Monthly Archives: February 2012

Pitching the World vs. The Great Gatsby. UPDATED

I’ve been busy today. Mostly, I’ve been busy being ill. Oh, I’m excellent at it now: two weeks of illness and I show few signs of getting better. In the shop I’m known as ‘The odd man who buys Ribena and notepads.’ That’s all I do, buy Ribena and notepads. It’s no life. You should see me in the shop though. You’d like it. I’ve had so little contact with other people over the last couple of weeks that I’ve almost forgotten what it’s like to interact with other human beings. I’m no good at it anymore. I go in there, pick up my Ribena and notepads and then completely over-egg my personality when it comes to the exchanging of money and pleasantries. I grin loudly and fizz and crackle and make small talk that makes me appear madder than I actually am. Like I say, it’s no life.

But I’ve not just been busy being ill, I’ve been busy doing other stuff too. Today I began work on my book, a book loosely based upon Pitching the World. This involved putting all of the posts to date into a document and marveling at how I’ve managed to write 90,000 words about not pitching magazines. It’s quite something. What is also quite something is The Great Gatsby, which I’ve been writing out for a feature that I’m working on. All afternoon my words, then Fitzgerald’s. Mine, then his.

His are better, aren’t they? His words. Better. But are they? I have to believe that mine are better than his, better than anyone’s if I’m going to write this book. So, I thought I would put down some extracts from The Great Gatsby and some from the archives of Pitching the World and have what I suppose is a quiz. Or a competition. Or something. Certainly it’s fun. Can you tell who wrote the following: Me or Him? There might be prizes if you can.

1. Only Gatsby, the man who gives his name to this book, was exempt from my reaction – Gatsby, who represented everything for which I have an unaffected scorn.

2. That’s what I do with my friends: Fuck them in bins.

3. I have been drunk just twice in my life, and the second time was that afternoon.

4. I desperately want to become Barry Manilow.

5. “Your eyes have gone weird. What’s happened to your eyes? You look mental.”

6. “It’s a bitch. Here’s your money. Go and buy ten more dogs with it.”

7. Somehow, I’ve found myself in a situation where I’m living in an expensive house on top of a hill looking after cats. I don’t know how many. Two? Ten? A number of cats, anyway. And a dog.

8. Never think that anything is either untouched or promising.

9. So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

10. I’ve flapped around and fucked up everything I’ve ever tried and I’m not going to flap around and fuck this up.

How did you get on? I told you it would be fun. I had lots of fun. Answers tomorrow. Or perhaps Wednesday. Who knows? Who cares? You’re probably not even reading this bit and if you are you probably want to stop.

Until tomorrow, then. Or Wednesday. Thank you.

AN UPDATE: It’s Wednesday, so time for answers. You’ve all been waiting for this moment, haven’t you? What do you mean you haven’t? Frankly, I refuse to acknowledge the lack of appetite for the above quiz and will stagger on with the answers regardless. Here goes:

1. Fitzgerald, obviously.

2. Me, obviously.

3. Fitzgerald.

4. Me. (and it’s true)

5. Me.

6. Fitzgerald.

7. Me.

8. Me.

9. Fitzgerald.

10. Me.

And that, thank God, is that. More quizzes tomorrow. In fact, quizzes every hour from now on until people agree that it’s a good idea.



Witness the Sickness

On Friday I shaved off all my facial hair, head hair and body hair. Then, for the remainder of the weekend, I lay in a cold bath with just by head peeping out  pretending to be a seal. I didn’t really. I nearly did though, I certainly wanted to. I’m really on the edge out here in East Horsley. Self-imposed isolation in Surrey isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

But I’ve been sick. Terribly sick. If life has taught me one thing, it’s that if you’re sick – terribly sick – you shouldn’t spend all weekend in a cold bath pretending to be a seal. Frustrating though, this sickness. Frustrating that I couldn’t pretend to be a seal, and more frustrating that I couldn’t get on with all the work I feel like I should be getting on with.

