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Copywriters on the rack #24: Ed Callow

Hello and welcome to Copywriters on the Rack. That smell? Oh, my last ‘guest’ was a nervous soul. Now please lie down, this won’t hurt a bit. Honest.

Who are you and what do you do to pay the bills?

My name’s Ed and I’m one of those writer-y types. My bread and butter work-wise is copywriting and marketing content, but sometimes I get paid for screenwriting, editing, creative fiction and various other forms of words, too.

What was your career path to get to where you are now?

Typically chaotic. I got a Masters’ degree in translation, worked as a translation project manager for a while, quit, became a freelance German to English translator, went a little stir crazy, got a job in a marketing department, went even more crazy, quit, became a freelance writer. And that about brings us up to date.

What’s the best thing about your job?

I can sit down and transcribe my silly little thoughts and turn them into something that people are willing to pay for.

What’s the worst?

I have to have my silly little thoughts to a series of deadlines. And bookkeeping.

How do you fill the gaps when you’re not doing the day job?

Reading books, listening to music and doing cryptic crosswords. Since those are all pretty word-heavy, I also do a fair amount of cooking up a storm in the kitchen and cat wrangling.

Now we’ve got the formalities out of the way, let’s go rogue:

What’s the stupidest thing you did as a teenager?

Me and [REDACTED] went down to [REDACTED] one night and [REDACTED] all over the [REDACTED]. After that we were [REDACTED] from the premises and could never show our faces in [REDACTED] again.

Write me a poem about a hamstring injury

Striker, striker, burning bright,
Down the touchline, on the right.
The full back’s done for, on her arse,
Now to find that final pass.

But lo! You fall, outside the box,
Unopposed, about to cross.
“F****’s sake!” cries out your number nine,
You hit the turf, hand clasped on thigh.

The chance is gone, the game is lost.
A grim clap as you’re stretchered off.
You know the score, it hurts like hell:
Nine months out, torn ACL.

Ooh pain, my favourite. Talking of which, who would win in a fight, Quentin Tarantino or Caroline Quentin?

Caroline Quentin. She brought some real ‘let’s settle this in the pub car park’ energy to Jonathan Creek. Also, as an actress, all she has to do is slip off her shoes and socks and she’d have Tarantino in the palm of her hand.

Write me three straplines for:

1) Zero Gravity Underpants
Finally: boxers that really can float like a butterfly.

2) The day they shut off the Internet

3) Scorsese’s remake of The Sound of Music
How do you solve a problem like De Niro?

What was your nickname at school?

I’m not sure that I had one. That said, I found out, many years after graduating, that I was known (highly inaccurately) in the Modern Languages department at uni as ‘Sexy Ed.’ So maybe I had one behind my back in my school days, too.

Draw me a picture of a mullet with a mullet (yes I know you’re a writer, but do it anyway).

Copywriting is like herding slugs, discuss.

You’ll end up going around in circles creating a sticky mess, and inevitably, things end up getting salty.

You’re feeling down in the dumps. What do you need to perk you up again?

A cat on the lap, several videos of frolicking otters, and a radio play of Joyce’s Ulysses recorded for RTE in 1982.

What is love?

To paraphrase from my own wedding speech, love is embroidering an ampersand between two names on a tea towel.

Pick a random pic from your camera roll and tell us about it.

In amongst the nihilistic memes and blurry cat photos is one of my favourite ever poems:

Write me a very short story featuring: Richard Madeley on a unicycle, Oprah Winfrey covered in salad cream and an angry fishmonger.

“Please, please! Make it stop! I can’t keep going”

“You know what you need to do to stop it, Madeley. Take it back.”

The voice was warped and distorted by the tape hiss of the intercom, and muffled by the menacing crackle of the electric current pulsating through the mesh below. But he was sure he could hear something familiar in the timbre of the voice. A regional dialect he couldn’t quite place.

Saddle-sore and wobbling hopelessly, Richard Madeley pleaded with desperation: “I take it back, I take it back! Of course I do!”

