Headliner at A Lovely Word, Everyman Theatre, 5-11 Hope Street, L1 9BH Liverpool, 7.30pm
Headliner at A Lovely Word, Everyman Theatre, 5-11 Hope Street, L1 9BH Liverpool, 7.30pm
Another couple of weeks of freelance life, and I’ve now got three students I’m tutoring, and although other paid work has not been much over these last two weeks, I’ve been busy with lots of unpaid activities, such as planning workshops and tutoring sessions (which takes a long time at this stage) and writing a funding application. I’ll still be working on both of these things next week too.
I’m also using a maths revision book to brush up on my Maths, and have found there are a couple of different ways to do subtraction, and the new way I’ve found is actually the one recommended by the government.
I went to Joel’s book launch, which was really lovely, and there I saw lots of old familiar faces, as well as a few new ones. The next evening I went to see The Head Wrap Diaries, and I ended up reviewing it for The Norwich Radical.
I’ve dedicated some time to writing, particularly on Sundays, but have been using my long journeys to take part in NaPoWriMo still, which ends on Monday. I’ve been sharing some extracts from my new poems via Instagram. I’ve also done a little bit of illustration as an experiment to get me back into visual art a bit.
Yesterday I decided to go to a few exhibitions around Old Street, including a visit to BEERS, Victoria Miro, and Parasol Unit. I went for an incredible tapas meal at Boqueria and then to a reggaeton and salsa night, where I danced until the early hours. I’m now feeling pretty smug because I’ve had so little sleep, but I’ve been super productive doing some content writing work, plus poetry and Spanish practice and this!
I also recently got an office chair for my bedroom and I love it! I was on a horrible wooden fold-up one all this time before. I can even put it on a massage function!
Another couple of weeks have passed, so I thought I’d write a bit about what I’ve been up to during this time. I’ve not been earning much the last few weeks for a number of reasons. Time has been taken up with family celebrations for both Easter and a cousin’s hen party. Secondly, the majority of my time has been taken up with planning workshops that won’t even nearly cover my costs in terms of the amount of research and planning that I’m doing. I’m also planning a book tour for She Grrrowls, which I will be attempting to get funding for so that it can go ahead.
I attended the Out-Spoken Press Prize and I really enjoyed all the incredible poetry there and avidly Tweeted about it. I was feeling pretty shy and anxious that night, but I said hello and/or well done to around five people, so I didn’t feel so bad. I’d been long-listed for the performance category, but I didn’t make the shortlist, so felt it was important for me to attend, resisting the urge to hibernate. She Grrrowls was a couple of days later and the turn out was much better than the last two (though still not enough to cover my costs) – it was a really lovely evening as always and I enjoyed it as much as a headless chicken can enjoy such a night.
So, this week I’ve been trying to work as much as possible, but I did manage to schedule a day with my friend and artist Natalie Cooper (she did the illustrations inside the She Grrrowls anthology). She introduced me to Salsa 98.1 (I like to listen to Spanish/Latin music when content writing), cooked me a Cuban-inspired dish with kidney beans, and provided me with tea. I wrote some of my spoken word show It’s Always the Quiet Ones without getting too distracted by the music, so felt really pleased with my production levels!
On Saturday I facilitated the first workshop as part of The Femme Canon monthly series with Spread the Word at The Albany. I really enjoyed it and the participants were not only insightful in their readings of the work we covered, their reading voices were delightful, and their poetry was incredibly powerful. I’m looking forward to the next one and although I have all my own materials at the ready, I have asked participants to send me a poem of their choice to make the workshops a little bit more collaborative. With that in mind, if you’re reading this, please feel free to comment with your own favourite writers who are women or non-binary.
I’m really excited about my Saturdays, even though I’m working a lot of them! On 28th April I’m running a one-off workshop with The Poetry School aimed at writers wanting to develop work for the page who regularly perform their work. I’ve also got a few sessions where I’m covering someone as part of the tutoring agency I work at delivering creative writing workshops to kids. These sessions, along with the rest of The Femme Canon workshops – there’s one ticket left and at £30 for all sessions, it’s still a bargain for six hours of workshop time! The reason why I’ve been aiming to work Monday-Wednesdays with regular work is partly to be able to do one-off workshops across the rest of the week (as well as to try to give myself time to write!)
