Freelance Reflections #5

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything here. I’ve actually had a bit of time where I’ve not been working that much. I tend to make a big thing of birthdays, and my friends aren’t in one big group, so I did lots of different things for that – a night out north of the river, dinner and Francesca Beard‘s incredible show ‘How to Survive a Post-Truth Apocalypse’ at Battersea Arts Centre, Ballie Ballerson (which I found overrated), and Draughts board game cafe (which I love). I even added an extra picnic on the end the following weekend. On my actual birthday on 14th May, I went out with a fellow freelancer, and we had a DIY breakfast at Jack’s, and explored some galleries.

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Another highlight was going to Liverpool for the first time with the same friend. It was a lot to take in as we spent a lot of time at the International Slavery Museum, before going to a talk about Shy Radicals (Hamja Ahsan) and Shrinking Violets (Joe Moran), then exploring the Tate Modern and the Yoko Ono & John Lennon exhibition, and other galleries. I felt like there was obviously so much more to be seen as one can fit into a couple of days.

In terms of work, I’ve continued with content writing, tutoring, and exam invigilation that is now closer to home. Being freelance means always being on the hunt for more work, I find. I recently had an induction for remote minute-taking, and I’m due to have some training soon to become an assessor for an A-level English Language exam.  I’m also in the process of setting up some workshops in a school, which will be about shyness/quietness/introversion. I’m currently still in the middle of my workshops at Spread the Word, ‘The Femme Canon‘, and I’m loving it. There are still a couple of places available for just £10 this coming Saturday.

I’m constantly questioning what I’m doing, with part of me nervous about the future, and conscious I’m not doing EFL teaching as much as I’d like at the moment. I worry that if I want a job in the future that it will look bad, but then I figure the world is my oyster in that respect and I could go abroad again to teach. The one thing that is making me consider moving out of my parents’ house again is the amount of travelling in London I’m doing on an almost daily basis. I know as well that I would be happier being more independent, but it’s all a matter of perspective and I could probably last another year here. It’s best to take things a day at a time, I guess.

Currently, I’m getting up at 6,30am, and I’m travelling over an hour (walking) to and from my exam invigilation job in the morning. Thankfully I have some time in between, where I’ll either do some marking, planning, or content writing. I’ll leave at between 2.30pm and 4.30pm to tutor in the evening. The idea then is to still have some time to go to poetry gigs and things. For instance, tomorrow I’m going to a workshop put on by Apples & Snakes after my student.

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I had a week off for my cousin’s wedding in Mexico, where I was a bridesmaid and also read a poem written especially for the couple. This week away from work meant not getting paid two Fridays in a for content writing. Technically, I paid for the bulk of the week in Mexico with my compensation from donating my eggs. I’d not had much time to do any of the content work the week before either, so only got £15 from that before I went away.

The wedding was perfect, but so surreal at the same time – being on the beach in Mexico! I wished I had been able to explore more, but sadly I’m no longer with my fellow explorer, who I travelled through South East Asia and lived in Vietnam with. Instead, I was with my parents, who weren’t as keen on getting away from the resort as me. I was thankful to eat some incredible chimichangas in Playa del Carmen, and went to Tulum and Coba to learn about the Mayan ruins, climbing near (but not quite) the top of the 137 feet pyramid of Nohoch Mul. I made the mistake of looking down too soon, but the view was pretty incredible. I also read some Mexican authors whilst relaxing on the beach and by the pool. Carmen Boullosa‘s ‘Before’ was beautifully poetic as a novella, and I enjoyed Chloe Aridjis‘ ‘Book of Clouds’, since it was set a lot in Berlin, where I had my last trip away abroad. I’m in the middle of Carmen Maria Machado‘s ‘Her Body and Other Parties’ and this collection of short stories is incredible.

The last She Grrrowls featured Laurie Ogden, Danielle Allen and Leon Craig. The audience numbers weren’t as high as I would have liked, but the three of them were so lovely and embraced the whole evening and we were in the upstairs room, so we could ramble on as long as we wanted in the Q&A!

On reflection, I need to have more gratitude for what I’m doing at the moment, and stress less about stuff. I’m such a type A. It has it’s pros and cons. I’m slowly making more time for creativity too, and with proper goals and deadlines for these kinds of projects, I’ll be able to shape things into a life with a good balance between making money, and everything else I want to do.

Freelance Reflections #2

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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.

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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.

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Why I Don’t Believe in Diets

So, the video above is from a poem that was published by Nasty Little Press in the Podium Poets #1 anthology, in partnership with Spread the Word. We’re all familiar with the “New Year, New You” cliché and I wrote this poem after being sick of the post-holiday obsession over weight, perpetuated by adverts that play on our insecurities.

