Interview With Gemma Crisp

Until September-ish last year, Gemma Crisp was the editor of DOLLY magazine. Since passing the title on, she has taken charge of her next baby, her blog, The Showpony. She was kind enough to take some time from her hectic schedule to answer some questions for me.  

1. What first attracted you to working in magazines, and how did you get your start?

I’d always loved reading – I grew up on a sheep farm in Tasmania, so there wasn’t a whole lot to do on weekends! My grandmother and my mum were both magazine fiends and I guess that rubbed off on me. I also loved writing and was dux of English and the editor of the school magazine in Year 12. Despite this, I never thought I’d end up working in magazines, but while I was living in London and working in hospitality, I had a mini-career crisis. I thought seriously about what my ideal career was and came to the conclusion that I really wanted to be a journalist – not in newspapers because my writing style doesn’t suit that sort of journalism (my tone is too chatty!), but in magazines. So I applied to do as much work experience as possible and eventually scored a three-month features internship at British Marie Claire, and that was my first foot in the publishing door.

2. What did you study at university?
I did a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in International Politics and French – at that stage, I thought I wanted to be a diplomat, so my degree reflected that. After I realised I wanted to be a journalist some years later, I started a postgraduate degree in journalism by correspondence but dropped out after a year because I’d already scored a magazine job.

3. How did you get the gig of editor?
By the time I was approached to be the editor of DOLLY, I’d been working in magazines for seven years. At CLEO, I’d been promoted from Features Editor to Associate Editor and was lucky enough to have an editor who really believed in me and my abilities. She talked me up to the publisher, so when the DOLLY editor position came up, they asked if I was interested. I’d been at CLEO for three years by that stage, already had teen magazine experience under my belt and was ready for a new challenge… and the rest is history!

4. What was your favourite part of working at DOLLY, and in magazines in general?
My favourite bit of working at DOLLY was my team, and also knowing that I was (hopefully) helping teen girls around the country to deal with the trials and tribulations of growing up. DOLLY used to be my bible when I was younger, so I felt a great sense of responsibility. My favourite part of working in mags in general is that it never feels like work because I love it so much, and that I’m always learning something – from what Kevin Jonas’ wife name is (!!!) to how to deal with super-controlling parents.

5. What advice would you give to girls who want to become magazine journalists?
Firstly, write as much as you can to develop your own tone. It could be in a private journal, on a public blog, for the school newspaper, in a bunch of word documents… wherever, as long as you WRITE. Also, read as much as you can and find journalists whose style and tone you admire. Secondly, apply to do as much work experience as you can, if possible. Having grown up in Tassie, I know it can be hard when the majority of magazine publishing is based in Sydney, but there’s no rule saying it has to be ticked off your list while you’re a teenager – I didn’t start doing magazine work experience until I was 22!

6. Was staying on top of all things ‘teen’ hard? What are the main ways you stayed on top of the trends?
I was lucky in that I had a great team at DOLLY who all had their fingers on the teen pulse. We’d have regular meetings to keep on top of what was happening, to get story ideas, beauty ideas, fashion ideas… we also got teen mags from the US and UK in the office to see what was happening in TeenWorld around the globe. But, funnily enough, while some things have changed since I was a teen, a lot of things haven’t – you guys are still battling with guys, body image, friend problems, school stress, family issues etc, just like I did!

7. What inspired you to start your blog?
I wanted to dip my toe into the waters of online, because it’s such a massive part of everyone’s life, and I felt I’d gone as far as I could with DOLLY – it was time to let someone else have the editor’s chair. When I was at CLEO, I was responsible for a section that covered social trends, cool websites, weird-but-cool random bits and pieces etc which I really loved, so I decided to start something similar, in blog form.

8. How did you come up with the name?
I’d always thought that if I started my own company, I’d call it The Showpony (don’t ask me why!), so when I decided to start my blog, it was a natural choice. I also think it suits my blog because it features things that are new and different, and the definition of a ‘showpony’ is someone who likes to show off a bit…

9. How do you discover all the awesome things you feature daily?
I’ve always had a knack of sifting through random stuff and finding nuggets of gold, but I also subscribe to A LOT of daily newsletters and trend briefings, plus I read a lot of overseas magazines and websites. Sometimes I’ll spot something and file it away even though it’s not strong enough to be a standalone post by itself, because I have a feeling I’ll find something later on that will complement it. Then a couple of days or weeks later, something similar will pop up on my radar and I can then spin it into a trend.

