English Alive turns 50!
English Alive 50:
a commemorative anthology of writing by
South African high school students
By Robin Malan
In October 2016 Pearson SA published the above anthology, which I compiled. I was one of the founding editors of English Alive in 1967, and I am pleased, fifty years later, to be looking back over the fifty editions of English Alive and selecting 230 pieces of writing spanning those years.
There are several things to be said about fifty years of English Alive:
The first is that English Alive is a national project of the South African Council for English Education (SACEE), and the production of the annual anthology has been in the hands of SACEE’s Western Cape branch.
Second, it is astonishing that a completely independent and unsubsidised literary journal of high school writing should have lasted fifty years, without a single break in production.
Third, viewed chronologically, the pieces in this fiftieth-anniversary anthology give a fascinating overview of what was happening in and to South Africa over those momentous fifty years, and how South Africa’s young adults reflected and reacted to their lived reality.
Fourth, it is completely remarkable how many people first published in English Alive went on to become established professional writers: poets, playwrights, novelists, short story writers, non-fiction authors, editors and journalists. In the anthology there are notes on contributors who have achieved in literary and related fields. Far too many to mention here in full, but here’s a sample of just 20 names:
Jeremy Cronin, David Lan, Jeremy Gordin, Elaine Unterhalter, Heather Robertson, Kelwyn Sole, Hedley Twidle, Helen Moffett, Duane Jethro, Siphokazi Jonas, Karen Jeynes, Jon Keevy, Nicholas Spagnoletti, Henrietta Rose-Innes, Shaun Johnson, Shaun de Waal, Karen Jennings, Nadia Davids, Amy Jephta, Megan Hall …Among ex-English Alivers, there have been three Olive Schreiner Prize winners, two Ingrid Jonker winners, Commonwealth Prize, Caine Prize, Sanlam Prize, Percy Fitzpatrick Prize, MER Prize, Sunday Times Alan Paton Prize, SAFTA Prize, M-Net Prize, and first-place in the English Olympiad.
Pearson SA has not only sponsored the publishing of this 240-page anthology but has printed 2 500 copies to go to as many schools, gratis. No copies will be sold. SACEE branches throughout the country have been drawing up lists of schools to approach with these gift copies. If there is a teacher reading this whose school has not received an invitation to acquire a copy, please email your details to email@example.com and we will arrange for a copy.
What SACEE wants is for the anthology to be used in classrooms throughout the country, both as stimulus for fruitful classroom discussion but also as a trigger for students’ own imaginative writing.
The launch of English Alive 2017
A lively, happy group of about 70 people gathered in the Art Centre of Springfield Convent Senior School on Thursday 24 August to launch the 2017 edition of English Alive, the annual anthology of high school writing. This is the fifty-first edition: the anthology has been published every year without a break since 1967. Attending were the Cape Town-based student contributors to English Alive 2017, their parents, friends and teachers.
Welcoming the guests were Springfield’s drama students, guiding the guests to the venue with a poem on the way. They led guests through the sobering small graveyard where some nuns from long ago are buried to the beautifully appointed Art Centre.
Terrill Nicolay, the Chairperson of the Western Cape branch of the South African Council for English Education (SACEE), welcomed the guests. Then the Editor Robin Malan (one of the founding editors in 1967) called up the young artist responsible for the front-cover artwork, Litha Mantlana and asked his teacher at The Children’s Art Centre Adriaan Alkema to hand over Litha’s gratis Artist’s copies to him.
Robin Malan then introduced six students who read their pieces:
- Tara Boule of Springfield Convent Senior School read her poem ‘Mom’
- Sumaya Enyegue of Claremont High School read her poem ‘To the man who stood in front of a room full of Matrics and told them fees shouldn’t fall’
- Seth Meyer of Wynberg Boys’ High School read his piece ‘Youth’
- Emily Muyoni of Masibambane Secondary School read ‘Welcome to my world’
- Juliette Rose-Innes of Camps Bay High School read ‘A poem about politics’
- Kayliyah Stevens of Eersterivier Secondary School read ‘The stupidly brave mistake’
Apart from the quality of the writing, these six pieces were read with a panache and confidence that were very encouraging.
The audience was then treated to a witty discourse on Words by the stand-up comedian Yaseen Barnes, who was introduced by Karen Jeynes, herself an ex-contributor to English Alive. Yaseen told us that he unexpectedly found himself looking at Peter Henshall in the audience, not as a former editor of English Alive, but as his English teacher at Lansdowne High School way back when. Made for a great picture.
