Category: poetry

R Streets R Stories

You can thank Sheri for that title – we used it as a hashtag for the Cathedral Village Arts Festival this year, and as an abbreviation of our theme, Our Streets Are Stories.

I always look forward to the CVAF anyway, but this year was extra special because I got Involved again and volunteered as the communications coordinator for the festival. This involved the usual social media effort, manning the Twitter and Instagram feeds while managing to keep myself as far removed from Facebook as possible. My alter ego on there suddenly became alarmingly popular though! This was a thinly disguised excuse to have an official reason to go out every night of the week and pack in as much festivalling as possible. I was creating valuable live coverage, honest! I even got an all access pass! (to a free festival).

I also had to help write press releases and schedule interviews with local media. Sheri (the chairperson) and other members of the planning committee were shunted off to TV and live radio interviews, frequently at horrendous times of the early morning. I did one myself too, at 6.45am on a Tuesday on community radio, practically guaranteeing me an audience of bus drivers and unfortunate Tim Hortons workers.

All these efforts paid off though, and the turn out was HUGE, despite the weather not being as exceptional as last year.  One key message we tried to emphasise in our media briefings was that the festival is #AllWeekLong. So many people still seem to think the festival is just the Street Fair on the last Saturday, when there are arts, dance, theatre, literature, music and film events on every evening for the whole week. Here’s a small sample…

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My parents arrived the first evening of festival week! A great way to start their summer holiday and I made sure to drag them to as many events as we could. They both even wrote and read poems at the poetry slam just 24 hours after their arrival! Poems had to be on the theme of ‘our streets are stories’ again. Here is my effort:

Cathedral Stories are worthy of glory
My poetry usually is not
While trying to avoid complication
I went for literal interpretation
The point of which I forgot.

It’s easier to start with a question, she says
How about, ‘What’s the word on the street?’
SLOW
or sometimes
‘No Parking’

At this time of year
Stranger signs start to appear
One popped up today
A stencil, sprayed, just outside Safeway
“It’s Good To Be Alive” the street seems to say.

Our cathedral story truly began
Five years ago
Returning from another poetry slam
Or was it just burgers in here?
Memories fade, the details unclear
But walking home we were
Small girl complaining
It had started raining
Small girl stops, plastic jacket undone
Not caring, while I start quietly swearing

She sits on the curb
In a puddle, plants her feet
And starts reading her book
In the middle of the street.

 

 

 

 

Feeling inspired, literally.

I don’t post nearly enough on here nowadays. My excuse is still Theia; it’s not that she doesn’t like me typing on this computer, it’s more she wants to join in, and that is very tricky. She has already managed to remove the Ctrl key from my laptop keyboard, in exactly the same manner as Big Sister did at around the same age. Groan.

I am on a personal mission to take my writing a bit more seriously at the moment. I have always written things, be it these blogs, a decade of Nanowrimo novels, slam poetry or even academic papers, and for the most part I really enjoy it. I don’t think I am a terrible writer, but as with anything, it always needs practice.

The hopeless, degrading and depressing job hunt continues and I loathe it. So far I have applied for 22 jobs, which has resulted in just 3 interviews and zero job offers. One did say I was overqualified, which is a double-edged compliment I suppose. But I am running out of job vacancies that I actually want to apply for now, meaning I am reduced to applying out of desperation. And that is counter-productive as well as depressing. I went for a rather-obscure publisher’s job at a magazine, interviewed and “came second”… and then I applied for an admin position at the Writers’ Guild that sounded really positive and hopeful at the interview, but I didn’t get that either. They didn’t say why and I was too disappointed to ask. Both would have involved some Professional Writing though, which would have been wonderful.

