Yesterday’s revealing of the Giller Prize shortlist, today’s announcement of the Governor General’s Literary Awards finalists, both on the heels of last week’s release of the five finalists for the Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, means that the big three Canadian literary prizes are counting down the days until we find out who wrote the best in Canadian literature for 2014.
Each year, it seems a handful of the nominees for these prestigious CanLit prizes have come from the magazine world; this year, almost all of the shortlisted authors have National Magazine Awards on their resumes.
Former National Magazine Award winner Miriam Toews (Gold Medal, Humour, Saturday Night, 1999) made the shortlist for both the Giller Prize and the Writers’ Trust Prize for her novel All My Puny Sorrows, which some critics consider to be the favourite for one or both prizes.
Also on the shortlist for the Giller is two-time National Magazine Award winner Heather O’Neill (Gold Medal, Best Short Feature, Chatelaine, 2011; Gold Medal, Best Short Feature, ELLE Canada, 2010) for her novel The Girl Who Was Saturday Night. Read our interview with Heather about her writing career.
Sean Michaels, twice a National Magazine Award winner (Gold Medal, One of a Kind, Brick, 2010; Silver Medal, Words & Pictures, The Walrus, 2012) is on the Giller shortlist for his novel Us Conductors. Read more about Sean’s work from our One of a Kind summer reading series.
David Bezmozgis, nominated for the Giller Prize for his novel The Betrayers, won a Silver Medal at the 2003 National Magazine Awards for his Fiction in Prairie Fire.
A fifth Giller shortlisted author, Frances Itani for her novel Tell, was nominated for a National Magazine Award for Fiction in 1995 (Saturday Night). The Ever After of Ashwin Rao, by Padma Vishwanathan, is the final novel on the Giller Prize shortlist. The winner will be announced at a ceremony in Toronto on November 10. The winner receives $100,000; all other finalists receive $10,000.
GOVERNOR GENERAL’S LITERARY AWARDS
Four of the five finalists for the GG Fiction (English) award are former National Magazine Award winners and nominees:
- Juliet Was a Surprise, by Bill Gaston (Gold Medalist, Fiction, Event, 2011)
- The Back of the Turtle, by Thomas King (Silver Medalist, Fiction, Saturday Night, 1991)
- The Opening Sky, by Joan Thomas (Silver Medalist, Personal Journalism, Prairie Fire, 1995)
- Sweetland, by Michael Crummey (Honourable Mention, Poetry, The New Quarterly, 2012)
The fifth GG fiction finalist is Claire Holden Rothman for her novel My October.
In the GG Non-Fiction (English) category, all four finalists are former National Magazine Awards nominees:
- The Oilman and the Sea, by Arno Kopecky
- Up Ghost River, by Alexandra Shimo (co-authored with Edmond Metatawabin)
- Know the Night, by Maria Mutch
- The End of Absence, by Michael Harris
Finally, for the GG Award for Children’s Book Illustration, one of the finalists, Jillian Tamaki, is a three-time National Magazine Award winner for Illustration. Read our interview with Jillian about her career as an illustrator.
The Governor General’s Literary Awards honour excellence in fiction, non-fiction, poetry, drama, children’s literature (text), children’s literature (illustration), and translation. The winners will be announced online on November 18, 2014, with a public event to follow in Ottawa on November 26 (English-language winners) and November 27 (French-language winners).
WRITERS’ TRUST FICTION PRIZE
For the Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, joining Miriam Toews are 3 former National Magazine Awards nominees: André Alexis (Fiction, Event, 2009) for his novel Pastoral; Steven Galloway (Humour, Vancouver Magazine, 2005) for his novel The Confabulist; and K.D. Miller (Fiction, The Capilano Review, 1997) for her novel All Saints. Rounding out the shortlist is Carrie Snyder for Girl Runner. The winner of the Writer’s Trust Prize receives $25,000; all finalists receive $2500. The winner will be announced at the Writers’ Trust Awards in Toronto on November 4.
Congratulations to all the finalists. A great CanLit awards season awaits, and we’ve got lots of reading to do!
