Summer Magazine Reading Series, No. 2: Alberta Bound, Alberta Bound

It’s good to be / Alberta Bound. Our summer reading series continues this week with a special focus on the Province of Alberta, land of “the strong and the free”; of turquoise mountain lakes, vast fertile prairies, and some of Canada’s finest magazines.

This past spring our friends at the Alberta Magazine Publishers Association (AMPA) presented the 2015 Alberta Magazine Awards, recognizing excellence in the content and design of publications based in the province. Among the winners were Alberta Views, Avenue, Glass Buffalo, New Trail, Swerve, Up! Magazine, and more.

You can read the complete articles of all finalists and winners on the AMPA site. A few suggestions:

Game Changer” by Arno Kopecky (Alberta Views)
Winner of the award for Best Alberta Story, this piece by former National Magazine Award finalist Arno Kopecky examines a legal action by the Beaver Lake Cree Nation against the Province of Alberta and the oil industry, exploring the potential of the lawsuit to challenge existing land-rights issues between First Nations and the energy industry.

Arno Kopecky is an environmental journalist and author based in Vancouver. His first book, The Devil’s Curve, a literary travelogue based on his year-long journey through Peru and Colombia, made Amazon’s top-100 list for 2012. His second book, The Oil Man And The Sea, chronicles Kopecky’s sailing expedition into British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest, a legendary wilderness with the knife of Big Oil at its throat.

Bonus read: The silver award in Best Alberta Story went to “The Future and the Hipster” (Swerve) by Jeremy Klaszus, former winner of the National Magazine Award for Best New Magazine Writer (2006).

Children of a Lesser Santa” by Omar Mouallem (Swerve)
Winner of the award for Best Essay, this piece by former NMA winner Omar Mouallem is a witty and endearing chronicle of the first Christmas “celebrated” by a Muslim-Canadian family in northern Alberta.

“While most Canadian children probably encounter Santa Claus within the first year of their lives— at a parade, in a mall or in their living room—I was four. My mom, perhaps noticing my sense of exclusion, or to better integrate into her adopted country, took me to the town library where families lined up to snap a photo of their children in the jolly man’s lap. What could go wrong?”

Bonus read: In the AMA Profiles category, the gold award went Marcello di Cintio for “The Long Journey of Nathan Phelps” (Swerve), which later won the silver National Magazine Award in the same category.

A Tale of Two Forms” by Peter Takach (Glass Buffalo)
Winner of the  award for Emerging Writer, this creative and poignant homage to the Dickensian epic reflects on the transitional and perhaps ephemeral nature of the novel in the digital age. The award jury noted: “As though trapped in a wacky pinball machine, A Tale of Two Forms kept punting and zapping me back and forth with its fresh ideas, literary references, form and imagery. Peter Takach’s work underlines how important it is to sometimes suspend reason and just let the words wash over you.”

Bonus read: In the AMA Poetry category, the silver award went to Erika Luckert for her work “Frog Lake” in Glass Buffalo, which was also nominated for a National Magazine Award.

To read these and all of the finalists and winners from the 2015 Alberta Magazine Awards, visit albertamagazines.com/awards and click on the section for “2015 Showcase Awards Finalists.”

Related posts:
Avenue Edmonton, Swerve, Omar Mouallem among big winners at Alberta Magazine Awards
Off the Page: An interview with Arno Kopecky
Off the Page: An interview with Jeremy Klaszus


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.

Image via WikiCommons.

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.

The 36th National Magazine Awards Gold Book

Make your summer reading the National Magazine Awards digital Gold Book. More than forty magazine stories and visual spreads representing the Gold winners from the 36th annual National Magazine Awards, available FREE for your computer or mobile device.