This year we saw the epitome of this came with Protein World’s advertising campaign, below. Now, it’s not so much as this is anything new, but it was more that it’s the last straw. These kinds of messages are so insidious and as much as I refuse to let them get to me, they do. Please, come up with a new way to sell your shitty weight-loss products. I mean, the product in itself is something I loathe.

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I’m even embarrassed to admit that I was conned into getting some “free” weight-loss tablets that ended up giving me heartburn and a hole in my bank account instead. I really paid for my stupidity as I could only get half the cash back after telling them what awful human beings they are. But really I think this shows how difficult, but imperative, it is to rebel against these kinds of campaigns.

So, when I was on my second membership to Move Your Frame and saw them post the same rhetoric, but this time linked to exercise, I vowed not to go there again. I mean, at least a weight-loss product is all about unrealistic expectations and isn’t trying to be something it’s not. But for a company whose message is meant to be about keeping fit, being healthy and being active in a fun way to jump on board the body-shaming bandwagon, it’s just a whole other shade of wrong.

Kate Tempest & Hollie McNish: Reclaim Touch from RANDOM ACTS on Vimeo.

One of my favourite poetry videos is the collaboration between Kate Tempest and Hollie McNish ‘Reclaim Touch’. I think more of this honesty is needed in our rebellion against the diet and weight-loss industry.

This was meant to be a short post, but I also wanted to mention Juliette Burton who spoke about Protein World during a panel at Feminism in London. I had already come across her on the Twitter-sphere, but hearing her in person was a privilege. She spoke about her experience with eating disorders, where at her lowest weight she was just 4 stone and a UK size 4, or the infamous US size 0. She was a month away from dying when she was the size that it is said that 11-17 year old girls are encouraged to desire, stating how advertising is the wallpaper of our lives. She also became an overeater and increased her weight to 19 stone, at a size 20, which had an impact on her mental health and resulted in feelings of suicide. She was able to find a healthy medium, but also suffered from bulimia. Here you can see why this matters.

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I write this as I’ve been too busy to go to the gym over the last few months. But I decided not to make myself feel guilty about it, and accept that I would get back into a routine when the time was right. Being so busy, I spend a lot of time walking anyway, and on New Year’s Day, after a lot of guiltless indulgence, I went on a 3/4 hour walk from Kingston Hospital to Kew Gardens and around the illuminated trail. Tomorrow I plan to do some dancing in my house, I’m going to a spa with my mum on Saturday, and then on Sunday I plan to return to the gym. But I will continue not to diet – the idea in itself an illogical concept where it’s a known fact that any weight loss is put back on. Instead, I will eat healthily, treat myself to nice things like chocolate, and exercise regularly to keep physically and mentally fit!

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Larmer Tree Festival 2013 & She Grrrowls

Before I get to the juicy stuff, I’d like to point a couple of things. Firstly, check out my profile of the Spread the Word website as part of the ‘Spoke’ project to find the first Young Poet Laureate for London, for which I was shortlisted. Yep, I made the final twenty ‘Podium Poets’ but sadly didn’t make the cut to the final six. Secondly, I found a link to the Guardian website where there is a picture of me! Gillian Wearing picked my picture as one of her favourites and said ‘I relate to this, having done various jobs myself when I left college’ at my photo, taken in Sainsbury’s uniform with the statement ‘the artist shouldn’t be stacking shelves.’

The major news is that I’ve performed at my first proper festival, you know, with fields and camping and stuff. The festival was Larmer Tree in Salisbury. I went with my friend Natalie and we had an amazing time! The weather was perfect and made me so very happy. I hope to come back the next year and for the weather to be as good! I saw such a range of music, including the lovely Saturday Sun, and a boy playing a pop-up gig who was around 10 and incredible (who was later gutted to miss my performance of ‘Circles’ which was nice to hear). We also made things like insect brooches, necklaces and mosaics. We learnt some hula hoop tricks and now I really want to take it up! I also hope to take up the ukulele, re-inspired by the band there.

I saw some great poets, including Angie Belcher, Edson Burton, Nichol Keene and Toby de Angeli, Joelle Taylor, Poeticat, Scott Tyrrell and The Antipoet. My first performance had been extended to half an hour, which meant that I ran out of material (oops) and had to read from my book. It actually felt good to take my time and read like that, and people got to listen to pieces which I don’t do as much. I probably should have taken my time earlier. My second set was ‘Circles’ the epic-poem I produced with Apples & Snakes as part of the ‘Word’s a Stage’ project. I had memorised it but didn’t quite know it well enough to avoid looking at the paper stuck in my prop (the Metro). I also ran a workshop which I thought went well as most of the participants were lovely and one told me that I should be confident in what I do. Honey, if I knew how to do that, I’d be a more successful poet by now.