Also among the guests were ex-contributors to English Alive Andisiwe Mgibantaka (2003 and 2004) and Robert van der Valk (1969), now serving as the Business Manager of English Alive.
Also attending were two of the Assistant Editors, Twanji Kalula and Sharon Sheldon.
Delicious snacks were provided by the Springfield tuckshop, and a very good evening was enjoyed by everyone attending.
Robin Malan. the current editor of English Alive is happy to answer your questions about this publication:
What is English Alive?
English Alive is an annual anthology of writing from high schools and secondary colleges in southern Africa (i.e. Grades 8–12).
The first edition of English Alive was published in 1967, and it has been published every year since then.
Approximately 70 pieces of poetry and prose of all sorts and about anything are selected for publication each year.
Brief comments on the pieces are offered by the editor.
The current editor of English Alive is Robin Malan, assisted by Jerome Damon, Elaine Davie and Sharon Sheldon.
Any high school student is invited to submit one piece or a small number of pieces, either independently or through their school.
You can submit at any time of the year. The closing date for submissions each year is 1 April (we allow for late-posted entries until 1 May).
The easiest way to submit is to email your piece(s) in Times New Roman 12 pt to firstname.lastname@example.org . (Please don’t use other fonts or sizes, unless it is essential for the piece.)
Or you can post them to: English Alive, P O Box 23912 Claremont, 7735.
Remember to put your name and school after each piece, i.e. below it. (We don’t need to know your age or Grade.)
Publication is usually around mid-August each year.
We also invite students to submit artwork for consideration for the cover. Send this by email as a high-resolution 300 dpi jpg to email@example.com.
English Alive is not a competition: there are no cups or cheques handed out for ‘the best’ pieces of writing. Publication is the acknowledgement of writing of quality.
A last cautionary note. Plagiarism is theft, theft of someone else’s words and ideas. No one would want to be guilty of that. Original thinking and original writing are so much more worthwhile!
Who has been published in English Alive?
Too many to mention individually! Many students who submitted to English Alive have since become professional published writers, e.g. the poet Jeremy Cronin, the prose-writer Henrietta Rose-Innes, the dramatist Nadia Davids, the novelist Shaun Johnson, etc. See pieces by them and other ex-English Alive writers in Leaves to a Tree compiled by Robin Malan, published by David Philip imprint of New Africa Books 99 Garfield Road Claremont 7735 email firstname.lastname@example.org. Here’s the news of ex-English Alivers culled from the 2007, 2008 and 2009 editions of the anthology:
News of ex-English Alivers 2007
- Ken Barris (English Alive editor 1993) published a new collection of poems African Easter in 2005; and a new novel What Kind of Child in 2006, which was shortlisted for both the Commonwealth Writers’ (Africa Region): Best Book Award; and for the Herman Charles Bosman Prize. He won the 2006 Thomas Pringle Award for a short story in a magazine: ‘The quick brown fox’ in New Contrast.
- Jerome Damon (English Alive assistant editor 1995–2004, 2007–) was the only South African FIFA-accredited referee to officiate in the 2006 Soccer World Cup in Germany, and officiated at the FIFA under-19 World Cup in 2007.
- Shaun de Waal (English Alive contributor 1981, Hyde Park High School) co-edited Pride: Protest and Celebration.
- Justin Fox (English Alive contributor 1984–5, South African College High School) published a new book, Under the Sway: a photographic journey through Mozambique; he also edited Cape Town Calling: from Mandela to Theroux on the Mother City; h2006 HSBC/SA PEN short story competition and was published in African Road; also, an essay on his father appeared in My Dad.is story ‘Big Game’ came third in the
- Allan Kolski Horwitz (English Alive contributor 1969, Herzlia High School) published a collection of poems, Saving Water.
- Karen Jeynes (English Alive contributor 1995, 1997, Westerford High School) has staged her prize-winning play Everybody Else (is f**king perfect) in Johannesburg, Cape Town, at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown and in both English and Afrikaans versions at the KKNK in Oudtshoorn. It was published in the Playscript Series by Junkets Publisher. The play was given a staged reading in Chicago as part of a season by the International Center for Women Playwrights. Her play Backwards in High Heels had a season at the Kalk Bay Theatre in Cape Town. Don’t Mention Sex played in Johannesburg and at the National Arts Festival, and her adaptation of Helen Brain’s Here Be Lions premiered at the National Arts Festival. Her radio drama You Can’t Make Me was aired on SAfm.Her novel for teenagers, Flipside (co-authored with Eeshaam September), was published in 2007.
