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28 LETTERS FROM DEATH ROW
40 WRITING BEHIND BARS
THE AGE OF DISTRACTION
46 ROBERT THE: BOOK GUNS
SPOKEN WORD POETRY
48 ELIZA SHADDAD
HEADACHES: A POEM
53 SHE: A POEM
THE PHANTOM INDUSTRY
54 THE C WORD
57 TWEET TWEET
THE ONE BELOW
“Words can be like X-rays if you use them properly – they’ll go through anything. You read and you’re pierced.” ALDOUS HUXLEY, BRAVE NEW WORLD
EDITOR: MADDISON BARRETT WORDS: MADDISON BARRETT COVER IMAGE: ADAM MICHALSKI ILLUSTRATOR: MICHAEL BARRETT IMAGE EDITORS: DONNA OXLEY, LAUREN GREGORY AND SHIRLEY SAYLES With thanks to my tutor, James Anderson for helping me to develop .doc from the outset. Most importantly, to my mum, dad, and David for always supporting and believing in me - without them this wouldn’t have been possible. MADDISONBARRETT@YAHOO.CO.UK @MADDISONAMELIA 07557239938 .doc 2
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STOR IES ELIZA SHADDAD SINGER/SONGWRITER
‘HUMAN WRITES’ COORDINATOR
“My favourite book for ages has been ‘To Kill A Mockingbird.’ It’s really wonderful. I think if you could only read one book forever it would have to be something that would sustain your intellect over all that time. I also like reading fantasy trilogies that are seventeen books long, it would be cheesy but really good .”
SAMARA O’SHEA PROFESSIONAL LETTER WRITER 10
40 “The reason I got involved with ‘Human Writes’ was because I have been opposed to the death penalty since I was a teenager, and first heard of execution/ hanging. It horrified me then and it still does now. But now I realise that living indefinitely in prison with limited facilities is actually as cruel as the death penalty, I don’t think anyone has the right to take the life of another. I agree more with Thomas Moore, who believed that people who commit criminal acts should be treated as sick people.”
“One of the hardest letters I’ve written was when a woman asked me to help write an apology to her mother, who she had stolen money from. That was difficult.”
JULIA JACKSON WRITER 26
THE RUBY KID SPOKEN WORD POET 14 “The relationship between politics and art is extremely complex; it’s something I’ve written and spoken about at length. I don’t think anyone will be “converted” to revolutionary socialism by listening to a Ruby Kid track or by hearing one of my poems, and if they are their politics won’t have a very solid political foundation.”
SILVIA HARTMANN WRITER 10 “My favourite book is ‘50 Shades of Grey.’ Just kidding ... Or am I ...?” .doc 4
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“I think this French phrase is beautiful and I feel like I understand it completely: ‘L’appel du vide,’ which literally means ‘the call of the void.’ My favourite interpretation is that it means to jump from a safe vantage point into the unknown, although I think it commonly means ‘the instinctive urge to jump from high places.’ I don’t, however, speak French.”
EDITOR’S LETTER Words are an integral part of our identities. As unique as a fingerprint, the sentences that spill from our minds define who we are. Our thoughts wriggle with every word we’ve ever heard, seen, and spoken. Some people have the skill to shape these words into pieces of art, into something that will resonate with millions. Others prefer to read, to breathe in the imagination, opinions, and memories of others in order to expand their own. Yet many forms of writing are often overlooked in favour of the conventional novelist. These pages attempt to dispel this elitism; a celebration of all writing, I talk to many diverse people, including a Death Row prisoner, an artist who will flip your perception of books, and Julia Jackson, a bipolar writer who told me, “Don’t try to be a ‘writer’ unless the core of your being tells you that you have no other choice.” Keep reading and you’ll discover that there’s a lot to learn in the margins of a document.
- Editor In Chief, Maddison Barrett
WORD AVERSION “If you’re looking for a way to turn someone from a reasonable adult into a whiny, squeamish baby within seconds, try dropping the word “moist” into your conversation,” says ‘Jezebel’ writer, Madeleine Davies in her post ‘The Word Moist Isn’t All That Bad’ A Twitter user commented, “It’s just so uncomfortable to say.” And it’s true – some words, regardless of their meaning, sound horrible when spoken. This objection to certain words has been clinically named Word Aversion. Linguistics Professor Mark Liberman describes it as, “A feeling of intense, irrational distaste for the sound or sight of a particular word or phrase, not because its use is regarded as etymologically or logically or grammatically wrong, nor because it’s felt to be overused or redundant or trendy or non-standard, but simply because the word itself somehow feels unpleasant or even disgusting.’” Similarly, we like certain words simply because they sound lovely. For example, the words ‘Serendipity’ and ‘Plinth’ often rank high in favourite word polls. JRR Tolkien once claimed that the most beautiful word in the English Language was ‘cellar door,’ and many language experts agree. All of these are understandable; say them and their soft syllables will tumble gently around your mouth – they are pleasant to say and hear. In his post ‘What’s Your Favourite Word?’ ‘Book Riot’ writer, Ed McCracken says, “I find it odd how misogyny is
lovely to say when it’s such an ugly thing.” He proves that with Word Aversion, the meaning of the word is often irrelevant. Many women also dislike the word ‘panties’ even though it holds no pejorative roots, and just means ‘undergarments for women or children’, although the age ambiguity could explain why we are uncomfortable with the word.
“A feeling of intense, irrational distaste for the sound or sight of a particular word or phrase” Psychology Professor Mark Waldman claims that our brains have a distinct reaction to negative words, even if we don’t consciously acknowledge it. “Any negative word – and this includes seeing the word NO for less than a second, immediately releases stress neurochemicals throughout the brain. We will also be repulsed by words and phrases that contradict our deepest beliefs. Even if those beliefs are false,” he says. This could explain our aversion to ‘moist’ which originally came from the 14th century ‘moiste’ and ‘mucid’ which meant mouldy.
YES SERENDIPITY SOLILOQUY DULCET PLINTH EVOCATIVE TESSELLATE MELLIFLUOUS RATATOUILLE VESTIGIAL TRANQUIL
NO MOIST JOWL CHAFE PANTIES GRIPE PHLEGM PORK VISCIOUS FLACCID OINTMENT
However it might be psychologically defined, there will always be words that sound disgusting – but word hate is fun, embrace it. They’re just words, they don’t bite. It’s the acronyms that we need to be worried about (YOLO). .doc 7
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CARRIE GIFFORD CARD ILLUSTRATOR
arrie Gifford is a an illustrator and the owner of ‘Red Cap Cards,’ a unique card company that sells card designs from a range of talented artists. We buy cards each year for our loved ones without giving a second thought to their makers, and yet they are delicate vessels that carry our personal sentiments. Whether they are words of happiness or sorrow, we have been using cards to send messages for a long time. To help celebrate the card-illustrators industry, we caught up with Gifford to chat about her career and her passion for making papery, pretty things. Where do you find inspiration for your illustrations? I start any illustration by thinking about a character; my imagination takes over from there. Once I have a little story in my head I look at all kinds of references, whether it be photos, nature, children’s books,
fabric, I tend to find inspiration in lots of things. I keep a little folder on my desktop called the “think tank” which is filled with all kinds of images that I often refer to. How would you describe your drawing style? Wide-eyed wonderland-ish, line drawings…that’s a good question. I don’t really know. What’s the best thing about your job? In 2007 we started collaborating with different artists. I love this part of my job. It’s really exciting to see our little Red Cap family grow. There are so many talented storytellers and artists in the world. I love connecting with them and seeing the different cards that they design. I like to think of Red Cap Cards as really short picture books, and all of the artists .doc
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that we work with have a talent for creating beautiful short stories. Why did you decide to create Red Cap Cards? My husband and I wanted to create a lifestyle where we could work together. At first we were thinking about starting a beer brewery, Hal is a very talented home brewery. Then Red Cap just took off. I never planned on becoming an illustrator or thought that I would have the privilege of working with so many talented people, it just kind of happened… and I’m really happy that it did. I love my job. Life is amazing like this. It just takes you to where it wants to.
“Life is amazing like this, it just take you to where it wants to.” What’s your favourite book? Lewis Carroll’s, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. My dad read it me when I was a little girl. It will always be a favourite. If you could illustrate any book cover, what would it be? I guess that amazing picture book that’s buried inside of me that hasn’t popped out yet. It’s coming… Visit redcapcards.com to buy Gifford’s designs.
THE AGE OF
SOCIAL MEDIA IS CHANGING THE WAY THAT WE READ AND WRITE, CAN WE PULL OURSELVES OUT OF THE VORTEX?
