Monthly Archives: May 2011

Man On Wire

It’s quite a balancing act this, this whole business of pitching the world. Look, let me show you. Out of the six pitches I sent out last week, two have been commissioned and one looks as if it will be commissioned if I put in a bit more effort and seduce the editor with my excellent research skills. Not bad, is it? Well you’re wrong, it is bad. Because it’s brought home a dilemma that’s been playing around in the back of my mind since this half-baked project began.

And the dilemma is this. What if, out of the 500 or so magazines I have left to pitch, half of my pitches get commissioned as (seductive, excellent research aside) happened last week. What then? What then is that I have to sit down and write the things – write 250 features. That’s a lot of features. For someone stable, educated, disciplined and skilled that’s a lot of features. For someone unstable, uneducated, ill-disciplined and whose only real skill is just about being able to negotiate a drink problem then – well it’s still a lot of features but it feels like a lot more. And if you are the second person (the second person is me by the way, I hope you got that) and live in your Nan’s dining room (still me) and have two books to write and a career as a political speechwriter to resurrect (this, unbelievably, is still me) and a divorce to sort out and probably loads of other shit going on too that you can’t even begin to think about then the task becomes that much harder still.

Not that I couldn’t manage. If I perhaps cut down on my drinking and took some exercise and read about stoicism every morning and maybe even moved out of my Nan’s dining room, got a place of my own by the sea and a part time girlfriend – a young widow, say, or a single mum, or a crazy psycho stalker bitch – and became settled then I could maybe push out two or three features a week. Maybe. Yet even at that rate it would still take a couple of years to wrap this project up and that’s without really having a great deal of time to work on my speeches or on the books I have to write and the kid of the single mum will probably want shoes and for me to take him to the park and play cricket which I’ll enjoy but my enjoyment will be tempered by my being aware that instead of enjoying cricket with my weird stepson thing I should be writing a feature instead or at least going to see my widow girlfriend (I’ve decided to have two girlfriends in the future, by the way) and – oh, look, it’s crazy psycho stalker bitch hiding in a tree.

That’s what the future’s going to be like my friends. But what else can I do? Not do this project? Do this project but do it sloppily so I don’t end up playing cricket in a park with weird stepson thing? Get commissioned and then farm out the work? Stop getting ever-so-slightly ahead of myself and realise that there’s a big difference between pitching Mike Rampton at FRONT or Zachary Petit at Writer’s Digest (both of whom I’ve written for before) and pitching the likes of Black Beauty & Hair, British Deaf News or Brass Band World Magazine who all strike me as much tougher nuts to crack?

Yeah, I think I’ll do that.

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The Post Where I Consider Having Sex With a Tree. Or a Bit of Pavement.

If I encounter any more upheaval and heartache over the next couple of days I think I’m going to explode. Or thrive. Probably thrive. I found out yesterday that my wife is pregnant. Now, I understand that we are going through a divorce and I am genuinely pleased and touched that she’s pregnant but it is still quite a thing to discover that your wife – your own wife – is pregnant with another man’s child. Quite a thing. Such a thing, in fact, that as soon as I heard the news I thought, “Right, I’ll show her. I’m going to go and get someone pregnant. And maybe not just someone, but loads of someones. I might go and get ten people pregnant. That’ll show her.”

So I went off to the beach and smoked loads of cigarettes and tried to look all sexy and French but there wasn’t really anyone about, certainly not anyone who looked like they might want to get pregnant. “Fuck this,” I thought, “Fuck getting someone pregnant. Everyone gets someone pregnant – how about getting something pregnant. I could get a dog pregnant or a bear pregnant. That’ll show her. It would also help with the writing of College Dog-Bear in about eighteen years time when my half boy/half dog-bear is ready to pursue higher education.”

But the thought of having sex with a dog or a bear didn’t really appeal. “I could get a tree pregnant,” I thought. “Could I fuck a tree? Probably. Or a bush? Hippies apparently used to hug trees and bushes, why not bang one? Why not become a super-hippy? Or a pavement? Or a bin? Could I sink that low that I could actually have sex with a bin? Yeah, definitely.”

Well, yes, of course I’m going slowly mad and, yes, there may well be a point in the future where I do try and settle down with a tree or a bit of pavement or a bin but that day isn’t upon us quite yet. When it does happen though, it’s going to be spectacular.

