Sunday, June 24, 2012

Mercurial

So one day I'm sitting in the sun at the Monte Carlo Beach Hotel, pausing between writing sprints at a very interesting (and challenging) conference and next I'm brought back down to earth by one of those flaky arts organisations with a big idea run by women who don't need to work. A week and a day before they want me to do a workshop they haven't sent a contract and I haven't spoken to a teacher at the school they want me to visit. I'd forgotten just how unprofessional and casual some of these people are who call themselves producers, as if it gives them status as a creator of anything other than frustration.

But it's good to be reminded of how mercurial freelancing is because I've had three years protection from some of the charletans, wannabes and incompetents that squat in the free-market economy of the arts.

The protection's come from the Royal Literary Fund which places a welcome shield over writers and offers us brief respite from a world that frankly is not a nice place to be, particularly when you've hit 57 and should be retiring to write the killer memoire.

Oh for the chance! Would I start with the woman I worked with who pretended to be a social worker to get an interview for a tabloid, or the rival news agency reporter who threatened me on the stairs of a county court when I was covering a story about Hells Angels? Or perhaps the head teacher who thought the school's cookery room would be okay for poetry workshops and then there was the line I overheard that made my blood run cold: 'Shall we put Jackie in the skate park?'

It's worth remembering as the months unfold ahead. But I'm optimistic I'll be able to dodge the charletans and work with professionals at organisations with integrity....

There are organisations setting standards like The Poetry Trust - so on top of what poetry's about, expert, intelligent,  The Poetry Society's education team, my compatriots in WordWorksbySea. And my publisher Arc, very in evidence at Poetry Parnassus this week with a team of international poets despite a flood at its Yorkshire HQ.