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My Mentor: Laurence Shorter On Kenton Allen

'He forced me to focus my mind and present my idea in a high-impact way'

Earlier this year I decided to write a book about optimists. My aim was to travel the world meeting optimists and learning how to feel more positive about the future. I also wanted to find "expert" optimists who could make me feel better about the somewhat dodgy world situation. So far I have met a handful of luminaries, including Desmond Tutu, Tim Smit and Matthieu Ricard, as well as some more obscure (but equally happy) optimists.

One of the first things you learn about optimism is the importance of asking for help. So it was a turning point for me when I met Kenton Allen, a high-ranking BBC comedy guru - who became my mentor through a scheme at London's Hospital Club. Kenton encouraged me to develop the project as a radio documentary and put me in touch with friends inside the maze-like corridors of Radio 4. Thanks to his advice, my series about optimists is now in development. And that's definitely an optimistic outcome.

The good thing about Kenton is that he goes straight to the point. When you are the head of a whole TV department (BBC Comedy North), there is no time to mess around. What do you want to achieve? How are you going to do it? What can I do to help? Talking to him forced me to focus my mind and to present my idea in a high-impact way, avoiding writerly waffle - my natural way of communicating.

I'm going to need a bit of that when I finally track down Bill Clinton, the ultimate optimist. After all, I'll probably only get 30 seconds. Unless he accepts my application to be an intern, that is.

Laurence Shorter is a TV and radio writer