It was announced today that The Grid, Toronto’s popular and award-winning weekly city magazine, is closing after an inspiring three-year run following its evolution from Eye Weekly. Publisher Laas Turnbull, a former director of the National Magazine Awards Foundation, told Marketing magazine that the shut-down is due to declining ad sales, changes in media buying patterns and a lack of time to develop new revenue generators that the magazine had been testing. “We ran out of runway,” he said.
Since it launched in May 2011 with the first of its annual Chef’s Guides to Toronto, The Grid won 15 National Magazine Awards (10 Gold, 5 Silver) from 53 nominations; over that span, only The Walrus, Report on Business and L’actualité won more.
As we bid it farewell, the NMAF looks back on some of the most remarkable Grid content to be celebrated at the National Magazine Awards. (You can find more in our online archive.)
After all, to the magazine that once famously gave us 94 Excuses to Drink Now, let’s raise a glass.
The second-ever cover story by The Grid (May 19-25, 2011) swept the Gold medals in the categories Magazine Covers, Art Direction of an Entire Issue and Art Direction of a Single Article. That hadn’t happened at the NMAs since 1998.
At this year’s National Magazine Awards a new category for Infographics was introduced. The Grid snagged 5 nominations for this award, winning Gold for “How much does a street cost?”
Among its many popular “Guides,” The Grid’s “Guide to Getting Hitched” was a standout, winning Gold for Single Service Article Package in 2012. Other award-winning guides: “… to Father’s Day in T.O.“; “… to Buying a Condo“; “… to TIFF.”
The Grid’s popular website, thegridto.com, which drew 400,000 unique visitors per month, also garnered awards. “Are You Going to Eat That?” about food safety won Gold in Web Editorial Package in 2012.
Photographer Angus Rowe Macpherson’s spread of conceptual food-truck portraits (“Truckin’ A!“) won Gold for Creative Photography in 2012.
This cover shot was also nominated for Creative Photography in 2012.
The colourful feature “Toronto’s Waterfront Is…” won a Silver in Words & Pictures in 2011.
Finally, Danielle Groen’s impressive story on public-school sex ed won a Silver National Magazine Award in 2012. Read the entire article and view more award-winning work from The Grid in the National Magazine Awards Foundation’s online archive.
Our best wishes to the talented staff and contributors who made The Grid so wonderful, informative and beautiful.
The nominees for the 37th annual National Magazine Awards have been announced.
The National Magazine Awards Foundation is proud to be able to provide full-text articles of all nominated work as part of its mandate to promote Canadian magazine creators, broaden the exposure of Canadian magazines to the general public and strengthen the role that magazine content plays in the Canadian cultural landscape.
On our website you can:
- Download and read more than 200 magazine stories nominated in 25 writing categories: Travel, Humour, Arts & Entertainment, Business, Investigative Report, Personal Journalism, Poetry, Fiction and more.
- View thought-provoking magazine artwork nominated in 12 visual categories: Photojournalism, Illustration, Fashion, Art Direction, Portrait Photography and more.
- Check out the top Canadian Magazine Covers from 2013.
- Read the stories by the journalists nominated for Best New Magazine Writer.
- Watch videos, browse the top magazine websites, check out innovations in digital magazine publishing and more.
Visit our website magazine-awards.com to read all nominated work.
The winners of the 37th annual National Magazine Awards will be revealed on June 6 at the NMA gala. [TICKETS].
Off the Page is an interview series that appears regularly on the Magazine Awards blog. Today we catch up with Brett Popplewell, editor of The Feathertale Review, winner of the 2012 National Magazine Award for Best Single Issue.
NMAF: The Feathertale Review has been dubbed the “illegitimate love child of Mad Magazine and The New Yorker.” We just saw your latest issue, no. 11, double in size to 128 pages. Is this a signal to readers that the child is growing up? And if so, where is it headed?
Brett Popplewell: It’s definitely a sign that the child is growing up. Where it’s heading, I have no idea.
