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Portfolio Careers

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Poet/teacher/flower grower

Though many of our readers write full time and make a living from their writing, for the majority writing is one of a portfolio of activities, both paid and unpaid, that make up their working lives. Here’s how Sally Baker described her life for the ‘My portfolio career’ slot in the magazine. Pitch Mslexia if you’d like to tell us about your working life. 

'I'm developing a poetry sequence about different types of invasive weed, as metaphors for different relationships.' 

‘When people ask what I do, I usually say that I teach poetry and grow flowers. I write poetry too, but I don’t normally include that – because I’m not paid for it, I suppose. It’s a constant struggle to make ends meet, but I love everything that I do. 

‘I teach poetry for the WEA one day a week and I lead shared reading groups one and a half days a week for The Reader, a charity that brings people together to connect through great literature. I spend another day a week preparing for my classes. 

‘I have two allotments – one for flowers and one for vegetables. The watering alone takes two hours every evening in the summer. I also rent a field for growing flowers – I pay the rent for the field in vegetables! I supply local shops and do the flowers for weddings and funerals, and wreaths at Christmas. And I run workshops throughout the year – for flower-arranging, terrarium growing, wreath-making – and manage the gardens for several clients, for around a day a week, which brings in some regular income.

Around a third of my income comes from my flower and gardening business, a third from my teaching, and a third from my work for The Reader.

‘I’ve just completed a part-time poetry MA and I still workshop poems every week with poets from the MA, so that’s half a day working on poems too. I’m developing a poetry sequence about different types of invasive weed, as metaphors for different relationships.’