Another gap before I’ve posted? But what a lot that gap has hosted.

In mid-August (just down there, thanks to the power of a scroll on a screen) I was preparing for something large and happy to be nearing its appearance on the streets of Brighton.  Well, I am happy to say that since Mr Watts arrived on the seafront, near the marina, he has been hugged, photographed, ticked off on lists, updated on apps and generally embraced, by locals and visitors to the city.

Happily, with restrictions now lifted, I can share him properly and once again acknowledge the brilliant work that Judith Berrill did bringing him to life, not to mention Bob’s work on his shirt!

Promo shot

In the weeks since he was put on his plinth, there haven’t been many times that I have cycled or driven past him without seeing someone smiling and taking a picture with him. I hope that people have had the chance to read his advice, which is contained in the poem that I wrote and painted on to his gardener’s apron.

The whole thrust of the campaign (and the tagline for it) is #bemoresnail so I set about writing something to remind us of the key ideas for living a happy, if slower-paced, life. As an extra bit of fun and as a challenge to my writing brain, I decided to place lines in the poem, formed from anagrams of #bemoresnail, which were painted in red.

A lot of people have commented on the poem and the overall feel that Mr Watts and his words give off, but not many have spotted the anagrams.  That’s been okay with me, as the poem stands on its own anyway, and the priority was to add something to Judith’s art which would work in harmony.  It is lovely seeing him out “in the wild” and he now has until November 18th before being collected to meet up with all the other snails for a special event, prior to the main fundraising part of the campaign; an auction in early December where people will bid to buy all of the pieces of art and raise some big money for The Martlets hospice.

One of the more famous admirers, who seemed to like him, was this chap:

Fatboy and Mr Watts

I have also been busy writing poems again recently, after suggesting a fundraising idea to run alongside the Snailway Safari.  In a nod to how my mind works creatively, and in a similar style to The Poetry Takeaway, I suggested that I could chat with people on the sponsored trail taking part around the city-centre snails, and offer them a personalised poem, which could then be posted to them via snail-mail.  The evening went extremely well, money was raised, and I ended up writing a range of prose, stories, emotional outpourings and general silliness, which included the following titles:

  • When Rosie stayed up too late
  • Reuben’s peculiar trick-or-treat party
  • Freddie and Gerry go global
  • What if your glow-stick was powered by smiles?
  • The tale of Barry Starfish
  • Be careful with your packing list
  • A grimy history of Brighton

Fairly soon, I will be chatting to the right people and these will wing their way to their unsuspecting recipients, hopefully on something snail-shaped!

This blog was started to remind myself of progress and share successes along the way, I should include two or three more things have happened since I last tapped the plastic keys …

I was booked again to perform and write with The Poetry Takeaway and spent a full-on day in Chessington and Hook writing and performing poems for schoolchildren in the morning, then visitors to a library and community centre in the afternoon.

There are many stories I could share, but the last poem I wrote was for a devoutly Catholic lady, originally from Spain and now settled in the UK, whose son was turning 13. Our chat was an insight into her heart slowly breaking, as she clearly feared ‘losing’ her little boy and how his attitude to her and his family might change with the teenage years ahead.  As I let her know she had given me enough ‘ingredients’ to start cooking her poem, she told me: “If it is good enough? If it speaks to my heart? I will print it professionally, frame it and give it to my son to have in his bedroom, to remind him of how much he is loved”

No pressure there then.

When you work with The Poetry Takeaway, before you give the person their poem, you are asked to perform it to them directly before you hand it over.  I love this aspect, as there is a personal transaction between the two of you but there’s something powerful about writing something you are proud of but then letting it go and not seeing it again.

As I read to the lady, I kept my eyes on the page, as I wanted t actually perform it as well as read it.  The response was genuinely uplifting.  She was sobbing gently at the end (and half-way through if I’m honest) and we had a big hug over the counter before she said lots of nice things and walked away, clutching this deeply personal message that she had trusted a stranger to convey.

It is one of the most challenging things I think you can do as a writer, as there is an expectation that you can and will produce something which will engage, entertain or get points across, but in a very limited time.  Thankfully, I managed to do this, and have been assured that future bookings will come in the new year when it goes out on tour again. Getting paid work for being a poet? It is happening!

On the back of feedback from the event, I have also been asked to have a chat about running a poetry workshop at a primary school in Hove, so next time I’m here, there should be news on that too!

In my last post, I was excited about something that I couldn’t yet show you.  Well, I find myself in the same position again, but this time it relates to the commissioned work I wrote and was filmed performing for Prostate Cancer UK

The final editing stage has now been reached and I was sent the video last week of the 2-minute piece, shot at The Amex football stadium and on Brighton beach on the same day.  It looks brilliant and professional, and the man in charge of the final cut is doing an amazing job with the footage.  Needless to say, when it is ready to launch, I will be blogging about the immediate response in my head, and hopefully from the minds of others.  This was a still from the day, to set the tone:

David Attree in the stands

My last thing for today, before I return to editing the first  children’s chapter book I have now finished writing (!), is to mention that I was asked to attend the always brilliant PigHog poetry night in Brighton recently.  When thinking what to perform, I felt suddenly compelled to share 3 poems that I wrote in the immediate time after my father-in-law’s passing in July.  This may sound morbid, but I was reminded how important words and poetry are to me, and how they form part of who I am and how I tick.

One was actually written on the day he died and the next on the day immediately after. Surreal moments of cooking an omelette late at night and seeing my mother-in-law neck a glass of wine were recorded, as instant, unedited poems, as I knew I would not be able to come back to these points in time at a later stage.  The third, which I was allowed to overrun on the night to perform, happened when I went back to the house and found myself picking blackberries at his end of the garden.  I wrote it with one hand, on my phone, while the other picked fruit and wiped away tears.  

There are moments and days when you can write, but sometimes there are moments when you have to write, and I simply watched my fingers tapping in the words through the blur of my eyes.

After the performances ended, several people came over to say how they had been taken to that place and that point when they heard me talk, so it was good to feel my decision had been valid. I am known at that event for bouncing around and telling stories, so showing a different side to my writing was a good thing to do.  It helped my head and my heart a little too, as there is still much to get through following his passing.

