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This week’s inspiration post is not an inspiration post at all. It’s written in lieu of a panic attack as I think about my first proper public reading.

Yesterday I spent about three hours with my friend going through the set list – songs, poems and excerpts from relevant books. The way it has worked out, I’ll now be reading six of my own poems, one poem by another person, and three passages from books.

I reckon in total, over two 45 minute sets, I’ll read for a maximum of about 20 minutes – and yet the whole thing is filling me with dread.

I was asked today what the difference is between open mike events and this.  Well, in reality I suppose you could argue that there’s not a lot of difference but in my mind open mike events are full of poets, singers and musicians all sharing their work, whereas this is about performing to an audience.

Even writing that makes my stomach shrivel up…

This is what it means to be a writer though.  The sharing part has never been easy for me, but I have to conquer it to make the life I’ve chosen meaningful.  I can’t do it with the novels until I have exhausted the agent search, but I can do it with the poetry.

All the poems bar one are like old friends, and I can wrap myself in their comforting familiarity. The venue is well-known, and the people warm and supportive. I really am easing into the performance side with a sympathetic first attempt.

But I’m still terrified!

It’s like that phrase you see on inspirational posters – ‘feel the fear, and do it anyway’.  By this time Sunday, the fear will be in the past and I’ll have accomplished something important.

And once I’ve done it, you’ll know you can too.  There you go – a little bit of inspiration after all!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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For the past couple of days I’ve put the writing to one side to help out with a friend’s business open day – and have been lost in a fog of wool, paper pompoms, fabric, raffia and hessian, with the occasional bit of bunting thrown in for fun.

It was exhausting, and time-consuming but it was just what I needed after the last few weeks – a bit of creativity with a group of lovely people, helping a friend pursue a dream.

I also managed (part of) a charity zumbathon this weekend, which explains my general sleepiness… but now it’s time to refocus all my efforts on phrases not fabric, words not wool.

As I’ve said before, I’m performing at a ‘Listening Lunch’ next Sunday; the poetry count has gone from four to six and now I’m only doing one other reading.  I don’t need to write any more new poems, thankfully, and I’ve performed most of them at open mikes before, so that’s also made me feel a little better.  I just need to get on and finish editing everything.

Having made it through this weekend, and having seen how much can be achieved when people put their minds to something, I feel like this might actually work out – so watch this space!

In other news – As Thursday was National poetry Day here in the UK, I thought I’d belatedly share this article about writing poetry.  Poetry really is a rollercoaster relationship for me – I write copious amounts in different styles for weeks, then I write nothing for months, then I find old drafts and edit for ages, then I struggle to find any words to convey my emotions.  It’s infuriating sometimes – but when it works, and I write something that says everything I’m trying to say, I feel deeply proud of myself.  Of course in six months I won’t think it’s finished and I’ll edit a little more – but that’s how I think poetry should exist anyway.

Also – A few weeks ago I said I’d keep an eye on the reasoning behind the compilation of the 100 best novels.  Well – so far I’m failing but in fairness of the two books posted so far I’ve read neither.  Maybe I’ll get through them once I’ve got poetry week done!

And finally – after last year, I am not intending to register for NaNoWriMo this year, but to use November to get the editing of book two sorted out – but for anyone doing it who needs the occasional pep talk, I’ll try to post a little more often about my progress and the tricks and tips I’ve learnt to get through the daunting word count.  And please, please plan you work fully before you start so you don’t end up unpicking it for the best part of a year!

Until next time – happy writing!

EJ

🙂

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This week’s post is nice and short as I’ve been out and about a lot for the last few days!

On Thursday I told you a bit about the ‘listening lunch’ where I’ll be reading and sharing some of my poetry.  As I’m sure you can imagine, it’s a pretty big step up from a few open mike events with fellow writers and performers (even if unfriendly ones!), to people paying to attend an event.  It is hugely nerve-wracking and a complete challenge to my comfort zone.

I know I have to do these things; I know that anyone who want a career as a writer has to sell their wares, so to speak. What I also know is that if I don’t do it, I’ll be really angry with myself.  

Although I see prose as my ‘natural’ product, going out and reading the poetry will build my confidence overall so it’s definitely worth doing.  In this case the worst that happens is that my friend has to jump in and do the readings for me, and I look an idiot, but that’s not quite the outcome I’m looking for!  

So from now on until the listening lunch the focus is poetry, and the novel will have to take a back seat.  That means I’m going to put back completion date to the end of November instead of the end of October – I’ll use NaNo as an opportunity to develop the story rather than attempt to write another 50,000 random words.

