Pieter van der Lugt

More about me

Julius Shulman

1I was born the eldest son of a church minister, a gentle man with many talents and a healthy passion for life. He once said he'd never grow tired of living because he was too curious to see what would happen next. During the apartheid era he chose to fight from within the church, believing he could change the hearts and minds of his segregated congregations through his work and actions. My parents didn't have to teach us about the wrongs of our unjust society: thanks to their example we considered all people equal and worthy of respect and compassion.

2We were brought up on a strict cultural diet of Encyclopaedia Britannica for fact-finding, my classically trained mother singing at the piano or playing the organ in church, Handel and Bach on the hi-fi on Sundays and excursions from the small towns where we lived to see opera and plays in the nearest cities. Before TV arrived at last in the mid-'70s, my father would also rent silent movies from the public library, introducing us to the flickering magic of anything from Laurel & Hardy shorts to the melodrama of The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

3Around my 16th birthday I got to peek through the open back door of a concert hall in Durban and see Rick Wakeman on the stage, tuning stacks of synths for that evening's show. We couldn't afford tickets, but just watching him and listening to the wild, wonderful sounds blasting from the massive speakers was enough to get me hooked on electronic music. I used part of my first student loan to buy a tiny keyboard and started writing songs.

4Just after graduation I was told by a local writer that as far as he was concerned, I was pretty much illiterate. I was stunned and decided to re-educate myself by reading as many classics as I could. The Nobel laureates seemed to make a good reading list and even now I try out every new winner. I discovered that two key ingredients in great writing were craftsmanship and showing instead of telling. This realisation paid off when I became a full-time journalist. I also discovered my favourite author, Naguib Mahfouz.

5In the '80s I wrote poetry and short stories while getting excited by the growing sense that change was finally coming. I recorded one of my own songs and it was picked as the title track for a compilation of alternative Afrikaans music. Voëlvry (Afrikaans for “outlawed”) the album and tour added to the air of anticipation as the date of a monumental, peaceful transition to democracy drew close.

6Working for the family magazines Huisgenoot and YOU from the mid-90s I learnt even more about telling a compelling story and making tough or dry topics palatable. I also took to heart the gentle reminder from Italo Calvino that a writer should never underestimate his readers.

7At last I got a chance to travel. My idea of a trip abroad is a mental energy shot — discovering and exploring the culture, history and beauty of other places and people. The people of Rome, the musical riches of New Orleans, the architecture of Barcelona and art of Paris all made a lasting impression.

8Going freelance was nerve-wracking at first, but ultimately liberating. These are tough times for print media and even for online writers, but becoming successful and making a living are challenges that have forced me to push boundaries and rediscover what I can and can't do.

Pieter and Joshua

9 Strength and tenderness can be an unbeatable combination, wrote the poet Maya Angelou – and that's what I found in my wife. Our son, named Joshua Arthur after his late grandfathers, was born on 14 May 2011 and is both the highlight and greatest challenge of our time together. He seems to have inherited my father's curiosity and creativity, along with my father-in-law's irrepressible spirit and resilience. We hope these are solid cornerstones on which he can build a happy, fulfilling life.


  • Writing scripts for Flick who make animated and live-action videos to present business information and marketing messages in a clear, concise form. More than 120 scripts and articles written since 2013 for clients such as Nedbank, Standard Bank, Old Mutual, MediClinic, Liberty and Cipla.
  • Editing copy and translating National Geographic Kids into Afrikaans, monthly since 2005.
  • Regular feature articles for consumer magazines and websites covering health, lifestyle, current events.
  • Weekly TV column for netwerk24.com (January to March 2015).
  • Three TV columns per month all published in the newspapers Beeld, Die Burger and Volksblad (May 2012 to December 2014).
  • Copy editing, DStv subscriber magazines for New Media Publishing (September 2013 to February 2014).
  • Translated monthly trade magazine Edgars Club (May 2011 to December 2012).
  • Edited, translated and proofed NG Little Kids (until November 2012).
  • Weekly TV column for Sunday paper Rapport (2010 to April 2012).
  • Syndicated TV articles and movie guides for several magazines and newspapers.
  • Translated from Afrikaans and English for SA editions of Sports Illustrated.
  • Edited news stories for Daily Sun newspaper.
  • Translated four issues of Seventeen magazine for Afrikaans trial run.


  • Slim Vang… Die Grap!, 101 original jokes for children (July 2015).
  • Hoe Meer Haas… Hoe Minder Wortels, 101 original jokes for children (September 2014).
  • Wrote an e-book of original children's jokes for a US client (December 2012).
  • Sê Dit in die Donker, short stories, 1989
  • Op Vrye Voete, poetry, 1987
  • Kies vir Jou ’n Tong, poetry, 1985
  • Vuurwerke, poetry, 1984


  • Wrote lyrics for Our Heritage by Die Heuwels Fantasties, the theme song for South Africa's National Braai Day.
  • Laurika Rauch sings my song Nuwe Aarde on her album Die Gang.
  • Wrote and recorded the song Voëlvry in 1988.


  • “Whether writing or translating, Pieter makes it look easy to present even the toughest topic in lively, entertaining language for any target group in the National Geographic stable.” — Fiona Thomson, Editor, National Geographic Kids (SA)
  • “Pieter is a pleasure to work with. He gets the brief first time round, delivers on time and is ideal to work with where projects require a little more brain power than normal.” — Garth Jemmett, Director, Flick
  • “Pieter worked for me as a freelance translator during my editorship of Seventeen SA magazine and more recently Edgars Club magazine. He is a consummate professional: efficient, works to deadline and in the style and tone required. Highly recommended.” — Justine Stafford, Group Editor, Edgars Club magazine