So, to sum up?  It has been, and remains, an emotional time, but with every opportunity I am strengthening links and gaining more feedback and work.  New things are on the horizon, the proofreading and copy-editing course has been completed, with my final assignment marking due back soon and I will be available to watch on a screen, or in a school-hall, in the not too distant future.

I am getting there.

As always, thanks for popping in.

 

:0)

 

The night before a day of happy things. A snail and now a film that’s spreading wings.

Today is Thursday 16th August.  Tomorrow? A normal, mundane Friday for lots of people I’m sure, as indeed large parts of it may be for me. But two things will happen tomorrow, which I need and want to share, if only as a reminder to myself in the future to keep going and keep developing ideas, connections and enthusiasm.

After a bionic based blood-test first thing, I will be hot-footing it over to a secret warehouse in Hove, whereupon I shall enter a secret code into a secret door and step into the secret place full of secret things.  Well, they have been secret for a while now, but soon – on September 15th to be exact – 50 larger than life snails will be hitting the streets of Brighton and Hove as part of the brilliant Snailspace event, and they will then be raising money for Martlets Hospice when they are auctioned off in December, at the end of the trail and events.

What’s that got to do with me? Well, quite a lot actually.

I can’t show anyone anything too specific, but to give you an idea of what it has been like since July, when large mollusc models were delivered to the warehouse, here are a few sneaky peaks.

Me lining out words This here? This is me, being all painty and pen-like and careful.  The words? They form part of a poem that I wrote as part of a design with a very lovely, wonderful friend and artist, Judith Berrill, who had two Snowdogs commissioned for the previous Martlets sculpture trail. I have mentioned our collaboration in previous posts, and we were delighted to have our design commissioned.

Another one? Oh, okay!

Mr Watts in full side on edited You’ll get the idea for the design here, without seeing it in full.  The poem is on his apron, and he wisely passes on his advice to #bemoresnail

The last photo I can share at this point was taken recently, after Judith had graciously and bravely allowed me to help paint in some shading and lighting on bricks on the sculpture (something I was honoured to do, even though I realised what a wrench it was to hand a sable brush to a novice!).  At the end of the painting sessions, we signed a leaf each. Judith’s name under the word “Artist” and then me, squatting down, and signing a leaf with my name next to the word “Poet” . It was a powerful moment, and one that was sneakily photographed:

Signing as a poet edited

So there we have it. I am a poet. People have been chatting to me in the secret magic warehouse and saying things like “Oh, you’re the poem guy!” or “Ah! You’re the poet!”

To which, each time, I have taken in a deep breath, stopped myself from contradicting them and agreed. You know what? It feels good.

I will be taking promotional photos tomorrow morning with our snail “Mr Watts” before he goes off to an even bigger secret warehouse in Brighton, prior to the event beginning in September. These photos will appear on my Twitter and Facebook no doubt, but it is the ones above which make me proud and excited at the moment.

I have been asked to be part of an event in October to do with the snail trail too, where I will be enlisting a couple of poet friends to serve up some on-the-hoof poems, and maybe performing some spoken-word ditties too; watch this space!

The other thing which is due to happen tomorrow? I should be receiving a payment from Prostate Cancer UK for the 3 pieces of work that I wrote, rehearsed and was then filmed performing at various locations in Brighton.

I won’t go into detail here, but suffice it to say that recent family events have galvanised my passion to tip the odds back in men’s favour when it comes to this disease.

The day of filming itself was a career-affirming experience. To have a film-crew assembled and dispatched to Brighton to film me, as a writer and performer, was a big boost and one that I should reflect on regularly when I’m feeling less confident. During the day, I was approached by the sound engineer, who asked what acting I had done previously, as he was looking into the monitor when they said “action” and, in his words, “You just, completely change”.  I had other similar compliments, which I will store in my head rather than reproduce here, for fear of sounding like an ego-maniac, but to have independent feedback from strangers to say they were  moved by my words and performance was an amazing feeling.

I wrote a 4 minute piece, a 2 minute piece and a shorter, 50 second piece, for a YouTube ‘hook’ to the longer pieces, and last week I was sent a pretty much finished version of the 50 second clip. It looks crisp, professional and impactful; the crew for my shoot had been assembled by the Media Director at Prostate Cancer UK specifically for the filming, as he knew they would do a good job and he’s worked with them before, so could trust them.

Watching myself on a laptop, with my wife seeing the project for the first time was a nervy experience, and pressing “Play” was akin to the same experience when I pressed play and heard the song that had been written for my lyrics earlier this year.  Trust is an important part of any collaborative and creative process I guess, and my work with musical friends (Emma & Julien), the Snailspace art project with Judith and my filming for Prostate Cancer UK has all involved me exposing my work to a lot of people, and saying “whaddya think?”

The exciting thing for me now, with September 15th arriving in a month, is that Mr Watts, the snail, will be appearing on Brighton seafront, and will asking exactly that question. With a face like his though, who could say anything mean?

 

Mr Watts face edited

I shan’t make rash promises about blogging again soon, but it is my intention to do so as things develop soon.

I can reflect now, and remind myself that I have now been actively commissioned to write, trusted to do so and then filmed and paid for the work. This is a process that I would love to repeat, for PCUK and other organisations too.

The first book text in my children’s series will be finished by the end of this month, ready to edit, Snailspace will hit the streets and I will be writing new material for upcoming events.  I may also dive onto a stage again soon for an open-mic session.

There is much still to do, but I can honestly say now that I am a writer, poet and performer, and there will be soon be creative evidence of this on its way to your screens and streets.

As always,

Thanks for popping in.

:0)

 

 

 

 

I’m back! That suggests that I went. I did not. I’ve been very busy. There’s lots here to plot.

As I smile, because I asked Google to remember my password for WordPress, (it’s been a while and my short-term memory, post going bionic, is vay vay poor) the tumble-weed drifts away to reveal my last post in here. I am reminded now of how much has been “going on” since last I found the time to tippy-tap an update.

The good news, happy reader/s, is that I have (very overduly) swapped outpourings for output, hopes for schemes and dreams for plans. They all lead to the same goal, but output, schemes and plans are by far the most effective tools for actually carving a route which can be reviewed, tweaked and monitored.

