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Rowan Pelling

Rowan Pelling is editor of The Erotic Review. Under her editorship its circulation has soared from 5,000 as a newsletter to 30,000 as a glossy magazine in a year and a half.

I left Oxford with a startlingly bad third in English literature and without a clue of what I was going to do. I was at a neighbour's party telling this woman my tale of woe, and the next thing I knew I was being propelled in front of Ian Hislop, editor of Private Eye, as an editorial assistant. It was a very good starting place. I learnt a lot and met a huge number of people, some of whom now write for us.

The editor of GQ asked me to be his PA, which I wasn't at all sure about. I was hopeless and although I met my husband there, things ground to a halt. Then I had a stretch of doing freelance journalism and research work, and pretending to be writing a novel.

I had nearly taken a job as a market researcher when James Maclean asked me to help out at The Erotic Print Society, which seemed much more my style. I started helping out on the newsletter and in December 1997 I approached Auberon Waugh to write for the issue, which was terrifying. He accepted. I persuaded Waterstone's to stock it and by Christmas we had 10,000 new subscriptions.

I do think that if you don't know what you want to do, you have to be open to the unexpected and seize the moment. It's very easy to narrow down and not go seeking opportunities. I don't think you can underestimate how much putting your all into something, however mundane, counts. You've got to be prepared to look failure in the face. Looking stupid - the worst possible outcome - well that's not the worst thing in life is it?

Lucy Pollard