Author: Emma Sedlak

Building a Creative Hive


Thursday, 30th July 2016

After posting to the FB hive-mind this morning about a remote job opportunity that came through my inbox, I realised: there is an untapped and potentially disconnected community of creative people, who are maybe looking for jobs, maybe looking for work, maybe looking for fulfilment, support, encouragement, collaboration.

I can’t offer solutions to everything, and the new proposal I’m developing may not work for everyone. But my suspicion is: we need a new way to stay connected, to share information, and to hoist each other up.


Since April 2015, I’ve finished my PhD, gone full-time in a remote content development job, moved countries, moved apartments, relocated a cat (no mean feat!), left the job, gone to ten auditions, performed in two musicals and one opera, taught fifteen poetry/writing workshops, submitted (countless) poems, worked with five freelance clients, and tutored six students.

And, in amongst all of this, I’ve applied for twenty-five new jobs.

Juggling all of this is above and beyond my organisational abilities. I’ve had to create new systems for myself, and one of the largest ones is keeping track of applications (poems, employment, or otherwise). When did I apply? What was the company? What was the role? When should I hope to hear back?

Rejection is hard. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. It wears down even the most resiliently optimistic of us. I’ve spent quite a few years wading through rejection: of poems, of grad programs, of jobs, of apartments — and in amongst all of this, I’ve been trying to find a way to strengthen my resolve, my resiliency, and my reserve.

Spread-sheeting all the details has turned the process into a game.

When in doubt, the gamification of difficult experiences is a great way to make rejection easier. But there’s more to resiliency than just having a good stomach for rejection.

What are we talking about?

In hunting for jobs for 8 months in Australia, I’ve become well-versed at finding leads and connections toward things that relate to a specific cross-section of interests:

Remote work. I enjoy remote work. It has been necessary for the past few years with all of my moving around. There are lots of good reasons to seek out a remote job, and the opportunities are growing.

– Editing. With lots of freelance clients, I’ve gotten good at finding work, determining fair rates, process work-flow, procedures, contracts, you name it.

– Teaching. I’m not talking about 9-5 teaching, here. I’m talking about running workshops, giving talks, presenting frameworks, developing strategies to pitch to educational institutions of all kinds.

– Writing. Day-to-day writing. Submissions. Contests. Copy-writing jobs. Freelance. Creativity. Blogging. All things words.

– Developing ideas. I wanted to make a website. I had no idea how to build it on my own. My friend Brian called me from Amsterdam and walked me through setting it up. Other friends supported me by asking me to clarify my ideas. It’s made me think: what else do I need a sounding board for? What other ideas do I have that I’d like to share and get feedback on?

– Networking. I’ve moved from Scotland, to the US, to Amsterdam, to Scotland, to Australia. We’ve needed to build and rebuild communities. Professional networks, friends, people who can take us under their wing and just give us some space, and support, and clarity.

– And more…

When I recently found two new jobs and “went off the job-hunting market” as it were, I’m still finding opportunities crossing my path. More opportunities than when I was still searching, when I still had space and time in my schedule. And more opportunities than I could possibly have taken advantage of alone.

I’m also finding connections between people. New friends I’m making, Uber drivers, people I meet on the street: almost everyone links back somehow to one or more of these areas.

This seems to be a rich space for opportunities.

Where do the opportunities come from?

I’ve had innumerable freelance and small-scale jobs throughout my life, but when I think of my most influential and growth-inducing jobs I can safely say that I’ve had four. So far.

In 2010, I was finishing my masters’ degree in Creative Writing, and I wanted to branch out into running community programs. My friend’s husband worked at Merchiston Academy in Edinburgh. He introduced me to the librarian. I ran three programs there.

In 2011, a fellow poet referred me to a remote writing tutoring gig. I kept it for almost 4 years.