It was announced today that The Grid, Toronto’s popular and award-winning weekly city magazine, is closing after an inspiring three-year run following its evolution from Eye Weekly. Publisher Laas Turnbull, a former director of the National Magazine Awards Foundation, told Marketing magazine that the shut-down is due to declining ad sales, changes in media buying patterns and a lack of time to develop new revenue generators that the magazine had been testing. “We ran out of runway,” he said.
Since it launched in May 2011 with the first of its annual Chef’s Guides to Toronto, The Grid won 15 National Magazine Awards (10 Gold, 5 Silver) from 53 nominations; over that span, only The Walrus, Report on Business and L’actualité won more.
As we bid it farewell, the NMAF looks back on some of the most remarkable Grid content to be celebrated at the National Magazine Awards. (You can find more in our online archive.)
After all, to the magazine that once famously gave us 94 Excuses to Drink Now, let’s raise a glass.
The second-ever cover story by The Grid (May 19-25, 2011) swept the Gold medals in the categories Magazine Covers, Art Direction of an Entire Issue and Art Direction of a Single Article. That hadn’t happened at the NMAs since 1998.
At this year’s National Magazine Awards a new category for Infographics was introduced. The Grid snagged 5 nominations for this award, winning Gold for “How much does a street cost?”
Among its many popular “Guides,” The Grid’s “Guide to Getting Hitched” was a standout, winning Gold for Single Service Article Package in 2012. Other award-winning guides: “… to Father’s Day in T.O.“; “… to Buying a Condo“; “… to TIFF.”
The Grid’s popular website, thegridto.com, which drew 400,000 unique visitors per month, also garnered awards. “Are You Going to Eat That?” about food safety won Gold in Web Editorial Package in 2012.
Photographer Angus Rowe Macpherson’s spread of conceptual food-truck portraits (“Truckin’ A!“) won Gold for Creative Photography in 2012.
This cover shot was also nominated for Creative Photography in 2012.
The colourful feature “Toronto’s Waterfront Is…” won a Silver in Words & Pictures in 2011.
Finally, Danielle Groen’s impressive story on public-school sex ed won a Silver National Magazine Award in 2012. Read the entire article and view more award-winning work from The Grid in the National Magazine Awards Foundation’s online archive.
Our best wishes to the talented staff and contributors who made The Grid so wonderful, informative and beautiful.
The National Magazine Awards Foundation (NMAF) is pleased to announce the winners of the 37th annual National Magazine Awards.
At this year’s gala on June 6, presented by CDS Global and hosted by humourist (and award-winner) Scott Feschuk, the NMAF presented Gold and Silver awards in 47 categories representing the best in Canadian magazines from the year 2013.
SPECIAL AWARD WINNERS
Magazine of the Year
Sponsored by RBC Royal Bank
Magazine Website of the Year
Tablet Magazine of the Year
Best New Magazine Writer
Sponsored by Reader’s Digest Foundation
Foundation Award for Outstanding Achievement
Top Winning Magazines at the 37th National Magazine Awards:
|Report on Business||3||2||16|
|United Church Observer||1||1||2|
See the complete list of winners at magazine-awards.com.
INTEGRATED AWARDS – GOLD WINNERS
Best Single Issue
Tenth Anniversary Issue
Report on Business
How Much Does a Street Cost?
Editorial Package (Web)
Canada’s Best New Restaurants
Single Service Article Package
Calendrier de l’avent
Words & Pictures
Sponsored by CDS Global
WRITING AWARDS – GOLD WINNERS
Arts & Entertainment
Rebel Without Applause
Best Short Feature
Jamie Bradburn, Kevin Plummer, David Wencer
Sponsored by Accenture
This Little Piggy Went to Market…and the Farmer Lost Money
Report on Business
Sponsored by Impresa Communications Ltd.
Editorial Package (Print)
Sponsored by Canadian Society of Magazine Editors
Marine Corniou, Dominique Forget, Joel Leblanc, Raymond Lemieux, Chantal Srivastava
In The Chair
Little Brother Magazine
Health & Medicine
First Do No Harm
Jane Rodmell, David Zimmer
Best Flavour Ever
Assemble ingredients. Pause dramatically.