Truth is our entire team has grown up since our launch in 2006. We were just kids back then who felt there was an absence of high- and low-brow humour magazines in the Canadian market and thought we could be the cork to plug that hole. Lee Wilson, Feathertale’s co-founder and art director, and I wanted to create something that would feel fresh and cutting edge but that would hark back to an age when magazines leaned entirely on illustration to bring their words to life. We’re the ones who started calling our creation the “illegitimate love child of Mad Magazine and The New Yorker” because it felt like the best way to describe it.
We really started to grow up with our fourth issue (summer 2009). I finally started writing editorials to help nail a raison-d’etre for each issue and we began interviewing interesting people (David Rakoff, Stuart McLean, Patrick deWitt, Lynn Coady, etc.) in the magazine, using those interviews to try to answer some of life’s greatest questions, like: “What does it actually mean to be funny?” All of this added a creative depth to what we were doing.
By that point Lee and I were both working fulltime with mass-market magazines and had a much better understanding of our industry and Feathertale’s place within it. We began wanting to use Feathertale to challenge what we and others thought a magazine actually was. That’s how we came up with the idea for Feathertale 9. That issue, which looked, read and felt like it was lost in time, was modeled after 250-year-old magazines in order to show readers how far magazines had evolved and changed since their initial creation back in 1731. I think the moment we started thinking about Feathertale on such a bold scale was when it grew up and became more than just the bastard love child of Mad Magazine and The New Yorker.
We didn’t have it in us to make Feathertale 10 as crazy an innovation as its predecessor. So we sought instead to create a “swan song” issue that resembled some of our earlier issues and served to book-end a chapter of our lives.
After Feathertale 10 we had time to reflect on what we’d accomplished and assess what we thought was working and what wasn’t. We had contemplated ending the print product and concentrating on Feathertale.com, the online companion to the Review. Our $10 cover price hadn’t been doing us any favours on newsstands and our online readership had always outstripped our printed circulation. But we still believed in producing beautiful printed products and decided to double down on that belief. That’s when we started thinking about making the Review look less like a magazine and more like a book.
From a design standpoint, this made sense. We were starting to publish some much longer stories and Lee felt the long features would read better if we changed the design. So we shrunk the page size from the 8”x10” we’d been using for the first 10 issues to 5”x8”. We then doubled the length of the book to make sure it would still pack the roughly 35,000 words we’d been publishing in our previous issues. In the end, the adjustment made good business sense as well.
Feathertale is still a magazine of course, but our current issue (and our next one for that matter) does look a lot more like a book than a mag. I don’t know how that format will serve us on newsstands. We have one of the thicker spines out there right now, and I think we’ve got some pretty appealing covers but we don’t take up nearly as much space on the magazine rack. That said, our subscribers seem to be enjoying the new forma, which is encouraging. It’s also substantially cheaper for us to print the smaller layout and from what we’ve seen at festivals, people are more inclined to pay $10 (or even $15) for the new format. We’re under no pretense of being the first to come out at this size, but so far it makes sense for us.
NMAF: In addition to winning the National Magazine Award for Best Single Issue (for issue no. 9), Feathertale has also won NMAs for Humour and for Best Magazine Cover; remarkable achievements for any magazine, no less a young literary one. What impact have achievements like these made on Feathertale and its writers and artists?
Brett: The accolades have certainly helped us stay motivated, but this has never been a vanity project. Our first win for Best Magazine Cover of 2010 came as a shock, both to us and I think to others in our industry. That cover was really special to us. It was illustrated by a young artist in Oshawa named Dani Crosby. She had just graduated from Sheridan and didn’t have a huge portfolio when we handed her our magazine and told her to do as she pleased with it. There aren’t many magazines that will hand over that kind of opportunity to such a young and relatively inexperienced artist. When we won best cover, we were really just humbled and honoured to be recognized by our peers.
After our first NMA a lot of illustrators and writers who hadn’t really been looking at us started submitting work our way. It definitely helped us grow and added some more established voices to our ever-expanding list of contributors. I guess you could say that award helped us beef up subsequent issues, including Feathertale 9, which won Gold for Best Single Issue last year. I was surprised when we were nominated for that award as well and I was ecstatic when we won. I think what I’m most proud of about that issue is that we pulled it all together on a $7,000 budget. I can’t really explain how it feels to have published and edited a magazine on that kind of budget and then see it nominated alongside magazines that are easily 100 times our size.
