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Day #100 – Over and (not quite) out

28 Oct

And here we are at the finish line. 100 days. The gestation period of a domestic pig. More than a year on Mercury. (Nearly) 100 pitches. (Nearly) 100 tears. It certainly has been an interesting ride. If one was to attempt to capture the emotional rollercoaster schematically, it might look a little something like this:

H.P Lovecraft - the picture says it all

What have I learnt? Well firstly that freelance pitching is best approached as a stand-alone profession, rather than squished in between a hectic office job, freelance consulting gigs and an untenable social life. And I’ve learnt to greatly respect those who commit to this as a full time profession. That is, the kind of respect you reserve for the clinically insane.

I’ve also learnt, courtesy of this nifty little online tool, that my writing style of this blog is like that of H.P Lovecraft. Despite the romantic semantics of the name, he is, apparently, the master of bloodcurdling horror and the macabre. Which is probably a reasonably apt summation of the last 3 1/3 months.

I don’t quite have the bursting portfolio I envisaged at the start of this process. But what’s given me the most satisfaction are some of the unexpected wins – offers of contacts, encouragement from editors, writers and friends and interviews and pieces on things I never thought I’d get to research. Like dramatherapy and shitting civets.Unexpectedly, the part I loved most was writing this blog – unrestricted streams of consciousness in my own voice, and the joy of getting another comment or subscriber (even strangers) or a whole lot of hits. This was just designed for a few mates to follow my progress but somehow it’s received 5000 hits in 3 months, and now when an editor asks to see a sample of my work I can point them in this direction.

Pitchfever was a knackering, constant and exposed experiment, but I know I wouldn’t have got round to a single pitch unless I was being held accountable by you all. And the process has changed my outlook – instead of waiting for an idea to be to be crafted perfectly, I’ll just get it out there. Hatching ideas, whether inspired or rubbish, has become a daily habit, like teeth brushing or pinot noir. I’m noticing stories in everything, and ultimately, am looking at the world in a different way. And I, for one, quite like the vista.

I’ve shifted my stance on writing as a fulltime career now I think, but I like the idea of dabbling in it, and juggling journalism with other work. I’ve bought myself a little ideas book. I’ve paid my annual AWM subscription. In a week I move to a place with a real study, a definite upgrade from the coffee table. So, dear subscribers, if you don’t quite mind (and didn’t only sign up because there was a clear exit strategy come October) I might just keep updating the pitchfever blog. Feel free to opt out, but I promise to only regale you every now and then, with tidbits and snippets from the pitching and writing world. Thanks for coming on the journey and for all the banter, comments and love. Cliche or not, I couldn’t have done it with out you.

Post note…

The boy must be relieved this is over – on day 100 he proposed. He’s definitely now moved up a notch ahead of the MacBook on the ‘Possessions I Love’ list.

Day # 93 – One Week To Go

20 Oct

Day 93. You don’t have to be Grigory Perelman to work out that equates to one more week of this pitching malarkey. And, effectively, my twenties. Yup, over the hill in under a week and hopefully more mature and less inclined to make ridiculously public declarations of intent like this here blog. Hopefully this also means conversations can return to normal, rather than:

Person: so how’s that pitching thing going?

Me: look, there’s a squirrel!

Perhaps I can return to decent night’s sleep rather than leaping out of bed remembering I haven’t pitched, or waking bolt upright in the middle of the night with what seems like a brilliant idea (on closer inspection of the scribbled notes in the morning, it always manages to disappoint). Maybe I can bring my laptop back into the bedroom after it was banned following an accusation that I loved it more than my bedfellow. No comment.

Those with keen powers of observation may also have noticed its been a record gap of 20 days between posts. Whilst my pitching began with gusto, in these dying days of the experiment the process has become somewhat tepid. In fact, it has reflected my standard system when approaching any major deadline, particularly one I care about: Denial. Absolute unashamed, unbridled procrastination. It’s an art, I tells ya. (It really is: in a twisted and perverse psychological sense this self-sabotage is actually very clever: if you fail, you can blame lack of preparation, if you nail it, you’re a genius – you didn’t even prepare).

