'It's not what you know, it's who you know' is often repeated in media. Though there are many talented people out there, a lot of work often comes through good relationships. For example, I didn't expect to get a lead when I popped out to get some paint for the walls of my flat last Saturday. A former colleague had told me that he was often in the Prince Bonaparte on Chepstow Road and following a wave from Struan through the window, the only decent thing to do seemed to be to stop for a beer. He's engaging company so 1 pint stretched to 2 and a few stories about how he got into the business. Struan advised me to stroll into John Brown Publishing and ask to see David Roberts. Once I found out he was Editor in Chief, I thought I should ring first. The temp on reception wasn't sure who he was or if he was in so I was put through to the Chief Executive Andrew Hirsch. He was good enough to forward on my mail to David.
I know people who have bluffed their way into a job but I'm hopeless at lying. Besides, Struan had advised to be straight with him and I'm glad that I was. I wrote telling him that I'd worked on picture desks but was now trying to develop a new skill as a writer, that this was my first step and that I could work for free for the time being. Given that I'm getting used to chasing people up for responses I was surprised he replied but he did, offering to circulate my details to Editors at his company. He also advised that 'free and willing are two good places to be starting from' which I hope proves to be true.
This positive experience, where the people concerned actually gave me the time of day even though they are obviously important and busy contrasted strongly with the one I had from Christine Walker, the Editor of The Sunday Times travel section. Its hard to know what is going on with people you have never met before; they could be very busy, very unhappy or just having a bad day. When I phoned her to chase her up for a response to my email, she sounded uninterested, dismissive and patronising. She might be a very lovely person, but she sounded as if she wondered why she was even bothering to talk to me and couldn't wait to get me off the phone. Unlike David above, there were no suggestions of where to go next, no encouragement, just a a brick wall coming down. I felt like Joseph trying to find Mary a place to give birth in. There was very definitely no room at the inn. Maybe my naivety irritated her, who knows?