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.

Get to know Nouveau Projet: Canada’s Magazine of the Year

Nouveau Projet Issue no. 5, Spring-Summer 2014. Gold Medal in Art Direction of an Entire Issue, 2014 National Magazine Awards

At this year’s National Magazine Awards held on June 5 the jury awarded the prestigious prize of Magazine of the Year to Nouveau Projet, an independent French-language literary and cultural magazine published by Atelier 10 in Montreal.

Launched in 2012, the magazine’s mandate is to help us better understand the challenges of our time and lead a more balanced, satisfying and meaningful life. A catalyst and rallying point of progressive forces in Quebec in the 2010s, it seeks to encourage and nurture public discussion, while looking upon our time with a curious, sincere and thorough gaze.

In addition to winning Magazine of the Year, Nouveau Projet also won the Gold Medals for Art Direction of an Entire Issue and Words & Pictures, as well as the Silver Medal for Editorial Package and Honourable Mention in Fiction, Personal Journalism and Best Single Issue, marking a breakout performance that has piqued the interest of magazine readers and fellow members of the Canadian media industry.

Nouveau Projet editor Nicolas Langelier accepts the award for Magazine of the Year from NMAF President Joyce Byrne and Joanne Larocque-Poirier, Head of Prizes for Canada Council for the Arts. (Photo: Dave Todon / KlixPix)
Nouveau Projet editor Nicolas Langelier accepts the award for Magazine of the Year from NMAF President Joyce Byrne and Joanne Larocque-Poirier, Head of Prizes for Canada Council for the Arts. (Photo: Dave Todon / KlixPix)

About Nouveau Projet the National Magazine Awards jury said:

Nouveau Projet is a near-perfect symbiosis of subject matter, expert writing and exceptionally original design. It sets itself apart thanks to inspiring themes and bold covers. The magazine offers a fresh take on the genre and dares to cover topics that are virtually absent in other media. The energy of the editorial team is tangible page after page. Nouveau Projet embodies the spirit of print magazines.

Earlier this year we chatted with Nicolas Langelier, founder and editor-in-chief of Nouveau Projet–part of our Off the Page / En Marge interview series with National Magazine Award winners. You can read the original interview in French, or continue below for an excerpt translated into English.

Nicolas Langelier (Photographe : Maxime Leduc); Nouveau Projet numéro 6
Nicolas Langelier (Photographe : Maxime Leduc); Nouveau Projet Issue no. 6, Fall-Winter 2014: Silver Medal, Editorial Package, 2014 National Magazine Awards.

NMAF: What was your reaction to receiving a nomination for Magazine of the Year for Nouveau Projet?

Nicolas: It was both a great surprise and a source of pride. For a small independent magazine that has been published only for a few years, even to be a finalist for Magazine of the Year is an unexpected honour. I am grateful to the National Magazine Awards Foundation for taking into account the diversity of magazines and their resources.

NMAF: To what do you attribute the early success of the magazine?

Nicolas: From the start our obsession has been quality in everything we do, from the choice of our subjects to our presence on social media. Our readers can really sense this constant concern for quality; it’s something they are willing to pay for.

It also seems to me that we have a niche to fill in the Canadian media landscape. With the general trend towards shorter texts, more sensational topics, faster publishing — this environment has created a place for people to counter that trend with quality content.

Our readers tell us that we are doing a great job in delivering this, and I think it is because we offer something that many publications think their readers don’t need.

"La pointe des utopies" by Remy Bordillon and Pierre-Yves Cezard. Gold Medal in Words & Pictures
“La pointe des utopies” by Remy Bordillon and Pierre-Yves Cezard (Nouveau Projet). Gold Medal in Words & Pictures, 2014 National Magazine Awards.

NMAF: The excellence of Nouveau Projet has been recognized with several National Magazine Awards, including Art Direction of an Entire Issue, Words & Pictures and Magazine of the Year. What impact do these awards have for you and the magazine?

Nicolas: It’s certainly something that has had a positive impact for us, perhaps more by raising our profile among others in the Canadian magazine industry than among the public, which may not know them well yet (in Quebec at least). This recognition from our peers, advertisers, and current and future contributors means a lot to us.