One Martyr Down
One of a Kind
The Marineland Dreamland
Liz Windhorst Harmer
Politics & Public Interest
The Kingdom of Haymour
Science, Technology & Environment
Sponsored by GE Canada
Losing the Hooded Grebe
United Church Observer
Service: Health & Family
Lest We Forget: The Shocking Crisis Facing Our Wounded Veterans
Vive le poisson éco!
Service: Personal Finance & Business
Sponsored by Manulife Financial
The Hand-Me-Down Blues
Sports & Recreation
La machine à broyer les rêves
VISUAL AWARDS – GOLD WINNERS
Art Direction of an Entire Issue
Sponsored by The Lowe-Martin Group
Art Direction of a Single Article
Not in the Age of the Pharaohs
John Van Der Schilden, Photographer
Brittany Eccles, Art Director
Juliana Schiavinatto, Stylist
Vanessa Craft, Beauty Director
Petra Collins, Photographer
Jed Tallo, Art Director
Corey Ng, Stylist
Pastels Take Shape
Homes & Gardens
Martin Tessler, Photographer
Paul Roelofs, Art Director
Nicole Sjöstedt, Stylist
Magazine Website Design
Photojournalism & Photo Essay
Sponsored by CNW Group
Report on Business
The Elite Yellow Peril
ABOUT THE 37th ANNUAL NATIONAL MAGAZINE AWARDS
More than 500 members of the Canadian magazine industry—publishers, editors, art directors, writers, photographers, illustrators, circulators and more—joined esteemed sponsors and other guests at the 37th annual National Magazine Awards gala on June 6, 2014, at The Carlu in Toronto, presented by CDS Global.
This year, from nearly 2000 individual entries received nationwide, the NMAF’s 238 volunteer judges nominated a total of 376 submissions from 92 different Canadian magazines for awards in 47 written, visual, integrated and special categories.
The National Magazine Awards Foundation acknowledges the financial support of the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario, as well as the Ontario Media Development Corporation.
The NMAF thanks its corporate sponsors Accenture, GE Canada, Manulife Financial, RBC Royal Bank, The Lowe-Martin Group, Canadian Society of Magazine Editors, Penguin Random House and Reader’s Digest Foundation for their generous financial support of the National Magazine Awards.
The NMAF thanks its media partners Cottage Life Media, Impresa Communications Ltd., Masthead, Rogers Media, TC Media and Toronto Life for their generous support of the National Magazine Awards.
The NMAF thanks its event partners CNW Group and Media Vantage, The Carlu, Daniel et Daniel, Relay Experience, KlixPix and Michèle Champagne for their generous support of the National Magazine Awards.
The NMAF gratefully acknowledges all its suppliers and its contributors who donated gifts in kind to support the awards program. We thank them for their generosity, interest and expertise. Thanks also to our hard-working event volunteers.
And thanks again to our wonderful Master of Ceremonies, Scott Feschuk.
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.
It’s a perfectly square magazine making its way in a rectangular world. So quipped the writer Alexander MacLeod of the award-winning literary magazine The New Quarterly. Fittingly, such a simple truism about the magazine—alluding with apt understatement to qualities of creativity, humility and perseverance—also begins to describe the character of its longtime editor, Kim Jernigan, whom the National Magazine Awards Foundation is proud to announce is the winner of this year’s Foundation Award for Outstanding Achievement.
As a Master’s student in Canadian literature at the University of Waterloo in 1981, Kim volunteered at the offices of the fledgling publication which had been founded earlier that year by novelist Harold Horwood.
An early image of her dedication to TNQ saw Kim eight months pregnant, sitting on the floor of the office collating the magazine’s pages for its second issue. Three decades later, that soon-to-be newborn—now the poet Amanda Jernigan—was published in the magazine.
In 1984 Kim succeeded Harold as editor of TNQ—also a volunteer position—and energetically guided the publication toward its place as one of Canada’s best and most admired literary magazines.
