Culture Street

It wasn't until she'd hit the bright lights of London that Gemma Crisp realised she could get paid to write about mascara, threesomes and celebrities (not necessarily in that order!). After acing her first magazine internship, thanks to being a photocopying and coffee-fetching ninja, Gemma moved to Sydney and has spent the last 12 years working for some of Australia's glossiest magazines, including New WomanGirlfriendOK!,Cosmopolitan Bride and NW. She popped her editorship cherry at teen bible DOLLY and until December 2012, was the editor of the iconic title,CLEO, where she spent her days fending off wannabe Eligible Bachelors, wrangling celebrity publicists, attempting to craft the perfect coverline and trying not to buy more shoes. Gemma's latest book Don't Know What You've Got Till It's Gone is out now.

What inspired your passion for magazines and books?

I grew up on a sheep farm in Tasmania where there wasn’t a lot to do if you weren’t interested in shearing, fencing or riding a tractor! So I did a lot of reading – as a child, one of the highlights of my life was when the mobile library came to the small town closest to us. My parents were big readers and my mum was also a magazine fan, as was my maternal grandmother who bought Woman’s Day and New Idea every week without fail (she claimed it was for the crosswords) so books and magazines were always a presence in my life especially when I started to commute into Hobart for school. Later on, I discovered I was also good at writing — I was the dux of English at my school and the editor of the school magazine. However, it never really occurred to me that I could make my love of writing, reading and magazines into a career – when I left school I toyed with the idea of becoming a French teacher or a diplomat. It wasn’t until I was 23 and was living in London that I realised working in magazines could be my perfect match.

What was the catalyst for writing your first book?

I’m one of the lucky ones — I was actually approached out of the blue by my publisher at Allen & Unwin who wanted to know if I’d ever thought about writing a book. At first I thought it was a joke. Then I freaked out about when I’d have the time to write a book while working full-time. But then I realised that it’s not every day that a book deal lands in your lap so I pushed all my doubts aside, rolled up my sleeves and got on with it. As I was the editor of CLEO magazine at the time, we decided a chick lit book would be the most appropriate so I came up with a story outline, submitted it, and the rest is history…

Who is Nina Morey based on?

A lot of Nina’s experiences are based on the experiences I’ve had as well as those of some of my friends – however being fiction, I have the luxury of being able to twist and distort the situations to make a better story. Nina is far from perfect – in fact, some of the time she’s downright unlikeable, but I don’t see any point in writing a sweet-but-boring character. Where’s the fun in that?! Although she’s not the most gracious person, I hope that readers can relate to some of Nina’s trickier personality traits.

What advice would you give to graduates hoping to break into the world of magazines?

It’s become a bit of a cliché but it’s because it’s true – apply for every internship you hear about. If you don’t hear of any, submit an application to the magazines you’d like to work for anyway. You never know when an opening will become available. Internships are one of the most valuable ways to get on-the-ground experience in an editorial environment, even if your days are spent doing coffee runs, photocopying and transcribing. It’s how 95 per cent of magazine editors started. If you’re desperate to work in the magazine world but don’t enjoy writing, styling or graphic design, remember there are lots of other areas within a magazine company – all publishers have finance, marketing, research and sales departments. It’s not all about editorial.

Tell us about your latest book ...

It’s a sequel to my first novel Be Careful What You Wish For, picking up 18 months after the main character Nina spiralled out of control. Now she has picked herself up, shaken herself off and is thriving as the editor of a weekly celebrity gossip magazine. She’s also ready to hit the party scene after coming out of a long-term relationship but to her utter surprise, her friend have other ideas – all of them baby-related. It takes a look at what happens to female friendship groups when their lives go in completely different directions, with plenty of magazine-related drama and gossip – oh, and a reality TV show – thrown in for good measure.


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