Freelance Reflections #8

 

Nearly a week has gone by since the I’ve been back from this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Having done a week less than last year, I missed not having that extra week. On the other hand, I didn’t get ill this time. Although I didn’t get as much money through the door this time, I had a bit of money from all the crazy months of work I did before, which meant I could have some drinks now and again, and even went out for an Eid meal with Shagufta, plus went back to the same place again on my last day, and had some tapas with Rowena and Amani for a really extravagant last day.

Although I spent most of my time rushing from show to show, trying the write reviews in between, and doing some content writing in the mornings to get some actual income, I did have a chance to go to Portobello Beach one rainy morning. I think we could have got more money in at a different time of day, but with an 11.20pm show that ends gone midnight, people are wanting to spend on booze rather than books. What I loved about this year was not doing it completely on my own. With regular features, flyering and hanging out with Afshan, Shagufta, Celeste, Rowena and Amani, we formed friendships and it felt so good to have a team of poets to promote and perform with each night. Audiences were really lovely each night. The worst was when we had two poets we knew in the audience and nobody else. Other than that, they were small to medium and really positive and supportive. It was also great to meet Helen Black and Liam McCormick who did incredible shows before and after She Grrrowls, all as part of PBH’s Free Fringe.

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When I was on my 10 hour coach journey back, as well as reading my new copy of Liam McCormick’s ‘Beast’ and eating lots of snacks, I discovered the above illustration by Scott Tyrrell. I had basically heavily suggested I wanted to be drawn (I said he could put me in Norwich instead of London, just fine), but to actually be part of this project is a dream come true. I was so happy to see it – he’s creating a whole poetry map with pictures and names of poets, and this will be made into posters and then perhaps even tea towels.

Since being back, I’ve been doing a little content writing, but mostly been planning lessons for next week and doing lots for the She Grrrowls book tour and future events. In fact, yesterday saw the very first book date in Sutton Central Library in partnership with Words Aloud host Rachel Sambrooks, featuring Aisling Fahey, Selina Nwulu and Rachel Long. Everyone was really pleased with the turn-out, and audience feedback was really positive, so I think things can only get better and I’m excited to continue with the tour!

12.03.18 – Women of the World Festival

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I’ve been attending Women of the World Festival at the Southbank Centre since its inception, and I’m pleased to say that this year, She Grrrowls will be at WOW on Sunday 11th March.

You can catch us at 7pm as part of Gem’s Jam, where there will be live music and DJ sets along with poetry from SG poets Selina Nwulu and Bridget Minamore.

You don’t need a ticket as this part is free for all to attend and takes part in the Clore Ballroom in the Royal Festival Hall.

Over Land, Over Sea – poems for those seeking refuge

poets4refugees-over_land_over_sea-196x300My poem Sinking Ship is featured in a collection of poems for those seeking refuge, Over Land, Over Sea, where proceeds from sales of the book will be shared between the charities: Médecins Sans Frontières, Leicester City of Sanctuary and Nottingham Refugee Forum. It is available for purchase for £9.99 from Five Leaves Press and would make a lovely Christmas present for those who care about this issue. Charitable presents are something that has recently interested me, and I’d like to also recommend the Roy Castle Lung Foundation, which funds vital lung cancer research. I particularly like the statement necklaces and chunky earrings on offer here.

Contributors include: Alan Baker, Kathleen Bell, A.C. Clarke, Kerry Featherstone, Chrissie Gittins, Mark Goodwin, Tania Hershman, Siobhan Logan, Emma Lee, Carol Leeming, Joanne Limburg, Aoife Mannix, Roy Marshall, Hubert Moore, Thomas Orszag-Lund, Simon Perril, Sheenagh Pugh, Mahendra Solanki, Maria Taylor, Rory Waterman, Gregory Woods, and Siobhan Logan.

It is available to buy in the Five Leaves bookshop in Nottingham, by phone  (0115 8373097) or by email (bookshop@fiveleaves.co.uk) with free p&p for UK orders.(Overseas orders welcome, please email for delivery estimate). All major Credit Cards & Paypal accepted.

Also, current Young Poet Laureate for London, Selina Nwulu touches on these themes in her poem Before. Watch here.

Bad Poet: Sometimes You Have to be Bad, Before You’re Good

Today, in case you hadn’t heard, is National Poetry Day. I’m feeling like a bad poet because I’m not attending any events to mark the occasion. At the most, I’ll probably watch and listen to all the stuff that’s happening online, trying to understand the mixture of pride, envy and joy at watching/listening to poetry by my peers featuring on national television and radio.

