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

Watch: 4 National Magazine Award-winning editors talk about Canadian Magazines

Last Thursday on TVO’s The Agenda with Steve Paikin, four prominent Canadian magazine editors appeared together in conversation about the challenges and opportunities of magazine publishing and engaging readers in a digital age and in a crowded, shifting marketplace. (SPOILER ALERT: The answer to the digital-age question–“Will there still be print magazines in 10 years?”–is yes!)
  • Haley Cullingham, editor-in-chief of Maisonneuve
  • Sarah Fulford, editor-in-chief of Toronto Life
  • Jonathan Kay, editor-in-chief of The Walrus
  • Steve Maich, senior vice-president & general manager of Rogers Publishing and founding editor of Sportsnet
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A few annotations:

When host Steve Paikin introduces everyone with their associated magazine, describing each as having won “Best Canadian Magazine of…” he is referring to the National Magazine Award for Magazine of the Year (or, in the case of Sportsnet, Tablet Magazine of the Year).

Toronto Life: Magazine of the Year 2007 (and 1985 & 1989)
Maisonneuve: Magazine of the Year 2011 (and 2004)
The Walrus: Magazine of the Year 2006
Sportsnet: Tablet Magazine of the Year 2013

Steve Maich is a member of the board of directors of the National Magazine Awards Foundation.

Important dates for the 2014 National Magazine Awards

At the National Magazine Awards Foundation we are getting very excited about the upcoming year, our 38th recognizing and rewarding the very best in Canadian magazines. We’ll be announcing our call for entries on December 1. Here are the important dates for the coming year:

Dec 1: Call for Entries
Jan 5: Small Magazine Rebate Deadline
Jan 11: Early Bird Submissions Deadline
Jan 19: Final Submissions Deadline
May 4: Nominations Announcement
Jun 5: 38th National Magazine Awards Gala
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As always, there are many ways to keep current with news and updates from the National Magazine Awards: sign up for our e-newsletter; follow us on Twitter @MagAwards and Facebook; and come back and visit this blog often.
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Starting next week, you can submit your entries to the National Magazine Awards at magazine-awards.com.

New Edmonton city mag The Yards launches in December

A brand-new “hyperlocal” city magazine is coming to Edmonton readers next week. The Yards, edited by National Magazine Award-winning writer Omar Mouallem, promises to be a “quarterly glossy/newsprint publication [that] focuses on cultural, planning and social issues in central Edmonton, particularly in Downtown and Oliver, two neighbourhoods experiencing enormous growth over the decade.” The magazine’s name is a tribute to the rail yards which pass through those two dynamic neighbourhoods.

Said Mouallem via press release:

“Newspapers and newsrooms are shrinking, but there’s still hunger for local news—especially in a city growing as steadily as Edmonton. Nowhere is this excitement and uncertainty more visible than in the city’s core. So as a hyperlocal magazine we can home in on that growth, in on our backyards, and we can understand it and access it better than anyone else.”

The first issue will launch next week in a partnership between the Central Edmonton News Society and the Oliver and Downtown Edmonton Community Leagues. In addition to Mouallem as editor, the staff includes Vikki Wiercinski as designer and the first issue will include contributions from Jennifer Cockrall-King, Tim Querengesser, Tyler Biard, Studio Tipi and Scott McKeen.

Find out more at theyardsyeg.ca.

The call for entries for the 2014 National Magazine Awards is coming on December 1.

In Memory of Don Obe

Don Obe. Photo by John Reeves

Update: A memorial for Don Obe will be held on Friday, November 21, in the East Common Room of Hart House at the University of Toronto, from 5:30-8:00pm. All are welcome.

With great sadness and yet also inspired by the outpouring of remarkable tributes to a titan of Canadian magazine journalism, we remember the life and career of Don Obe, who passed away Friday. A former recipient of the NMAF’s Foundation Award for Outstanding Achievement (1993) for his remarkable contribution to the Canadian magazine industry as an editor, writer, teacher and mentor, Don was beloved by countless colleagues and students at Ryerson University where he oversaw the j-school program and the Ryerson Review of Journalism.

Before joining the faculty of Ryerson, where he taught many of Canada’s brightest journalists, Don was associate editor at Maclean’s and editor-in-chief of The Canadian and Toronto Life. In 1983 he became the chair of Ryerson’s journalism program where he founded the RRJ in 1984 and established it as Canada’s premier student magazine. He also won a National Magazine Award for Religious Journalism in 1982 for his story “The Dissident Rabbi” (Toronto Life). From 1989-1999 he was a resident editor of Creative Nonfiction at the Banff Centre for the Arts. He retired from Ryerson in 2001 but remained a mentor and inspiration to many.

