Just six months ago, I was working in film production, and I wasn’t spamming anyone’s Twitter timelines with links to my blog. I’d painstakingly worked my way up from Receptionist at a Soho post house, to a Production Assistant, to the Producer of my own series. Things were going really well—when I decided to drop the whole thing. Why? Because of Dolly Alderton.
Right at the start of this year, my mum sent me a clipping from The Telegraph advertising the Cassandra Jardine Memorial Prize, a competition for young women writers. I’d been writing a cooking blog for a few months at this point, and was enjoying revisiting some of the writing skills learned from my English degree, but I definitely didn’t consider myself a writer. Taking writing seriously just wasn’t something that had ever crossed my mind (at least, not since I was four and called myself an author because I managed to fill an entire notebook with stories about my Playmobils.)
So it was only semi-seriously that I looked up the competition, and started browsing through last year’s winning entries. Of course, all three of the prize-winners had written fantastic articles, but it was when I got to Dolly Alderton’s piece that I really started to sit up. Alderton had written about the Radio 4 programme Desert Island Discs, and almost 2,000 words later I was still completely hooked. On an article about Desert Island Discs! Which I’ve never even listened to! Desert Island Discs was just not something I was interested in hearing anything about, and yet Alderton’s richly crafted prose had made it absolutely fascinating.
And just like that, I was hooked on words again. My four-year-old self was back in full force; I was filling notebooks left, right and centre with my manic scribblings. In bed, in the bath, tapping furiously into my phone as I walked down the street—I wrote. And a few weeks later, I stood nervously in front of the intimidatingly red post box on Kennington Road, clutching an envelope full of words addressed to the Cassandra Jardine Memorial Prize.
After I’d posted my entry, things went back to normal for a while. I threw myself into my film work, and my notebooks fell back into disuse. Months went by with no word from The Telegraph, and my writing ambition almost slipped from my mind. That is, until an email arrived, informing me that my article was one of the prize-winners.
I had done it. My article about the grandfather I never met had somehow made somebody sit up and take interest. I was one of the Dolly Aldertons.
In the weeks leading up to the prizegiving, I read anything by Alderton I could get my hands on. Whether she was writing about clothes, dating, or the 24 bus—I cared. Her marvellous manipulation of words made me care. Reading Alderton’s words is like wading through a waterfall of honey; her writing is rich, smooth, indulgent, gloriously funny… oh, and impossible to escape from. So by the time I walked up to receive my prize in a room full of Telegraph journalists, I was no longer a Producer. I had left my job to follow in Dolly Alderton’s footsteps. I was a writer.
So I’m sorry that your timelines and News Feeds are full of my articles. And I’m sorry that I never have time to go for drinks because I’m too busy writing. But you see, it’s not my fault—it’s Dolly Alderton’s.
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