As I write this, I’m on my way back from my day job, where I work as an Academic Mentor for English. This morning I played Year 10 ‘Origin Story’ by Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye, whilst trying to convince them to come to my Creative Writing Club. This is something I will do again no doubt, and in fact, I ended my day going into a class to hand out letters with permission slip. One student took one. There are currently two members in my club. Replacing First Story is going to be harder than I thought. But still, it’s early days. Last year, two Year 8 students – a boy and a girl – made their own version of ‘Origin Story’ and, along with my new Feminist Group, my main goal this year is to make this a success.

That goal applying to my day job. By night, I used to be able to go to events like National Poetry Day Live at the Royal Festival Hall, which is where I was this time last year. However, tonight I will be largely writing an assignment for a CELTA course I’m studying part-time. This means I’m doing two 13 hour days each week (because, you know, full time job), plus attending some Saturdays. On Mondays and Wednesdays, I rise at 6.30am and go to sleep at 11.30pm. On top of this, I have to do these assignments, thoroughly plan lessons for the course, observe others teaching, and be observed myself… By five people (I was less than happy when informed I’ll be observed twice in my day job too, but hey, I should be used to it, at least!)

Tonight I’ll also try to fit in a rehearsal for a poem I’m performing on Saturday night (details below), and if I’m lucky, I can work on the poem I started writing last night when I should have been sleeping.

If I sound like I’m being negative, I am. I have Generalised Anxiety Disorder, plus some mild symptoms of depression. I’ve had six weeks on CBT, and been offered to take part in a trial. However, I find it too stressful to go to my “local” service provider, so we’ll see what happens with that. Sometimes it just feels like another thing to tick off the to-do list. 

Poet Tim Clare suggested the book ‘Feeling Good’ by David D Burns, M.D. and it was when reading it that I realised I was guilty of pretty much all of the cognitive distortions. Here’s a list:

  1. All-or-nothing thinking: I’m not on TV, I’m a failure as a poet.
  2. Overgeneralisation: This can be really bad, it’s like when things pile up so much that one thing sets off a continuous stream of negative thinking and it’s like there’s no way out. These days are usually a write-off, and the best thing is forced relaxation and an early night.
  3. Mental Filter: I hate making mistakes, so whenever this happens, or if I say something stupid, I will thinking about it constantly for multiple days. Sometimes if I feel like I’ve been talking “too much”, I have to just not say things I think of saying because I overthink what I say so much.
  4. Disqualifying the Positive: I guess this one is similar to number 6, but my parents’ support probably best explains this.
  5. Jumping to Conclusions: a/ Mind Reading: I haven’t heard from members of my poetry collective; they must not like me anymore. b/ Fortune Teller Error: If there’s a slight indication of a problem I have to nip it at the bud. This is probably how this one manifests itself as I worry about the outcomes of things so much that I do everything I can do to prevent the disaster in my head to the extent that I don’t seem to care how others perceive me in that time, until afterwards when I feel immense paranoia about how I’m viewed.
  6. Magnification or Minimisation: Like I said, links to 4, but I will focus on not being picked for one thing, and minimise the success of other things, such as recently being emailed about an opportunity linked to a project that saw my poetry played at the Southbank Centre, where the individual described a new poem I sent as”Visceral and shattering.  Hard to hear but necessary.”
  7. Emotional Reasoning: For this one, I guess it’s mostly in terms of relationships with other people. I find it hard to keep up with my friends because of lack of time, and distance with certain people, but they’re so important to me. However, when I don’t hear from people, I assume because I feel sad about it that they’re not as bothered about seeing me.
  8. Should statements: There was something in the book that was a bit of a revelation. By expecting too much of myself, I obviously end up exhausted and unable to keep up, but in turn I also place those same expectations on others and I become “bitter and self-righteous” when they are not met. This was something I realised was really harmful to my relationships with others. Communication is the key here.
  9. Labelling and Mislabeling: I feel like I don’t do this as much, but it could be because it can be quite subtle in a way. The automatic thought of “I’m so stupid” etc. is so familiar that it’s hard to even be conscious of it. The last time I did this, I cried and felt bad on my journey home from my Gran’s, where I’d stayed with my boyfriend, as I’d left chicken and fish bones in the bin because I didn’t know where to put it outside.
  10. Personalisation: This happened on a project where everyone was so positive about it, but the person I was working with said they couldn’t wait until it was over. I took their honesty as being about me, and saw it as a failure, when really they had a lot more going on that was nothing to do with me.

