On Wednesday it was the Second Stage event at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough. Along with six other writers, my play To Be Undone was showcased: an extract was read on stage by a professional actor, Oghenekevwe Emefe . It was an entirely positive experience for me. It was wonderful. Obviously it was amazing to have this first experience of seeing my work, my words, alive on the stage, in someone else’s mouth, but more important than that, I got to meet and chat to other writers at different stages in their careers, other writers who were working in different mediums and facing similar and different challenges. Without doubt I was the newbie in the group, but I didn’t feel excluded or looked down on because of that, on the contrary, it was absolutely fascinating to discuss my own writing process as a poet coming to script writing, with people who had found their way there through different routes – acting, drama school, and also working class folk coming into the profession because of passion and determination. I could have sat and chatted all day to these people who had come from as far away as Suffolk and London to come to Scarborough to see their own work performed. And I have to applaud the SJT for being a beacon of inclusivity and support especially because they paid travel and accommodation expenses for those coming from a way away. I am fairly new to the theatre world as a writer and I don’t know if that’s the norm, but in the poetry world this is not the norm. In the poetry world we tend to sell books by going to readings and performing, and for the most part this is for free, unless you are very well established and can command a fee. Even at poetry festivals, unless you are on the top tiers of professional poetry, you are unlikely to get your accommodation and a travel expenses paid. It really brought it home to me how much of a struggle it is to make a living, and I’m going to say it again….especially if you are in a rural area, as a writer, especially as a poet. I met another writer that night who came from similar rural situation and, oh my god, how good was it to say out-loud to someone ‘this is really hard isn’t it’ and not feel guilty because I’m doing the work that I love, for a living, something that other people might not get an opportunity to do, and perhaps I shouldn’t be moaning about that. But, to be able to moan about fees and slow payments and the difficulties of getting paid for what you do and what it’s like to apply over and over again for funding and not get it was such a tonic. The sudden realisation that I am not on my own, I am not ‘getting it wrong’ which is always the worry when you are finding your feet in a new genre, it is just hard, it’s hard to make a living as a writer.
I’m going to keep the memory safe, treasured, like I keep the memory of my first poetry gig treasured, my first submission, my first acceptance, my first book. I shall go back to that night, in the hushed auditorium, and my name being read out, my hard won words expressed clearly and beautifully, while my husband and a few of my friends watched too. It is a feeling that simply cannot be beat. I can feel myself stepping forward, almost literally straightening up, lifting my head, owning myself as a writer. It makes the 5.30 am starts and the low paid, non paid work that I’ve been doing worth it.
To celebrate this movement into what feels like another stage of my career, I had all my hair cut off. I’ve been wanting to start bringing my natural colour out for a while now. My natural colour being silver. I started going silver in my early twenties and, whilst I am not quite ready for a full head of silver, I wanted to see what it looked like on show. So I had it cut proper short, and in a statement style. I wanted a strong haircut to match how I am feeling about myself and my life at the minute. My brilliant hairdresser Corine at Hairitage House did not let me down. I feel powerful, strong, capable, talented, alive. I feel like me again.