In 2013, I took an online course called Grace and Gratitude hosted by Sarah Kathleen Peck. I gifted one to my friend (same friend whose husband connected me to Merchiston). In 2014, she alerted me to Sarah’s email asking for a Teaching Assistant to help her deliver a new course “Content Strategy for Thought Leaders.”

I wrote an email to SKP titled: Applying for the TA position. AKA I want to work with you. 

I closed it with complete honesty: More than anything, I am committed to supporting what you do. I believe in your talent for sharing these skills and values with the world, on a personal level.

I will keep this brief, because I know you are probably working through a lot of emails. But if you have any questions or need any more information, please, please let me know.

We worked together for a few months. Now, we’re friends; and I feel like we’re collaborating on something life-, work-, human- related on a daily basis.

In late 2014, SKP connected me to Michael Margolis and Get Storied. She was just about to finish working with them, and knew they would be looking for some style of her replacement. I did amazingly fulfilling work with them from December 2014 – November 2015.

What’s the connection between the opportunities?

I think a better way to phrase this is to look at the connections that led to the opportunities.

I’ve almost never networked with someone from a company who then proceeded to give me a job. Instead, the connections that led to the job came from a friend throwing it across my bow.

Friends who have had too many freelance clients, and wanted to share the load. I can’t take this job right now; is it something you might want to work on?

Friends who see an advertisement I didn’t: Hey, do you want to check out this job posting? It looks right up your alley.

Friends who just passively post amazing things on Facebook! Here’s a list of open writing submissions for February. (True story: that’s how I’m getting my poetry collection published. SKP again for the win.)

Friends who have worked in previous jobs in my field.

Friends who were recently on the job-hunt market, and have an overload of new leads that they don’t need.

Friends who are submitting for a contest and know it’s also something I might be interested in. Yes, people who are in direct competition with me are feeding me information they know might hopefully benefit at least one of us. I’m applying for this. You should too. Want to throw in an application together?

What am I proposing?

I’m proposing a beta-test of connecting people together. Of taking this off Facebook, and making The Creative Hive. This Slack community team is going to be a place to network, to share resources and ideas, or just a central place to find creative people we can send new opportunities to.

So, the relevant questions:

– Are you looking for remote work?

– Are you a writer, working on submissions, or a project, or freelancing, or getting a new idea off the ground?

– Are you a freelance copywriter/editor?

– Are you interested in teaching, creating workshops, giving talks, or widening your professional reach?

– Are you looking for some new reading, resources, ideas, or philosophical chats?

– Are you needing some more inspiration or like-mindedness in your life?

– Are you a grass-roots movement kind of person?

If you’ve answered yes to any of these, hop on over to this Google Form and fill out your details:

Let’s get the creative minds working!

Love is Love and the Unmaking of Joy

Love is love is love is love - Lin Manuel Miranda

Love is love is love is love – Lin Manuel Miranda

Thursday, 26th June 2016

When I heard the news about the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, I cried for three days straight.

To say that this is difficult to talk about — to explain, in words, how some tragedies are beyond language — is really a pointless effort.

And yet, poetry gets to the heart of the matter. Poetry uses words, takes possession of emotion through language, and distills it down to the most essential parts. As a poet, words are my currency. As a poet, wordless emotions are my constant impossible task.

I couldn’t write anything for a while: because I didn’t know what to say. Because there really isn’t anything to say that will make it better. Because it’s hard to speak through crying, even on paper. Because I couldn’t grasp why I was so emotionally wrecked by something that happened on the other side of the world, to people I had never met, didn’t know, with whom I wasn’t connected through any relevant degrees of separation. Because I questioned why I was feeling this way at all.

Say what we will about social media: it holds power. A friend of mine shared a Buzzfeed article about how many young people were moving forward from the Orlando massacre by using the momentum and emotions to share their LGBTQ identities with their loved ones. Coming out during the shock of this tragedy, coming out of the fear, horror, and hatred — moving toward something empowering. A way to give a second life to the wonderful souls who had just lost theirs.

Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote and recited an amazingly impassioned sonnet during his Tony Awards acceptance speech. Leaning to the same impulse to put words to immutable, inexplicable sadness.

My wife’s the reason anything gets done.
She nudges me towards promise by degrees.
She is a perfect symphony of one.
Our son is her most beautiful reprise.

We chase the melodies that seem to find us
Until they’re finished songs and start to play.
When senseless acts of tragedy remind us
That nothing here is promised, not one day.

This show is proof that history remembers.
We live through times when hate and fear seem stronger.
We rise and fall, and light from dying embers
Remembrances that hope and love last longer.

And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love;
Cannot be killed or swept aside.

I sing Vanessa’s symphony; Eliza tells her story.
Now fill the world with music, love, and pride.

Lin-Manuel Miranda

I’m not LMM, and I’m not accepting any awards. But I took the opportunity to come out to my friends and family, to my wider circle of friends and acquaintances, and to share another light on the many lives we are born into.



On Orlando: The Unmaking of Joy

by Emma Sedlak

It’s virtually impossible to find the right words in the face of mass tragedies like the shooting in Orlando. In fact, it’s virtually impossible to find any words at all.

The poet Donte Collins writes: “I don’t have language. I don’t have language. I throw up my hands. I weep.”

I read Donte’s writing, where he talks about his journey: “I think of national coming out day. Of pride. I think of sweat seeping back into the body. The unmaking of joy. I think of 16-year-old Donte afraid to cross his legs.”

I think of my heart, and how it hurts right now. My heart is with anyone whose heart has been broken. Any hearts that have stopped beating. Any hearts who wish they could have.

Any beautiful humans who have left us, and any lives that have come to their untimely, impossible conclusion.

These are moments that are excruciating to share through words, but I offer up these ones because the shootings at Pulse are a tragedy that has shaken the safe spaces of belonging. These spaces are difficult for many of us to carve out, and so they should be sacred. And the hard act of carving them should be shared and celebrated.

Some of us are born into our lives already feeling like we don’t exactly fit the mould. We’re shaped into the world as we grow, and only later discover that the world often needs reshaping around us in order to feel like we fully belong. It’s not an easy process to articulate. It’s a chrysalis of un-belonging before our worlds can be remade.

Sometimes this is love. Sometimes this is a life calling. Sometimes this is part of our identity. Whatever it is, it is a skin that no longer fits, until we shed it and find that we now have wings where our scars once were.



“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born, and the day you find out why.” – Mark Twain

We’re born twice, and sometimes more if we’re lucky. First: coming up for air, eyes coloured by the foreign entering of light. First, we cannot hold up our heads, cannot control our mouths yet. There’s so much we cannot translate. So much effort goes into just living. The breathing, the eating, the sleeping, the interdependence.

We’re built upon villages and cities of people: the ones who feed us, the ones who raise us, the ones who keep us safe—or do none of the above, but are supposed to. We stand up as we grow, or as we raise ourselves.

Time shapes us into the humans we have always been becoming. Life forms around us in the wake of the shape we begin to make, an impression upon the world.

And then one day, we might be born again. We feel it: the pulse. The pull of something new, another foreign light, what was unknown is crossing our horizon and feels so much like home. It’s a person, a love, a new perspective, a new skin and identity. It’s what calls us, what has always been calling us. And now we have the ears to hear how the world has been speaking to us all along.

I have always been afraid I’m the only one who holds this language. Do you recognize the phrase, the handshake, or the head shake? In our second lives, we start out even lonelier than our first birth. This time, we venture out into a strange land among all the old familiars. We have to find the room in our old lives to hold space for all the new things being born. How can I be your daughter and form this new identity? How will this go, if so much of my journey depends on how graciously you can let me go?

How can I teach you my new language when I’m not fluent yet?

