The Scribbler

the new writing blog for exciting contemporary writers

Posts Tagged ‘Journalism

Toby Young – A Master of nothing?

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Toby Young, author of How To Lose Friends and Alienate People

Toby Young, author of How To Lose Friends and Alienate People

To celebrate the DVD and Blu-Ray release of ‘How To Lose Friends and Alienate People’, The Scribbler talks to the author of the book that became one of the funniest movies of last year.

In an exclusive interview Toby Young talks about how he got into writing, what nurtured his talent and how the transformation from book to film transpired.

Enjoy our little chat with one of the most sought after writers of the twenty-first century below and leave a comment:

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THE SCRIBBLER: When, where and how did you first discover your flair for writing, and how was it nurtured early on?

TOBY YOUNG: Both my parents were published authors so, for me, writing a book wasn’t a particularly huge leap. Growing up, it was always something I thought I’d do. In addition, my father was always quite encouraging. From a very early age he used to tell me that I was a natural writer.

TS: What was it about working on The Danube that drove you to follow a career in journalism when you were, at the time, studying very different subjects?

TY: I studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics as a student — a subject known as PPE — and that is considered a typical degree for a journalist to take. I think a more pertinent question is why I didn’t go into current affairs journalism, why I tend to do the softer, more personal stuff, and that was something I fell into by accident. It was just easier to get published on the features page than the op ed page and, having come up that route, that’s the path I’m still on. But as I get older I find myself drifting more towards news and current affairs.

TS: You mentioned that as you get older you feel drawn to current affairs, how has that transition in writing styles and subjects been for you?

TY: I just mean that I enjoy appearing on programmes like Newsnight and Question Time – not that it happens very often!

The Sound of No Hands Clapping

'The Sound of No Hands Clapping'

TS: Can you describe the move you made from journalism to fiction writing? What differences exist between the two disciplines in terms of having to change your methods? Did you come across any difficulties and how did you overcome them?

TY: I’ve published very little fiction. My two books – ‘How To Lose Friends and Alienate
People’ and ‘The Sound of No Hands Clapping’ – are both non-fiction.

TS: While your two books are non-fiction some creativity must have gone into them, even if it was just finding ways of making scenes sound as colourful as possible.  How did you approach writing books like that? Are they not just mammoth features?

TY: I’ve read quite a few books on screenwriting and done Robert McKee’s screenwriting course a couple of times. I found that very helpful when it came to writing books. I think the principals of storytelling are universal, regardless of whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction.

How To Lose Friends and Alienate People

'How To Lose Friends and Alienate People'

TS: How did ‘How To Lose Friends and Alienate People’ come about? Can you briefly describe the writing process of such an auto-biographical book. Was it as much fun writing it as it is reading it?

TY: I worked on the proposal for ‘How To Lose Friends’ for a couple of years, but, after I’d sold the book on the back of that, it only took me about six months to write. I’m not sure “fun” is the right word to use. Hunter S Thompson said, “I suspect writing is a bit like fucking, which is only fun for amateurs. Old whores don’t do much giggling.”

TS: To the majority of readers it would appear you’ve led quite the lifestyle. How do you intent to follow your two books? Do you think you’ll have to turn to fiction to convey the same messages and humour?

TY: Well, my life is certainly less exciting now that I’m married and have four children. I want to write more fiction, but it’s hard finding the time between all my other commitments.

TS: During the film making process of HTLF&AP was it difficult to let some of the book go in the production reasons? How much input did you have in the process?

TY: No, I didn’t find that at all difficult. William Goldman, the novelist and screenwriter, once told me that a writer has to learn how to murder his babies, but that came naturally to me. The producers of the film were initially a little wary of me because they thought I’d fight to preserve every last scene in the book, but when they realized I wasn’t going to do that they were much more open to my suggestions. I knew that if the book was going to be turned into a film it would have to be very different.

TS: Are you happy with the finished piece? Has is inspired you to do a bit of screenwriting?

