For someone who’s been in the journalism game for nearly 20 years, and has edited magazines like Cosmopolitan and Elle, it’s clear Tamara Rothbart is a full vessel.
GILBERT GWATIDZO speaks to Tamara as she dishes out wisdom on the magazine journalism industry.
Question: I was terrified to make this call. How do you overcome nervousness before a big interview?
Answer: Focus on the end goal. The story you are writing is not about you, it’s about them, their life. Concentrate on relaxing the interviewee, as they might actually be more nervous than you. People love to talk. Just let them tell you their story.
Question: How did you become a writer? Tell us a bit about your development as a writer.
Answer: After completing a post-graduate honours degree in Film Theory and Practice, I was unsure for what it would qualify me. But I knew I was prepared to work hard. I had humble beginnings, starting off as an office administrator, rose to editorial assistant for Marie Claire South Africa and everything else followed.
Question: You were voted Sanlam’s fashion journalist of the year 2007/8 and nominated for Arise Africa Fashion Journalism award. What sets you apart? What do you know, do you think, that other writers don’t?
Answer: Funnily enough, I was never really interested in fashion but by the sociology of fashion itself. In turn, that helped me understand the fashion industry a little bit better. Once I had that comprehension, together with my love for writing, coupled with slogging, the rest became history.
“Once I understood the industry I was writing for… together with my love for writing, coupled with slogging, the rest became history.”
Question: How does it feel being chosen to be a tutor for such a life-changing college like SA Writers College?
Answer: It’s always a great privilege to pass on what you have learnt.
Question: Did you have a mentor, and if so, what was the most important lesson they taught you?
Answer: Yes I did have a mentor when I was 19 at university, who taught me that intelligence is a form of beauty – not just interesting but also attractive to possess.
Question: You’ve been editor for big names like Cosmopolitan and Elle and I know that getting published is every writer’s dream. What does it take to actually get published?
Answer: It’s of paramount importance to understand the market you are writing for, to write for the reader and not necessarily for yourself, but for the end user.
Question: You also freelance for most of SA’s top magazines. Is this a dependable source of income or is it a gamble?
Answer: Nothing in life is guaranteed. But if you are diligent and passionate about what you are doing, it can have great financial rewards.
Question: You have been in the industry for quite a while, starting out with Marie Claire in 1996. Does one start running out of fresh ideas or do you actually become stronger?
Answer: There are very few new ideas, just different takes and new angles on ideas that have been discussed before.
Question: What do you consider to be the ultimate success in writing? Is it the money or something else?
Answer: Not the money. If you write with money on your mind, you won’t get past Page 1! For me the ultimate success in writing is when I produce moments of magic.
Some of Tamara’s achievements include:
• Being voted Sanlam’s Fashion Journalist of the Year 2007 and 2008
• Shortlisted for Arise Africa Fashion Journalist Award 2008
• Editing at Cosmopolitan, Elle and Woolworths Magazines
• Freelancing for most of South Africa’s leading lifestyle magazines
About the Author
Having learnt that life’s a journey and that he is constantly evolving, Gilbert Gwatidzo took up writing to document the various stages of his thinking that define his destiny. In his spare time Gilbert is an avid chess player and practising philanthropist.