Tuesday, 30 June 2009

In the Thirties

Its hot in the library today. Its an old one on Ladbroke Grove and air conditioning is the last thing that would suit it. Instead the windows are open and the roar of traffic passing down the Grove is the background to my blogging, along with the whoops and screams of the kids in the school next door. They're probably going mad because of the sun and the heat. Hopefully we're in for a cracker of a summer if the weather right now is anything to go by. Its the first one for years when I havent been trapped in an office wishing I was outside so I'm hoping so. Instead I have to find the discipline to get some writing done in this library...

Last week I was at Marie Claire doing my old job of picture researching. I did this mostly to help my friend Sian out (who is the Photo Director there) but also because I wanted to break up my routine as I was getting bored of it. The money will also come in handy of course. I feel guilty complaining about the thing I always wanted, which was the freedom to write what I want, but the fact is that I was getting stale coming to the library in the morning and chasing up writing leads in the afternoon. Going to IPC was good for making a good contact on the features desk and making me remember that working on a picture desk, as lovely as it was there, is not ultimately what I want to do. Breaking up my routine also seems to be good for my writing if today is anything to go by. I've gotten into the habit of naming names of good contacts. Two you should know about on the features desk at Marie Claire:

bridget_freer@ipcmedia.com (Acting Features Director)

The week before that I met up with a lovely woman called Emma Powell who is a travel PR. I confessed to Emma that I was new to the game and we talked through some ideas. Now I just have to put the work in. She's given me a stack of press releases that I need to get through and then come up with some ideas about how to market them. All I need to do now is not be tempted by the sun and get on with it!

Friday, 12 June 2009

John and Struan and David

'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?

Thursday, 4 June 2009


OK, time to name some more of the good guys. Two more replies, but unfortunately two more rejections. However, the 'at least they got back to me' awards go to Lydia Williams, who writes for The Resident, Grove and NW (lydia.williams@archant.co.uk) and secondly Liz Hunt, who writes for The Telegraph (Elizabeth.Hunt@telegraph.co.uk). It is disheartening getting rejections so to try and put off the blues that potentially come with this I've told myself that I'm going to wait until I have had one hundred rejections before I let them get me down. Some target! I'll keep you posted (here) to let you know if that works.

I feel like I'm doing as much work as I did when I was employed, the only difference is that I actually get up and look forward to the day now. The morning is spent working on a book I'm trying to write and that will usually last 2 or 3 hours depending how the inspiration is flowing. After that I break to eat and then the afternoon (and sometimes the evening) is spent trying to work up the contacts book and writing up ideas for features. In some ways its better being away from an office, in other ways not. Breaks were difficult at Live Magazine due to the relentless work flow and also because you were looked upon as a slacker if you disappeared for ten minutes. Now that I'm my own boss I can go for a walk, or a run, or a bike ride whenever I want and I like the freedom of that. Breaking from the screen also makes me work better I think. Thats fine when its the summer; wonder if I'll still be thinking the same thing in December?