Feathertale was probably the smallest magazine nominated for any awards last year, so to win one of the evening’s most prestigious was an unexpected honour, something Cathal Kelly (one of our frequent contributors) touched on when he tweeted that watching Feathertale win that NMA was, financially speaking, “like your home movies winning an Oscar.”
There were 37 contributors in that issue and each of them was integral to its success. I can’t speak for any of them, but I can say that I am extremely proud to have worked with each of them on that issue. I’m equally as proud of Cathal for picking up silver in the Humour category last year. We’ve always said we’re a humour magazine, and Cathal’s award and work helped validate that claim. He’s probably the most naturally gifted writer I’ve had the privilege to work with.
NMAF: You’ve spoken elsewhere about the early success story of Feathertale, where start-up funds from a successful anti-bullying comic-book venture seeded the start of the magazine, and support from Canadian arts funding has helped you grow. What lessons have you learned about publishing a literary magazine in Canada that might benefit other publishers, writers and artists out there?
Brett: The biggest lesson I’ve learned is you have to believe in the value of what you’re doing because you won’t necessarily see any benefit from your labours in your bank account. Canada is such a small market that it’s very hard to make a profit with this type of venture. Financially, Feathertale is subsidized by grant money and sales of Lee’s and my anti-bullying comic books. But aside from that, this whole thing survives on the passion of its creators. That passion comes and goes. There are times when each of us have wanted to run away from Feathertale but the longer we spend working on the project the more we realize that it’s like a child that deserves a shot at growing up and becoming a fully functioning adult. It has definitely grown up and matured, but it’s still not ready to feed itself or change its own diapers.
Publishing, especially in the 21st century, is a very fickle industry. Lee and I wandered into it without any real experience. We had some spectacular success early on with our anti-bullying comic books and have no regrets at having used that success to launch The Feathertale Review. We are fortunate to now have support from both the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council. I think it’s important for every Canadian to understand that if the Arts councils ever pulled out of funding literary journals in this country the entire industry would likely die, or at least cease to print.
NMAF: Who is D’Artagnan, really?
Seriously though, he’s the blue monkey who appears on all things Feathertale. We used to think of him as our Alfred E. Newman or Eustace Tilley, but he’s become more than that. He’s our face in this world. What’s his story? Why is he blue? We’ve been asking ourselves those questions for a long time now but still haven’t figured it out.
Brett Popplewell is the editor of The Feathertale Review, as well as a National Magazine Award-winning writer — he won Gold in the category Sports & Recreation at the 2011 National Magazine Awards for “The Team that Disappeared” (Sportsnet). Follow him on Twitter @b_popps.
Images courtesy Feathertale.com and National Magazine Awards Foundation.
Submissions are now being accepted for the 2013 National Magazine Awards. Deadline for entries: January 15.
Off the Page appears regularly on the Magazine Awards blog. Today we catch up with writer J.B. MacKinnon, winner of 11 National Magazine Awards and author of The Once and Future World (Random House Canada).
NMAF: In an essay titled “A 10 Percent World” (The Walrus, September 2010), you argued that humanity’s vision of an idyllic past is myopic; that in seeking to temper the impact that we have on our environment, our purpose “is not to demand some return to a pre-human Eden, but rather to expand our options”; that “our sense of what is possible sets limits on our dreams.” What did you mean by expanding our options beyond the limits?
J.B.: “A 10 Percent World” looks at the natural world of the historical past—a much richer and more abundant state of nature than we know today. We’ve largely forgotten this more plentiful world, and that limits our sense of the possible.
Yes, it’s depressing to find out that grizzly bears used to live on the Canadian Prairies and they don’t any more, or that Vancouver waters were home to a year-round population of humpback whales that were all slaughtered by 1908. But if we aren’t aware of these facts, then the absence of the bears and the whales seems normal. When we do become aware of them, we’re able to set a higher bar for our vision of what nature can be.
NMAF: That essay won a National Magazine Award in 2011. What impact did the magazine publication and the award have on your decision to pursue a book project, resulting in your recently published The Once and Future World?
