Today, several boxes of my brand new poetry book 'Simply Modern Life' arrived on my doorstep....an exciting moment for a poet.
"But hang on a minute" someone asked "Didn't you write a fiction book? Aren't you the person who published her debut novel 'Different Genes' last year?"
Yes, that is also me. I am a poet and a debut novelist, and the diversity of my writing has, on occasions, led to a minor identity crisis.
To complicate matters further, up until my mid-fifties, I was a primary Headteacher. That was how I defined myself. My professional writing consisted of school reports, documents for governors, and occasional articles on education for the local authority. My creative writing was restricted to school Christmas plays and poetry for family occasions. Then one day I broke free. It's called 'early retirement'. I did so gradually by taking on other educational responsibilities, but I was nevertheless suddenly in charge of my own writing destiny.
The poet within me quickly emerged.....not a 'deep thinking layers of meaning' sort of poet, but simply someone who could manipulate language structure and rhyme into verses which would make people smile, and occasionally challenge their thinking. Combined with my years of experience in education, I soon found myself on the speaker circuit, reading my rapidly growing repetoire of poetry, and talking about my transition from Headteacher to Performance Poet. I called my first talk 'Retiring with Rhyme' and often still use this title.
Was I nervous about public speaking? After years of teaching, not especially.
What worried me most was what I should wear. What would a poet in her late fifties look like? What sort of image did I want to project?
At this point, I feel I should point at that my first attempts at looking like a 'poet' failed miserably.
I had this idea of presenting myself as an itinerant bard, something like an Elizabethan minstrel. I envisaged myself in a large felt hat and long patchwork jacket. With no design team to advise me and a very small budget, I bought a cheap multi-coloured hat from a company called 'Happy Hats' and some patchwork trousers from a local outfitters. The result was a cross between a court jester and geriatric clown. No wonder my daughter curled up in embarrassment!
Then again, I do like hats. So once I discovered people were prepared to pay me a small fee for my appearances, I felt justified in making the move from 'Happy Hats' to something a little more expensive.
This was hat number 2, bought for my appearance in the finals of 'Hastings Has Got Talent'.
At around this time, I was temporarily adopted by an agent for speakers on cruise ships. I say 'temporarily', because she has never secured me a booking. Anyway, this lady suggested I might be more successful at marketing myself as a cruise speaker if I looked like a 'real' writer. She requested a 'normal' photo of me sat at a desk with some of my books. This was the result.
This outfit was immensely useful for Christmas performances, and I preferred the hat, because it sat neatly on my head and didn't shade my face. In fact I liked the hat so much, that I bought an identical blue one, and then a blue top to match from a stall on Rye Market.
And it is from my 'blue phase' that I have brought my latest poetry book 'Simply Modern Life' into the world. (The ebook is on Amazon now. Printed copies will be available shortly.)
I still have two websites, but at least I have now included both a poetry photo and a novelist photo on my website www.clairebaldry.co.uk . I am beginning to explore ways of pulling the roles together.
If ever I decide to write a non-fiction book, please try and stop me. I will run out of identities!
In the meantime, if you would like to book a performance poet/writer with an identity crisis for your club or special event, then please email firstname.lastname@example.org . I try to keep my fees at £50 or less. I have over 50 bookings in 2018, so can't squeeze much more in, but I still have some spaces for 2019. I mostly work locally, but if you live somewhere interesting which is further afield anywhere in the UK, I will consider combining my booking with a trip away, and won't charge expenses.
"We all loved having you Claire! After you had left there was still a buzz with everyone singing your praises. THANK YOU for a very special evening. It's so good that you are willing to share your gifts and talents!"
INK SPOT WRITERS PEVENSEY DEC 2016