TY: Yes, very happy. It’s a very entertaining film. On the screenwriting front, I caught that bug about twenty-five years ago and I’m still plugging away. Being involved in the making of a film hasn’t put me off in the slightest.

TS: As the hype over HTLF&AP the movie pipes up again with the release of the DVD what are your plans for the future?

TY: I’d like to keep writing books, plays, movie scripts, etc, but be paid a lot more for doing it.

TS: You’re a bit of a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to writing. Which discipline do you enjoy dabbling in the most and why?

TY: I like comedy writing the best, particularly devising comic scenes. If you can pull that off, it’s very satisfying, particularly when you hear people laughing in the theatre or the cinema.

TS: I was able to contact you quite freely without having to go through publicists or PR. Do you usually work with them?  For the budding writers out there, what are the pros and cons of working with such professionals?

TY: I worked with a PR company on How to Lose Friends & Alienate People, but generally speaking I don’t. As far as I can tell, the only advantage of forcing people who want to interview you to go through a PR company is that they take you more seriously.

TS: The Scribbler is dedicated to inspiring and advising would-be writers to get their material published. What is the best piece of advice you could give them, or you have ever been given concerning your work?

TY: When I was about 19 I bumped into Clive James at an airport and told him what a big fan I was of ‘Unreliable Memoirs’. He reciprocated by giving me a piece of advice that I’ve found very useful: Keep it personal. The important thing is to find your own voice, to write in a style that is unique to you. Once you can do that, the rest is easy.

TS: Just how personal are you prepared to go in your writing?  How much of yourself do you dare put into your work?

TY: I like to think I’m pretty open and honest, but it is easy to delude yourself about just how open and honest you’re being. That is to say, many people who write about themselves and their reactions to things claim to feel what they think they ought to feel, but which, in reality, they don’t. I don’t think they’re being straightforwardly deceptive – it’s more that the lies they tell themselves spill out on to the page — but it still has the smell of dishonesty about it. The really hard thing about personal writing is to be completely faithful to who you really are and not pretend to be the person you think you ought to be.

TS: What you up to at the moment?

TY: I have a few irons in the fire, but experience has taught me not to talk about anything until you’re ready to unveil it before the public because, so often, these projects come to nothing.

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Find Toby Young in cyberspace:

Watch Toby Young interview Simon Pegg (and vice versa) for The Culture Show below:

Discussion:
Are you a fan of Toby Young’s writing? Does the movie do HTLF&AP justice? Post your views, comments and start discussions in the comments box below.

Words: Dean Samways

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Writer and creator of The Wire back on the beat

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David Simon, creator of The Wire

David Simon, creator of The Wire

Celebrated creator of the much loved hit US police drama The Wire (The Guardian’s live blog on all five series) has returned to his journalistic roots to investigate crime in Baltimore, the setting of the HBO series.

Writer and journalist David Simon was reportedly unhappy with the Baltimore Sun‘s coverage of a police shooting which reported that “one old police reporter [Simon] lost his mind and began making calls” following a handful of unsatisfactory stories.

You would have thought the Baltimore police would have learnt it’s lesson after five series of The Wire but Simon was denied the face sheet of the shooting report.

David Simon said: “I tried to explain the Maryland statutes to the shift commander, but so long had it been since a reporter had demanded a public document that he stared at me as if I were an emissary from some lost and utterly alien world. Which is, sadly enough, exactly true.”

Have a look see what Charlie Brooker thinks of The Wire below:

Discussion:
Has the Wire inspired anyone to try their hand at screenplay writing? Does anyone enjoy writing about crime, and why? Let us know what you think of The Wire.

Words: Dean Samways

Gonzo is nearly upon us

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A poster for the Gonzo documentary on Hunter S. Thompson

A poster for the Gonzo documentary on Hunter S. Thompson

How did this almost slip under The Scribbler radar?

Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, the celebrated documentary by Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney, is finally hitting UK cinemas on 19 December.

Almost a year after the feature length documentary made its cinematic debut at the Sundance Film Festival British audiences will finally get to see Gibney’s uncanny account of gonzo journalism‘s forefather.