There have been a couple of sporadic bursts of action since we spoke last. I did have a quasi-epiphanic moment regarding travel journalism. Surely, after professional footy, this is the greatest scam in the working world: get paid to do what everyone else pays to do. I’m still very much in the sucker category, with large travel debts from spending the last decade gallivanting around the globe. As such, I haven’t been able to plan travel anywhere very word-worthy lately, excluding me from this kind of writing. Until it occurred to me I could dust off the old emails and write about the places I’d already been. So a few pitches went off in this vain – authentic family yurt experiences in Mongolia, catching the ferry from Stockholm to Tallin, a local’s guide to Goa, and how to buy a coffee plantation on the cheap in Columbia.

I also decided in these last couple of weeks of accountable, enforced pitches that they might as well be about something I’ve always wanted to know about. A long laundry list later, I shortlisted 3 or 4 burning topics, which will kill two self-serving birds with one stone if commissioned: advice on buying a vintage car, microfinancing for dummies and one on the social implications of men-only detention centres from next year (admittedly, I only realised I wanted to know about this on Tuesday, but its burning nonetheless).

I want to be one of those smart cookies, glasses and all

And this week, I’m setting myself the greatest challenge so far. The mother of all procrastination pitches: a pitch to the mag I want to write for the most. I’ve been waiting until the end so I could send them a dazzling portfolio of published pieces, but in the absence of those it will just have to be a cracker of an idea. The magazine is Frankie, and I’ve been putting it off because I want to get it just right – they have a really specific style (intelligent, witty, irreverent) and their writers (especially Marieke Hardy and Benjamin Law) are my heroes. The idea itself has not been forthcoming, but I’m hoping to change that tonight over a brainstorming workshop with friends. They’re under the impression it’s a birthday dinner but such is the necessary duplicity of the budding writer.

Day #72 – National (unofficial) Recycling Week

29 Sep

First a hung parliament, then a hung grandfinal. A year of inflated hype and promises with unsatisfying results. I’m pleased to report that pitch fever is no exception.

Destination of global significance or puddle with a cow?

Last week was declared the week of Great Telephonic Pitching Project. It should have been declared the week of rude switch-bitches, leaving voicemail messages, panicked hang ups by yours truly at the point of contact, unreturned calls, more voicemail messages, the occasional flustered editor not knowing what I was talking about, and one minor breakthrough in the form of a request for more information. Only problem was the request was for photos of the ‘worlds oldest village’ pitch and on the day I happened to be there it was raining so torrentially we couldn’t get out of the car. So the photos look a bit like a distant grey blur of a what might be a large puddle and not, in fact, stone huts and ancient eel traps as promised. What are the ethical considerations on pinching some stock photos in these trying times?

Any band who ties themselves together with helium balloons on a rooftop is alright with me

As it turns out, the most phone action I got was not actually the kind I was bargaining on. During the week I was asked to interview my very-first-actual-real-life-band, the Hungry Kids of Hungary. If you haven’t heard these boys, YouTube them immediately. You will understand my excitement: any band fulfilling my lifelong dream of levitating above a city using helium balloons warrants worshipping in my books. But the conditions: 20 minutes maximum. Over the phone. Here I was thinking I’d casually get a mobile number and give them a tinkle, but it turns out interviewing moderately famous bands  is a serious business involving third party conference call suppliers and an automated termination once your time is up. First lesson of freelance interviewing officially learnt: record, record, record. I have three pages of unintelligible notes that I’m now attempting to decipher. It turns out references to band members Ben, Kane, Dean and Ryan all look identical in shorthand scribble (what are the odds of so many n’s, a’s and e’s in one quintet?)

While I wait for a editors to return calls I’m embarking on a new strategy that’s much more satisfying than last weeks exercise in cold calling. With under a month to go till the finish line, I’m making the next 7 days National recycling week. Sure, the official week is in November, but I’ve always been a firm believer that every week should be environmentally conscious, so why not approach pitching in the same way? Ignored by Body and Soul? Rehash the story for Women’s Health. Slighted by HR Leader? See if BRW will give it a whirl. Snubbed by Bacon Busters? Well, there’s not really anywhere else that story could go. But in a similar vein, Beer and Brewer magazine pay their contributors in brewing kits, and I’ve always wanted to dabble in the dark arts of hops and barley. I wonder if there’s a market for recycled beer?

