Diary

Getting Cut

16 March 2007 | Diary

Those of you who enjoyed my recent story about Derek Gray may be amused to know that the nail-biting office functionary is now a published writer. In fact, he wrote the main feature in the books pages of this month’s edition of The Skinny. Who knew he had it in him?

Here’s what happened:

I took the bait of writing the feature this month. I had never been asked to do a feature at this magazine before – only reviews. It was a seemingly tricky project which no one else would touch: 850 words on a local bookshop. At The Skinny you normally only get space for about 200 words in which to do a proper book review. This thing was a full-length feature and it was about a retail space of all things. It had the potential to be pretty boring and unrewarding.

But in need of brownie points as ever, I checked out the bookshop (which turned out to be more of a toyshop for mods than anything) and wrote an 850-word Barthes-style reflective mini-essay on contemporary British “magazine” culture making reference to the likes of Rick Poyner, Momus and Nathan Barley. In the end I was perversely happy with it: I’d turned something potentially pointless into something affected and personal. Normally The Skinny don’t like critical stuff but I figured that since they really needed something to fill the space and we were so far past the deadline anyway that they’d just take it anyway.

But they didn’t. Obviously. Why did I think I could coerce them into doing so? The piece didn’t even get past the section editor let alone the sub-editor. To make matters worse, I had been told the wrong word count! They didn’t have space for 850 words: all they could manage was 400.

I had put the effort in for nothing! My work got cut down to half of its original content. All of the clever stuff I’d put in had to be removed until all that remained was a blah-blah description of a not-very-good city center shop. We were back to “Boring and unrewarding” again.

“Can you put it under a pseudonym?” I groaned when I heard the news. The guy was way ahead of me though. He’d read this blog and had plumped for ‘Derek Gray’ as a suitable publication name.



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