Monthly Archives: January 2012

28 Months Later

So, it looks like I might be leaving Boscombe and going back to East Horsley, Surrey. I’m not sure if it’s the right thing to do.

“Don’t leave Boscombe and go back to East Horsley, Surrey,” people yell at me in the street. “What are you playing at? You know what happened last time. Last time you went bald and broke and mad and got sober and spent three hours swearing at a bottle of Hennessy. And you had a job in Mayfair. How did you manage that? Not just the job, but the going broke whilst having a job? And you were sober. Oh, you’re such a card. Aren’t you? Go on, say it. Aren’t you?”

It’s not easy living like this, being shouted at in the street like this. But I fight back. If you were me, you’d fight back too.

“Listen you fucks,” I tell the shouty ghouls. “The financial gods are against me at the moment. And the career gods. And the gods who control the fucks, the fuck gods. They’re very up and down at the moment. Ha, I did a funny: Fuck gods? Up and down? No? Anyway, the financial gods have got together and decided to play around with me a bit and so it’s very difficult to turn down a free flat that I’m able to stay in indefinitely. Yes, even if it is in East Horsley. I just need a month. A month to shut myself away.”

“A month?” they say, to break things up a bit.

“Yes. And I’ll finish Pitching the World. You know how long I thought it would take when I started this? No? Oh, you’ll love this then. Three months. And do you know how long it’s taken? Twenty eight months. Twenty eight of the bastards. And I need to move on. Finish, and move on. Oh come on, don’t give me those ‘move-on-to-what?’ eyes. I’ll find something else to do.”

“Okay. You’re, um, scaring us a bit now.”

“And I miss London. And football. There are other things too…”  but by this time the ghouls have drifted away and I find myself – not for the first time – howling into an empty Boscombe afternoon.

So yes: Next week East Horsley. In Surrey. To finish a bone-headed project. Wish me luck. And if you see me on the street, you better holla at me.

East Horsley, earlier. 

How To Be A Political Speechwriter: Part Two

All 650 MPs in the UK have been emailed. The letter I sent can be found in my previous entry. So far, the majority of replies have been kind – gushing, even. “You are an excellent speechwriter,” they say. “I could well see an MP wanting to hire someone such as yourself,” they say. Some say, “You will be able to see that I have not made a speech since the General Election. This is very frustrating for both of us.” When I saw that one all I could do was nod and sigh and nod: Yes it is, it is very frustrating for both of us.

Perhaps the funniest reply I’ve had to date was this one:

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

To: Pitching the World

From: Denis [redacted]

Subject: Chancing my arm

Thanks. Good luck.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Or this:

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

To: Pitching the World

From: Richard [redacted]

Subject: Chancing my arm

Sorry – Richard

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

But I didn’t (couldn’t) lose hope and twitched and dug away and finally, yesterday, sent off my 650th email. ‘It’s an experiment,’ I kept having to tell myself. ‘Just see what happens. You’re Isaac Newton. Even if one percent reply favourably, you’re set. You’re Malcolm X. Keep going. Stop drinking. Drink more. You’re Pol Pot. One percent. Experiment. Artist. Prick. This is why you split up with your doctor wife. Isaac Newton.”

It seemed to work. The replies that have come through recently have been positive. I think some people are pretty much offering me work.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

To: Pitching the World

From: Chris [redacted]

Subject: Chancing my arm

Thanks for your email Steve.  I’m currently up to the ceiling on my staffing budget, but that will change in the new financial year.

Whereabouts do you live?

I could ask my senior political assistant to give you a call to see if we could use your services on a freelance basis.

Best wishes and good luck

Chris

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

This looks encouraging, too:

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

To: Pitching the World

From: Adam [redacted]

Subject: Chancing my arm

Thanks Steve, I love your email.

I do occasionally need speeches written, and would be interested to see what you could do perhaps with a view to in future paying you to do a speech every few months?

