This week we are turning our spotlight onto Durban-based copywriter, columnist and regular on the digital scene, Cath Jenkin. You may have come across her name attached to her work on Parent24, Women24, Mail & Guardian Women or most recently on Startup Grind.
Being a parent herself, Cath writes passionately about issues that face all South African parents, while giving her readers a very human voice to which they can easily relate.
But you came here to hear Cath’s words, not ours. So allow us to handover to the impressive woman herself now.
1. What first attracted you to writing?
My folks were both writers, of their own accord. My dad a legal writer, and my mum (although later on in life) a published author. I have always written, in some way, whether it was in overly dramatic entries in teenage journals or making up silly rhymes for school projects. The first time I ever believed it was something I could “do” though, was when a rather wonderful English teacher told me I had written the ‘funniest essay she’d ever read’ and scored me 100%. It was called “The Ear on My Knee” and that’s all I have to say about that.
2. Do you remember what the topic was of your first published article?
Unbelievably, it was a really terrible event I wrote about. My first published, paid for article, appeared on Parent24 and detailed the intricacies of a romantic breakup, and how it affected my daughter. I guess good things can come from bad ones? It’s still up, over here.
3. Transport yourself back to before even typewriters were invented – would you still be a writer, or something else?
Absolutely. I quite fancy the idea of a quiver and ink approach!
4. Explain one main reason why you love Durban?
Only one?! Haha. I think it’s the way we are all inherently close to each other, whether we like it or not. Everything is 20 minutes away, and that means your BFF and mortal enemy are always close by, so you’re bound to run into someone you know when you’re out and about. I like that, a lot.
5. What do you hope is the next step in digital content?
We live in an age of personalisation now, where even the advertisements you’re confronted with online have been decided for you, thanks to an algorithm or two that have matched up with your Facebook newsfeed, or the emails you’re sending. I hope the next step is something that takes that personalisation and uses it for good, more than it does to sell stuff. Am I pipe dreaming it?
6. If your daughter was to read your parenting articles ten years from now, what do you think she’d say?
She reads them now! In fact, pretty much nothing I write or publish nowadays is allowed to be submitted until she’s read it, especially if it mentions or illustrates our family life. I have a deep sense of respect for that, as I might be the “parenting writer” but it’s her that made the parent. Mostly, she loves them, but she has been known to berate me for something I’d like to write, but she deems “Not For The Internet”, so I don’t.
7. Talk us through your average process for an article?
It usually depends on whether or not I’m briefed it or left to my own devices to think up a topic or angle. If it’s the latter, I usually write straight on from the idea/conceptual process, once approved. If it’s briefed to me, I have a rule that – wherever possible – I give the brief one day to marinate in my mind so that I can come up with a cool angle for it. From there, it’s usually: Research; Interview (if necessary); Write up; Edit and then Edit Again. That second edit is normally the hardest one.
8. If there was one thing you could change about South Africa’s online community, what would it be?
I think I’m supposed to say “eliminate all trolls” but that would probably make online life a whole lotta boring at some point – disagreements can often spawn debate and great conversation, and people sometimes misinterpret someone disagreeing with them, as a troll. So, if I could change one thing – I’d like us to be more aware of the humans behind the keyboards. So often we get lost in the “OMG I HATE YOU XYZ BRAND” or “OMG YOU SUCK YOU NARROWMINDED PERSON WHO DOESN’T AGREE WITH ME” world, that we forget there’s a human behind the handle. I had a rant about it recently, where it seems like: Every time Eskom tweets to tell us they’re declaring load shedding, people feel compelled to yell at them – like calling Eskom a rude name on Twitter is going to magically end the necessity of load shedding and make it all better. I absolutely understand how frustrating it is for all of us, but, I’m willing to bet the person responsible for managing those tweets also goes home and can’t cook dinner because their lights are out for load shedding too. I’m pretty certain too that they’re not the ones flicking the switch, and are just as affected as we all are. Remember the human behind the handle!
9. What’s your favourite time of day, and why?
That funny time, just between twilight and darkness, where the light begins to fade but there’s still enough to cast a shadow? That light is so very Durban to me, because it’s warm enough to still be outdoors but cool enough that you’re no longer sweating your face off. It’s that lovely evening light that’s one of the reasons that make me love living here (and no, that light is completely different in other places).