As for today, I’ve done a bit of admin, as well as person writing, NaPoWriMo writing, and a bit of writing for my show. I’m going to do a bit more admin, as well as revise my maths a bit to brush up whilst doing 11+ tuition. I’m actually enjoying the focus these exercises give my mind. Yesterday afternoon I met up with a friend called Ella Daniels (also a writer, I’m incredible excited for what she has planned!). We spoke about making time for doing the things we love, so I’m planning to get into better reading habits by slightly changing how I schedule my time.
Lastly, next week, Joel Auterson – fellow Kid Glove member and Roundhouse alumni – is having a book launch. I’ve already read his book Unremember from Bad Betty Press and it’s pretty special. There’s a great list of poets supporting on the night, including another Kid Glover, Antosh Wojcik, She Grrrowls poet Aisling Fahey, and another fave Laurie Ogden. Also, Poet in the City have a series of events at Wilton’s Music Hall on Women Poets Who Changed 1968, looking at some of the poets who we cover in The Femme Canon – Maya Angelou and Adrienne Rich.
Today marks 6 months since I’ve been officially self-employed. My journey started when I got offered a freelance teaching job (EFL), though you could say it started seven years ago when I began my MA in Creative Entrepreneurship, though you could also say it started over a decade ago when my college friend Anya Destiney took me to an Apples & Snakes open mic, then again, you could also say it started when I wrote my first poem as a child and started to make an anthology with my parents compiled in a plastic folder, or you could say it started when I was born and named Carmina, Latin for poetry.
Anyway, being freelance is something I have wanted to do for a long time, yet it is scary taking the first step as it goes against much of what I feel I’ve been encouraged to do by my parents and society as a whole. Really, being self-employed is something we should be taught at school, especially when it comes to avenues that tend to work in this way, such as studying creative arts subjects. Although I don’t believe study should be so focused on the career, it would certainly make these subjects more practical and viable when thinking of the future, especially when it comes to A-level and university.
I thought I would start a series of reflective blog posts for several reasons. Firstly, I appreciate the honesty and transparency from other creatives about how to survive and thrive in this world, and there are many ways to do so and I would like to share what I’m doing in order to help others starting out. This is why Paula Varjack’s Show Me The Money was so great. Secondly, it helps my own practice as an artist to reflect on what I’m doing. I currently do this by writing a list of activities and goals in an Excel spreadsheet (I love spreadsheets) but, as a woman of words, I craved a more thoughtful expression of these reflections that are more than just time management.
To summarise, my income currently comes from various different streams. The idea is that my main income will be from tutoring and teaching on a part-time and freelance basis. This is a mixture of EFL, English and 11+. For the past six months, this has actually been a slow progression to building clients, and I’ve been doing a lot of copywriting to keep me afloat. Although not as well paid as I would like, I would be making next to nothing if it wasn’t for that work. I’ve been losing money from events (paying artists and the sound technician) and made a small amount from sharing my own work, and selling books. I’ve also donated eggs, which has seen me compensated with £750. You can do this a maximum of three times. Mostly, I’m doing anything I can grab my hands on, including some exam invigilation, which I found really difficult as my legs ached so much as I struggled with the boredom!
To think about ending this post, I’m going to just review this past week in more detail. I began the week planning my set for a 30 minute set and rehearsing in my bedroom. I spent a couple of hours writing my diary before getting on with some admin. I had a massive backlog of emails, so I indulged in spending a big chuck on these first few days going over the emails and actioning on them where required, meaning reading and signing a contact, and arranging phone calls etc. I didn’t have my usual tutoring that week, so I met up with my Spanish exchange that evening a couple of stops away on the train.
On Tuesday, it was a similar day with rehearsing and emails, sending invoices to get paid etc. I did some content writing and booked travel and accommodation for a trip to Liverpool with a friend, partly a birthday celebration, and also to attend a joint event between Shy Radicals and Shrinking Violets. I also arranged travel and accommodation for a training day in Cambridge, as I’m going to be an assessor for an A-level paper this summer, marking around 200 scripts.
One of the things I love about being freelance is getting up when I want (though I do need to be more strict with my bedtime!) and being able to start the morning with exercise which I like to do regularly for both my physical and mental health. Thursday was a very similar day, but in the evening I had the opportunity to support Sabrina Benaim at Bush Hall, which was a high I rode on for the next few days. The audience of around 400 people was incredibly supportive, and I felt like I really connected with them. At the end, when people queued for Sabrina, I was also invited into photographs and signing books and tickets – so exciting!