I have a friend here “pre-reading” the book I wrote, and another friend of mine is currently editing it from the safe distance of the UK. It’s an entrepreneurial memoir, about my ten years of misadventures in the world of coffee and starting my businesses. (check it out here) I wrote the first draft during Nanowrimo in 2015 and I don’t hate it. Therefore I’ve been (very slowly) typing it all up ever since and have even sent off queries and book proposals to a few publishers. The sort of publishers that say “wait 6-8 months for a response.” So, right now, no news is good new: no one has rejected it yet.

I am trying the traditional publishing route mainly because I value what I’ve written enough to actually want to see it edited by a professional – and there’s no way I could pay to have to done properly otherwise, sadly. I also don’t have the time, the resources nor the skills necessary to self-publish and promote the book myself. In my (limited) experience so far with my coffee books, marketing the things is harder work than writing them, If you self-publish, you can get the book on Amazon quite easily. But from there, it is very, very rare to find paperback editions on the shelves in traditional book stores. And I much, much prefer Actual Book Browsing for Actual Tangible Books in an Actual Physical book shop. I don’t think I am alone in that particular pleasure.

Of course, there aren’t many book shops in Regina. There’s a specialist, antiquarian book store which you really have to know is there. There’s apparently and independent place too, but its so far up in the north end that I have no hope of ever getting up there. And then of course, there’s Chapters. Which I like, but it has Starbucks in it, and so all is lost.

HMMMM…. anybody else thinking what I’m thinking?

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WATCH. THIS. SPACE.

{Hashtag} CVAF2014

Last night I cycled faster than the mosquitoes…

I wish that was some sort of metaphor for something more profound, but it isn’t. We have had One Week of sunshine and summer, and I have been eaten alive. I can outrun the evil little buggers on the bike though! And sometimes, in the right atmosphere, even mosquitoes can be poetic.

Last week was the Cathedral Village Arts Festival. This year was made more special (and considerably more exhausting) by the fact that I’ve been on the planning committee for it, for pretty much the entire year since the last one. It was one of the things, like the Ales club exec, that I merrily volunteered for when I was playing Stay-at-Home Mum last year and thought I’d have LOADS of time. More fool me! I enjoy doing this sort of thing far more than the work I do to earn myself a living unfortunately, but that is another issue entirely.

Being on the communications team for CVAF proved an interesting role – basically, because they’d never had a communications team before! I drew the line at live interviews and getting up crack of dawn to go on early morning TV (I left it to the expert – @thereginamom for that!) but I did get to help write some media releases, edit website content and of course, the hours and hours of tweeting. Before the festival, we did the Taste of Cathedral event back in February, and then the “Fence-Weaving” (my name for it!) earlier in May, where we wove fabric (this year’s theme was The Fabric of Life) into the fence outside Connaught school, to make a giant rainbow. It was gorgeous!

ImageI also got to “manage” the CVAF twitter and instagram accounts, although in many ways, it managed me. I live-tweeted every event I went to, and then curated anything using the #cvaf2014 hashtag. During festival week I would regularly log on to discover 90+ new notifications, and went through the whole lot, retweeting the cream of the crop every night. This is on top of my usual online ramblings, plus promoting the brand new Wheelie Good Coffee as much as humanely possible. To my credit, I only got confused once and used the wrong account, but fortunately no one noticed! I got so in the habit of typing #cvaf2014 though that I caught myself signing off like that on text messages, and once (only once!) it nearly ended up on someone’s insurance quote at work…dedication, people! Dedication! I actually admitted that I didn’t want to use Twitter again after that week. That resolve lasted about 36 hours. #addiction.

