2016 my first Olympic year milestone. I know generally people have a ‘5 year plan’, but I decided in 2013, when I gave up a full-time career (at a current loss of about £60K – what is money…) and embarked on my creative life instead that I would use the Olympic model. I was inspired by London 2012 and listened to many successful athletes talking about life before the Gold medal. For many this was their 4th (and last) games and winning has an almost entirely invisible to the public trail behind it.
Part of the ethos of the blog is honesty, to share the rejection as well as success, expose the hidden underbelly creatives face daily. The theory behind the Olympics was my imagining but I have learnt in the past 3 years of networking that many of the poets and artists I admire are about 16+ years in. It is entirely possible. I believed it and now I know it is true.
2013 – Learning
In the first year I built a steady foundation. I used to write, was published in anthologies as a young writer and performed into my early 20s. I trained in Creative Writing on a modular writing course facilitated by (famous) professionals, in Leicester and lived a creative life (until I couldn’t afford to eat).
It has been over a decade since I last wrote and the writing world had changed, I was out of practise and out of touch. Workshops and writing classes were an important initial investment. It took me 10 months before I wound my way back to poetry, which although one of the smaller writing markets, has always been my natural home. I can write, but I am a poet.
I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo, Spring and Summer and the official NaNoWriMo in November. I spent the words on a Non-Fiction manuscript I have been writing (mainly in my head) on and off for the past 13 years. It was the last thing I worked on in 2002, the year my writing stopped. I blew the dust off and picked it up again this year in Nano. I also worked on some short stories.
My main focus was to establish this blog and I spent hours typing away thinking ‘what if I actually used this time to write?’ I have no regrets though, this is an award winning, well established blog with lots of traffic and steadily increasing statistics.
My first public performance was in Leamington at Julie Boden’s Spoken Word night, where I met Dave Reeves. Within 2 weeks of finding myself back in the heart of poetry I met the local poetry scene and volunteered to work for Writing West Midlands. I performed at Birmingham Book to the Future Festival, in Stratford-Upon-Avon at an Emma Press Book Launch and Worcester.
I submitted some prose work and had a poem published.
I established INKSPILL – an annual virtual writing retreat. It was important to keep it FREE, catering for all those people who want and need it, but cannot afford it. In future years this may change, but now in its 4th year it is still FREE and accessible to anyone, although I do encourage a FOLLOW to the blog as a thank you. The initial idea came from an email I received about Iyanla_Vanzant’s Wonder Woman Weekend, which I couldn’t attend as I couldn’t afford to get to America.
I went to the Birmingham Literature Festival and Book to the Future Festival.
2014 – Performing
After returning to performing poetry at the tail-end of 2013, 2014 became my touring year. Whatever I earn from writing will just about cover my 2014 fuel bill!
I became an Assistant Writer for Writing West Midlands and performed in over 107 places, I started taking bookings as a Headline performer. I also worked on commissioned projects, some for established festivals. I realised that as an artist, I enjoy doing unusual things with my writing and sought opportunities to do more than perform and write words.
I sent a pamphlet out and got rejected. Unlike 2013, where my focus was learning, this year was performing. I was writing lots and submitted a lot more work, with a clearer recording system. I had many individual poems placed and published and enjoyed celebrating the successful year in an event called ‘One Year a Poet’. 6 poems appeared in 3 anthologies, 2 poems were published in magazines, 4 poems published online. I had a poem on the Poetry Fence at Acton Scott Farm, another on the Wenlock Poetry Trail, Wenlock Poetry Festival 2014, 21 Haikus were used in an installation at the Midlands Arts Centre (MAC), another was displayed in a local library by an Arts Network. That’s 36 poems out there in the real world. In August I decided, incredibly last minute to submit my pamphlet to V. Press. My hesitation was having to deal with rejection again.
Performance highlights include; performing in Worcester LitFest alongside Adrian Mealing for the first part of Jonny FluffyPunk’s show. My moustache poem had been written with him in mind, so it was great to perform it in front of him.
The moustache poem was part of a set with other work being collaborative between myself and Tim Scarborough. This duo experience was sadly short lived, as he fell in love and focussed on his drumming business. But if we have time in the future, it is not a closed door.
I opened the Arts All Over the Place Festival, in support of Mental Health. A cause close to my heart as it was through suffering depression that I made my life changes and found myself picking up my pen again.