The previous week I had dedicated my first chunk of time to writing my own work, where I’m trying to write my first spoken word show. This Friday I tried to dedicate a couple of hours to writing, but I ended up just saving documents from my phone noes to word, and submitting a few poems to magazines and anthologies with upcoming deadlines. That evening I had a social event, but also went to support my friend’s band called Black Palms as an audience member. The next day was quite a contrast, with my last working day being a stall at Balham Bowls Club. Although well attended and nice to be a part of, I only sold one book, having paid £35 to do the stall. It’s swings and roundabouts.
I’ve just arrived back from being away with family, so starting a fresh week today!
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 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.
Well, readers (if you exist, it feels like writing into the abyss), I haven’t written properly her since Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Most of my reviews are written for The Norwich Radical, and I’ve now been writing for them for over three years as a volunteer. I felt the urge to write having recently come back from Verve Poetry Festival (alas, as an audience member, not a participant).
One of my cousins is at university in Birmingham, so I took the opportunity to get her a Saturday ticket and visit her whilst attending the festival. We had a lovely time, and I discovered new voices amongst old favourites. It was a bit overwhelming at times being surrounded by so many familiar names and faces, and by the end of the festival my brain kind of stopped working, but it was well worth it. I’ll go through some of my personal highlights.
Dead or Alive Slam
I’d never been to a Dead of Alive Slam, where actors read the work of past poets, and compete against the alive ones. I was very much in team ‘alive’, who were the overall winners, but I discovered poems by both I enjoyed. It featured Genevieve Carver, Isaiah Hull and Caroline Teague – the first two being new to me, and all of them brilliant. Team Death consisted of poems by Christina Rossetti, Forough Farrokhzad, and Djuna Barnes (read by Tembi Xena, Lorna Nickson Brown, and Zeddie Lawal). Djuna Barnes really stood out to me, which might come in handy for the workshop I’m going to run with Spread the Word – The Femme Canon.
This section featured six commissioned poets, alongside competition winners, and was hosted by the judge Luke Kennard. What I liked about this section was that there were so many poets, and so much variety. It can be difficult to listen to poetry across three days (even for us poets) so this quick succession of poets was welcome for a morning event at the start of a long day. It featured local poets including Roy McFarlane, Bohdan Piasecki, Amerah Saleh, Jenna Clake, Casey Bailey, and Ahlaam Moledina. Having been tutored by Piasecki whilst in the Roundhouse Poetry Collective, and having met Saleh on a previous trip to Birmingham, it was particularly good to hear both their poetry. You can buy the book of poems here.
Stablemates: Bobby Parker
Chaired by Jill Abram, creator of Stablemates, there was discussion and poetry from Martha Sprackland, James Brookes, and Bobby Parker in celebration of new work from Offord Road Books. Although I wasn’t expecting it, Bobby Parker was my favourite poet in this section. He was open about the criticism he had received from his poem ‘THANK YOU FOR SWALLOWING MY CUM’, of which I wasn’t previously aware had provoked accusations of misogyny. I read the poem myself and although I think it’s horrible, I think it’s the intention, it being an exploration of this dark side of masculinity and the validation that men may place on such an act. It is simultaneously simple and complex, and I like it and Parker’s other word. I didn’t realise the connection between this poem and Thank You For Swallowing, which publishes incredible feminist writing.
The Poetry Assembly: Romalyn Ante
Although a celebration of Jane Commane’s Bloodaxe collection, the event was also supported by Roz Goddard, Liz Berry, Romalyn Ante, and Matt Black. My favourite poet was Romalyn Ante, with her slow, rhythmic poetry, with vivid imagery, it was beautiful to hear her recite. My only issue with the programming of Verve Poetry Festival is the division of sections labelled ‘poetry’ and ‘spoken word’, when there were examples such as this where Ante knew her poems by heart and was in the ‘poetry’ section, yet others such as the Out-Spoken Press section were labelled ‘spoken word’ when both feature books.
Out-Spoken Press Showcase
In moving on to this ‘spoken word’ section, I believe one featured poet, Raymond Antrobus, has been quite vocal about claiming the title of ‘poet’ as his own rather than solely a ‘spoken word artist’. This showcase also featured Anthony Anaxagorou, Joelle Taylor, Sabrina Mahfouz, and Bridget Minamore. I’m very well versed on the latter three poets, all three featuring the the She Grrrowls anthology from Burning Eye Books and so it was great to hear them all together at Verve Poetry Festival.