In its pages eager enthusiasts of Canadian prose and poetry have discovered masterful talents including Di Brandt, Michael Crummey, Russell Smith, Steven Heighton, Caroline Adderson, Michael Winter, Elisabeth De Mariaffi, Kathleen Winter, Annabel Lyon and countless others.
During her years as editor, TNQ was nominated for 44 National Magazine Awards, winning eight Gold and six Silver medals. Writers have praised her skillful editorial dexterity and tireless commitment to providing notes and feedback much as they have her cheerful promotion of their work. Miranda Hill of Quill & Quire described this mutual devotion between editor and writer as “The Jernigan Effect.”
That Kim Jernigan selflessly devoted three decades as an unpaid volunteer in the service of Canadian literary arts is worthy of celebration in its own right, yet so is her commitment to ensuring the sustainable future of the magazine in an unsteady publishing world. In 2003 TNQ incorporated as a not-for-profit and received its charitable status in 2011. The magazine strengthened its community with the creation of the Wild Writers Literary Festival in 2000 and the launch of a popular series of writing contests in 2010.
Kim began to nurture literary non-fiction writers alongside poets and fiction writers, and expanded TNQ’s literary household to include interviews, travel essays and the popular series “Magazines as Muse.” She fostered close relationships with Canada’s lit-mag community, publishing joint issues with Alternatives Journal, Arc Poetry Magazine and Canadian Notes & Queries. The 2008 redesign—the square mag in the rectangular world—was justifiably lauded.
Steadfastly Kim helped build a strong base of volunteers, subscribers, sponsors and a diverse board of directors, leveraging support from St. Jerome’s University and, leading up to her retirement, a Trillium grant and editorial stipend to support the future of the magazine and its staff.
In her final year as editor, TNQ garnered eight National Magazine Awards nominations—the most ever by a literary magazine—and saw a young writer, Sierra Skye Gemma, win for Best New Magazine Writer for a story that had earlier won TNQ’s Edna Staebler Personal Essay Contest.
It is to her enduring credit that Kim has stewarded a small literary magazine towards not only financial stability and critical success, but also to a position as incubator of emerging talent and champion of literary arts in Canada.
Commended by her peers for her generosity, integrity, leadership and contagious passion for Canadian literature, Kim Jernigan continues to serve as a mentor for TNQ and an inspiration to many young writers and editors. The Board of Directors of the NMAF is honoured to name Kim Jernigan as the recipient of the Foundation Award for Outstanding Achievement, where she takes her much-deserved place alongside the greatest contributors to the Canadian magazine industry.
Kim Jernigan will be presented with her award at the 37th annual National Magazine Awards gala on June 6 in Toronto. All other nominees for this year’s NMAs will be announced tomorrow, May 1. For ticket information for the National Magazine Awards, visit magazine-awards.com.
WHAT THEY SAID ABOUT KIM JERNIGAN:
Would you work for three decades without pay? Kim Jernigan has done this, on an increasingly full-time basis, for 31 years. Her devotion gives new meaning to the phrase “labour of love.” Simply put, TNQ is a great literary magazine: it is lively, challenging, wide ranging in its content—and never boring or inscrutable.
Many of our industry’s best editors, writers, managers and marketers began their magazine careers at small publications like The New Quarterly. These early experiences often set people up for careers in publishing, simply because they are positive experiences. Our industry needs its small magazines; so much of what is good in our publishing world gets its start in a little magazine. Like honeybees, small magazines do the quiet, pollinating work that can bloom years later on the pages of larger publications.
–Derek Webster, founding editor of Maisonneuve
Short stories and poetry and what it takes to be a writer have been the focus, the love of Kim Jernigan’s working life for more than 30 years. Anyone who has seen her take the stage at the National Magazine Awards to accept on behalf of one of her far-flung writers or poets can see this. It is matched only by her joy at seeing one of them able to go up and accept an award on their own behalf. And they all know that they are there because of the recognition and nurturing of their talent by Kim.
Tears would sometimes well up in her eyes as she talked about a particular writer or story. She spoke often to me about the gratification of watching writers mature and feeling like she’d been part of it. There was nothing contrived about her commitment and nothing artificial about her passion.
–D.B. Scott, president, Impresa Communications Ltd.
