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Living life to the brim

Author, scriptwriter, children’s television presenter, actress, singer and general manager … We chat to Elaine Macdonald (66) who lives life to the fullest and has just launched another book.

With her passion for education, she has written more than a hundred books for primary
school learners and over 1000 educational television scripts!

Her latest work, I See a Rhinoceros, is the second book she has written for Penguin Random House, which has been launched recently.

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She needs to complete the series – I See a Lion, I See a Leopard, and I See a Buffalo, by June 2021. The first book in the series, I See an Elephant, was launched in 2018.

Elaine was chosen as one of the main authors to revamp South African schools’ reading curriculum. These books have now been translated into all of the official languages and
are widespread throughout the country’s schools.

A fascinating fact is that Elaine never studied to become a scriptwriter or an author. She only started her studies at the age of 40. She holds a BA in Art History and Ancient History
from Unisa, an honours degree in Classics from the University of the Witwatersrand and a Master’s degree in Roman Art and Architecture from the University of Johannesburg. Her
degrees were all awarded cum laude. Although she has a great interest in ancient history and art, she never used her degrees.

Apart from being a part-time author, she is the general manager of the School of Applied Non-Destructive Examination in Impala Park, Boksburg.

The school was started by her father, Eric Guest, and when he retired in 2006, she took over the family business. Wearing this new hat, she has written access-learning modules to
help prospective engineering students to prepare for their courses as effectively as possible.

But where did everything start for Elaine?

How did your career kick off?

My parents immigrated to SA when I was 20 years old. I started to work as a secretary and decided to take singing lessons with Eve Boswell for fun. I started singing in the church and also made a gospel CD, Into Your Hands, which was on the charts at Southern Sound Radio in 1987. One thing led to another and I became a radio presenter for a music request programme on Radio Pulpit. Writing comes naturally to me and I decided to test the waters by sending my work to publishers … the rest is history. My first work was for MacMillan Education in 1997, when I wrote 100 stories for a compilation of stories and songs for Grade R. I have 11 titles with this publisher which are part of the Readers are Leaders series and have been translated into many South African languages.

How did you become a television presenter for children’s programmes?

For some years I was an actress for educational shows in nursery schools. I eventually wrote some of the plays that I performed in. In 1991 I auditioned for the role of Molly Metronome in Kideo and got the job. I wrote the scripts and the music and had to sing. This edutainment programme won the 1993 Japan International Prize. This series was followed by Fundani Nathi and Fun Factory.

Can you give parents a few tips when it comes to their children’s education?

Just be involved with them. Help them to be excited to learn. Also make sure that there is a healthy balance between book reading and computer reading. Actual writing is so important, too. Young brains develop far better when they read real books and write with a pen and paper.

Tell us about a highlight of your career.

I together with Taryn Sudding and Nandi Nyembe were asked to sing the song Viva Madiba for Nelson Mandela’s first birthday after he was released from prison. The Kideo characters performed at his birthday party function for children at Gold Reef City. It was a huge honour.

Your motto?

Learning should always be fun!

Are there any other goals that you would like to achieve?

I have at least another 10 books that are cooking. Some are ready to be taken out of the oven – ha ha!! There is a long bucket list of travel destinations, too.

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