Including National Magazine Award-winning work by these Canadian literary and visual artists:

Caroline Adderson, Dave Cameron, Karen Connelly, Craig Davidson, Sierra Skye Gemma, Jessica Johnson, Tom Jokinen, Peter Ash Lee, Angus Rowe MacPherson, Greg McArthur, Leah McLaren, Conor Mihell, Jonathan Montpetit, Alison Motluk, Mark Peckmezian, Graeme Smith, Emma Teitel, Chris Turner, Jeff Warren, Sam Weber and more!

With stories from Canada’s best magazines, including Adbusters, Avenue, Azure, Canada’s History, Canadian Notes & Queries, Eighteen Bridges, Explore, Geist, Maclean’s, Maisonneuve, Reader’s Digest, Report on Business, Sportsnet, The Feathertale Review, The Grid, The New Quarterly, The Walrus, Toronto Life and more!

Congratulations to all of this year’s National Magazine Award winners, and happy summer reading to all!

Summer Reading Series X: One-of-a-Kind Stories

Sometime on Saturday the Earth’s equatorial plane will appear to tilt away from the sun and welcome its rays more southward, signaling the autumnal equinox for those of us in the northern hemisphere.

Which means the summer of our Reading Series is about to end. We close with a National Magazine Award category known as One-of-a-Kind, stories particularly unique within the magazine craft.

And, if you have read all thirty award-winning stories we anthologized in our online reading series this season, congratulations! You’ve clearly had a fulfilling summer and you’re ready for the leaves to change!

1.Adrift on the Nileby Paul Wilson in The Walrus (Gold, One-of-a-Kind, 2011)
A year and a half later, what began in Tahrir Square in Cairo (after it began in Tunisia) seems not yet to have run its full course. Paul Wilson was there when the new liberation movement erupted in Egypt in 2011, and while demonstrations across the Arab world are once again dominating headlines, this National Magazine Award-winning story is worth revisiting, especially given the author’s keens senses of place, scale and history.

“And so began a hair-raising dash through the traffic swirling around Tahrir Square, Phillip always a few paces ahead of me. It was Friday, and another large demonstration had taken place that afternoon; now it was evening, the crowd had thinned, and the atmosphere was more relaxed. A line of skinny kids who looked about twelve years old filed by to the rhythmic beating of an oil drum. Their faces were painted red, white, and black—the colours of the Egyptian flag. ‘Welcome!’ ” [Read more]

2.The Lizard, the Catacombs & the Clockby Sean Michaels in Brick (Gold, One-of-a-Kind, 2010)
The intoxicating story of the underground labyrinths of Paris and the cataphiles who spelunk within them, Sean Michaels explores one of the more mysterious sides of the world’s most-visited city.

Parisians call it a gruyère. For hundreds of years, the catacombs under the city have been a conduit, sanctuary, and birthplace for its secrets. The Phantom of the Opera and Les Misérables’ Jean Valjean both haunted these tunnels, striking students descended in 1968, as did patriots during the Second World War. The Nazis visited too, building a bunker in the maze below the 6th arrondissement. [Read more]

3.Driving Mary Seigelby Chris Koentges in Swerve (Silver, One-of-a-Kind, 2008)
Chris Koentges is a three-time winner in this category and any of his pieces is worth a good long look, but this story in particular is topical since it recounts the author’s trip across the United States of America in the summer and fall of 2008, trying to figure out what made its ordinary citizens so hopeful about a presidential candidate named Barack Obama.

“From an SUV, someone yelled ‘Obama guy.’ I pretended to ignore it, waiting for the lights to change. ‘Hey, Obama guy!’ There was this goading Phillip Seymour Hoffman inflection, and this similar kind of concentration in his face. He had flown in from L.A. because Southern Florida—the battleground—was what he wanted to remember 50 years from now. He spoke about watching the 2000 election on TV, about the fact that he and I simply being here was enough to break the karmic loop.” [Read more]

Keep reading! The National Magazine Awards digital archive is open all year long: magazine-awards.com/archive. Or get it in eBook form for your iPad.