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ocial media has become a definitive trait of the age that we live in. An intricate vein that pulses through the body of society, those ‘connected’ are part of an ongoing conversation. At one moment, Twitter’s collective voice will be floating calmly like fluffy clouds in an azure sky. In that same instant the voices can become deafening. They fill up and then burst, dispelling into insignificance like fat raindrops on baking tarmac.
published. The omnipresence of the Internet is allowing more writers to self-publish – it’s becoming easier for them to be independent from the traditional publishing model, as Hartmann remarks, “As more and more people self publish, and take much more responsibility for their craft, we are finally coming to a place where writing can become a true art form.”
Hartmann’s novel shows how writing will continue to evolve For the writer, this fast-flowing along with technology as long as we conversation can be useful, it’s a continue to weave the two together place to soak up constructively. She new ideas and suggests that once we listen to interesting embrace this, writing people; our words “I think that the day will will experience a are thrown straight “I think that come when we won’t be rebirth. into the seas of the day will come typing any longer. the Internet where when we won’t be they will either We’ll be talking instead” typing any longer. sink or swim, it’s We’ll be talking that simple. “The instead. Writers will most important return to the place difference between the old style they originally came from - being publishing houses and what we storytellers to a live audience, have today is the direct connection rather than sitting in a monk’s cell between the readers and the writer,” and scratching ink into parchment,” says author Silvia Hartmann, “It she says. But a live audience means means that there are no editors, and instant feedback, and with it comes the writer’s word is final. You don’t instant criticism. “Journalists who see painters handing over a half want to have long careers must finished work of art to some other guard their hearts from too much guy who ‘edits it.’ It’s a ridiculous negativity. Sometimes it helps you notion.” to grow a thicker skin, yes, but it can also be stultifying,” confesses Hartmann pushed this new columnist, Matt K. Lewis when publishing model to the extreme discussing the dangers of writing last year when she decided to write on the Internet. Too much criticism a book, in a month, to a live virtual from the wrong people is one of audience: ““People were watching the reasons why many writers are me put in every letter, backspace, stop beginning to check out more often and think - I was writing with fifty – and this is no surprise with the other people at all times. Plus, down rise of the vicious Internet Troll. the side of the Google document was a bar with messages streaming from Even when the voices aren’t the readers.” This is a refreshing negative, after a while the Internet’s concept considering how writing in ubiquitous stream of thoughts can print is edited to death before it is begin to ebb their way into your .doc. 12
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consciousness, until it becomes hard to distinguish their words from your own, until there’s a room full of alien sentences crashing around in your over-stimulated head. Many writers agree that social media in particular can make it difficult to write. It seems that Twitter is the hardest to escape, a chattering-void of distraction that word by word, immerses you under its boundless waters. Professional letter writer Samara O’Shea feels the pull of this virtual world, “I’ll say to myself, “I’m going to check Twitter quickly.” Then it sends me off on some unnecessary cyber journey and I end up forgetting what my original intention was. On the days I need to get some serious writing done, I won’t allow myself to go online.” Yet, you can’t deny that social media has allowed writer and reader to communicate in a way that has never been possible before. “For me, it’s been so valuable to be able to communicate with my readers. It means a lot to me to be able to respond to their questions and enthusiasm,” says the author of the Delirium Trilogy, Lauren Oliver. Even journalists can benefit from this unique interaction as Lewis argues, “Communicating with readers can be enriching for everyone involved. Writers can use it to crowd source ideas and benefit from the wisdom of crowds.” This continual spitting-out of words has changed our attitudes towards writing, which was once a formal way of communication. “Social media has made our writing ultra-casual,” says O’Shea, “formality in writing becomes more rare by the minute.” This laid-back style prevails because of our need for new things, fast. And if social media is a platform where writers can be heard instantly, then in a way, we have all become writers, slowly compiling our life stories in
140-character bursts of thought. Our feeds will serve as time capsules, like the crumpled letters and fading photographs of past generations. As a result we have a ceaseless supply of reading material, which naturally, has changed the way that we read. As O’Shea explains, “I now skim articles rather than read them fully. If I come across an important piece, then I print it out and set time aside to read it.” Checking our Twitter feed has become natural to many of us. In one scroll we can learn about world news as well as whether our friend got that promotion; the threads of interaction are never-ending. But, isn’t the action of checking Twitter like phoning hundreds of people, (that we’ve often never met) to ask them continuously, what are you doing? What are you thinking? This need to know the intricacies of other people’s lives has become completely normal when disguised as a modern way to connect with others. In his ‘Huffington Post’ article, ‘Why I Quit Twitter’, Sam Parker talks about his unhealthy relationship with the site, “I was an obsessive, first-thing-in-themorning, last-thing-at-night-type of guy, who knew his follower count by heart and refreshed his ‘@’ column like someone on eBay bidding for a new kidney.” And this isn’t unusual – Parker’s obsessive habit mirrors many of us in a world saturated with easy-access technology. O’Shea has learned to take social media in small doses, “I once read that checking Facebook stimulates your brain the same way coffee does. So I allow myself a social media break—like a cigarette or coffee break—every now and then. It’s not as bad for the body.”
If the future of writing is fuzzy – the one thing that’s clear is that writers need to learn to control the way they consume social media before it begins to consume them. “I never said we should abandon Twitter, but that we must be more intentional about how we use it as consumers,” says Lewis. It’s easy to forget that social media is relatively new and writers need to learn to work with it efficiently. As O’Shea suggests, “Hopefully the dust will settle at some point and writers can expect consistency for a while. Then again consistency might be a thing of the past.” The way that we read and write is changing. Perhaps all writing will eventually be pushed into the harsh lands of virtual reality where the crisp pages of a new book are nonexistent. Perhaps the words you are reading right now will be resigned to a computer screen, trapped and intangible, replaced with the bright glare of the future. Or, maybe we’ll pull the words from our screens and bring them to life once more. As Lewis says, “The most important things to me are preserving artistic integrity and intellectual honesty. If an outlet will permit me to do my own thing, that’s 90 percent of the battle.”
“I never said we should abandon Twitter, but that we must be more intentional about how we use it as consumers”
SPOKEN-WORD POETRY THIS ENGAGING FORM OF PERFORMANCE IS HAVING A ‘MOMENT’. WE TALK TO SPOKEN-WORD ARTIST THE RUBY KID ABOUT HIS POETRY, POLITICS, AND ‘OUT-SPOKEN’ EVENT.
tangle of coloured lights bounce off the cracked stone floor, illuminating the dark basement with a soft glow. The room heaves with people, their eyes bright from the energy that fizzes around them. Outside the air is frozen, but here it is stuffy, filled with chattering voices that sip from plastic glasses. Tonight these jumble of strangers have become friends. They stand pressed together amongst the painted walls and open cables, listening intently to the words that roll from the small stage and tumble into the audience, falling into their minds, into their beating hearts. This is the first anniversary of ‘OutSpoken’; a monthly spoken-word poetry night hosted in London by the poets Anthony Anaxagorou and Daniel Randall (aka The Ruby Kid) “We see ourselves very much as part of a ‘moment’ that’s happening in the London spoken-word community right now,” Randall explains. “Alongside Out-Spoken, there are other regular events like ‘Chill Pill’, ‘Come Rhyme With Me’, ‘Bang Said The Gun’, ‘Hammer & Tongue’, ‘Kid’ and ‘I Wrote Back.’” An olio of performance, the night twists and turns with words, stories, rap, song, poetry and music. These artists are incredibly intelligent, they are deep
audiences that he speaks to – and observers that talk about people and if you don’t understand a certain society in a way that is rarely shown aspect, you can always Google it in the media – they talk about things after. He explains, “In my piece ‘East that matter, about truth, capitalism, 6th (Between 2nd & 3rd)’, I mention feminism, race, war, class and love. Eugene V Debs, one of Their strength and heroic figures of humanity reaches “I think art can play a the the American labour out to every single person in the room, huge role in creating movement. I noticed a lot of blank faces offering them a brief spaces, which are crowds when I sense of belonging more conducive to in dropped the line, so in an alien world. The spoken-word is shaking up people’s I started throwing in a pause after it and a powerful medium; ideas, and getting “Eugene...V... it provides an instant them to look at things saying Debs. Google him.” connection between in a new way” It gets a laugh but the audience and the a few people have writer. This is where tweeted me to say they poets originate and have researched him, so maybe it’s where they belong, telling their getting through.” stories to a tangible audience. “My music and poetry isn’t going to change the world, but if it leads people to develop new ideas and engage with the movement that I think can change the world (the international workers’ movement), then that’s great,” says Randall. As an occasional “anti-capitalist political activist,” he injects his views into his lyrics, lyrics like, “I’ll work if I have to, but never with an ethic.” His poetry is packed with a complex amalgamation of literary and political references, yet it still resonates deeply with the intimate