In other news, someone on Twitter said about this award-winning blog and my pitches that they found the “whole oh-so-self deprecating thing wildly annoying” and that “nobody should try that hard to be funny.” Well I’ve got news for you sunshine: the pitches sent out at the end of last week were splendidly received and I thought they were ace. How’s that for self-deprecation? Not very good, I reckon. Out of the six sent, four have been replied to and all favourably; two with pretty much definite offers of work. And of the two editors who are yet to reply, one of them, Mike Rampton, is definitely going to reply and offer me work because he reads this blog, is the most talented writer I know, and responds well to flattery.

I don’t know whether I should post up the replies though. Should I post up the replies? It feels wrong. But of course I should. The monster that is Pitching the World has been rumbling along for a year and a half and I really should be putting up replies from editors. I will then, but not yet.

In the meantime I was looking over my archives (yes, I do have archives) at the weekend (yes, I do have weekends) and came across (yes, I do come across stuff) this ‘introductory’ letter from an editor who used to oversee a couple of magazines that I wrote columns and features for. I found it pretty annoying and it made me want to give up journalism. The stuff about his supreme skill set nearly had me smashing up my office and I feel that in his sign-off he is trying too hard to be funny. Nobody should try that hard to be funny.

Peace out.

From: Redacted

To: Pitching the World

Date: 29 May 2008 14:12

Subject: SOLDOUT MYSTERY SHOPPER 

Hi Pitching the World,

I will be dealing with you from now on.

Firstly I would like to say that I enjoy your writing and I think you are extremely funny! Now that rapport has been developed I will move on to the business side of things.

I was the assistant editor before Kimberly arrived and I aided her through the process while she was here. I am however part of the sales team, but I specialise in media and writing and was furiously multi tasking. I will be moving to the editorial side of things once we have secured sufficient sales people to replace my supreme skill set.

We are focusing on Reading this month and I have selected out 5 estate agents that I hope will be a good bet. I have attached them in a word doc. The sooner you can crack on with these the better, I will keep you posted on the cover stories and features for Sold-Out and TIA.

All the best Pitching the World, and lay off the pints!

Ed


Recent Activity

From: Pitching the World

To: Karen Barnes, Editor Delicious magazine

Date: Wednesday 18 May 2011 15:29

Subject: Disappearing Food Allergy?

Dear Karen,

Apologies for crashing into your life like this, but I’d like to write a feature for Delicious. About four years ago I nearly died from anaphylactic shock. From what I can gather it was a combination of penicillin and cockles that led to it and since that incident I have been sworn off all shellfish. I wrote a couple of thousand words about the whole hoo-hah for The Independent, and ended my piece with:

I am still waiting for the results of a blood test for a shellfish or penicillin allergy. In the meantime, it is a case of being more aware of what I am putting into my body, keeping vigorous exercise to a minimum and having character-building cold baths. Minor changes aside, I am determined not to let it impinge on my quality of life, because although my dinner may not be, I like to think the world is still my oyster.

I still can’t work out whether that last sentence is corny-as-hell or inspired. For now, perhaps we can agree that it’s inspired. Anyway, my point. My point is that four years on I feel ready to chance my arm and see if I’m still allergic to shellfish. It’s strange, over the last couple of years almost every slight allergy I’ve had – to some pets, hayfever, dust mites and so on – has pretty much evaporated and I even accidentally had some of a friend’s Jungle Curry the other night that contained prawns and suffered no ill effects. So, I’m wondering if it’s possible for a food allergy or intolerance to just disappear and if so, why does this happen.

Is this the sort of thing you’d be interested in? I’d be willing to write it from my own perspective but will of course include case studies and expert opinion. I’ll also pop a link down below from The Independent piece. Try and ignore the stuff at the beginning about fighting in pubs and my wife putting shards of glass in my food; I believe that’s what they call poetic licence.

Thanks for reading.

All the best,

Pitching the World

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From: Pitching the World

To: Mike Rampton, Editor (I think) FRONT magazine

Date: Wednesday 18 May 2011 15:48

Subject: Me Probably Not Writing Features For You

Hello Mike R,

It’s been a while. Remember when when I used to write good features for FRONT? You know, the stuff about faking my own death or trying to change my life through replying to spam emails or that thing about the ten gayest films of all time? There were other good ones too. I did some bad shit. Oh, I did some bad shit – the Lionel Messi feature that I completely misjudged being one such piece of bad shit, but generally I did okay. I think.

