An Adventurous Literary Travel Itinerary (Summer Magazine Reading Series, No. 7)

Your intrepid Mag Awards blogger just returned from canoeing a great long river in Maine, where at dawn the moose pose in water while eating their grassy breakfast, and at dusk either the rain or the mosquitoes force you into the tent where you’re glad to have packed a pile of magazines to read before the ache of a long day of j-strokes puts you to sleep.

Whether you’ve got your feet up at the cottage in a Muskoka chair by the dock, or you’re stormbound in a tent deep in moose-land, summer is even more adventurous with a great magazine travel story.

This year’s National Magazine Awards travel-writing finalists brought us to many exciting places: to India, where tea is born in the Himalaya foothills; to northern British Columbia, on a haunted glacier; to Jerusalem, for a Kafkaesque citrus heist; to Newfoundland, where a cottage by any other name smells as fishy; to Brazil, in angular shadows of modern architecture; to San Francisco, where technology guides the tour; to Nunavut and Chicago and the middle of Lake Superior, all in the service of a literary sense of place.

Our summer magazine reading series continues this week with travel stories nominated at the 2015 National Magazine Awards. Make this your literary travel itinerary before summer sadly ends.

Au paradis des thés

Category: Travel–Gold Medal winner
Author: Marie-Soleil Deshautels
Magazine: L’actualité

Plusieurs critères déterminent si un thé sera ou non un « grand cru », notamment l’uniformité, la brillance et la taille des feuilles. Les meilleurs thés ont une fragrance et un goût jugés fins ou complexes.

Synopsis: An intrepid journey to the heart of India’s tea-producing northeast: Darjeeling, in the Himalaya foothills south of Kangchenjunga, the world’s third-highest mountain. National Magazine Award-winning writer Marie-Soleil Deshautels explores the cycle of tea production from the seed to the cup to the exportation to Canada, examining the science that is helping tea producers meet new global demand, and the art of brewing the perfect cup. Read the story.

Another great read: The silver medal in Travel went to Eric Dupont for “Vivre à belo horizonte” (L’actualité), an architectural tour of the work of Oscar Niemeyer in Brazil.

Lemon from Sheikh Jarrah

Category: Travel–Honourable Mention
Author: Karen Connelly
Magazine: Geist

“Who took this button off your computer?” It fell off; it broke. “When?” Several years ago. It kept falling off. I just threw it away. “But not here, not while you were in Israel.” No. I was here for just over a week. “Are you sure?”

Synopsis: One of those rare dispatches from Israel/Palestine that doesn’t get tripped up over politics or bogged down by the pro-/anti- arguments, award-winning poet Karen Connelly’s elegantly simple story in the form of a letter to the lone Palestinian woman she met on an official tour of Jerusalem provides readers a fresh and authentic sense of place in an otherwise unfalteringly complex–and at times darkly comical–experience of visiting the region.

Another great read: Dan Robson of Sportsnet won Honourable Mention in Travel for “Home and Really Far Away,” which won the Gold Medal in Sports & Recreation and was profiled in the first edition of our Summer Magazine Reading Series.

Death on a Glacier

Category: Travel–Honourable Mention
Author: Jon Turk
Magazine: Explore

“The air became electric and the hair stood up on the backs of our necks,” Bill told me. “It was one of those moments that don’t dim with time. I can imagine every vivid detail to this day.” The three hunters had discovered the body of that ancient warrior, now known as Kwäday Dän Ts’ìnchí — “Long Ago Person Found.”

Synopsis: Fifteen years ago, three hunters travelling around a glacier in the Tatshenshini-Alsek wilderness of northern British Columbia discovered the partial remains of a young native man who had apparently died while attempting to cross a high mountain pass more than three centuries earlier. Now, as scientific analysis has revealed much of the biography of the man posthumously named Kwäday Dän Ts’ìnchí, writer Jon Turk joins the hunters as they return to the place of discovery to re-imagine his life and ponder the mysteries that remain. Read the story.

Another great read: Explore magazine also won Honourable Mention for “Across the Little North” by Conor Mihell, an account of a month-long canoe expedition through remote northwestern Ontario.

The Other Fifth Avenue

Category: Travel–Honourable Mention
Author: Lisa Moore
Magazine: Cottage Life

I stop to ask for directions from a man who’s chopping wood. When I say I’m looking for Jen Ford’s place, he pauses and looks deliberately at the horizon. “The Ford place,” he says. “Nope, never heard of it.” He gives the wood chunk sitting on the chopping block a hard smack with the axe. It splits with a loud, splintering thwack. Then he says, “Oh, wait a minute, you mean Phil’s place. A few cabins back. You just drove past it.”

Synopsis: Award-winning novellist and Newfoundland native Lisa Moore takes a rural road trip to the summer “cabins” (don’t call them cottages in Newfoundland) to discover the depth of the islanders’ appreciation for the traditional way of life, revolving around family stories, music, fishing, berry-based cuisine, “corn toss,” and never-ending home-improvement projects that bring entire communities together. Read the story.