Listening to spoken-word poetry is entertaining, but it can also help us to consider certain things we might have previously been ignorant to, it can push us into developing a deeper, more knowledgeable understanding of our lives. “I think art can play a huge role in creating spaces which are more conducive to shaking up people’s ideas and getting them to look at things in a new way. So if people catch a reference to some episode from class struggle history in one of my pieces, then go look it up and learn about it, that’s a plus,”
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he says. Spoken word poet, Zena Edwards is one of the people that take to the Out-Spoken stage. Using contrasting voices and drifting between prose and song, she tells the story of a poor old woman on the streets of London; she leads us through her tale of strife, of the life of this woman who seemingly has nothing but still sings softly, “I’ve got the whole world in my hands.” Edwards conveys the strength of the people that are largely forgotten but whose stories are incredibly important and beautiful. “I’m drawn to the spoken-word scene, particularly in London, because I’ve found it much more open and inclusive than the hiphop scene, which tends towards cliquishness and, in my view, cultural conservatism in the sense of being intolerant of people who don’t quite go along with certain received wisdoms about how you should rap, what kind of beats you should spit on, and what topics you should talk about,” says Randall. “The spokenword scene has its dogmas and elitisms too, but in general I’ve found it more open to stylistic diversity.” When The Ruby Kid performs it’s a mix between rap and spokenword and he chooses not to use a microphone. His lyrics don’t follow a rigid structure, which is one of the things that attracted Randall to the art form. “My music is extremely lyrics-driven and performing without musical accompaniment gives the lyrics room to breathe. It also allows me to play with their shape, in terms of cadence, dynamics, emphasis and so on, without having to worry about staying on beat or getting the vocal levels right.” Successful poets Berkavitch and Polarbear also perform. Berkavitch gets lots of laughs; relationship based, among genuine emotions he describes in detail awkward sex encounters between himself and
coming together as groups of people an old friend, which gets a few to tell each other stories speaks friendly heckles from the audience. to something very fundamental in Co-host, Anthony Anaxagorou also what Karl Marx called our “speciesperforms some of his poetry from being”, the essence of what makes his latest book, ‘A Difficult Place To us human,” says Randall. “It’s a very Be Human.’ Like The Ruby Kid, his human way of interacting. I think lyrics are deeply social and political technological progress in terms of and he flickers between issues of how we share ideas - social media, race, love, poverty and war to name smartphones, e-books, whatever - all a few. Lyrics include, “Her idea of have immense progressive potential, love was sold to her by a magazine but they’ll never replace the ties dressed in bright chandeliers” and of human solidarity you can forge “Keep it together because you’re by speaking to people, face to face. harder to pick up when you’re in Spoken-word poetry brings poems pieces.” Anaxagorou talks intensely and verse into that format.” about these issues, his passion for them pulls at you until you’re Currently The Ruby Kid is working desperate to learn more about the on a new EP that will be out in late things that pour from his mouth. It’s 2013 on Spinning Compass Records. obvious that every single spoken“For the entirety of 2011/12 I was word poet in the room loves what pretty much exclusively focused on they do. “Writing my thoughts down spoken-word shows, rather than and then talking about them are the hip-hop, so I’m really excited about modes of expression that come most making new music and naturally to me,” performing it.” And his explains Randall. “I’ve always been “Writing my thoughts record isn’t his only project – his words reasonably extrovert down and then in many places. and I enjoy the talking about them are “I’m working on an challenge involved in are the modes of experimental theatre persuading a group of strangers that expression that come piece with Edd Mustill, what you’re talking most naturally to me” who’s a playwright from Sheffield now about – which might based in London. It’s be intensely personal called “Blondon”, and or really obscure – is is an exploration of the social history worth their while to listen to and of London that uses spoken-word think about.” And a lot of people do and music as well as alternative listen and think about the words of and surrealist theatrical forms. these poets. Half way through the It’s still at a fairly embryonic stage night he reads out a poem from of development but we have high someone that has followed ‘Outhopes for it,” he explains. Spoken’ since the beginning. It’s not hard to see why spoken-word poetry ‘Out-Spoken’s’ anniversary special is experiencing a ‘moment’. The ends with The Ruby Kid and atmosphere is infectious – there, in Anaxagorou humbly thanking the that small basement, we were all a audience for supporting the night part of something exciting. since its inception one year ago. Finally, one of the night’s artists, Communication is a natural part of Niles ‘Asheber’ Hailstones plays the our existence, and so spoken-word bongo drums and we all sing along. poetry feels natural to listen to, to “Get up, stand up: stand up for your be a part of rather than sitting alone rights.” reading a poem. “I think the act of .doc
HEADACHES BY MADDISON BARRETT
I’m most awake, when I am sleeping I wonder why, my words aren’t leaping. The voice inside, my head screams stop I feel as though, my thoughts all pop. Inside my mind, It’s a messy place It doesn’t help, to see your face.
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“WAR IS PEACE FREEDOM IS SLAVERY IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH” GEORGE ORWELL, 1984
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GHOSTWRITING: THE PHANTOM INDUSTRY THEY’RE THE INVISIBLE WRITERS, THE PENS BEHIND MANY SUCCESSFUL BOOKS, BUT WHAT’S IT LIKE TO HAVE WRITTEN EVERY STORY BUT YOUR OWN?
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our more years” is what was tweeted from Barack Obama’s Twitter account on the day of his inauguration. Accompanying this victorious statement was a picture of the US President and his wife locked in a warm embrace. It soon became the most popular tweet in history, and has been re-tweeted over 811,000 times. But Obama didn’t tweet that statement. In fact, he has nothing to do with his account. Instead, he has a team of ghostwriters. These social media experts sculpt every word for him, because who has time for Twitter when you’re running a country? On this particular day, it was the social media strategist, Laura Olin that posted those infamous words. “We had no idea it would happen— it was staggering and also gratifying that the moment and victory meant so much to people,” says Olin, remembering the experience. “We wanted to convey the joy and relief of the moment, and I think that photo epitomised what we tried to do every day: cast the stakes of the election in human, emotional terms that would resonate with people.” But when you’re the voice of the President, isn’t gauging the perfect tenor a delicate process? “Our number one goal was to not sound like your typical political campaign empty phrases, words you only really hear politicians say in speeches. We worked hard to make our content relatable and down-to-earth and just plain fun sometimes, because that meant people would be more likely to respond to it and share it with their friends,” recalls Olin. It’s obvious that in this age of technology, books weren’t the only things that were going to be ghostwritten. This hazy form of writing has now wandered into social media, where public figures
now tweet to their army of followers – like someone posting a fake ad on from fingers that are not their own. a dating website,” suggests fellow “The Internet has opened up a ghostwriter Jenna Glatzer. Despite massive ghostwriting industry and this apparent deceit on Obama’s today the words ghostwriting and part, writing for the President and freelance can sometimes mean the getting such an enormous response same thing,” explains ghostwriter is bound to hold gratifications. “By Amanda Evans. Being a ghost for a the end, we’d grown our Twitter public figure’s social media presence audiences from 7 million to nearly 30 is something that is shiny-new in million, and our Facebook following the writing industry, but it’s a path from 24 million to about 45 million that many are stumbling across all our pages,” upon at an increasing says Olin. And isn’t rate. “I have ghostwritten Twitter just one big “I think it’s great mass-marketing tool tweets for different companies over the when public figures anyway? We sit in years and it’s something front of our screens are able to write I don’t object to. Where I where we can pick would have objections is tweets themselves, and choose the parts but that’s not ghostwriters interacting of our lives we want personally with Twitter always practical for to display, just like followers, pretending to every public figure be someone else. This everyone, including out there. Like all the president” I am against,” explains pieces of writing, in Evans when discussing the dimension of the the ethical implications. Internet, there’s no “I don’t think there’s a moral angle guarantee that anyone is who they to it. I think it’s great when public claim to be. figures are able to write tweets themselves, but that’s not always Just as copywriters offer a writing practical for everyone, including the service to websites and brands, the president,” confesses Olin. ghostwriter offers this same service to a person. A copywriter is rarely It would be naïve to think that every credited for a slogan or campaign, public figure personally controls whereas ghostwriters are often their social media accounts. No credited somewhere in the book. matter how ambiguous the subject, Maybe we see it as a terrible deceit, a most celebrities don’t have the time robbery of words. But if the story or to mess around in virtual reality. message is the same, why do we care As experienced ghostwriter Alan how the words end up on the page? Goldsher remarks, “One thing I’ve “Everyone has to earn a living in any learned working with celebrities is way they can,” explains respected that they’re way busier than people writer Andrew Crofts. “When I like us, so if they want to hire started out I got asked to write some somebody to raise their social media pretty weird stuff.” presence, it’s their prerogative.” This might be okay with print, but isn’t it Crofts is an expert in his field; he deluding to ghostwrite from a public has worked with sex workers in figure’s personal media account? the Far East, women in enforced “Twitter does have a personal feel marriages and orphans in war zones. to it; it’s strange if people think He is the kind of ghostwriter that they’re interacting with someone tells the stories of the unfortunate, and it turns out to be someone else the people that would be otherwise .doc 22