A moment’s quiet from the intercom, as its polyphemian red light blinked. Then the sparking faded into a low hum as the electric tide beneath his rubber tire receded. Madeley instantly fell to the floor, sweat pouring down his brow.

“That’s good. Tell me though: just what is it you’re taking back?”

“I’m sorry?”

“I know you are. But what are you sorry for?”

The voice, it was toying with him.

“Whatever I’ve done, I’m sorry. Was it something I said? Was it when I argued for increasing the speed limit in school zones to create a generation of hyper-agile children? When I called for badgers to be airlifted into Turkmenistan to spread TB immunity to the Steppes? When I wanted to bring back imperial measurements solely for the mongering of gooseberries?”

“Getting warmer. But no.”

Madeley racked his brains as he used his arms to push himself into a sitting position, legs too spent to be of any use. He steadied himself against the metal frame of the unicycle.

Before he could respond, a television screen on the wall in front of him flickered into life, gently humming with benign static.

“Perhaps this will jog your memory”

On the screen appeared a room like the one he had just found himself in. But where the floor beneath him was an intermeshed grid of pulsating livewires, this room was wall to wall with… rabbits? And a shape in the corner, hunched over. Suddenly, the shape let out a scream: deep, but feminine. American, certainly.

It was a woman, he could see that now she had raised her head. But her skin had a deathly, glistening pallour, and most of her body was decked in what he could only assume was romaine lettuce. The voice. The same voice, but on the TV this time.

“Those teeth are sharp, aren’t they Ms. Winfrey?”

“Make it stop! Please!”

“Far sharper than any Cornish rabbits, I can tell you that. And only this special breed has such a refined palette: an unquenchable lust for Hellmann’s Salad Cream.”


“Take it back. Take back what you said in your Readers Digest interview. Say Devon is nicer than Cornwall to visit!”


The scream was muffled by a tsunami of tawny fur as the drove of rabbits descended on her now exposed, salad cream covered face.

The screen went blank.

“Now do you see, Richard?” The voice emanated from the intercom again, now.

“Yes.” He answered, his breath heaving. “This is about what I said on Good Morning, isn’t it?”

“That’s right. Your ridiculous claim. And we – The Devon Fishmongers Consortium – will not stand for the lies of daytime television hosts any longer! Renounce it!”

Desperate, now, Madeley clambered to his feet.

“I renounce, I renounce! Kippers are a perfectly acceptable breakfast food!”

Make my skin crawl.

The bin juice from your kitchen food caddy has just dripped all over your second-best pair of slippers.

Ugh. Now make my heart melt.

The collective noun for a group of giant pandas is an embarrassment.

Write me dictionary definition entries for ‘Wilcock’s Lexicofantabulous Compendium of Oddities and Soddities’:

1) Hedgsplang
The sound made by a homemade ejector seat the moment a guest around your dinner table starts discussing international finance (or topiary, due to a voice recognition software engineering error.)

2) Plokkel
A unisex wig made entirely out of kelp.

3) Byron’s Eggs
A breakfast dish comprising scrambled hen, duck and goose eggs. The name is derived from the distasteful intermingling of cousins.

If you were alone on a desert island for a month, what 6 items would you take with you? (they have to fit in a Morrison’s bag for life and yes, you can keep the bag)

Scissors and bungee cords, to fashion the bag for life into a hammock.

My WIP manuscript. The remaining three items can all be pens. That way I’ll (maybe) get it finished.

Make up your own question and tell me whatever you want to get off your chest.

Q: Why is the word “hyphenated” not hyphenated, but the word “non-hyphenated” is hyphenated?

A: Good question, Ed. This is because the English language is a lawless nightmare, an anarchic realm into whose depths we descend deeper and deeper with every paragraph, every sentence, every word. All is entropy. All is chaos.

Give me three reasons why I should let you go.

1) I need to feed my cat.
2) I need to feed my other cat.
3) My cats are probably worried about me.

And before I remove the shackles, tell us where we can find you online.
@EdCallowWrites on Twitter

Right, you little scamp, scamper!

More fun and frolics here: Copywriters on the rack #23: Ian David