If you were interested, might you (as a little trial run) write me a one page speech charting how Afghanistan has been a complete disaster  – based on my speeches in the house, and articles in the Spectator/Independent on Sunday/Sunday Telegraph.    A sort of 3 min introduction that I might give at a roundtable sort of discussion?

Best wishes,

Adam [redacted]

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

And this:

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

To: Pitching the World

From: Andrew [redacted]

Subject: Chancing my arm

Dear Steve,

You certainly grabbed my attention with your email and I did glance through parts of your speech. I don’t think you have lost your knack at writing good copy. I don’t have much room left at all in my staff budget but I’d be interested to know how much you would charge for writing a speech where I gave you quite a clear steer on what I wanted to say and supplied the content.

Kind regards,

Andrew [redacted]

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Whilst composing this post I’ve recieved this, too:

Thank you for your recent application to Robert [redacted] MP for speech-writing. I note that the speech you wrote was indeed of high quality; your email has been printed off and passed to Mr. Walter and should he be interested you will hear more from us.

So it’s not a disaster, is it? No it’s not, it’s not a disaster at all. Plus I’m still owed a couple of hundred replies and I’m starting my poker column and Golf Monthly want me to write for them and three female MPs have asked me to meet them for coffee.

I have a feeling that everything is going to be all right forever from now on.

Oh, and I’ve noticed that I haven’t put up the speech I sent, despite never shutting the fuck up about it. Please let me know what you think. About everything. Here it is:

 

Glen “Ghost” Philips – Rally Speech

“Let me tell you about change”

Ladies and Gentleman, today I want to talk about change. Occasionally I hear people in my constituency and beyond saying that they want change. It’s not that they are unhappy with the government, they say, they know that it’s working, but they feel that it could do with a change, without really knowing why.

Let me tell you about change.

When this government came to power, we inherited massive problems in the public housing sector. PAM had done their best, I suppose, in providing the people of St Kitts and Nevis with housing, but their best was clearly not good enough. In the fourteen years PAM was in power, they created two hundred and fifty new homes. In the following fourteen years, when this Labour government was in power, we created two thousand five hundred new homes. Two thousand five hundred – ten times as many as the previous administration achieved. And yet we still want to change, and we have another one thousand new homes planned.

There was a family of eight people in my local village, the Rawlins family, and between the eight of them they lived in just two rooms. Two rooms for eight people. When Labour came to power they saw this situation and they wanted to change it. They found a three bedroom house for the Rawlins family, but that wasn’t enough. They came back and found another house for three members of the family. From two rooms for eight people, to two houses for eight people.  These are real stories. These are real people. This is real change.

Let me tell you about change.

When the Labour Government came into power, the minimum wage was $120 per week. We looked at this situation and wanted to change it. The opposition didn’t want this change. The opposition said that we would be paying the poor people of this country too much, that they wouldn’t know what to do with the extra money. We ignored them. We raised the minimum wage three times and it now stands at $320 per week and we are committed to raising it further. The opposition say that poor people don’t know what to do with this money, that they are being paid too much. We say thatthey do know what they’re doing, that we want to pay them more. PAM want to keep the poor people of this country down; Labour wants them to flourish.

Let me tell you about change.

Let me tell you about the recent study by the Caribbean Development Bank. A Human Growth Development study. Out of the entire Caribbean, where did St Kitts and Nevis feature in the report? Where did one of the smallest nations in the world come? We came second. In the whole Caribbean we came second. But do you know what? We’re not happy with second. PAM would be happy with second – hell, they’d probably be happy with fifth – be we want to be number one. And if the progress, if the changes being made under Labour continue – and they will – then that number one spot is ours.

Let me tell you about change.

