Can’t hold a candle to – feature writing

I have written on more than one occasion about the pleasure I take from working in so many diverse sectors. It suits my personality (and clearly my brain) to move from one subject to another throughout the day. Amongst the many hats I wear, one is as a feature writer and sometime restaurant reviewer, for Devon Life, Exeter Life, Devon Home Magazine and Taste Buds. Feature writing brings me into contact with even more businesses and inspirational people.

The most recent encounter was with Richard and Sargon from The Recycled Candle Company. They had recently opened a shop in Ottery St Mary, where a number of my clients are based. Intrigued, I went to say hello and have a nose. Although the shop wasn’t quite ready, I knew immediately that it would be fabulous. I had a quick chat with Richard and asked if I could pitch the Featurie writing Richardstory – he agreed. I also purchased a rather gorgeous candle as a birthday present for a friend.

Devon Life liked the idea and commissioned a double page, so I returned for an in-depth interview. It was a fascinating to find out about Richard’s early fascination with candle-making, the blips along the way, how he met Sargon, the inspiration for the various scents and how they ended up opening a shop in Ottery St Mary. The process of using old wax to make new candles is truly interesting, though there were some trade secrets I was not allowed to divulge – on pain of death!

It is always an inspiration to talk to individuals who are following their dreams in business. Often for these people, it’s not about becoming millionaires (although I’m sure no-one would complain), it’s about having a passion. That’s not a word I normally like to use as it’s bandied around too much in the corporate world these days.

The feature on The Recycled Candle Company is destined for Devon Life’s January issue which should be on the shelves mid-December, hopefully in time to give the shop a boost for last minute Christmas sales. If those Christmas tree candles don’t fly off the shelves, then I’m a monkey’s uncle.

What’s up next for my work in feature writing? I’ve recently finished a feature for Devon Home about bathroom flooring and a review for Taste Buds for the Woolacombe Bay Hotel – that was fun and there was prosecco involved.  I’ve pitched some new ideas so watch this space.

Feature writing researchFeature writing research

Exeter Cookery School where I was feature writing

Get baking – Devon style!

I’m fortunate enough to work as a feature writer for a number of regional magazines. I say fortunate because feature writing has brought me into contact with an array of fascinating people over the years.

This year for the first time I have been reviewing restaurants in Devon, the White Hart at Dartington, Dukes in Sidmouth and the Phoenix in Chudleigh (I just can’t say Chudleigh without slipping into a northern accent, don’t ask me why). The experience has been rather enjoyable!

So when I attended the launch of Exeter Cookery School it struck me that here was another, if different, foodie establishment that I could review. I’ve met the founders, Jim and Lucy Fisher, many times over the past year or so while they’ve been setting the business up, a long process which has resulted in a stunning location on Exeter Quay and a beautiful environment in which to learn to cook.

Taste Buds Magazine duly commissioned the review and I found myself signed up for a breadmaking course. Now, I can’t go into too much detail as that would pre-empt the review, due out later in the year. However I will say that as someone who hasn’t baked ‘proper’ bread for some decades, the experience gave me lots of confidence. During the course I and three fellow students (teacher Jo, Nicola from Amos Lighting and Mr Devon Hour himself) made focaccia, brioche Chelsea buns and brioche rolls, as well as a beautiful Couronne au Fines Herbes.

We left the course laden with goodies, not only the breads we had cooked, but a lovely stash of brioche dough to play with at home. The next day I proudly presented my children with a freshly baked chocolate brioche loaf, which stunned them more or less into silence, mainly because their mouths were full of the delicious bread.

Like everyone who has met Jim and Lucy, who are warm, friendly and generous, I wish them every success with the schoool – maybe I can write a feature on another course next year, something with chocolate this time?

In the meantime, feature writing is very much on the agenda for the coming months; next up are two features for Devon Life, one on hand made, Devon-made leather goods, and the other a male voice choir!

Rearching feature writing at Exeter Cookery School on Exeter Quay

Goats milk chocolates from Chocolats de Caprine

All in the name of feature writing

Feature creature

Sometimes, my occasional forays into the world of feature writing bring unexpected pleasure.

For the upcoming Devon Life Food & Drink issue, I proposed a feature on Caprine de Chocolats, a chocolate maker in Torrington making chocs from goats milk. I felt, in the name of research, the need to test out some of said chocolates, and duly placed an order. A tantalising selection of 12 chocs arrived in the post a few days’ later.

Now, it’s no secret amongst my inner (and outer) circle that I’m a bit of chocaholic. I’m the type that is fine as long as a wrapper is on the chocolate, but as soon as the chocolate is exposed to the air, I am driven to finish it. Chocolate goes off very quickly, you know. But these goats milk chocolates are something else again. Rich, and bursting with depth and flavour. One is enough for a day. Or I might manage two, at a push.

They must have a bit of creative juice in them too, as eating the chocolate led me to think of a new way to approach the article. The words were truly lit up by the taste experience provided by the cacoa.

Learning something new

Feature writing isn’t going to make me a rich woman, unless I secure an interview with Lord Lucan. However, it does give me the opportunity to try things out that I wouldn’t normally contemplate, and discover new things about life in Devon and beyond. Going up in a glider (and flying it for a hairy minute or two); researching all the spooky legends of Dartmoor; finding out what it is that makes people want to play in a brass band; learning about herbalism, taking off in a tiny aircraft and watching people throw themselves out of it (I was tempted).

Some features have led me to new PR clients. I met Amos Lighting when I wrote a piece about lighting for Devon Homes Magazine, and Rusty Pig when I interviewed chef Robin Rea for Devon Life. And over the past few years I’ve noticed that feature writing is making me a better writer in other aspects of my work; press releases, blog posts and even social media posts. I’ve been writing for years, but I’m a firm believer that you never stop learning. Hey, until recently I never really used the; semi-colon; now I’m overusing it; I am.

So what’s up next? Next week I meet the two men behind Christopher Piper Wines – I’m sure I’ll learn something there and be able to amaze my wine-quaffing friends with my in-depth knowledge of the Bordeaux region. Watch this space.

Exeter Magazines – Extra Fun

I’ve been writing for Devon Life from time to time for a couple of years now. Always good fun, I enjoy having the chance to write about a variety of different subjects, from gliding and riding to auctioneers and lady stonemasons.

Recently, however, I’ve had the opportunity to write for two Exeter magazines: Exeter Life and Exeter Living. Exeter Life asked me to write up a visit to Circa 1924 with four different food editors. I’m not a foodie writer so I panicked a little about using the right terminology – there are clearly ways of describing ambiance and food dishes that are not within my usual descriptive vocabulary.

Oh well, at the end of the day it was fine, well illustrated by a photo I took of Devon Life Ed Andy Cooper with a serviette stuffed in his shirt collar.

Exeter Living then approached me to write a feature about Honiton. That was more of a breeze, as I know my local town well, and most of the places to visit, shop, dine and stay. The only problem was the word count was so low that I had a job to cram them all in! Trusty camera to the rescue once again as I ran up and down (and across) the High Street taking photos to illustrate the piece.

Enjoyable stuff. More please!