I performed at Worcester Music Festival.
I did some 1 to 1 Mentoring for Writing West Midlands and promoted Daniel Sluman’s second collection ‘the terrible’ (Nine Arches Press). I reviewed this poetry book, loving hand made and a joy to read, for Sarah Hymas.
INKSPILL included Guest Writers; William Gallagher, Charlie Jordan & Heather Wastie.
I went to Wenlock Poetry Festival, Worcester LitFest, Birmingham Literature Festival, Stratford Literature Festival, Arts All Over the Place, Book to the Future, Ledbury Poetry Festival, Worcester Music Festival.
Who could forget this was the year of 52. A poetry year created by Jo Bell, with weekly prompts and over 500 people taking part. An incredible project to be part of. I am so glad that Jo Bell invited me to take part. I also told several local poets about it and they have since had great success from work produced during this time, as well as forming friendships with many poets across the UK and beyond.
©Murdock Ramone Media
2015 – Submitting & Performing
My poetry pamphlet was accepted by V. Press, which has to be my biggest achievement so far. 14 months after embarking back on my poetry path, I had the opportunity to publish my first book.
V. Press have worked hard in creating a strong debut pamphlet and I had my first experience of professional editing, lots of changes were made to the content before the editing process could begin. I dreamed that my pamphlet would be published in 2015 alongside, Jacqui Rowe, David O’Hanlon and Claire Walker. This was not to be and although I found this difficult and even harder to see each book since, I know that my own pamphlet needed time to germinate.
11 poems were published online, 4 poems were published in anthologies and 3 poems were published in poetry magazines. I mainly worked on my manuscript poetry. I had one short prose piece published too. 18 pieces of work flying around in the real world and a pamphlet in the pipeline.
I continued to get bookings as a Headline/Guest Poet, including Cheltenham and Shrewsbury, performed in London for the first time at HARK Magazine launch, performed at Charity Fundraisers, entered Worcestershire Poet Laureate and was a runner up, became a Lead Writer for Writing West Midlands, took part in Caldmore Community Garden Poetry workshops with David Calcutt (Poet in Residence), was booked as one of ten poets for the Quiet Compere Tour, Midlands leg (Sarah Dixon), went back to London to perform at The Poetry Café for the Paper Swans Press launch of Schooldays anthology, commissioned for National Poetry Day Light and Shade event and took part in my first Poetry Brothel event, organised by Caged Arts for Halloween and performed at Waterstones.
INKSPILL had guest writers; Daniel Sluman, David Calcutt and Alison May.
I went to Wenlock Poetry Festival, Worcester LitFest, Birmingham Literature Festival, Stratford Literature Festival, Walsall Festival, Arts All Over the Place, Poetry Festival Swindon, Book to the Future, Ledbury Poetry Festival.
2016 – The 1st Games – Writing & Editing
This year’s story cannot be written yet, but I am still Headlining and have finally finished the pamphlet. It is to be published by V. Press, date yet to be announced.
I am delighted to mark the Olympic year with something so massive!
I am currently organising INKSPILL, guest writers will be announced in the Autumn and I am incredibly excited.
Festivals have taken a backseat this year, so have performances as I tied myself to the desk to finish writing and editing.
Submissions started well – since April I have not submitted anything as I have been attached to the manuscript and at times attempting to detach myself enough to see what is for the best. I am neglecting the end of July’s submission window as I want to focus on the current project. ‘Operation pamphlet’. Contracts have been signed and it is beginning to become real.
4 poems published online, 5 published in poetry magazines, 3 poems published in 2 e-books, 1 poem in a chapbook and 5 poems in 2 anthologies and the pamphlet soon. 20 – 40 poems flying around in the world. A grand total of 95 poems. I know I can smash 100 before the end of this 4 year marker. I don’t hold a number as a target. I just write and keep my eye out and when something takes my fancy I aim and fire. I have a long list of rejections as well. Learning what publications, journals and editors want and like is an ongoing process and involves reading and subscribing and supporting the poetry market. It is fun and I look forward to more training and success.
Saffron Toms © 2014
Pamphlet to be published by V. Press
Lead Writer Writing West Midlands
Facilitator/ Creator of INKSPILL (4th Year)
Poet – 95 poems published