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Jess Benjamin, Digital Editor, ES Magazine

The Evening Standard Magazine's Digital Editor waxes lyrical on non-skippable writing, maypole-inspired stories and novels that stand the test of time.

My love of words started with writing stories when I was around 6. I’d march around the room and dictate long and rambling tales to my mum, who would dutifully type them out. They always ended with villagers dancing around a maypole - the film Midsommar deeply resonates with me now.

My favourite book as a child was Goodnight Mister Tom, by Michelle Magorian. I had a real fixation with the Second World War evacuation (to the extent that I would carry round a gas mask case), and would read this book over and over again, dreaming of being whisked off to Little Weirwold.

The book currently on my bedside table is Oleander, Jacaranda, a memoir by Penelope Lively. She’s one of my favourite writers - her books are so rich in detail that you can’t skip over words and rush through pages. Every word matters.

My favourite writer is D.H. Lawrence. He’s been both wildly popular and unpopular through the decades, but I like to see him as underappreciated these days. I love his appreciation of the natural world, and how even his novels that are 100 years old are still so relevant today.

Loving the subject makes a good piece of writing. Writing about things or people that you don’t really care about makes you and the reader bored. Write what you’d want to read about.

The best stories aren’t always that exciting. Sometimes they just need to reflect reality - which is actually quite dull most of the time.

The feature I’m proudest at having penned is my first big spread in the Evening Standard. It was about new relationship apps, and I’d never properly written for a newspaper before. It was a silly, tongue-in-cheek piece - but those are the pieces I love writing the most.

My favourite interviewee is Andrew Scott, or Jeremy Corbyn. Both truly lovely, really interesting and extremely attractive (ha).

My advice for getting a job in journalism is don’t be afraid of opting for an unconventional route. You don’t have to get a job in a national newspaper straight away - so many paths can lead to your dream job.

If I wrote a novel, it would be terrible. It would be long and rambling and probably some awful version of a fantasy novel. And it would end with everyone dancing around a maypole.

Jess Benjamin is ES Magazine's Digital Editor. She lives in Walthamstow, London, with her boyfriend Barney and their cat, Gregory. You can follow Jess on Instagram and Twitter, and read her features for the Evening Standard here.

The Storyteller

Interviews with wordsmiths, writers, bookworms & bibliophiles
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