Day #60 That rather terrifying invention… the telephone

17 Sep

What I’ve learnt about the world of pitching thus far:

  1. Editors are not very good at responding to their emails
  2. Editors are, however, much more likely to respond to an email if the job is unpaid or virtually unpaid ($20 an article does not a sustainable journalism career make)*
  3. Editors do not seem to respond to flattery, even if you’ve personalised a reference a specific section in their last issue and spread compliments like condiments
  4. Just because an editor responds once with interest, does not mean they’ll ever respond again
  5. Just because I think an idea is ground-breakingly brilliant**, does not mean it warrants a reply, no matter how many times an hour I refresh my inbox or check my junk mail folder to ensure no offers of triple page spreads have slipped through to the keeper
  6. There’s no point posing as an established journalist since the invention of Google. All can be revealed in under 10 seconds. And usually is.

There is a small chance that my over-reliance on the electronic medium may have some small part to play in this editorial silence. Wrong addresses, wrong people to speak to in the first place & getting lost in the paper trail could all be plausible explanations. Truth be told, I haven’t actually chased up a single of the 60 pitches sent so far. May seem like a fairly obvious oversight, but one steeped in an acute fear of picking up the phone and sounding like I’m way out of my depth. You can’t have mental blanks over email. However, you also can’t expect much cut through, and so this week, I’m giving my fear the middle finger and am going to harass publication switchboards all over the country.  Chasing up old pitches and throwing in some new ones, all squished into the 30 seconds before they hang up the phone. Very scary. But at least that’s not enough time for them to Google me before they decide….

*Amazingly speedy response from the punch this week after my pitch on offensive celebrity tweets, and ‘what the world knows about Australia from watching Neighbours’. But prefaced with the following disclaimer:

Thanks for your proposed ideas for a contribution, we’d love to read any of these once they are fully developed. If you want to get back to me with a completed piece, I can pass it onto the editors for review.  Also, unfortunately we are not able to pay our contributors at the moment, so I thought I should let you know. Looking forward to hearing from you again soon.

**Tell me I’m not alone in thinking a piece for an HR trade mag, analysing Mad Men episodes through the lens of current Australian workplace sexual harassment legislation (in light of the DJs case) is utterly compelling reading. This is not just an excuse to watch all of Season 4 in one sitting. Honest.

Day #50 – Please allow me to introduce myself…

7 Sep

With Operation Greek Migration officially abandoned today at 3.26pm EST, it is now time to fully devote myself to the demoralising art of desperately flogging ideas with disparately flagging enthusiasm.

To be fair, pitch fever has seen a moderate amount of published activity in the online world in the last week. A few interviews and previews for the Sydney Fringe Festival, a smattering of free tickets to review said shows, a promise of upcoming interviews with bona fide bands for Groupie mag and a weak attempt at toilet humour in Concrete Playground news. But considering any ranting twat can publish themselves online, and the entire remuneration from all this typing equates to this…

…at the official halfway point of Pitch Fever I’ve decided to change tack.

Commence Project Official Offline Publications (obviously haven’t got all the toilet humour out of my system). An article with a word count that can’t also be a football score, printed with real ink on genuine 120GSM stock, that can be paid for at a milk bar with actual money then cut out and sent to my Nanna for scrapbooking. If she dug that stuff.

According to virtually everyone who has an opinion on the matter, the main skill of the freelance feature writer is not, as you might think, to have a ground-breaking idea. Or even to write like Ross Gittens. It’s to know and understand your target publication and audience inside out. “Editors treat their publications like children, and they know them intimately” says Gina Perry, In Write to Publish. Sue White from Sydney Writer’s Centre has interviewed many editors on the topic and all of them list a lack of knowledge on their publication their greatest bugbear (and were gobsmacked at how often it happened, like pitches to in flight editors on destinations they didn’t even fly to).

Hence I declared last weekend ‘O-week’, and in the great tradition of all varsity orientations, spent the day with a beer in one hand, getting to ‘intimately’ know a whole lot of publications.

There are some excellent sites to peruse some of the 1600 titles in this country (more per capita than anywhere on the planet) including magnation and isubscribe. But to really get to befriend one, it’s ideal to have a physical copy on hand.