Don was one of the great characters of modern Canadian journalism. He could be funny, biting, sweet, profane, hard-assed and kind, sometimes simultaneously. He was, for decades, the kind of journalist about which movies are made: hard-drinking and irascible with a soft heart. He was an important mentor of mine, as a writer, editor and, especially, as a teacher. But do you know what really matters? I owe everything I know about the soul of journalism to him.
David Hayes, 2-time NMA winner and current NMAF board member

I met Don Obe in 1974. Today, I was with him shortly before his death at 78. In the intervening 40 years he had a substantial impact on journalism–particularly magazine journalism–in this country. I join many of his former students at Ryerson, his writers at the Banff nonfiction program and his colleagues in the business in remembering Don as the trailblazer he was.
Lynn Cunningham, 2-time NMA winner and former recipient of the Foundation Award for Outstanding Achievement

I still hear him in my head: “Magazine writing is an intellectual exercise: it involves a lot more thinking than anything else”; “If you can’t write better than other people talk, you’re in the wrong business”; “Style at the expense of clarity is a waste of words.” But quoting his advice does nothing to capture his passion for journalism and writing, especially narrative non-fiction, or his love of sharing that passion.
Tim Falconer, NMA winner and instructor on the RRJ

NMAF-25-coverDon was also the editor of the National Magazine Awards 25th anniversary anthology in 2002.

Our thoughts are with Don’s family and friends, and the National Magazine Awards Foundation is honoured to be among those who have been touched by and celebrate Don’s life and achievements, and the impact he made on Canadian magazine journalists.

The Ryerson School of Journalism has announced that a memorial for Don Obe will be held on Friday, November 21 in the East Common Room of Hart House at the University of Toronto, from 5:30-8:00pm. All are welcome.

Round-Up of November Magazine Events

Happy Hallowe’en from the National Magazine Awards. Don’t forget to watch out for little ghouls and goblins and kids dressed up as magazines on the streets tonight. And sleep an extra hour on Sunday. Here’s a look at what’s on tap in Canadian magazines for the month of November.

Saturday, November 1 (Toronto) & November 8 (Vancouver)
CANZINE, presented by Broken Pencil, Saturday, November 1 in Toronto and November 8 in Vancouver, Canada’s annual Zine festival.

Tuesday, November 4, Toronto
OCCUPY NOW, presented by This Magazine and Rabble.ca, a panel discussion about the Occupy Movement, three years on.

Thursday, November 6, Toronto
State of the Magazine Nation, a one-day event presented by Magazines Canada on the latest innovations in Canadian magazine publishing.

Friday, November 14, Toronto
Shamie Awards, Shameless magazine’s 10th anniversary celebration and presentation of the Shamie Awards, hosted by comedienne Catherine McCormick

Wednesday, November 19, Toronto
Return of the lecture series, “What We Talk About,” presented by Little Brother magazine. 8pm at the Drake Hotel. Cost of admission gets you a copy of the latest issue.

Thursday, November 20, Toronto
Canadian Online Publishing Awards: 5pm at The Phoenix. Recognizing excellence in online publishing, including by consumer and trade magazines.

Friday, November 21, Toronto
Grand opening of the Spacing Store. 401 Richmond Street.

Saturday, November 22, Toronto
Meet the Presses Indie Literary Market, featuring more than 30 small, independent Canadian magazine and book publishers. At the Tranzac in the Annex, all day.

Tuesday, November 25, Toronto
The Walrus Talks Philanthropy, a panel discussion event of The Walrus Foundation on the state of philanthropy in Canada, also featuring music by Molly Johnson, Tom Jackson & more.

Tuesday, November 25, Toronto
Ryerson Review of Journalism fundraiser to support the Spring 2015 issue of Canada’s leading j-school magazine. At the Supermarket in Kensington Market.

December 1, Nationwide
Call for Entries for the 2014 National Magazine Awards.

Did we miss one? Leave a comment or tell us on Twitter @MagAwards.

Jonathan Kay named new Editor-in-Chief of The Walrus

The Globe and Mail reported today that Jonathan Kay, previously the managing editor of letters, issues and comments at the National Post, has been hired to the top editorial post at The Walrus magazine.

Shelley Ambrose, Walrus co-publisher and Walrus Foundation executive director, made the announcement in Toronto Wednesday afternoon. Kay, 46, succeeds John Macfarlane, 72, at the general interest magazine that, since its founding in fall 2003, has been the most-decorated periodical at the annual National Magazine Awards.

The Walrus has won 113 National Magazine Awards (72 Gold, 41 Silver) since its founding in 2003, under the editorships of David Berlin, Ken Alexander and John Macfarlane. This past June, it won 7 Gold and 6 Silver National Magazine Awards, including the award for Best Single Issue for its tenth anniversary edition.