Posts Tagged ‘article’

Mad Dogs & Englishmen

November 16, 2009

There are not many people who can say they drink vodka for a living, but I’m happy to report that this particular session on the sauce paid my bed and board for a week or two at least! An article on Polish vodka is probably not the most original pitch in the world (in fact I’d already written one for Wizzair Magazine in when I was working for Cracow Life), but it’s the type editors love because a) it’s a local product with lots of history and cultural impact b) it gives the writer plenty of scope for having fun!

I pitched this article with the headline ‘Mad Dogs & Englishmen’ as a vodka tasting article centred around a night out in Krakow in which a bunch of English guys try, amongst other things, the famous Mad Dog (Wsciekly Pies) shot. In the end I went out with just one English guy and his girlfriend (who got cut out of the piece, as – although her company was very charming! – she didn’t have any quotes I wanted to use). Thankfully Simon proved to be not only a bit of a vodka connoisseur but came up with some brilliantly expressive tasting reactions (‘I’m getting burnt plastic’ and much more!)… Good man!

I nearly cried when the commissioning editor, Lucille from Jetaway magazine (who had raved about how much she loved the piece!) emailled me to say Jet2 had cancelled their Krakow route and she couldn’t run it (in these cases incidentally I would have been paid a kill fee – just half the original commission, but been free to sell the article elsewhere). However luckily Ryanair Magazine (published by the same company) also liked it and gave it a new home! Weyhey! Although the Editor did change the title to Sharp Shooters… which I’m not at all upset about if only because I love the Gangsta Cru.

So without further ado, here is the super Sharp Shooters/Mad Dogs & Englishmen… and I’d just like any editors out there know that I’m available for more vodka-related commissions…

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Cheese All That

October 13, 2009

My latest published article is a ‘People’ piece for Wizzair Magazine, in which I interviewed Spanish cheese expert Katherine McLaughlin, a 20-year Barcelona resident. I had chanced to go by her shop, Formatgeria La Seu, one day and we got talking and so I decided to pitch a piece about her interesting life/profession to the Editor. Naturally it didn’t turn out as smoothly as I had planned! My first error was not replacing the batteries in my digital recorder at the first sign they were low… you guessed it, we were a good 40 minutes into our conversation before I realised that for at least 25 of those we hadn’t been recording! It’s never the same when you try and go back over material and we pressed on, although barely had her phone stopped ringing than the customers started arriving and the interview was becoming increasingly disjointed. A further problem materialised when it came to picture time. Wizz had asked me for photos as part of my commission and, whereas I had managed to supply some natty shots with my compact Canon for a previous piece (interviewing a bike tour guide in Krakow), that had been outside and with an interviewee who I knew and was easier to direct. A reluctant model, no tripod and a mere 4.0 megapixels to work with the results were pedestrian. But with a bit of Photoshopping they just about turned out all right.

As for the text… well I typed up the transcript, but when I started working on the article I really felt it was lacking some fizz. In the end, rather than try and string out what I had, I called Katherine and she kindly agreed to do a second interview! This time around I got a great anecdote about her being chased by a bull in Galicia, as well as some better all round info. It was a bit of rescue job and I’ve definitely read better People pieces in Wizz, but a couple of lessons learnt at least. I think there’s always a bit of luck involved when your piece is heavily reliant on an interview with just one person, and – even though Katherine and I struck up a great rapport – you’re not always guaranteed that the information they impart is delivered in pithy quote-size chunks! In other words an interesting or pleasant conversation doesn’t directly correspond to great material for copy.

Anyhow you can judge for yourselves by reading the article here.

If you are in Barcelona and interested in Spanish cheeses then I can thoroughly recommend dropping in on Ms McLaughlin as she is a great no-nonsense Scotswoman who really knows her stuff on her specialist subject (farm house cheese). Her fare could make a good, if somewhat smelly, souvenir for the folks back home too!

