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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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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Freelance Reflections #9

It’s nearly a year on from becoming self-employed, and I’m finally getting a routine together. I have six students across Monday to Wednesday, which takes up about six hours on each day because most of this is travelling. It’s a constant battle in my mind between money and travel. I live at home, so I am able to save, but the sacrifice is time.

It begs the question: what is my time worth?

I figure I’ll stay put for now, and embrace the time travelling by reading, doing any admin I can on-the-go, and sometimes just daydreaming out of windows, listening to music. I’ll be turning 30 next May, so maybe I’ll freak out then and feel the urge to uproot. But at least by then I’ll have saved some more.

My mornings are spent planning lessons and marking. This takes up a lot of time as well, but it’s okay. If I stick at it, the work will get easier with time. The type of subjects the students are studying often means I have to go over each paper to make sure that I not only know the answers, but know how to teach the students how to get those answers.

The students themselves are lovely and a pleasure to work with. The other day, I was doing a creative warm-up game with Rory’s Story Cubes, and we made a story that was so funny that we both got the giggles. It was about dice that wouldn’t stop rolling. It relied on an implicit communication as we each continued the story, the dice still rolling in the story, and whilst it was seemingly unprofessional to laugh quite to the extent I did (barely being able to speak), we bonded in that moment, and it is those moments that will make it hard when the tuition stops.

The last couple of weeks, I have been focusing on trying to get into the routines that I want to continue. Sometimes I question whether I’m doing enough paid work. I have this mentality that I should be trying to make as much as I would need to survive if I didn’t live with my parents. But, how am I going to progress with my writing career if I don’t give it the time it deserves? When talking to fellow creative Daisy Dockrill a few months back, she said to do exactly this, for the reason that I would be able to give myself that time to write more.

As well as planning and marking in the mornings, I do content writing, and I said I wouldn’t do this past Wednesday, but this slipped into Thursday the last couple of weeks. Today I’m going to aim to do at least four hours of writing, but I also have a book tour to organise and there’s still (always) a lot to do for that! I’ve been trying to do bits and pieces to do with it, but as always, it never feels like there’s enough time. I’ve been socialising a fair bit too, but this week has been all work really. I’m looking forward to a couple of social things over the weekend, including Common Ground – a free festival I found out about. Hopefully the weather will be nice!

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Last week also saw the first instalment of She Grrrowls at The Poetry Cafe in Covent Garden. It was really lovely, with the most audience we’ve had in a long time. I didn’t make quite enough to cover costs now I have to pay for the venue as well as the acts, not to mention paid advertising. The features were Annie Hayter, who is a Barbican Young Poet; Anvi, who is on an ACE-funded stay from India; and Good Canary, who is a musician!

I’ve been exercising every day until today. I was really itching to, but I just got a new tattoo, so I can’t wear a tight sports bra over it. I’ve been doing a bit of Spanish, including some reading, but could push myself more with this to get up to scratch. I’ll be starting intermediate conversation classes soon, which is scary! Next week I’ll be in Leicester for the second date in the She Grrrowls Autumn 2018 Book Tour, and the first outside of London!

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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!

Freelance Reflections #7

I’m currently at Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where I’m running She Grrrowls – 23:20-00:20 each night at The Banshee Labyrinth’s Banqueting Hall. The first week has flown by and I’ve seen so many incredible show. Lots can be seen in my reviews for The Norwich Radical.  Other shows that have been highlights include Antosh Wojcik’s How To Keep Time, Kit Finnie’s Mabel and Mickey, Alissa Anne Jeun Yi’s Love Songs, Jess Green’s A Self-Help Guide to Being in Love with Jeremy Corbyn, and Katrina Quinn’s Individual Medley. There’s also been other nights like mine that I’ve enjoyed such as Listen Softly, and That’s What She Said.

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Loud Poets

I’ve had the honour of performing at some shows in addition to She Grrrowls, and they’ve all been lovely. I was part of the Loud Poets’ game show. I had so much fun, and although I felt super awkward trying to read a poem imagining I was in strange locations like the moon, it was an amazing event, and I especially enjoyed the painting round. I got to do a 10 minute spot as part of Sez Thomasin’s show This is Awkward, which was filled with incredible poems. Fay Roberts’ Other Voices had the most heart-warming crowd I’ve had so far, and I’m lucky enough to be going back there a few times this month. I’ve read my diaries from 2002 and 2006 to audiences as part of Helen Black’s Dear Diary – this was the most hilarious and fun experience, and Helen puts on a great show, with diaries I could very much relate to! I’ve also wrangled my way into The Full Irish early morning show with some more lighthearted material. Finally, I’ve been featured at Well it’s Woody, which I recommend purely for Woody’s own beautiful voice and music.

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Sadly, Jess Green could only feature at the first event as she was hit wit laryngitis for the rest of her run. Afshan D’souza-Lodhi was so incredible to have as a regular feature in this first week, and we had a great time flyering. Being a late show, it is so lovely to be able to flyer with other women and then do the show like She Grrrowls. The last few nights I’ve been working with Shagufta K. Iqbal and Celeste Ramos, which has been great so far! Audiences in general have been small, and mostly lovely… last night was a bit weird, but we had a drink afterwards instead of rushing to bed, which was much needed on the first proper Friday night of fringe!

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Of course, calling out at strangers about feminist poetry as mixed responses, with some being really positive, other responses being ‘I’m good’… like, you’ve got enough feminism in your life? The worst have been drunk men bringing up washing up… and once when we weren’t even flyering and Celeste and I got told by two men that we should fuck. This was around midday as well. Tonight we reach the half way point, and it’s Saturday night! Let’s hope for big warm crowds of loveliness!

We need bigger audiences, and bigger bucket donations! We have lots of books that need to go! I can’t carry them all back with me… also I’m having to do content writing in the mornings to try to scrape together some income this month. So please spread the word about the show!

Freelance Reflections #4

The past couple of weeks, work-wise, I’ve done a mixture of exam invigilation, tutoring, and content writing. It feels like I’m slowly building something with more regularity, but work has taken over a bit from a lot of focused writing time.

The exam invigilation hasn’t really been worth it financially, but I’m going to give it a go at a school more local to me over the next month or so. It takes me 35 minutes to walk there (and just as long going on public transport), so that will tick off my exercise that day.

 

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Artistic Director, Lisa Mead

 

The last couple of weeks have included a lot of arts events. This started with Poetry Pioneers celebrating 35 years of Apples & Snakes, which was incredible – I enjoyed seeing those poets I know and love, as well as The Upper World, fusing music and poetry. She Grrrowls was a success this month, and I also saw 4.48 Psychosis and reviewed it for The Norwich Radical.

 

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Photo credit: Paul Point (Chocolate Poetry Club)

I had the privilege of attending a workshop with The BreakBeat Poets. Sadly, I had to leave early to cover a creative writing workshop for work. The fantastic Jemilea sent me notes on what I missed, so next time I carve some writing time out, I can return to this!

 

The following week, I saw Florence + The Machine at the Royal Festival Hall, went to my wonderful friend Sarah K. Perry’s book launch for her debut novel ‘Let Me Be Like Water’, and have generally commenced with my birthday celebrations, with the big day being on Monday!

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I tried to balance work with sunshine time since we had a little heat-wave, which meant a lot of drinking beer in pubs and parks with picnic food. It also meant I got a lot of my maths revision done. Now, I just need to be careful I’m not burning the candle at both ends too much, focus more time on writing, and make sure I have enough time to do all the paid work I’m committing to do.