This second life runs the risk of making us smaller. On the precipice before we can throw a birthday party for what has woken up our lives, the impulse is to duck and hide. To take care of all our transformation in a cocoon, until we can introduce you to the finished person. Don’t look at me while I’m still being born.

We cannot hold up our heads. We cannot control our mouths yet. We don’t have the language for being in the middle of translation. So much effort goes into just living. The forming of who we are, and how the world might come to meet us, how it will reshape around us this time.

New people speak your language, and there are ways to translate it back to our old lives. The beauty is in shedding skin, and having wings—and we don’t need to be finished before we can be visible.

Life has called you. Resist the urge to turn away, feeling nervous at not having all the words yet. Don’t make yourself small, or make yourself silent. The unmaking of joy is just to make it new again, and stronger.


Originally published on The Mindful Word, June 2016


ON ORLANDO: The Unmaking of Joy

Where You Are: Everywhere



Tuesday, 14th June 2016

There are some things we just shouldn’t have words for. Language is inadequate. Touch, love, and empathy is better.

But where there can be words, Mark Doty is better.


I thought I’d lost you. But you said I’m imbued

in the fabric of things, the way
that wax lost from batik shapes
the pattern where the dye won’t take.
I make the space around you,

and so allow you shape. And always
you’ll feel the traces of that wax
soaked far into the weave:
the air around your gestures,

the silence after you speak. 
That’s me, that slight wind between
your hand and what you’re reaching for;
chair and paper, book or cup:

that close, where I am: between
where breath ends, air starts.


by Mark Doty, from Where You Are

The Menteur – Flux Issue

Blue Mountains -- photo by Emma Sedlak, 2015

Blue Mountains — photo by Emma Sedlak, 2015

Monday, 30th May 2016

I received an email yesterday from The Menteur Magazine, letting me know that they’ve published my poems in their Flux themed current edition. The Menteur is an arts and literary magazine written, edited, and produced by the University of Kent’s Humanities MA students.

The theme of the Spring 2016 edition is ‘flux’, which has inspired a multitude of poetry, prose, non-fiction, art and photography submissions that explore ideas of change, transition and flow.

The magazine is out now and currently available in print at the University of Kent’s campuses in Canterbury and Paris. Soon, it will also be available online here:

(Meanwhile, feel free to check out some back-issues. It looks like a great magazine!)

The editors haven’t yet confirmed which of my poems made it into the magazine, but all four of the pieces I submitted are included in Where We Find Ourselves, my forthcoming poetry collection from Blue Hours Press.

In the wake of Godspell’s closing weekend, I’m currently in a small window of liminal space. It isn’t a huge amount of flux, compared with other snapshots from my life — but it is a space between creative endings and beginnings.

Whether you’re also in a moment of flux, or just letting the current carry you along: come along for the ride.

Lothian Road¹


An end to this seems too tidy,
too complete for someone rooted
in the ground of waiting.

But finally, it happens.
The traffic opens
in a widening silence.

Step out into this emptied river.
Wade through the spaces
between things.

Consider this carefully:
now is the chance
to change course.

The current washes past,
compels you nowhere,
but carries you here.


Life Map²


Four directions: This (now), That (then), There (ahead), and Here (always).

1. Now-Then

Between This and That, the streets seem orderly, pre-planned. Few shifts have happened yet. These streets would be where you expect them, with childhood, Britain, tri-state area, their story, my story, these stories. Distinct roads, sometimes crossing. The difference between family, friends, self. Some dead-ends: dancing, law, chemistry. The renamed streets: Ex-Close, Left Street.

2. Now-Ahead

Between This and There, the streets follow a river. The river is Change. The river changes its name, and is later Being. A path cuts through the park called No Path. The buildings are where you want them to be.

A few things repeat: Music, books, laughter, voice. A graveyard for what has been given up: greed, judgment, immunity, obsession. There are smaller trees in the the park, young, new to the light: wait, watch, learn, unlearn. The current house is consistent.