Step one: Spread every magazine you own (and have been pilfering and hoarding over the last month, from airport lounges to doctors surgeries) across office desk (or coffee table, as the case may be).

Step two: Pick up a magazine. Sniff it. Stroke it (Is it on glossy paper with a GSM of 40000 or does it have the texture of cheap public dunny bog roll? This will tell you exactly how much they’re charging for advertising space, and thus how much they’ll pay you). Have a leaf through, paying careful attention to the editorial content box (that little list of who’s who in the front) to gauge the ratio of staff writers to freelance writers.

Step three: Get acquainted. What’s unique about this particular read? And who reads it? What kind of sections does it have? How long are they? (count number of words in a row then multiply by number of rows). Where is it distributed – nationally or in the Inner West? What tone is it written in? If it were a person, what kind of car would it drive? And so on.

Step four: Place name of magazine in the middle of a blank page, encircle it with your favourite felt tip pen in a soothing-yet-cheerful shade, and let the ideas flow. Branch off with a new circle for each new idea, and link them where they relate.

Step five: Step back and admire work. Take right arm, cross over left shoulder, and pat self on back. Select least woeful of ideas and whip up into pitch to magazine, or if you’re a gambler, throw a few others in for good measure (it is a numbers game, afte rall). Open buttery Chardonnay to celebrate cleverness.

I’ve discovered that even though I love stroking my frosted aluminium MacBook (how can one inanimate object engender so much love?) I’m infinitely more productive with some old fashioned textas and an A3 drawing pad. Maybe it’s because I’m a visual person, or maybe it’s because I can’t compulsively switch between facebook, Twitter and Outlook to see if there’s been any action in the last, oh, 8 seconds. Either way, I had an unusually productive hour brainstorming the pitching direction for the second half. And rediscovering mind maps.

Day 50. About that many mind maps. 10 times that many ideas (most shite, but a couple of workable ones). A loungeroom that looks like its been under enemy fire, but the next few day’s pitches sorted.

Pleased to meet you, hope you guessed my name (Oh, yeah)….

Day #43 – All good ideas began on the back of a serviette

31 Aug

We still don’t have an elected PM, and thus my migration to greener island pastures is pending. Meanwhile, with under 2 months to go until the finish line, I hereby acknowledge it’s been anything but feverish on the pitch fever front lately – more of a slight sniffle really. But the neglect has been largely unavoidable: I went walkabout. Eight beds in as many nights, gallivanting through the Victorian countryside, listening to Aboriginal people’s stories of country and creation and countenance. I can’t believe it’s only been a week – I feel like I’m returning to reality as an old woman, with an altered understanding of the world. To prove it I am now the proud owner of a stable table. Very inspired, and fecund ground for story ideas, but hard to strike the requisite objectivity when you’re boiling with rage at age-old injustices. Here are some photos to distract you from the fact that this excuse only really accounts for about half of the lapsed time since my last post:

Ancient contraceptive pill

I had visions of pitching from log cabin verandahs overlooking craggy rocks, sipping port and stroking my chin, but barely had any mobile reception, and the only web I encountered was of the arachnid variety, on the slide pictured above. However I do have a handbag full of crumpled, lamb shank-stained serviettes covered in pitch ideas, the less ridiculous of which were tinkered with and shot off last night. Ideas largely mostly triggered by this week’s experiences (such as nibbling on an berry which was used as a contraceptive), Shiraz-fuelled dinner conversations with my two inspiring female road trippers (such as the rise of John Hewson as a sex symbol during this election) and incredible tourism opportunities, probably the most profound being a

Remains of stone hut at Lake Condah

visit to the world’s oldest village at Lake Condah. I’m the first to admit I’m prone to hyperbole, but this folks, is absolutely true – the world’s oldest village, with stone huts and complex aquaculture systems, is in our country. The Poms have been getting their knickers in a knot about a recent discovery of an 8000yr old house in London, and here we have a whole village that’s doubly as old. And only about 1400 people a year are checking it out. So I’ve hit up the new editor at Australian Traveller with that angle, rather than the original idea of all the Aboriginal experiences state-wide. And just for good measure, those serviettes themselves have sparked a pitch – profiling great ideas, businesses and philosophies that began on the back of a napkin or beer coaster.

