From performing operations on French snails to visiting yaks in Tajikistan, new Guild Member Petra Jacob shares some of the exotic experiences life as a freelance writer has thrown at her.
Describe your job in a sentence
I look around the world, listen to people, ask questions, and put it into words to be printed.
How did you get to where you are today?
I grew up on a family dairy farm in Bavaria in Germany. I began writing for agricultural youth magazines and the local paper. I traveled the world, worked along the way in all sort of jobs: as a language teacher, selling cuckoo clocks, mixing drinks for Japanese businessmen and on many farms.
After working on a fruit, hop and cobnut farm in Kent I met my English husband. I studied International Agricultural Economics in Germany. I moved to England. I began to write again, first as a sideline while I worked on farms, in a sushi factory or building lawn-mowers on night shifts.
Since 2014 I have worked full-time as a freelance journalist. I write in German, mostly for agricultural magazines in Germany, Switzerland and Austria.
Did you always want to be a journalist?
Describe an average day for you
I either go out and travel and gather my stories, or I spend long hours in front of the computer and write and research.
What’s the best thing about what you do?
To be creative, inspire and inform. To meet amazing people and visit amazing places. To give people a voice. To never stop learning and wondering.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever written about or done in the name of work?
On a story about a snail farmer in the south of France, I was asked to help. Before packing the snails, which were first boiled in bouillon, I was asked to nip off their male genitalia. Snails are Hermaphrodites and carry both sexes in them.
Where’s the most interesting place you’ve visited as part of your job?
There are so many: Yaks in Tajikistan, horses in Kyrgyzstan, goats in Norway, sheep in the Caucasus or Wales, cows in Switzerland, free-range pigs in Suffolk, snails in France. Wild herb gathering in Albania, rose picking in Bulgaria, olive harvest in Palestine, desert gardens in the Sinai and Israel, hay-making with horses in the Ukraine and Romania. Crofting on the Outer Hebrides.
Most beautiful landscapes: Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Norway, Austria, Outer Hebrides, Scottish Highlands, Lake District, Welsh Mountains
What gets you through a tough day?
I look at older articles I am proud of to get motivated. I turn some upbeat music on, dance, stretch, stroke neighbour’s cat and drink lots of hot chocolates.
How untidy is your desk? I’m German, so it is very tidy and organised
Tell us something not many people know about you? I love techno music.
Petra in a minute:
What station is your car radio tuned to? Radio 4
What’s your favourite biscuit? Oat biscuits
Name a guilty pleasure Dark chocolate
What colour are your wellies? Multi-coloured
Where did you last go on holiday? Germany
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