NMAF: You frequently participate in the National Magazine Awards as a member of our volunteer jury. While you were president of the Association des journalistes indépendants, you created the Grands Prix du journalisme indépendant. How would you describe the critical role that awards programs play in the industry, for magazines and creators?

Nicolas: They are essential. To have these kinds of institutions that value excellence and support the entire industry; it seems absolutely necessary. This is true for breeders of cows, for architects, and for those who create magazines: we need these incentives to compare ourselves with the talent and rigour present elsewhere in our industry, and to demand the best from ourselves.

"Faux-self mon amour," by Fanny Britt (Nouveau Projet) ; Gold Medal, Personal Journalism, 2012 National Magazine Awards
“Faux-self mon amour,” by Fanny Britt (Nouveau Projet) ; Gold Medal, Personal Journalism, 2012 National Magazine Awards

NMAF: What does the future hold for Nouveau Projet and your publishing house, Atelier 10?

Nicolas: I want us to become a reference for culture and ideas in Quebec–and the rest of the Francophonie, eventually. To publish the best authors and visual artists, and discover and engage new readers. To produce various types of publications, always with great rigour and quality.

I still believe much in paper as a medium to convey ideas, information, and values. Those who predict the death of print–I want to prove them wrong. This does not mean that we should neglect digital opportunities; everything we do is also available in digital versions. But paper has a special place in my heart, and I think this is also the case for the majority of the public. We enjoy both!

Ultimately, I hope that our work has a positive impact at the cultural, social and intellectual levels. If we do all this, in the face of obstacles and difficult conditions, it is because we believe that changes are needed in our society, and we also believe that the media continue to have a key role to play in advancing discussion and debate. Yes, the past fifteen years have been tough on our industry, but it’s up to us to find ways to continue to fulfill our role. It would be extremely unfortunate for humanity if a simple change in the economic environment deprived us of the essential service that is quality media.

This interview has been edited and adapted from its original French, published in January 2015. Discover more about Nouveau Projet at nouveauprojet.com and on Twitter @nouveau_projet.

Nouveau Projet in the National Magazine Awards Archive:
2014: Magazine of the Year
2014: Gold Medal, Words & Pictures (“La pointe des utopies”)
2014: Gold Medal, Art Direction of an Entire Issue (“Automne/Hiver 2014”)
2014: Silver Medal, Editorial Package (“Régénérescences”)
2012: Gold Medal, Personal Journalism (“Faux-self, mon amour“)

Honourable Mention:
2014: Best Single Issue, Fiction, Personal Journalism
2013: Personal Journalism, Essays, Art Direction of an Entire Issue, Magazine of the Year
2012: How-To

Announcing the winners of the 38th annual National Magazine Awards

The National Magazine Awards Foundation (NMAF) presented the winners of the 38th annual National Magazine Awards at a gala this evening in Toronto at the Arcadian Court, presented by CDS Global, and hosted by Lainey Lui & Jessica Allen of CTV’s The Social. Gold, Silver and Honourable Mention awards were presented in 43 categories.

La version française: magazine-prix.com
Complete list [pdf] of all winners
Press release [pdf]: English | Français
Twitter highlights: @MagAwards | #NMA15
The Judges
Award Seals

SPECIAL AWARDS

Magazine of the Year
Nouveau Projet

“Nouveau Projet is a near-perfect symbiosis of subject matter, expert writing and exceptionally original design. It sets itself apart thanks to inspiring themes and bold covers. The magazine offers a fresh take on the genre and dares to cover topics that are virtually absent in other media. The energy of the editorial team is tangible page after page. Nouveau Projet embodies the spirit of print magazines.” — National Magazine Awards jury


Magazine Website of the Year
Hazlittmag.com (Hazlitt)


Tablet Magazine of the Year
Today’s Parent

Best Magazine Brand
Sponsored by Ontario Media Development Corporation
Cottage Life

 

Best New Magazine Writer
Sponsored by Reader’s Digest Foundation
Genna Buck


Best New Illustrator or Photographer
Sponsored by RedPoint Media
Hudson Christie


Foundation Award for Outstanding Achievement
Sponsored by Alliance for Audited Media
Michael Fox


