Now this is the way to start a week!! We are very excited to bring you this How She Does It for June – an interview with Journalist, Mama, Writer and Friend – Zoe Daniel. Zoe shares with us how she manages to juggle life as SouthEast Asia correspondent for Australian Broadcasting Corporation, whilst writing a memoir, parenting her two lovely littlies, Pearl and Arkie, and being married to her wonderful husband – Rowan Reid. 

Malawi 2005

I first met Zoe in Melbourne, through my flatmate and friend, Beth Hulme (who runs a gallery! Talent McTalented!). You never forget meeting Zoe Daniel, she is an instantly inspiring person. She is driven and frank and smart as a whip. She’s full of energy, funny and has a contagious, loud, throw-your-head-back kind of laugh. I was always impressed at how ambitious she was, while remaining honest, sensitive, loyal and compassionate to boot. She’s one of those people who is completely, utterly themselves, no matter the circumstances; which, over and above all her incredible accomplishments (like, ahem, interviewing Aung San Suu Kyi, thankyouverymuch!) is the aspect that is truly inspiring about her.

When I was living in Melbourne, Zoe and Rowan used to host fantastic dinner parties in their sweet little weatherboard house; the kind of dinner parties that went on and on into the night, ending in dancing about to Nick Cave. I knew she had to be part of our How She Does It series – telling us about her life and work, her family, her favourite books and memorable meals…

Now, to start with, how did you come to be the SouthEast Asia correspondent for ABC?

Did a journalism degree, then worked for ABC as a producer, presenter, reporter on radio and TV in the country and the city, was the ABC’s correspondent in Africa for two years a while ago, stopped to have baby one (Arkie) in 2007 and baby two (Pearl) in 2008. Then lived in Darwin and Cambodia for a while for Rowan’s work and have been in Bangkok doing this job since the start of 2010.

What about your work brings you the most joy?

I get to visit people on their own turf and get a window into their world through their own words. Much of my work has been in developing countries and my stories often deal with tough themes like poverty and conflict. I’m very lucky in that people allow me to spend time with them in their homes and communities and tell me their stories with honesty and courage. Sometimes the stories can be very painful, even horrifying, yet people are prepared to open up and talk about their experiences. It’s very gratifying as a journalist to be able to help people tell stories that wouldn’t otherwise be told.  I also get to visit some very special places.

What do you enjoy least about your work?

What I love about my work I also hate – travel. It’s such a fantastic thing to see and experience other places but I still really struggle with being away from my family so much.

Who is your biggest cheerleader / supporter?

My husband and my Dad are my two rocks. My Dad has always pushed me higher and higher to help me achieve my goals, now my husband helps me balance, and when I fall down he dusts me off!

What do you have to sacrifice or compromise in order to do the work you do?

The biggest sacrifice is time. I cover nine countries so I am frequently away. When I’m at home I’m constantly monitoring what’s happening in the world and I need to be ready to respond to breaking news at any moment but I try to spend quality time with the kids at the same time. That can be a real juggle and probably means that if anything is truly compromised it’s time for myself. It’s the same for most mums I think! Going to the gym or to get a hair cut can take weeks of scheduling.

What quality do you think is the most important for a person to be successful in your field?

You need to be very organized and adaptable and have a cool head in a crisis. It’s important to be curious and interested in people and places and to be sensitive to the needs of others. At the same time you sometimes need to be very tough depending on the situation without becoming pushy and cynical.

in front of burning Centralworld Shopping Centre Bangkok May 2010

What do you still hope to achieve in your field? Secret dreams!

I’ve just finished my first book – a memoir of work and family and life as a correspondent. I hope to follow it up with a novel.

Which book made a big impact on your life?

This is a tough question. Nelson Mandela’s “Long Walk to Freedom” had a huge impact on me, no doubt partly because I was living and working in South Africa at the time. It gave me a real insight into what the country had been through. In terms of fiction, Louis de Bernieres’ “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin”, the most tragic love story I’ve read and a real life lesson – recognize what you have, value it and don’t let it go.

Who is your favourite author? Why?

I love Tim Winton’s books because they’re so lyrical and quintessentially Australian.

If we could “beam you up” anywhere in the world for a meal, where would it be, what would it be and with whom?

Australian lamb BBQ’d on the deck of our little shack overlooking the sea in Australia with family and friends, or a romantic dinner of fresh fish, Greek salad and wine at Santorini, just my husband and I.

What is the most important non-food thing in your kitchen?

Slow Cooker

The best meal of your life was….?

Anything at a street stall in Penang, Malaysia.

What is always in your fridge and pantry?

Vegemite. Rice. Ice cream. Tropical fruit, preferably mango.

Who is on your dream dinner party guest list?

I can think of a million different lists but for an interesting group dynamic – Aung San Suu Kyi and Burmese president Thein Sein,  Barack and Michelle Obama, actors Matt Damon and Jennifer Lawrence, Australian singer and comedian Tim Minchin and actor Rebel Wilson, plus my husband of course!

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received? 

If you’re not happy, change something.

Who are you are most inspired by?

My children. Every day they show me something new and demonstrate such potential. It keeps me striving.

Photo credit: Vicky Leon

Photo credit: Vicky Leon

Sum up your life right now in three words

Intense. Busy. Fulfilled.

Thank you so much, Zoe, for taking the time to chat with us here at Fork and Fiction. I found myself nodding away to all your answers…especially the bit about “time for myself”! So proud of and inspired by your achievements and blending of work, passions and family. Looking forward to the day when we can reinvent the dinner parties of old – with bottles of wine, old tunes and lots of laughter! Wishing you all the very best for your work and the novel idea that is simmering away in that beautiful head of yours! 

HUGS, Hannah x

P.S. Check out May’s How She Does It here, and April’s here.