I hadn’t intended this to be so long, but this seems to be what happens… I write nothing for ages and then ramble on for so long that people will inevitably get bored before the end! But if you’re still with me… I guess my point is that I have been feeling disappointed in my progress within the world of poetry, but that part of me knows that I need to enjoy the journey rather than be so focused on an essentially imaginary end-point. I’ve been working on overdrive since I started working full-time, to the point where I don’t know what a normal existence looks like. Now I’ve taken on this CELTA course, I know that I won’t be able to participate in the poetry world as much as I would like to… including my beloved Burn After Reading events (now on Mondays) and The Writing Room Presents… Jawdance (Wednesdays). Recently, I wanted to take more care of myself. My goal was to give myself the time that normal people have to unwind, to make it Sundays. But, I need my Sundays now to work as I have such little time to do so otherwise. Maybe a New Years Resolution then.

I was inspired by one of my tutors on the course, who now works freelance. This was my aim over three years ago, and I’m now making plans to launch my career properly. I’ve been performing my poetry for nine years now. I count it from my first open mic’ event, and why not? There are poets out there who have achieved more than me and haven’t even been doing it a year! Is that the negative voice talking? Maybe.

Anyway, my plans – or my hopes – for the future are to use this CELTA course to live abroad for around a year, a year and a half. I then hope to come back having saved enough money to move out of my parents’ house (that was why I’ve been in this job for so long) and buy myself some time. I’ll try to get some part time work that will allow me the flexibility to truly focus on my passion. I’m hoping that with time to devote to my artistic practice, that I will start enjoying the journey more. I’m also hoping that my travels will allow me some perspective that I simply can’t seem to get when I’m exhausted on the 7.25am train towards Waterloo. And as fellow poet Sophia Walker pointed out, that other than just thinking about what I can offer the countries I go to, they will also have much to offer me and I will grow as a writer and as a person in ways I won’t know now.

So, these will be the last few things I’m up to this year, but I reckon it’s the max I can afford to do time-wise:

-Feminism in London Evening Party

-Working on a Burn After Reading project

-An event on Superheroes and Supervillians

-Homeless Not Hopeless event

Hopefully I’ll catch some weekend events and open mic nights, and, of course, there’ll be She Grrrowls… I don’t want to end it so soon, so maybe I’ll do a January goodbye party… I’m not sure exactly when I’ll be going, but January seems like a good time for a bon voyage!

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Okay, I can’t quite end it there. Here are some nice things to look at for National Poetry Day:

  1. Selina Nwulu won the prize for Young Poet Laureate for London. Since working with her on Word’s a Stage (Apples and Snakes), we’ve shared pre-poetry food, post-show feminist discussions and dressed up in 1920s gear to see Laura Marling. She’s a fantastic poet, has featured at She Grrrowls, but is also such a lovely person. Representing the shy girls!
  2. Jodi Ann Bickley’s animated poem called ‘Brave’ on BBC Radio 1xtra’s Words First. I met her at Bestival last year (I think… the festivals blur!) and I’m so glad to hear new work from her.
  3. Some of my friends and peers on this Buzzfeed list. 
  4. I’m currently reading R.A. Villanueva, Reliquaria, and have just finished Sophia Walker’s Opposite the Tourbus.
  5. Chocolate Poetry Club put up this video of me featuring there and is celebrating its first birthday on Sunday 1st November.

Nasty Little Intro – Out Now!

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Head over to the Nasty Little Press website to buy my Nasty Little Intro for just £2, or save on postage and packaging by catching me at a festival, gig or She Grrrowls event. There are just 200 copies and both Hannah Jane Walker and Sye Sanders have sold out, so snap them up fast! I highly recommend all the others on offer as I have read them all.

On Friday I’m off to Latitude Festival to perform as a New Voice on the Poetry Stage. I’m extremely excited, and rather overwhelmed at the surreal feeling that I was at Larmer Tree Festival last year and now I’m at lots of different festivals. Teenage Carmina would be proud. Being a strange concoction of introvert + shy girl + quiet one, all my joy is naturally bobbing along with a undercurrent of nervous anxiety. Poets are generally lovely though, so hopefully I’ll be okay and not have to rely too much on the magic fridge I’ve been told about.

