Writing on, and about, an island

Posts Tagged ‘Magazines’

Still waters run deep (‘Who is Pufferfish?’)

In Books, Crime & Mystery Writer, Tasmania, Writing on July 31, 2013 at 12:37 pm

I’m a bit late to mention this, but I currently have a crime piece in the latest issue of Australia’s venerable literary publication, Island Magazine.

I profiled Tasmanian author David Owen’s character, Pufferfish (aka Detective Franz Heineken). As if he were a real person.

Interesting assignment… the piece is titled, ‘Who is Pufferfish?’ Australian author Carmel Bird sent me a very nice email about it, which I am enormously grateful for.

If you’re into crime stories, and Tasmaniana in general, I thoroughly recommend you try to get your hands on one of David’s books (pretty hard to find, although I do believe there’s a new book out later this year).

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Getting A Magazine Job (Part 1)

In Career, Writing on January 11, 2012 at 11:27 am

I get asked a lot how I got my first (paying) magazine job – which, incidentally, was as a junior sub-editor/production manager on the very-cool-yet-short-lived Minx magazine, designed as the female version of FHM, or Ralph etc…

I’m not sure where my idea for journalism came from – I loved reading and writing, and art and style, and I’d wanted to be Tintin when I grew up… but I think it must have come from enjoying foisting my opinions on the wider world. And feeling a bit voiceless in Tasmania. Magazines must have represented a soapbox, a way to communicate my ideas and thoughts (and a way out of Tasmania, which was stifling).

The beginning (and end) at Dolly

Unlike today’s magazine world, where cool Gen Ys intern for a bit then get offered a job, things were a little different in early 1998, when I flew from Hobart to Sydney to do work experience as a designer at Dolly. (At that stage, I had vague notions I’d be a graphic designer, as that was what I was studying – I hadn’t yet realised I was better at writing than designing…)

Although I got to hang out on a shoot with the Heartbreak High boys, my time at Dolly did not end well. The art director took exception to my proactivity or something, and told me after two days that I was not welcome back (“And you can forget about ever getting a job in this industry, in this town” – I kid you not).

The delicate Tasmanian in me went back to my rental apartment in North Sydney, had a little sulk – and then the bolshy Tasmanian in me realised two things:

a) I could fly home and foregt about ever getting a job on a magazine

b) I could disagree with her opinion, and keep chasing my dream

Choosing ‘b’

I just couldn’t bring myself to give in. So I set about totally upending my life. I rang my parents and said I wasn’t coming back. I quit my fine arts degree at the University of Tasmania, and re-enrolled in a art history and curating degree at COFA. I worked for free at Marie Claire and other magazines. I did late-night jobs to make ends meet. I applied and applied and applied for magazine jobs.

And got nothing.

When people ask me today about how they can get a job in magazines, I always tell them about the year and a half I spent going about it the wrong way. I had thought, naively, that people would just recognise my skills and talents and bless me with a job.

The break

I stuck at it, through stubbornness and pride more than anything else.

Towards the end of 1999, the chief sub-editor at Marie Claire – Jana Frawley – took pity on me and gave me some invaluable advice: do a sub-editing course, as it’s the uncoolest job on magazines but they always need good sub-editors. (I saw Jana many years later, when she was editor at Donna Hay, and thanked her for her generosity and advice).

I promptly enrolled in the editing/publishing diploma at Macleay College. My lovely Nanny paid the $3000 fee. I studied what I already knew (surely this grammar and spelling stuff was obvious???), did really well, and the day after I graduated from my uni degree, I was offered the Minx job – it was the first job I’d applied for after completing the diploma, and I bloody got it.

The reality

My annual salary at Minx was about $20,ooo. I worked a second job at night. I remember times when I had nothing to eat – and I had to walk from Rose Bay to Chinatown and back each day, as I couldn’t afford the bus. But it was worth it. The team, led by the wonderful Alex Brooks (currently of Kidspot), was inspiring, I learnt more than I could have hoped (especially the fact that I was a good writer and editor) and, when Minx sadly folded, I’d enough experience under my belt to confidently apply for another position: at CLEO, when the stylish and visionary Paula Joye was the editor.

