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Maureen Isaacson
Literary Journalism Award

I am an Assistant Editor and the Books Editor of The Sunday Independent. I am also an op-ed columnist and feature writer, specializing in in-depth-profiles. I was one of the judges of the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize, Africa region, in 2008. I have for the past two years been on the judging panel of the Sunday Times Alan Paton non-fiction award. I was the winner of the 2009 South African Literary Award for Journalism in the Print Media category.

Profile Interviews

I have until last year, conducted weekly in-depth interviews, usually with South African politicians or public figures whom circumstance has placed in “the hot seat”.

Most recent interviews include the top leadership of the ANC; Gwede Mantashe, the ANC secretary general, Mathews Phosa, the ANC treasurer-general, Lindiwe Sisulu, the minister of housing, Enver Surtey, the justice minister, Pallo Jordan, the arts and culture minister, Blade Nzimande, the South African Communist Party general secretary. I have interviewed Zwelinzima Vavi, the general secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions several times; Julius Malema, the ANC Youth League President and Vusi Pikoli, the axed director of public prosecutions. I interviewed Jessie Duarte, the ANC national spokesperson and Carl Niehaus, the former ANC spokesperson who fell from grace, Jackson Mthembu, who replaced Duarte; and from the opposition Cope party, Mosioua Lekota, Cope’s former national organiser, Mluleki George, Cope’s treasurer and Lynda Odendaal, Cope’s second deputy president. I interviewed Tendai Biti, Zimbabwe’s minister of finance and Arthur Mutumbara, Zimbabwe’s deputy prime minister. I write in-depth news related pieces and have an interest in African and international affairs.

Profile interviews include a range of international and local writers, including Amartya Sen, the Nobel economics laureate, Alli Allawi, Iraq’s former defence minister and author, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, the Kenyan writer, Edna O’Brien, the Irish writer, Kiran Desai, winner of the 2006 Man Booker prize, Pieter-Dirk Uys, the South African satirist, George Bizos, (Nelson Mandela’s lawyer).

I have conducted in-depth interviews with the Nobel literature laureates, Nadine Gordimer, Doris Lessing and Wole Soyinka; Cornell West, Henry Louis Gates, Mahmoud Mamdani, Susan Sontag, Carlos Fuentes, Ariel Dorfman, Chinua Achebe, Ken Wiwa, Spanish Felipe Fernando Armesto, Paul Theroux, Francesca Marciano, Iain Banks Graham Swift, Keith Richburg, Kinky Friedman, Jeffrey Archer, Ken Follet.

South African writers include Zakes Mda, John Matshikiza, Andre Brink, Antjie Krog, Shaun Johnson, Adam Levin, Edwin Cameron, Ivan Vladislavic Anne Landsman, Mandla Langa, Lesego Rampolokeng, Chris Van Wyk, Ivan Vladislavic, Eric Miyeni and William Gumede,

Profile interviews with a variety of cultural figures, include the cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro, the photographer David Goldblatt and the artist Penny Siopis.

My work involves copy-tasting and editing several pages of the Sunday Independent, including the Dispatches section, the International and Africa pages.

I freelance for Afropolitan and Leadership magazines and I am currently working on an MA in politics by research at Wits University.


I have worked in journalism for three decades. I started freelancing for Business Day and The Star newspapers as well as for Fair Lady magazine.

I have been employed at Independent newspapers since November 1990, working for several of its publications.

I am a fiction writer and my short story collection, Holding Back Midnight was published in 1992 and short-listed for the CNA debut award. My short stories have been published in anthologies and magazines both locally and abroad. They have also been broadcast on the SABC’s Short Story. A short story Love in Lalaland was published in a new South African collection called Touch, compiled by Karina Magdalena Szczurek, (Zebra Press) in June 2009. .

I have researched and edited two books, The Fifties People of South Africa and The Finest Photographs from the Old Drum, published by Bailey’s African Photo Archives. I have researched a short film, Have You Seen Drum Recently?

First prize in the 1999 FNB Vita/Herstoria short story competition and winner of the 1996 National Book Journalist Award. Finalist for several Mondi Newspaper awards for “creative writing” and columns and for Arts and Culture Journalist award

NOTE: A detailed account of my employment history follows.


Last school attended:

Northview High, Johannesburg (1968 – 1972)

Highest standard passed:

Transvaal University Entrance Matric – first class pass)


University attended:

University of the Witwatersrand

Degree obtained:

BA (graduated 1976)


English, French, History of Art, Drama History, German


Swedish: Written and spoken Swedish at university level. Studied at Stockholm’s Studieframjandet 1981- 1984

Zulu: Passed first module in Interman Zulu beginner’s course in 1993, Easy Zulu Conversation course in March 1999 and Interman Zulu Module Two in 2000. Zulu for Beginners, Unisa, 2002


Member of the Professional Journalist’s Association

I was a member of the Congress of South African Writers (COSAW) from 1989 until 1998.