In other news, my first print story has been sent off to ‘Made you Look’ (an interview with a fascinating lass about dramatherapy), and tonight I’m chatting to a member of Rocktapus, who’s comedy acapella singalongs are set to the rock the Sydney Fringe in a couple of weeks (read my blog post here). What’s more, tonight, tragically, I’ve had to abandon Traditional Tuesdays routine of chicken parmies in jarmies (and a double episode of Modern family) with a deadline for tomorrow morning to whip up a little news piece on the world’s most expensive coffee, found half-digested in the steaming turds of Indonesian civets. Humans are trying to cage the little buggers to meet demand, but like most things we attempt to interfere with, the flavour just ain’t the same. As with Bacon Busters, I’m having to strongly resist the urge to go down to pun town. An extremely difficult task given my penchant for poo-synonyms, as the fine print on this is the birthday card I made for my sister last month would indicate:

Best get a wriggle on. Happy last day of winter, all…

Day #31 – Struggle Street (and a confession)

19 Aug

Have you survived the whole week, on the edge of your seats in suspense awaiting clarification on the asterix at the foot of the last post? Been furiously refreshing the pitchfever page in your browser in case of any developments? Well, its time to put you out of your misery.

It was indeed a surreal time, this week at the orifice. After months of uncertainty, the company I work for was acquired, which means as a marketing manager, the brand I’d been nurturing and teaching to fly for the past year, is now dead, buried and cremated. A bit like workchoices, except much less likely to be resurrected. It was actually a little emotional to see my baby disappear in such a way. Not to mention the 800 pedometers I have sitting in an office drawer which I now can’t flog. Unless you want me to send you one – no doubt they’ll be worth a fortune on eBay soon.

Conversely, I spent 2 days mid-week on another (freelance consulting) job creating a brand from scratch that exists as a concept (Aboriginal Tourism in Victoria) but not as a brand (with a meaningful position and attributes in consumer’s minds). It has been a strange experience, farewelling one brand and creating another. Of course this couldn’t slip through the pitching cracks, and so Marketing magazine has once again been the recipient of my publishing pleas, a post-mortem on departed brands.

Which brings me to a confession. This has been my only pitch for the week. And why: I’m utterly, irrevocably, unequivocally hopeless at saying no. At a self-development weekend thingy once, this was an actual activity – collect as many no’s as you can in a day. I failed miserably. I need Nike to come up with a counter-campaign for me: Just don’t do it. Apparently this is a sought-after attribute of the successful freelance writer – editors want to know they can throw contributors a last minute brief and rely on them to jump. But it turns out, chronic yes syndrome is not so desirable a trait for the aspiring writer who also has a nine-to-five job and is working on a major freelance consulting gig in her spare time. Who has a social life that can only politely be described as ‘unsustainable’, is away 7 of the next 10 weekends, and has a boyfriend whose culinary repertoire is solely limited to spag bol. Although to be fair, he’s become very good at ordering take away for me since this whole pitching malarkey began.

Needless to say, pitch fever is suffering. There’s no shortage of stimulation (hell, we’re in the midst of one of the closest election battles in history), but I’ve barely 8 consecutive seconds to scratch myself, let alone formulate a well-considered, thoroughly researched, original pitch creation amidst the stimulation. Did Joseph Heller have the start of a dream career in mind when he coined the concept of Catch 22? Can’t afford to leave current job until successful writing career takes off, can’t find the time to launch said career when constantly juggling current one. Can’t convince busy, jaded editors to take a punt on cocky, unknown journalist until have some evidence of written work, can’t provide evidence until someone takes that plunge.

Particularly struggling with where to pitch this week’s story ideas, and subsequently the angle that will make them sing. So I’m going to do what any sensible woman would do when there’s a lot at stake: phone a friend. This is officially a public appeal for inspiration on publciations or hooks for the following stories:

  • Graveyard plots – people camped for 4 days for 34 new plots in Melbourne, the most expensive going for $201,000.
  • My boy played against all an-gay Rugby team on Saturday – apparently they’re the best in the comp and its been so popular there are now 2 in the league. And surprisingly, no homophobia from other teams.
  • According to news last week, dementia is set to surge in the next decades, without the necessary increases in funding. My grandma is rapidly losing the fight, and there’s been so many complicated issues getting her into a home and selling hers.
  • This weekend is the last home game of Brett Kirk and Paul Roo’s career with the swans. As a player and coach they’ve redefined football. What have they taught us?
  • What are the Germans saying about the Australian Sex Party?