Another great read: Cottage Life won a second Honourable Mention in Travel for “Dreamlandia” by NMA winner Charles Wilkins, set in Nirivia, a little-known trout-fishing paradise on an island in Lake Superior.

Bright Lights, Tech City

Category: Travel–Honourable Mention
Author: Andrew Braithwaite
Magazine: enRoute

“I’ve never been here before,” says Arieff. Good words to hear from a professed urban flaneur. Based on a 2009 project to map hidden spaces, SPUR launched the app in 2012. It leads curious explorers to unexpected downtown oases, like this rooftop deck off a poorly signed staircase in the corner of a retail mall.

Synopsis: Canadian ex-pat and NMA winner Andrew Braithwaite serves up five fresh views on his adopted city of San Francisco, visiting traditional tourist hotspots with technology of the sort made famous in Silicon Valley–hiking the Coastal Trail with the latest fitness-measuring gadgets; visiting the Exploratorium with a roboticist; trying out new apps to locate a POPOS (“privately owned public open space”). It’s the San Fran of the future, the city reaching the maturity of its latest techno-boom. Read the story.

Another great read: Andrew Braithwaite and enRoute magazine also received Honourable Mention for “South Side Story,” about the regeneration of Chicago’s post-industrial south side.


Subscribe to our blog to receive our Summer Magazine Reading Series in your inbox each week, and follow us on Twitter (@MagAwards) for updates and magazine news and promotions.

Did you know? You can download and read all of the National Magazine Awards finalists and winners for FREE in our online archive, at magazine-awards.com/archive.

Stay tuned for another Summer Magazine Reading Series edition next Thursday.

Moose photos by Richard A. Johnson.

Summer Magazine Reading Series, No. 6: Oh. Canada?

The sixth serving of our summer reading series has a palpable WTF flavour to it; three stories that have the power to shock you through the sheer unlikelihood of their situations, the terrible injustice inherent in their contexts, and the unusual and even frightening characters they bring to light.

An epidemic of sexual assault threatens the integrity of Canada’s armed forces. Creation “scientists” re-interpret the history of the world during the Alberta floods. A homegrown terrorist hitchhikes his way to his own death.

All three of these stories won Gold Medals at the 2015 National Magazine Awards.

 

Sex Crimes in the Military

Categories: Investigative Reporting, Politics & Public Interest (double gold winner)
Authors: Noémi Mercier and Alec Castonguay
Magazine: L’actualité (French; republished in English in Maclean’s)

Every day, five individuals in the Canadian military community become victims of sexual assault.

Synopsis: An original investigation by two reporters from the French-language current affairs magazine L’actualité and published under the headline “Crimes sexuels dans l’armée,” this incredible work of journalism pieces together the facts and stats, the court marshals and testimonies, the victims’ perspectives and the military context, and the efforts to cover up, to expose, and to resolve the shockingly common occurrences of sexual assault in Canada’s armed forces. This is Canadian magazine journalism at its finest.

National Magazine Award winners Noémi Mercier and Alec Castonguay spent months investigating and writing this story for L’actualité, and it was the only nominee to receive 2 gold medals at the 2015 National Magazine Awards. The story was translated and republished in Maclean’s. Read the original French; read the English translation.

It took a shy, but courageous, Aboriginal teenager to finally put a stop to Wilks’s behaviour. In December 2009, 17-year-old Robbie Williams walked out of Wilks’s examination room in tears and called the police. A long list of victims followed her example. “I knew something wasn’t right as soon as I walked in the room. You wanna meet the right procedures and everything, so I followed through with everything he got me to do. For a long time after that I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror. He made me feel worthless.”

Bonus reads: The silver medallist in Politics & Public Interest is Jake Macdonald’s “The Cost of Freedom” (Report on Business), which looks at the future of prairie agriculture following the dismantling of the Canadian Wheat Board.

The silver medallist in Investigative Reporting is Joe Castaldo’s riveting story for Canadian Business titled “The Entirely True Tale of the Man Who Had an Idea, Borrowed a Boat from Neil Young, Dumped Iron in the Ocean, Angered the Vatican, Ticked Off the United Nations, and Tore a Small Town Apart—Just to Make Some Salmon Happy.”

 

Water Upon the Earth

Category: Essays
Author: Andrea Bennett
Magazine: Maisonneuve

“I am going to put an end to all people,” God says, “for the Earth is filled with violence because of them.”

Synopsis: Nearly half of Canadians believe that humans and dinosaurs co-existed, and many of these believers subscribe to one or another version of Christian Biblical literalism which holds that geological, paleontological and anthropological time that science measures in millions or even billions of years in fact is measured in mere thousands since the time God created the Earth in six days.