What work? Well, there’s a weekly column to get stuck in to, a couple of features to write, an idea for a column that needs to be refined and pitched, work on at least two books and a load of other stuff that I’m not too inclined to think about because if I do think about it, I really might end up in that bath yelping away. Still, I can cope. Since quitting this ridiculous business of trying to pitch 642 magazines, my head has felt considerably fresher. Cleaner. No longer do I have to think of feature ideas for Electrical Review or Ships Monthly or Slim at Home. No longer do I have to periodically take out that stinking book and glaze over as I try and work out who I have and haven’t contacted. No. Now I have the mental freedom to actually chase after and conduct the sort of work that I should be doing.

With that in mind, then, earlier today I wrote to 79 publications listed in the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, ‘This man is a riot. This half-man half-seal is such a wreck that he can’t even quit properly. He fails at quitting. Fuck this, I’m unsubscribing.’

Is that what you’re thinking? Don’t. It was a one-off. Well, a 79-off. It’s just that I’ve half-heartedly sunk two and a half years into this beast and I wanted to be sure, you wanted to be sure, we all wanted to be sure, that by quitting I was doing the right thing. And I figured that if I contacted another string of magazines with my usual bullshit (‘I’m broke and homeless and possibly a seal looking for freelance work’) and they responded with their usual bullshit (‘We like you, we like your work, we don’t have any money, leave us alone’) then I would feel nicely vindicated in my quitting.

And that’s what’s happened. Sort of. Most of the publications who have replied today say that they have little or no budget for freelancers and only one or two have said they would like to me to write for them. If I do write for them, it won’t be under the Pitching the World umbrella. It’ll be under something else.

Excuse me. I’m heady, aren’t I? It’s okay, you can be honest with me. I’m sick, still. But I do have one piece of good news before I drift off for the evening. A kindly benefactor has emerged from the shadows and offered to financially support me whilst I write a book about Pitching the World. Special, isn’t it? Brings tears to your eyes, doesn’t it? I’ve no idea why I’ve left this slice of news until now. Surely something as welcome and flattering should have been shoved up to the top of this post. All I can think is that for some reason I wanted to tell you about pretending to be a seal first. And I wanted to show that persistence pays off. You’ve got this far. Well done.

So there will be a book about Pitching the World. It will be about persistence not paying off (but also paying off), and borderline homelessness, and the state of journalism in the UK, and alcoholism and writing and some other stuff – loads of other stuff – that I haven’t even begun to mention over the last two and a half years. Will you buy it? I hope you’ll buy it. Even if you’re not going to buy it, I hope you’ll pretend to me that you are going to buy it. Thank you.

A seal (not me) in a bath, earlier. 

Dead Pitchers Society

Three hastily cobbled together reasons for quitting, which should serve as an explanation. Of sorts.


See this? This is me, shortly before starting Pitching the World.

Me, earlier. 

Wow, what’s going on there, I wonder? Gazing out into the distance, a mysterious half smile playing on my lips. You’re probably thinking I’m an actor or something. I’m not though. I’m a writer. Perhaps up there I’m thinking about deadlines I’m going to conquer and features I’m going to write. Look at me: look at how happy I am. And mysterious. I’m certainly mysterious.

This was taken a little under two weeks ago, at some threadbare house party.

Me, less earlier. 

There’s no mystery here. See the pain? There’s a lot of pain there. See the wine rack there? There’s not a lot of wine there. My eyes look like they’re about to fall out of my head. I wouldn’t blame them. This was during a time when all I wanted to do was get fucked. Certainly I had predilections towards alcohol and abusing myself prior to starting this recently abandoned project, but Pitching the World definitely led to them blossoming.


I can take a ‘No’. I can take silence, too. Over the last couple of years I’ve had to deal with hundreds of ‘No’s and silences after sending pitches. What I found most frustrating, however, were the times when I would deal with an editor and he or she would say ‘I think we might have something for you’ and I’d say, ‘That’s great, I’d love you to have something for me’ and then they would appear to not have something for me after all, so I’d have to chase them up and ask, ‘Do you have something for me? If not, I may have something for you’ and then give them a list of ideas. Again, this was greeted with silence. This happened dozens of times and became very frustrating.