Let me tell you about Lindsay Grant’s plans for dealing with employment in this country. Lindsay Grant has already stated that if they were to come in to power, that on the first day – on the very first day – after being elected, they would immediately slash five hundred jobs in the public sector. Notcreate five hundred jobs in the public sector, but lose them. But taking people’s jobs away from them is second nature to PAM. When they were last in government one of their first acts was to make people – hard working people – who were employed, unemployed. They thought the people in the lowest paid jobs were an easy target, so they started there, with cleaners, people working in factories, construction workers. Then they went a step further, and another step further, and another step further, until everyone was affected. Mothers. Fathers. People’s sisters and brothers – no-one was immune from PAM’s sweeping changes. Is that the sort of change the people of this country want? The sort of change people deserve? Or do they want the sort of change the Labour Party has implemented? The sort of change where we are creating civil engineers for the first time? Where there are more doctors, lawyers and teachers then ever before? Where the tourism industry has created thousands of jobs and will create thousands more? Throughout the rest of the Caribbean, and throughout the world, tourism projects are being halted. In St Kitts, they are expanding. We have invested heavily in the country’s infrastructure and are reaping the rewards: this year, for the first time, we will see visitor numbers reach the 500,000 mark. This is change. This is the sort of change that I know people in this country want to see.

[big pause]

Let me tell you about change.

Fifteen years ago it was unthinkable to have a man like me in the administration. A man from humble beginnings. A young man, with fresh ideas, fresh thinking and a fresh approach to the way this country should be run. A man who is approachable and available. A man from your community, a man who has the same dreams and aspirations as you and is damn sure not to lose sight of them or, indeed, to let you lose sight of them.

The Labour Party has changed in the fifteen years it has been governing this country. Your country. It has realised that parties who do not change die. This party is a living movement, not a relic. It is a party for and about change. PAM’s ideas are not new ideas. They are old ideas that didn’t work before and certainly won’t now. And they are spearheaded by a man who is reluctant to change.

Now, I could stand here and list the shortcomings of both Lindsay Grant and the PAM party, but frankly, the list is too long and there are other candidates who need to speak.

But let me say this: if you want change that is going to blight your communities, strip you of your jobs, take away your houses and the food from your mouths then vote PAM.

If you want a party who has – and will continue to – produce real, measurable change for the better, then the only party you should vote for is Labour.

Vote Labour. Vote change.

 

Thank you.

 

How To Be A Political Speechwriter: Part One.

So, what do you do when everything – hair, face, balls, mind – just starts to drift away from you? You hold onto your career, that’s what. Or, you resurrect your career as a political speechwriter. Yesterday, that’s what I did. Sort of. I told my hair, face, balls and mind to take a walk and focused on becoming a political speechwriter again. How did I do that? I wrote the following email, that’s how.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

To: All 650 MPs in the UK

From: Pitching the World

Subject: Chancing my arm

Dear MP,

I’m 36 and live in my nan’s dining room. This is not as strange as it sounds, but it almost is. I drink and smoke too much and barely make a living. Oh I work and occasionally get money for it, but calling it a ‘living’ seems both a bit grand and a bit misleading. That’s the bad stuff – some of it, at least. Now the good stuff: I’m a former political speechwriter looking to lose the ‘former’ tag and thought you might be able to help.

My political speech writing career to date has been predominantly confined to the Caribbean. Please scroll down at the bottom of this email for an example of the sort of work I did. The speech I’ve included was the first I’d ever written and was widely regarded as the reason the candidate won his seat (from the leader of the opposition). Bar working as a speechwriter, I’ve worked as a journalist (Guardian, Independent, Other) and had a long stint working in the field of behaviour change. Highlights include conducting research and writing reports for the US government, the FCO and the Singaporean Ministry of Defence. I was also credited with conducting the initial, preparatory research for Andrew Mackay and Steve Tatham’s recent book, ‘Behavioural Conflict: Why Understanding People and Their Motives Will Prove Decisive in Future Conflict.’

