I hit the new year with my head up and my hands busy as I had so much work on. Between running the latest online course, mentoring a wonderful mentee, writing my regular column for Yorkshire Life, writing a couple of small freelance articles, trying to find time to catch up on my book work so that I can submit the dreaded tax return and judging the Bridlington poetry competition, I have been feeling a bit run down. This was not helped by catching a bad cold which affected my sinuses and made sitting at the computer a real pain, at a time when I had scheduled back to back seven-day weeks until I was caught up. Sadly, as a freelancer I don’t get paid for sick time and any deadlines I miss directly impacts on the money that goes in the pot for bills, mortgage, car repairs (which seem to be every other week at the minute) which is a tad stressful.
Despite feigning nonchalance over the Arts Council England Grants application I made nine weeks ago, I had also worked myself into a state of nervous anxiety waiting on the results and when I found out yesterday I’d been unsuccessful again it really was a bit of a blow. I know full well that rejection is the name of the game in the writing world, but it’s still quite hard. I’m a full-time writer, a professional writer, but I don’t make enough money from my own creative writing to live off, so my main income is via running workshops, mentoring and running online courses. I’m very passionate about helping people to develop their writing skills and developing the confidence to write, and in my neck of the woods we are a fairly low average wage, so it’s also important to me to provide the services I do at a rate that people on low incomes can afford or at least have a chance to save towards. I work mainly online with clients because it makes it easier for clients to do coursework and homework around their own lives. Most people I work with have family and work commitments and would struggle to afford travel etc, I know this because I struggle to afford to travel and I can’t afford expensive courses or retreats.
My main project at the minute is my stage play, which looks at friendships between classes and the drinking culture of of a northern seaside town, the sort of town that I come from. The funding would have helped me to work on it to completion; allowing me to be able to pay my bills and focus for a couple of months on researching the topics I was writing about and actually sitting down to write. It would be incredible to be able to sit down at my desk and just write, just be a writer with no extra pressures to do any thing else. Awards which allow writers the time to write are a godsend. I’ve seen a few snarky social media comments about the TS Eliot prize and how it’s a ridiculously large amount of money, but for someone like me, and most professional writers are very much in a hand to mouth situation, it would provide two years of serious writing time, probably enough time to write a novel, or to research and write a full collection of poetry. That’s why prizes and awards are so important. Which is also why it’s a bit of a blow when you don’t manage to reach that goal and get the funding. I had a bit of a meltdown, because it naturally brought out quite a lot of feelings of not being wanted, of not being good enough, of not being successful enough to warrant the gamble from an organisation like the ACE, that is giving me money to work on my own creative endeavours. Readers, I had a junk food and wine night and a really good long cry. But my mood was boosted by some messages of support I received, especially from someone whose work I really admire, who had been successful with the ACE funding. Her project sounds absolutely brilliant, in fact looking at the list of projects that have been successful, they all sound relevant and necessary and the people who have won the funding are all talented and filled to the brim with potential, so there’s certainly no sour grapes here, I just feel disappointed that I aren’t able to make the step forward in the way I would like, it’s become harder again and I’m quite tired.
But I ain’t no quitter, and I know lots and lots of people who are having a crappier time of it than just the frustration of being turned down for a grant. I’ll just have to find another way.
In other news, the current online course is going brilliantly, I’m so impressed with those attendees who are really challenging themselves with sonnets and sestinas and actively considering how they are making their free verse poems work for them. The FB closed group is a hive of activity and I am seeing some genuine moments of support there, which pleases me and I’m pleased to be involved with this group, they really are a good bunch.
Which leads me to my next plug – I’m going to be running another month-long course/workshop in February, this is one of my ‘daily prompt’ courses, and you can find details Here it’s just £10 for the whole month and that includes access to the online closed group, where I am generally about on a daily basis to offer a little bit of support and guidance, though I can’t offer full critique on your poems with this one. These online courses are quite popular so book early to avoid disappointment. February’s course is Poems to Save the World and I hope that, in the current climate especially, it will provide a poetic vent for frustrations around the state of politics, the environment, the world at large etc as well as celebrating the good stuff in life. I hope to see you there!
Finally, I have a couple of readings coming up:
Fancy coming to see me and some other fabulous poets read? I’ll be doing a short set at Bridlington library on Saturday 26th January where we’ll be announcing the winners of the competition. I’ll be reading with fellow Valley Press writers James Nash and Matthew Headily Stoppard so get yourself down there, 11-12.30
And do you fancy coming and seeing what Dream Catcher Magazine is about? Then get yourself to According to McGee in York on 27th January, where we’ll be launching issue 38 with readings from contributors and the editors. There’ll be three ‘generations’ (we’re a bit like Dr Who) of DC editors present and there will be WINE. 2pm for 2.30 start
Catch you on the flip side