In working with her in my capacity as fiction editor I saw her leadership skills close up. Her generosity and integrity were evident in the manner in which she considered the opinions of fellow editors. An astute reader, with a commitment to literary excellence, Kim championed the stories she’d read from the submissions, at the same time allowing others on the editorial board to speak for the stories they felt ought to be published.
As an editor she had a canny eye for a well-written story, an admitted weak spot for coming-of-age stories while always open to edgier or more experimental work. The system for choosing material where several editors read the work and each is given equal voice at the meetings reflects her collaborative style. TNQ has become well known for giving feedback even when the work doesn’t make the final cut, a legacy attributed to Kim who recognized the importance of writers knowing their work was getting a close reading.
–Pamela Mulloy, editor of The New Quarterly
Kim Jernigan is a perfect choice for this award. For her length of service with a single title; for the scope of her contribution to The New Quarterly and the ways in which she has elevated the magazine in the Canadian literary landscape; for the fact that she has never drawn a salary for her eventual full-time work, while continuing to be involved and ensuring the viability of TNQ even after stepping down; for the fact that TNQ is an example of the best of our literary magazines. She is kind and generous with her time and ideas, and that she stewarded the magazine through the most volatile decade in publishing—and grew it—is a real credit to her.
–Joyce Byrne, vice president, National Magazine Awards Foundation
Tell us your thoughts. Leave a comment below about Kim Jernigan.
ABOUT THE FOUNDATION AWARD
The NMAF’s most prestigious individual prize since its inception in 1990 is The Foundation Award for Outstanding Achievement, an award that recognizes an individual’s innovation and creativity through contributions to the magazine industry. The award is open to circulation experts, editors, marketing, sales and promotion professionals, publishers, creators, designers, production managers – in short, to everyone in the industry. It cannot be given posthumously. The Board of Directors of the National Magazine Awards Foundation selects the winner. More information: magazine-awards.com.
Off the Page appears regularly on the Magazine Awards blog. Today we catch up with Mark Reid, editor of Canada’s History, winner of the 2012 National Magazine Award for Words & Pictures.
NMAF: Canada’s History (formerly known as The Beaver) is one of this country’s oldest publications, six years away from its centennial. What do you consider the mandate of the magazine to be, and has this changed much in the past 94 years?
Mark: The mandate is to turn as many Canadians as possible on to their history, and to convince them that our stories are as interesting, entertaining and engaging as any other nation’s. This mandate has changed immensely over the years. In 1920, the magazine began as an in-house newsletter for the Hudson’s Bay Company. As years passed and the fur trade died, the magazine became more of a nostalgia magazine for the “days of yore” on the trap lines, telling stories of the Far North. By the in the 1980s, it had changed focus again, becoming increasingly a “history magazine.” And in 2010, we changed the name to reflect our current focus, going from “The Beaver” to “Canada’s History.”
NMAF: At last year’s National Magazine Awards Canada’s History won Gold in the category Words & Pictures, for “On Thin Ice,” an illustrated memoir of the 1972 Summit Series by Terry Mosher (a.k.a. Aislin), who covered the iconic event as a young political cartoonist. As an editor, what attracted you to this story? And what was the significance for you to have it win a National Magazine Award?
Mark: The ’72 Summit Series is a touchstone moment in our collective cultural history. This Cold War moment is one of a handful of “where were you when” turning points for a generation of Canadians. When I learned that Terry Mosher had travelled to Russia to cover the event as a cartoonist, I knew that we needed to share his story with our wider audience of history lovers.
I asked Terry to colourize the original cartoons he produced in 1972, and share the behind the scenes tales that inspired them. After viewing them, I realized that one cartoon was missing from the story – an image of Paul Henderson scoring the winning goal. Terry’s final cartoon, with Paul Henderson memorialized on a Canadian version of Mount Rushmore, was perfect.
The Canada’s History team was collectively thrilled to work with Terry’s fantastic art, and to share his story with Canadians. For the package to win a National Magazine Award was just icing on the cake — an exciting endorsement from our peers that we received with gratitude, and that we dedicate to everyone with a passion for the past.