National Magazine Award winner Andrea Bennett takes an inquisitive road trip to the Big Valley Creation Science Museum in central Alberta—harrowingly coincidental to the near-apocalyptic deluge which flooded much of that province in June of 2013—getting to know some of the adherents to and critics of the Young Earth Creationism movement, and reflecting on the parallel (and sometimes intersecting) historical gazes of science and faith. Read the story.

Henderson himself grew up in what he describes as a “rather strict” Presbyterian household—grace at every meal, church on Sunday, Bible reading in the afternoons at his grandmother’s. When he was fifteen, he began to see some contradictions between his faith and science. “Strangely,” he said, “my dad bought me this book called The Evidence for Evolution. When he gave it to me, he said, ‘Now I don’t want you to believe everything in this book.’”

Bonus read: The silver medallist in Essays is Jody Smiling’s “Through the Rockies” (Prism International), a pristinely articulated meditation on the family road trip.

 

My Hitchhiker, the Parliament Hill Gunman

Category: Best Short Feature
Author: Michael Friscolanti
Magazine: Maclean’s

“Where are you going?” Bekkering asked. “Calgary,” answered the man. “This is your lucky day.”

Synopsis: The terrifying assault on Parliament last October was like a nightmare come true for many Canadians: 21st-century Islamic terrorism hitting home. For one Calgary man, an agricultural consultant named Harry Bekkering, the frenzy of national anxiety and media coverage eventually illuminated a familiar face: the Ottawa gunman was a taciturn, purportedly devout man to whom he’d given a well-meaning lift across the Rocky Mountains just a month earlier. As the country came to grips with the tragedy and its context, Bekkering came to realize that his unlikely passenger was not a true believer but a tragic, alienated figure in need of help; help he never got.

National Magazine Award winner Michael Friscolanti profiles Mr. Bekkering, reconstructing the voyage from Chilliwack to Calgary and his subject’s evolving observations about Michael Zehaf Bibeau. Read the story.

A month after the shooting, Bekkering still struggles with feelings of guilt. Should he have spotted a warning sign? Was Michael already planning his attack when he climbed into the truck? Or did his inability to secure a passport, either Libyan or Canadian, push him over the edge?

Bonus read: The silver medallist in Best Short Feature, Elizabeth Renzetti’s “Ayahuasca (Mis)Adventures” (ELLE Canada) needs little further introduction beyond the mention that ayahuasca is a hallucinogenic herbal brew reported to have divinatory properties.

 


Subscribe to our blog to receive our Summer Magazine Reading Series in your inbox each week, and follow us on Twitter (@MagAwards) for updates and magazine news and promotions.

Did you know? You can download and read all of the National Magazine Awards finalists and winners for FREE in our online archive, at magazine-awards.com/archive.

Stay tuned for another Summer Magazine Reading Series edition next Thursday.

Lectures estivales de la Fondation: découvertes

Les magazines québécois se sont illustrés lors des derniers Prix du magazine canadien, en réalisant une impressionnante récolte de prix. Vous n’avez pas encore eu l’occasion de lire les textes primés? Qu’à cela ne tienne! Cette semaine, la Fondation vous propose de découvrir les textes primés dans les catégories Société et Santé et médecine. D’abord, un texte fascinant sur l’intersexualité signé par Mylène Tremblay pour le magazine Châtelaine, suivi d’un reportage de Marie-Pier Elie paru dans le magazine Québec Science, qui a aussi valu à la journaliste un Grand Prix du journalisme indépendant.

Pour la cinquième édition de nos lectures estivales nous présentons la meilleure écriture magazine du Québec de l’année passée.

Intersexualité. Rencontre du troisième sexe

Catégorie : Société
Auteure : Mylène Tremblay
Magazine : Châtelaine

En bref : Un bébé vient au monde. On déclare alors le sexe : c’est un garçon! C’est une fille! Mais la réalité n’est pas toujours aussi simple, comme le rapporte la journaliste Mylène Tremblay, qui s’est intéressée au phénomène méconnu de l’intersexualité. Chez certains individus, « le corps ne correspond ni à la définition type d’un homme ni à celle d’une femme ». On les qualifie alors d’intersexes.

Si l’on en entend peu parler, ce sujet est pourtant d’autant plus d’actualité qu’il y a aujourd’hui davantage d’intersexes.

« Le phénomène existe depuis la nuit des temps, mais s’est accentué au cours des 50 dernières années, constatent des spécialistes internationaux. La faute, notamment, aux facteurs environnementaux (…) ».

Bien que les opinions divergent dans la communauté médicale sur la démarche à privilégier, il y a consensus sur la complexité de ces cas. N’est plus systématique de procéder à une intervention chirurgicale visant à attribuer aux individus un sexe spécifique en bas âge.

« Des erreurs, il y en a eu et il y en a encore. Beaucoup. Dès la fin des années 1950, presque tous les bébés intersexes des pays occidentaux sont passés sous le bistouri ». Mylène Tremblay a rencontré des intersexes qui témoignent des répercussions que ces interventions ont eues sur leur développement.