Fear not, there’ll still be 100 in 100 days. I’ve set aside Sunday morning to catch up on my pitches, bitches, so polling for the above closes Saturday night. Unless of course, we have the rabbit in charge of the country and I’m on the first flight to Greece.

Day #25: Quarter time at the pitch

13 Aug

Well, it’s quarter time here at the pitch and a big thanks to all those still reading, to those who’ve shouted out (especially Valerie Khoo here) and those who’ve been commenting, old muckers and strangers alike. A comment at the foot of a post is akin to a virtual pot of tea & a Mint Slice, as any blogger will testify, and has spurred me on to drop my some of my own remarks off across the blogosphere.

Work has been utter chaos this week* and with stress levels at fever pitch, inspiration for pitch fever was as dry as a nun’s nasty. I turned to my mate Ange (quite the wordsmithette) for some pitching ideas, and got this response:

“….If  anyone  boasts a wealth of unutilised random knowledge as a result of  experience, it’s  you. Pitch to women’s health mags about a girl’s journey from wheezing Splendour aficionado to City2Surf veteran in less than 6 days; or to natural health & naturopathy publications about the hilarity of colonic irrigation and how IBS interferes with a girl’s enjoyment of the Sydney dining scene; or to Dog Owners Monthly about what every aspiring dog owner/couple should know before using them as training wheels for kids; or to Wheels magazine with a story about when a scooter becomes less of a love than a liability; or to anyone that will listen, how the theory of Saturn’s  Return does or does not apply to the fabulous women whose psyches you have the  privilege of dissecting….. or (sic) come  to think of it, perhaps you  could pitch to some painfully artsy &  pretentious cultural journal a story about participation and investment in the  Sydney theatrical  arts scene amongst the cynical-and-successful almost-30  crowd….”

Without wanting to elaborate too much on anything mentioned above (for your sake as well as my colon’s), the woman has a point. Draw from life’s rich bounty of experiences and write about what you know. It’s sure to make the writing richer and the pitch more credible.

I’ve oft-lamented my position as a Jacqueline of all trades (except wallet retention) and a master of none (except cheese toasties) but perhaps these broad skill sets could come in handy as a features writer.  As such I decided to add to Angela’s helpful list of things I might know a thing or two about…

  • Environmental matters – co-founded an environmental radio show and passionate about all things green, particularly solving this country’s waste problem
  • Mopeds – particularly the cheap, unreliable Chinese variety that leave you crying by the side of the Anzac Bridge (on at least 5 separate occasions)
  • The Sydney swans – 15 years of loyal membership. Particularly Brett Kirk, pride of place on my fridge.

    Gratuitous image of Captain Kirk

  • Entrepreneurialism – I’ve brainstormed, fantasised about, researched, registered, and begun a number of random harebrained business ideas over the years (with varying or little success) so could impart some wisdom
  • Domain names – obsessed with purchasing little patches of virtual real estate, and have a bucketload, hoping to create something wonderful in them.
  • Travel – have clocked up 40 plus countries in my 20s, which goes a long way to explain my woeful financial situation
  • Topical HR issues (HR professionals are my ‘target market’ for work so I have to get into their world)
  • Positive psychology and the nature of happiness – as soon as I have a lazy $50K lying round I want to do my Masters of APP with Martin Seligman in Pennsylvania
  • And so on….

So that’s what the last few days and the coming couple will consist of: pitching from the road more travelled. One off to NETT magazine today on selecting the right business partner, and a couple earlier in the week on the rise of chicks on bikes & how to go about getting licensed (to Cosmo) and the rising importance of culture and wellbeing in staff retention (to, yawn, HR Leader).