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voiceless. “It’s a service. I don’t think if that were the case it would be my ethics are a problem. It is pretty story and not theirs,” says Evans. obvious that people like Katie Price She continues, “I don’t accept clients and David Beckham are going to who ask me to write a book similar to need help with telling their stories. a book that is already out there. If a If I was a speechwriter for Barack client were to contact me and ask me Obama and one of my speeches to write a book similar to ‘50 Shades had got him into the White House, of Grey,’ I would turn it down unless I don’t think I would have trouble they already had a good story plot.” with the ethics there,” But if you were a good he answers honestly. writer, why would you Goldsher shares a “Tons of people want to write someone similar outlook on the else’s story? “I lacked want to tell their confidence and this ethics of the writing form. “Tons of people way I didn’t have to story, but don’t want to tell their story, have the tools to sit come up with ideas or but don’t have the tools send out query letters to sit down and write a down and write a to editors,” says Evans full book – there’s no when recalling her full book” shame in that, because reasons for entering writing a book is the industry. Crofts incredibly difficult and explains, “There are daunting.” three ingredients to earning a living as a writer: 1. Finding the Often for the ghostwriter, it isn’t material. 2. Writing it and 3. Selling okay for a client to deny their it. Ghostwriting takes care of one existence. “It’s analogous to an actor and three and leaves you free to claiming they did the entire movie concentrate on two.” themselves. Sometimes it takes a village to build a piece of art,” Putting books aside, there are remarks Goldsher. Similarly Glatzer many strange forms of ghostwriting explains, “Of course I prefer when floating across the Internet. it’s acknowledged that the person Unemployed Professors is one didn’t write a book alone.” But if the website that provides a questionable ghostwriter is acknowledged and all writing service. The concept revolves this is ethically snug, when does it all around qualified professors writing start to become a bit uncomfortable? papers, (including dissertations) “I do know of cases where a doctor for lazy students. Apparently this or other professional did little more is a legal process – the writers are than come up with a title, and then handing over the copyright of their a freelancer with no medical degree work in exchange for a fee. The wrote the book,” explains Glatzer. professors’ bid for assignments, This example offers a worrying naming their price, and then the insight into the cloudy world of student chooses the successful ghostwriting. professor. As the papers are custom written, there is no way of detecting Mostly, ghostwriters simply craft the plagiarism, which holds some story that they are given so that it issues for the education system. reads well – the actual plot usually But what about the personal ethics comes from the client. “In my view involved in enabling a student to it is their story and they must be gain academic credit for work that prepared to do the work. It is not my isn’t their own? “I’m agnostic to the job to create the book from scratch, notion of this occurring. On the one
hand, our terms of service preclude a student from doing this. On the other hand, I’m not involved in any of the specific academic contexts where this work could potentially be submitted. As such, I don’t feel an involvement in any relevant ethical dilemma,” explains an anonymous professor on the site. These unique forms of ghostwriting show that like all writing, the industry is evolving to meet the demands of the future. Imaginably our words may entwine until all writers become one transcendent and collective voice. Evolution is inevitable, but if people are still reading, and people are still writing, then does it really matter?
“I felt the weakness of these books, their immateriality, how they had failed to change the world, and I didn’t want to sully myself with their weakness anymore.” GARY SHTEYNGART, SUPER SAD TRUE LOVE STORY
“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn. like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.” JACK KEROUAC, ON THE ROAD
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AN INTERVIEW WITH
JULIA JACKSON WRITING, BIPOLAR, ADDICTION
ulia Jackson is a writer. She’s also a writing teacher for a Californian school, contributor at ‘Electric Literature’, a sober addict, and a “bipolar bear.” In a world over-spilling with sentences, her words are among the rare that are honest. She writes about what she knows; her descent into swirling madness and addiction, and then the pain of crawling back out again.
“I was at a reading called ‘So Say We All’,” begins 30-year-old Jackson, “and one of the executive directors, Justin Hudnall said something like, ‘We hope you hear something tonight that you respond to, so you can go home and feel less alone. That is why writers are just as important as doctors.’ I liked that a lot.” It seems that like many artists, she writes to give people a feeling, .doc 26
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a connection in a society so full of disconnection. But also because like many things, it offers a release, a momentarily escape from reality. “I am obsessive and my brain works too quickly for its own good, the only way I can get it to shut up is to write. That, and meditate, which I barely even do anymore because meditating makes me feel good and I’m a masochist.”
She was writing a novel, until she came to the realisation that she wasn’t in fact, a novelist. Instead she’s scribbling something far more interesting. She explains, “When I was in grad school, our professors instilled into us that writing is painful and hard. And that is correct. Writing is emotionally painful, it’s lonely, it doesn’t pay… but if writing is difficult and painful, and rarely ever satisfying and fun, then you’re writing the wrong book. Writing this new book is painful, and difficult, but also satisfying and fun. I think this is how writing is supposed to feel.” The new book is an amalgamation of formats; Jackson has set her writing free, allowing the structure to form naturally instead of sticking to the rules (she never liked the rules). “It’s about me losing my mind and then finding it again – this process took about a month. The format is weird. It’s going to consist of short essays and a variety of visual formats and whatever else I feel like throwing in there. I can’t imagine that any publishers will want to touch it, but we’ll see.”
terms of form and content than the traditional definition of a novel.”
me to understand that the world is a difficult, complicated place, full of surprises both good and bad, Her approach to writing is simple. and none of us have any control She just writes. “I write maybe six over anything – acknowledging this days out of the week, because if I helps with any creative output.” don’t then I feel bad about myself. She continues, “The hypomania is It’s useful to have your writing a whole other demon, it makes your output correlate directly with your mind work super fast, you don’t self-esteem.” She adds, “I learned need to sleep, and you have no fear more about writing – all great in terms of from writing than I output. It also makes did from school. It you have all these doesn’t matter how realisations, and while “Everyone writes a correctly you write, fucking novel. What’s some are straightjust as long as you up delusions, some the point of doing write in your voice. are actually genuine ‘Correct’ writing ‘eureka’ moments.” something that has is boring as hell, already been done so anyway.” One of these moments many times?” was when she realised Most people trudge she should stop through life with writing her novel. “I their eyes open figured out I needed to start writing to nothing, their minds shut to non-fiction right before I ascended everything, especially any kind of to full-blown mania.” In this way, truth. But not Jackson, she talks a lot she listens to her illness; she doesn’t about finding her truth, but how does ignore it, she embraces it for what it she find it? “I’ve gotten really good is. “There’s a reason,” she explains, at looking at the ugly parts of myself “why so many successful and thanks to AA, therapy, and my own innovative people have had bipolar; willingness. These ugly parts don’t Mental illness is just the brain and make me feel so ashamed anymore, As someone who never grew out soul on overdrive.” because I’ve figured out that we all of the teenage rebellion stage, (her have ugly parts. We’re all fucked words not mine) it Julia Jackson’s favourite writers up. We’ve all makes sense that include Joan Didion, Amy Hempel acted like awful she would choose and James Salter. “If writing is difficult and people. We’ve to be different. “I all done things love novels, but I painful, and rarely ever we regret and also think the form satisfying and fun, then are ashamed is kind of boring. you’re writing the wrong of. So what? If Attempting to write you talk about one was boring book.” these things, to me, but I was they lose their probably just doing power. When you tell the truth, it wrong. I mean, everyone writes a people sit up and then they listen,” fucking novel. What’s the point of she responds firmly. doing something that has already been done so many times? I want to But how does her ‘crazy’ inform her try and do something new, or at least work? “My crazy helps my writing not as old,” she explains. Besides immensely,” she admits. “The drug she stresses, “The living writers addiction and the bipolar both give who tend to inspire me the most me a greater range of emotion than are writing books called ‘novels’, a ‘normal’ person. They’ve enabled but they’re a lot more innovative in .doc
LETTERS FROM DEATH ROW A JOURNEY INTO THE MIND OF A PRISONER.
LETTERS FROM DEATH ROW.