Or they would say, ‘We like you and your work, please send us some clippings.’ So I’d send them some clippings. They wouldn’t let me know they had received my clippings. ‘Did you get my clippings?’ I’d whisper to them a week or so later. ‘Yes,’ they would say, ‘we got your clippings. We liked them very much.’ ‘Splendid, I would say. I’m glad you liked the clippings. What am I writing for you? Here are some ideas.’ ‘We got your clippings’ they would reply. ‘We loved your clippings.’ ‘Oh well that’s just great, I’m glad you liked them…’ This little dance would continue for a million or so years until the whole exchange became too surreal and boring and Beckett-like for all those concerned and eventually would just kind of peter out.


It became all consuming. I realise it might sound paradoxical to say I quit Pitching the World because of Pitching the World, but I think it’s an accurate summation. In March 2010 I was lying in bed next to my wife, Dr Celia [redacted], and I thought: Wouldn’t it be good for Pitching the World if we split up? I could be homeless and mad and boozy and entertain my readers with stories of trying to fuck bits of pavements. Four months later, we split up.

Okay, another one. Last year, I tried to pitch Commando magazine with a story of a grizzled marine being stuck out on some islands in the Pacific Ocean. I say ‘tried to pitch’, but I did no such thing. I drew some funny pictures and wrote some funny comments about said pictures and posted the whole experience up here. I never seriously thought I could successfully write for Commando. I just wanted to be entertaining on here.

A floating carrot and some palm trees, earlier. 

The whole process took a day. See? Do you see? Although I did enjoy doing that drawing (and it is very special) and although I’ve kind of enjoyed doing a lot of these things over the years, I’ve not done them really for the end result, more so that I can write about them on here. And that never figured among my reasons for pitching all of these 642 magazines.

What a deeply flawed explanation for things.

And now? And now it’s all over. I’m an average nobody. I get to live the rest of my life like a schnook.


More Conversations With My Agent

Earlier today, I sent this email to my agent. If you’re at all interested, I’ll still be updating this blog – and quite possibly with more regularity – but I’ve decided this project can go and make love to itself. Thanks very much for reading.


To: Matthew Hamilton, Aitken Alexander Associates

From: Pitching the World

Subject: The End

Dear Matthew,

A week or two ago I promised to send you an email that would be “the best email you have ever read.” This may well not be it. In fact, it may well be thoroughly disappointing. Sometime in the middle of last night, you see, I decided to quit Pitching the World. For real this time. This ghoul of a project has caused a lot of misery and hardship over the last couple of years. It’s led to divorce, poverty, a hairline that can best be described as misplaced and atrophying limbs. I know I always bang on about it causing me to go broke and mad and bald but it really has. As it stands, I’m in a borrowed flat in Surrey with no heating, no ability to pay my raft of creditors and enough food to last until the weekend. Once that goes, I’m screwed.

Screwed, but happy. I’m massively relieved to be abandoning this ridiculous thing. And I have ideas. One idea, is that there could still be a good book to be found based on my experiences over the last two and a half years. It could begin here, in East Horsley, broke and alone and drying out. It could be a cautionary tale about freelance journalism. Or a cautionary tale about seeing things through. I always thought it would be a brave and noble achievement to see Pitching the World out to the end, no matter what. Last night, that thought struck me as foolish. I’d be foolish to see this thing out. The brave and noble thing to do would be to quit now and put it down to experience. Surely that would be a better, more representative book: embarking on something and failing miserably. I quite like that. Plus, I’m not a journalist – certainly not the type of journalist who could have made Pitching the World a success. I’m a lot of things, but that type of journalist isn’t one of them.

So, where does this leave us? Hopefully somewhere not too grim. I’ll still continue to write for a living and have a weekly poker column starting next week. We’ve discussed the possibility of me writing a book about poker. If you still want to represent me, we can discuss that further. It occurred to me last night that I should be writing about the things I enjoy doing. I came up with a list: Drinking, Smoking, Gambling and Making Dinner For My Nan. I can’t see a book in that last one, but I can see something in travelling the world living in developing countries trying to make a living from gambling and the stuff that that involves. I can also see a column along those lines. Once I’ve sent this email, I’m going to spend the night trying to get one commissioned.

