Tag Archives: events

Off to the Edge

Today, Hopeless Maine is off to Festival at the Edge in Shropshire, in the UK. This is an exciting development for us. We’ve had a performance aspect to the project for some time, but this is our first time out with a script and a show. There are four of us, with songs, Maine folklore, and a story.

Hopeless, Maine started life as a graphic novel series. It was my husband’s idea. I came in to write scripts for the comics, then got into colouring and other things. It’s a world other people have wanted to play with, so we have a role play game and novellas and all sorts of other things going on. We’re always looking for ways to let more people in and do more good stuff.

Some years ago we were invited to participate in our local book festival, and given a stage on the Saturday night. What do you do with a comic at a book festival? It’s not like readings are realistic. We took a selection of short stories, some folk songs and a couple of extra people, and from there, the idea of performance grew.

I’ve been to enough events to know that authors at events aren’t reliably exciting. Unless you are already into an author, listening to them talk about their life and work isn’t interesting. And sometimes even when it’s an author you like, this isn’t a reliably fun way to spend an hour. Not all authors are good speakers or performers. If you’re a fairly obscure author – like me – then the odds of drawing an audience to your sales pitch aren’t great to begin with. But, people at events want to be amused. By offering something more interesting than a thinly veiled book pitch, I can usually get an audience.

With this in mind, we’ve been developing a performance side to Hopeless Maine ever since that first book festival event. We’ve taken songs and folklore to folk events. We’ve taken something like a radio show to a number of steampunk events. I’m plotting other things that can include more people. I’d rather be more entertaining. I have more fun at events being there as a performer than I do stood at a table.


Things I am doing

A bit of an update about what I’m up to at the moment!

I’m back down to a more manageable number of day jobs – I’m currently doing freelance work for Moon Books, Sloth Comics and Transition Stroud, alongside doing voluntary work for Transition Stroud and The Woodland Trust.

This weekend I’m off to Edinburgh for the Scottish Pagan Federation’s conference. This is my second event this month, having done the Pagan Federation Conference in Wakefield. In May, I have a video in the online Pagan Federation Conference, and am involved with Stroud’s Steampunk Weekend.

I’m still writing regular columns for Pagan Dawn, and for Sage Women Blogs.

I’m currently working on the script for the next Hopeless Maine graphic novel, fitting that in around the paying gigs as much as my concentration will allow. I have not put in the time I wanted to on finishing up an elements book, and I’ve still not found the time and energy to start on a spirits of place book. I don’t have enough hours of good concentration in a day – six is about as good as it gets, currently. It’s not enough, and I know I won’t improve this until I can take some more time off and rest up a bit. It is all too easy to get trapped in spirals of diminishing returns.

I’m still on Patreon. I’m finding it helpful because it makes me take the time each month for something creative. I’m also, frankly, glad of the money. I did slightly better than break even at Wakefield – which is good for an event, I’ve done plenty at a loss. I’m hoping to break even in Scotland. It’s necessary to get out there and do events to raise your profile as an author and sell books, but it is hard for authors to cover costs often, and the chances of coming out ahead are slim.

The amount of time that goes into writing makes it hard to make minimum wage doing it. Thinking about writing in those terms is just depressing so I mostly try not to, But, I have maybe six good hours of concentration in any given day, and I need to be economically active, so there are things to figure out. How much time I can give – to the blog, to voluntary work and to writing books alongside how much time I need to spend on things that earn money.

Fortunately I’m willing and able to live without many of the things that most people take for granted, which makes my home cheaper to run. But, time off can be a problem and I am craving a break. When I do an event and knock out a weekend, I can’t reliably take time off in the week to compensate. I managed a week off between Christmas and New Year, and I’m trying to get a week off in June. I’ll have to take a pay cut to do it – there is no other way. I do not get paid holiday leave from freelance work. I won’t be able to go on holiday for that week – the cost, and the effort of organising are beyond me. It would be nice to just slouch round the flat and read books, and sit under trees and that sort of thing.

If you like what I do, and want to help, then I really appreciate patreon support. Please consider supporting me. If you’d like to support me but can’t make an ongoing commitment, ko-fi is good for one off donations. Thank you.


Storing up spoons

I’ve got a big event coming up next weekend (Asylum in Lincoln) so am in the process of trying to get ready. For me, event preparation isn’t just about what to pack and what to say in workshops, or the set list for the castle stage (late Saturday afternoon, should you happen to be there!). Event preparation is about trying to make sure I have the energy I’ll need to get through the event and some rest time after it.