Oh, and I asked for – and was granted – double the dollars I’d been on at Minx.

Things were starting to get interesting…

First Impressions

In Tasmania on December 12, 2011 at 3:30 am

I was at a Tasmanian shopping centre, giving styling lessons as part of a fashion promotion… One woman told me she was worried about the first impression she makes. She thought her personality was getting lost in translation, but didn’t know how to dress her shopfront, so to speak. She wanted me to say: “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” But I don’t – because it’s not true.

You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

That woman got me thinking about Tasmanian businesses, and why they need a lesson on first impressions.

When I got my first journo job, working on one of Australia’s most influential lifestyle magazines, I silently pledged – Girl Guide-like – to be the champion for getting Tassie back into the pages. Nothing had peed me off more than my home being left of the map.

Fast-forward 12 years and, after battling to get this State seen, I can tell you exactly how Tasmania appears to people who don’t live there.

It doesn’t.

Because Tasmania ignores the internet.

I gave it my best shot. I researched everything. But apart from the usual suspects, Tasmanian businesses barely registered when I Googled.

Yes, there are some good Tasmanian sites. The rest are embarrassingly mediocre. Last time I looked, a certain official Tasmanian tourism media site (which shall remain nameless – but should know better) couldn’t even get renowned local painter Geoff Dyer’s name correct…

Many businesses don’t even bother. And when you’re pressed for time, you need info – fast. If it can’t be found, it goes in the too-hard basket.

Then, when I decided to move back to Tasmania, I did what everyone I know does: I looked online for my new doctor, childcare centre, hairdresser – fruitlessly, because none of those services had thought it important to invest in a website. Yet you want me to trust your business? Please believe me: your first impression is everything. And you have none.

When I did move here, I asked locals why Tasmania was 10 years behind the world. Those locals replied: “We all know each other, so why would we need a website?” Well, that’s lovely that you all know each other. But what about the rest of us? If you want to register with the rest of the computer literate world, then a website isn’t just desirable. It’s a virtual reality. (Mr Roy Morgan backs me up: 2010 figures shows our love for doing business on the web has skyrocketed. Whether this is good or bad for society is not my point; I’m simply stating a fact.)

My suggestion. Government should offer local SMEs a grant to build a good website. It’s obvious most people aren’t doing it for themselves.

The alternative?

The sound of one hand tapping delete.

Writing

In Tasmania, Writing on December 9, 2011 at 6:03 am

It’s hard to know what matters most to you.

In fact, it’s one of the reasons I left busy Sydney to move back to Tasmania. To work out what mattered to me. The busyness of the world you live in (and mine was busy) creates so much distraction and noise that you forget what it ever was that excited you as a little person – or what excited you when you were heading out into the fresh world as a 21-year-old.

I’d certainly forgotten. I used to LOVE writing, and painting. And reading. And pretending I was TinTin…

But life gets in the way, as it always does. And you have to work hard to remember what mattered.

I admit that I HATED writing for a long time. It had been my first love as a child. And then I was lucky enough to make writing and reading my job. And I should have been grateful, grateful, grateful (specially because lots of girls would’ve done my job for free, right, CLEO?)… H

But hang on a minute. Because I was writing 10 hours a day about things that didn’t matter to me, I got writing burn-out. I’ve never had writer’s block, but hell, have I had writer’s burn-out!

Anyway, my dream is to learn to love writing again. Because it’s one of the oldest things around – and I love old things. Because each word and sentence is like colours and shapes – yes, I have synaesthesia. Because being good at words gives me the freedom to cross across locations and careers – and I like changing location and careers often!

And there’s that word: freedom. That’s what writing is really about.

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