NMAF: You recently launched a micro-site called Destinations. How did this project come about, and what do you hope to achieve?
Mark: While Canada’s History is our flagship magazine, our History Society is engaged in myriad programs. Canada’s History Society is a small Winnipeg-based non-profit that also produces a kid’s history magazine, and runs a host of awards and educational programs for students, teachers and community groups.
Our Destinations site is the latest attempt to reach a new audience of history lovers, in this case, history lovers who combine this passion with travel. Our hope is to work with museums, archives, and tourist sites to help them share their stories with a wider audience. It’s all part of our multipronged approach to encouraging and strengthening interest in our collective past.
NMAF: 2014 figures to be a big year for Canada’s History, with the hundredth anniversary of the start of World War I on the minds of many Canadians. What do you think is the significance of this milestone for Canada, and can you tell us a bit about how the magazine will be covering the anniversary?
Mark: The start of WWI is certainly a huge part of our publishing plans. Our key publication will be a coffee-table book on the subject, titled Canada’s Great War Album. It will be published by HarperCollins Canada, and features essays on all aspects of the war by the country’s top historians and writers, along with photos and artifacts relating to the war that have been sent to us by our readers.
Our goal is to commemorate the courageous men, women and children who lived, loved, fought, served and sacrificed during that difficult time. It will be available for sale in the fall of 2014. On the magazine side, we are also working on a special package of articles that will examine not only WWI, but also WWII, which will mark the 75th anniversary of its start in September 2014. It’s an exciting time to be publishing history, and we look forward to bringing Canadians many more great articles and publications in the months and years to come.
Mark Reid is the editor-in-chief of Canada’s History magazine, published by the History Society in Winnipeg, which also publishes Kayak: Canada’s History Magazine for Kids. Follow them on Twitter @CanadasHistory and @MarkReidEditor.
More Off the Page interviews with NMA winners
Canada’s History in the National Magazine Awards archive
Submissions for the 37th National Magazine Awards
Images courtesy CanadasHistory.ca and National Magazine Awards Foundation.
La série Off the Page paraîtra périodiquement dans notre blogue. Cette semaine, nous découvrons quoi de neuf avec l’illustratrice Isabelle Arsenault, lauréate de 2 Prix du magazine canadien et de 2 Prix littéraires du Gouverneur général.
FNPMC: Nous vous félicitons de gagner récemment votre deuxième Prix littéraire du Gouverneur général (illustrations, jeunesse, français). Votre livre, Jane, le renard et moi, écrit par Fanny Britt, raconte l’histoire d’Hélène, une jeune fille qui fait l’objet d’intimidation par ses condisciples, se sent inférieure et dont le seul plaisir est de lire Jane Eyre. En quoi cette histoire a-t-elle une résonance chez vous, et comment avez-vous créé l’image d’Hélène?
Isabelle : Le personnage d’Hélène est une jeune fille discrète qui se retrouve sans amies à un âge où l’appartenance à un groupe prend de l’importance. Sans avoir été moi-même victime d’intimidation, je me suis inspirée de souvenirs de ma propre jeunesse, de scènes dont j’ai été témoin et d’impressions que ces souvenirs m’ont laissé.
J’ai décidé de représenter Hélène comme étant une fille sans style particulier, plutôt neutre et effacée à laquelle le lecteur puisse facilement s’identifier.
FNPMC : Plus tôt l’année 2013, vous avez remporté un Prix du magazine canadien, votre deuxième, pour une série d’illustrations dans Québec Science, dans le cadre d’un article intitulé « Organes recherchés ». Quel processus créatif utilisez-vous lorsque vous illustrez un article de magazine? Puisez-vous votre inspiration exclusivement du texte, ou d’autres sources?
Isabelle : Je puise mon inspiration dans une variété de sources; livres, magazines, internet, nature, etc. J’aime bien lire le texte à illustrer plusieurs fois afin de bien m’en imprégner, pour ensuite faire quelque chose de complètement différent comme prendre une marche, faire du ménage, une sieste, du yoga.
Ça m’aide à m’aérer l’esprit et à laisser entrer les idées.