Recycled Sounds for Easyjet Magazine

October 2, 2009

Ah, you wait months for an article to be published and then two crop up at once! Credit due to the Easyjet web content manager who could certainly teach their counterpart at Ryanair a thing or two about timely posting…

Recycled Sounds: Barcelona’s maestros of rubbish rhythms

As I mentioned in my previous blog post the idea for this article came from the same Time Out stub (thanks guys!) about recycling projects in Barcelona as the idea for Trashion Victims, and was particularly great from my perspective as it enabled me to get my first feature article with Easyjet Magazine… not a bad publication to be in with! The pitch for the article was little more than an interview with the band, Cabo San Roque (who are based in Barcelona); and whereas the editor was keen on the eco angle (the whole point being the band play with recycled instruments) it turns out that the recycling is done more from a practical than world-saving perspective. I don’t feel it detracts from the interest of the piece.

I must say the research could have gone a little more smoothly. The band’s manager, for some reason, invited me to a performance that was taking place at some kind of Catalan business event in a huge conference room full of suited and booted executive types (I was in my scruffy jeans and T-shirt). I had to sit through 2 hours of presentation in Catalan, alleviated with the odd video presentation and Coldplay soundtrack, before the performance – which lasted just 15-20 minutes – got underway. Luckily the band’s leader, Roger Aixut, was an extremely nice and interesting guy (he apologised for the strange set up) and we talked for a good 30 or 40 mins afterwards, whilst my digital recorder faithfully took notes. By the end it was a case of having too much, rather than too little material, but that’s always a nice problem to have (kind of like Fabio Capello deciding who to play on the right wing). The editor barely touched the piece at all (although reading the exorbitantly long second sentence, perhaps it would have been better if he had!), and generally I’m quite pleased with how it turned out.

Ok enough foreplay. I hope you enjoy the piece. I managed to squeeze in a couple of funnies – I was somewhat surprised the baguette didn’t get edited out. Read on!

Trashion Victims for Ryanair Magazine

September 30, 2009

Ryanair Magazine have finally updated their website, so I can proudly reveal my latest article, Trashion Victims: Recycled Chic in Barcelona, which has been on planes since mid-Sept. (I have no idea why Ryanair runs magazines from mid-month to mid-month, rather than simply ‘September’ ‘October’ etc, but there you go!).

I got the idea for the article from Time Out Guide to Barcelona 2007 edition, which had a short stub about various exciting recycling projects in the city (in fact from the same propitious stub I also got the lead for another article: ‘Recycled Sounds’, about Cabo San Roque band, which will be published shortly in Easyjet Magazine). After a bit of Internet research, I got in contact with a company called Demano, who luckily turned out to be the original recyclers of PVC posters in the city (these huge events posters are made out of expensive, durable plastic which was being buried at great expense to the environment, but which Demano turn into trendy bags – amongst other things). A very charming lady called Marcela Manrique invited me to their workshop so she could tell me more about the project – it was a lovely office in Poble Nou, full of trendy 20-late-somethings and I could have quite happily subscribed for a job there! But I won’t tell you what she had to say because it’s all in the article. After interviewing Marcela I nosed around town meeting the bizarre but brilliant Brazilian, Felipe McWallace, an artist and recyclomaniac, who supplied most of the article’s juicy quotes, as well as the affable Samuel Nualart and his partner who were working on a similar project to Demano but using original artists’ drawings on recycled canvasses – see Pinzat.

Once I’d gathered all the material I was put in contact with Barcelona-based photographer Susana Gellida (who thankfully spoke better English than my Spanish. We were able to talk and I was able to communicate my ideas to her – vital for getting images that match the story.) and I think she did a superb job of chronicling the piece in pictures. As bags are a tough subject to make visually exciting, I wasn’t surprised that the editor opted for shots mostly of Felipe with his dreadlocks and iconic sartorial style, outlandish customised bikes and chaotic junk-filled ‘laboratory’ (LABpukO on C/Palma de Sant Just). It meant a slight re-edit on the text, as the editor also wanted to start the piece with a quote from him (and you can certainly expect a post about a writer’s response to being edited soon in this blog!), but I think it came out really well.

Ok, I hope you enjoy the article, and please comment below with any feedback etc.

Oh and a quick post script! It seems I am sharing publishing honours in the magazine with my friend Steve Fallon, who I met when helping him with nightlife advice on Krakow for the Lonely Planet guide to Poland… (he really couldn’t have come to a better person;). Check out his amusing article describing just a few of the joys of being a travel writer.