So, in far more than 140 characters, here’s what the week looked like from my point of view:

Monday:

My last post was all about LAUNCH DAY for Wheelie Good Coffee! I was sponsoring the #CVAF2014 Big Yellow Taxi event, providing enthusiastic singers with hot coffee on a wild and windy morning. They filmed the event, which is lovely because I was so busy with coffee that I didn’t really get to appreciate what they were all doing. This is filmed outside Connaught School – here’s the video and I will leave you to draw your own conclusions about the choice of song and location… You’re welcome to play Spot The Coffee Cart too though!

http://vimeo.com/m/96265416

Here’s how I spent most of that day:

ImageTuesday:

Tuesday was the free-for-all poetry slam at the Mercury. Same format as last year, in that in exchange for a toonie, we were given two random words from a book, and then had to write a poem in 20 minutes incorporating the two words. This is easier in the Mercury than it sounds because it has been a full house every time I’ve been, and you can get inspired by the people around you. Plus, there’s cheap beer. Every single photo I’ve ever taken in there comes out Red though. This is Micaela:

Imageand here is my effort from the evening: http://belwritesthings.blogspot.ca/2014/05/the-pedestal-of-virtual-misery.html The theme was apt considering my role in the festival!

Wednesday:

Somehow, (more through persistence than talent, I feel) I ended up in the Finals of the Word Up Wednesday poetry slam! This meant, No Beer, no “I only had 20 minutes” excuse, (we could choose whatever poem we wanted, and could rehearse), and formal judging with Actual Prizes at stake! I found out I’d got through 6 days before the finals, but in those six days, I had the last minute CVAF running about to do, get the coffee cart ready, survive launch day, work, and even do an exam at work. So, I didn’t rehearse, but I did at least choose my poems. I went for Funny over Deep and Meaningful (as always), but (also as always) the other poets are waaay more comfortable with showing emotion in public than I am. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and even rounded up my own cheering squad in the form of Sam, James and Jeff. I did fairly decently, but I didn’t win. Never mind!

ImageOn Thursday night, I took Miranda to the Dance Expo at the Cathedral Neighbourhood Centre, because she’s recently decided she LOVES dancing (possibly because Abi The Big Girl Next Door goes to dance classes). I was not quite prepared for what we found there. One of my most reshared tweets was “Where else can you see Munchie the Dinosaur learning to belly dance?”! Even Miri was a bit taken aback by that, but she had a lot of fun, especially when we got to get up and dance ourselves. Unfortunately it was a sort of therapeutic and meditational dance session, very slow and calm. Miranda of course, was practically bouncing off the ceiling and entirely in her own little world. But dance is all about self-expression, right?

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Friday:

We attempted to go see some of the bands on in the Holy Rosary Tent stage. Although we had another enjoyable night – it was a beautiful evening to be out – my attempts to get Miri to listen to the band were nearly futile. To get to the tent, I made the mistake of walking past the little play park at the back of the school. Miri saw “the spinny thing” and spent the ENTIRE evening playing on the roundabout with a gaggle of other kids. I got the first batch of mosquito bites there, and doused them in vinegar borrowed from the chip van that was catering there! I bet I smelled lovely for the rest of the night. We caught about ten minutes of Black Drink Crier, but that was it!

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Then came the mahoosive Saturday street fair. We set up Wheelie Good Coffee outside our house. I went to buy milk for it before the street fair had officially opened, and 13th ave was already busy then. By mid morning, you could barely move. So I think my approach was sensible – pitching the cart outside our house, just off 13th Ave, gave me room to breathe, and a steady stream of people walking past who could grab coffee without having to queue up for hours in the heat. And what heat! That was my main hindrance to sales really, few people wanted hot coffee when it hit 30 degrees! Even my mosquitos bites got a bit sunburnt. It was a great practice though, and I got lots of positive comments from people too.

ImageIn the afternoon I closed up shop, so I could go marshal the street fair itself. This involved wearing a hi-vis bright orange vest over my huge purple hippy skirt. My look was completed with my official CVAF cap. Sooo stylish! This is Canada. People are lovely and polite all the time, which meant that “marshalling” basically entailed pointing people in the right direction  of the portaloos. Crowd management was out of the question:

DSCF8490There were 7 blocks full of 350+ stalls, and a turnout of over 40,000 people. And apparently, it was also the hottest street fair day that anyone could remember. Fantastic!! It was a bit hot and tiring and overwhelming for Miri, but she coped rather better after getting an ice cream:

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Overall, it was another amazing week, and I have a newfound respect for the whole thing given the sheer amount of work and effort that all the volunteers put in. It was nearly incredible to see how it suddenly all came together at the last minute, thanks to the hard graft by #TeamAwesome. The compliments and reviews keep coming on Twitter too – ALL positive too, which speaks volumes for the local community. I am really proud of #cvaf2014, my fellow volunteers, and this neighbourhood, and I’m so glad to be part of it all!