- Shaun Johnson (English Alive contributor 1976, Hyde Park High School) was the winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize (Africa Region): Best Book for his novel The Native Commissioner, published in 2006; the novel then went on to win the M-Net Literary Award. It was also shortlisted for the Sunday Times Fiction Prize 2007. See www.shaunjohnson.co.za .
- David Lan (English Alive contributor 1967–9, Westerford High School). As Director of the Young Vic theatre in London, David re-opened the theatre after a massively successful makeover and rebuild, with the community opera Tobias and the Angel, for which he wrote the libretto. Also, David featured at No. 15 in the 2006 The Stage 100, the industry newspaper’s breakdown of the most influential people in UK theatre.
- Robin Malan (English Alive founding assistant editor 1967–70, editor 1995–2004, 2007–) gave the 2006 Ernest Pereira Memorial Lecture of the English Academy of Southern Africa; he is the Acting Chairperson of IBBY SA, the South African section of the International Board on Books for Young People; new editions of Worldscapes, New Inscapes, New Outridings and New Beginnings appeared; New Poetry Works was published; Ah Big Yaws? was re-issued; and his play The boy who walked into the world was published in the Playscript Series by Junkets Publisher.
- Nokuthula Mazibuko (English Alive assistant editor 1995–2004, 2007–) published Spring Offensive: youth underground structures in South Africa during the ’80s; she followed that up with the publication of Love Songs for Nheti and other tales; she was awarded a lecturing/writing residency to the George Washington University in Washington DC.
- Helen Moffett (English Alive contributor 1978, Hottentots Holland High School) compiled Lovely beyond Any Singing, a collection of South African travel and descriptive pieces. She is currently completing a fellowship at Emory University in Atlanta, and visited the University of the West Indies as a guest lecturer – which meant being able to attend the Cricket World Cup final in Barbados!
- Martin Plaut (English Alive contributor 1967, Cape Town High School) published a book for children, The Hamster of Hampstead Heath.
- Henrietta Rose-Innes (English Alive contributor 1985–9, Westerford High School) won the prestigious 2007 HSBC/SA PEN short story competition with her story Poison, published in the SA PEN collection African Pens. She has also been shortlisted for the 2007 Caine Prize for African Writing for her short story Bad Places which was published in New Contrast. She published Nice Times! a book of South African pleasures and delights; and is currently enjoying an artists’ residency at the Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart, Germany.
- Henk Rossouw (English Alive contributor 1995, Milnerton High School) won a Summer Literary Seminars fiction contest with his story Unslung, which appeared in Tin House literary magazine, based in Portland, Oregan. Henk lives in Montreal.
News of ex-English Alivers 2008
- Jerome Damon (English Alive assistant editor 1995–2004, 2007–) was appointed a soccer referee at the Beijing Olympics.
- Nadia Davids (English Alive contributor 1993–4, 1996, St Cyprian’s School) had her new play Cissie staged at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown and at the Sanlam Studio at the Baxter Theatre Centre; Cissie was published in the Playscript Series by Junkets Publisher; her play The Littlest Warrior was published in South African Plays for TV, Radio and Stage.
- Shaun de Waal (English Alive contributor 1981, Hyde Park High School) co-edited To Have and To Hold: The Making of Same-Sex Marriage in South Africa, published by Jacana Media.
- Karen Jeynes (English Alive contributor 1995, 1997, Westerford High School) represented the Performing Arts Network of South Africa (PANSA) at a Festivals Conference in Istanbul, Turkey; she was the co-compiler of FAB, a coffee-table book of photographs and recollections of the Mother City Queer Projects, published by Umuzi.
- Shaun Johnson (English Alive contributor 1976, Hyde Park High School) also won the M-Net Prize with his novel The Native Commissioner in addition to the awards mentioned in last year’s English Alive.
- Robin Malan (English Alive founding assistant editor 1967–70, editor 1995–2004, 2007–) compiled Cheesecutters and Gymslips: South Africans at boarding school, published by Umuzi; and devised the support-material for Poemscapes and Storyscapes, both published by Oxford University Press Southern Africa.
- Nokuthula Mazibuko (English Alive assistant editor 1995–2004, 2007–) published a collection of stories, Love Songs for Nhedi.
- Henrietta Rose-Innes (English Alive contributor 1985–9, Westerford High School) has won the 2008 Caine Prize for African Writing for her short story ‘Poison’; she was shortlisted both in 2007 and 2008; she attended the Caine Prize fortnight-long workshop and, of course, the award announcement in the Bodleian Library in Oxford. Huge congratulations to Henrietta!
