despite 3-5 days being the standard, from what I know. It has meant welling up with tears whilst walking to work for 45 minutes, finding more time to talk to family without being able to see them, and writing poems of grief in the early hours of the morning.

I feel like I’m just about staying afloat, whilst wanting to carve time that allows me to realign my schedule the way that is more fulfilling each day. I’m also ordering 25 copies of my book ‘Circles’ from my publisher, Burning Eye Books, ahead of the digital ‘Living Record Festival’, which will be taking place from 17th January until 22nd February, where listeners can buy a copy of my physical book, along with the audio and creative activity. You can now buy £15 tickets for the festival, remembering that this includes a copy of the book, which is worth £10.

I am also waiting to hear the results tomorrow having been shortlisted for the Anthology Magazine prize, so fingers crossed! It would be something positive to hold onto for my poetry career, for sure, but even making the shortlist is still an achievement worth celebrating, something that I forget to do all too often.