Chatting with a fellow writer yesterday, we agreed that one of the great benefits of freelance writing stems from the research required, and the amount we learn – and get to share – about other people, the world around us and life in general. An example is the commissioned writing I did (scanned inserts above) for O The Oprah Magazine SA’s May 2011 issue. Being Mother’s Day month, the brief was to interview mothers with a difference and describe in the first person “What it feels like to be…” a surrogate mom, a mom who has given her child up for adoption, and a prison mom.
Each story is powerfully compelling, inspiring and humbling, in its own way. Surrogate mom Ilista has helped give the gift of life to children and their parents, no less than three times. Cindy’s teenage pregnancy delivered a beloved adopted child whom she and the father (a lifelong friend) have lovingly reunited with decades later. Vanessa’s 16-and-a-half years in a Thai prison have yielded a phenomenal woman, finally back together with the darling daughter she bore while incarcerated.
Imprisoned shortly after being selected as a Miss South Africa finalist and falling pregnant, Vanessa was arrested when Thai authorities found heroine hidden in the hard covers of engineering books that her boyfriend’s friend had asked her to bring home. Dave and I met her just a couple of months after her recent release (following a nearly soul-destroying process of appeal). It’s impossible to fully grasp what she has been through and a privilege to share some of the experience, as well as witness the wonderful contribution she is making to the lives of young people in particular, now that she is free – planning a book and working with the dynamic Khulisa organization.
Photographing Vanessa was an absolute pleasure. Her warmth and vivacious, beauty-queen bearing are unmistakable, as you can no doubt see in this photo:
Vrouekeur magazine included it in their April 2011 article that tells more of her story (apologies to those who don’t understand Afrikaans):
Any writing assignment can seem daunting at first – a novel most of all – but I believe that the treasure wrapped within is truly a gift and worth every challenge along the way. So I look forward with delight to future work, and wish all the very best to other writers out there.
What would you rate as the top benefits of freelance writing?