Heide Brandes spent 12 years as an award-winning writer and editor based in the Oklahoma City area until she branched out and found her calling in freelancing travel reporting.
Originally, she studied professional writing at the University of Central Oklahoma. She moved toward journalistic writing, which landed her a job as a county and education editor for The Duncan Banner.
“I learned more on the job than I ever did in college, which happens in any career field, I imagine,” said Brandes. “But my editor threw a chair at me, so I realized that this was no longer a place for me.”
She continued her career with multiple media outlets based around Oklahoma until she started her own freelance business in 2012. She persevered through unemployment issues and managed to gather clientele to report on for a source of income.
“When I left my last job at the Midwest City Sun, I was about 8 months unemployed until I began working with different news outlets instead of for them,” said Brandes. “It is an interesting lifestyle because it is so highly unstable. If I lose one client that means deep financial crisis, and I have to hustle and find another way of income.”
Once Brandes began freelancing, she never looked back. She pushed stories out on a 24/7 news cycle, but said she loved what she does because she had a choice in what she wrote about.
“I don’t know if I could go back to traditional employment because I am so used to the freedom that I have now,” said Brandes. “Of course I don’t get sick days, or vacation days, but with freelance writing: you’re always on vacation and you’re never on vacation.”
In her personal life, away from the freelance reporting, Brandes is a professional belly dancer on the weekends. From her father’s advice of finding alternative sources of income, she danced in bars for extra money to help cover her travel expenses for her freelance job.
“Sometimes people tell me that I can’t be a professional journalist because I’m a belly dancer, but why can’t I be both,” said Brandes. “I don’t let it become an issue. I’m very proud of it. I work very hard at it.”
In one of her stories, “Wildflowers of Stars – Mystery in Yosemite’s Night Sky,” Brandes wrote on the legends she heard from the tour guide in the state park. Through sheer accidence, she stumbled upon the story and recorded the tales on her smartphone. She later pieced the narrative together and wrote a feature story on the legend of the stars.
“That whole time, I was reporting on it I was drunk on wine, but I could record it because IPhones are the Holy Grail of journalism,” said Brandes. “And from the recording, the story came together so perfectly.”
After finishing her on-scene reporting at Yosemite State Park, she sat down to finish researching via Google and other online sources. She spent the next couple of days writing and editing, which she said takes a while because she is her own editor.
“You cannot edit your own work, so a lot of times when I’m writing breaking news, I don’t have time to edit it,” said Brandes. “I usually sit down and write the whole damn thing. I put it away until I look it again the next day, so I can edit it with fresh eyes.”
Brandes planned on traveling in the upcoming future, but does not have a set date or place in mind. She said she was excited about the next steps in her life and will continue to live by her motto for reporting.
“My rule of thumb for the whole process of reporting is: write drunk; edit sober,” said Brandes.