In fact, Cicero will be springing forth as a fully formed poem in the next few days, if everything goes to plan…  That’ll be three new ones in a week, which is pretty good going.

In other news – I know I’ve linked to book lists a few times, but I thought this one might be a good way to explore different writers and writing styles.  It’s a 100 week series on the best 100 English-language classics, with an explanation of why they’ve been chosen.  Having looked at the earlier list I think ‘classic’ has been confused in some places with ‘have to read for school’, but it’ll be interesting seeing the justifications as to why some were chosen.  There are a number of books on the list that I totally disagree with; perhaps they’ll change my mind…  If I remember, I’ll comment on it here each week, even if just to say I haven’t read the book!

And finally – today is the annual Emmy Awards Show.  I’ve said before how I love the glitz of these award shows, even though part of me is repulsed by the fact that people could live for a year on the value of some of the outfits!  As I write, the presentations haven’t started, so I’ll just catch up with the red carpet. Perhaps I could write a story about the people behind the people we see – the make-up artists busily painting over bruises from surgery, or the stylists who have to shave the chests of their male clients because their shirts go see-through under camera flashes…  See, watching it is practically work!!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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I went to an open mike night tonight; it was the super-friendly one I’ve told you about in earlier posts and this time I read a poem I have never shared with strangers.  It wasn’t my plan, but you have to go with the flow and it followed another poet really well!

I was accompanied by someone who has never read their poems in public before, and felt really good to know I had a hand in getting them there!  They were really good poems, and it got me thinking how many people write beautiful work that no-one ever hears.

So this week, I’m setting you a challenge: if you’ve never shared a poem (or section of prose) before, do it this week.

You can go to an open mike event, if you have one near you.  You can read to your partner, parents, siblings, friends. Record it for your blog, or add it to the comments here if you want, and you know how! It doesn’t matter, just do something to get you past that first hurdle.

Sharing work feels scary, and a room of strangers can be intimidating – it was for me.  But my writing is better for doing it.  My writing is alive; each time I read it aloud I listen for rhythm, for sounds; I change words or punctuation; change breaks; bend the sentences to a breathing pattern or a speech pattern that reflects what I want.  It alters as I do, and improves as I identify what is strong, and what needs further development.

There’s a famous quote by Paul Valéry:’a poem is never finished, only abandoned.’  Don’t leave your poems in a drawer because you are nervous of sharing them.  You could be amazing and never know.

People fall in love with poetry because they hear something that speaks to them.  So go out and speak to people, and spread the poetry love!

Happy writing – and reading,

EJ

🙂

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Today I went and did a poetry reading (3 poems again) at an open mike night.

I do not like doing these – my hands shake, my stomach twists and squeezes, my face flushes and heats, my heart beats as though I’ve run a mile.  I speak too fast, and sometimes my tongue trips over the words and can’t get straightened out.

And yet I do them, and I try to enjoy them, because reading out my poems to an audience – of one, or a hundred – makes me believe I’m a poet.

Reading is believing.

So I thought that today I would share what I’ve learnt so far:

1. Pick pieces to read that you are comfortable reading.  For me, that means nothing with explicit language or of an intimate nature; for others it may be pieces related to current personal trials.  Go with what feels best for you.

2. Trust your audience.  They want to hear poetry, and are there because they enjoy it; they are not trying to pick everything you say apart.  And if they do, sadly it’s a side effect of sharing your work.  Writing requires a thick skin or an incredibly quick healing time.

3. Speak slowly.  Think about the way you speak with your best friend – then slow down to half that speed.  It feels agonisingly slow, but it’s the only way the audience can hear what you say.

4. Be respectful of other artists.  Don’t talk through their performances, make unkind comments about their work or undermine their confidence.  You might not like what they do – and you can certainly talk about it afterwards – but they have the right to be heard without interruption.

5. Listen to your performance.  Do some words grate against each other?  Are some words causing you to stutter or slur?  Are some phrases repetitive?  Use the reading as a chance to improve your work.

6. Know you are a writer.  You are there because you have a voice to share, and know it is worth hearing.

So there’s a few tips for your own open mike events.  I am not good at them all, and other writers are not always to your taste, or polite, or sensitive to your feelings, but if you want to learn to enjoy sharing your work, you need to practise.  The first attempt can be honed and refined, just like your writing.

And if you’re confident and happy to read to a roomful of strangers – please tell me how!

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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