The film addresses the major events that made Thompson such an influencial figure not just in literary circles but also political ones too. For example, his intense and ill-fated relationship with the Hell’s Angels, his near-successful bid for the office of sheriff in Aspen in 1970, the notorious story behind the landmark Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, his deep involvement in Senator George McGovern’s 1972 presidential campaign, and much more.

As an extra treat the entire motion picture is narrated by Johnny Depp.

Naturally we will follow any developments on this, the most exciting film release of the year. Keep it The Scribbler for the first review of Gonzo.

Read Gonzo’s Sundance review right here.

Have a look at the trailer below:

Discussion:
Are you looking forward to Gonzo? How many of you admire HST? Is he primarily a storyteller or journalist? Can his infamous subjectivity be used objectively?

Words: Dean Samways

Guardian and Observer clean up at music journalism awards

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Radioheads Thom Yorke on the cover of OMM which won best editor last night

Radiohead's Thom Yorke on the cover of OMM which won best editor last night

Newspapers The Guardian and The Observer stole the show at last night’s 2008 Record Of The Day Awards for Music Journalism and PR (phew) when they walked away with five gongs. The Word was named magazine of the year.

Caspar Llewellyn-Smith, editor of Observer Music Monthly bagged the editor of the year award for the second consecutive year. The Guardian was celebrated for it’s music content winning best music coverage in a national newspaper and best podcast. The Guardian’s Alexis Petridis was named record reviews writer of the year and The Observer’s Kitty Empire won the 2008 live reviews writer award.

Other winners included Dog Day Press (best independent PR company) and Polydor (best in-house PR department).

The highlight of the eveing came when legendary British music journalism Jon Savage was honoured when he received the outstanding contribution to music journalism award.

Representing the artdesks up and down the country was Pennie Smith who picked up the outstanding contribution to music photography award.

MBC PR co-founder Barbara Charone won the outstanding contribution to music PR awards and

The awards took place at Conway Hall, London.

The full list of the 2008 Record of the Day Award winners is as follows:

  • Live Reviews Writer of the Year: Kitty Empire – The Observer
  • Best PR campaign for a breakthrough UK Act: Tony Linkin at Coalition PR for Glasvegas
  • Best PR campaign for an established UK Act: Lewis Jamieson at Hall Or Nothing PR for Elbow
  • Record Reviews Writer of the Year: Alexis Petridis – The Guardian
  • Best Music Coverage in a Newspaper: The Guardian
  • Business and Technology Writer of the Year: Ben Cardew – Music Week
  • Best PR campaign for an established non-UK Act: James Hopkins at Columbia Records for Kings of Leon
  • Best PR Campaign for a Breakthrough Non-UK Act: Ash Collins at Toast PR for MGMT
  • Best Podcast: Guardian Music Weekly
  • Best Editor: Caspar Llewellyn Smith – Observer Music Monthly
  • Best Independent PR Company: Dog Day Press
  • Best Independent PR individual: Nathan Beazer at Dog Day Press
  • Best Digital Publication: NME.COM
  • Best in-house PR person: Andy Prevezer at Warner Bros Records
  • Best In-House PR department: Polydor Records
  • Artist and Music Features – Writer of The Year: Simon Cosyns and Jacqui Swift – The Sun, Something for the Weekend
  • Breaking Music Writer: Paul Lester
  • Magazine of the Year: The Word
  • Best Blog: 20 Jazz Funk Greats
  • Best Online PR: Scruffy Bird
  • Outstanding contribution to music journalism: Jon Savage
  • Outstanding contribution to PR: Barbara Charone – MBC PR
  • Outstanding contribution to music photography: Pennie Smith

That classic image of The Clash's Paul Simonon captured by Pennie Smith

If you’re into your music journalism you’ll know who this guy is below (he’s the legendary Beatnik muso Lester Bangs for any of you who don’t):

Discussion:
Are you thinking of a career in music journalism? Are you already writing music pieces? Want you share them? Leave a comment with your experience in the music journalism world here (the editor is a freelancer for Drowned in Sound when it suits him so he’ll be keen to chat on the subject)

Words: Dean Samways

‘Disappear Here’ please, for all our sakes Peaches

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Peaches Geldof - Disappear Here Editor

Peaches Geldof - Disappear Here Editor

It’s no surprise that this particular story has got our goat at The Scribbler.