3. Ahead-Always.

Between There and Here, things align. But less than half is mapped so far.

4. Then-Always.

Between That and Here, a few things are firmly rooted: what I want more than life is to see love in these hands. A garden with small plants. A knowingness. Of how and what to tend.

Letter To My Husband³


Walk down to the stream sometime as if it were the ocean: small waves at your feet, a constant traveler. Sit and rest while the tide hurries on — hand it your shoes, socks, build a dam of rocks and know the next eyes to see them will not be your eyes. Apologise: to your feet if you’ve misused them, to your heart and lungs if you’ve bruised them, to your energy for excusing everything that drained it. Displace your stress. Don’t reclaim it.

Let it float downstream.

In the office, no one knows where you have been — don’t make up stories. Words aren’t enough for most people, and they still think time is boring, or something to rush through until the friction strips years off them. Tell them you think you’ve had a dream of how monotony grows into meaning.

Pour a glass of water. But treat it like the stream.



Time is the opposite of an anchor 4


time is an illusive marker
along the route
an unreliable scale
at the bottom of the map

time is the opposite of an anchor

a waterfall recycling
down Escher’s stairs
an eternal return
and departure

time is when my father drowned me
for a brief moment in a deluge
of memory I never
wanted to own

time the moment in the nightmare
plummeting to what seems like death
when you are snapped back
by your waking body

time is running out of the door
and into the ocean
and into the sky

¹ Traffic in Edinburgh is so dependent on major arteries. Living in the West End between 2012 and 2015, we had tramworks right outside our door. The major arteries were always interrupted. As a pedestrian, it’s easy to get around road-blocks, new one-way systems that crop up with the frequency and ferocity of weeds. It’s also phenomenologically easier to lose yourself to thought and ponderings.

Suggested reading: Wunderlust: On How Walking Vitalizes the Meanderings of the Mind by Rebecca Solnit.

“Walking is how the body measures itself against the earth.” – Rebecca Solnit


² The Bookmaker shared an article with me once about how we map our own experience. (She’s shared many articles and art commentaries about maps with me over the years — this was one such specific instance). It sparked this poem: a desire to map a life in language, but using visual cartographic markers. It made me curious about how we map through time, as well as through space. In order to map my life, I need to pull out themes, I need to look at how certain things grow and others erode. I have to have some idea of which horizon I’m heading toward, even if it’s shrouded in the distance.

This, That, There, and Here are physical indicators. I paired them with the temporal indicators now, then, ahead, and always — because even a short map of a life should capture dimensional cross-sections.


³ All of this in one sentence: I’m sorry work has been hard, and I wish there was something more I could give you to remind you of what life should really feel like outside of the office.

This poem was later retitled “Letter To Susie Kim” because I re-gifted it as a going-away present to a friend moving from Sydney to Byron Bay.


4 Time is a fickle thing. It’s relative. It’s cyclical. And yet we still think it is a unique, omnipotent dictator.

It holds memories. It has a powerful tide. It freezes and continues. Sometimes, it keeps you.


Godspell 2016

Emma singing "O Bless the Lord" in Godspell, 2016

Emma singing “O Bless the Lord” in Godspell, 2016

Tuesday, 24th May

I’m currently singing the role of Joanne in the Eastwood Uniting Church Musical Society’s production of Godspell.


Shows are entering into the final weekend:

Friday 27th May at 8pm, and Saturday 28th May at 1pm and 7pm.

We’re expecting the weekend to sell out, so make sure to buy tickets ahead of time here!

Godspell is a joyful, upbeat show by Stephen Schwartz (Wicked, Pippin, The Baker’s Wife), based on Biblical accounts of the life and teaching of Jesus Christ, but set in a contemporary era.