Hopefully this email hasn’t led to you smashing up your desk. It’s definitely the right course of action to take though. Isn’t it? Not smashing up your desk, more me giving up. I’m not and never was the sort of man who could successfully pitch to and write for 642 magazines. In fact, I’m going to get that book now and go and burn it in the forest. Or I might just throw it away. If my phone had any battery I’d ask you to call me, but hopefully we can speak over the coming weeks.

With best wishes,

Pitching the World


A bear going to college, earlier. 

Not sure. “Fuck This?” perhaps.

“I have a pretty much inescapable deadline that will see this project wrapped up. At the end of January, Pitching the World will be no more.” – Pitching the World, December 2009.

Ambitious, wasn’t I? Bold, wasn’t I? Wrong, wasn’t I? Still, the following year it seems I continued to be wrong.

“On Friday I will take Pitching the World down, never write another entry, and go and work on the bins for the next decade or two.” – Pitching the World, August 2010.

Seems that I was marvelously tough back in August 2010. Couldn’t leave the house without getting into a brawl with some fishermen back in August 2010. ‘Go and work on the bins.’ Wow, watch out. And not only work on them, but work on them ‘for a decade or two.’ Yeah, that’ll show them. That’ll show me. That’s what people who live in their nan’s dining rooms go and do when things get tough: they go back to their roots and go and work on the bins.

“This, I fear, could be my final post. I’ve had enough. Enough of being a writer or a journalist or whatever the hell it is I’ve turned into and I am on the verge of quitting. The reasons are too numerous and complicated to go into, but let it be known that I’ve had enough. Enough enough enough. You know what the worst word in the English language is? Hope. I’ve had it with hope. Me and hope used to be pals; I used to take hope round the back of supermarkets and have sex with it in big bins. That’s what I do with my friends by the way: fuck them in bins.” – Pitching the World, June 2011.

Bins again. Threatening to quit, again. What’s the thing with bins? What’s the thing with quitting? I wanted to quit again this morning. From now on, unless I say otherwise, always assume that I wanted to quit again this morning. You know why I didn’t quit? I don’t have the balls. I don’t have the guts. Do you know what Marlon Brando said? He said – and, while we’re at it, are all these questions pissing you off as much as they are me? – this:

“Acting is the expression of a neurotic impulse. It’s a bum’s life. Quitting acting, that’s the sign of maturity.”

Me, earlier

Swap acting for writing and that’s pretty much how I feel at the moment. A bum’s life, but one I don’t have the guts to quit. Do you know what I’m doing at the moment? I’m writing out The Great Gatsby. Once written out, I’m going to write about my experiences of writing out The Great Gatsby for a writing magazine in the US. Beadier-eyed readers will note that at this precise second I’m writing about writing about writing out The Great Gatsby. A bum’s life.

It’s okay though, I’m going into forced exile in East Horsley on Friday. Nothing bad ever happens in East Horsley. Just you wait and see.

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Pitcher: Updated

God, freelance journalism can be a lonely beast. You probably think that I like that. You’ve seen me, seen that I’m a lonely beast, and thought that I’m well-suited to a job that is also a lonely beast. You’ve definitely thought that, haven’t you? It’s okay, you can tell me, I don’t mind. Well, if you were to tell me that you’d thought that, you’d only be half right. Sure, I do like to suffocate in my self-imposed isolation now and again, but I also like to get out and do things. What things, I don’t know. Drink, perhaps. Meet people, sometimes. Bark and curse at the clouds, always.