On my return I will be collaborating with Not So Popular on the next She Grrrowls event at Blessings in Shoreditch on Wednesday 23rd July. We have Hannah ChutzpahSelina NwuluAmy AcreKemi Taiwo, Prudence Chamberlain, Eley Williams and more.

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Hi July!

Firstly, let’s get the slightly embarrassing news out of the way… my poetry workshop had no bookings and got cancelled! It could have been promoted more, as I have been concentrating my efforts on the event (Ram Jam at The Grey horse, on 22nd July) but I spoke to one of the lovely organisers and we thought next year it could either be workshops held in schools (target market) or weekday evenings. Alas, it wasn’t a wasted trip. I dropped more flyers off at the Rose Theatre, I stumbled upon this great band called The Hype Theory playing at Banquet Records – a cool acoustic set with boys on guitars and  a cajón, and amazing vocals from lead singer, Katy Jackson. After the no-show, I collected my festival wristband from the IYAF HQ, and had a free meal from Las Iguanas, with a fantastic service from the manager Jason. I felt like a celebrity, enjoying a Reggae Rumba cocktail, with fajitas, and a chocolate-orange fudge cake for dessert. Something I’m also loving is the emergence of ice-cream parlours in Kingston – Creams and Afters. Maybe my Mum was right after all, and I should set up a business with ice-cream and poetry!

My job is going well, and I’ve been accepted for next year! I’m actually really enjoying working with teenagers – who’d’ve thought?! I’ve had the opportunity to work with the Year 9 students with Kayo Chingonyi, and even got to go to the SLAMbassadors finals, which was the best work day ever! We had the leaving ceremony for Year 11 and I’m really going to miss a lot of them. I’m going to turn down an interview for a job in Norwich; it breaks my heart to but it is much lower paid, and I feel that I’ve got too many commitments in London for the moment.

One of these commitments, and another reason why my work can be so amazing and supportive, is my part in the search for London’s Young Poet Laureate, with Spread the Word. I have been allowed the day off to take part – I was really nervous about asking, because when you work in a school, you can only take time off during school holidays. Tomorrow, they will try to narrow down the competition from nineteen to just six! It should be a fun day and I’m really looking forward it, and would love to even get into the final six, and I think I’d only have one more year to try again. Becoming the first Young Poet Laureate would be a dream come true and an opportunity I would grab with both hands. It would definitely be my big break! Wish me luck!

So far on my journey towards publication has encountered one rejection from Bloodaxe, and a couple of requests for full manuscripts after shorter samples. I was surprised by the speedy response from Bloodaxe, but I shall take the underlining about the quality of the work as a message that it is still amazing. I should also have a piece published in the next issue of DreamCatcher magazine with my new twist on Dorothy, from the Wizard of Oz, inspired by the image below, by Matthew Dickerson, as well as my love for Dorothy Parker.

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In terms of poetry gigs and stuff, I’ve been to the open mic at Come Rhyme with Me. Kayo was performing alongside Peter Hayhoe and Mike Galsworthy. All the poets were fantastic, the food was delicious (£12.50 for food and poetry!) and the atmosphere was so warm and friendly. Even without Deanna there, Dean Atta produced a wonderful show with his infectious smile and delightful charm. I finished the evening of with a Rumble cocktail and spent the rest of that weekend flyering for the She Grrrowls event on 22nd July. I also got the chance to take part in a workshop with Joelle Taylor as part of the Writing Room – things are really coming together now! I’m gutted I can’t make the Sabrina Mahfouz workshop, but sometimes you have to create balance in your life and I miss my friend who’s up in York! I’m guessing, when I turn 26 I’ll have to stop going to the Writing Room, in which case I’ve got 1.5 years to become a success!

Other cool things I’ve done include seeing Laura Marling at the Grand Eagle Hotel as part of the new Secret Music events, and going to the East London Comic and Art Festival. I had fun dressing up in 1920s attire and exploring different rooms, finding Lindt chocolate and spending time with poet Selina Nwulu in a non-poetry setting. I also have discovered a love for indie comic books, especially Marc Ellerby whose Chloe Noonan comics have a great female protagonist, featuring great artwork and words.

Next up, tomorrow I’m going to eat at Bar Kick and stick around for ‘Kid I wrote back’ which seems like a cool event! I also need to update my events section – oopsie daisy!

xxx

20.03.13 – Poetry&Paint launch