Roxanne Reid is an independent writer, author, editor and blogger. She did her BA Hons in English Literature at the University of the Witwatersrand, her Honours in History through Unisa and short courses in journalism and creative writing at Stellenbosch and Cape Town universities. She was editor of a food industry journal for a decade and won more than a dozen Pica Awards for journalism and editing. Then her real life began 16 years ago when she started ReidWrite, through which she works as a book editor, proof reader, blogger, health and travel writer. She writes about places like Namibia, the Kalahari and the Karoo heartland, as well as issues as diverse as nutrition, wildlife, Fair Trade, stress therapy, lifestyle diseases, malaria and waterborne diseases in Africa. She is author of three published books.
Although I learnt a lot about publishing from working for a trade journal publisher for a decade, the best decision I ever made was to branch out on my own. My world view instantly became broader and I’ve been able to choose which projects to work on. That gives me enormous freedom and makes me much happier than I was in the corporate environment. My work has taught me a lot about a variety of subjects, such as photography, conservation, psychology, geology, palaeontology, nutrition, current affairs – and fiction writing. Being able to work with a wide range of book, magazine and online publishers over the past 16 years has allowed me to continue to learn about the changing face of publishing and social media. Expanding my horizons has been an ongoing source of joy.
That’s not to say that having your own business is always easy. I’ve certainly found myself at times working till late at night and over weekends. But I’ve also learnt to take time off when I can – even in the middle of the working week – to read a book, see a movie or take a short road trip while the corporate slaves are still at work!
Apart from the usual writing and editing for hire, and contributing to a few online travel and wildlife blogs, I write my own weekly African travel blog to inspire others to love Africa – or just their small patch of it. Later this year I’m planning an extended trip to do research for another travel book.
Another ongoing project very close to my heart is my role as communications director of Reach4Sight – a non-profit organisation started by my optometrist husband Keith to take eye care to the underprivileged in remote rural communities. This social responsibility work has taken us from the Kalahari to the Richtersveld, from Phuthaditjhaba in the Free State to communities bordering the Kruger National Park. In the past seven years we have provided eye care to some 8000 people.
I have a passion for Africa – anything from travel to people, culture and heritage, wildlife and conservation. I love road trips and am definitely happiest in the middle of nowhere, meeting the locals, trying something new, or simply watching the grass grow.
I’ve always been a greedy reader so books have been an inspiration. I remember wandering the world inside a good book during school holidays, reading by torchlight under the covers after ‘lights out’, and scoffing a 900-page set work at university in a single sitting, not sleeping at all until it was finished.
Much of my travel writing is about Africa in one way or another, so it would be fair to say that Africa inspires me. Our continent has such a diversity of nature, culture, landscapes and people. I really enjoy interacting with people from all walks of life: from rural schoolchildren who have never ventured more than a few kilometres from home to highly qualified scientists who have circled the globe; from people who are passionate about their small patch of earth to daredevils determined to push beyond the boundaries of the known into something new and thrilling. Every one of them has something to teach us.
Go it alone earlier: life’s much more fun when you start to control you own destiny.
I’ve had three books published so far, two of them travel books. A Walk in the Park (2009) tells of experiences, activities, cultural heritage and people I came into contact with on a ten-week journey in and around South Africa’s national parks. I wanted to inform and entertain the average armchair traveller, so you’ll find answers to some intriguing questions like why your partner is potentially more dangerous than a black mamba, or what Patricia Lewis, James Small and Ozzie Osborne’s kids have in common.
Travels in the Kalahari (2012) documents my love affair with the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park over more than 30 visits to date; its red dunes and star-punctured skies, its black-maned lions and meerkats digging for feasts of scorpions, and of course its people. The last chapter gives practical advice to first timers wanting to plan their own Kgalagadi adventure. Wild magazine said, ‘Roxanne has a wonderfully chatty style that makes it feel as if she’s sharing a fireside tale.’
Betrayed: A Mother's Battle for Justice (2011) was different. It’s the true story of a mother whose daughter was murdered but police bungling meant the killer was never brought to justice. I co-wrote it with the mother, Carol Thompson, after a harrowing nine months raking over past events and emotions. Critic Jonathan Amid said it was structured ‘like a literary thriller’ and gave ‘a credible portrait of the roller coaster ride that is youth’.
One of my earliest writing inspirations was a neighbour who became an English teacher but used to write (unpublished) stories in her spare time and read them to me from when I was about five or six. By the time I was nine I knew I wanted to be a writer in some form, and was writing stories, novels and travelogues of my own. Sadly – or perhaps luckily – few of these have survived.
Sit down and do it; to be a writer you need to write! Leave to marinate for a few weeks and come back as a critical editor who will cut out away the bad stuff and allow the kernel to shine through with new strength. You also need to read, read, read.
Find your passion. Believe in yourself. Listen to advice but don’t let other people’s negativity pull you down. And remember that it’s not a failure if you learn from it.
“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” Maya Angelou
I’m rereading Peter Godwin’s Mukiwa