I’ll be honest with you: I hadn’t anticipated that it would be quite this demanding and this much work.
We are now reaching the end of Module 7 (there are 10 in total), and I feel like I have learned a lot. So far, we have learned what makes feature writing different from other forms of writing such as news reporting, how to develop feature story ideas, how to research the topic we have chosen, and how to conduct the interviews. We’ve also learned about the essential elements of feature articles and the language and structure to use. In the remaining modules, we’ll be looking at how to edit our writing for style and clarity, what journalistic ethics are, and finally, how to sell our writing (!).
Each Monday, a new Module is released online, and then the next batch of work starts: reading (and taking notes) on the comprehensive course notes, watching the online videos, reading the various articles referred to in the notes, completing the practice quiz, interacting on the discussion forums, and either reviewing the other participants’ assignments, or preparing to submit the next assignment and doing lots of research and writing.
It may not sound like much, but add it to the rest of your day, with assorted work deadlines, household chores and other urgent commitments on your to-do list, and you’ll find that good time management skills are essential! I feel like I’m back in school! And I take my hat off to those participants who are juggling study time with family commitments and 9-to-5 jobs!
For Module 4, you may recall, we were required to submit four newsworthy ideas for a feature article. We could focus on people who work in certain specific occupations (late-night, dangerous, glamorous and mobile), or people who belong to clubs or societies that engage in intriguing, off-beat or otherwise misunderstood recreational activities, pastimes or hobbies. In addition, we had to ‘nail down’ some willing interviewees in whatever topic area we chose.
Thank you to all of you who made such helpful suggestions! In the end, I picked these four possible topics:
- the glamour – and some of the pitfalls – of wedding photography
- the difficult and amazing work done by the Cart Horse Protection Association in Epping, Cape Town, especially the inspectors who respond to reports of abuse and neglect
- the dangerous – but ecologically important – work done by a professional bee-keeper who also re-homes swarms from suburban gardens (you may remember Gerald the Bee Whisperer, who removed some wasp nests from our property this year)
- the intricate art of making Temari balls (a local resident makes these) as a decidedly unusual but beautiful hobby.
And the one I chose? (You can probably guess from the photos…)
Well, wedding photography was my primary topic, but after receiving feedback from the other students and my convenor, I decided not to pursue this, even though I’d already lined up some willing interviewees – instead, I chose to learn more about the world of Cape Town’s cart horses.
I can tell you that is has been fascinating! I am so glad I decided on that topic.
When we first moved to Pinelands some years ago, the first thing I noticed were the many horse-and-carts that trotted up and down our streets every week. Pinelands is a fairly flat and level area, which makes it suitable terrain for horse-drawn carts – we had previously lived in the City Bowl, where you’re either going UP- or DOWN-hill. As a result, we weren’t accustomed to seeing them around.
I was initially delighted to see these cart horses – it made the area feel less like a urban cityscape and more like a rural village, which is, in some respect, how local residents do seem to feel about their neighbourhood. The longer I’ve lived here, the less I want to venture outside – “beyond the bridges” across the railway tracks and the larger roads that encircle Pinelands – and I believe that many residents feel similarly. More or more, we use local suppliers, local shops and local service providers. Luckily, almost everything is available here (which is reinforced by all the entries in the Pinelands directory), and besides, it feels good to support the locals.
But back to the horses: After my initial delight at seeing them, I began to pay more attention to them, and noticed, much to my dismay, that the horses were often in a poor condition, or they were being driven too fast and forced to canter on hard road surfaces while pulling overloaded carts, and the drivers often swerved dangerously into traffic without bothering to indicate.
So when I heard that there was in fact an Association that was specifically helping and supporting these horses and the community of cart horse owners and drivers, my curiosity was piqued.
Then, earlier this year, two intrepid adventurers arrived in Cape Town on horseback, having ridden (! – crazy, hey?) a distance of more than 2000 km from KwaZulu Natal, and I was part of an enthusiastic group of supporters who welcomed them to Pinelands and Oude Molen Eco Village. (I wrote about this exciting event on my blog.) Barry and Joe were using their mad adventure to raise funds for several horse charities, among them, the Cart Horse Protection Association of Cape Town.
And all of that is why I decided to approach the CHPA for the article I had to write for the Feature Writing Course. 🙂
(More to follow…)