Wednesday 18 December 2013

Saturday 30 November 2013

One of the most unusual charity letters you'll get this Christmas?

"To start with, I'm not a member of The Salvation Army. I'm actually a writer."

This year's Christmas direct mail campaign from The Salvation Army is breaking the fourth wall, you might say. It's admitting the letter is written by 'a writer' - although it's not saying whether previous marketing letters have had similar professional help.

The letter claims to be 'one of the most unusual charity letters you'll get this Christmas'. In many ways, you could suggest it's one of the most traditional. Arguably this technique is a close relation of the ancient Greek Chorus and the Shakespearean aside.

I've talked about my role as an anonymous writer before but really can't see the wall-breaking technique working for most of my clients...

"Hey, I'm not an anthropomorphic mobile phone, I'm a copywriter."

"It's been a great year for the company. So they tell me, anyway."

"And if you have any queries, please give us a ring. Okay, give THEM a ring. Don't call me unless you need anything written."

Friday 1 November 2013

Brian James on songwriting

This month's issue of Viva Lewes magazine includes my interview with guitarist Brian James, who co-founded punk pioneers The Damned and The Lords of the New Church. He offered a no-nonsense description of life as a songwriter:
“There’s always songs buzzing round your head. You just wanna get them out and then more songs come along. It’s like breathing.”
Brian plays Lewes Con Club on 22nd November 2013.

Tuesday 1 October 2013

Der Joshi und Seine Crew

From Viva Lewes October 2013: an interview that sees me testing my German language skills to their very limit - entschuldigen sie mir bitte, sprechen sie Englisch? - as I interview a band from Waldshut-Tiengen.

"Most stereotypes about Germany are true. We eat Black Forest g√Ęteau at every rehearsal. And in our new video we’re all wearing moustaches."



Monday 26 August 2013

Her poem

"I want to get the hearse out of my head," she said, picturing a scene in verse as mourners drove through town, their sad black cars slicing catholic traffic like seals, cigar-shaped bodies making farewell waves. I applauded this beautiful image by clapping my flippers.

Wednesday 29 May 2013

Rupert Thomson: steered out of the unknown

Recently I saw author Rupert Thomson at the Charleston Festival talking about the inspiration for his recent novel, Secrecy.He started by admitting the topic wasn't always easy to address:
As a fiction writer there's this dreaded question you always get asked, which is "where do your ideas come from?"  It's dreaded because it's normally really difficult to answer, it sounds so feeble and slender when you try and do it. You find yourself inventing; you're inventing within the invention.
However, his latest book had a clearer story behind it. He'd been living in Tuscany and met a friend whose companion recommended he should visit La Specola, a museum in Florence:
This was from a complete stranger. There was an unusual moment. I think as a writer you're always alert and open to these moments of being steered out of the unknown; it's a bit like inspiration, something that you're not expecting.
He visited the museum on his way back to the UK and was fascinated by the some of the wax sculptures "but not really thinking it would go anywhere". It wasn't until he attended an art exhibition in London some months later and saw a description of an Italian wax sculptor as 'eccentric' that he began looking for the background to this story... and began writing his own.

The Charleston event was a fascinating insight to Rupert's work. His novel-writing process struck me as similar to the steps in James Webb Young's A Technique for Producing Ideas.

In this advertising classic, which was published over 70 years ago, the author refers to an idea being "a new combination of old elements" and goes on to talk about a five-step process of gathering material, digesting that material, letting ideas incubate while you think about something else, experiencing the birth of the idea and finally developing the idea.

Of course, having ideas is only the first part. Turning them into successful books is the really clever bit.

Monday 20 May 2013

Why I like audio recording

I like audio recording. This probably won't surprise you. It's something I spend a fair amount of time doing.

I'm particularly fond of on-location interviews that have enough background sounds to give you a sense of where you are without being distracting. If you hear the sounds of the seaside you'll get a different impression than if you heard the sounds of an exhibition hall.

But what I've not done until recently is give much thought to exactly why I like the recording and editing process.

I was editing an interview that I'd recorded with the CEO of a technology company in a hotel restaurant. As far as I can tell, PR people tend to treat hotel restaurants in the same way that the rest of us use offices. WiFi, coffee, other people ignoring you...

Anyway, I was listening back to the interview - fortunately no piano player, no china being dropped, just a little indistinguishable background chatter - and I started cutting out a few of the 'ums' and 'ers' that punctuated the conversation. Quite a few, actually. The end result was rather pleasing, even if I say so myself.

The conversation still flowed but it was tighter and - dare I say - more listenable than it was before.

Had I been doing the recording with magnetic tape, I'd now have a pile of off-cuts - each one an um, an er, a 'so' or - my particular favourite - 'that's a good question'. Over the course of several interviews I'd have accumulated enough for some kind of art project. Maybe a spoken version of Do Re Mi in assorted European accents.

Fortunately digital editing is less painful than its old-school equivalent. And I don't just mean mentally - I never was much good with a razor blade and a chinagraph pencil.

It was the editing process that got me thinking about why I enjoyed audio recording above its alternatives. If I'd been video recording, I wouldn't have been able to remove as many hesitations, phonic tics and repeated words. At least, not while remaining focussed on the interview subject. Yet if I'd been editing a written interview, I could have included all manner of incidental subjects and could even have rearranged the timeline. The audio interview seems - if you'll forgive the cliche and its associated pun - a happy medium. It's a slice of time, a snapshot, an experience. It's been polished a little, it's been put in a frame but it maintains its authenticity.