Today has been a busy one so far, with plans adjusted to fit in important new deadlines. So, I am typing while also eating roast veg and couscous. This is because:

A: I am in my forties, and that’s what we do in Brighton, and

B: Because I need to get stuck into a written assessment for my proofreading and copy-editing course, so shouldn’t be doing anything other than looking at squiggly hieroglyphics, textual marks and heading weightings (zzzzzzz)

“What has happened in the last few months then?” I hear me ask (presuming you are asking too is too far a stretch at this point. You’ve probably forgotten I even HAD a blog)

Well, how about this:

  • The poem/lyrics that I wrote became a rather powerful, bruised and atmospheric song, and song 2 is in the planning
  • Two joint designs have now been submitted for the Snailspace Brighton and Hove event, which incorporate dazzling artwork by a very talented friend, with characters I/we created and associated poems
  • I have another poem being published in print
  • I was asked to perform a full set at Eastbourne’s first Spoken-Word night. Printers playhouse
  • I have been asked to work with Martlets Hospice, at a separate event in the Autumn, which I cannot divulge yet!
  • Prostate Cancer UK have asked me if I will consider writing a piece for their Father’s Day campaign, with a film crew potentially ready to come to Brighton and film me perform it
  • I am nearing the completion of the 1st book in my series of books, for young chapter-reading people
  • I am working again, in Primary Schools

Of course, this really should have had a gentle dribbly-drip of happy things, spread out over the course of a couple of months, but I hope you can forgive me for prioritising the above.  My eye has been off the Bloggy ball, but I love it in here, and even though I don’t know if anyone sees it, it is still serving its purpose which it had when I set it up.  It reminds me of successes when I am low, gives prompts to be realistic when I am high, and allows me to fart around generally if the coffee has been punchy and I need to watch my fingers type.

Of all the things listed above, aside from getting back to work, the most important shift has been to properly plan and maintain the work for the first book.  I set myself a target of 500 words a day in March, which is achievable and realistic.  On 31st March, in a car on the way to Holland to visit family, I hit the 15.5k word mark, and the sense of hitting a marker was a very good feeling indeed.

I am up to 18k words now, with a few more “500 days” needed yet, but the next step will be to plan in reading and editing sessions, to trim it, make it better, punchier and more appealing. I am writing, purposefully, in a way that isn’t full-on action and epic cliff-hangers on every page.  I remember, as a young reader, enjoying reading about the normal stuff and the characters in a world; it made the exciting bits better, because I cared about the protagonists.

Book Two will be written during the editing process, and once I have them both written, I will pitch the series idea to agents, with a promise of Book Three and onwards.  Publishers won’t generally take risks on a single children’s book, unless it is written by an established author, or a celebrity, so I am making something tangible for them to consider.

The Snailspace process is ongoing, with shortlists happening this month, before businesses and snail-sponsors choose their favoured designs.  If myself and Judith are successful, then we will be helping The Martlets Hospice to carry on doing their brilliant and vital work, but the flip-side is that a six-figure number of people will also see our work, my words, and have a smile on their faces at the end of it.

Many hours were gobbled up during the planning, writing, sketching and finalising, but I am really proud of what has come out of it, so we can only keep fingers our crossed!

The gig in Eastbourne was a recent highlight too.  I performed for 20 minutes, but had a brilliant pep-talk beforehand, from a poet called A.P. Staunton, who performed in the national finals of a poetry slam competition at The Albert Hall.  He knows his stuff. He also told me he was in the crowd because he’d seen I was performing. And he likes my stuff. That felt good!

He gave me the confidence to walk up to the microphone and grab it from the stand, rather than just address it, and look like I was delivering a speech.  It may sound daft, but taking that step is nerve-wracking. As soon as you have a microphone in your grip, you are free to move around more, which my poetry and silliness benefits from, but you also give an air of really knowing what you’re doing. It seemed I managed to blag it well, as there was much laughter, cheering and complete stillness and silence, when I changed the tone and read out a heartfelt poem about someone I know and love, who has a terminal prostate cancer diagnosis. 

I finished, of course, with an ode to Lycra, just to lift the mood, and several people approached me at the end of the gig to say how much they’d loved it.  This is currency that you cannot spend, but which still reward you handsomely.

You know what? I could waffle on for hours, but I can’t.  I have to get into my study, to get into my studies. 

This one has been information heavy, with not a rhyme in sight, but I felt compelled to bring things up to date.  The bullet-points above are really just the starting points for future happy-things, but sharing happy-things is what I am about.

I shall return soon, with news of snails (hopefully), books (definitely) and the random things chucked up by the imaginations of primary school children (happily).

Thanks for popping in

 

:0)

 

 

 

 

What does “success” look like? A snail. And a late-night snap, taken in a studio. Read on …

Warm greetings to you, from the cold Saltdean study.  This room used to be a garage. A concrete floor, sawdust and old, oily labels; a place to venture into only when necessary, feel the history and the ambient temperature, then leave shortly after. Though it now contains bookshelves, updated fuse-boards, a drum kit and a bean bag, the welcoming feel has not yet fully taken root.  

I have a thin rug over my lap and am wearing a hat that has fluffy ear-flaps. The tips of my fingers are a milky blue as they run over the keys and even the woodpigeon outside looks warmer, as it drunkenly wobbles down our drive.

But my face?  My face is smiling.

Truly smiling, as I type and ponder and think, then try not to think too far ahead, then tell myself to absolutely think ahead and be excited by opportunities, but also to make many more of them, deliberately and frequently.

Later this morning, I am going to Hove to meet a wonderful and brilliant artist. Over a home-brewed coffee or two, we are going to discuss a collaborative project, which will be entered into the competition for designs to be used in the 2018 Snailspace Brighton trail around Brighton and Hove. The Martlets Hospice arranged the Snowdogs campaign and trail and had huge success, so the format is well-known and loved already in the area.

This year, they are using these incredible sculptures as canvasses for artists to create something special on:

rsz_snailspace_public_art_event_autumn_2018_raising_money_for_martlets_snail_beach_huts2

The person I am meeting is a friend, but also had 2 Snowdog designs chosen for last year’s campaign, both of which were hugely popular and were used in prominent locations.  

She has championed my poetry and writing style, and I respect her artwork a lot too, so when she asked if I would work on a design with her, I jumped at the chance.  The chance to have work included in The Martlets’ 2018 Snailspace trail is very exciting, and I will be so immensely proud if our combined work, which will include my words, are seen by thousands of new eyes this autumn.

