Wole Soyinka turns 80

Wole Soyinka turns 80

Over time, most interviews, be they phoners or even in-person, start to blur together. Some stand out in your memory because of a great conversation or odd location; Wole Soyinka was a bit of both. When I met him for lunch a few years ago, it was with a small group of other journalists, so […]

An even shittier first draft

Posted in writing
An even shittier first draft

Writing longhand is something of a luxury. It takes more time than typing just on the first draft, and at some point I then have to enter it onto the computer. The quality is often messier–an even shittier first draft, to paraphrase Anne Lammott–yet it’s usually a richer experience that somehow lets me make different […]

A story killed and resurrected

A story killed and resurrected

Throughout my years of freelance writing, there is one recurring situation that is genuinely tricky to prevent: the story that gets killed because the assigning editor leaves the publication. You might think that the new editor would be so busy trying to get up to speed that the last thing they’d do is kill a […]

Gaggle or gang?

Posted in animals, editing

On land, a gaggle or flock. In flight, a skein or team. When flying closely together, a plump. But when sizing up passersby (not to mention leaving untenable amounts of green poop), the new collective noun for geese should be a gang.

On My Bookshelf: New Life, No Instructions

On My Bookshelf: New Life, No Instructions

Cherry red. Deep blue. When visiting New York, off-white with a thin seafoam stripe. Whomever designs veterinary surgical tape knows that when your dog comes out of the back room, the best response is, “Ooh, how cute you look, all bandaged up!” My dog, a red fawn Shar-pei, has always gotten a lot of attention, […]

The reporting for this story stinks

The reporting for this story stinks

Move over, grass-fed beef. Insect-fed fish have arrived. Standing in a room of one million flies, my senses were at full alert. Each cage undulated with wriggling waves of the buggers, and the stench was powerful. Ostensibly all the insects were secured into compartments, but if even a half a percent were free, that’s a […]

Conference call

Posted in business, freelance

Conference calls are a part of a freelance writer’s life, but often they leave me feeling like I should have received hardship pay. This little video, “A Conference Call in Real Life,” transforms every bit that is super unfunny in real life. In the sequel, I’m guessing there will be somebody getting dressed or eating […]

Face in the Kenyan Crowd

Face in the Kenyan Crowd

These have been boom years for cartography geeks, and talking with Juliana Rotich–the Kenya-based, MIT-trained innovator behind crowdmapping sensation Ushahidi, as well as many other BAFA projects–was one of those interviews that makes it easy to love being a journalist. The creation of a healthier ecosystem in Nairobi’s Silicon Savannah where entrepreneurs can thrive depends […]

Better successful than sorry

Better successful than sorry

I grew up in the US, and to South Africans I sound, as I am told, “very American” (more specifically, as if I’m from the Northeast). But I have picked up some local South African/English usage, such as saying “sorry” when I’m not actually sorry at all, but want somebody to move out of my […]

What I wish I had known about freelancing (and how it helped me get into this Sunday’s New York Times)

What I wish I had known about freelancing (and how it helped me get into this Sunday’s New York Times)

When Tiffany Markman asked what I wish I had known about freelance writing when I started out, I had to think about it. I had the tremendous advantage of first working as part of an editorial team at a publication that paid and treated its freelance writers well. One brand-name type journalist handed in sloppy […]

Chicken stalker

For a forthcoming feature about food in Cape Town, I stalked this rooster for the better part of an hour.

Can a writer take pictures too?

Can a writer take pictures too?

Recently a writer made a crack on freelance message board about how the quality of the publications must be poor if they let the same person handle both words and images. I understand the reasoning behind hiring specialists to focus on the area that they handle best, but when for whatever reason the publication isn’t […]

Vote early, vote often

Vote early, vote often

Recently, the conversation about whether journalists should vote or not came up again with some writer friends. We all voted to keep voting. The arguments I’ve read against the idea tend to hold up an idealized notion of an unbiased, neutral journalist, rather than making the case that democracy is no more valid than communism […]

Robben Island

On the eve of South Africa’s 2014 elections–20 years of democracy was celebrated last week on Freedom Day–I reported from Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela served the majority of his 27 years as a political prisoner. About 250 people currently live on the island, a half hour ferry ride and a world away from Cape […]

The In Thing

Posted in backstory, business
The In Thing

One of my business decisions back in January was to write more often about, well, business. When Balanced Life magazine (which goes out to Foschini account holders in South Africa) asked me to write about introverts and extroverts in the workplace for their careers section, I found it to be a hotter topic than I […]

Freedom Day

I wrote this piece, “Segregation still the rule in schools,” about 10 years of democracy in South Africa 10 years ago, in 2004, back when I still had a day job as an editor, but was furiously freelancing in the evenings and weekends. I was traveling to South Africa for a visit and a wedding, and […]

Writing coach

Posted in journalism, writing

http://www.rebeccalweber.com/coach/ As an experienced writing teacher, I demystify the processes of identifying goals, researching markets and editors, writing salable queries, reporting stories, and editing your own work. Depending on your needs, I might serve as a sounding board, give constructive edits as a first reader on a draft, or advise on how to develop your […]

Braai baby braai

Braai baby braai

With no fewer than five public holidays over the next three weeks (yep, that is one entire work week), South Africans are sure to be getting their braai (barbecue) on in a big way. It’s a distinctly local culinary tradition, and unique that it cuts across race and income groups. At my first braai invitation […]

Zakes Mda

For quite a few years, more people found my website searching for “Zakes Mda” than for any other term; this interview with him, originally published on the now-defunct Africana.com, has been cited in a number of scholarly works about Mda. I first picked up Zakes Mda’s novel She Plays With Darkness at the Grahamstown Arts […]

Rituals

Posted in creativity, writing
Rituals

Via InfoWeTrust.com I’ve been reading Mason Currey’s new book, Daily Rituals, with an odd sort of interest. It’s not dissimilar to the questions writers get about what tool they use to write. (I still favor the Pilot Razor Point pens from the 1980s.) The take-away is that the details of your schedule’s rituals and routines […]