My Mentor: Nicholas Coleridge On Ann Barr & Tina Brown

'I longed to write like Brown when I was 24'

Monday 13 December 2004 01:00

I had two great mentors, who ran concurrently. One was Ann Barr, the deputy editor of Harpers & Queen from the mid-Seventies to the late-Eighties. The other was Tina Brown, who I worked for when she was editor of Tatler in the early Eighties.

Ann was the first person to buy my articles. In 1976, aged 16, I sent her two handwritten articles - very unprofessional - and most editors would have thrown them in the bin. She bought them both for £40 each. The first one was about teenage parties in Hampshire.

From Ann I learnt how a mediocre article could be turned into something hugely better, simply by changing the order and the punctuation.

She was like a very clever university don, a very improbable person to be working on a glossy magazine: eccentric, dithery, fiercely intelligent, untidy. But with her incredible literary ability came a grasp of readers' real lives and a very brave commissioning policy of finding new writers - of which I was the beneficiary. I still greatly mind about her approval. She now lives in a flat on Holland Park with a parrot, and I sometimes see her at Tesco in Notting Hill.

I then moved to Tatler to work for Tina Brown, who was the complete opposite - mercurial, glamorous, witty and cynical. Everyone was a little afraid. From her I learnt everything about sparkle and witty journalism. She was hugely influential on me; I longed to write like Brown when I was 24. She's dynamite with adjectives. She always has about four of them clattering before every name.

Part of my job, on top of writing four long articles each month, was to sell all the review books to a second-hand bookshop for cash, which would then be given to Julian Barnes, the restaurant critic, to pay his restaurant bills. That taught me to work for a publication with revenue.

Nicholas Coleridge is the MD of Condé Nast Publications

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