Previous editions of our Summer Reading Series: Travel | Essays | Sports & Rec | Fiction | Personal Journalism | Poetry | Best Short Feature | Arts & Entertainment | Profiles

Photograph of Tahrir Square courtesy Roger LeMoyne

Summer Reading Series 9: Popular Profiles

What makes a person tick? We sometimes ask a question like that anticipating an equally laconic answer. Ah, but the magazine is among many things a forum for nuance and context. The best personal portraits are those that explore the underlying connections between a character’s traits and his or her environment, both past and present, and therein construct a deeper connection between the character and the reader.

The penultimate installment of our 2012 Summer Reading Series exposes the art of the profile, with three Canadians–a politician, an athlete and a scientist–whose lives jump off the page.

As you probably know by now, these stories and those of all finalists and winners from the past few years can be found in the National Magazine Awards archive (magazine-awards.com/archive).

1.Madam Premierby Lisa Gregoire in The Walrus (2011 Gold winner in Profiles)
One quickly derives from her matter-of-fact depiction of Nunavut premier Eva Aariak that 6-time NMA nominee Lisa Gregoire is describing someone composed of the arctic itself: vast, powerful, and capable of great transformation. The challenges facing the present and future of Canada’s youngest political territory may be greater than one woman can bear, but as Ms. Gregoire patiently investigates, Madam Premier is a person of uncommon determination and clarity.

“Eva Aariak is a patient January Capricorn, born when people in my world were building rockets and people in her world were navigating frozen moonscapes with homemade qamutiik (sleds), when people from both our worlds were founding Frobisher Bay, now Iqaluit, so my people could encourage her people to stop wandering and start praying. Nunavut has been imagined, designed, negotiated, legislated, and commemorated, all within her lifetime.” [Read more]

2.The Unstoppable Lena Rowatby Geoff Powter in Explore (2009 Gold winner in Profiles)
The title sums up this piece superbly. Lena Rowat was determined to ski from Vancouver to the Yukon’s formidable Mount Logan and then beyond to Alaska, the very idea of which is so bizarre and so compelling to most of us couch-based mortals as to beg the inquiry: Surely, someone or something would stop her; otherwise, there would have to be some degree of insanity involved, or else some untold truth of human motivation that demands a complete explanation.

“These are the days of a typical Lena Rowat ski traverse: Up with the dawn, breakfast is whatever liquid you’ve kept in the water bottle in your sleeping bag through the night. You break through the brain fog of the morning and find your pace, often on your own, in silence, up and down and across kilometre after kilometre of white ridges and glacial rolls. You stop and dig a pit for lunch, the big meal of the day, a carefully planned allotment of mega calories, with gobs of olive oil in every dish to get you through the long afternoon. You ski until your legs or the terrain tell you to stop.” [Read more]

3. “The Trials of Saint Suzuki” by Ken MacQueen in Maclean’s (2007 Gold winner in Profiles)
The gradual transformation of activist David Suzuki from drum-beating environmental voice in the wilderness to political and corporate  environmental consultant has not gone unnoticed by those who have long held his tireless work as gospel. And yet there is no paradox in the character of one of Canada’s most famous citizens; rather, an evolution that is very much of the environmental movement itself.

“Climate change, doing what it does, has indeed changed the climate of debate. New tactics are called for from environmentalists, too, and that includes a corporate rapprochement, of a sort. Suzuki—whose organization, in the past, has taken pride in its lack of corporate donors—admits he’ll need an attitude adjustment.” [Read more]

Read these stories and more at the National Magazine Awards archive: magazine-awards.com/archive.

Previous editions of our Summer Reading Series: Travel | Essays | Sports & Rec | Fiction | Personal Journalism | Poetry | Best Short Feature | Arts & Entertainment

Summer Reading Series 8: Award-Winning Arts & Entertainment

Two days hence and the stars and starlets of Hollywood will park their jets in Hogtown for the Toronto International Film Festival, and you’ll pardon this blogger if he’s camped at the corner of Bellair and Cumberland streets ready to ambush Shia LaBeouf or Gwyneth Paltrow and get them to plug the new National Magazine Awards eBook (free download on iTunes) to their Twitter followers.