The Sunday Independent

Position held:

Assistant editor; Books Editor. Features writer

1997-98 Correspondent for Pan African News Agency (PANA) on gender issues

Freelanced for Swedish magazine Moderna Tider

Previous employment:

Saturday Star, 1993-1994

Nature of work:

Profile columnist and news related features.

Previous employment:

Sunday Star, August 1991-1993

Nature of work:

Senior news and feature writer for the Sunday Star as well as Sunday Life, a weekend supplement.

Previous employment:

Sunday Magazine, November 1990 – August 1991

Nature of work:

Staff writer, wrote the magazine’s lead story and several features each week

Previous employment:

You magazine. June 1988 – October 1990

Nature of work: Feature writer. Wrote shock and horror stories for “common denominator” audience as well as personality profiles with local celebrities. At this time I freelanced for Style Magazine, Fair Lady, Living and True Love magazines as well as Business Day and The Star newspaper and published short stories in various journals.

Previous employment

Bailey’s African Photo Archives (Drum Archives), 1986 to July 1988

Nature of work:


Books completed: The Finest Photos from the Old Drum and The Fifties People of South Africa

Wrote a short biography of the singer Tandie Klaasen

Edited a biography of the jazz artist Kippie Moeketsi, entitled Kippie, Sad Man of Jazz

Researched a book on the Sixties in South Africa for Bailey’s African Photo Archives.

Researched Film about the Fifties in South Africa entitled Have You Seen Drum Recently?

During this period wrote freelance articles for Fair Lady, The Star and Business Day

Previous employment:

April 1984 – May 1986

Worked as an advertising copywriter in advertising agencies including Grey Perspectives where I worked as radio producer and copywriter on all major ac

Previous employment:

March 1980 – April 1984 traveled to Italy, Greece, London, Copenhagen, Norway. Lived in Sweden for three and a half years. Studied Swedish at the Studieframjandet, to University level and was accepted at the University of Stockholm as an anthropology student, but chose to return to South Africa.

In Sweden taught English as a second language to Swedish and Finnish adult students, pensioners and to a class of Korean engineers.

Worked half-time in a day care centre. My charge was a handicapped girl. Washed dishes and worked briefly at the Bromma Krykogard, a cemetery outside of Stockholm as a gardener.

Previous employment:

January 1976 – March 1980

Worked as a copywriter for advertising agencies Grey Phillips, Bunton, Mundell and Blake, Lindsay Smithers and Kuper Hands on all major accounts.


Holding Back Midnight, my debut collection of thirteen short stories published by Cosaw in 1992, spans a time from adolescence to adulthood, the stories explore Johannesburg life from the Fifties through to midnight of the year 2000. The stories are located in Sophiatown, Triomf, Houghton, downtown Johannesburg and Stockholm. Most of the stories in the collection have been published in anthologies and magazines, both local and international, and broadcast on the SABC.

The collection was the finalist in the 1992 CNA Debut Prize. The title story, Holding Back Midnight has appeared in Leonardo, a joint publication of the Independent on Sunday, El Pais, la Republica and Le Monde. It appeared in The Penguin Book of Contemporary South African Short and in The Omnibus of a Century of South African Short Stories (Ad Donker publishers, 2007)

The short story, Mindreader was published in the anthology Rendezvous of Victory, (Kwela books, 1999).

The short story, Metamorphosis was published in the festschrift, Nadine Gordimer; A Writing Life (1998). The short story Hero, appeared in A South African Anthology of Women’s Writing (Cosaw, 1994). Short story I Could Have Loved Gold won prize in the 1990 Chapters Literary Competition.

It was published in Raising the Blinds: A Century of South African Women’s Stories (Ad Donker 1991) and in Fair Lady magazine.

Four short stories, Foreigners, Jo’burg City, Birthday, Smooching Beryl appeared in Hippogriff New Writing 1991. (Hippogriff Press).

Short story, Sugaring It appeared in the Vita Anthology of New South African Short Fiction (Justified Press, 1988).

Magazines: Short stories have been published in Cosmopolitan (South Africa and Holland), Fair Lady, Femina, Tribute, Jewish Affairs, and local literary magazines Staffrider, Sesame, Slug News and New Damn Thing.

Radio: Book reviewer for SAFM for several years

Compiled a program for The Poet Speaks, Anne Sexton: Live or Die in 1993.