Nymphs & Thugs: Maria Ferguson
The penultimate event I went to featured Salena Godden, Matt Abbott, Maria Ferguson, and Jamie Thrasivoulou. Whilst they were all great poets, Ferguson was my highlight here, and is always completing captivating. After her show ‘Fat Girls Don’t Dance’ (which I have seen and bought a copy of the book of the same title), she is now working on a show called ‘Essex Girls’. As well as her usual fantastic poetry, in the second half of the two hour slot she gave us a sneak peek into some of her writing from the show.
Luke Wright & Ross Sutherland
Tom Chivers of Penned in the Margins presented the last section I could attend before hopping on my newly booked coach (otherwise I would have been on night buses from arriving by train 1am the next day in London). It think it was actually Tom Chivers who introduced me to the work of Luke Wright and Ross Sutherland just under a decade ago as an awkward undergrad on an internship at PITM whilst studying at UEA. I have since worked with Ross Sutherland during Shake the Dust, and Luke Wright kindly published my small selection of poems with Nasty Little Press and put me on at Latitude Festival, and I have kept following both their work. It was, as always, great to hear their stuff, especially having recently read and loved The Toll by Wright, and listened to some of the Imaginary Advice podcasts by Sutherland.
All in all, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my recommendations (I has taken me a couple of hours of writing after all). Hopefully next year I’ll be writing as a fellow participant! I’ve been officially freelance since October 2017, so stay tuned for when I find time to write about what that has meant for me thus far (clue: I’m still very much settling back into the UK since my return from Spain in July).
A free night of music, comedy, poetry and dance, featuring:
Carol Prior (compere), Chris Fraser, Carmina Masoliver, Miranda Gavin, Las Pasionarias, JC McFee, Mellow Baku, Alice Denny.
We will be raising money for The Penny Beale Memorial Fund, which has been created to preserve and protect the physical and mental health of persons who are or have been victims of domestic violence and to advance the education of the public, including local authorities and voluntary bodies, by the provision of information, advice and training programmes into the causes, remedies and prevention of domestic violence. Charity No. 1110528.
Fellow member of Kid Glove, Maeve Scullion, has been organising a charity fundraising event for Child.org whereby poets write and perform poems for 10 hours straight. Wanting to take part, but being in Spain, I decided to participate online.
I rarely share my poetry online, and although I have been wanting to record more poems, sharing first draft poems, fresh off the page is something else! I managed to complete the challenge, and I really enjoyed doing it… I had to teach from 5-9pm afterwards, including a group of 9-10 year-olds, so I am exhausted!
I was at primary school when I first learnt what the word ‘hypocrite’ meant. I remember because I recall shouting it at other players during after-school netball games. I say shouting, but I’m quite softly spoken and so maybe I wasn’t all that loud. But I remember one friend laughing at me as I said it. Those who get close to me will learn this strange mix of vehement-quiet-girl still exists within me (why I’m so excited for the Shy Radicals book).
It was when I was a teenager, that I began to see my parents – and adults in general – as human beings. With flaws. One of those flaws being that they were massive hypocrites. As a child who had school reports detailing my strong sense of right and wrong, it was only natural that I developed this idea that being a hypocrite was not something I wanted to be, and with that I found it hard not to be overly righteous in defending my views. I never believed that I would become a hypocrite.
But maybe I was wrong. If I am to analyse the details of everything I do, I regularly go against what I believe in. I can do a lot better. And although I’m taking steps towards doing better, there will always be things I do that don’t live up to my ideal version of myself, especially when it comes to making money. For example, my current day job is teaching English as a foreign language. It can be a very rewarding job, yet, a big part of me is also uncomfortable about the fact that there is so much demand to learn English. It reminds me of how privileged I am to have been born where I was. Such a small country, such a widespread language, such a horrible history of colonialism.
And here I am, post-Brexit, living in Spain, not able to speak the language – because if you know English, why bother with any other language? Even the one of your heritage. My plan, to return to the UK, hopefully better acquainted with Spanish, and focus on my career as a writer. I feel I haven’t given myself the chance to properly try to live my dream. For a dream, I know it will seem less of that in reality, that it will be a struggle. But then so is working full-time and trying to work in the arts as a second job. It’s time that I make it a priority.