Anyway, we’re getting away from the point. The point is that it’s often a lonely life and I’ve been thinking about making it less lonely. It’s also a life where you grow to despise everything about the sending and receiving of emails, and I’ve been thinking about making a change there, too. With those things in mind, earlier this afternoon I wrote to seven or eight editors and features editors of magazines asking to meet me in person to pitch, rather than going through the whole character-draining process through email. Here’s what I wrote:


To: Seven or Eight Eds and Features Eds

From: Pitching the World

Subject: This email is not from Friends Reunited

Dear Ed,

This email may not be pretty. For a start, I’ve grown to hate emails: far too much of my time is taken up writing, sending, receiving, reading, replying to and waiting for emails (I realise there’s some overlap there, and some things that don’t really ring true. Does receiving an email take time, for instance?) and most of that time is spent in abject disappointment, if not abject terror. This is a problem. It is a problem because I am trying to pitch feature ideas to all of the 642 magazines listed in the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook for a book about journalism that I am working on, and the main method of communicating with editors is through email. 

That’s enough about emails though, isn’t it? Yes, more than enough. What I’d like to suggest is meeting you in person to pitch one or two feature ideas, rather than do it through email. I understand that may sound entirely bold and ridiculous, but if you had to pitch 642 magazines for a bone-headed project, you’d probably sound entirely bold and ridiculous too. What are my chances, though? Are you receptive to meeting journalists face-to-face? I promise not to take up too much of your time and I’ll come armed with ideas. I’ve worked for perhaps twenty editors in my time as a freelancer and of the three I’ve met in person – Martin Deeson at Square Mile/Hedge; Joe Barnes now at FHM; and Ryan Debique of a now defunct property magazine – I’ve gone on to do a fair amount of work for them over the years. 

I look forward to refreshing my email 80 times this afternoon and being disappointed when the only emails I receive are from Friends Reunited, Firezza and National Express Coaches respectively. 

Seriously though, all the best and it would be lovely to hear from you. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I’m free to meet all next week. 



Did you notice my hilarious subject line? I did, and found it hilarious. The rest – well, perfunctory comes to mind. But fuck it. You know, in another way, fuck it. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how I tend to offer very slender advice about actual journalism and pitching and saw this letter as going some way towards rectifying that. It’s something that not often comes up: HOW to pitch to editors. Most freelancers just email. Few phone. Fewer still write ever-so-slightly withering emails asking to meet and pitch in person.

Worth a shot, though. Within seconds of pinging that email off to Gay Times, I got the following response.


To: Pitching the World

From: Darren Scott, Editor.

Subject: This email is not from Friends Reunited

Fine, come in next Friday then. The coffee here is crap, just to warn you.


So fine, I will go in next Friday, then. And although I’m not yet armed with ideas, I will be by the time I’m drinking crap coffee with Darren.

What else has happened? Let me tell you in a bit, but let’s break things up with a picture of a cup of coffee. No, actually, with a picture of someone picking some coffee beans.

Coffee, earlier.

I actually plumped for a cup of coffee in the end. Partly it was a stalling tactic. Darren, I’m afraid, is the only editor to have replied to me so far. This is the thing with emails – or, at least, the thing with my emails – unless something happens more or less immediately, I think it never will. This is because it never will.

More editors will reply though, just you watch. There will certainly be an adjunct to this post. If any editors or similar happen to be reading this nonsense and want me to pitch in person, then please get in touch at pitchingtheworld*at* We could even go for lunch. I’ll pay. I better warn you though, I like to pay alone while you’re hanging around outside for me, and I like to go for a run down the street after paying. Just so you know.

ADJUNCT. Who doesn’t love an adjunct? No one, that’s who. I’ve just received this. This has made me not want to give up. In fact, I feel pitching in the flesh is not only the right path to take, but it’s the only path to take.


To: Pitching the World

From: Redacted

Subject: This email is not from Friends Reunited

Hello mate

Sorry for the delay. I am basically as crap as you are (no offence) so please don’t, er, take offence. (Not a great sentence.)
So listen. I’m only here at [Redacted] for another seven weeks or so… But listen: if you want to meet up for a drink then totally. I’ll even buy you one.
But do pitch stuff – it’s just… well, have you seen the mag recently? It’s all a bit fashion and stuff…
Um. But yes to beer, basically.
Here endeth the worst email ever written.