In other news, Australian traveller responded with “amazing idea” (see pitch here) but they’re sans editor until mid-September, so I’m on the backburner till then. Impatiently, was tempted to flog the same idea to a couple of other rural travel rags like Coast & Country and Get Up and Go (for the more ‘mature’ traveller) but this one’s the queen of domestic travel, so I’m going to sit on it. I’ve also got a couple of meetings lined up, one about ongoing work with Pagesdigital (woohoo!) and a coffee with the founder of one of my favourite independent urban online review publications, Concrete Playground. I bypassed pitching an idea to these guys, whose target market is the ‘culturally curious’ and instead just pitched myself (as ‘one of those annoying friends constantly cajoling people into accompanying me to random events and discoveries’).

A sad state of affairs

But still no word back since the initial email from Yoga journal, despite an outpouring of offers of interview contacts (thanks Duncs, Laura & Sharpie) and perhaps more harrowingly, my hairdresser from Wagga won’t return my calls for an interview. Furthermore, its Friday night, and I’m at home encased in flannelette with nought but a laptop to keep me company, and a Salada with cheese for dinner. All this dejection and rejection could send a woman to the drink. And that’s precisely where she intends to be sent.

* All will be revealed at 4pm on Monday

Day #20 – Cosmic Retribution & Dubious Execution

9 Aug

A few years ago, in my first few months working for a funky agency in a converted finger wharf, a Director began calling me Cathy, and the name took hold fast. I made the mistake of sending a firm but politely worded email to all senior management requesting that this cease immediately. Opening myself up to absolute ridicule, I suggested that the name was more befitting of a bottle-blonde hairdresser from Wagga Wagga and that it had the same shudder-inducing effect as nails on a blackboard. Four years later, as cosmic retribution for my snobbery, tomorrow I am interviewing a bottle blond hairdresser from Wagga Wagga. Thankfully her name isn’t Cathy, and her story is much more interesting than you might think. Last December she was in a motorbike accident that left her a paraplegic (more cosmic intervention, according to my man, who is hoping the interview will snap some sense into me and get me off my two wheels). Tomorrow, in my first phone interview since Pitch Fever began I’ll find out how her salon was redesigned for accessibility, so she could go back to work, and how the community banded together to raise money to do the same to her house. Very cool.

Melbourne's bike share at Fed Square

Speaking of the cosmos, Pitch Fever continues to generate all sorts of lovely and random offers of help and ideas from the universe. Particular kudos to a long lost (12 years in fact) namesake from school who is now a copy editor in NY and sent me oodles of advice and fabulous resources, such as media bistro and Ed 2010. Danke shoen Ms Gin! Thanks as well to the heads up from another mate, today’s pitch was to an online global environmental publication she suggested I write for. My idea was based on the low uptake of Melbourne’s brilliant new bike share scheme due to compulsory helmet laws but with none provided for use. And I seem to have secured some ongoing work from Pages, with a real live meeting next week to discuss: The Future.

However, a fifth of the way through, the sanguine optimism in the early stages of this experiment is wavering as the sheer magnitude of the pitching process sinks in. Beginning to think it should’ve just been filed away under the long list of ‘Cath’s harebrained schemes’ rather than being declared publicly to the world and therefore unable to be retracted. The constant need to find inspiration, the pervasive guilt, the disheartening and malnutritioned inbox. This recent doco about a freelancing mate of mine, who is successfully writing and still depressed by the process. The deflation when what seemed to be a cracker of an idea turns out to be utter shite when actually expressed on a screen to a potential editor, as you’re outlining why they might want to part with their money. Example: yesterday’s City 2 Surf, the largest timed footrace on the planet.

Hobbling along, nearly delirious, I was panting, purple and wishing for some sort of coronary explosion so as to be ferried off by the St Johns ambulance without having to actually admit defeat. Then, upon hearing the sweet sultry sounds of a sax on a rooftop belting out Baker St I felt a subsequent surge of energy. Grinning like a loon, and picking up the pace, I pondered how music can have such a profound effect on energy levels and mood, and whether experts recommend you jog with music or without. Apparently it’s the latter but I find I can always push myself another couple of k’s when I’ve got the Strokes in my ear. Anyway, seemed like a reasonable pitch (lactic acid build up perhaps?) until last night when I tried to figure out who would read it, who would publish it, who I’d interview and really, who the hell cares? By that stage though I felt so dazed and confused quality was not a consideration, and shot off a half-cocked email to Body and Soul, muttering something about the Bon Jovi effect.