Just kidding, I know I come across as a bit shy and softly spoken… but well, I am. I’m growing to accept myself this way and believe I can still be successful being who I am. I lack confidence now and again (don’t we all?) but some people can see my inner-confidence. I’ve been having a bad week so far. I’m not sure where it stemmed from, but I’ve been in a bad mood and felt like I work so hard and don’t have much to show for it. Typing away at a laptop all the time when it’s sunny outside can be a tad depressing. Especially when videos won’t upload. This video by Jodi Ann Bickley helped a bit and it is inspiring to see her work with one million lovely letters. And here I am, still writing this and not knowing if anyone is reading it and if any of this will amount to anything.

So, we had our pilot event for She Grrrowls at Kingston’s Ram Jam Club at the Grey Horse as part of IYAF. How did it go? It was a bit of a disaster but I think we pulled it off. On Thursday night the headline act pulled out, on my return from Larmer Tree on Monday, another act was forced to pull out, and whilst the event had started, another act pulled out. Only two out of our five acts actually was able to make it. Luckily, we had Sam Neele replace our headliner for the music, who gave a lovely other-worldly set, and I filled in with some poetry. Bisha Ali gave us some hilarious comedy, and I’m gutted I can’t show you a video or tell you some of the jokes but we will definitely have her at She Grrrowls again. Andi Michael gave us extracts from her novel, proving her not only to be an amazing writer but one with a unique style that makes use of poetic language. In addition to the line-up we had on the spot performances from Hannah Rose Tristram, Becky Dennis and Cherry Godiva, who were all amazing. We hope to see everyone again at future She Grrrowls events.

Which brings me to the next point on the agenda. Dates.

Number 1: Wednesday 11th September. The She Grrrowls Spoken Word Launch at The Gallery Cafe in Bethnal Green. Future events every first Wednesday of the month.

Number 2: My next gig will be August 8th at Red Door Studios, 120 Masterman Road East Ham E6 3RW. I will also be delivering an all-day workshop there on Saturday 14th September.

Number 3: August 13th at RichMix in Shoreditch I will be performing a show as part of a writing group through Apples & Snakes.

I think that’s about all anyone’s brain can take in this heat.

xxx

Podium Poets Unite!

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to be in the final twenty ‘Podium Poets’ in the competition to eventually become London’s first Young Poet Laureate. As I write, the panel of judges are making (or have made) their decisions on who shall make the cut to the final six poets! All of us now eagerly await the result, sat with laptops or smart phones, freshing our email inboxes. With around sixty applications, everyone deserved a massive pat on the back for making it to this stage, purely on the basis of the quality of our poetry.

And quality it was! Apparently there were people there who didn’t normally perform… this was incredibly difficult to tell. Everyone was so amazing on every level; I certainly would find it impossible to narrow down to the final six. All I can do is keep my fingers crossed and whichever way the wind blows, be proud to be part of the Podium Poets. I had such a great day and I also have to be enormously grateful to my work for granting me leave (as I work at a school, non-holiday leave is quite tricky!)

It was really cool to meet other poets and also pretty unbelievable that we didn’t already know each other – an indication, if anything, of how much talent is in London. Here are some of their details so far: Deanna Rodger (who I know from when I started out and who is pretty much a poetry celebrity), Ben Jacobs (who I’m working with at the Writing Room), Sarah Perry, Bridget Minamore, James Massiah, Rosie Knight, Warsan Shire, Sophie RobinsRobert Somynne, Sonority Turner, Mary Akin, Dizz Tate, and Nik Way. We’ve been trying to get in contact via twitter but I’m yet to find some of them.

Anyway, during the beginning of the day we got to know each other, played games and did different exercises. In the afternoon, nerves were distracted by lunchtime conversation, only to return once the judges stepped in the Red Room, at The Albany. We relaxed playing games, and once we got started, I was engrossed in each performance, and my own went by all too-quickly. I was sandwiched between two of my favourite performances (Sarah and Wasan) but I hope that I managed to stand out. Below is a two-part limerick that I wrote during the morning.

Limerick Part I

In Chelsea, there’s a lady of class,
Who evokes etiquette of the past.
But one day whilst complaining
That decorum was flailing
The wind blew and uncovered her arse!

Limerick Part II

This lady, she let out a gasp
When she felt that sudden air blast.
She heard many sniggers,
For she’d forgotten her knickers!
That lady from Chelsea with class!

The Albany is becoming a regular haunt – and I should probably visit Apples & Snakes to get a copy of my Word’s a Stage performance soon! Tomorrow I’m actually heading there for a Writing Room meeting, so that may be a good time. After the day was over, I went to ‘Kid I wrote back’ as planned. I performed ‘Paradise’ again, as well as a few others. I got speaking to David Marshall, and a young girl who I encouraged to take to the mic the next time. It was also good to see Kayo Chingonyi again, as I didn’t realise he was featured. All in all, I wished that every day could be like that day, and maybe if I managed to become Young Poet Laureate for London, that dream could come a reality sooner than I thought.

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