Apropos of which, this week’s installment of our Summer Reading Series is cinematically themed: 3 award-winning stories from the category Arts & Entertainment with a nod to the film industry descending on our fair city.

These stories and so many more can be found in the National Magazine Awards archive (magazine-awards.com/archive).

1.Man Standingby Timothy Taylor, Canadian Art (2011 Silver winner in Arts & Entertainment)
Canadian Inuit filmmaker Zacharias Kunuk is no stranger to TIFF; his masterpiece Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner won the honour of Best Canadian Feature Film back in 2001. Timothy Taylor travels (with NMA-winning photographer Donald Weber) to the Arctic hamlet of Igoolik to interview Kunuk about his latest film, Qapirangajuq: Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change. It’s a rare opportunity to acquaint oneself with the ecology of this transcendent artist, who by rights and geography is more than a bit removed the rest of the country yet has helped his audiences (and his neighbours) redefine their notions of history.

“Walking around Igloolik, meanwhile, I sense the reach that Kunuk’s work has had in the community. He downplays it, saying, ‘My hunting buddies are still my hunting buddies.’ But if you’ve watched his films closely, you recognize a surprising number of faces in town. Even people I don’t recognize turn out to have had off-camera roles, like the woman I speak with at the high school who is proud that she learned to sew traditional caribou-skin parkas while working in the wardrobe department for Atanarjuat.” [Read more]

2.My Dad, the Movie and Meby Noah Richler, The Walrus (2010 Gold winner in Arts & Entertainment)
The son of the late Canadian literary icon Mordechai Richler is more than just behind the scenes on the Montreal sets of Barney’s Version, the Richard Lewis adaptation (starring Paul Giamatti, Minnie Driver and Dustin Hoffman) of Richler’s famous novel. Noah Richler employs his unique position intersecting the writer and the film to reflect on his father’s notions of family, marriage and sense of belonging; the re-animation of his father’s personality through the title character is both stimulating and calming.

“Barney’s Version, like his earlier novels St. Urbain’s Horseman and Joshua Then and Now, draws on my parents’ exemplary love and what, even to his death, struck my father as the wild unlikelihood of having been able to love and raise a family with this striking woman. From Jake Hersh’s beloved wife in St. Urbain’s Horseman (‘Nancy. Nancy, my darling’) to the third Mrs. Panofsky of Barney’s Version (‘Miriam, Miriam, my heart’s desire’), there exists in his work a portrait of the shiksa wife as love object that his author hero is stunned to have acquired but also believes, in some buried and persecuted Jewish part of himself, he is besmirching.” [Read more]

3. L’étoffe des héros(“Heros’ Fabric”) by Mélanie Saint-Hilaire, L’actualité (2010 Silver winner in Arts & Entertainment)
Nine-time NMA finalist Mélanie Saint-Hilaire was the runner up to Noah Richler in 2010 for her scintillating portrait of Quebec costume designer Mario Davignon, one of Hollywood’s most celebrated couturiers whose atelier is stuffed with period-piece designs that have draped such luminaries as Leonardo DiCaprio (in Romeo + Juliet), Sophia Loren (Between Strangers) and the legendary Ava Gardner (City on Fire).

“Sa passion, c’est le vêtement d’époque. Ce maniaque du démodé pille les antiquaires partout où il va. Il en rapporte des artefacts bizarres, telle cette unique botte rouge qui aurait jadis galbé le mollet d’une tragédienne russe — « pour le modèle », se justifie-t-il. Sa bibliothèque ploie sous les livres de référence, les vieux catalogues et La mode illustrée, encyclopédie française du 19e siècle.” [Lire la suite]

Read these stories and more at the National Magazine Awards archive: magazine-awards.com/archive.

