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Creative non-fiction essay writing

Date Released: Wed, 25 September 2013 10:49 +0200

Eight students from the JMS4 and PG Diploma classes are reading and writing creative non-fiction this term with Writing & Editing lecturer Gillian Rennie. A new topic every week brings a range of reading for the weekend and delivers eight diverse essays five days later – the best of which is published here, alonside the best visual journalism depiction of a topic. Last week's topic was "hair" and Robynne Peatfield submitted the winning photograph. In week one, writer Luke Alfred (a Joseph Mitchell and Jonathan Franzen fan) instructed students to write a comic piece arising from their newsroom experiences.

One Day in the Newsroom

By Georgina Selander

It’s unfortunate that the Koi fish theory – the bigger the pond, the bigger the fish – doesn’t apply to people. Perhaps if I’d thought this through I wouldn’t have tried squeezing my derrière into a pair of jeans two sizes too small in the hope that I might just shrink with them.

Note to self: stop buying clothes too small in the unlikely prospect that they’ll encourage me to:

a)      Be more “body conscious” (thanks mom);

b)      Stop listing exercise as an allergen;

c)      Reconsider eating that fifth donut at 2am.

Anyway. Having squeezed said derrière into said jeans, I left the house for my first day of a new internship at a Cape Town fashion and lifestyle magazine. I needed to look good. These were people dedicated to hair-straighteners, high-heels and big-brand handbags.

Taking the lift to the twelfth floor, I tried to tame the tendrils of hair escaping my up-do and checked my breath against my sleeve. Fish paste toast for breakfast? Maybe not a good move.

As the doors opened, I breathed deeply and stepped out into the lobby. One of the magazine writers was approaching the entrance from within and after an awkward dance of “you go, no, you go” I squeezed around her. Not noticing the doorstop at my feet, I finished the tango with an ungraceful lunge towards the reception desk. Breathless and reeling I looked up at the receptionist, who peered from her black-rimmed glasses with an air of disdain.

“I…I’m here to see Miss Sarah Harper. I’m her new…”

“Intern?” A voice added to my left. There she stood, in all her leggy, unblemished glory. She was wearing a fitted black blouse and crisp linen pants. I espied a set of pink toenails peeping from her stilettos. I extended a hand, realising too late how often I’d been accused of clammy palms.

“I’m Georgina. So great to meet you and thank you for having me.”

“Not a problem. Come this way,” she replied, swishing her glossy black hair over her shoulder. I had to my bite my lip to stop myself adding, “Because you’re worth it.”

I followed her through the workroom, reminding myself to keep my chin up and my shoulders thrust back. I’d practiced this walk in the mirror this morning and was confident I’d progressed from the look of a constipated robot. Prudish librarian will do for now.

She led me to an open desk opposite her own. “I’m finishing up an article so just do some research for the time being,” she said.

I placed my hands on the desk and lowered myself cautiously into the seat.  I’d have to skip lunch or these jeans wouldn’t hold. Oh god, a swivel chair. This doesn’t bode well for someone with a short attention span. Too timid to ask what she meant by “research” I began scanning through the pile of magazines on my desk. What a load of –

Briiing. Somewhere a bell rang. Looking up from my desk I noticed some of the other writers squeezing their painted toes into heels. “Come. Editorial meeting,” whispered my mentor.  Oh god. Is this the moment when Meryl Streep walks in, blond bouffant and Prada handbag intact, trailing a group of size-zero minions titivating over colours for this year’s “Winter Collection?” (Again my mother’s voice, “Jealousy makes you nasty”).

I shuffled behind Sarah to the boardroom and took a seat to her left. The editor is the last to be seated. I caught a whiff of her perfume as she sashayed to the head of the long oak table. She smells like my mother. I’m not sure if this is cause for elation or concern.

I noticed the others scrawling notes as soon as the matriarch uttered her first words. After an hour and a half the words “Clinique range”, “celebrity cover” and “gem tones” were barely decipherable amid the caricatures of my colleagues that cover my page of foolscap. Hopefully Sarah won’t want to see my notes.

As the meeting adjourned, the editor called my mentor over and I shuffled dutifully behind her. “And who is this?” she asked, looking in my direction. “The new intern, Georgina,” Sarah replied. “Nice jeans,” she remarked. “Oh umm thanks, they’re too tight but umm…” Oh my god. Red-faced I finished with a cheesy grin, hoping that the day will end quickly and I can hop back into bed, sans pants, with a cup of tea and my tattered copy of Wuthering Heights.

hair Rob P

Photograph by Robynne Peatfield

Source:Writing & Editing class