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.


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.

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. 

Off the Page, with Judith Pereira & Report on Business Magazine

Off the Page is a regular interview series produced by the National Magazine Awards Foundation. Today we chat with Judith Pereira, senior editor of Report on Business magazine, winner of 5 National Magazine Awards last year and one of Canada’s leading business and investigative publications.

NMAF: It probably isn’t surprising to your readers that Report on Business is a juggernaut of magazine journalism (gold medals for Business journalism at six of the last eight National Magazine Awards; also gold medals for Investigative ReportingScience, Technology & the Environment and Magazine Covers, to name just a few). How would you describe the mandate of ROB to its readers, and its commitment to editorial excellence?

Judith: Our mandate at Report on Business magazine is simple: We engage the best journalistic talent in the business to report on the successes and failures, the breakthroughs and breakdowns of the most intriguing players in Canadian business at home and around the world.

Our experienced team of writers, photographers, illustrators, editors and designers focus on three main audiences: firstly, business leaders across the country—that’s why you’ll find a copy of Report on Business magazine in almost every executive office in Canada; secondly, the new-generation superstars who love an aspirational read; and finally, all those who are interested in the people, trends and brands that shape the way we work and live—as part of The Globe and Mail, we are attached to a well-respected brand that can open doors to a general-interest audience.

"Where Asbestos is just a fact of life" by Stephanie Nolen and John Gray, Report on Business, September 2011. Nominated for a record 5 National Magazine Awards, winning 3.
“Where Asbestos is just a fact of life” by Stephanie Nolen and John Gray, Report on Business, September 2011. Nominated for a record 5 National Magazine Awards, winning 2.

NMAF: How does winning a National Magazine Award help raise the profile of the magazine, with respect to your readers, your journalists or your bottom line?

Judith: When Report on Business wins awards, it shows that the magazine is one of the best, if not the best, in its field of business journalism. This kind of acknowledgement is a big boost for the sales team when they explain to advertisers why Report on Business magazine is a good buy.

Winning magazine awards in a variety of fields also gives the magazine a cachet among award-winning journalists, who want to see their pieces published in a respected publication that consistently garners nominations not just in business, but also in categories like science and technology, humour, arts and more. Similarly, Report on Business magazine attracts top photographers from around the world—names like Neil Wilder, Chris Buck and Matthu Placek—because our design and photography awards signal that we take those areas seriously.

"The Smartest Guys on the Planet" by Eric Reguly, Report on Business, December 2013. Nominated for 3 National Magazine Awards.
“The Smartest Guys on the Planet” by Eric Reguly, Report on Business, December 2013. Nominated for 3 National Magazine Awards, winning 1.

NMAF: Are there any particular ROB stories in the past couple of years that you’ve been especially proud to see recognized by the National Magazine Awards judges, and why? 

Judith: We were really pleased to see Greg McArthur and Graeme Smith get recognized for their investigative work on SNC-Lavalin [“Building with the Brigadier”; Gold Medals in Investigative Reporting and Business, Silver Medal in Politics & Public Interest, 2012]. Staffer Ted Mumford also deserves credit for his editing of it. They spent a lot of time and energy getting to the bottom of that story, and it paid off.

Eric Reguly’s piece about the insurance industry’s decision to tackle climate change  [“The smartest guys on the planet“; Silver Medal in Politics & Public Interest, 2013] was a good example of the magazine’s determination to cover important international stories even if they aren’t specifically Canadian.

We were also thrilled to receive recognition for our coverage of asbestos—a joint effort between John Gray in Canada, Stephanie Nolen in India and photographer Louie Palu [“Where Asbestos is just a fact of life“; Gold Medal, Business, Silver Medal, Politics & Public Interest, 2011]. Our magazine is one of few Canadian publications still covering international stories with any depth, and these nominations show that we need to continue putting them out there.

