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Friday, 24 July 2015

Countdown to pamphlet launch...

I Speak Home now feels realer than ever.

Over a year ago, I started collecting poems for this '20/20 series' collection, after winning Eyewear's pamphlet competition. The brief: I had to write twenty poems, and they had to be suitable for a 'pamphlet', i.e. not rambling epic poems that took the word count up; it needed to be a slim-spined teaser of a book, but substantial enough to showcase my work.

A year on and I'm proud of what's come out of it. Although much of the poems were written 1-2 years ago, in the run up to me submitting for the competition, many drafts later - and with the addition of more recent work - I've got something I'm fairly proud of (I don't say this easily).

As for the title, I wanted something to signpost that the concept of 'home' turns up in nearly all of the poems. The book starts off with the bold anthem 'This is a poem', which I took from a sign on a wall in Camden (my home turf), before drifting off to poems about places I've called home and places I've belonged/longed for, and ending with the poem 'E17' and the words: 'I miss my old home* like an empty fridge'. I didn't want to call it 'I Write Home' because I wanted speech in the title somehow. It's as much about saying and not saying as it is about writing... I just hope that all comes across, and I'm looking forward to feedback from readers.

Next Wednesday (29th July) is the launch party for I Speak Home and, I believe, three other books on Eyewear's Pamphlet list. I'll give fuller details after the weekend, so stay posted!

 *Actually, I've lost track of drafts but I think I've now changed 'home' to 'community' in this poem.  

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

July things

I'm back from the Lambda Writers' Retreat and all of the intense experiences there. In just a week of the residency, I wrote a chapter, a first draft ending of my novel, a poem, a small scene (which I read at a public event in Downtown L.A.) and went to talks, workshopped fellow writers' work, exchanged ideas, stayed up all night with some fantastic people. I averaged about three or four hours sleep a night (which is kind of comparable with a week at the Edinburgh Fringe).

Afterwards, I spent my birthday in the city, walking along Santa Monica beach (with nothing between me and Japan but miles and miles of Pacific Ocean) and driving up to Hollywood to do all the tourist crap. I have so many unforgettable experiences of my trip that, any time I've been asked, 'How was it?', I've mumbled and stuttered and barely been able to answer. I mean... I mean... I mean... Yeah, it was great! (We'll do this conversation another day).

Not even four hours after landing in London, I went to a book launch (check this review here - I've just started reading it today and I'm already gripped). Then I caught up with family the next day, approved the final proof of my poetry pamphlet on Monday (it's out in just a couple of weeks!!) and started plugging three gigs that I had last week. All of them were wildly different (Bar Wotever @ Royal Vauxhall Tavern, Incite @ Phoenix Artists' Club and Jazz Verse Jukebox @ Ronnie Scott's... all worth checking out!) and rewarding in themselves. I'm especially looking forward to seeing footage from Jazz Verse Jukebox!

That all said, it's no surprise that finally, finally, on a day that doesn't demand so much of me (I'm not working today) that I feel exhausted and more than a little flat. I'm not sure how much is left inside of me. I feel dehydrated and lethargic and I only managed to get out of bed at 1pm. I'm almost ready to go back already, but I do actually have things to do later, so I'll have to wait a few hours.

Looking back over a couple years' worth of posts, I can see that I usually post stuff here when I have exciting news coming up, or when I've been putting a lot of energy into thinking about one thing, but I often disappear when there's nothing.

cheesy feet

Image result for determination quotes background
cheesier image

---Do you remember that Footprints poem? (It must have been in the late 90s that pretty much any relatives' house I went to had it hanging on the wall with one of those bland sandscapes behind it... And/or a poster of an abstract word with a cheesy quote and image. I'm sure I'm not the only one) The months you only see one post, it's then I'm carrying myself along. If I'm too preoccupied to blog - for reasons good or bad - my webprints disappear.---

Anyway - weird aside over - after this weekend is through, I'm actually looking forward to locking myself away for a bit and not doing so much/ not seeing people for a couple of weeks. I won't be under the kind of pressurised conditions that helped me write a chapter (and subsequently lose the USB stick I saved it on to... don't ask... I'm still panicking about that) but I'll keep chipping away.

Lambda Fiction Fellows 2015

Probably the biggest thing I'll take away from the Lambda retreat was the confidence boost. I can't speak for the other genres, but the fiction cohort was pretty solid. Every day at 9am, I was anxious to return to our too-hot seminar room at the University of Southern California where we went over our manuscripts and exercises. It was a room of thirteen very talented writers and I was delighted to be included as one of them (incidentally, I was the only non US-citizen who made it into the fiction workshop this year - but I'm sure there'll be more again in the future). I initially felt overwhelmed, but as the week went on and I settled in, that feeling changed to a feeling of pride and bravery. If I put the work in, I'll end up with a novel I'm immensely proud of - and others agree.

Creative Guilt?

About four years ago, I had this conversation with a guy, who happened to be a doctor. I remember downplaying pretty much everything I did, possibly in a bid to impress him or deflect attention from me. I remarked that, of course, my Spanish degree wasn't as difficult as a degree in Medicine. I'd had so many unstructured hours as an undergraduate and, compounded with fewer responsibilities as a languages student, and the fact that I spent a year abroad -  there was no way you could compare the two. Not that Spanish had less worth... just that it was easier. He wasn't impressed by my argument and, in fact, seemed pretty insulted. I found myself backtracking... "It's just easier for me. You know... I couldn't turn up to 8am lectures every day and remember all of those Greek words and learn precise procedures like you guys did. But yeah, I guess some medics would have felt the same way doing what I did."

What I remember of my undergraduate degree was fun, for the most part. I had to watch films (and analyse them, which meant I watched them more than once). I had to read novelists and poets, lots of them. Garcia Marquez. Lorca. Vallejo. Cortazar. Cernuda (Not enough women though). I had to travel. I had to prepare presentations and spend time just in conversation. In conversation! Ok, it was all in Spanish but it was something that interested me. Years later, and I look at people who did supposedly "hard" subjects and, yes, it does sometimes seem like I had an easy ride.

I feel the same about writing sometimes... until I think about all the hard work I actually do that doesn't feel like work, until I consider all the time off the clock that I don't count. Just as I used to spend a lot of my free time watching films and reading books, which then went into my essays about other books/films, I now spend a lot of my time watching poets on YouTube and reading books at home and while commuting. I never count that as work. There's such a blur between work and play to me, even when the work is hard. Writing the chapter two weeks ago - complete with several edits, before and after feedback - wasn't particularly easy but, interspersed with late-night socialising antics and sitting around in thirty degree L.A. heat and getting to know new friends on the other side of the world, I struggle to call it work, even though, clearly, it is.
5 more things

Once again, plenty of updates are on the way. But here's 5 things for now!

1) I Speak Home, my new poetry pamphlet, is out on the 29th!!! There's a launch party that evening, with readings from fellow poets who also have pamphlets out. (Check them out here)

2) The Midnight Run London epic summer special is on Saturday night. I believe it's sold out already! There are now a couple of spaces for "runs" from the Almeida and Roundhouse. I'll post more on this Thursday.

3) Walthamstow Garden Party is on Sunday. I'm looking forward to taking a group of young people I've been working with to perform there.

4) Edinburgh countdown begins soon... In just over a month, I'll be up again, in a couple of shows (check out "Upcoming" section) and taking part in the BBC Slam.

5) I can't remember the fifth thing. Ask me another time.