A local artist and talented person, reaching out and asking for my input, feels like a very special thing indeed.  It gives me more confidence in what I am doing.  So, while I am on this theme? …

I was sent a photo late last night, with a message attached. It gave me a buzz of excitement, as it confirmed that one of my new plans is now a tangible ‘work in progress’:

received_10213577153436203
“Very good exercise! Because there are loads of lyrics, it makes me think differently!”

I have recently been in discussions with two friends, who are both talented musicians.  They have liked a good deal of my poetry and recently asked what I thought of the idea of maybe collaborating together to write some songs.   My default setting to opportunities and challenges is “Yes” so we talked in more detail again. 

The idea for the first song was that I would write a poem, or lyrics, and hand them over.  They would work on a composition, melody and mood, before we get together to discuss how it sounds and it is recorded.  The next song will be as a result of a jamming session, where chords are played and tunes hummed, in the hope they spark a new poem or set of lyrics, which  I will then write and put into the pot.  We will all “take turns” in creating songs together, with the results to be shared online, with deadlines and targets set for completion.

It feels like a natural way to make music and, as I know Emma has a stunning voice and Julien is a fine musician too, it is the ideal way to challenge my writing style and learn new skills.

So, that piece of paper in the photo?  Those are my words and lyrics.  I had written 2 lines, many years ago when I was in a dark place, but had stored them until the right opportunity or prompt came along.  I was asked to write something less “S-Club 7” and more “London Grammar” in feel, so it felt like the ideal time to complete it!

The weird thing though, although maybe not a complete surprise, is that as I wrote the ‘poem’ it was hard not to imagine verses, a chorus and a bridge.  This format quickly evolved naturally in my mind and after a couple of hours I had written my first song (!)    I have always wanted to write songs and lyrics too, so the relative ease and natural flow of producing words and rhythms was a real treat, and reassuring too I suppose.

So, today I will be taking notes, talking about ideas, measuring sizes and working out potential word-counts to fit on a large, blank snail sculpture.  While somewhere else in Brighton, my words are becoming a song.

It has been a while since my last Blog post. Christmas does that to us all, but as the new year begins, I have even more plans afoot.  I will post about those, very soon.

In the meantime? As always:

Thanks for popping in

:0)

 

 

 

 

Pinch-punch, versed for a month.

Today, I took a step forward in getting more work out to a larger audience, and last night? I performed work to a smaller audience.  Two methods employed, but both rewarding in their own right.

The big thing that I am working hard at this month is the updated and expanded Poem Advent Calendar, which started last year as a series of poems posted on Facebook throughout December.  Although I hadn’t initially planned it that way, I was prompted after 3 days when asked where that day’s poem was, at which point I realised that and advent style poem offering could bear fruit.

I have revisited some of the poems this year and have scrapped some completely, writing replacements that I think work better.  The process is ongoing though, as I want to have fresh writing to share each day.

The big difference is that I have registered on SoundCloud, so am posting a sound file each day.  I like this format, as it is close to the idea of opening a door on a calendar.  People can just click on the link to hear the poem, so it is (hopefully) immediate and enjoyable.

To give a flavour, December 1st sounds like this:   December 1st

Today, I have revised and expanded, then recorded December 2nd, completely re-written December 3rd and had a freestyle session earlier, which may well become December 4th.

The idea is to get different styles of poetry out to a larger potential audience, and hopefully attract a following, before launching the YouTube channel in earnest to keep momentum going.  I am asking people to share the posts if they like them, so I should get a gauge of how things are received as the month progresses.

The format is not without its challenges however.  Not everyone’s devices will automatically link to SoundCloud, so there may be a need to provide a typed version later in the day for people who don’t have the app or don’t want to download it, even though it is free and very easy to get working.

I also performed again last night. Again, it was the PigHog poetry event and open-mic session which takes place in The Nightingale Room, which is an events room in a grand pub in central Brighton.

The crowd was smaller than in previous events, roughly 30 people, but I had decided it was time to take “Dawn Paddler” out for a performance.  She had been committed to paper in a book recently, which still feels exciting, but she needs to be performed really for maximum effect.

I got chatting to a couple before I went on stage and mentioned this poem may stand out a little, as the PigHog events can be a bit more educational and highbrow than other events I go to (poetry slams and open-mic nights are usually rowdier and more bouncy) but I wanted to take that risk as I think the poem needed to be shown as I hear it in my mind.

It went down well, although the audience were clapping and smiling at the end rather than whooping.  This is what I expected, but still stayed on the path I had decided on; an open-mic performance is there to practise things and try things out and my performance was certainly more polished than others that were featured on the bill, so that felt reassuring.

More reassuring though, was that when I went back to my seat, the people I had been chatting with asked me if I had a book of poems they could buy and that my spoken voice (the poem includes a narrator’s voice) “Should be on Radio 4”

To get that feedback, the night before you post a sound-file for people to listen to, is a very nice thing indeed!

Today’s post is factual rather than creative; I have spent most of my creative energy throughout the day and I needed to Blog today at the start of the month so I have a reference point as things (hopefully) progress.

So there we go.  I have got up on stage again, to a good reaction.  I have started a – project, to good reaction so far, and I have plans going forward from there.  Here’s to the writing being plentiful and the results being well received.

Thanks for popping in

:0)

 

 

 

My calendar tells me it’s time for a post. And so, here I am, fuelled by coffee, your host.

Truly, I have no idea where this is going. My phone screen is showing a note I sent to myself to climb back off the shelf, flip open a laptop and let words flop, spill, pour or flow and see if they can show what has been occurring.

Mind whirring.

Maybe the words will try to explain or ascertain the reasons for a pregnant pause between the last post and this.  There is a gist that may run through my thoughts today because the pregnant pause has surely gone way past healthy gestation. An infestation of thoughts, doubts, confidence clouts, distractions, inaction and not planning strictly enough to let things gain traction.

In a week’s time something BIG should be opening. Not the first paper-flap and a chocolate landing in my lap. No. A new style of Advent Calendar that challenges the traditional roles and tasks we all fall into as Christmas approaches.  It encroaches into our mindsets from September, as the glowing embers of summer fade, nights become crisp and, like a willo’ the wisp tale of magic and hope, the rope (made from thousands of grabbing purchasing hands as strands) starts to tighten. 