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Poetic Justice

Tonight I pedalled across town on my trike, on my way to a poetry slam, big fat snowflakes drifting down softly.

It would almost be romantic if it wasn’t MID APRIL.

And then there was some frigging idiot who nearly killed me.

 

Potholes and stones

Won’t break my bones

But the words you speak on your mobile phone

distracting, as you plough on in to the night

looking straight through my signal and lights

Those words, and your massive Dodge truck

Driven as if you don’t give a fuck

Those are the things that will crush me.

 

 

Not Unemployed!

As of Friday, I am officially, erm, non-unemployed, to put it much grammarously.

After what feels like YONKS of job hunting, I finally found something when I wasn’t really looking, in a place I honestly didn’t expect to. Marianne and I went to a jobs fair last week; it was mainly full of potash and construction jobs, and lots of shiny posters of people wearing hard hats and grinning inanely. Frankly, I didn’t hold out much hope of anyone wanting to hire someone with a Phd in coffee, so Miri and I were really just there for the freebies. In that respect, we did very well indeed. Miranda scored herself two rubber ducks from SIAST, a frisbee from CIBC bank, and dozens of pens and a few bribery-flavoured lollipops. It was on a quest for another lolly that we came across the SGI stall (for non-Reginans, that is Saskatchewan Government Insurance. Yep, insurance is nationalised, well, provincially-owned here, sooooooooo much easier than comparing and negotiating with hundreds of extortionate companies in the UK!!). A very friendly guy called Jim asked if I was looking for work, I said yes, but also that I’d applied to SGI back in June and never heard a squeak back. He explained that they usually just recruit at entry level, and then promote people internally. He took a look at my resume anyway, and said he felt “under qualified” in comparison! I can’t help feeling my qualifications are pretty useless though – he has a job, I don’t!

(An aside, and RANT KLAXON! we watched BBC Question Time the other night, with the Tories’ new and inventive ways of torturing the poor: apparently if you haven’t got a job and you’re under 25, you should go back and live with your parents so you can’t claim housing benefit, do community service in order to get your already-reduced unemployment benefit – thus putting people who get paid properly to do community service jobs out of work – and if you are STILL out of work, go back to school and learn new skills. Which is only ever going to result in a lot of drastically over-skilled, over-educated unemployed people chasing low-skilled, part time, minimum wage jobs, and up to their eyeballs in debt from university or college fees. Cos that is the perfect solution, right? Idiots.)

But moving swiftly on… the next day, Jim called me to invite me to an interview, and through a roundabout series of events including doing obscure HR tests for admin work, I got offered a job at SGI! This is brilliant news!! It’s only entry-level, but it’s a foot in the door at least, and could lead on to more exciting things. It being insurance, I’ve had to sign confidentiality agreements and things, so I can’t go in to too much detail on here obviously – fairly easy to agree to since I really don’t feel like I know what I’m doing yet anyway. I start on the 16th, so hopefully all will be revealed then!

Which does mean though, that I have ten days to try and find child care for Miranda again. This could prove tricky. Ugh.

I’ve been doing more poetry! It was Culture Days last weekend, and there was another poetry slam at the Mercury. We actually got to write in advance this time, so I was a little more prepared and wrote an empassioned rant about all the jobs we have to do under the umbrella term, ‘Mum’  This one was *just* before I got offered the job though. Maybe I should have polemicised far earlier!