Our Larry Fink cover, photographed in black and white by Anya Chibis, was one of our most unusual covers. Most top executives balk at the idea of getting playful in front of the camera, and Fink, who runs a $3.7-trillion fund, is no different. But the talented Chibis pulled off what is arguably one of our best covers of all time. The photograph of Fink crossing a Toronto street as he gestures to himself was an off-the-cuff moment that Chibis captured and it not only ended up on the cover–and winning the National Magazine Awards for Magazine Covers and Portrait Photography–but also graced Fink’s 50th birthday cake.

[Editor’s Note: Read our previous interview with ROB Art Director Domenic Macri about the Larry Fink cover.]

To discover more about Report on Business and many other great Canadian magazines, browse the NMA Archive for full-text articles and images of nominated and winning work from past years.

Read more Off the Page interview with National Magazine Award-winning editors, writers, illustrators, photographers and art directors.

The final deadline to enter this year’s National Magazine Awards is Monday, January 19. Enter online at magazine-awards.com.

Update: An earlier version of this post incorrectly identified the awards and year of the story “Where Asbestos is just a fact of life.” The post has been updated.]

En marge, avec Nicolas Langelier

Nicolas Langelier (Photographe : Maxime Leduc); Nouveau Projet numéro 6
Nicolas Langelier (Photographe : Maxime Leduc) ; Nouveau Projet numéro 6

Nicolas Langelier, cofondateur, éditeur et rédacteur en chef de Nouveau Projet, a accepté de répondre aux questions de la Fondation dans le cadre de notre série d’entretiens « En marge ». Nouveau Projet s’est illustré lors de la dernière édition des Prix en décrochant plusieurs mentions honorables, en plus d’être nommé finaliste au titre le plus convoité, Magazine de l’année.

FNPMC : Les membres du jury ont encensé le côté audacieux et original de Nouveau Projet, tout en soulignant la qualité exceptionnelle de la direction artistique et du design. Quelle fut votre réaction lorsque vous avez appris la mise en nomination de Nouveau Projet au titre de Magazine de l’année?

Nicolas Ç’a été à la fois une grande surprise et une immense fierté. Pour un petit magazine indépendant qui compte seulement deux années d’existence, d’être finaliste au titre de Magazine de l’année, c’est un honneur inespéré.

Je me souviens aussi d’avoir ressenti une très grande reconnaissance envers les Prix du magazine canadien, pour arriver ainsi à prendre en compte des publications aux ressources et clientèles aussi diverses.

FNPMC : À quels facteurs attribuez-vous le succès remarquable que connait Nouveau Projet?

Nicolas : Je pense qu’il y a d’abord notre obsession pour la qualité, dans tout ce que nous faisons, du choix de nos sujets jusqu’à notre présence sur les réseaux sociaux. Nos lecteurs ressentent ce souci constant, et considèrent que c’est quelque chose pour lequel ils sont prêts à payer.

Et puis il me semble que nous venons combler un vide qui s’est créé dans le paysage médiatique. Avec la tendance générale vers des textes plus courts, des sujets plus sensationnalistes, du travail fait plus rapidement, s’est libérée une place pour des gens offrant justement une contre-tendance à tout ça.

Beaucoup de nos lecteurs nous disent que nous leur faisons du bien, et je pense que c’est parce que nous offrons quelque chose que beaucoup de publications considèrent que les lecteurs ne veulent pas, ou ne veulent plus.

« Faux-self mon amour » par Fanny Britt (Nouveau Projet) ; Médaille d'or, Journalisme personnel, 2012
Faux-self mon amour, par Fanny Britt (Nouveau Projet) ; Médaille d’or, Journalisme personnel, 2012

FNPMC : L’excellence de votre travail vous a valu plusieurs mentions honorables aux Prix du magazine canadien. Quelle incidence cela a-t-il eue sur votre carrière et sur le rayonnement de Nouveau Projet?