This has affected how I work for the entirety of August. I’ve been doing things here and there to make sure this last week isn’t a mad dash of covering for the days when I won’t be able to work online. I’ve been doing things to improve my chances of getting some time off after the event. There will be no late nights this week, socialising outside of the event is not an option. I’m budgeting in rest time. If I’m tired when I land at an event, the whole process is harder. This is an intensive three day event in the offing plus travelling on the days on either side of that. I will need all the spoons I can get.

Obviously life doesn’t always give me these options. I don’t always know when an exhausting thing is in the offing. I can’t always pace myself for a month to make sure I can handle a bigger thing. Sometimes I just have to deal with what comes up, and recover afterwards, without having planned for that recovery time. It is not easy juggling spoons and working. It is even harder jugging spoons and working when something unexpected and demanding gets into the mix.

I have less trouble with this than I used to – partly because my energy levels have improved a bit in the last few years. Partly because I’ve become very good at forward planning. Even when there’s nothing going on, I pace myself, I try to make sure I don’t wear myself out unless I am totally sure I can spend the next day in a limp heap. I’ve also got better at figuring out how to have those limp heap days. This in turn means that most of the time I can have a social life, and having a social life improves my overall resilience.

None of this is terribly obvious from the outside. The forward planning, and the cost afterwards aren’t noticeable to other people, when I get things right. I have no doubt the same is true of many other people who have got good and reliable strategies and know how to work around their own limitations. Of course not all energy limitations are predictable, either. If I have a really bad patch, all bets are off. For some people, there is no predictability so there’s no scope to outthink the problem.

People who see me at events will see an up-beat, communicative, outgoing person. Unless someone is dealing with me in a much more personal way, they won’t see my coping mechanisms and they won’t see what happens when I stop coping. On the whole, that suits me, but I’m aware it can create a misleading impression. It’s important to me to mention this, because you can’t see from the outside what’s going on with anyone and they may not choose to show you. If your first encounter is when they run out of options, it may be hard to believe what you’re seeing, if you never thought there was anything wrong. Knowing that people can have invisible energy issues can make it easier to respond well when you run into that.


Part of the flow

I’ve met one hell of a lot of people along the way in all manner of different capacities. Authors, pagans, comics artists, musicians, publishers, organisers of events… It’s given me considerable opportunity to see what works, and what doesn’t. There is a classic mistake that people make, and it is simply that they show up making some noise about whatever they’ve got and expecting people to take an interest. Many of the communities I’ve been involved with have been welcoming places, encouraging of new ideas and energy, but even in those contexts, just showing up with your thing tends to be unfruitful. Fruitless, even.

One of the reasons is that if you aren’t engaged, you don’t know what’s out there or where you fit. If, for example, you’re writing Steampunk books, but have never read any Steampunk books, listened to any of the music or been to the events, the odds of doing more than skimming the surface of the genre, are slim. This is often why first time authors are samey and derivative, in all genres – not because they’re emulating the greats, but because they haven’t read enough to know what’s been done to death already.

Most communities respond better to people who come up from a grass roots level on the inside. It’s true in politics, where candidates with the right face, air dropped in from some other place tend not to be popular on the ground. People tend to respond to you better as a leader of Pagan things if they’ve seen you learning your craft by showing up to stuff. Obviously tricky if you were the only pagan in your village. If you want to get respect as a folk musician, you don’t show up half an hour before your set, play it, and leave. You go to a session as well, or a singaround, or listen to someone else’s set.

All the most successful teachers and organisers I have known along the way have spent time sat quietly in other people’s events and lessons. Partly to learn (borrowing other people’s ideas!). Partly to support the wider community. Partly to network and get insights. Partly to be seen as someone who also shows up. This is something that works in a whole number of different ways all at the same time.

The person who turns up, is part of the flow. They put money in the hat, engage with the wider community, learn, give and participate. In online spaces, this can translate into things like reading other people’s blogs and responding to them, giving other people a shout out, reviewing, and the such. Giving something back. It’s not wise to expect things to flow towards you if you are not also creating flows of energy that go from you towards other people and spaces. Mostly, they don’t come towards you if nothing is moving out from you.

It’s also worth being watchful for spaces online that just consist of people who turn up to try and sell things. Back in the day of yahoo groups, this used to be a huge problem with ebook authors. You’d get hundreds of people on a list, all trying to sell their latest book. No one was listening, and no one was buying. Easily half of the writers hadn’t read enough of anything to know what made a good story, either.

It is so important to engage, it doesn’t matter what you do, or want to do, amateur, professional or somewhere in between. Get involved. Connect with people who are doing it already. Show up, participate. It will help you. It will help everyone else. Everyone wins.