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LETTERS FROM DEATH ROW.
hands, that they’ve taken the time aybe I’ll get out maybe to write each curving letter without I’ll die. I won’t know using auto-correct or pressing until I go to court, which send in an email. It’s a strange is still several years away,” reads a thing to write about the contents letter creased with sharp folds. The of your life to a complete stranger, letter is from an American, 42-yeara convicted killer. It was even more old man who is on Death Row. He’s fascinating to learn that many of been in prison since he was 21 when his opinions mirrored my own. In he was accused of kidnap, bank fact, despite a life behind bars, his robbery, and murder. “It looks pretty letters are insightful, interesting, positive that I will finally prove I and intelligent. He’s never should have been also an enthusiastic in prison. But there writer as he explained, are complications,” he “It looks pretty “I write and doing so writes. “While I was in prison I was charged positive that I will can be both clarifying and cathartic. I find it with killing another finally prove I amusing to write about prisoner. That is why I’m never should have problems I have or on death row. And yes, been in prison” things I feel, but in the I did kill him. He was context of fiction; the a gang member and he challenge being can I attacked me while we explain and resolve the issue to my were locked in a cage together and satisfaction, while at the same time there was no place to go. With him providing a story which will give the and 3 friends coming at me, I did reader satisfaction.” what I had to do to survive and beat him to death.” Probably most interesting are his views on the death penalty he is I’d heard the stories of people who currently facing. “I’m a staunch become obsessed with writing to death penalty supporter,” he wrote. prisoners, tales of people who fell “I would expand it to include in love and eventually married their rapists and child criminal pen pals. I molesters; I believe it decided to find out what is more important for it was really like to be a them than for killers.” pen pal to a prisoner. I “I’m a staunch He then told me, “I chose a man on Death wish you could spend death penalty Row who liked to watch one week here. After The Walking Dead and supporter” you observed the scum read classical literature. I am around, there is His profile picture no way you could fail showed him doing the to agree they deserve to splits with a big grin die.” Thirty-three American states across his face, his muscles bulging still practice the death penalty. In from the daily workouts that I’d 2012 there were 3,146 people on soon learn he fills his time with. death row in the US and 43 of these inmates were executed. In reality Two letters in and I realised that very few people have to consider letter writing is absolutely personal. being sentenced to death. It’s the soft scrawl of the handwriting, the feel of the paper, knowing that the same page has been in their
LETTERS FROM DEATH ROW.
So far I have written two letters to Death Row. Through my experience I have realised how important outside communication is to a prisoner’s restricted existence. I now see beneath the Death Row label. I see a person, eyes trapped behind cold bars, scrunched up and pressed down into the depths of the penal system. I see the people that live a life so strange and unimaginable to the majority of us.
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LETTERS FROM DEATH ROW.
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LETTERS FROM DEATH ROW.
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WRITING BEHIND THE THERAPY OF WORDS FOR THE INCARCERATED.
You have to escape from this darkness or you’ll go mad,” reads a letter from Johnnie, an American, 60-year-old Statesville prisoner who died this January. “Johnnie changed and matured enormously through corresponding with a sympathetic English man,” explains ‘Human Writes’ coordinator and friend of Johnnie’s, Sheila Michell. Like all prisoners, Johnnie spent years incarcerated within four stonewalls. Despite his poor literacy skills, writing was his only escape from the cold reality that he lived in. And whether it’s poetry, a story, or a letter to a pen friend, writing is liked by much of the people in prison. “Writing is a good discipline that
occupies the mind and gives people a chance to express their emotions,” says Michell. Yet over 60% of people in jail are illiterate. Most are uneducated, poor and have experienced troubled childhoods. But when they’re taught how to write, they begin to grow – they finally have the tools to banish the darkness they’ve been fighting.
Writing and prison are not two words that are regularly put together. Yet there are many charities in the UK and America that assists and showcases writing in prisons – a lot is being done to support writing behind bars. ‘The Koestler Trust’ is one charity that provides the arts in jail. “Achievement in writing .doc 40
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can improve confidence and employability and a number of past Koestler Award winners have gone on to build careers in writing,” says Joanne Brandon, the creative writing coordinator for the Trust. Writing is one of the oldest methods of expression, so it makes sense that inmates would favour this simple pastime, especially those who are cut off from technology. “Writing is popular with much of the prison population; they have so much time on their hands,” explains Michell. ‘The Writers In Prison Network’ also put professional writers into prisons to deliver workshops, although recently it has temporarily closed. Marek Kazmierski, Managing Editor at
‘Not Shut Up’ Magazine explains, “The Network has shut up shop for a while, so we will see less writing coming out of prisons. This is troubling but we’re trying our best to help them reactivate their operations.” ‘English Pen’ is another network that brings professional writers and inmates together. Many also run writing competitions alongside their usual work, which helps to encourage prisoners to attempt to write.
Kazmierski runs ‘Not Shut Up’ Magazine, a publication that is both by and for prisoners. The magazine is an important instrument that allows arts behind bars to be recognised across the world. Like many people that work
closely with inmates, he believes that Jarvis Masters are among a few of writing can be key to rehabilitation. published writers. Erwin James “It is essential, it should be the Monahan has one of the most first thing people in prison are remarkable stories. Now a Guardian encouraged to do – write or speak Journalist, Monahan was once a their own story. They should hear prisoner who served twenty years their own versions of how they came for murder. He began writing whilst to be behind bars. Storytelling is the he was in jail. Through persistence most natural activity for us human he eventually began writing a beings – language is the substance in column for The Guardian called which all our thoughts, experiences, ‘A Life Inside’, and by the time he and feelings swim.” was released he had He explains, “It is created a Journalism alienation from this that he stepped “It is alienation from career ability to express right into. Today he and frame our own this ability to express is as successful as narratives which and frame our own anyone and continues allows something column that is now narratives which allows his like the current called ‘A Life Outside’. something like the prison system to “I started up some continue existing current prison system writing groups where – a system which would write to continue existing” people unfortunately costs poetry, short stories, amazing amounts and write about their of money but which lives; I became the does not seem to achieve the hoped camp scribe for the places I was in,” for results.” Putting our words onto he remembers. “If you can get your paper helps us to bring ourselves ideas, thoughts, and anger out of into focus. Somehow our memories, your head on to paper, it helps you mistakes, and dreams are more to reflect. We’re all born loveable, understandable on a crisp page; but something happens to some they untangle neatly once they’re people so that they end up, as the pulled from our knotted, wriggling years pass, becoming people who are consciousness. “It can help them harmful to others. My feeling is that realise that life can be seen as writing allows you to reflect on your more than just a pointless set of own identity and thoughts.” Writing events, that it can have some sort of can often help us to understand structure and importance. That sort our flaws. “I’m not a spokesperson of realisation is essential if we’re for prisoners or convicts, but my going to get anyone to try and stop experience told me that most of offending, stop abusing substances, the people I met in jail were very and stop feeling like lost causes. If dysfunctional, disturbed characters. prisoners don’t understand their It’s not an excuse for crime, but own histories, how can they see we’ve got to understand how some solutions to the problems they’re people become harmful and some experiencing and causing? Beyond people don’t,” says Monahan. that, it has a multitude of positive outcomes. It educates, empowers, “Anything that involves personal and entertains,” adds Kazmierski. development in there I’m very supportive of,” he continues. “I think Many prisoners have gone on to the key to people changing is to find become successful writers after within themselves something that their release. Wilbert Rideau and is valuable. People that care about
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themselves are less likely, I think, to hurt or want to hurt other people.” It seems that writing can help to do this. Workshops not only provides a skill, they offer an output that many have never experienced. “I’m not saying that everyone who takes up writing could be a professional writer; it’s not about that. It’s simply an element. It’s an element of finding a better way to live. Because if you’re in jail you really need to be reflecting on what’s happened to you,” he stresses. Providing an education within prison is paramount, literacy skills can lead to understanding, which can then lead to change. As Kazmierski remarks, “If you have talented, passionate writers or teachers delivering creative writing workshops, these make all the difference, even to those with very low levels of literacy.” Similarly, ‘Gawker’ blogger Hamilton Nolan believes prisoners should have a voice. He publishes a series of blogs called ‘Postcards From The Edge’ in which he shows the letters he receives from Death Row inmates that are due to be executed within the year. “I personally wanted to give Death Row inmates a public voice. My series is a chance for them to say what they want to say to the public,” he says. Letters are often an important part of their life. “My own pen friend sees our correspondence as his lifeline and other prisoners will say the same. Writing to someone and being written to provides a much-needed link with the outside world,” says Michell. Although Monahan never had a pen pal, he remembers helping a friend to gain one. “A pal of mine, he was lonely as hell, so I wrote an advert for him in a magazine. This guy got fifty letters in return,” he laughs. “And he wrote to people regularly and it really encouraged his life.” Letters can be very important, as Michell says, “Having a pen friend means
they have someone who trusts them and believes in them; someone who is prepared to be proud of their achievements, and take an interest in their lives.”
