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“2004, the year I won the Prize, was also the first year of my teaching fellowship at Cambridge, and I remember receiving the news just before beginning a supervision on Charles Dickens and Henry Mayhew. I grinned my way through an hour-long discussion of orphans and urban destitution. I was 27, I’d just published my first book, Mountains of the Mind, and here I was joining a list of winners that included Francis Spufford and William Dalrymple — two of the strongest inspirations behind my own writing. Surely a clerical error? Apparently not. For days afterwards I felt buzzed in the skull, slightly levitated. For young writers, a prize makes all the difference: not just the publicity flare, or the tag-line on the paperback jacket, but the  jag of confidence it brings. Someone believes in your prose, someone has prized those sentences you spent all those years laying end to end.A book I’d begun in a Maoist-era tower block in Beijing at the age of 23, writing with a scarf tied over my mouth because the air pollution was so bad, had been generously and publicly acclaimed by a jury of distinguished critics.

Nothing crushes the wish to write quite like apathy; nothing boosts it quite like being read and responded to carefully. I started to think I might be able to write another book – that became The Wild Places (2007), and here I am in 2015, six books down and another underway, thinking back more than a decade to the Prize, and the huge lift it gave me.”

Buy Mountains of the Mind

Robert Macfarlane won the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award in 2004 for Mountains of the Mind.

He was born in Oxford and is a travel writer, nature writer and critic. He studied at Pembroke College, Cambridge and at Magdalen College, Oxford, and is currently a Fellow in English at Emmanuel College, Cambridge.

Young Writer Award @YoungWriterYear

Follow us on twitter. The Young Writer of the Year Award is a prize of £10,000 for a writer under 35.

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