The standard of entries for this year's ELLE Talent Competition was higher than ever which makes us pretty excited about the new and the emerging writing talent out there.
Make sure you read Alice Blackhurst's winning entry in the January issue of ELLE on sale now.
And come back every week to read the entries from our four runners up.
Julie Grady Thomas, 29, a scriptwriting master's student at Aberystwyth University
Let me tell you about my first love.
It was an average day, a normal Thursday in 1998. The sun rose over Worcester, Massachusetts, at about 6:35am, to some cloud cover. I awoke to the sounds of Matty in the Morning on KISS 108FM, ‘Boston’s hit music station,’ which also happened to be the radio station of my childhood.
I know all of this because I wrote it. It’s all here in my very first journal.
‘I arrived at school at about 7am,’ I penned in my big, loopy teenage handwriting. ‘I had my first calzone and Rolo. It was wicked good.’
Having had braces for most of my formative years, I never had the absolute pleasure of noshing on those perfectly circular chocolate-covered caramel creations. But this isn’t a love note to Nestlé, although perhaps someone should take care of that.
Flipping through pages of my journal, I’m shocked to read how disturbingly mundane I was.
‘I’ve been sitting next to Tamara Golden. She’s cool.’ And how eloquent I could be, ’Matt Costello is sooo hot!’ Not to mention articulate.
‘Laura Myers likes him, too!’ It wasn’t entirely terrible. At least I could place a comma - ’We still have a lot of traveling to do. We went from Boston Logan to Miami and now we’re in Quito. We have to take a boat to La Salva, then we walk for about thirty minutes, but first we need to take a plane from Quito to Coca.’
I was fourteen. I was in Ecuador. I was traveling.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with travel. Long before the body scans, the pat-downs and the other scrutinous security measures were put in place, my father would take my brother and I to watch the planes take off from the Worcester airport.
Being only four or five, I don’t remember much. But, I do remember the sheer awe I had watching those giant metal birds pick up with a thunderous roar and disappear beyond the horizon.
Soon, planes expanded to trains and I was simply hooked.
The hurly burly platforms of the train station were enchanting. Soon, I would realise that it didn’t matter if I was coming or going, just that an adventure ensued.
Later in life I would read books. I would watch films. I would witness so many authors and directors use such bustling microcosms to instill heartache, capture love at first sight and even be privy to the odd betrayal or switch. Train stations, airports, even bus depots, they all possess the thrill of the unknown, the excitement of adventure, the passing of time. All of it a convoluted, melancholy fog in which travel and transit coexist.
But in the meantime, my mind was on boys. In fact, I’m shocked to see that despite the exotic environment of Ecuador, how much space I allotted to the opposite sex, most of which included but was not limited to:
‘He’s a hotty and a half!’ / ‘Why don’t I have a boyfriend?’ // ‘He goes ‘You look fiiiine,’ you know in that way they say it.’ // ‘We both love sports, all kinds of movies and Seinfeld, plus he’s gorgeous and taller than me!’
I’m 5’10” now and I was 5’10” then. Dating was challenging when I was a foot taller than most boys in my class, but you’ll be pleased to know my husband currently meets all the aforementioned requirements. We may evolve, but time can’t entirely change us.
Equally shocking to read is fourteen-year-old me spotting destructive dating behavior amongst my female friends.
‘I’m sick of the whole saga. I feel bad saying it, but it’s true. I mean, the back and forth between those two...can you say brainless, dependent, pathetic?!?!’
The saga being Carly and Christian. They dated on-and-off for the next five years. Carly then went on to date a series of unavailable men for the next ten years. She’s currently in an off phase. I stand by my previous statement about time.
Still, amidst the teenage angst and drama, there’s the occasional glint of a shiny new obsession.
‘The plane was fun. It was small and took forty-five minutes, but Heather took an even smaller charter plane that went so high they needed oxygen masks!’
Clearly the excitement of a near-death experience wasn’t lost on me, as I was too young to be aware of my own mortality.
‘I ate my first passion fruit today. It looks gross, like alien eggs, but it’s delicious.’
Already a long way from the calzones and Rolos of the previous day, I was quite literally discovering a whole new world, one that would continue to nurture, shape and mold my outlook.
Yet I cringe as I read through this journal. A pit in my stomach is slowly dissolving, churning into an anxiety-ridden slush. I was so utterly consumed by my social dramas, so completely unconfident, so fearful of popular thought.
It’s just as well I had true love, one that would forcibly push me into the world; one that would question me and that I would question; one that would compel me to witness the banal and the strange, the old and the new, the truth and what we tell ourselves is true. Because as time will invariably sort things, it can never truly change who we are, only love can. Love and travel.