So I know my stuff, a bit. But I’m in a hole, a lot. What are the chances of someone like me working for someone like you? More specifically, what are my chances of helping you or your team out with speech writing duties on a freelance basis? I see my life headed in one of two ways: down one path lies black outs, angry phone calls from creditors and more sleeping in my nan’s dining room; down the other lies writing life-changing speeches and becoming a reasonable member of society again. Please help me pick the right path. (That’s the second one, by the way.)

Please do let me know if you are able to help, preferably not with one of those, ‘Your details have been kept on file, and should anything arise in the future…’ type emails, unless you really mean it. Regardless, many thanks for reading this email.

With very best wishes,

Steve

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

What do you think? More importantly, perhaps, what did they think? Well, I’ve only got as far as emailing 300-odd of them so far. Have you ever tried emailing 300-odd MPs? You really shouldn’t. It makes you go a bit tonto. You send off an email and then put in the next MP’s email address and you do that one or two hundred times and you sit in your Nan’s living room with a soporific darts match going on in the background and you drink whisky and hanker after cigarettes and write ‘Parliament’ so many times in an email address that it begins to lose all meaning. That’s what happens.

You may start to feel like this:

Anyway, you do get back encouraging replies. You get back stuff like this:

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

To: Pitching the World

From: Tim Farron

Subject: Chancing my arm

Hello Steven

The honest answer is that I haven’t got any vacancies at present, and most of my team is based up in Cumbria.

I tend to write my own speeches – which means I have a reasonable appreciation of the craft and having looked through your snippets below I can see why you have been successful.

I’m sorry I cant be of any help to you now, but I do wish you every success.  The direct approach is almost always the right one, so you deserve to get somewhere.

Take care

Tim (farron)

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

And this:

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

To: Pitching the World

From: Tobias Ellwood

Subject: Chancing my arm

Dear Mr [redacted]

Tobias thanks you for your email to him and other MPs offering your services as a speechwriter and has asked me to reply on his behalf.

Tobias would be very happy to meet with you at one of his surgeries, but asked me to stress that he is most unlikely to require the services of a speechwriter at the present time.

If you wish to meet with Tobias an appointment can be made by calling the Association office on 01202 397 047 Monday – Friday 9;30 – 13:00

Many thanks for taking the time to contact Tobias and for offering your services.

Yours sincerely,

Steve (on behalf  of Tobias Ellwood)

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Or this:

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

To: Pitching the World

From: Sir Roger Gale

Subject: Chancing my arm

Dear Steve,

First, I appreciate the plight which you describe with great candour. Second, I appreciate the initiative that you have taken in writing to me.

That said, I am sadly not in a position to assist you myself: I do not maintain any staff in the House myself (all of my small team are based in Birchington in Kent), I use the excellent Library research services and have never understood why some colleagues find it necessary to employ batteries of “researchers” and as a former journalist myself I prepare speaking notes myself and am old-fashioned enough not to read written speeches (which I am so myopic that I could not deliver anyway!)

So what can we do for you?  There are two MPs representing Bournemouth – Conor Burns (West) and Tobias Ellwood (East). I don`t know if you have been in touch with either of them but if not I am more than willing to pass your e-mail to them in case either could use your services.

Then there is Conservative Campaign Headquarters. I do not know who, there, deals with this kind of thing but on the basis that it is usually worth starting at the top the Chairman is Baroness Warsi who you can write to at the House of Lords.

I don`t do the meaningless “I`ll keep your details on file” thing but if I get any other ideas or if I hear of anyone that might be able to use your help I will let you know.

The very best of luck – and regards to your long-suffering Mother!

Sir Roger Gale, MP

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

And you also get replies from Sir Peter Bottomley, who is probably the coolest man on the planet.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

To: Pitching the World

From: Sir Peter Bottomley

Subject: Chancing my arm

Good luck with your arm.

When I stopped service as a minister in Northern Ireland, one permanent secretary said to his colleagues that they should be grateful that there was not a recorded occasion when I delivered a prepared speech.