Un reportage de Mylène Tremblay à lire sans faute!

Immunothérapie. Le nouvel espoir

Catégorie : Santé et médecine
Auteure : Marie-Pier Elie
Magazine : Québec Science

En bref : Dans ce reportage, la journaliste propose aux lecteurs une incursion dans l’univers de la recherche sur l’immunothérapie, une forme de traitement expérimental contre le cancer porteur d’espoir pour les patients qui ne répondent pas aux traitements conventionnels. À la différence des traitements répandus, comme la chimiothérapie, la radiothérapie ou la chirurgie, l’immunothérapie fait appel aux défenses naturelles du corps humain pour combattre les cellules cancéreuses.

La journaliste s’est rendue au National Cancer Institute du Maryland pour y rencontrer le Dr Steven Rosenberg, un chirurgien qui s’intéresse à l’immunothérapie depuis les années 60. Les traitements qui sont offerts aux malades sont adaptés aux individus et n’ont parfois jamais été tentés auparavant. Les patients s’offrent donc comme « cobayes ». Si les traitements fonctionnent dans certains cas, étant expérimentaux, ils ne produisent pas toujours les effets escomptés. Mais pour ces personnes qui n’ont plus rien à perdre, l’immunothérapie se présente comme l’ultime recours.

«La seule raison d’être de notre groupe de recherche est le développement de la médecine de demain, pas la pratique de la médecine d’aujourd’hui. Nous n’offrons donc aucun traitement de routine ». – Dr Steven Rosenberg

Si de nombreux traitements se sont soldés par un échec, des vies ont aussi été épargnées, alors qu’il n’y avait que peu, voire plus d’espoir. Comme celle d’Emily Whitehead, une petite fille atteinte d’une leucémie diagnostiquée incurable, que les traitements d’immunothérapie ont sauvée contre toute attente.

Découvrez ce reportage instructif et fascinant de Marie-Pier Elie.


Ces textes vous ont donné la piqûre de la lecture? Parcourez les archives de la Fondation pour lire tous les articles qui ont récolté les honneurs cette année. Voici quelques suggestions :

Médaille d’or :

Crimes sexuels dans l’armée
Noémi Mercier, Alec CastonguayL’actualité
Catégories : Politique et affaires publiques, Journalisme d’enquête

Au paradis des thés
Marie-Soleil DesautelsL’actualité
Catégorie : Voyages

La pointe des utopies
Rémy Bourdillon, Pierre-Yves Cezard – Nouveau Projet
Catégorie : Paroles et images

Médaille d’argent :

Régénérescences
Collectif – Nouveau Projet
Catégorie : Dossier thématique : imprimé

Place au cannabiz !
Marc-André Sabourin – L’actualité
Catégorie : Affaires

Le futur fait bonne impression 
Marine CorniouQuébec Science
Catégorie : Science, technologie et environnement

Halte au surdiagnostic !
Valérie BordeL’actualité
Catégorie : Santé et médecine

Vivre À Belo Horizonte  
Eric DupontL’actualité
Catégorie : Voyages

Un bateau pour l’enfer
Michel ArseneaultL’actualité
Catégorie : Article hors catégorie

Dette du Québec : rien ne justifie la panique, Santé : où trouver les milliards?, Du bon usage des compressions
Pierre FortinL’actualité
Catégorie : Chroniques

Summer Magazine Reading Series, No. 4: While You Were Sleeping

The fourth edition of our summer reading series borrows its title from a blockbuster 90s Sandra Bullock flick in which a woman falls in love with a man in a coma only to later fall for his non-comatose brother. Which has very little to do with this week’s feature stories, except that they all involve events that are happening in other places in our world, perhaps while we were sleeping.

In this week’s edition have three award-winning stories curated under this basic theme: one about the two-decade struggle of a Canadian mining giant to extract billions in ore from the Andean highlands; a second about the efforts to design the world’s most perfect toilet to address the problem of sanitation in developing countries; and a third that, well, is actually about the world of dreams and a novel attempt to categorize them.

All three stories won Gold Medals at the 2015 National Magazine Awards.

 

High and Dry

Category: Business
Author: Stephanie Nolen
Magazine: Report on Business

You have to wonder—how could Barrick spend so much money here and still end up without a friend?

Synopsis: At 5200 metres above sea level, along Chile’s serrated, glacier-carved border with Argentina, sits Pascua-Lama, one of the world’s highest, most remote mining operations, controlled by the Canadian multinational Barrick Gold. 15 million ounces of gold await extraction, along with significant deposits of silver and copper. After nearly two decades of negotiations to resolve environmental, taxation, infrastructure and other concerns with the Chilean government, Barrick finally prepared to start mining, only to have a Chilean regulator halt operations over health and safety concerns of the 3000 Diaguita indigenous people who would comprise part of the labour force, and whose requests of the company include CSR investment in local education and agriculture, and respect for the integrity of the land.