My plan is to enlighten.  Offer different views, share GOOD news, have fun, look forward to winter sun, as the days run forward from the clocks going back, and finally reach the wonderful winter solstice. Small sticks stacked in the fire as kindling, the shortest of days still seeing sunlight dwindling but the promise of longer days starting before the month is out.

A shout to all the people who may be wandering in towns or on-line, buying “things” and “stuff” and truly worrying if they’ve ‘spent enough’ 

A possible antidote to the cheery tunes we used to like but now, as they play on predictable repeat, are starting to wear thin.  

It is my plan to begin.

To dive in and upload the first poem and video to my YouTube Channel.  It’s been set up a while and is waiting, but now is the time to stop the flannel and record something every day and start creating. Write rhymes, make time, carry pen, spot things, scribble notes, quotes, things that need votes and funny observations of collective behaviours.  Our saviours at this time of year are sometimes the tiny, shared experiences that we suddenly recognise when someone dares to share and say “You are NOT alone”

Today, I groan under the weight of expectation that I am putting on myself to start a project that I know can work.  If I shirk my duty to get it started then I am half-hearted and going against the fact that I changed my profile to “Writer, Poet, Performer and Author” and events started to react.

Last year, you may or may not know, I stumbled into writing a poem every day and posted them on Facebook. It was a way to prompt more output and to write. It led me to invite the question in my own brain “Why don’t you set up a page?” so I did.  Poem Tennis came along; the new kid on the block and a source of rhyme and song, but without melody. The chemistry it has produced at times this year has prompted smiles, thanks, shares and an occasional tear.  Just from tapping keys on a device on a table, people are able to link their own histories and mysteries and enjoy a shared view or discover a new angle to ponder.

When this happens, as it is happening now, I look down at my hands and I wonder how there can be so many words phrases available and ready to be recorded. If I horde them and don’t share them in order, then I will not be crossing the next border that needs to be breached.  I have reached a lot of people this year so far, but if (when) I share and show my voice and my face too, there may be something new to get out there.

So, this is me, acting wilfully, clumsily and maybe partially skilfully (?) letting out some energy and leaving a mark on a metaphorical date. December 2nd will be too late.  The bus will have left the station, and if I am not on it and actually at the front, in the driver’s seat then my promise to myself will be left hollow and incomplete.  I have to be brave to physically stand on a stage and say words without a page as a security blanket.  But now it is time for the next stage.  I have to crank it up a notch and learn and memorise new things each day.

Upload fresh and bouncy, stark or flouncy, prose or happy couplets.

Don’t let’s look back at this post Dave, and think: “Crap. I’d planned the Advent Poems but didn’t bother to pave a new path, make people laugh or cry and wonder why they hadn’t seen my work before”

And now it seems my crazy flippy fingers have really lost the plot. They are running hot but I am starting to refer to myself in the third-person.  The confidence will worsen if I start to speak like royalty, so right now?  For me?  I’m stopping the fingers’ tapping.  They are zapping me as the words hit the screen and are telling me things I know I have seen in my mind, but the strength I have to find to document them in my blog and know it is going out there for eyes to read is something I need to preserve.

Job done.  I will hold my nerve.

You heard it here first.  For better or for worse, my YouTube channel will launch on December 1st

I may ask you to ‘like’ it so I can give it a catchy page-name.  You see, you have to play the game and get at least 30 people willing to click a box, which then unlocks your own choice of title for the page.  I’ll gauge how things go at the end of the festive season, but for now I have created, very publicly, a reason to look at the planner and insert a banner that says “Launch Day”

Wahey!

I feel better already. Fingers still unsteady, but I’ve been typing non-stop and although when I watched them move I think I knew what they would type (I had a hunch)

Now?

I need lunch. 

Thanks for popping in.

:0)

A blog post for balance. It’s not always good. I could just ignore it. But don’t think I should.

And so, my friends, readers and lookers in, what follows is a post that will explore how it feels when things don’t go as well as you hope or expect.

It is a necessary element of all stories that include journeys (as most of the good ones do) that at some point the main character will hit an obstacle or a challenge; a blockage on their path which must be negotiated or overcome in order to make progress.

When writing and performing poems for an audience, the challenge you have is to try and guess if the people assembled are going to be open-eared allies, or not.  I strayed deliberately there from using the word “enemies” as it sounds too melodramatic, but the net effect of a less positive reaction to material does feel like a personal attack.  I need to, and will, embrace the learning this provides but it is worth considering in more detail.

Last night, I attended another Hammer & Tongue event, having been invited to perform again by the show organiser. To set the scene, it looked like this:

Hammer

This format of “Slam” poetry is getting a bigger following nationally, and I had to be there early to guarantee my slot in the line-up, as only 8 poets are let in to perform alongside the professionals.

In a nutshell, you have 3 minutes to perform and you then get instant marking from 5 random tables in the audience. Top and bottom scores are deleted, then the other 3 are added to make your final score.  The winners go through to subsequent rounds and a national final.

When you enter a poetry slam competition, you have no control over who you will be performing to, but the topics covered are usually politically motivated or include calls to action on sensitive and important subjects.  Last night, I performed a poem that I had written only 2 days ago. I knew therefore that I would have to read it instead of performing it more freely.  I will elaborate on that part shortly, as it was a key factor in this post being written today.

Originally, I was going to give ‘Dawn Paddler’ an outing. Mentioned in previous posts, Dawn is a club 18-30 rep who is nearing the end of her tour of duty, and the poem sees her voice boomed out loud and large, with me narrating in between her calls to action. It is meant to be performed, but also works off the page (it was recently published in an anthology by Peeking Cat Poetry)

I felt that by performing something observational and funny, but with a twist at the end, it would potentially provide a break from the other content being performed, so could relax the crowd, cause some smiles and increase the scores. However, I went against my gut-instinct and went with the newly written poem, which was prompted by a photo I took in a local gym’s café area:

Just for adults

This stark, gravestone-shaped barrier really got me thinking about people’s perceptions of what an adult is, and how they should behave, and I found myself writing a spoken-word, ranty thing with a call to action at the end.  I also wrote a prose piece about it too. They are actually something I’m proud of, but I can’t describe much more as they form part of my entry into the Flambard Poetry Prize, so have to remain schtum.

