Jeanne Horak-Druiff is Wine Editor for WE Magazine for Women and Editor of the Month for August…
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your writing career.
I am a proud South African and was born, raised, educated and happily ensconced in Port Elizabeth, South Africa all my life. That is, until fate intervened and I followed my husband who wanted to fulfil a dream of working abroad. We came to London with the intention of staying a year. It’s now 10 years later and we are still here, which just goes to show that life is what happens while you make other plans! I am a trained criminal lawyer and have defended many people on trial for murder, back when South Africa still handed out the death penalty. I also lectured commercial law for eight of the happiest years of my career and for the past few years I have worked in law firms in London in a knowledge management role.
When I am not at my day job, I am a food blogger. I started my blog http://www.cooksister.com in May 2004, back when there were only a handful of food bloggers and it is still going strong. I am a four time winner of the Best Food Blog category of the South African Blog Awards and I was recently listed by The Times online as one of the top 50 food blogs in the world. My readership continues to grow month on month and is pretty evenly split between the US, the UK and South Africa
I am also a freelance writer and have written for various online and print publications. I have had food/travel pieces published in the National Geographic “500 Food Journeys” book and my recipes have appeared in two compliations of blog recipes. I will soon also feature in “Foodies of the World” and “Creating a Meal You’ll Love” which are due to be published late in 2010, as well as another National Geographic book on “500 Secret Journeys”.
When did you first discover you enjoyed writing?
I have always been a bit of a born archivist – I started keeping a rudimentary diary when I was ten years old, but that had more to do with my manic desire to record events than the act of writing! I had always loved reading, but I think the turning point came when I was about fiftteen years old and I read SE Hinton’s wonderful teen novels (The Outsiders, Tex, Rumblefish and That Was Then, This is Now). They blew me away. They were so different from any other book that I had ever read – the language they used and the situations they described were not stuffy or formal in any way, and suddenly I realised that I could write stuff like that too. I think the teachers at my rather restrained all-girl school must have been a little alarmed when I suddenly started writing first-person stories about teenage boy protagonists! But it certainly unlocked something inside me, because by the time I was 17, an English teacher graded one of my essays and wrote in the margin “You have the talent to be a writer”. I have never forgotten that, nor have I ever stopped being grateful to her for giving me faith in myself and my ability to write. Although most of my writing these days is for my blog (www.cooksister.com) or for freelance jobs. I still write and journal for my own pleasure, on a daily basis.
What are your favorite topics to write about?
All through university, I wrote poetry. Some of it is angsty, teenage rubbish, but some of the poems still have the ability to touch me today – and that, to me, is the mark of good writing. I believe that one of the things I can do well through my writing, both prose and poetry, is to evoke feelings and emotions in other people. I do not go for reams of adjectives, but I do aim to stir emotions and I enjoy doing so. When it comes to non-fiction, my favourite topics are definitley food and drink, but also travel, restaurants and legal topics related to blogging (copyright, defamation, content theft).
For me, food writing is all about the story behind a dish, whether that be a factual history or a personal anecdote. I love the fact that food forms the backdrop to all the milestones in our lives – a christening breakfast, a wedding brunch, a graduation dinner, a wake. Food is inseperable from its context. It ties us to our past and our future; to our country and our family, with cords that cannot be broken by time or distance.
What do you enjoy about writing for WE Magazine for Women?
I enjoy the fact that the magazine is by women and for women – it’s not some marketing manager’s idea of what women want to read about. I think that gives the articles increased relevance and a feeling of sincerity and authenticity that is lacking in some publications. I love the fact that I am part of a community of experts who are all writing on topics about which they are passionate, rather than people who research a topic only because they happen to be writing a piece about it. And I really appreciate the space that Heidi gives me to develop ideas for articles, rather than limiting my brief!
What projects are you currently working on?
I am currently trying to put together a proper freelance writing portfolio. Up to now, I have not had all my samples in one place but it’s getting to the point where this is becoming necessary if I want to source more work. I am giving my photography some more exposure by participating in www.betweenhemispheres.com, a collaborative project involving four photographers from around the world, posting their unique interpretations of a weekly theme, and I have started a Redbubble store to sell prints, calendars and greeting cards
What’s next for you?
I must say that I am very happy with where my blog has brought me so far – It has allowed me to meet interesting people and gain exposure to a worldwide audience which I would not otherwise have had. For the next few months, I am trying to market my freelance writing as a viable business. I am also an experienced public speaker and have spoken at three food blogging conferences in the past year (two in the UK and one in South Africa) – this is another opportunity that I would like to explore as I get a real buzz from it! The aim is to make enough from writing, speaking/teaching and photography to at least partially quit my day job.
Tell us about the services/products you offer.
I am a freelance writer and have written food, drink and travel pieces for a number of online publications and websites, other than my own blog. I also offer editing and proofreading services and most recently worked on the BloggerAid Cook Book, for which I also did the indexing. I am always available to discuss your writing projects and requirements.
I am available as a guest speaker for conferences/seminars of all sizes, having eight years lecturing experience as well as recently speaking at three food blogger conferences. My particular areas of expertise are writing style and voice; legal/ethical aspects of blogging; recipe writing and editing; blogging for beginners; and digital camera basics for bloggers. I am based in the UK but am happy to travel, provided that my costs are covered.
I have also done some recipe development for companies such as Lurpak butter and supermarket chain Morrison’s, and I have hosted a couple of interactive cook-alongs for Lurpak on their Facebook page, which involved posting my recipe steps and pictures in realtime so that the public could cook along while I was available to answer questions online.
What do you do for fun/relaxation?
I cook! I love developing new recipe ideas, I love experimenting with new dishes, and I love to entertain friends at home – for me, it’s a form of relaxation. Other than that, photography is also a great passion and there is little that compares to the satisfaction of creating a really beautiful image, be it of food, people or a landscape. Travel is one of my major extravagances and when it snows, nothing will keep me away from the ski slopes!
What question would you like to answer that has not been asked?
Who is your greatest inspiration? My mom, who always made me beleve that I could do absolutely anything I chose to and whose motto in life was “what the hell – in the grand scheme of things, what’s another few dollars/calories/hours?”. She lost her own mom at age 8 and was determined that my brother and I would have the mother she never did. She taught me to love English literature and travel and classical music and shoe shopping. She had a fierce intellect and obtained her Masters degree in English literature when she had two kids under the age of 6. After a career as a radiographer, she turned to lecturing and became the first ever professor of radiography in South Africa. She inspired a generation of students to be all they could be, no matter how humble their academic beginnings: she taught them not only about radiography but about life, and she refused to stop teaching even after she had to go onto dialysis. This August she would have been 73 years old but polycystic kidney disease stole her away from me far too soon. Not a day goes by that I do not think about her. Thanks for the inspiration, mom.
How can our readers contact you?
Readers can get in touch via e-mail on firstname.lastname@example.org, or they can visit my blog http://www.cooksister.com