“A 10 Percent World” was that initial foray into the depths. The story had an impact on readers, and when it also won a magazine award I was able to move forward on the book with a lot more confidence.
NMAF: You’ve been a professional writer for more than a decade, with 11 National Magazine Awards (and 31 nominations). What role do Canadian magazines play in your career, and what significance do you put on winning awards?
J.B.: I became a writer during the largely overlooked great recession of the early 1990s, and the limited opportunities of that time made a deep impression on me. Fortunately, a few Canadian editors took a chance on my work, and I’ve been able to build from there. But I’m always trying to sharpen my teeth—to push toward deeper themes or better writing. It doesn’t always work, and I appreciate that Canadian magazines are still giving me chances. They don’t always expect me to show up with all my t’s crossed and i’s already dotted.
Awards are one way to measure whether or not what I’m doing on the page is working—the awards themselves matter less to me than the nominations. Consistent nominations tell me that I’m continuing to do work that is recognizably among the best in the country. Actually taking home a gold or silver is a much less predictable matter. Of course, when it happens, well… it never gets old, let’s say that.
J.B. MacKinnon is the award-winning author of The Once and Future World, The 100-Mile Diet and Dead Man in Paradise. His writing has appeared in great Canadian magazines including Explore, The Walrus, This Magazine and more. He was the writer for the documentary Bear 71, which explores the intersection of the wired and wild worlds through the true story of a mother grizzly bear. Discover more at jbmackinnon.com.
Off the Page appears regularly on the Magazine Awards blog. Today we catch up with Sierra Skye Gemma, winner of the 2012 National Magazine Award for Best New Magazine Writer.
[This post has been updated to include the new deadline for the Prism International Creative Non-fiction contest deadline: Dec 5.]
NMAF: Earlier this year you won the National Magazine Award for Best New Magazine Writer for a story called “The Wrong Way” (The New Quarterly), a personal essay and critical meditation on the stages of grief. Tell us a bit about how you developed this story and why you decided to submit it in the annual non-fiction writing competition from TNQ?
Sierra: The Wrong Way came out of an assignment in a Creative Non-fiction course with Andreas Schroeder. I had never written a personal essay before and when I started I wasn’t even sure what I wanted to say. Not exactly, anyway. I looked up Kübler-Ross’s Five Stages of Grief because I thought it would explain my experiences. I thought I could structure my essay according to the stages, but I realized that Kübler-Ross’s theory didn’t apply to my life at all. My essay then developed as a sort of antagonistic call-and-response with conventional grief theories.
I sat and wrote it in two sittings, straight through from beginning to end. I didn’t move things around after that and I barely edited it. That said, I had bits and pieces of it already written. Little vignettes that I hadn’t known what to do with before, like the story of buying my son the fish and aquatic frog. I had also taken extensive notes when my sister died and I wrote down lots of dialogue. Maybe that sounds weird; maybe not, if you’re a writer. But what do you do with a short “scene” between siblings that, when read on its own, seems to make light of the death of another sibling? Well, I guess you build an elaborate home in which it can live. The Wrong Way was that home for many of my disjointed experiences with grief.
I submitted the essay to The New Quarterly’s Edna Staebler Personal Essay Contest because Andreas Schroeder told me to submit it to a contest (and not through the slush pile of regular submissions); he thought the essay was good enough to win. The New Quarterly’s personal essay contest seemed like the obvious choice. The lesson here? Always listen to Andreas Schroeder.
NMAF: What was the significance for you as a young writer winning that contest and then the National Magazine Award?
Sierra: Winning both the contest and the NMA gave me confidence in my writing, which I never really had before. Winning the NMA also got my work noticed. After I won Best New Magazine Writer, the essay was selected to appear in the Best Canadian Essays 2013 anthology, alongside some very successful writers. It is an amazing honour that I feel would not have happened without the National Magazine Awards.
NMAF: As a writer and also an editor of PRISM International, a literary magazine published by the Creative Writing Program at UBC, you are in a good position to survey the landscape of Canadian literary arts. What are the challenges and rewards of devoting yourself to this industry?