National Magazine Award winner Stephanie Nolen brings us the complete story of the battle to re-start the mine, illuminating the social, legal and political landscape, alongside wonderful photographs by NMA winner Roger LeMoyne. In addition to winning the Gold award for Business, this story was also a National Magazine Awards finalist in the categories Investigative Reporting, Politics & Public Interest and Science, Technology & Environment. Read the story.

The drought has been bad everywhere, but it was critical for the farmers such as Maglene Campillay, who says she has seen her production drop by four-fifths. She and her neighbours came to believe the mine was destroying the glaciers, and with them, their livelihoods. “This time, in the middle of the drought, it seemed that the glaciers didn’t have [their] power any more,” she says. They released no water from their frozen hearts. “The rivers are like the veins in our body. If one dries out, other places dry out too.”

Bonus read: The silver medallist in Business is Marc-André Sabourin‘s “Place au Cannabiz!” (L’actualité), a story about Canadian entrepreneurs who are preparing for the (possible) future legalization of marijuana.

 

The Toilet Papers

Category: Science, Technology & Environment
Author: Jeremy Keehn
Magazine: The Walrus

“Toilet,” Cheng stressed, “was a misnomer at this stage. It doesn’t look like a toilet.”

Synopsis: The challenge is at once simple and dauntingly complex: invent an affordable, ecological, scalable toilet system that embodies sensitivity to the requirements of gender, social culture, environment and economy to resolve the problem of the 2.5 billion people who lack access to safe sanitation, including the 800,000 children under 5 who die each year of diarrheal diseases.

National Magazine Award winner Jeremy Keehn insightfully catalogs the efforts of Canadian engineers, academics, aid organizations, government agencies and others who are taking up the toilet challenge, while probing the concerns of the global poor and criticisms of international aid that combine to demonstrate that the solution to one of humanity’s greatest challenges can’t just be flushed out from a tank. Read the story.

I assumed that the moment of tension was precipitated by the mother confessing that the family had no household toilet. In fact, McHale corrected me, she was thanking the doctor for telling them about the pan, and the doctor was admonishing her for whispering. “Everybody must know about the SaTo,” she exclaimed. The spot aimed not just to sell the pan, in other words, but to de-stigmatize talk of the shit it would contain.

Bonus read: The silver medallist in Science, Technology & Environment is Marine Corniou’s “Le futur fait bonne impression” (Québec Science), which investigates the next technological revolution afforded by advances in 3D printing.

 

Reviews of My Dreams from Last Night

Category: Humour
Author: Richard Light
Magazine: The Feathertale Review

A well-executed flying dream is always a great way to start out the night, and this one did not disappoint.

Synopsis: Somnolent writer creates a taxonomy of seven types of dreams in the style of film reviews.

True story: At the 2015 National Magazine Awards gala, Feathertale Review editor Brett Popplewell came to the stage to collect this award on behalf of his absent humour writer, telling the audience that he’s never actually met or seen Richard Light, but he’s a fantastic writer who will be honoured to know he’s won this award. Here’s hoping the aptly named Richard Light has finally awoken from the darkness of dreamland to celebrate his success. Read the story.

If you’re not familiar with False Awakening, it’s where the dreamer “wakes up” and goes about his or her normal morning routine: getting dressed, preparing breakfast, and even taking a pee that feels so disturbingly lifelike it can actually wake the dreamer. Sure, I found it a bit boring and unremarkable — but my life is boring and unremarkable.

Bonus read: The silver medallist in Humour, Jon Paul Fiorentino’s “It Seems Like Sex is a Weird Thing That Used to Happen to Me Sometimes” (sub-Terrain), really needs no further introduction.

 

 


Subscribe to our blog to receive our Summer Magazine Reading Series in your inbox each week, and follow us on Twitter (@MagAwards) for updates and magazine news and promotions.

Did you know? You can download and read all of the National Magazine Awards finalists and winners for FREE in our online archive, at magazine-awards.com/archive.

Stay tuned for another Summer Magazine Reading Series edition next Thursday. Click here for previous summer reading editions.

Summer Magazine Reading Series, No. 3: Wrongfully Imprisoned

This week’s edition of our summer reading series brings you three incredible stories of men and women facing unexpected, shocking and painful adversity.

We’ve grouped these under a theme of “Wrongfully Imprisoned” because, well, two of the stories involve innocent Canadians finding themselves in a faraway jail cell (one, an artist, in Cairo; the other, a fisherman, in Spain), while the third is about a woman who found herself battling another sort of imprisonment–of painful immobility–when she shattered her leg during CrossFit.

All of these stories won Gold Medals at the 2015 National Magazine Awards.

 

The Trials of Philip Halliday

Category: One of a Kind
Author: Noah Richler
Magazine: The Walrus

“My friend, we’ve got real problems here,” yelled Fletcher at Berkey as the men on the boats started shooting.

