The Inside Edge
Smith is more than a name to many people: she is an inspiration. Elegant, sophisticated, hugely entertaining and downright determined, she dominated the UK world of magazine publishing as Editor of Cosmopolitan until the midNineties. An early champion of equal pay and known for the magazine’s wild cover-lines, she re-defined and elevated the concept of being single. “It’s a viable alternative to marriage”. Voted magazine Editor of the Year, given an Honorary Doctorate by City University and, with her portrait in the National Gallery, Marcelle’s career – although she suggests the word ‘career’ implies a purpose and direction that never happened in her life’s more random path – has been diverse and impactful. Currently she resides between London and Malta and was more than happy to discuss life, love and the precise use of words with TEMPLE magazine
TEMPLE- When did you first come to Malta and why?
Marcelle D’Argy Smith : - ‘I was invited on a press trip to Gozo in October 1987. I’d been enchanted by the afternoon ferry ride from Malta to Gozo and the (then) rough countryside with scrubby pines and dry stone walls. I was also amazed by seeing no people in the village streets. That first evening I went to a party in a huge garden and met loads of nice people. There were a number of disturbingly good-looking men. I remember the glittering, friendly atmosphere, and warm evening air on my arms. The next day we had a perfect day’s sailing in an elegant black yacht. I was hooked. I’d fallen in love with the place.
TEMPLE - You live between Malta and London - what does Malta give you?
MDS: - ‘I’m always relaxed in Malta. London tensions vanish as soon as I leave the airplane in Luqa. Malta feels like my safe, happy place. I’ve had some wonderful times here. I love the light in the mornings and early evenings; I love the turquoise colour of the sea, the view of Valletta across the bay from the Ferries. I like the curve of Ramla Bay and spending a day amongst family life at Gnejna Bay. I tell my friends about courtyards and gardens with bougainvillea and the silhouettes of churches against blue skies. I adore eating pumpkin ravioli in Trattoria AD1560 in Mdina or swinging down Republic Street, Valletta on a busy morning. Particularly I love teaching creative writing and finding enthusiastic talented writers here.’
TEMPLE - As a writer, journalist and editor, what are the major changes you have seen in how we all communicate in the global world now? What do you think has improved and what has deteriorated - if anything?
MDS: - ‘We communicate more than ever in this global world. We’re frantically, maniacally in touch with each other. The best of it - you don’t have to lose friends and colleagues these days. You can work from anywhere. You can chat, text, email, Tweet an opinion. You can fall in love on Tinder (it happens), sell something, buy everything. There are online communities, pressure groups, clubs. We can ask Google and consult Wikipedia. If we need cheering up – we can watch cat videos. The worst of it – the time wasting, the online bullying, And so much is ‘noise’. I know a 50-yearold who spends two hours a day on Facebook. Its all about phones and gadgets. Bookshops are closing. No one has time to read books. Goldfish have longer attention spans than people.’
TEMPLE – You offer Creative Writing Workshops.What do you feel your students learned from you when you were working for Malta Planning Authority?
MDS:- ‘These weren’t my usual writing workshops. Not the fun of telling personal stories. But all writing is creative. A big part of their working day can involve writing. I wanted to show them how to express often difficult and complicated ideas in good, clear, simple English. To cut the clutter, avoid pompous long words – and get to the point. There were architects, engineers, planners, managers, enforcers, people in marketing and customer care. A truly interesting cross section of people. It was challenging hard work. I felt I had too little time with them but I could see progress, understanding - and as ever - writing talent. Some people were clearly too big for their jobs. They could have been writing books, plays, musicals. I made suggestions on how to cut down Planning Applications from six pages to three without losing any sense or details. They approved of that. I got laughs, warmth and leaving cake.’
TEMPLE - Briefly describe a perfect day when you are in Malta or Gozo.
MDS:- ‘My favourite day? Has to be on a beach, under an umbrella, near the waves with a large fat book.’ n How’s that for clarity and precision?
If you would like further information on creative writing workshops - firstname.lastname@example.org Thank you to The Flavors Suite, AX The Palace, Sliema for their hospitality
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