Anyway, I’m in a hole and I thought you might like to help me get out of that hole. I thought you could help me get out of that hole by farming out a feature to me. Or letting me write “FRONT’S GUIDE TO HAPPINESS” – the thing I pitched about a month ago and can only assume you didn’t get back to me about because it blew your lovely socks off. I’ll make it really good, promise. And once I’ve done it, I won’t ever ask for another favour or feature – I’ll just disappear like Keyser Soze. I’ll even do his funny walk.

Can you help a man get out of a hole?

Pitching the World

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From: Pitching the World

To: Zachary Petit, Editor Writer’s Digest

Date: Wednesday 18 May 2011 16:02

Subject: (none)

Dear Zac,

“You can’t wait for inspiration,” or so said Jack London, “you have to go after it with a club.” I’m thinking about going after inspiration with a club, Zac. Specifically, I’m thinking of finding a suitable writing retreat and nailing myself to a desk for a month to work on my book. And in my research about what may or may not make a decent writing retreat for me I’ve come across a lot of ideas and material – certainly enough for a feature. Is something on this the sort of thing Writer’s Digest might be interested in running? Looking at, say, ten of the best, most unusual retreats dotted around the US (predominantly) and Europe? Might also be an idea to weigh up the pros and cons of writing retreats with first person accounts.

Legs?

All the best,

Pitching the World

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From: Pitching the World

To: Redacted

Date: Wednesday 18 May 2011 16:17

Subject: Peach of a Speech

Dear B,

I miss writing speeches and I miss working with you. Anything on the horizon, in the pipeline or just hanging around the bins at the back of your office?

Cheerio,

Pitching the World

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From: Pitching the World

To: New Internationalist

Date: Wednesday 18 May 2011 16:50

Subject: Guidelines etc.

Dear Editorial,

I’m a former political speechwriter and current journalist and would like to write for you. Rather bold, aren’t I? Well it’s true I would like to write for you and I think I could do a good job. According to my Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook the New Internationalist “examines one subject each month.” With that in mind, are you able to give me an idea of the subjects you’ll be covering over the coming months please and I’ll pitch ideas accordingly?

I promise you won’t regret it. Actually I can’t promise such a thing: you might regret it, but hopefully won’t.

Oh, and I particularly liked this from your site: “We focus attention on the unjust relationship between the powerful and the powerless worldwide in the fight for global justice.” I’d like to be part of that fight.

With very best wishes,

Pitching the World

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From: Pitching the World

To: Lewis Eckett,  Editor Greetings Today

Date: Thursday 19 May 2011 15:38

Subject: Column

Dear Lewis,

I’d like to write a column for Greetings Today magazine. How bold and ridiculous and to the point is that? Pretty bold and ridiculous and to the point in my book, but please hear me out. Around six weeks ago a friend and I came up with the idea of reproducing the ‘two dogs’ painting in Goodfellas (you know the one: “One’s going east the other’s going west”) and selling it as a greeting card. I say a friend and I came up with the idea but it was really just me – the friend was going to paint the thing. Anyway, after a cursory search on the internet I found out the some other outfit had beaten us to it and was already producing the Goodfella’s painting as a card. Well, this got me thinking. It got me thinking that it must be incredibly hard to come up with an idea for a greeting card these days that will actually make any money. Everyone, it seems, is at it.

My point. My point is that I would like to conceive of, produce and sell a successful greeting card and write a regular column about the whole process for your publication. What are my chances? Slim, I reckon. But what if I told you I was 35, getting divorced and living in my Nan’s dining room – would that swing the odds in my favour?

Plenty of clippings available from the Guardian, Independent, Daily Mail and a whole heap of magazines if you’d like to see some examples of my work. Oh, and I also had a column for two years in a magazine that catered for estate agents. My column involved me visiting estate agencies and writing about it and I somehow managed to make it gripping, informative and funny. I could make my column for Greetings Today even more gripping, informative and funny. Probably.

It’s not going to happen is it? Never mind, thanks for reading.

All the best Lewis,

Pitching the World

Planet of the Divorcees

Beadier-eyed readers will have noticed that this post isn’t called College Dog. I’ve had trouble writing College Dog. For a start, College Dog turned out to be about a bear. This isn’t what I wanted. I wanted College Dog to be about a dog. Second, it was the most depressing screwed up piece of shit I’ve ever written. Again, this isn’t what I wanted. I wanted something a bit loopy and surreal – possibly even upbeat – not a depressing screwed up piece of shit.  Regular readers will know that despite occasional appearances to the contrary, I don’t like writing depressing screwed up pieces of shit.

