My Mentor: William Sitwell on Marcelle D'Argy Smith

'I remember thinking what an interesting and witty person she was'
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The Independent Online

I think Marcelle is one of the great editor legends. She was the great force when Cosmopolitan was at its height and I waslucky that I was able to ship up at Woman's Journal and learn from her.

My first proper job was on the Sunday Express. I was a bit of a stuntman really - I was sent out dressed up as Barbara Cartland and I remember having to doorstep Paul Dacre to get a photo of him in his pyjamas.

Then they made me redundant. I freelanced and Marcelle plucked me out of oblivion and despondency. So I landed on Woman's Journal, which was probably as much of a surprise to anyone else as it was to me.

I remember going to see Marcelle and thinking what an extraordinary, interesting, witty and amusing person she was. And I owe her. She made me features editor and looked after me, which meant I could then move into an executive level on a magazine rather than go and be a hack on a tabloid. Having had a hectic time on newspapers as everyone does, I enjoyed the creative process and the time you have to put together really great articles. At the Express I learned the key elements of what makes a good story, but I'd never gone over to a lightbox and looked at pictures. It's magazines where I've settled and found myself.

I remember sitting in her office and her saying, "For God's sake Sitwell, stop agreeing with me." I was nodding my head because she'd been talking about the difficulty of women dating again in their 40s, post-divorce, which wasn't a subject I had a great handle on.

One of her great talents, which she taught me, is the ability to take frivolous subjects seriously, which is a key part of magazine journalism.

I've always kept in touch with her and when we win awards she's always the first to write a very lovely letter. In her last one she wrote, "I chose you. I keep boasting that I discovered you."

William Sitwell is the editor of Waitrose Food Illustrated

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