It is not what I do so the simple direct answer is that your clear skill would be wasted on me.

Peter B

Here is a friendly tip: how about always including your contact telephone number in an email?

Here is another: try writing sample apparently serious speeches for named public individuals before submitting them to satirical radio programmes.

If it works, it could be fun?

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Shortly after adopting Sir Peter’s splendid advice I got a phone call from Glyn Davies, MP for Monmouthshire, and he told me how lovely he found my letter and how unlovely it was that he couldn’t employ me. He urged me to carry on. Should I be encouraged? Should I email the remaining 300 and something MPs offering my services whilst going mad drinking whisky and watching darts in my Nan’s living room or is it a waste of time? I’d appreciate, as ever, your input.

Part Two of this thrilling series will be up before or on the weekend. I will include other replies and may even include the speech I sent to the MPs.

 

Replies From Eds to My Bullshit Generic Begging Letter

We don’t need any further explanation, do we? No, no we don’t. Besides, I’m in a funk. I’d like to not be in a funk.

Oh, if you’d like to read the Bullshit Generic Begging Letter, then please see the previous post.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

To: Pitching the World

From: Ruby Ormerod, Green Pebble

Subject: Chancing my arm

Date: 05/01/2012

Hi Steve

Love your letter, and if we had work I would happily farm it out to you. At the moment, given the economic forecasts, we have put our books on hold and are focusing on our art greeting cards.

Our cards are blank inside, so sadly I can’t even test your poetry skills…of which I have no doubt you have plenty.

Sorry, and best of luck,

Ruby Ormerod

Editor

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

To: Pitching the World

From: Thomas Clarke, Golf Monthly

Subject: Chancing my arm

Date: 05/01/2012

Hi Steven,
Do you want to send me in some clippings, we might be able to do something for you.
Regards,
Thomas Clarke
……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

 

To: Pitching the World

From: Geordie Torr, Geographical

Subject: Chancing my arm

Date: 06/01/2012

Hi Steve,

To be honest, I don’t pitch stuff out to freelancers very often – I’m too busy to come up with stories myself and when I do, I have one go-to guy who I pretty much always, well, go to. But if you come up with any feature ideas that you think might work for us, drop me a line and I’ll have a look.

All the best,

Geordie

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

To: Pitching the World

From: Poetry Review

Subject: Chancing my arm

Date: 06/01/2012

Marvellous, but the writers’ and artists’ yearbook points out that you have to at least pretend to know the magazine by a) addressing the actual editor and b) displaying some knowledge of content.  We are a poetry magazine.  The clue is in the title, but I’m sure you just cc’d us. So all the things you offer are irrelevant.

It’s difficult, because this is a recession and one wants to help people out – but if you really seriously need work wouldn’t it be better to actually *get* some, e.g. by offering your freelance services to political periodicals at the least, rather than just running a gimmick?

So – confused as to your real motives but wishing you well if it’s work you’re after –

Yours, etc

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

To: Pitching the World

From: Milan Rai, Peace News

Subject: Chancing my arm

Date: 08/01/2012

Hi Steven

Thanks for your mail. Unfortunately we don’t pay contributors but there’s no reason you shouldn’t have something published in PN if that isn’t an obstacle.

Given that our remit is war and peace, perhaps the best thing would be something provocatively right-wing, 500 words. I’m not sure of your politics – your blog is not clear on your leanings.

Best wishes

Milan Rai,

Peace News co-editor

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Thoughts? My thoughts are that I’d like to drink until I black out, but I always want to do that. Please let me know yours though, either here in the comments or by emailing: pitchingtheworld*at*hotmail.com.

Thanks, as always.

 

2011: The Good, the Bad and the Bad and the Ugly and the Bad

I’m not really one for those bullshit ‘Here’s What I Did in 2011’ lists, but sometimes you need to assess things and assess them publicly. That last bit isn’t even remotely true. Neither is that first bit. Regardless, here is my take on my 2011. Yeah, it’s all about me.