“It’s an element of finding a better way to live. Because if you’re in jail you really need to be reflecting on what’s happened to you”
Kazmierski is attempting to increase the involvement that the prisoners have with the magazine so that they can be a part of something positive once they are set free. “We are now opening a publishing centre in London where we hope to be able to work with ex-offenders upon their release. This will make the magazine much more relevant.” When it comes to criminals, for the most part we lock them up and then throw them back into society to repeat the process. Organisations such as ‘Not Shut Up’ magazine are giving prisoners an alternative. They are providing them with an education and a future rather than fighting darkness with darkness. “As the editor of an arts magazine by and for the un-free, I want to encourage dialogue and creative expression. This becomes next to impossible in systems where destruction becomes part of official processes,” explains Kazmierski.
bad. Monahan recalls an important encounter that cements this idea. “I interviewed someone on death row in Ohio about four years ago, two years ago before they killed him, and it was a very powerful experience for me. He did 22 years on Death Row and I recognised aspects of me in him. He had grown and he had changed, he became someone; he became a decent person in his 22 years and they killed him,” he pauses. “I found that really difficult.” The stories of these forgotten people are imperative. Many have done terrible things, but that doesn’t give us the right to label their words as barren; as Kazmierski discusses, perhaps they’re all the more important: “The stories they have to tell are just that much more dynamic, and somehow important to the future of a fluctuating civilisation we’re all part of.”
Writing organisations like ‘Human Writes’, ‘The Koestler Trust’, and ‘Not Shut Up’ magazine show that there are alternatives to incarceration and Death Row. Maybe not all those who are bad, stay
THE ONE BELOW
by Death Row prisoner, Sammy Da Wolf Lupo, Illinois
I’m ready to call it quits, pack up, go to the one below, Life is truly a living hell, what, you really don’t know? I wish to close my eyes, to sleep the endless sleep, To be with the one below, for my soul he may keep. I’ve lived my life to the best of my ability, Yet, where do I reside? At this damn facility. I’m living the slow death, one hour at a time, Locked in this hellish cage, no bigger than 6 by 9.
“I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.” SYLVIA PLATH, THE BELL JAR
At least with the one below, I know where I stand, For when one plays with fire, they shall burn their hand! Conflicted or not, this is how it must be, An eternity spent with the one below, Now that’s definitely for me…
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AN INTERVIEW WITH
ROBERT THE: BOOK GUNS THE BOOK ARTIST ON HIS ‘PRECISION VANDALISM.’
o most, books are disposable. For a while they hold some importance; they cradle our minds before we fall asleep, make us think, smile, and sometimes cry. But when we’re finished, we shove them onto a dusty bookshelf. We throw them into the black abyss of our bin. They tumble hopelessly from our minds into cold indifference. Robert The pulls these books from inexistence and gives them a new meaning. He delicately disfigures them until they become weapons of words – until they become Book Guns. “Back in the early 90’s,” he begins, “I was living in the Lower East Side of NY, in what was known then as Alphabet City. It wouldn’t be any exaggeration to call it a war zone. It was police versus people. The presence was felt pretty much everywhere you went. AIDS loomed big, and OD’s were pretty common.” He explains, “I had been studying sign painting at the Institute of Lettering and Design, so I was obsessed with letters. My visual thinking was rather autistic at the time – I saw letters and felt letters. I’m still that way, but a bit more
book at him and said, “Bang!” The managed.” It’s clear to see where he idea hit me in a flash.” gets his warfare inspiration from, but when did he first begin making This inception fueled the artist to book sculptures? “I had made some begin developing the Book Gun. letter sculptures like the letter “I” “Over the next several days I made and book pieces consisting of the a few more crude Book Guns but I word “THIS” cut into the book. I realised that I could push my skills gave most of these away or sold them and they got more realistic. I had on the street. I knew several people to return to New York and so took who sold their art on the street and up making them in it was very common my apartment,” he for them to get describes. “I was using arrested and their “I pointed the “L” and still principally use work thrown in the trash by the cops. book at him and said, discarded books. I felt But I knew a poet “Bang!” The idea hit that I was giving these discarded books a who was selling his me in a flash” voice and some power books of poetry on to assert themselves the street; he was against the culture arrested but won that had turned them into debris.” his case on 1st Amendment grounds. Robert stresses that his art isn’t So, I figured that if I made my work about creating beautiful books, out of books it would give me a little in fact, he sees it more like he is more protection as a street vendor,” doing the opposite. “I have seen he explains. “Then In the summer of some incredibly beautiful books, ‘93 I took some time off from New and there are friends of mine who York to help build an alternative make wonderful handmade books. I community in Wisconsin called don’t do that. I vandalise books, in Dreamtime Village. The community particular, rejected, refused books.” had a woodshop, so I decided to He explains, “I never felt entirely try and make the entire alphabet comfortable about my precision out of books. When I finished the vandalism of books. I love books, “L” a young friend of mine entered and it hurts to cut them on many the woodshop and I pointed the “L” .doc 46
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levels, into guns in particular.”
and if I had known about him when I started I probably would have moved in a different direction with my work. He is almost unknown in the US, and most books on “book art” never mention him,” he explains.
Despite this confessed vandalism, he doesn’t cut them up randomly. The title of the book is very important to the style of the piece. He uses the name of the piece to create as much of an impact as Having such a personal relationship the Book Gun itself. For example, with each piece, it would probably be one reads, “Witness Iraq,” which tricky for the artist to pick a favourite. is an interesting title considering “Asking me to pick a favourite is like America’s warfare situation. “I like asking which child I love best,” he collisions,” he explains. “Books are exasperates. “I work so much with interesting because you can make the obvious that my secret favourites the sculptural approach really smash are not obvious titles like “Canaries.” into text and visa Sometimes a versa. The title is less snappy title very important; “I felt that I was giving can be a good I like to bounce platform for off the title hard. these discarded books a a visual pun. There is a great voice and some power to And in terms deal of book art assert themselves against the of pure design,” done today that he says, “I like treats books as a culture that had turned them the Malevich beautiful material piece I did back into debris” without regard in 2005, which to content. That’s was a stylised just not my path AK47.” He loves or temperament.” That is probably to cut up books, but what does he why he cites the artist John Latham like to read? “Das Kapital,” he says, as someone he admires. Latham “which I appreciate as literature and often defaces and transforms books critique, not doctrine. I also have until they are devoid of their original a small book on the lives of all the meaning. “I love much of his work, Popes, which I often read before I .doc 47
fall asleep.” And like every book that we read, each Book Gun has a story. “I work mostly with found or discarded materials. So there is the beachcombing tale to each title, then there is trying to find a resonance between the title and the style of book. It’s all case, by case.” Although sometimes the artist does have exceptions to his lost and found method. “There are a few I do buy new, like KJV Bibles. Gideon Bibles are always used because you can’t buy them; they’re almost always “stolen” out of hotels. But I usually buy them in thrift stores.” Sculpting the Bible into the shape of a gun isn’t going to come without controversy, but this is what his work is all about. He show’s us how to look at things from a skewed angle. His art demonstrates that books not only hold meaning in their words, but also in their aesthetic. And with the recent debate on the US gun laws, perhaps his work is more relevant than ever. So instead of a real gun, let’s all point our Book Guns to the sky and say, “bang.”
AN INTERVIEW WITH
ELIZA SHADDAD THE SINGER/SONGWRITER ON HER MUSIC AND LYRICS.
t’s a Friday morning; plump raindrops spill from the grey London sky, they burst onto tired faces as if desperately attempting to wash away their worries. The buildings loom as usual, watching us from above like suspecting guards. Heeled boots click clack on the rain-splattered ground. There’s a woman, she stops amidst the bustling city, her face shaded by a black hooded coat. She taps on her phone, tap, tap. My phone starts to ring, as I answer, she looks over, her face breaking into a smile. We walk, introducing ourselves in the chilly morning air. “I don’t normally look like this,” (she’s dressed smartly in black) “I’m kind of doing the walk of shame – well, I’ve come from my boyfriends house so does that count?” she asks, halflaughing, “I think I probably look like a businesswoman,” she decides, whilst politely trying to shield me from the rain with her umbrella. After discovering today is her birthday, we eventually settle for The Daily Grind, a small café that sits amongst the brightly coloured stalls of Spitalfields Market. We sit down at a narrow, two-seated table squeezed along the café wall.
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The table has a piece of cardboard wedged beneath one of its legs and a vase filled with unambitious plastic flowers coordinates with the scratched surface. The soft aroma of roasted coffee drifts lazily through the air – every now and then the coffee machine gurgles loudly and we pause mid-conversation until the noise subsides.
“I quite like drony guitar patterns, like John Martin and Nick Drake, very much sort of modern folk I guess,” she begins, although jazz is something that she tries to incorporate into her music. “I spent a year studying jazz, so I play more interesting chords and I have a better understanding of time signatures.” Lyrically, she cites a mixture of Tori Amos, John Martin, Bob Dylan The woman sat opposite me is Eliza and Joni Mitchell as some of her Shaddad, a 27-year-old singerbiggest influences. “Recently I was songwriter who has lived in over listening to my back seven countries. Of Sudanese and Scottish catalogue of CDs and I realised it’s people descent, she came to where the lyrics are London three years “Now, I admire generally focused ago to pursue her dream. Her dark eyes people that have a on one particular brim with intelligence more political view, emotion and it’s quite and her shoulder- or a more general self contained,” she explains. “Someone length hair curls freely view of humanity, like Joni Mitchell around her face, which and will refreshingly, appears instead of just this sings, to be make-up free. As microcosm of the describe everything, from the waitress to we talk, her presence is world evolving soft, infused coolly with the floorboards, to the around me” sky outside. I don’t the cultures she has do that very much. experienced and the I’m trying to do that people she has met. She more. Generally, I’m just like ah, I’m fits seamlessly into London, and I suspect that chameleon-like, she feeling this and it hurts and it really hurts, and this is how I feel and this adapts effortlessly to wherever she is why it hurts,” she exasperates. wanders. .doc 48
S P A C E BETWEEN OUR
BODIES ACTS LIKE
BRACKETS” - ELIZA SHADDAD.