The show is not built on a traditional plot, but rather focuses on Jesus and a small group of followers who share and enact stories/parables and lessons using a range of theatrical styles, storytelling techniques, games and much comedy. In the second act, the show begins to follow a more linear narrative as Jesus is betrayed, crucified and resurrected.

Although Godspell has set characters and a script, just exactly who those characters are (eg. what “type” of people they are) can vary greatly from production to production, particularly according to where the show is set.

This production of Godspell will be set in the vicinity of a modern-day Sydney railway station. As such, the characters are likely to come from a cross-section of contemporary Sydney society in a wide range of ages, and cultural/socioeconomic backgrounds.

We are excited to be performing Stephen’s re-worked 2012 version of the Godspell score with the original libretto.

Godspell – Closing Weekend

He healeth thine infirmities, and ransoms thee from death... 'O Bless the Lord,' Godspell

He healeth thine infirmities, and ransoms thee from death… ‘O Bless the Lord,’ Godspell


Monday, 23rd May 2016

We’re heading toward the closing weekend of EUCMS’ production of Godspell. With many sold-out performances, there are only three chances left to make ’em laugh, make ’em cry, make ’em feel all the feels and sing along in their heads. (Spoiler: there’s lots of catchy material that sends the audience off humming into the afternoon and evening).

It’s been a vocally demanding show, with the ten major principles on-stage for the entirety of both acts. At 2 hours and 15 minutes, that’s a feat of strength (and lots of creative ways to stock up on water: someone just recommended a CamelPac to me yesterday. While I’m sure I’d be well-hydrated, I’m not convinced it would be in-character for Joanne.)

The Husband asked me yesterday: “What’s the motivation for Joanne?” Godspell is a bit of an unusual musical, because there isn’t much plot and character development outside of Jesus’ journey with John/Judas (John the Baptist and Judas are portrayed by the same actor during the show). But the wonderful production team has created a contemporary context for this version, set in a Sydney train station. In fact, the decor and sound design teams have outdone themselves, placing us right in the middle of a train station complete with a working (opening and closing) lift, opal card machine, and atmospheric soundscapes.

And so, with that context, there are ample opportunities to develop characters — even if those characterisations are non-verbal, less obvious, and understated.

The initial direction I was given about Joanne included a few things:

She is a business woman, on the way to work.

She buys in to John the Baptist, immediately and with enthusiasm.

She follows Jesus immediately, and with enthusiasm.

She volunteers for everything, jumping in head-first — almost before knowing what is going on.

She has a specific relationship with another character named Jacob which — through the course of the show — facilitates his inter-personal growth, and allows him to become more engaged with the community.

Things I’ve added:

She is earnest, and heart-felt, and loves participating.

She encourages others to participate. Sometimes this can be by physical coercion (pushing, pulling, grabbing hands, bringing them in), but it isn’t meant to be demanding.

Sometimes she can go a bit overboard. Sometimes she needs to rein it back in.

It’s been fun to develop a character who doesn’t really have her own explicit story. Everything becomes much more in-the-moment, much more reactive, much more… real. Sometimes we just show up in our lives without bringing the whole backstory.

Sometimes it’s just strangers on a train platform, figuring out what they’d like to bring to the interaction, and what they might hold back.

This morning, on the bus in to work, a school boy sat down in the seat next to me with a huge cardboard box.

The husband said: “What do you think he has in it? I bet it’s a puppy.”

I thought: Science project? 

The boy lifted the lid of the box, and up popped a brown and amber head with whiskers. It was a 19-year-old cat, a covert bus passenger. She barely made a noise when she opened her mouth to meow. She was lovely, and had beautiful eyes, and when the bus stopped to let more passengers on, she crawled over the edge of the box and up onto my backpack in my lap.

“I’m sorry,” the boy said, “Do you mind?”

“Not in the least.” I have a cat on my lap I didn’t expect to meet on my commute = a good Monday morning. Sometimes there’s not a backstory at all.

Sometimes, there’s just whatever response your heart can offer up.