And in doing that, it’s likely my morals may be called into question. I might still be a hypocrite, and I might face dilemmas. Except maybe the money will be too much of a temptation, because I already auditioned for an advert for Transport for London because it paid more than my annual wage at the time (I’m now earning about half that annual wage, but my mental health is a lot better and I’m living in my own apartment instead of with my parents). And this dilemma is if I am lucky. Whenever I have seen other poets at Buckingham Palace, or on adverts, I have been excited for them, knowing that (despite the moral implications) I would be honoured to be asked and can’t imagine doing anything other than accept it. Even if I did feel uneasy about it.
This is for the same reason that I accepted my first job offer after I finished my MA and stayed there for 4 years. Because I have been taught that things are so bad that I should be grateful for whatever I can get. But right now, I have taken a risk and applied for Edinburgh Fringe Festival and booked to stay at a hostel for a month. It’s nearly double my current rent. I’m trying to save, but I am worried about being able to afford it. I thought about applying for some extra work that would ease these worries – £1000 for a month’s work online – but in the end, I wasn’t sure I would be able to commit to it on top of my full-time job teaching.
So, to imagine the fee that comes with doing adverts, such as the Nationwide ones, knowing that it could enable me to live my dream. It would be too good to refuse. And as another poet pointed out, it is the system that is the problem, and most of the time we are just trying to live. I’ve worked for minimum wage for WHSmith, JD Wetherspoons and Sainsbury’s. It doesn’t mean I agree with what they stand for, so if I was asked to pen a poem for those same companies, would it be any different? Perhaps it would, being that you are publicly associating your own brand as a poet with their brand, therefore it is a kind of endorsement that isn’t as true being a sales/bar assistant, which carries with it an element of anonymity, of being part of a uniformed mass.
In the midst of debate around the Nationwide adverts, although admitting he respects the poets in the ads, poet Luke Wright sparked debate with his poem Renegade Poets, which I think is what was intended. It is not so much the poets in the ads being targeted, but rather opening up a discussion about what it means when we accept these opportunities, especially for those of us who write political pieces and are vocal about things like Feminism and Capitalism. ‘McGough is doing Waitrose, and Clarkey’s doing chips…’ Wright says, while acknowledging it’s not about one specific case, and that it’s not new.
He laments about the art that is lost, the compromise you have to have, when selling your work in this way. One line that struck me was: ‘if nobody wants to see your show, it’s probably not good enough’, because part of me thinks there’s more to it than that. For example, with She Grrrowls, the audience can vary widely in numbers, and sadly I think being a feminist night, featuring women, this makes it more niche. Then again, there’s also music and comedy, which are arguably less niche than poetry. I have also had a promotor basically tell me that I don’t bring enough audience to the show. Whilst that may be true, I would never say that to one of my acts. It’s rude and patronising.
Nevertheless, the sentiment harks back to that line in Wright’s poem. If you are familiar with Wright’s work, you’ll see that at least in this sense, he practises what he preaches. How do you make something good enough? You work hard at it. At the night Homework, as well as in his solo shows, you can see the effort that goes into creating quality pieces, and the poem Renegade Poets is a great poem too, with an ending that really drives the point home.
The point being to think more about making these decisions, instead of doing what I imagine I might do – just see the money and and say yes. So, yes it’s important to think about this topic, but at the moment, I don’t think I’m able to make a decision. I don’t think it’s necessarily wrong in all contexts, but something that comes down to an individual company and what they stand for, and the person making that choice.
When I did my MA in Creative Entrepreneurship five years ago, part of me thought that if I had the right tools I could be successful in the arts. I grew up with two teachers as parents and they worked hard in their field and have been able to provide me with a good life. I have become slightly disillusioned since graduating and working, that although we were taught that the “struggling artist” cliche is a myth that doesn’t have to be fulfilled, I still
fear know that by taking a risk later this year, I will living on the “cabbage budget” and may never see the “champagne budget”.
Disillusioned, but only slightly. I still hold on to my dream, and feel I have to give myself that chance. On another related note, Roxane Gay recently pulled publication of her next book How to Be Heard after ‘alt-right’ Milo Yiannopoulos received a $250,000 advance from Simon & Schuster. It is an act of protest. She has been able to stand by her morals and principles, but she has also been quoted by The Guardian as saying ‘I can afford to take this stand. Not everyone can. Remember that.’ Whether these moral choices are something we can do from the start of our career, or whether it is something success enables us to do so is still up for debate. I may be a hypocrite now, but I will try to push myself and do better.