You are called up in random order in a slam competition and usually you don’t want to be near the start; there is something about the scores that seems to inflate as the crowd drink more and become more relaxed or fired up.  I was second up, which wasn’t ideal but as a random aspect I didn’t waste energy on the stuff I couldn’t control.

And so, here’s the confessional/reflective bit.  There were things that I could and should have controlled, but I didn’t:

1.  I over-ran the 3 minute limit and lost a chunk of marks because of it.  At the last slam, things were way more relaxed and people hit 4 minutes without penalty, but last night it was back to official rules.  I should have assumed this would be the case, but chatted for 30 seconds to set the scene, hold up the photo which had prompted the piece and then began.  This silly gaff cost me 3 marks and, as the spread between winning and losing is usually less than 2 marks, I knew I was out of contention very early in the evening.

2.  I was reading from a page, as lots of people do, but found out this morning from someone who was in the audience, that half of the crowd couldn’t see my face as I was performing.  By merely positioning myself badly, I took out eye-contact with half of the judges. This is very useful feedback but I have to admit that I am gutted to have made such a stupid error. If people can’t see you, you may as well just press play on a recording, and marks are awarded for the performance as well as the content.  I will, of course, remember this mistake and learn from it but it really feels like I let myself down.

So, I goofed.  Properly.  I came off the stage to good applause and whoops, but the scores didn’t reflect how well I thought/hoped it had been received. Knowing now that half the people couldn’t see my face helps my ego a bit (!) but I would be naïve to think this was the only reason.  I should have been true to my usual style of writing and done something upbeat and funny; I consciously ignored something that has just been approved of and published, in favour of a new thing which was, as yet, untried in public and I was doing because I thought it would appeal to a certain crowd. Lesson learned.

When I set off writing this blog, I said I would use it to record the high and lows so I could share and reflect on various stages of the route.  Last night, personally, was a tough learning curve, but if I only report the successes then I’m being untrue and not helping myself.

Having hidden my crestfallen disappointment fairly well, I was utterly rewarded by an artist who needs a nd deserves a special mention.  There wasn’t a person in the crowd last night who wasn’t left speechless by the wordplay, humour, inventiveness and quick-witted, fast-spitted rhyming and timing of Gramski 

He took us on a high-tempo, never go-slow, replay of a day in Vietnam when his swirling mind was interrupted by a man who broke into his hotel room, unplugged his mini-bar fridge and simply walked away.  He then instantly freestyled a complete story including the following random things gathered out from the crowd:

  • Kevin Frumpington
  • He’s a mortician
  • He goes to Bognor on holiday
  • He forgets to pack any clothes, at all
  • He’s upset at the lack of death in Bognor

I urge any of you to check him out if you are in or near Brighton soon, as he is appearing at various pubs and clubs very soon.

Always wanting to be as upbeat as I can be, and hoping I am usually a positive person, I should also mention some minor successes this week.  I have made contact with Radio 3’s poetry team who broadcast sections under the title of “The Verb”  I sent them a reply to one of their tweets and they followed me, which isn’t a given. I have also had Tweets liked and shared by Hollie McNish and The National Poetry society.  These small interactions provide tiny, fragile links that I can hopefully forge into stronger connections, so are all part of the plan and are lovely when they happen.

It is unlikely that I will write anything creative today. The effort of firing up the laptop to openly lick my wounds and confess to mistakes  wasn’t easy, and after seeing such blistering talent from Gramski (albeit using a different genre to me) I kind of feel a wee bit deflated. But this will pass.

I must remind myself that this week I have written new poems, both prose and spoken-word style, and have entered a group of 5 poems into the 2017 Flambard Poetry Prize. I have submitted 2 in the National Poetry Prize too.  I am working at it.  I am trying things. I am saying ‘yes’ to invitations to perform/compete. I will write good things next week and may push myself to attend the Shine So Hard open-mic on Monday. 

Who knows, I may take Dawn Paddler with me.  I stood her up last night, and although I am feeling the aftershocks today, I think I’ll get back in contact with her.

Thanks for popping in.

:0)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poem Tennis gets me printed. Characters found voice and glinted.

Having performed my first full set of poems at a paid gig on Thursday, travelled to London for an aspiring new talent show at a theatre on Friday and then relaxed off a bit on Saturday (!) on Sunday 15th October a poetry anthology became available to download, order from Amazon for Kindle, or actually have posted to you as a real “thing” in paperback and hardback. It looks like this!

Peeking Cat Anthology

I wrote one of the poems that is in it.  In fact, I wrote it with the help of a friend, who sent me the title via my page on Facebook: Poem Tennis

I have mentioned the lady in question before.  She is a keen sea-swimmer and early-morning goose-bumper, so when I received the title “Dawn Paddler” I kind of guessed what she might expect.  However, the instant I saw the title, and maybe because both words had capitals, I got a very clear image in my mind.  It wouldn’t go, so I went with my gut-feeling and, it appears, struck a chord with a few people.

In the spirit of being brave and sharing performances and clips in here more regularly, you will find me reading the poem just here:

Dawn Paddler 

The sound clip formed part of the online launch for the Peeking Cat 2017 Anthology which, in itself, was a brilliant thing to be involved with.  In case you haven’t seen it elsewhere, an interview with each contributor was shared during the launch event and mine looks like this:

Interview

There was and is something really exciting about reading an article written about you, even though it was pretty much self-penned from a set of questions, and seeing my happy face smiling out really reminded me what a buzz it is to share words and rhythms and cause thoughts to form in other people’s minds.  The fact that I am being referred to as a writer now is also hugely encouraging and something I am proud of.

Quite a lot of lovely friends have joked about autographs and becoming famous in the future, which tickles me a lot and I am grateful for, as it feels like a thinly veiled way of saying “you’re quite good at this you know”  The desire in me to become “famous” (whatever that means) is not on my radar though.  What I would love to become is recognised and appreciated, to have words shared and responded to and to earn a living from writing about and observing life and its challenges, twists, silliness and contradictions.

It is a huge challenge, but if people before me have completed it armed only with a Biro and paper? There must me ways in.  