AWARDS TABLE


INTEGRATED AWARDS – GOLD WINNERS
 
 

Best Single Issue
Sponsored by Rolland Enterprises, Inc
Back to School Issue (September 2014)
Today’s Parent


Magazine Covers
Hunter Is At It Again
Report on Business


Editorial Package (Web)
Miscarriage and Pregnancy Loss
Today’s Parent


Infographics
Fare Warning
Report on Business


Online Video
Ukraine in Crisis
Maclean’s

Single Service Article Package
30 Awesome Cupcakes
Today’s Parent

Words & Pictures
Sponsored by CDS Global
La pointe des utopies
Nouveau Projet

“Tonight the National Magazine Awards Foundation recognized the outstanding work of Canada’s magazine writers, editors, designers, photographers and illustrators. The nominees and winners of this year’s awards have set new standards of excellence in Canadian media, and on behalf of those working in our wonderful industry and magazine readers across the country, we congratulate them.” — Joyce Byrne, President, NMAF

WRITING AWARDS – GOLD WINNERS

Arts & Entertainment
Nicholas Hune-Brown
For Kids, By Kids—But Not For Long
Hazlitt

Best Short Feature
Michael Friscolanti
My Hitchhiker, the Parliament Hill Gunman
Maclean’s 

Business
Stephanie Nolen
High and Dry
Report on Business

Columns
Sponsored by Impresa Communications Ltd.
Eric Reguly
Jobs: Optional
Report on Business

Editorial Package (Print)
Mark Stevenson, Sue Allan, Stephen Gregory, Alison Uncles
Ottawa Shooting
Maclean’s

Essays
Andrea Bennett
Water Upon the Earth
Maisonneuve

Fiction
Tamas Dobozy
Kransnagorsk-2
The New Quarterly

Health & Medicine
Marie-Pier Elie
Immunothérapie. Le nouvel espoir
Québec Science

Humour
Richard Light
Reviews of My Dreams from Last Night
The Feathertale Review

Investigative Reporting
Alec Castonguay, Noémi Mercier
Crimes sexuels dans l’armée
L’actualité

One of a Kind
Noah Richler
The Trials of Philip Halliday
The Walrus

Personal Journalism
Lauren McKeon
Save Me from My Workout
Toronto Life

Poetry
Richard Greene
You Must Remember This
Hazlitt

Politics & Public Interest
Alec Castonguay, Noémi Mercier
Crimes sexuels dans l’armée
L’actualité

Profiles
Jason McBride
The Captive
Toronto Life

Science, Technology & Environment
Jeremy Keehn
The Toilet Papers
The Walrus

Service: Family, Health & Personal Finance
Danielle Groen
Where Do We Put All the Babies?
The Grid

Service: Lifestyle
The Editors
25th Annual Restaurant Awards
Vancouver Magazine

Society
Mylène Tremblay
Intersexualité : Rencontre du troisième sexe
Châtelaine

Sports & Recreation
Dan Robson
Home and Really Far Away
Sportsnet

Travel
Marie-Soleil Desautels
Au paradis des thés
L’actualité

 

VISUAL AWARDS – GOLD WINNERS

Art Direction of an Entire Issue
Sponsored by The Lowe-Martin Group
Jean-François Proulx
Le Canada dont nous ne voulons pas (printemps – été 2014)
Nouveau Projet

Art Direction of a Single Article
Sponsored by Monnet Design
Marcey Andrews
Best Summer Ever
New Trail
17333_26

Fashion
Chris Nicholls, Photographer
Eng Lau, Art Director
Zeina Esmail, Stylist
Human Touch
Fashion Magazine

Homes & Gardens
Karen Simpson, Art Director
Naho Kubota, Photographer
Catherine Osborne, Will Jones, Contributors
On Canal Lake
Azure

Illustration
Raymond Biesinger
The Well-Oiled Machine
Precedent

Photojournalism & Photo Essay
Sponsored by CNW Group
Larry Towell
In Attawapiskat
The Walrus

Portrait Photography
John Ulan
Bigger Than Barriers
Cornerstone

Spot Illustration
Sébastien Thibault
The Rising Tide
The Walrus

Still-Life Photography
Clinton Hussey
Origin Story
Western Living

To view the complete list of Gold and Silver winners and Honourable Mentions, visit magazine-awards.com/38winners.