Sierra: I think the greatest challenge to being an editor of a literary magazine (or a writer for that matter) is money. There is not a lot of money in literary magazines. Small lit mags live and die by the decisions of the Canada Council for the Arts and the various provincial Arts Councils. They live and die by the seemingly small financial decisions of their staff. They live and die by their contest entries and subscriptions and by the ebb and flow of their donations. Editing and managing a literary magazine is not a career for the lazy or the extravagant. It takes a lot of careful, cautious, and sometimes tedious work to keep a literary magazine alive.
That said, it is so emotionally rewarding. I have been a reader for the past two Creative Non-fiction Contests at PRISM and I will be a reader again this year. The emotional rollercoaster that this work has taken me on is intense. You feel the author’s highs and lows. I’ve cried and I’ve laughed until I’ve been in tears.
Although I’ve also read for other contests and other magazines, it is PRISM’s Non-fiction Contest that really makes it worth it for me because the stories are real and they matter. They matter to the author, who is risking so much to share; to the readers with whom the stories will resonate; to the editors, who have the responsibility for creating the long list and the short list; and to the contest judge who has to make the toughest decisions.
Our Creative Non-fiction Contest deadline is coming up on
November 28th [Update: December 5] and I can’t wait to start reading again!
NMAF: What are your immediate goals as a writer, and what are you working on these days?
Sierra: This summer I received a grant from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada to perform research for a novel set in 1950’s California. I spent three months in northern California—taking notes, visiting museums and farms, interviewing seniors and experts, and exploring the countryside—so my research is nearly completed.
I’ve been meaning to finish my outline and start writing, but I’ve been a little distracted by another project that I have been working on for over a year: a humorous and irreverent parenting book that I’m co-writing with blogger Emily Wight. We have completed our non-fiction book proposal and one sample chapter, but I’d like to get a few more chapters done before I launch into the novel.
Sierra Skye Gemma is an award-winning writer and journalist working towards an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia. Aside from the National Magazine Award for Best New Magazine Writer, this year Sierra was also honoured with the first-place award in creative non-fiction in Rhubarb’s Taboo Literary Contest, a long-list nod in House of Anansi’s Broken Social Scene Story Contest, and a BC Arts Council scholarship. She is an executive editor of PRISM international, western Canada’s oldest literary magazine. Her work has been published in The New Quarterly, The Vancouver Sun, Plenitude, and elsewhere. Follow her on Twitter @SierraGemma.
The National Magazine Award for Best New Magazine Writer
Meet the finalists for Best New Magazine Writer
A Writer’s Guide to Canadian Literary Magazines
Your Guide to Fall 2013 Canadian Magazine Writing Contests
More Off the Page interviews
The Canadian photographer, now based in New York, won the Gold National Magazine Award last year in Portrait Photography, for “Never Left Art School” (a series with Douglas Coupland) in Montecristo magazine. He was previously a finalist for the Best New Visual Creator award in 2010, for “A Man Called Cope” (Report on Business).
The exhibition, “Pictures,” is on display until December 21.
From the O’Born Contemporary site: Working within portraiture and documentary photography, Peckmezian attempts to leverage the analog-digital divide, producing work that draws into relief the enduring value of analog processes in our new digital-dominated photographic landscape. He recently completed his BFA in Photography from Ryerson University in Toronto, and is represented for commercial and editorial work by Stash. His photographs have been published in Prefix Photo, on the cover of Report on Business and Function, and have been selected for inclusion in Flash Forward, touring internationally.
This Friday, September 20 in Toronto Canadian Dimension magazine is hosting an evening with Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist Chris Hedges.
A former 15-year foreign correspondent for The New York Times, winner of the Amnesty International Global Award for Human Rights Journalism, and author of a recent cover story in The Walrus, Mr. Hedges is the author of the new book The World As it Is: Dispatches on the Myth of Human Progress.
He famously sued the Obama administration last year over the constitutionality of the National Defense Authorization Act, and won.
Tickets for the Toronto event are available but nearly gone. A note on the site states that a few tickets are on sale via EventBrite or at Another Story Bookshop (315 Roncesvalles Avenue in Toronto).
Canadian Dimensions is an independent Canadian magazine with a global focus, founded in 1963 in Winnipeg. In 2005 it was nominated for a National Magazine Award for “The Battle for Canadian Universities.”