Imagining the ancestors

Some of you may have read Druidry and the Ancestors. For those of you who haven’t… it’s not a history book, but a contemplation of the stories we tell about history. The narrative shapes we wrap around the past can tell us a lot about ourselves, and other people’s stories reveal a lot about cultures and assumptions too.
For many Pagans, the idea of ancestry can be uncomfortable. Many of us have rejected the religions of our most recent ancestors, and struggle with the people we are most closely related to.

Those of us who do not fit too well in the here and now may hark back to an imagined Pagan past in which we had a proper role as village wise woman, druid elder, cunning man, or however we self-identify. We may picture a culture in which our way of being would have made sense to those around us, and been supported.
We imagine the past. The stories we create around the ancestors we hope we had, help us work out how we want the world to be. History is all about the future. However, not all of our ancestral stories are consciously chosen, some come to us subliminally via our cultures and families. Not all stories are right, and not all are useful – wrong and useful may be a lot better than an unhelpful story with a factual basis.

If you happen to be in the north of England, I should like to invite you to an event. “Imaginary Ancestors” 9 August at 19:00, The Grand Hotel in Scarborough, North Yorkshire
http://www.facebook.com/#!/events/1388873817996797/
It says ‘talk’ but it’s going to be a mash up of assorted things. I’m going to ask people to think deeply about the imagined ancestors. There are no wrong answers here, only the truths that we carry with us, and the implications our personal truths have for how we live our own lives. If you don’t have a sense of distant pagan ancestry to root you, that’s not going to be a problem. Maybe I can help you build that thought form. If you’re just curious, that’s fine too. I’m not terribly despotic about this sort of thing!

If you aren’t in viable striking distance for Scarborough but are thinking this sounds like a good idea, feel free to get in touch. This event is happening because local-to-Scarborough pagan Debora undertook to set it up. I am travelling in the UK, I am willing to do moots, workshops, conferences, camps and other events, and any topic that pertains to the books or you’ve seen me cover on this blog is fair game. If there’s something you’d like me to tackle, ask. I’m more than happy to have a go at requests. I’ll give priority to events that are closer to home, able to help with transport or accommodation costs, (putting me up is one solution) and that fit in with the rest of my life, but my preferred answer is to say yes as much as I can.


Druid News

Welcome to the first instalment of druid news. I’m hoping to make a regular feature of it.

 

A new Bard of Exeter

The competition to find the new Bard of Exeter was held last Sunday at the Bike Shed Theatre in Exeter. The event was hosted by the Grand Bard of Exeter Mark Lindsey Earley and current co-Bards Clive Pig and Jackie Juno, who last January came equal first in the yearly competition, and made history by sharing the title.

This year there were seven contenders for the title; poets, singers, musicians and storytellers who all performed for up to seven minutes and read out their manifesto to the audience, after which the audience voted for their favourite performer.

Exeter’s new Bard is Jon Freeman, who had a runaway win with voters’ numbers; quite the reverse of last year’s neck-and-neck result.

 

 

Imbolc for Little Ones

Author Siusaidh Ceanadach has a booklet out with Imbolc content for parents of young children, and a helpful explanation to wave at teachers. As many schools are inclusive and open to recognising the various faiths of their pupils (at least here in the UK) teachers can be very supportive of pagan children. The trouble is; they don’t tend to know a great deal about what might suit. Wading in as a parent and trying to squeeze in an explanation whilst fielding a rioting young person or two, is not the easiest option. This is a handy little text, great for working with the smallest pagans in an inclusive but not indoctrinating sort of way, and perfect for passing on to other adults in their lives – not just teachers.

 

Siusaidh has been distributing pdfs from her facebook account, but if you aren’t connected to her there, leave a message and I can pass it along.

 

Jackie Juno charity gig

The new Grand Bard of Exeter Jackie Juno has a gig on Friday 27 January at the Civic Hall, Totnes (UK) at 7.30pm.  It is a comedy cabaret raising funds for the South Hams Green Party and features Jackie, Matt Harvey (of Radio 4) and Clive Pig (my fellow co-Bard 2010-2011) with stand-up poetry, music and songs.

 

www.myspace.com/jackiejuno

www.mattharvey.co.uk

www.clivepig.com

 

 

 

Share your news

If you want to get your news mentioned here, mail brynnethnimue (at) gmail (dot) com – short and sweet is good, by all means include links. Don’t send pictures, I have a hard time of it uploading anything big and complicated. I’m happy to include events, courses, book releases, new websites, new groups, things druids have been up to, or things you’ve spotted in the news that seem relevant to the druid community. Arty, crafty, musical or literary people with stuff to sell are welcome to present themselves if they can find a news angle. I’m not averse to personal news. No witchwars content, no conspiracy theories, no ‘I know a bloke who met this guy down the pub who said…’ tales. I’m looking for good news where possible. The mainstream does plenty enough of the miserable content already.