ABOUT THE 38th ANNUAL NATIONAL MAGAZINE AWARDS
More than 450 members of the Canadian magazine industry—publishers, editors, art directors, writers, photographers, illustrators, circulators and more—joined esteemed sponsors and other guests at the 38th annual National Magazine Awards gala, at the Arcadian Court in Toronto, presented by CDS Global.

This year more than 200 Canadian magazines submitted their work to the National Magazine Awards. Magazines from all three coasts—in both official languages, print and digital—participated this year, entering work created by more than 3000 writers, editors, photographers, illustrators, art directors and other creators. This year saw growth in participation from Quebec and Alberta magazines, as well as remarkable participation from Canada’s literary and arts magazines through the help of the NMAF’s Small Magazine Rebate program.

The NMAF’s 241 volunteer judges have nominated a total of 326 submissions from 80 different Canadian magazines for awards in 43 written, visual, integrated and special categories. More than $53,000 in cash prizes have been awarded to Canadian creators.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
The National Magazine Awards Foundation gratefully acknowledges the support of its sponsors and suppliers.

THANK YOU LAINEY & JESS!
The NMAF (and all guests of the National Magazine Awards) are grateful to Lainey Lui & Jessica Allen for their incredible performance tonight.

PHOTOS, VIDEOS, INTERVIEW & MORE
Check back next week for photos, videos and more from the 38th annual National Magazine Awards gala.

ABOUT THE NATIONAL MAGAZINE AWARDS FOUNDATION
The National Magazine Awards Foundation is a bilingual, not-for-profit institution whose mission is to recognize and promote excellence in the content and creation of Canadian print and digital publications through an annual program of awards and national publicity efforts. Discover more at magazine-awards.com.

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. 

Check out the new issue of Prism International

The Winter 2015 issue of Prism International (Vol. 53, No. 2) is hot. Yes, we’re especially fond of the National Magazine Awards winners seal that adorns the cover, acknowledging writer Pasha Malla‘s silver medal for fiction (“The Actual” from Prism 51:3) at last year’s NMA gala.

The new issue features creative non-fiction by National Magazine Award winners Ayelet Tsabari–recent winner of the Sami Rohr prize–and Liz Windhorst Harmer, among others. And an impressive menu of short fiction and poetry, including a piece by NMA winner Alice Major.

You can find the new issue in select bookstores and literary newsstands, or online from the Prism store.

Best Canadian Essays 2014 features NMA winners

BestCanadianEssays2015The 2014 edition of Best Canadian Essays has been released this month from Tightrope Books, edited by Christopher Doda and Natalie Zina Walschots.

Like previous years, the book of Best Canadian Essays 2014 features many National Magazine Award-winning writers from last year’s gala, as well as earlier years.

Sarah de Leeuw’s incredible story of abnormal childbirth, “Soft Shouldered,” featured in Prism International magazine, received an Honourable Mention in One of a Kind at last year’s gala.
Margo Pfeiff has won four NMA Honourable Mentions since 2001, and her essay “When the Vikings Were in Nunavut” was published in Up Here magazine, which won five Honourable Mentions at last year’s gala.

Dan Tysdal’s fiction piece, “Year Zero,” was published in the multiple NMA-winning magazine, Prairie Fire.

D.W. Wilson has received four awards within the fiction category, with three Honourable Mentions at the 2010 gala and a Silver Award for his piece The Elasticity of Bone in 2008.

Naomi K. Lewis’ essay, The Assault on Science, was published in NMA-winning magazine, Alberta Views. In 2011, she won an Honourable Mention in Health & Medicine for The Urge to Purge (Alberta Views).

Check out the complete list of essays by ordering the 2014 book from Tightrope Books.

Special thanks to Leah Jensen for compiling this post.