Synopsis: On a choppy winter morning off the coast of Spain, a retired Canadian coast guard vessel, en route to its new private owner, is assaulted by gunfire from a pair of motorized inflatable boats. The word “pirates” is uttered, but as the assailants board the vessel it soon becomes clear that they are Spanish police, the vanguard of a multinational investigation into maritime drug smuggling. The ship’s first mate, a former scallop fisherman from Digby, N.S., named Philip Halliday, is unwittingly caught up in the affair, implicated in the smuggling of 1.5 tons of cocaine, and spends the next four years as an innocent man in a Spanish prison, desperately seeking justice.

National Magazine Award winner Noah Richler takes readers inside the incredible story of the man, the boat and the unfathomable international caper, with illustrations by up-and-coming Toronto artist Min Gyo Chung. Read the story.

A ­Spanish prisoner taught him how to write the tickets to acquire what he needed from the prison store. Another helped him make his first call home, and after that he made a point of keeping some paper in his pocket to jot down anything he might want to tell the family. “I have to try Not to cry around all these Men. Some o them have Ben here a long time,” he wrote in the first of scores of letters home.

Bonus read: The silver medallist in One of a Kind, Michel Arsenault’s story “Un bateau pour l’enfer” (L’actualité), which follows the dangerous maritime migration of African refugees from Libya to Italy and asks what role Canada should play.

 

Save Me From My Workout

Category: Personal Journalism
Author: Lauren McKeon
Magazine: Toronto Life

To an outsider, a CrossFit workout can look nuts. Participants heave 60-pound kettlebells high over their heads in repetitions of 50.

Synopsis: Looking to embrace a new fitness regime that was both trendy and extreme, the author and her partner took up CrossFit, a gym-based gauntlet of heaving, lifting, running, slamming, hoisting, launching, clean-and-jerking…, until one winter morning she landed from a routine box jump and heard and felt her leg shatter; “like the sound of gunfire.”

During her long recovery and rehab, National Magazine Award winner and THIS Magazine editor Lauren McKeon began to investigate more closely the far side of the CrossFit world, charting its origins, talking to its gurus and critics, examining what medical science has to say about such extreme exercise, putting the fitness fad under painful scrutiny while reflecting on her own regret, or lack thereof, at taking up CrossFit. Read the story.

The doctor told me I’d need three months of physical therapy just to relearn how to walk. Trying to digest this news on the way home from the hospital, I confessed out loud to Andrew for the first time: “You know, I knew something bad was going to happen.” And then in a whisper: “But I jumped anyway.”

Bonus read: The silver medallist in Personal Journalism is “Lost in the Barrens” (The Walrus) by the late, iconic Canadian writer Farley Mowat, who won his first National Magazine Award posthumously for a memoir of his travels in England in the 1960s.

 

The Captive

Category: Profiles
Author: Jason McBride
Magazine: Toronto Life

“The whole time I was thinking, ‘We’ll be out in 24 hours.’ Oh, were we ever wrong.”

Synopsis: Two summers ago, Toronto artist, filmmaker and LGBTQ activist John Greyson travelled to Cairo to document the journey of a Palestinian-Canadian doctor, Tarek Loubani, who was headed for Gaza to deliver innovative technical supplies to a hospital. An unlucky combination of timing and Egyptian political unrest landed the two of them in prison, without charge, on suspicion of international terrorism. For 50 days, the two Canadians endured a harrowing ordeal that would have broken their spirits were it not for their steadfast belief in justice and the camaraderie of their fellow inmates, while back home their family and friends rallied international support for their release.

National Magazine Award winner Jason McBride draws an intimate, well-rounded literary portrait of the man and his mission, with photography by NMA winner Nigel Dickson. Read the story.

Greyson’s fellow inmates weren’t criminals, but construction workers, blacksmiths, professors and students, all rounded up at the protest and many in jail for the first time. Though some were grandfathers, he was the oldest person in the cell. They were, as Greyson recounts, unfailingly kind. Right after Greyson was beaten and couldn’t sit up, one man, whom he nicknamed Kettle after he somehow manufactured a crude teakettle out of a couple of nails and bottle caps and some wire, cradled Greyson’s head in his lap.

Bonus read: The Silver Medallist in Profiles is “The Long Journey of Nathan Phelps” (Marcello Di Cintio, Swerve), a portrait of the son of the controversial pastor of the Westboro Baptist Church who made a new life in Calgary.

 


Subscribe to our blog to receive our Summer Magazine Reading Series in your inbox each week, and follow us on Twitter (@MagAwards) for updates and magazine news and promotions.

Did you know? You can download and read all of the National Magazine Awards finalists and winners for FREE in our online archive, at magazine-awards.com/archive.

Stay tuned for another Summer Magazine Reading Series edition next Thursday. Click here for previous summer reading editions.