10. Do you plan on expanding your blog in the future?
My blog is still in its infancy – it’s less than six months old and unfortunately I haven’t been able to spend as much time on it as I’d like, so there’s a lot of things I want to do to expand it. I have a long list of things I’d like to do which never seems to shrink!

11. Other than your blog, what are you doing now?
I’m still working in the magazine world, as a freelance writer and editorial consultant. I’m currently working at one of the celebrity weekly mags, which is why The Showpony isn’t getting a lot of love at the moment! Until I lure some advertisers on board and the blog starts earning an income, magazines will still be a big part of my life.

12. What’s a typical day in the working life of ‘the showpony’?
I have a desk in a shared warehouse office, so a typical day involves me hauling myself out of bed, checking my blog traffic from the day before, updating The Showpony’s Twitter account and Facebook page with a link to the post I’ve scheduled for that morning, then heading into the office. There, I trawl through various newsletters, magazine scans and websites, filing away any goodies I find, then I write another post for the afternoon. When I’m not working in mags, I like to post two or three times a day, but when I have my magazine hat on, unfortunately it goes down to once a day or once every couple of days, depending how busy I am. I know, I’m slack…

13. What are your favourite magazines to read?
If you’d asked me this a year or so ago, I would have said UK Glamour and UK Grazia, but these days, it’s Vanity Fair because they have great meaty articles. I also like Good Weekend that comes with Saturday’s Sydney Morning Herald, mostly because my boyfriend and I have a weekend ritual of doing the 20-question quiz!

14. What songs are topping your summer playlist?
I can’t stop listening to an extended remix of Gossip’s “Heavy Cross” that I downloaded from iTunes a few weeks ago, plus I really like Temper Trap’s album, Conditions. I also think Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling” is the perfect getting-ready-for-Saturday-night song, although it’s a bit 2009…

15. Even though you revealed in your final editor’s letter that you had never read the twilight saga, why, in your opinion, do you think the series has become so massive, and do you believe it has the staying power of say, Harry Potter?

Hah hah, here’s another confession – I haven’t read Harry Potter either! And I haven’t seen any of the movies! Are you still talking to me…?!
So back to the question – I think Twilight is massive because deep down, every girl loves the idea of having a gorgeous guy pledge his unconditional love to her. It’s a crazy world out there and you guys are under so much pressure when it comes to living your life and ‘being the best you can be’, so the Twilight series is a great escape. Do I think it has the staying power of Harry Potter? Good question. I don’t think you can really compare them because Harry Potter also appeals to guys, plus there are a lot more books in the franchise than Twilight. Having said that, I wouldn’t be surprised if Stephenie Meyer creates some kind of spin-off series and the juggernaut keeps going after Breaking Dawn…

16. Do you think there is a future for magazines, or will the internet eventually take over print media?
I think there’s a future for magazines and print media, but it will be a different landscape to what we have now. Nothing will replace the tangibility of reading a magazine on the train, on the plane, in bed… but the internet is definitely affecting magazines that are based purely on something like celebrity gossip, for example, because readers can now get their fix for free, as soon as it happens. Magazines will probably become more niche and will need to offer something different to what their readers can get on the internet.

17. Do you have any advice on surviving the teen years?
As someone who grew up with glasses, braces and bad skin, who was very shy and had no social life due to living in the middle of nowhere, I know being a teenager isn’t easy! But you WILL get through it. Surround yourself with great friends who love and respect you – ditch anyone who’s toxic because they’re not worth it. Your friends and family can help you survive pretty much anything, so don’t take them for granted. And never, ever ditch your friends for a guy – chances are, he won’t be around in two years’ time but your friends will.

Major thanks to Gemma, and make sure you all take a few minutes to visit her over at The Showpony, read her awesomeness and give her some comment-love 🙂

frangipani princess xoxo
ps. sorry it’s so long, I’m still learning how to edit things down so they remain awesome, just shorter.

6 thoughts on “Interview With Gemma Crisp

  1. Hey Frangi! :)I really enjoyed that interview with the ex-editor of Dolly; I found it interesting, hearing about how someone's career.I'm a bit shocked though when she admitted that she hasn't read Harry Potter… tsk tsk! Hahaha.Good questions!:D

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