“Now, I admire people that have a more political view, or a more general view of humanity, of different people in different situations, instead of just this microcosm of the world evolving around me.”
but not enough to actually do what I really wanted to do,” she muses. So, is music something she’s always wanted to do? She stops to think, pulling from her consciousness a string of early memories, “I always loved doing it; I used to make up But where does she find inspiration songs on the school bus when I for her own lyrics? “Generally,” she was about eight,” she reminisces. “I pauses. “Relationships and feeling was always singing in school talent hurt basically.” To this, I mention shows and plays. So yeah, always, but her song Brackets, one of the darker not always as in from the age of five songs on her 2012 EP. “Yes, that I wanted to be a musician.” It was at was silly,” she laughs, “I was trying university that her interest in singing to write a happier and songwriting song and then really began to this song about grow. “When I was guilt came out. It “I feel something and I’m doing my masters, didn’t really work.” overflowing with it, so if I went to a lot But it does work, I can put it on paper and of festivals and and it works well. started playing the When she sings, add a melody to it, then I guitar properly, I her voice is gentle, can cleanse that feeling” started learning yet distinctive. She off my friends and leads you delicately so many amazing through her stories, folk musicians, each sentence lingering reflectively and that’s when I started writing in the air. Sometimes her lyrics are properly.” thick with metaphors. At other times her words are simple and define It was only after graduation, when exact feelings. Her folksy sound she was teaching English abroad combined with beautiful chords that she realised she should be and jazz-inspired melodies, makes writing songs. “When I moved to her special in a world swollen with Spain that’s when it sort of clicked noise. And despite her first EP only because, the teaching got harder being released last year, Shaddad and harder, so I spent all my time has dabbled in music-making, and doing that. After two years I realised makeshift CD-case-making for years. I hadn’t played the guitar in about a “When I was going around festivals, year, and I just thought, this is silly, my friend had a bedroom studio so I’ve always really wanted to do this, I went and recorded a few things I think maybe I’m good enough, so I in there. I’d burn them onto CD’s. I think I should try.” used to make really beautiful cases by cutting out bits, gluing it altogether, As well as her own music, Shaddad using Velcro to keep it closed and is also part of two (entirely different) then writing on it in gold pen.” musical groups, ‘Quintet’ and ‘Clean Bandit.’Whilst ‘Quintet’ is very Unlike many artists, music was never much jazz-based, Eliza describes her sole focus; with a Masters degree ‘Clean Bandit’ to be more of a, her path has been fairly academic. “hardcore, electronic strings vibe.” “I didn’t really have the guts to do She explains, “That was really it, I come from quite an academic random actually. I used to busk family and it was always like, go in the Shoreditch High St Over to university, be a doctor. I kind of Ground Station and I was busking rebelled enough not to do medicine, there one afternoon and this guy .doc
cycled past, then about ten minutes later he cycled back, and I kind of caught his eye and was like, “Hello,” she laughs, waving her arms. “Then he stopped and it was Jack, who writes most of the music for ‘Clean Bandit’, and he said that he needed a singer, so it just went on from there.” She also performs at spoken-word poetry nights such as ‘Out-Spoken’ and ‘Chill Pill’ and is friends with poets such as Anthony Anaxagorou and The Ruby Kid. As she explains, “I slowly integrated myself into that community because it’s wonderful. It’s really blowing up at the minute, every spoken-word night that I’ve been to has been rammed.” We all write for different reasons, but each of us gains satisfaction from putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). Cliché or not, it gives us an outlet for our every thought. Shaddad describes one of her first experiences of this process. “The first proper song that I wrote was when I was at university. I’d shaved my head, because I thought it would be fun, it was quite hard to deal with at times and there were things that I wanted to express. So, instead of just writing them down or telling them to somebody, it made sense to sing them.” She explains, “I feel something and I’m overflowing with it, so if I can put it on paper and add a melody to it, then I can cleanse that feeling. I guess that’s why I write. It feels great, like I’ve gotten rid of something I needed to get out.” But she doesn’t have a set process for creating songs; instead, it’s more of a free flowing progression. She explains, It’s a bit patchy; I tend to mess around with the guitar, playing with different patterns and hooks. If I think of something that feels right for a song, then I’ll jot down lots of different words or lyrics in a book, then I’ll start playing the thing on the guitar that I can’t get out of head. Generally when it works, it’ll line up,” she tells me. “The words that’ll
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come out off the top of my head will be relevant to something that I’ve written before, then I look at those lyrics and work them together until a song comes out; sometimes it happens in about twenty minutes, sometimes it takes weeks.”
music, often the sets that we play are nightclubs at 2am – I’m often not really at home at a rave. But this was at ‘Shepherds Bush Empire’, ‘Alt-J’ that I loved anyway, and a really friendly crowd. Everyone was really there for the music. It was probably the highlight so She also co-writes, far.” But performing but sharing such alongside so many an intimate form of people, “Music doesn’t feel talented self-expression isn’t do the nerves ever like a job most of the find her? “Yes,” she without its obstacles. “I find it really time. If you have spare clarifies. “When hard because it’s so time it’s like, let’s just I first came to personal. It’s great to I was play some more music” London have two perspectives doing a lot of open on something but it’s Mic nights – they’re also kind of impossible the most terrifying unless you’ve had exactly the same thing. But last year I did over 160 experience,” she continues. “When gigs – that really helped because you’re on your own, you’re like, I you don’t have time to be nervous. need to write right now so I’m going But sometimes, just before a show is to do this. Whereas, with Bandit, starting, I’ll get incredibly nervous.” you book it, so it means you need to create in those hours. I find it a With her rising success, there must struggle sometimes to come up with be that one person who she dreams lyrics that mean something to me of working with? When I ask her in that space of time. But generally this, she begins, “So there’s a guy you can take it away and work on the called Sam Lee, a folk musician lyrics in private, and then come back nominated for the Mercury Prize and be like, I’ve had my moment recently, and he has this amazing of baring my soul and this is what story of being an apprentice to a I came up with.” With so much folk singer in Scotland and learning emphasis on lyrics, it seems obvious hundreds of folk songs and then that it’s important to her to write her arranging them in different ways own songs. Whilst this is the case, with his band. I’d love to learn a bit she does have exceptions. “I think if from him, or someone like that.” somebody’s written a really beautiful song, a song that’s not going to see Music aside, what does she do in her the light of day unless somebody spare time? “Um…what is spare time, sings it, I’d be prepared to sing it, you I don’t remember?” she says with a can communicate a lot by putting salty laugh. “Music doesn’t feel like your own twist on something. But a job most of the time. If you have ideally, I want to perform the songs spare time it’s like, let’s just play that I’ve written.” some more music. But I really like watching stupid TV programmes – She has already supported many at the minute I’m watching Frasier, talented artists and bands including which I just love.” Similarly she ‘Rudimental’, ‘Redlight’, ‘Rue prefers the simpler attractions. “I Royale’ and ‘Alt-J’, but it’s clear like the bridges,” she pauses, waiting which was her favourite. “‘Alt-J’ for the coffee machine to cease its was amazing,” she smiles. “It was energetic rumble. “AND GO,” she different because it was with ‘Clean laughs. “It always makes me feel like Bandit’ and because it’s dance I’m really in London when I cross .doc 52
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one of them, when you see the sky, because you don’t see very much of that around here. But also the East; there are a lot of nice old men’s pubs that I like there. But I miss…space. And greenery. I could probably just move somewhere else in London and I’d have that but where I live now, I never see any grass. It’s not ideal,” I suggest a field? She answers, “Yes but I don’t know if I’d be able to come back – I’m sticking it out in London for as long as it needs. There’s something about being able to take people up on really last minute opportunities. It would be much harder to do it well from outside of London.” This year, as well as many other gigs, she will be playing at festivals such as ‘Blissfield’s’ and ‘Fringe.’ And she’s making some more music (which will hopefully be out in the next 2 months). “I’m currently working on the next EP to release,” she bursts. “This one will be extra good. I’ve got a really good producer with whom hopefully, it will turn out really well arranged. I can’t wait for it to be done and for it to be out there.” As for the future, she has a plan: “I want to be collaborating with interesting people in different genres. I’ve got so many things in my background; it would be nice to work on some Sudanese music. Financially, I’d like to be stable. I want a life-long career making better and better music with better and better musicians. That would be nice,” she says, her voice softening. And on that note I leave Shaddad to enjoy her birthday – probably on a bridge somewhere, or in one of those old men’s pubs that she likes so much.