It’s been a strange day. This morning, after yet another night spent dreaming about rats, I began thinking about College Dog-Bear. “Ha,” I thought “How boringly predictable that I haven’t written that. Or at least written it properly. And how predictable that I’m still living in my Nan’s dining room. I wonder how long I’ll be here for. I wish I had some money. Why don’t I ever have any money? Or rather, why do I get big bits of money and just spend it really quickly? And why do I write less now for newspapers and magazines than I’ve ever done? Fuck, I’m shaking. I have to stop drinking from Thursday night until Sunday evening. Ah, that’s why I don’t have any money. Is ham and coleslaw a good breakfast? Fuck it, I’m eating it anyway. God I need a walk.”

This is true – I did need a walk: the thought processes outlined in vivid, thrilling detail above probably went on for an hour and at the end of that hour I needed a walk more than I’ve ever needed a walk before. About ten minutes into my walk I met a fat messed up tramp with crazy hair who was looking in bins on the beach. The beach looked splendidly bleak; French-cinema bleak. I gave him all the money I had on me and a cigarette and asked him how he was.

“I’m trying to get over a divorce. I can’t handle it.”

Oh dear, I thought, I’m going through a divorce. I hope I can handle it.

“How long has it been?”

“Twelve years. Can’t handle it.”

I can handle it, I thought. Or can I? Am I doing? Maybe I’ll be looking in bins in twelve years’ time, I thought. Maybe idiots who live in their Nan’s dining room will flee to the beach and give me cigarettes and money when I’m looking in bins in twelve years’ time. Or twelve weeks’ time. Or tomorrow.

We talked some more, mainly about his inability to handle things, but after a while my ability to handle things was also evaporating and so I made my excuses and left, and walked for about an hour without looking at where I was going and ended up on a stretch of prehistoric-looking beach and there was no one else around as far as I could see and I was suddenly reminded of the end of Planet of the Apes which I had seen at some point during my drunken weekend stupor and so decided to get down onto the sand and scream: “You MANIACS! Damn you! Damn you all to hell!”

That, dear readers, was pretty much my whole day. I’m not sure what any of this means. I think it might mean that I need to finish this project and go and do something less stupid instead.

Being On A National Express Coach Makes Me Want To Cut My Throat Open

You’ll never guess where I’m writing this. What do you mean you don’t want to guess? And what do you mean the clue is in the title? Well it’s true, I am on a National Express coach, but the title is somewhat misleading: I don’t want to cut my throat open. In fact, I’m hanging out with all the old people and their funny ways and having a ball. In fact, I’m thinking of buying in bulk return tickets from Truro to Aberdeen and conducting all future writing and pitching business on National Express coaches. Perhaps they will sponsor me. Perhaps, like Relentless (the drink that keeps on giving) they will send me nice packages of things in the post. I love National Express. The title of this post is clearly bullshit.

But while the title of this post is clearly bullshit, what clearly isn’t bullshit is that I haven’t written up College Dog. I’ve been busy, you see. Mainly I’ve been busy thinking. God it’s exhausting. But I’ve been busy doing other stuff too. I’ve been busy drinking, busy smoking, busy shaving, busy writing reports and reading reports and busy interviewing people about the economy in Afghanistan. I’ve been busy remembering to pack a banana for this journey (I’m going to London by the way) and busy ironing shirts and busy packing away my duvet and pillows and storing them underneath the sofa bed that hangs out in my Nan’s dining room. I know, I know: my life is thrilling. Busy, but thrilling.

You know what my life is like? It’s like the start of those films in the 80s where the main character (Danny DeVito, if you’re lucky) is making out with some hot chick in a bedroom somewhere in LA and then – fuck! – the husband comes home and so the main character leaps out of the window and scuttles off down a sunny street whilst shaving and eating a piece of toast and then he gets to his car and – fuck! – there’s a parking ticket on it. Perhaps a few of them. But he doesn’t care. Danny DeVito just screws up the parking ticket or tickets and finishes his shave and toast and probably, hopefully, lights a cigarette before getting into his car and screeching off somewhere.

I remember watching films like that in the 80s and thinking ‘THAT is how I want my life to turn out’. And that kind of is how my life has turned out: I feel like I’m always walking down a street shaving and eating toast and hiding from parking tickets.

What the fuck am I going on about? No, don’t tell me. My point is, by the end of the week when I’m less busy I’ll write College Dog. How long does it take to write a short story about a dog going to college? An hour? Two? Two days? A week? A lifetime? I’ll let you know.

Some toast, earlier