Previous editions of our Summer Reading Series: Travel | Essays | Sports & Rec | Fiction | Personal Journalism | Poetry | Best Short Feature

Summer Reading Series 7: Best Magazine Short Features

The Short Feature is the catchy folk song of the magazine world–three chords, succinct enlightenment, and a tune you’re glad to have stuck in your head.

Sure, a lot of what makes magazines great is the freedom they give writers to compose elaborate, multi-faceted rock operas of meaningful prose. (To wit: David Remnick’s twelve-million-word profile of Bruce Springsteen in a recent New Yorker.)

But the short feature starts and finishes the story without leaving you feeling like you just stayed up all night listening to Darkness on the Edge of Town.

This year we had a tie for the Gold in BSF–a dead-even top score after six independent judges evaluated the submissions–so we’re glad to feature them both in our Summer Reading Series, along with the first-ever winner in this category.

As always, these complete articles and those of all finalists and winners from recent years can be found in the National Magazine Awards archive (magazine-awards.com/archive).

1.JJ Lee on the first time he told a girl she was beautiful,” ELLE Canada (2011 Gold winner, tie, in Best Short Feature)
It’s an episode we can all relate to: first love. For memoirist JJ Lee–writing in ELLE‘s popular “First” series–it was the very moment that the comic-book femininity he’d come to know in early adolescence faded into the blinding eclipse of a real-life muse. And in that universally awkward moment of expression, he felt himself becoming an artist.

“The words had struck her. She would never look at herself in a mirror the same way again. They had struck me too. And I felt doomed because I knew we had our whole future to separate us from the simple closeness of the moment. That was the day I began a lifelong career as a maudlin nostalgic.” [Read more]

2.When Your Mother is a Strangerby Heather O’Neill, Chatelaine (2011 Gold winner, tie, in Best Short Feature)
In this vivid reconstruction of a singularly tender moment–meeting her mother after an absence of ten years–two-time National Magazine Award winner Heather O’Neill (she also won Gold in this same category in 2010) rewinds her childhood to each of the most potent memories that can help her re-imagine this stranger as her mother, a person of ancient familiarity in a suddenly foreign context.

“I went to the address she gave me. She was living in a building known as the Crazy People Building. It has the cheapest rent in the neighbourhood and is filled with people who can never quite pull it together. Bare-chested men hang out of the windows in the summer. A man who lives there carries around a white kitten that wears a tie and is introduced as Mr. Timothy. There is an old man who dances on his toes as he walks, blowing kisses at anyone he makes eye contact with.” [Read more]

3.The Alchemy of Pork Fatby Gerald Hannon, Toronto Life (2007 Gold winner in Best Short Feature)
When the NMAF launched the Best Short Feature category in 2007, Toronto Life‘s foodie memoirs turned out to be an ideal fit (the judges that year awarded four of the ten finalists’ spots to these tasty TL shorts, each consisting of a personal essay and a recipe), and none better than the Gold-winning piece by 13-time National Magazine Award winner Gerald Hannon.

Hannon–warts and all–reminisces on the great motherly myths of food, especially those involving lard, and wonders how he could have evolved such a passion for gastronomy without them.

“Food, perhaps because it was scarce and unvarying, always seemed to tremble with the potential for good or ill. Even in her old age, [my mother] could not add cucumber to a salad without first neutralizing its ‘poison’ in a way she had learned from her mother: you cut about an inch off the end, rubbed that piece vigorously against the other cut edge until a milky liquid—the poison—appeared, then you threw out the small, now noxious piece to render the rest of the cucumber safe to eat.” [Read more]

Read these stories and more at the National Magazine Awards archive: magazine-awards.com/archive.

Previous editions of our Summer Reading Series: Travel | Essays | Sports & Rec | Fiction | Personal Journalism | Poetry

Springsteen photo credit: Dave Cooper / Toronto Star