Close Up Interview with Writer & Food Blogger Nicki Blake

Tell us a little about yourself and what you do.

I use the term “Life-juggler” in my Twitter profile and this is very true – there are so many different facets to my life which I have to balance.  I work a full-time day-job as the Academic Manager of an English Language College in Perth which involves organising teaching staff, students and classes. Outside of work, I am the mother of two boys aged 16 and 12. My older son has Autism Spectrum Disorder while the younger is in a Gifted and Talented program. This brings a raft of interesting challenges to my role as a parent, as you can probably imagine, and keeps me busy when I am with them. When not working or parenting, I have lots of interests which I try to make time for and these  include writing, baking, study, drawing, dancing, and swimming.

Who (or what) inspires you to become a writer and a food blogger?

I’ve always been a reader and I guess that the natural progression from this was to become a writer. I’ve been scribbling since I was very young – poetry, plays, novellas, short stories. I was luckily that I had good English, Literature, and Creative Writing teachers all throughout high school and university. Add to this the fact that, as a teacher, it’s been part of my responsibility to improve the writing skills of students, and you can’t do that without having considered the craft of writing yourself. The food-blogging emerged out of my enjoyment of photography and of eating! A food-blog seemed like the best way to bring all my passions together.

Where do you get your inspiration from when you write?

When I’m blogging, inspiration comes from the whole dining/baking experience (whether positive or negative) – a focus on food is central, of course, but so much more than just eating happens around it and I think it is important to document that. When I’m writing fiction, I get ideas from my surroundings – it could be from looking at a painting, or from having a conversation, or through reading a book. Once I have that core idea, it’s just a question of developing it.

What are the five words that people who know you would use to describe you?

Hard-working, funny, loyal, intelligent, energetic

Tell us about your very first job and what path have you taken since then?

I worked at a residential English Language school through my summer holidays when I was 15. I was part of a team that had to clean up after the students – make the beds, scrub the floors, clean the toilets etc. I also served them their meals and did the washing-up afterwards. Throughout university, I did tutoring work, mainly for students studying Latin (Latin was one of my majors). I got my Diploma in Education in 1995 and have been teaching ever since then. In 2001, I left secondary school teaching and began working in English Language schools, so I like to think I’ve come full circle back into the industry where I started off, though, thankfully, not into the same role!

Describe a typical day in at work?

I’m behind a desk and in front of a computer screen. I’m usually planning ahead for the coming months, making sure that I know how many students will be in the college so I can organise teachers, classes, text-books etc. I do counselling with students who have academic problems or want to make academic plans.  I work with the Principal of the school to provide a quality educational experience for our students and I also assess the language proficiency of prospective students and send their test feedback to the company sales team in Sydney.

As a writer, what is your biggest frustration?

Having a fantastic idea but struggling to express it – the classic ‘Writer’s Block’. I have a couple of blog posts that have been in draft-form for months because the writing I have done doesn’t match the idea in my head. And don’t ask me how many unfinished novels I have filed away on my hard-drive!

Tell us about how you prioritise your work.

During the day, my focus is on education. I depend on my desk diary to schedule my activities from week to week and place a strong emphasis on forward-planning: nothing gets left until the last minute! Writing, blogging, and study often take place in the late evening but the majority of my writing work happens on the weekends. I make sure, however, that I balance this with some rest and some physical activity. A typical Saturday might see me going out for an early morning walk, coming home to do some writing, and later trying a manage an afternoon nap!

Tell us about how do you connect with other creative professionals, and your clients (i.e. how do you network)?

I am very engaged in social media. I have accounts on Linkedin, Facebook, and two Twitter accounts –one for my blog and hobbies, the other for my work in education. I strongly believe that the best use of social media is to bring about face-to-face interaction so when I connect with people it is always with the intention that if I have a chance to meet that person in the future, I will try to make that happen. I go to blogger events and Tweet-ups (social events organised through Twitter), and conferences. In the next few weeks, I have two conferences coming up – the English Australia Conference and the Eat, Drink, Blog Conference – where I will get the opportunity to see friends and connections whom I have previously only talked with online. The beauty of online interaction is that when you do eventually meet face-to-face, the ice has already been broken and you can just continue the last conversation that you were having. It makes networking so much easier than it used to be.

I also believe that social media should be exactly that – social. I make a point of connecting actively with the people in my network: I post what is going on in my life and my work through regular status updates and the sharing of articles which are of interest to me and which I think will be of interest to others. However, I also make a point of commenting on other people’s posts, engaging in online discussions and hashtag chats, asking questions and seeking information from the people who are best placed to offer answers and advice.

What advice can you offer other creative people who are just starting out and following their passions?

If you don’t invest in your dreams, they will stay dreams. It’s worth spending the extra time or money on the things you really believe in. Once you have begun to invest in your dreams, they stop being dreams and become plans.

What dreams do you still want to achieve or fulfil in your life?

A published novel is my ultimate goal and I am taking some extended time off work at the end of this year which I will dedicate to making this happen. I’d also like the chance to write professionally about food and drink someday – either for a magazine or newspaper.

What is your proudest moment so far?

Managing to complete post-graduate level study on top of working full-time and raising 2 children. I’ve just graduated from a Master of Education course which I’d been studying part-time over the last two years. The only thing better than holding the certificate in my hand was being able to show it to my sons. I wanted them to see that commitment and persistence do pay off.

Who do you most want to meet and why?

I’d love to get back in touch with my role-model. When I was a teenager, I met Jasminka, a family friend who worked in the Yugoslavian embassy in Vienna.  She was a career diplomat and the most cultured, intelligent, stylish, socially-adept woman I had ever encountered. To this day, I have not met anyone quite like her. I have tried to emulate her since that first meeting and I measure my personal success by how close I have been able to come to the very high standards she set. I last saw her in the late 1980s and I have heard that she is still alive, though frail, and in a nursing home in what is now Croatia. It would be wonderful to be able to tell her what a profound influence she has been on my life.

What is the most important lesson in life that you have learned?

It’s crucial to set goals and work towards them. Sometimes those goals will change, but along the way, you learn how to work, and developing a strong work ethic will get you there – either to your original goal or the new one.

What book are you reading right now, and do you have a book you would like to recommend?

Actually, I’m not reading any books at the moment which is unusual for me.  However, I’ve recently become interested in the concept of ‘mindfulness’ so I am doing a lot of online reading and research about that.

As for a book recommendation, I was lucky enough to hear Jane Caro and Catherine Fox speak at this year’s Clare Burton Memorial Lecture in Perth and came away with a copy of their book, “The F Word: How we learned to swear by feminism” – it deals with the current concepts of feminism and the impact that this can have on women’s work/life balance. As a woman who is always concerned with maintaining the right level of work/life balance, I found their analysis very interesting and useful.

Where do we find you and you work? 

You can find my blog at and my Twitter accounts at @strawberrythief and @Penultimate_K

My Linkedin profile is also publically accessible by doing a search on my name.

Vinh Van Lam
the authorVinh Van Lam
Vinh Van Lam, co-founder of ArtSHINE, is a visionary art coach and entrepreneur with a passion for fostering creativity. With a diverse background in art and business, he brings a unique perspective to empower emerging artists, enabling them to thrive in the dynamic art industry through the innovative platform of ArtSHINE.

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