Nicolas : C’est certainement quelque chose qui a eu un impact positif pour nous. Peut-être plus au niveau de notre perception par les autres membres de l’industrie que par le public comme tel, parce que ce dernier (au Québec du moins) ne les connait pas nécessairement beaucoup—mais cette reconnaissance de nos pairs, des annonceurs et des collaborateurs actuels et futurs a une grande valeur pour nous.

Et j’ose aussi croire que cela a permis à Nouveau Projet de commencer à avoir une certaine visibilité au Canada anglais, ce qui est important.

FNPMC : Vous avez contribué à de nombreuses publications québécoises. Que fait la singularité des magazines québécois et canadiens, selon vous? En quoi se distinguent-ils par rapport à d’autres publications internationales?

Nicolas : C’est déjà un exploit d’arriver à survivre dans un marché aussi petit, qui pourrait être envahi par les publications étrangères. Je pense que ça en dit long sur la persévérance et le courage des gens qui composent cette industrie. D’arriver à produire des choses de grande qualité dans des conditions aussi difficiles, c’est quelque chose dont on peut être fiers.

« Solstice +20 par Nicolas Langelier (Nouveau Projet) ; Mention honourable, Essais, 2013
Solstice +20 par Nicolas Langelier (Nouveau Projet) ; Mention honourable, Essais, 2013

FNPMC : Vous participez fréquemment aux Prix du magazine canadien, et êtes membre de notre jury bénévole. Alors que vous étiez président de l’Association des journalistes indépendants, vous avez créé les Grands Prix du journalisme indépendant. En quels termes qualifieriez-vous le rôle essentiel que jouent les programmes de prix?

Nicolas : Ils sont essentiels. Bien sûr, ils ne sont pas parfaits, chacun a ses petits défauts, ses angles morts, ses chouchous. Mais d’avoir ce genre d’institutions qui valorisent l’excellence et tirent l’ensemble d’une industrie vers le haut, ça me semble absolument nécessaire. C’est vrai pour les éleveurs de vaches, les architectes ou les artisans qui fabriquent des magazines: nous avons besoin de ces incitatifs à nous comparer aux plus talentueux et rigoureux de notre industrie, et à sortir le meilleur de nous-mêmes.

FNPMC : Votre maison d’édition, Atelier 10, a récemment lancé la collection « Pièces ». Quel avenir souhaitez-vous pour Atelier 10 et pour vos publications? Quels sont vos objectifs à plus long terme?

Nicolas : J’ai envie que nous devenions une référence pour tout ce qui est culture et idées au Québec—et dans le reste de la francophonie, éventuellement. Publier les meilleurs auteurs et artistes visuels, et les faire découvrir à nos lecteurs. Produire différents types de publications, mais toujours avec une grande rigueur, et un souci constant des moindres détails.

Je crois encore beaucoup au papier, en tant que médium pour transmettre des idées, des informations, des valeurs, et j’ai envie de prouver qu’ils ont tort, tous ceux qui prédisent la mort de l’imprimé. Cela ne veut pas dire que nous négligeons le numérique pour autant: tout ce que nous faisons est aussi disponible en version numérique. Mais le papier a une place spéciale dans mon cœur, et je pense que c’est le cas aussi pour la majorité du public. Aussi bien en profiter!

Sinon, ultimement, je souhaite que notre travail ait un impact positif au niveau culturel, social, intellectuel. Si nous faisons tout cela, malgré les obstacles et les conditions difficiles, c’est parce que nous croyons que des changements sont nécessaires, dans notre société, et nous croyons aussi que les médias continuent d’avoir un rôle primordial à jouer pour faire avancer les choses, dans tous les domaines. Oui, les dernières 15 années ont fait mal à notre industrie, mais c’est à nous de trouver les manières de continuer à jouer notre rôle, en dépit de tout ça. Ce serait extrêmement dommage pour l’humanité, si un simple changement de contexte économique la privait de ce moteur essentiel que sont les médias de qualité.

