50 years of fine young writing

2016-09-13 06:00
Editor, Robin Malan (second from left), celebrates the launch of the 50th edition of the publication with, from left, Keelan Sutherland (CBC St Johns), Kalvin Sutherland (former Vega School learner) and Reece Meyer (former Vega School learner).

Editor, Robin Malan (second from left), celebrates the launch of the 50th edition of the publication with, from left, Keelan Sutherland (CBC St Johns), Kalvin Sutherland (former Vega School learner) and Reece Meyer (former Vega School learner).

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Fifty years of fine student writing was celebrated in Pinelands with the launch of the latest edition of English Alive.

A happy crowd of high school learners, teachers and parents all gathered at Pinelands High School on Thursday 1 September to celebrate the publication of this year’s edition of the annual anthology of writing by high school students.

It is remarkable that this small, independent, unsubsidised literary journal has appeared each year, without a single break in production.

In 1967 the then principal of St George’s Grammar School, Tim Peacock, invited a young teacher with four years’ experience, Robin Malan, then teaching at Cape Town High School, to join him as an assistant editor.

Fifty years later, that same Robin Malan has edited this year’s fiftieth edition, as he has some 22 other editions over the years.

Malan attended the launch as a non-participating spectator, just six weeks after undergoing triple bypass heart surgery. He completed the compiling just days before being admitted to hospital.

He was invited to say just one sentence at the end of the evening.

In a sentence with many semicolons, he said how pleased he was to be at the launch and how much he had enjoyed putting the 2016 edition together, then thanked his assistant editors for their hard work in sifting through the 586 submissions, the English teachers for their support and their encouragement, and finally the students for their interest, their talent and their follow-through in submitting pieces.

The evening started off with some students reading their pieces.

Guest speaker Karen Jeynes – herself a contributor to English Alive in 1995 and 1997 while she was at Westerford High School – gave an account of the kind of writing she now does as a professional, particularly as head writer for the TV comedy series ZANews: Puppet Nation, for which she was nominated for an Emmy. The show won a Safta award for best TV comedy series, as well as the Writers’ Guild of South Africa Muse Award.

Karen then offered the young writers several pieces of really valuable advice, especially the twin imperatives of “Read, read, read” and “Write, write, write.”

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