SHE. by Donna Oxley.
Hectic days, more restless nights of screaming kids in weary fight. The torment in a mother’s milk, tearing at her dreams of silk. A father’s daze when life had come, then revelry and wag were done. When peace is like a pleasure’s grasp, elusive, bound to never last. But fare the stomach’s well will I, in promise of a content eye. And all will walk without a care of soil or slum or tatty wear. Toil all day and then all night until a mind is full of spite, I’ll take a trip to demon’s hell, down in depths of shrinking wells. But not insane – just mirrored like for she has strength, for she has might. I’ll snug us all to living on until the breath of bloom is gone.
A COPYWRITER’S WORDS ARE EVERYWHERE – BUT WHAT’S THE SECRET TO COPY THAT WORKS?
e see them when we walk down the street. They seep from our TV screens and slide from our mouths. Elbowto-elbow they’re squeezed into our minds, fighting for attention and worth. Words are everywhere. But they don’t just spring into being, words are man-made – each letter is crafted for a purpose. Whether it’s a fast food slogan, a strapline on a chocolate bar, or an advert on a billboard, every sentence that you read subliminally shouts, “Buy me.” It is the job of the copywriter to write what is all around us. Forget the dawdling prose of an author or poet; a copywriter’s words get stuff done. They make their point fast. Technology is pushing language further into the realm of informality. As a result, copywriting is more relaxed – our saturated lives leave little concentration for corporate doublespeak. We’re fast moving people; copywriters need to be creative, unique, and concise in order for us to even notice them. “I think the most important thing is to be conversational and to remember that your audience is smart. You need to write to them like you’d talk to a friend,” explains copywriter Chelsea Davison. The best in the industry don’t tell you what the product is, or even what it does;
they tell you why it will improve your life. “We focus on benefits, not features, we talk about how it’s going to affect someone’s life. Copy is all about getting someone to take an action,” says Sarah Turner, who runs the business Turner Ink. “We try and create a story to get the reader to think, ‘I cannot go on living without this product,’” she laughs. “If your writing isn’t understandable, whether because it’s too technical, the flow isn’t cohesive, or something else, your copy fails its job,” adds Davison. Recently Davison worked on a campaign that promoted a new shoe for the American fashion brand Cole Haan. Consisting of reasons not to go home, the slogans were printed across shop shutters around New York. In neon writing they said things like, ‘No great story ever started with “so I turned in early…’ and were followed by the Hashtag, #DontGoHome with Cole Haan’s logo beside it. Viral marketing is key to successful 2013 copy – it’s vital that virtual and physical realities are united. The famously named, ‘Father of Advertising’ David Ogilvy once said, “If you’re trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language, the language they use every day, the
language in which they think. We try to write in the vernacular.” Ogilvy was successful because he knew that writers needed to produce relatable copy, otherwise people won’t read it.
“It’s the most effective way I’ve found to get my thoughts out into the universe, where they belong”
Copywriters are masters of transformation; they need to adapt their voice seamlessly to any brand that hires them but how is it done? “I start with some human truth and use that as an entry point to my brainstorming,” says Davison. “This makes your idea much more strategic and honest – it’ll be something that answers a real need or goes with a real behavior rather than just making a wacky app.” She explains, “It’s appealing to try to craft the perfect line, but in my experience the best way to get there is just to write a ton. Decide on a number and then just fill it up. Even the really bad ones might be a good jumping
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off point to hit on something good – It’s always better to have options because the one you love will often be killed off.” Similarly, fellow copywriter Alex Harvey doesn’t have any specific methods. “There are no real tricks, it’s all about strategy and concept. A lot more work goes into ads than people might realise.” You also have to be aware of your audience, as Harvey has realised, copy that sells in one place, doesn’t always sell elsewhere, “I’ve found senses of humor differ greatly from place to place, which shows in the work, and much of the work I see in Asia seems less story-driven and more visual.” His role, like every other copywriter’s, is now multi-faceted. It’s not only about the words it’s about the concept and how it can appeal to society on a larger scale. “I think the lines between content and advertising are disappearing, stuff like Redbull’s Space Jump is a great example. So in my ideal world I’d be writing TV shows while creating digital content while making big experiences in the real world,” affirms Davison. When you think of being a writer, copywriting isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. Yet, it’s a big industry and one of the most widely read forms of writing. Why wouldn’t an aspiring writer want to tap into that market? “When you hit on a great idea and then the client is on board and things start coming together, it feels like magic,” explains Davison. “It’s the most effective way I’ve found to get my thoughts out into the universe, where they belong.” And there must be something satisfying about seeing your work as you walk down the street or turn on the TV. “Advertising is a nice way to use my writing and creative abilities to make a nice living. It’s also fun to see your work in public,” says Harvey. Copywriter and creative director
Stefani Zellmer has worked with many companies, including American chains Walmart and Target. But how does she come up with great copy? “I have this personal way of judging whether a slogan is good enough or not and I call it the ‘would you wear that on a t-shirt?’ test. If you would wear the slogan or tagline on a t-shirt and be proud to wear it, then it’s probably good.” She continues, “I wouldn’t say that I ‘manipulate’ an audience but I do try to appeal to them on an emotional level in a tone that is friendly, not condescending.” But that perfect line doesn’t just appear on the page; they have to work at it. The best way to do this is to write as many lines as possible and then cut them down to the fewest words. “Every time you ever present a client with straplines, you’ve probably written a hundred. You play around, you look at their competitors and try and do something better. You try and make it as short as possible and then a bit shorter again,” explains Turner. An amalgamation of concision, adaption, and relatable concept, their sentences have to deliver. “It’s important to start afresh and not say, ‘yeah I can do that line again’ because you can’t. You’ve got to start a new job like you’ve never written a copy ever before,” she says. Constant carver’s of sentences, their mind isn’t confined to the office walls. “I try to switch off because otherwise you drive yourself completely mad. It’s like having a superpower. I try not to look at things, like on the underground where the ad has a spelling mistake or a typo, or the grammar is really awful,” exasperates Turner. And like everyone, they have places that they wouldn’t personally buy from. They have companies that they like to work for and others that they don’t. “I worked on Walmart for a while, and I don’t necessarily hate Walmart, but I prefer Target. You .doc 56
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have to put yourself in the mindset of the person who prefers Walmart, you also have to set your distaste for the store aside and go there anyway to try to see the bright side of getting immersed in that culture,” explains Zellmer.Turner adds, “I enjoy writing copy for clients that are forward thinking and they’re willing to take a bit of a risk. The most difficult thing is writing for a client who is stuck in their ways, that’s hard when you really want to try and push it.” But ultimately the likeability of the product is insignificant; their job is to sell regardless of worth. “I try to separate my own feelings and do what’s best for the client. You won’t always love every product you advertise,” says Harvey. It seems that the C word is an art form that isn’t easy to master. Copywriters not only control language, they control the way that we think about products, the way that we consume. Copy surrounds us and seduces us like a maze of words guiding us on to never ending paths of need, greed and want, want, want.
“I try to switch off because otherwise you drive yourself completely mad. It’s like having a superpower”
TWEET TWEET V
ulture Magazine said that Brett Easton Ellis’s real art form was the tweet, and this is true for many writers who are now using social media as a platform for their writing. Funny, observational and poetic, these tweets from the last few months make Twitter almost as good as reading a book. ‘If people don’t wish to discuss the cruel existential futility of all human endeavour they shouldn’t say Good Morning in the first place.’
‘I don’t want to hear About anyone anymore And I wish I could just live In a vacuum’
‘I’m thinking that writing is a form of acting or singing practised by people who can’t bear to perform live, before an audience.’
@colsonwhitehead ‘So hungry for new experience, so desperate to get home’
‘I used to not like giving high fives because I was self conscious about how big my hands were, so I would pretend to miss’
@maudeapatow ‘In order to become a great artist of any kind you have to be completely open to the idea of totally deluding yourself. Logic means nothing.’
@julietescoria ‘SIN IS A MEANS OF SOCIAL CONTROL.’
‘I feel like a misprinted tote bag from a defunct university press, balled up at the bottom of the closet under galoshes.’
‘If someone doesn’t respond to your text, send em a question mark. No question, no nothing JUST A SINGLE QUESTION MARK. It’s so cold-blooded’
@arzE @Anthony1983 ‘may came home with a smooth round stone as small as a world and as large as alone,’
‘Another day, another goat.’
.doc ISSUE 1 MAY 2013
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