To put things simply, you know where you are.



[Recorded using the HiFiCorder Android app on a Google Nexus S mobile phone; audio version available on ipadio.com]

Sunday 5 May 2013

I wanted to be a writer

"I wanted to be a writer. Almost everybody was a writer. Not everybody thought they could be a dentist or an automobile mechanic but everybody knew they could be a writer."

 Charles Bukowski, Factotum

Wednesday 1 May 2013

Book review: Cities are good for you

I've recently finished reading 'Cities are good for you' by Leo Hollis. My review is now on port-magazine.com:

"Cities can indeed be good for us, yet only if we consider the human elements throughout the construction process. We need to build communities, not just structures. If we don’t, we’ll have nothing to escape from but ourselves."

Monday 22 April 2013

A lavish lunch and exotic drinks… all when he should be working

  • Copywriter enjoys his second meal of the day
  • Secret sandwich in intimate writer’s retreat

He’s supposed to be working for clients but copywriter Mark Bridge has been spotted eating lunch instead.

Sources have told how the self-employed scribe made himself a sandwich before carrying it back to his desk.

The writer also found time to boil his retro-style kettle and make a cup of rare Rooibos tea, brewed from leaves only found in South Africa’s fynbos region and enjoyed by many other glamorous A-listers. Controversially, he was seen to add milk to the drink.

Left-over pork from Thursday’s dinner was combined with spicy sweet chilli sauce in a pitta bread, leaving some to suggest Mr Bridge had been taking culinary tips from celebrity chefs like Jamie and Nigella.

He started writing professionally more than ten years ago, although creativity was clearly in the blood as childhood friends tell how he’d pretended to be a newspaper reporter from a very young age.

Mr Bridge was unavailable for comment today.

Wednesday 27 March 2013

Will cease, comma...

The GP surgery used by my mum has changed the way it organises appointments for patients. She's been given a printed leaflet that ends "Our current arrangement with two local practices will cease to enable us to provide continuity of care for our registered patients."

The receptionist is hand-writing a comma in the final sentence before she hands each leaflet out.

Thursday 21 February 2013

Britain's Secret Shoppers

I'm him off the telly. Yes, that's me - credited as Mark Bridge, Technology Writer - offering some mobile phone shopping tips on the Channel 4 "Britain's Secret Shoppers" television programme. A few appeared in tonight's show and I'm expecting to see some more next week. Meanwhile, if you missed it, the series is on 4oD for a while.

Wednesday 30 January 2013

A couple of gems from the Advertising Standards Authority

There are some absolute gems in the Advertising Standards Authority adjudications released today.

It’s good news for Honda...

We considered that viewers would recognise that the action of driving towards a supernatural opening portal was not realistic behaviour

...and good news for Converse, too.

We noted that one woman was wearing her bikini near palm trees and another appeared to be having a water fight, which suggested circumstances where women might ordinarily be in bikinis

Saturday 26 January 2013

CD review: Not Waving, But Drowning by The Self Help Group

CD review from Viva Lewes magazine, February 2013:

Not Waving, But Drowning sits firmly in the centre of the melodic Venn diagram embracing alt-country, folk and gentle rock music. If it were a place, it would be Laurel Canyon – the Los Angeles suburb where Crosby, Stills & Nash sang about a very, very, very fine house. Yet this album was born in Sussex; five-piece band The Self Help Group is based in Brighton, while Lewes’s Union Music Store produced the recordings. Each track has the warmth of Californian sunshine, with bright harmonies and rhythmic guitars partnered by lyrics that move from joyful humour to almost unbearable sadness. Despite the heartbreak, I can't stop listening.

The album costs £11.99 and is released on Monday 11 February. Needles, the first single from the album, can be found on iTunes and on YouTube.

Sunday 20 January 2013

Lewes weather

I've just discovered that the Met Office offers a website widget. I don't really have any reason to embed it here but... well...

This Weather Widget is provided by the Met Office

Sunday 6 January 2013

The mystery of writing

I've just been reading a blog post from last year by writer/artist Austin Kleon. It's entitled 'Writing: it doesn’t get any easier' and talks about the late David Rakoff, who'd described the challenge of writing as being like "having to reverse-engineer a meal out of rotten food".

That's enormously reassuring

Back in spring 2011, when reading 'The Writing Life' by Annie Dillard, I suddenly realised I didn't know how to be a copywriter. I could do it... but I couldn't really explain how I did it, so wasn't sure if I was doing it 'right'. Perhaps there was a better way.

In the movie of my life, this would be the part where Nicolas Cage (who's playing me) sees a beam of light shining through the bedroom curtains. He leaps from his bed and runs to his well-stocked library, scrabbling to find copies of advertising classics; dog-eared editions by Claude Hopkins, David Ogilvy, Drayton Bird and Philip Kotler. He pulls them from the shelves and sits on the floor reading them as the sun rises outside.

In the film, Nicolas Cage would find some kind of revelation and would walk off into a warm orange sunrise with a mug of coffee in his hand. But the more I thought about it, the more I realised he'd be missing the point.