Here is how I see it.  Every poem I write and share on my page is a tiny tap.  Every open-mic night I attend is a tiny step, and one that can create a rhythm to my performance.  Every competition I enter, or piece I submit for consideration, is a knock on the door with the question “Hello there. What do you think of this please?”

Nothing happens without going through steps and stages and you cannot leap into being published or successful without the groundwork, patience and consistency that I am needing to find at the moment.  

Curiously, confusingly and somewhat frustratingly, I haven’t written anything creative this week, as I have been busy writing about the three big things that happened last week. 

Actually, what am I saying?  I have been writing creatively haven’t I, by doing exactly this. Oh, and I wrote another article this morning for Blind Veterans UK, after visiting their centre in Ovingdean and chatting with one of their members.  The PR team at Blind Veterans UK’s Head Office have bestowed upon me the title of “Writer in Residence” and are setting up a separate page on their website for my interviews and shared memories, so yes, I have been productive this week with my writing, but haven’t written any poetry or rhymes.

I may well remedy this situation this evening, as I have a title rattling around that won’t shush, and it has a photo that prompted it which I see when I blink.  These are surely signs that I need to address it and get something written.

It’s a shorter one today, but with links to a couple of things to keep you interested (hopefully!)

If you like the post or the blog, the interview or the recorded poem, please let me know or leave a comment.  It’s good to know I’m not whistling in the wind!

And, as always:

Thanks for popping in.

:0)

 

 

Friday 13th. Unlucky for some? Well, not for me. Something big has begun.

“Big” eh?

Define “Big”

I’ll happily do that for you. Right here, right now. 

I’m not talking about a pseudo, hyped-up “Big” like the next big thing or “Ooh, this is going to be big!”  Nope.  I’m talking about the big feeling I had on Friday.  The big, large, overwhelmingly reassuring and exciting sense that I was in a part of London I had never been before, with people I had never met before, doing something I had never done before, on a stage never used for a grand event before, run by a director that was winging it but seemed in control. And. I. Felt. Like. I. Was. MEANT. To. Be. There.

That awful grammar is deliberate. The staccato sentence above portrays the pennies dropping and the feeling I was embracing during the day.  Each stage of the day presented me with new sights, sounds (and sweet herbal aromas) that would normally make me question my presence being a valid part of the scenery. Yet, as the day went on, I became more relaxed, more focused and felt absolutely part of the team of writers and performers that was set to entertain a large sized crowd. 

The day itself?  Went a bit like this:

  • Drive to Hackney and arrive at the salubrious settings of Redgates Theatre for 12 noon.
  • Realise that Redgates Theatre is so named because of the bicep-twitchingly heavy, warehouse-unit, 10 foot high, flaky-painted steel barriers that creakily yield an access to the warehouse spaces within.
  • Smile inwardly, as you acknowledge the name that has been bestowed is rather brilliant
  • Walk towards a communal area, and observe a full height kick-boxing weeble, a shopping trolley, 1 crutch lying on the floor and several sofas, none of which are any longer troubled by webbing, or springs, or other such potential hazards.
  • Decide and realise, there and then, that THIS is going to be a special experience

I’ll break here to give you an insight into what the interior of the performing space looked like, shortly after my arrival. It may not be after 9pm when you read this, so I will show this photo only:

20171013_161258

At first glance, it doesn’t look like a venue, right?  But oh, how wrong you are sometimes when face value is the only value you put on something.  A few hours later, the space looked this this

20171013_201017

This photo doesn’t do justice to the amount of work that Andy (the director and organiser of the show) and his team had put in while we were rehearsing outside and practising new methods with our written pieces.

Oh, and if that sounds like a bit of a professional approach?  That’s because it was. Once all the performers, actors and writers were assembled, we were divided into 3 groups and assigned a director.  Their role was to watch our performances, and then give feedback or suggestions as to how things could be improved.  

I was lucky to be in a group of people who I was already looking forward to seeing perform; you get a gut feel sometimes when you clock people and you know there’s a spark ready to bounce.  Our director, Phao, immediately put us in a place of calm, and it was apparent she wanted us to do as well as possible, giving advice where it was needed and opening up comments from other performers too.

At this stage, I was dressed for warmth, as the following snap shows:

Lisa Me and Robert

That three bespectacled writers and performers, all of a certain age, appear in the same photo should not come as a surprise, but this was one of many happy link ups I made during the day.  Lisa, in the foreground, performed a self-written and wonderfully warm and funny poem about motherhood.  Robert, the healthier looking version of me, but with hair and a poet’s jacket, performed a superbly observed and crafted poem about a trip to a south coast town, which at times contained innuendo and double-meanings that could make you blush.  He was a natural on the stage and I will hopefully perform with him in the future (to be discussed in a later blog post when it happens).

Oh, and if this all looks way too happy and relaxed?  For balance, this is how we also worked with Phao:

20171013_154702

It was proper.  It was professional.  There were expectations placed on us very clearly that the night was billed as a showcase for upcoming actors and talented writers, so that was what we should be delivering.

I bloody loved it.  Every single second.  Of every single minute. Of performing to a director in front of peers. Of performing in a dress-rehearsal in front of more peers and directors. 

I made connections.  I made, I hope, friends that I will keep in touch with and celebrate future successes and share funny fails every now and then too.

A blog needs to be punchy I think, so I am cutting short the essay I have in my head.  Suffice to say that as show-time approached, I had changed into my smart attire, sharp shirt and shiny shoes, having decided to look like a grown-up poet to give me more confidence on the stage, and to reinforce people’s perceptions of how a bloke in his 40s should look when delivering spoken-word.  Perversely, dressing as I do normally may have looked like an attempt to dress like a yoof, so I avoided it!

Let’s race forward.  I was lucky enough that a lovely cousin who lives nearby decided to queue up for a ticket (from before 7pm, outside the eponymous red gates) and she got a decent spot in the seated area of the audience.  I hadn’t asked, but she recorded my performance, so if you’re curious as to how it looked?  Hopefully, the link just here will show you: Appetite

I am reassured that the clip lasts just about long enough to hear the applause and cheers begin!  They did carry on (honest!) and the feedback was very encouraging afterwards.