Nottabbott Island?

Cheered myself up tonight by researching the cost of various Greek Islands to buy and emigrate to in case Tony Abbott becomes Prime Minister, and rallying the troops through a facebook group so I can take some good people with me. Since the whole country went down the loo they’re a bargain – the cheapest one is a lazy 1.5 million Euros – so I figure if we pool our pocket money, between all of us we can happily ignore the fact that our country has gone the same way.

Day #15 – The return to cold, chewable reality

4 Aug
There was a part of me hoping my first bona fide published article might be something weighty and serious, like an impact assessment of the Asian economy on the current geo-political landscape. Something the olds could cut out and stick on the fridge next to the Italian poetry magnets and feel like their funding of my education had finally manifested itself in something tangible. No, instead, I’ve gone and found myself talking about al fresco pissing in a music festival queue. And to make matters worse the accompanying portrait has me in a giant inflatable sumo suit with nought but a black g-string to cover my rude bits. Not my finest piece of work, written in the small foggy window between getting back late Monday night and submitting yesterday morning after about 3 minutes sleep all weekend, but I have officially lost my published writer virginity.

Despite alluding to the contrary, the last 4 days haven’t all just been sunshine and rock’n’roll and mid-strength beer. I took my pitching duties very seriously. I had intended to bail up a couple of editors should I stumble across them, but in the absence of any visible ones, I shot off a couple of pre-prepared numbers. Anyone that thinks that’s cheating hasn’t tried to cut and paste emails on an iPhone standing on one leg doggedly waving a solar charger around. Feeling festive, so all in a similar vein: one to Triple J mag on an anniversary special of Splendour (how things have changed in 10 years) and another to Marketing Magazine sprouting some ideas on innovative brand activation and sponsorship at the festival (from foam tents  to free mobile chargers), and its efficacy (I subscribe to this mag for work, so we’re reasonably well-acquainted).

Studiously researching publications (or is that the line up?)

I also used the campsite time to undergo some stringent publication analysis, a critical component of any proper pitching process. Whilst others were assessing the relative foxiness of Australia’s next top models in Rolling Stone magazine, I was memorising the regular sections, estimating word count and scanning the contents panel to calculate the ratio of staff to freelance contributors, a little trick learnt at the Sydney Writers Centre.

Rolling Stone was a winner – I’ve never really paid much attention to it (preferring to listen to music rather than read about it) but not only is it a sensational read (with politics, film, pop culture, and technology) it looks like virtually all articles are freelance! Bingo. Today’s pitch is hereby dedicated to them, a story about how the changing music festival scene in Australia (when you’re on a good thing…). The flogged copy of the in-flight mag ‘Voyeur’ from Virgin Blue also turned out to be an eyebrow-raiser, not just thinly-veiled travel advertorials flogging their destinations, but all manner of interesting articles, and once again, a proliferation of freelancers. Next on the radar.

Meanwhile, back in the unforgiving world of corporate reality, the strain of this extra-curricular pitching business is starting to show. I’m writing this in my lunchbreak, instead of breaking for lunch. I have 3 episodes of my favourite show, Tangle, beckoning to me from inside the Foxtel IQ box I haven’t had time to watch. So preoccupied am I, in fact, I’ve been contacted twice in 3 days by strangers who’ve found my wallet (once by the side of a Brisbane freeway, once on the 504 bus), tracked me down (once via my parents on whitepages, once through my local pubs loyalty card, who then called me. Who said alcoholism didn’t have its upside?). My friends have long since called me boomerang Boundy for my extreme luck when it comes to lost belongings but this has absolutely restored my faith in humanity. Perhaps my karma bank is full because I’m doing my first ever bit for charity fundraising in this weekend’s City to Surf (insert shameless plug to donate here). Now how can I turn that into a pitch?

Can you overdose?

This morning I was so stressed I absent-mindedly polished off a whole bottle of chewable Vitamin C’s. I have always been a bit partial to the taste (Dad used to bribe us with them) but I had no idea I’d done it until it was empty. Does anyone know of the toxic effects? Can you overdose? Does your wee turn orange in the same way Berocca turns it council-worker-vest yellow? Lucky I got that article in yesterday, I might not be here by tomorrow.

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