THE GOOD. I didn’t die or go mad. Pitching the World is more popular than ever. This post aside, I’m writing better than I’ve ever done. My agent hasn’t fired me. For a while last year I was being paid £3 a word. I was offered a weekly poker column. I’m hilariously broke and in debt and sometimes this can lead to bold, spectacular progress.

THE BAD AND THE BAD AND THE UGLY AND THE BAD. The Good was good, wasn’t it? The Good was far better than I expected. But The Bad, I fear The Bad is going to be bad. Let’s see. I was homeless for most of 2011. I didn’t have to sleep rough at any point, but I’ve slept all over the place and am officially of No Fixed Abode. The few things I own are scattered about all over the place. I can’t work out of this state of affairs builds my character or drains it. I suspect it does both, simultaneously. I think that last statement is perhaps the most meaningless I’ve ever written.

My enthusiasm for this project is lower than it’s ever been, except for about ten minutes every day where I enter into some sort of mania and think that not only is everything going to be all right, but that everything is all right. I think my lack of enthusiasm lies with unresponsive editors and also with the fact that I NEVER FUCKING PITCH ANYTHING. This is a big problem. A big, big problem. Why hasn’t anyone told me it’s a big, big problem? Oh I tell myself, but I’m a master now at outmaneuvering the truth and so as soon as I tell myself it’s a big, big problem that I’m not really pitching anything, I’ll just as quickly say, ‘No it’s not. It’s not a big, big problem at all.’ This is also a big, big problem.

Let’s do some maths, shall we? Okay, so in the 28 months I’ve been doing Pitching the World I’ve pitched 25 magazines. Properly pitched them that is, as opposed to sending out en masse one of my bullshit generic begging letters*. This is not good. If I continue at this current output, it will take around 670 months to pitch all of the magazines in the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook. 670 months: That’s almost ten years. And that was almost a joke.

So, what to do? This is where you come in. Please help by plonking an answer in the below. Thanks.

A poll, earlier.

*My Bullshit Generic Begging Letter sent out earlier in the year. The responses were overwhelmingly positive.

To: Loads

From: Pitching the World

Subject: Belief

Dear Editorial,

I am in the process of trying to write features for all 642 magazines listed in the 2010 edition of the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook. Among those 642 magazines is yours. This ridiculous process began back in 2009 (for a while I called it a ‘project’ but I’ve given up on that now) after I had quit my job as a political speechwriter.

Now, if you consider my decision to quit my job as a political speechwriter and return to journalism to be a terrible one – and you’d be right to – my idea of writing for 642 magazines is even worse.

You should see me now, almost two years down the line. When I began, I was living with my neuroscientist wife in Stoke Newington. Now I’m getting divorced and live in my Nan’s dining room in Boscombe. Before I had hair, lots of it, and it wasn’t grey. Now I have little hair, and it is grey – white, even. I had money and shoes and confidence. Now, well I suppose I don’t have to spell it out, but now I have none of those things. What do I have? I have night terrors, addictions and crumbling self-esteem. Oh, and belief. I still have a sliver or two of belief.

After describing myself in such thrilling detail it seems a little ridiculous to say that I’d like to write for you. But I would. I’m in a hole you see, and it’s a hole I’d like to get out of. Are you farming work out to freelancers at the moment? I’ve written hundreds of pieces over the years for the Guardian, the Independent, Square Mile, Square Meal, the British Journalism Review, Business Destinations and plenty more. I reckon I could write a nice feature for you. Or a mini-feature. Or an opinion piece. Anything really. A paragraph? Do you need any paragraphs writing?

What are my chances? Slim? None? Reasonable? Please leave me alone?

Splendid clippings available on request.

I look forward to hearing from you.

With best wishes,

Pitching the World