I got back to Brighton at 1a.m. but found it hard to stop grinning and to sleep.  I felt happy on the stage, happy that I had shared something in a style that I don’t often write in, but frequently think in freestyle in, and mostly just so pleased and proud to have been part of the show.  And it was a show.  A properly put-together performance, which entertained, challenged and amused the audience in equal measure. 

I was part of it. And, I have to say, it is now a part of me.

I chuckled recently when I changed my details on social media and vocational sites to:

“Writer, Poet, Performer and Author”

Well, I am proving the first 3 by being brave and saying “Yes” to everything.  The 4th one?  When the agent signs me up, that’ll happen too. And it won’t happen by chance.

I’m smiling again now.  Because I’m remembering so much more from the day.  I’m also remembering that I need to add another post about what happened on Sunday 15th, when my first published poem launched as part of a 2017 Anthology.

I am trying to keep up with events.  They are events that I am making happen.

That has to be a good sign, right?

Thanks for popping in.

:o)

 

 

 

Two shows completed. I’m published, now seated. It’s time to catch up on the scenes I have greeted.

From Thursday  12th October to Sunday 15th October I got to actually, properly, prove to myself and to new people too, that I am a writer, poet and performer. 

My mind is still processing the details and the associated feelings, but right now I am making a supreme effort not to just write:

YES!!!!

F@*£ing YES!!!  I bloody DID IT!

I’ve STARTED!!!! 

IN A RECOGNISED MEANING OF THE WORD “STARTED”!!

This should give you a teeny insight into how I’m feeling.

Just for balance however, I would like you to look at the next photo and imagine you had just arrived in the room portrayed, keen and ready to perform your first full set of poems to a paying audience. 

Oh, and as you look on, remind yourself that this rather lovely room is in Worthing.  The crowd that are due are not expecting a poet.  They usually come to see a regular performance of the band they know they already like. 

Let’s dive in!

20171012_190824

Bright, isn’t it?

Don’t worry though dear readers, for it very soon became a lot, lot darker …

Now, I was expecting to feel nervous.  I embrace the energy that nerves bring with them, as I know that once I start chatting ,all will be good.  I had also practised very hard in the days and weeks leading up to the gig, so I was confident of not stumbling.  However, when the crowd started to drift in, I could not help be reminded of images I had seen recently of a certain political party’s conference crowd.  I would guess that the average age would have been 60 and upwards. This, let me be 100% clear, was not a problem. 

The nerve-inducing aspect of the scenario was that some of the subject matter for the set of poems I was bringing to the gig was probably going to be, at best, irrelevant and at worst completely alien to certain people in the crowd.  Included in my set are an off-beat narrative about an over-bubbly Club 18-30 rep, with a love-story twist at the end, and another poem about reaching a certain age and no longer being handed flyers for nightclubs and gigs. These, I felt, might be a hard sell!

Those of you who know me well will recognise that I am a very positive person, and try to use energy on things I can affect, rather than things I cannot affect, so I decided that this would all be good experience, regardless of what happened. 

What happened?  Was this:

20171012_205437

The room was full, which was good news.

I stood up and introduced the format of the evening, before performing my first poem. This was good news.

I had not run out of the venue 5 minutes prior to this happening.  This too, was good news.  

Every fibre in my body was telling me that I felt uncomfortable and didn’t belong or want to be there, my poems would not be well received and I was unsure of how to glue together an evening as a compere, where the 2 acts were:

1.  A replacement band for the crowd’s favourite-band-they-would-really-much-rather-be-seeing-thank-you

2.  Some baldy chap in a vivid T-Shirt, jeans and trainers (trainers, how informal)

But, you know what?  I had committed to the evening, committed to the friend who had very kindly offered me my first chance to perform a full set in front of a paying crowd, and I was looking forward to seeing his skiffle band play, as the are extremely good. I also knew that even though Sara was gripping my hand moments before I went up and could tell how cold, yet clammy, they were, I would feel a proper sense of achievement once I got through it.

I am maybe portraying a total train-wreck of a scene, but this is how I was feeling it could turn out and this blog is where I download, digest and share, so if my honest description is making you uneasy, just think how I felt!  

But you know what? Despite all the scenery laid out in front of me, issues with a microphone and total nerve-shredding feelings beforehand, it actually went okay!  There were pockets of people who ‘got’ the content of the poems and actively rumbled along with me.  There was laughter and chuckling and applause at the end of each performance.  Some of this was polite I know but, likewise, some was the proper smiley stuff you get that just makes you so happy to have touched a nerve or found something people relate to.

At the end of my set and at the end of the evening when people were leaving, a few people came over to me to say thank you and that they had enjoyed my poems. This was a very good feeling, and stood out from the other feelings I had managed to get through during the evening.

Prior to the evening, I had mentally told myself that, whatever the outcome or performance level, it was going to be a another important step and an additional step forward.  The facts in my mind were these:

  • On June 28th I went to my first ever open-mic night
  • On the back of that, I was invited to perform and compete at a Poetry Slam competition at the Komedia in Brighton, run by Hammer and Tongue
  • I have done 2 other open mics, so only 4 in total, including the competition
  • On the back of my Poem Tennis page, I had been offered a full set at a paid gig

There was zero energy in the room, and this was borne out too even for the chatty, relaxed and very talented “Tuesday Night Skiffle Club” who played a full set, to polite applause.  It was clear they weren’t getting much back from the crowd, but their approach was to up the fun levels and make the most of it, which I thought was the perfect approach. By the end of their gig, they had won people over, but that process shouldn’t have been needed as they are extremely good live players.

So, overall. Great news. In my mind? I may have already played my toughest gig, in front of my toughest crowd.  My take is that I have the huge advantage that I have got it out of the way very early and now have a brilliant reference point for future excursions.  

Like I say, I am relentlessly positive.

Oh, and receiving some money at the end of the evening was a genuine thrill. I have the notes folded in my wallet, not yet ready to find an everyday way of soaking them up.  They will be put towards something lovely for Sara, I think.  She deserves it, and brought along a friend who has been supportive of my poetry and rhyming from the outset, so it was good to know I’d have at least 2 guaranteed “clappers” in the crowd!

I am breaking here, as this happened on Thursday.  On Friday, something else happened which was totally new, and about which I am still tingling.

I’ll update here again shortly, so in the meantime, you know how it goes:

Thanks for popping in

:0)