Nouveau Projet numéro 3, direction artistique par Jean-François Proulx. Mention honourable, direction artistique de l'ensemble d'un numéro, 2013.
Nouveau Projet numéro 3, direction artistique par Jean-François Proulx. Mention honourable, direction artistique de l’ensemble d’un numéro, 2013.

Découvrir plus sur le magazine Nouveau Projet au nouveauprojet.com et sur Twitter @nouveau_project

Textes signés par Nicolas Langelier, à lire dans les archives de la Fondation :

Solstice +20, Nouveau Projet. Catégorie Essais, 2013
Le sida a 30 ans, ELLE Québec, coécrit avec Martina Djogo. Catégorie Société, 2011
De l’utilisation du mot pute par la jeune femme moderne, L’actualité. Catégorie Essais, 2007

« En Marge » : Lire d’autres entretiens

Farewell, Descant

Descant, the arts and literary quarterly published independently in Toronto since 1970, has announced that its forthcoming 167th issue, Vol. 45, No. 4, Winter 2014, will be its last.

Editor-in-chief Karen Mulhallen posted a farewell note on the magazine’s website, noting that after painstaking efforts to find alternative funding and deliberations among staff and funders, “we have jointly decided that Descant magazine in its present form is no longer sustainable.”

Grants have been in decline for more than five years, although other revenues such as sales and subscriptions have held steady or increased. We have cut costs everywhere we could, but many expenses over which we have no control have continued to spiral up.

Descant has won 6 National Magazine Awards since 1980 for its fiction, poetry and essays, most recently Adam Lindsay Honsinger‘s short story “Silence” in 2009.

What began as a mimeograph forty-four years ago evolved into a robust and stimulating literary magazine that has published works by Anne Michaels, Timothy Findley, Evelyn Lau, Margaret Atwood, Isabel Allende, Tom McGuane, Jane Urquhart, Dennis Lee, Michael Ondaatje and R. Murray Schafer, among many others. Lately its production office has been the historic George Brown building at the corner of Baldwin and Beverly Streets.

Browse through the back issues of Descant for a more complete perspective on what the magazine has published.

From the National Magazine Awards online archive:
Up the Amazon–1959; Mexico–1960” by P.K. Page (Descant), Honourable Mention, Poetry, 2005
Fudge” by Alex Pugsley (Descant), Honourable Mention, Fiction, 2010

Off the Page, with Arno Kopecky

Arno Kopckey (Photo by Jay Devery)
Arno Kopecky (Photo by Jay Devery)

Off the Page is back. In the latest installment of our popular interview series, we chat with National Magazine Award finalist and freelance writer Arno Kopecky, author of The Oilman and the Sea, shortlisted for this year’s Governor General’s Literary Awards.

NMAF: You’re an intrepid magazine journalist. We’ve read your reporting from Iceland and Columbia and others in The Walrus, from Beaver Lake in Alberta Views, and recently from the British Columbia coast in the Reader’s Digest story “The $273 Billion Question,” for which you were a finalist for a National Magazine Award this past spring. How did you get started on this journey to a freelance magazine writing career, and what do you find personally or professionally rewarding about it?

Arno: Intrepid? Thanks, but groping in the dark is usually how it feels. I studied creative writing at the University of Victoria, and when I graduated in 2002 I realized I had no idea how the world worked, let alone how to write about it; so, on Bertrand Russell’s advice, I travelled. Moved to Spain and got a job teaching English, and after two years I’d learned (barely) enough Spanish to land a reporting internship in Oaxaca, Mexico. A string of magazine and newspaper internships followed: New York, Toronto, Nairobi. I was basically a professional intern for a few years. Somewhere along the way I started selling the odd story to various publications, and before long I was too old to be an intern, but the writing and travelling continued.

The thing I love about my “job” is what I think many journalists love, whether they travel or not: Writing gives us an excuse to meet interesting people doing interesting things. We get to join the conversation.