Summer Magazine Reading Series, No. 1: Teens, Tweens & Toddlers

This summer we’ve pledged to read every winning story from the 2015 National Magazine Awards. Every gold winner. Every silver winner. Because whether you’re a veteran journalist, an aspiring writer, an ardent magazine fan or a casual reader, these stories are important and inspiring.

So let’s take up the challenge together.

Welcome to the 2015 National Magazine Awards summer reading series. Each Thursday for the next two months we’ll post a thematically curated collection of award-winning stories, which were judged best of the best by the NMA jury.

This week’s edition: Teens, Tweens and Toddlers; three stories about the ever-changing world of kid culture and its challenges for parents. All three won Gold Medals at the 2015 National Magazine Awards.

For Kids, By Kids–But Not For Long

Category: Arts & Entertainment
Author: Nicholas Hune-Brown
Magazine: Hazlitt

In a poll conducted by Variety in August, the five most influential celebrities among Americans aged 13-18 were all YouTube stars.

Synopsis: There’s a vast, culturally significant and commercially powerful world out there that adults of the homo sapiens species barely know, probably can’t comprehend and aren’t encouraged to be a part of anyway. And by “out there” we mean the bandwidth-hogging tranche of cyberspace where teens and tweens create, populate and govern a thrilling and meaningful society of popular and celebrity culture in the authentic manner that has come to be a hallmark of the Millennial generation. While on the one hand another arena in a long tradition of safe, adult-free spaces where kids can be kids, the YouTube era has perhaps provided a revolutionary foundation for young people to connect with and celebrate their unique sense of self.

National Magazine Award winner Nicholas Hune-Brown reports from the Buffer Festival, where thousands of young fans and YouTube stars come together. Read the story.

“Celebrity is more like a faraway kind of thing and this is like, you’re in their bedrooms,” 17-year-old Allie Cox explained to me while we waited in line to meet three English YouTubers, including Will Darbyshire, a 21-year-old who just started his YouTube channel earlier this year. Cox considered for a moment. “I mean… that’s kind of freaky. But at the same time you feel like you know them.”

Bonus read: The silver medallist in Arts & Entertainment is Emily Landau‘s “The Wattpad Cult” (Toronto Life), the story of a tech start-up that is revolutionizing the relationship between self-publishers and readers.

Home and Really Far Away

Category: Sports & Recreation
Author: Dan Robson
Magazine: Sportsnet

He lasted just 10 minutes before tapping out, faking a leg injury. His feet were just too cold to play.

Synopsis: It’s a story that seems so quintessentially Canadian it could be a CBC morning-show spot or a Tim Horton’s commercial. But the story of how ten teenage Inuit boys from Whale Cove, Nunavut, became the Inuglak Whalers, dreaming big hockey dreams in a Hudson Bay hamlet, and then travelled more than 2400 kilometres to play their first away games, is far from saccharine. From their first encounter with trees (and tree-climbing) to the anxiety of a co-ed dance, and the coming-of-age realization that even when dreams come true, life unemotionally moves on from the moment, the boys of Whale Cove prove to be heroes not of myth but of modernity.

National Magazine Award winner Dan Robson charts a journey of hope, triumph and despair in this incredible story, with photographs by John Kealey. Read the story.

Tyson sat on the bench looking like he might cry. He’d scored a single goal—not enough to be a superstar. His favourite stick broke, and he was left using a spare. There was an undeniable anxiety that the Whalers just couldn’t match up with kids from northern Ontario. That for all the ceremony, the inevitable truth was that they were just too small and too unstructured to stand a chance.

Bonus read: The silver medallist in Sports & Recreation, Brett Popplewell’s “Long Way Back” (Sportsnet), profiles the career of Canadian jockey Ron Turcotte, winner of the Triple Crown astride Secretariat, the greatest racehorse in history.

Where Do We Put All the Babies?

Category: Service: Family, Health & Personal Finance
Author: Danielle Groen
Magazine: The Grid

Then the hour turns and the frenzy begins: a tornado of refreshed browsers, redialled numbers, and profanity.

Synopsis: Daycare, drop-in programs, preschools, summer camp: Toronto parents are desperate to find the best, most convenient, most affordable placements for their children, and every year it seems the lines are longer and the options are fewer. As more young working families and immigrants are drawn to an already crowded city that can’t seem to keep up with the demand for toddler care, parents and kids alike are growing restless.

National Magazine Award winner Danielle Groen talks with parents, investigates service providers and studies the trends in modern urban childrearing, providing hope and help to young parents as they navigate a complex environment. Read the story.

There has even been a run on that historic saviour of date nights: the teenage babysitter. Sara Ferguson, who lives at Danforth and Greenwood, called seven teens trying to find a Thursday sitter for her two children, to no avail. “It’s a good racket to be in right now,” she says, joking—at least, mostly joking—that she’s considered taking it up herself.

Bonus read: The silver medallist in this category, Dan Bortolotti’s “Train Your Investing Brain” (MoneySense), examines the cognitive biases that inhibit our ability to make sound financial decisions, and how we can overcome them.


