It was early, way too early for any self-respecting student. The sun had barely wiped the sleep out of its eyes and neither had I, in fact I had overslept, which for a 20 year old female is significantly problematic. I, much to my dismay, had to throw on whatever was nearest, hastily run a brush through my hair and most definitely avoid mirrors at all costs before having to race to campus. I got to UCT with just enough time to grab a cup of coffee and swing right on to our make-shift press conference with the king of music journalism in South Africa; Miles Keylock. If you don’t know who he is, shame on you! He is rock star journalist turned boss-man editor of Rolling Stone South Africa.

Walking into the building, my fellow classmate half-excitedly, half-sleepily exclaimed; “Dude, that was him.” What was him? Who was him? My tired brain didn’t have the consciousness it required to process what she was saying, but it all made sense when the man himself sauntered into our classroom shortly after we had taken our seats. The guy, even at 8am, managed to look like he’d just rolled off the cover of his own magazine. If I hadn’t felt hideous before, I certainly did then. I couldn’t fathom what I must’ve looked like with my make-up-less face and god alone knows what I was wearing; it could’ve been anything from my pyjama pants to my old matric dance dress. Luckily next to no attention was paid to my unkempt appearance and our little press conference kicked off. I felt a bit like I was the only, or maybe the most eager, amateur typing like a beast, trying to get down every word dripping deliciously out of his mouth; for this aspiring journalist every word uttered was a gem!

The obvious questions about how the South African publication would differ from the American Rolling Stone were asked, with less obvious answers about how the branding of Rolling Stone South Africa has a voice that is representative of the entire SA pop-culture landscape. Keylock explained that instead of taking the easy way out by slapping Beyoncé on the cover and doing a feature article on her latest whatever, Rolling Stone SA uses our own chart toppers with six out of the so far seven covers being local talent. No disrespect to Beyoncé, but damn is it high time that our indigenous talent gets recognised above and beyond whatever is happening on the international scene! When a guy is hitting on you at a club, will you be more impressed that he’s clued up on what GREEN DAY is up to, or will the fact that he can hold a stimulating conversation about the band on stage result in you saying ‘you had me at hi’?

Then came a real titbit of information that, as a wannabe journalist, had my mouth watering. Keylock doesn’t really care that INSERT BAND NAME HERE is technically excellent; they’ll do just fine without being the next feature, he wants the meat; the story that’s going to make him stop what he’s doing and pay attention. “Just because you’re a good musician, doesn’t mean you have an interesting story.” So here I am, little miss nerd at various gig venues with my pen and paper, looking for the next best thing- South Africa’s hot new talent- when all I really need to do is find someone with a story worth telling? That’s amazing, Rolling Stone here I come!

Keylock points out how as an editor there is little room for ego and that by surrendering to what the magazine wants to be, engaging with his staff and the pop-cultural landscape the stories will tell you, as the writer or reader, what they want to be. He explains that as both a writer and an editor, the biggest challenge but most valuable lesson is simply to get out of the way. Something with which I have some difficulty I must admit, but at least I keep good company.

Finally it came time for ‘that annoying PR guy’, expertly played by our lecturer; Evan Milton, to finally get around to letting me ask my question; “What makes a piece of writing stand out, what gives it that quality that makes you go ‘I have to publish this’?” What did he say? What had I sat through a slew of, for my purposes, meaningless questions to hear? “Heart.” No seriously, that’s what he said. I’m not sensationalising it for dramatic effect, the guy is really just that cool. Keylock explained that as a reader you know whether you believe what the writer is saying, and whether they believe it themselves. He spoke about writers ‘singing from the heart’ because the readers are going to make a connection with that sincerity, they’re going to relate to it because it’s from the heart.

Keylock finished off with exactly what I had been wanting to hear, that writing is about sharing a story that strikes a chord because it has been conveyed in an honest way. “Integrity can go out the window if you’re not [writing ecstatically or from the heart], if writing isn’t your passion there’s a problem.”

So what does it take to make oversleeping impossible due to the excitement of getting to write for the coolest magazine to grace the shores of Southern Africa? Heart, imagination, a voice and a story worth telling. Of course being a masterful manipulator of words doesn’t hurt, but being able to write isn’t everything in the world of journalism- who knew?!