NMAF: The RD feature story appears to have led to an even larger project, your latest book The Oilman and the Sea (Douglas & McIntyre), which won the 2014 Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction and is shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award. Was there momentum from your fascinating voyage up the BC coastline to the magazine article to the book, and how did your writing journey proceed?

Arno: Actually it was the other way round: the book contract came first. I pitched the idea to my then-editor at Douglas & McIntyre about two days after my friend Ilja Herb (whose photographs are in the magazine story and book) bought a 41-foot sailboat. We wanted to see the oil tanker routes proposed by Northern Gateway for ourselves, and it was clear from the beginning that the trip would generate tens of thousands of words, if only we could find a home for them. Douglas & McIntyre signed on early and gave us the reason we needed to pursue the expedition.

But Reader’s Digest signed on very quickly as well, and was hugely supportive from the outset. My editor there fought to get me real estate for one of the longest stories that magazine has published in recent history.

Two weeks after I got home from the sailing trip, D&M went bankrupt. Suddenly that Reader’s Digest feature was the only thing I had going for me. Thankfully, Harbour Publishing swept in to the rescue and resuscitated D&M, so that by the time my RD feature was on the stands I had a book contract once again. All I had to do was… write a book.

oilman-sea

NMAF: Your approach as a writer to the complex debate about the Northern Gateway pipeline could be characterized by journalistic curiosity, a sense of adventure (to say the least) and perhaps a sense of responsibility, at least with respect to seeking out grassroots perspectives in places such as Bella Bella, Kitimat and others. Was there a particular place or event in the evolving process that made you think, This is the heart of the story, this will grab the reader’s (and editor’s) attention?

Arno: The Great Bear Rainforest–as the north and central coast of British Columbia is known– was itself the thing that captivated me from the outset. In some ways it’s the story’s central character. Here’s this Switzerland-sized labyrinth of whale-jammed fjords and evergreen islands on BC’s north and central coast, the biggest chunk of temperate coastal rainforest left on earth, that also happens to be one of the oldest continually inhabited regions on the planet–Heiltsuk, Haisla, Haida, Gitga’at and many other coastal First Nations have called this place home since the last ice age. I’m not sure how many Canadians are aware of its existence. The fact that oil tankers are now poised to navigate through those waters for the first time was, in some ways, just an excuse to talk about this teeming, volatile, amphibious zone, the likes of which happen not to exist anywhere else on the planet.

NMAF: What is the significance to you of being nominated for or winning awards for your work, whether National Magazine Awards or others? Is there (or do you foresee) a measurable impact on your career?

Arno: I heard a debate on CBC a while back as to whether there weren’t too many awards in Canada’s literary scene these days; that may well be true, but it doesn’t feel so when you get a nomination yourself. It’s become a cliché, how hard it is to make a living at writing, and anyone who wants to give writers a few bucks and some attention-grabbing praise has my everlasting gratitude.

That said, it’s hard to measure what the impact is on your career. Doors crack open, but you still have to push through; money comes, and then it goes. I guess for me personally, insecure hack that I am, the psychological boost that comes with an award is its most lasting aspect. Recognition helps put the self-doubting demons to rest, and it can be called on to subdue them when they inevitably reappear.

Arno Kopecky is the author of The Oilman and the Sea, which is nominated for a Governor General’s Literary Award (to be announced next Tuesday, November 18) and won the 2014 Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction. He is also the author of The Devil’s Curve: A Journey into Power and Profit at the Amazon’s EdgeFollow him on Twitter @arno_kopecky.

See also:
NMA winners headline shortlists for GGs, Writer’s Trust, Giller Prize
New book by Arno Kopecky investigates anti-mining activism
More Off the Page interviews with NMA winners

From the National Magazine Awards archive:
The $273 Billion Question, by Arno Kopecky
Reader’s Digest, Honourable Mention, Science, Technology & Environment, 2013

The Only Risk is Wanting to Stay, by Arno Kopecky
The Walrus, Honourable Mention, Investigative Reporting, 2011