But most in the print media should be annoyed by the news famous for being nothing ‘indie it girl’ Peaches Geldof has been set the challenge of launching a magazine, whilst the MTV cameras follow the sordid charade (watch at your peril).

Peaches has described the magazine, Disappear Here, as “underground and anti-mainstream”, Sugar Ape anyone?

The program has been met with a lot of negative criticism, largely due to a daddy’s girl waltzing into an industry that many will spend years toiling in just to get a byline.

Another major criticism of the show has been Peaches highly unprofessional approach to others. Editor’s naturally have a degree of authority on a publication but let us not forget that Peaches’ only experience of writing was a poorly written column in The Daily Telegraph (How did she get that job? – Ed).

Put simply Peaches looks set to offend a lot more people with her new program (for as long as it runs). But at least we can take heart in all the little attacks on the show and its trumped up offensive protagonist.

One blogger put it best with this simple equation: Geldof + no clue + posse of idiots = turd sandwich.

Of course what’s even more disturbing is that Bloc Party‘s name has been tarnished by the show. Disappear Here is lifted from one of the Brighton band’s tracks.

To see the band talk about the track Song for Clay (Disappear Here), which is also named after the character in Bret Easton-Ellis’ Less Than Zero, glance below:

Yes the show aired on MTV One back in October but as it’s just been aired on Freeview friendly TMF we thought we’d run this little number.

Expect a full scale rant in the next few weeks as the fate of Disappear Here is revealed for our viewing pleasure.

Discussion:
Has anyone seen this hideous brand of broadcasting? Is anyone surprised Disappear Here is an MTV One production? What did you think of the show?

Words: Seamus Swords

The Scribbler Blog – Post one of many…

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The Scribbler

Welcome to the newest, freshest blog for exciting, contemporary writers

Hello enthusiastic writer and welcome to the first post of the new Scribbler Blog.

This weblog is designed as a precursor for the eventual release of The Scribbler magazine and official website.

In the long term The Scribbler will be a monthly magazine concerned with new and exciting literature from contemporary authors, poets, screen/playwrights and journalists.  With the purest of intentions, the magazine will inspire and advise amateur writers in penning their first masterpiece.

This blog, and later the magazine, will include tips and guidance from established authors and industry representatives on how to get published.  On top of this all the news, reviews, features and interviews on exciting industry developments will also be featured.

What’s it all about?

Here’s the profound bit.  The mission of The Scribbler to showcase and nurture exciting new contemporary writers, novelists, poets, journalists and screenwriters alike.  The objective of the publication is to inspire and engage amateur writers by providing features and interviews with their favourite writers as well as tips and guides on succeeding in the publishing industry.

The idea behind The Scribbler was first born while I was at university studying journalism.  My project partner, Seamus Swords, and myself, wanted to inject some life into the stagnate literary sector of the magazine industry.  We felt the perfect remedy for this would be to interview, report and analyse some of the most exciting, controversial and contemporary writers around.

So please enter:

Bangs, Bukowski, Burroughs, Cave, Cohen, Coupland, Ellis, Fiske, Greene, Kerouac, Murakami, Palahniuk, Salinger, Self, Thompson, Welsh, Young

…and many, many more.

For a little taster of what multimedia treats The Scribbler Blog has in store, cast your eyes below:

Post by: Dean Samways

PLEASE FEEL FREE TO USE THE COMMENT BOX AREA TO LEAVE YOUR SUGGESTIONS AND THOUGHTS ABOUT EXCITING CONTENT YOU WOULD LIKE TO SEE ON THE SCRIBBLER BLOG.  WE LOOK FORWARD TO HEARING FROM YOU…