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Remembering Susan Holden

Melanie Butler recalls her time with Susan Holden, who sadly passed away this September.

From the first time I met Susan Holden, in the mid 1980’s, I was in awe of her. It was my first editing job; a job share with the ELT author Steve Elsworth, working to Susan. Unfailingly prompt, impeccably dressed and endlessly patient, she taught us everything there is to know about magazine editing, while bringing out MET seemingly single-handedly and

“She had become one of the forgotten legion of women who forged the UK EFL publishing industry”

still leaving the office promptly to head home to her husband Don Byrne – himself something of a rockstar EFL author.

I bumped into her again shortly after I took over the Gazette, likely at an Iatefl conference, for she was an assiduous supporter. She had launched her own publishing house, Swan Publications, and she sent us titles to review, and articles to publish. We would talk, sometimes by phone, more often at conferences, about a new methodological insight she had, or a cause she had espoused. The one I remember best is when she called to talk about Peter Medgyes and the beginning of the fight for non-native speaker teachers. We interviewed him and the next year, when Gazette staff appeared at Iatefl wearing t-shirts bearing the slogan “the non-natives are restless” she dissolved in peals of laughter and asked if she could have one.

And then, around the beginning of the Millenium, she was transformed into a doyenne of publishing, taking over first at Prentice Hall, and then, when it was acquired by Macmillan, heading up their ELT division. She had become one of the forgotten legion of women who forged the UK EFL publishing industry: Paula Kahn and Gill Negis at Longman (now Pearson), Yvonne de Henseler, and Susana Hasanyi at OUP, Susan Holden at Macmillan. But she was the only one, among this list of women, who was also an author herself.

She was there with the best in the business, but was still happy to swap publishing gossip at conferences or call me to tip me off about a new trend in teaching or a new cause she has espoused. She never stopped. One of the last times I saw her, at a pre-COVID Iatefl, she thrust a copy of Peter Medgyes classic book in my hands. “You must write about this” she commanded with a smile.

We wrote a web article about the relaunch. I was in awe of her. I still am.

Image courtesy of Library
Melanie Butler
Melanie Butler
Melanie started teaching EFL in Iran in 1975. She worked for the BBC World Service, Pearson/Longman and MET magazine before taking over at the Gazette in 1987 and also launching Study Travel magazine. Educated in ten schools in seven countries, she speaks fluent French and Spanish and rather rusty Italian.
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