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Did you know? You can download and read all of the National Magazine Awards finalists and winners for FREE in our online archive, at magazine-awards.com/archive.

Stay tuned for another Summer Magazine Reading Series edition next Thursday.

Off the Page, with Gracia Lam and the Spot Illustration

Gracia Lam, by Gracia Lam.
Gracia Lam, by Gracia Lam.

Off the Page is a regular interview series produced by the National Magazine Awards Foundation. Today we’re chatting with illustrator Gracia Lam, whose work has been published in Maisonneuve, The Walrus, More, Corporate Knights, The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Atlantic and others. At last year’s National Magazine Awards, Gracia won both the gold and silver awards for Spot Illustration for two pieces of work published in Maisonneuve, the first illustrator ever to achieve that distinction.

NMAF: The spot illustration holds a special place in the makeup of a magazine. Diminutive, often playful, sometimes underrated in comparison to larger elements of artwork. What do you think makes spot illustration such a fundamental component of a magazine story? 

Gracia Lam

Gracia Lam: I think that spot illustrations are a splash of colour within a sea of text, constructing direction or a break for the reader’s eye. Within a confined space, it is carefully conceived to enhance the content of an article. It assists in the creation of tone and mood, and is used purposefully to amplify a reader’s senses and experience.

NMAF: You achieved an unprecedented feat at last year’s National Magazine Awards, winning both the Gold and Silver medals in Spot Illustration for two different works published in Maisonneuve. The jury awarded gold to your spot illustration accompanying a story called “The Elite Yellow Peril,” which is a very evocative work. What was your creative vision for this piece, and was it created specifically for the text or did you have a broader idea in mind when you created it?

Gracia: I often describe my two-dimensional pieces of illustrations as a short film. In film, the story is narrated through multiple frames and over a time period; my illustrations reveal the climax of a story in one frame.

My vision for the “The Elite Yellow Peril” was to create a connection with the viewer that is immediate and impactful. To achieve this, I created an illustration with imageries and representations as closely related to the text as possible.

NMAF: The article that featured your Silver winning spot, “The Tar-Sands Trap” dealt with the highly controversial, nationally debated topic of the Keystone XL pipeline. As a spot illustrator, how does your level of awareness on the associated story influence your creative process? Before you begin working on an illustration, how does your familiarity with the topic guide your conceptualization process?

Gracia: When working on any assignment, I allow the story to directly inform my creative process from conceptualizing initial sketches to final colourization. During the first read through of the assignment, I take notes and highlight bits and pieces of writing that round up the theme.

For “The Tar-Sands Trap” article, I needed to familiarize myself with specific elements of the story such as its location, the visualization of its landscape and environment, and the pipeline.

When the Art Director gives me complete freedom, I approach the conceptualization process with how I think the mood should be represented—which is to portray the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline as a danger to the community.

NMAF: Your work has appeared in a large number of magazines, including many National Magazine Award-winning publications. Is there a “Gracia Lam” style that is boldly consistent throughout your work in various publications? And what is the process of adapting that style to align with the vision of the art director or of the textual part of the story?

Gracia: My visual language is created using mixed media, combining hand painted and drawn elements along with digital execution. I love to delight the audience with wit by reimagining everyday objects, mundane environments, and familiar situations with visual puns.

The process of adapting that style is mainly through practice. I am grateful that throughout my career I have been given many opportunities on various topics and stories from business and finance articles to science and health stories. These challenges allow me to identify my strengths and edit out my weaknesses, so each project contributes to the gradual tightening and refining of my work and portfolio.

NMAF: You swept the Spot Illustration category at last year’s gala, taking home both the Gold and Silver awards. Before that, you had been nominated three times since 2010. Winning both top spots within a single category is no small feat. Can you describe the difference in transitioning from nominee to two-time winner? What effect have the awards had on your career since last year’s ceremony?

Gracia: I was absolutely blown away by last year’s awards and want to thank the judges who recognized my work. I have always been excited to be nominated alongside many known names in the field—many of which are my peers and idols. The transition from nominee to winner is humbling because winning any award from the NMAs had been a goal. Since the awards last year, I have been working proficiently to improve on each piece to be on top of my own game.

Gracia Lam is a National Magazine Award-winning illustrator, born in Hong Kong and raised in Toronto. She likes to reinvent everyday objects and mundane environments.. To view more of her work visit GraciaLam.com

Special thanks to Leah Jensen for conducting this interview with Gracia Lam. To view more nominated and winning work, visit the National Magazine Awards online archive at magazine-awards.com/archive.

Check out more of our Off the Page interviews with National Magazine Award winners, including illustrators Byron Eggenschwiler, Roxanna Bikadoroff, Jillian Tamaki and Selena Wong.

The nominees for this year’s National Magazine Awards will be announced right here on the NMA blog on May 4. This year’s awards gala is June 5 at the Arcadian Court in Toronto.