- Nicholas Spagnoletti (English Alive contributor, 1996, South African College High School) was one of the finalists in the NLDTF/PANSA Festival of Contemporary Theatre Readings 2007 with his play London Road; it won the Runner-up Award and the Audience Favourite Award; it was presented as part of the Play>Ground Readings series at the Baxter Theatre in May 2008.
News of ex-English Alivers 2009
- Ken Barris (English Alive editor 1993) had his short story ‘The world of Worm’ published in New Writing from Africa 2009 as one of the finalists in the SA PEN/Studzinski Literary Award.
- Jeremy Cronin (English Alive contributor 1967, St Joseph’s College) was appointed Deputy Minister of Transport in May 2009.
- Jerome Damon (English Alive assistant editor 1995–2004, 2007–) was selected by Fifa as the referee of the 2008 African Champions League final in Cairo; he is the only Safa referee on Fifa’s list of referees for the World Cup in 2010.
- Nadia Davids (English Alive contributor 1993–4, 1996, St Cyprian’s School) was Joint 3rd Prize-winner in the SA PEN/Studzinski Literary Award: her story ‘The visit’ was published in New Writing from Africa 2009.
- Jeremy Gordin (English Alive contributor 1967–70) of the Sunday Independent was named South African Journalist of the Year for 2008; his biography Zuma was published.
- Karen Jeynes (English Alive contributor 1995, 1997, Westerford High School) had her new play Getting There showcased in May 2009; it’s heading for an international tour.
- Shaun Johnson (English Alive contributor 1976, Hyde Park High School) chaired the Editorial Board of the SA PEN/Studzinski Literary Award, and, together with the ad agency KingJames, formed a new publishing venture, Johnson-KingJames.
- Robin Malan (English Alive assistant founding editor 1967–70, editor 1995–2004, 2007–) had two books published: A – Z of African Writers, and a children’s book Sonny Jim and His Sister.
How do I submit to English Alive?
You can submit one piece or a small number of pieces.
You can submit independently or through your school.
Be sure that each piece has your name and school below it.
You can submit at any time of the year. The closing date for submissions each year is 1 April (we allow for late-posted entries until 1 May).
The easiest way to submit is to email your piece(s) in Times New Roman 12 pt to email@example.com. (Please don’t use other fonts or sizes, unless it is essential for the piece.)
Or you can post them to: English Alive, P O Box 23912, Claremont, 7735.
Publication is usually around mid-August each year.
We also invite students to submit artwork for consideration for the cover. Send this by email as a high-resolution 300dpi jpg to firstname.lastname@example.org.
How should I present my work?
Because so many of your submissions come to us beautifully presented as print-outs from PCs or, increasingly and conveniently, emailed directly to us from your screens, it might be a good idea to offer some guidelines of what would be most convenient for us:
- Set the language at the bottom-right of your screen at ‘English (South Africa)’
- Use only Times New Roman 12 pt (unless your piece absolutely demands something else)
- Type the title flush-left in 12 pt and in bold only – no underlining, please!
- If it’s a poem that you want centred, then centre the title as well
- Leave a 1-line space between title and piece
- After your piece, leave a 1-line space
- Type your name flush-left
- On the next line type your school (there’s no need for a Grade or your age)
- Italicise both name and school
- Use single spacing
- In prose, indent new paragraphs to 1 cm
- Do not ever use two character-spaces after any punctuation mark, i.e. before new sentences
You may want to do much fancier things typographically for your portfolio or your own personal poem-journal, with borders and curlicues, but the above is what suits us best. To repeat, more specifically…
- Leave your spell- and grammar-check facility ON – it will self-correct some of your mistyping
- Check your spelling and grammar after you’ve finished (under ‘Tools’ click on ‘Spelling and Grammar’)
- Using your ‘Control’ and ‘Arrow Forward’, move your cursor from word to word as you re-read right through your piece – you’ll pick up slips and mistypes
- Do not read for sense: read the words you have typed. Read what is actually there, not what you expect to be there.
- Print out a hard copy of your work. Leave it in a drawer or folder for a day. Take it out and read it again, carefully. You’re likely to pick up slips you didn’t notice on the screen.
- If your work is a poem that needs indenting for some reason, be especially careful to be precise about where the indent(s) should be.
- Because inclusion in the anthology depends on the editors reading what you have submitted, it is sensible to present as near-perfect a piece as you can – even good writing creates an unfavourable impression if it is littered with errors and is unchecked, unproofread, and unedited.
Where can I get further information about English Alive?
Click here for the circular sent out each January/February.
If you have any further questions:
E-mail the editor at email@example.com.
or contact the Business Manager-
Robert van der Valk at firstname.lastname@example.org.