FNPMC : De quelle façon le fait de remporter un Prix du magazine canadien, ou un Prix du Gouverneur général, comme vous l’avez fait l’année dernière pour Virginia Wolf, a-t-il contribué à l’avancement de votre carrière en illustration, ou a-t-il été une source d’inspiration pour cette carrière?
Isabelle : Les prix sont une forme de reconnaissance qu’il est toujours apprécié de recevoir. Pour ma part, je travaille de façon plutôt solitaire et ce, particulièrement lorsque je planche sur un projet de livre. Recevoir ce genre d’honneurs me donne l’impression d’aller dans la bonne direction et m’encourage à continuer, à me dépasser, en plus d’être une belle carte de visite.
Isabelle Arsenault est une illustratrice canadienne lauréate dont le travail a été publié dans Québec Science, L’actualité, Explore et d’autres magazines, ainsi que dans 10 livres. Son livre le plus récent est Once Upon a Northern Night, une méditation poétique sur l’hiver. Découvrir plus au isabellearsenault.com.
Plus Off the Page
Inscriptions pour les 2013 Prix du magazine canadien (date limite 15 janvier)
Off the Page is an interview series that appears regularly on the Magazine Awards blog. Today we catch up with Brett Popplewell, editor of The Feathertale Review, winner of the 2012 National Magazine Award for Best Single Issue.
NMAF: The Feathertale Review has been dubbed the “illegitimate love child of Mad Magazine and The New Yorker.” We just saw your latest issue, no. 11, double in size to 128 pages. Is this a signal to readers that the child is growing up? And if so, where is it headed?
Brett Popplewell: It’s definitely a sign that the child is growing up. Where it’s heading, I have no idea.
Truth is our entire team has grown up since our launch in 2006. We were just kids back then who felt there was an absence of high- and low-brow humour magazines in the Canadian market and thought we could be the cork to plug that hole. Lee Wilson, Feathertale’s co-founder and art director, and I wanted to create something that would feel fresh and cutting edge but that would hark back to an age when magazines leaned entirely on illustration to bring their words to life. We’re the ones who started calling our creation the “illegitimate love child of Mad Magazine and The New Yorker” because it felt like the best way to describe it.
We really started to grow up with our fourth issue (summer 2009). I finally started writing editorials to help nail a raison-d’etre for each issue and we began interviewing interesting people (David Rakoff, Stuart McLean, Patrick deWitt, Lynn Coady, etc.) in the magazine, using those interviews to try to answer some of life’s greatest questions, like: “What does it actually mean to be funny?” All of this added a creative depth to what we were doing.
By that point Lee and I were both working fulltime with mass-market magazines and had a much better understanding of our industry and Feathertale’s place within it. We began wanting to use Feathertale to challenge what we and others thought a magazine actually was. That’s how we came up with the idea for Feathertale 9. That issue, which looked, read and felt like it was lost in time, was modeled after 250-year-old magazines in order to show readers how far magazines had evolved and changed since their initial creation back in 1731. I think the moment we started thinking about Feathertale on such a bold scale was when it grew up and became more than just the bastard love child of Mad Magazine and The New Yorker.
We didn’t have it in us to make Feathertale 10 as crazy an innovation as its predecessor. So we sought instead to create a “swan song” issue that resembled some of our earlier issues and served to book-end a chapter of our lives.
After Feathertale 10 we had time to reflect on what we’d accomplished and assess what we thought was working and what wasn’t. We had contemplated ending the print product and concentrating on Feathertale.com, the online companion to the Review. Our $10 cover price hadn’t been doing us any favours on newsstands and our online readership had always outstripped our printed circulation. But we still believed in producing beautiful printed products and decided to double down on that belief. That’s when we started thinking about making the Review look less like a magazine and more like a book.
From a design standpoint, this made sense. We were starting to publish some much longer stories and Lee felt the long features would read better if we changed the design. So we shrunk the page size from the 8”x10” we’d been using for the first 10 issues to 5”x8”. We then doubled the length of the book to make sure it would still pack the roughly 35,000 words we’d been publishing in our previous issues. In the end, the adjustment made good business sense as well.
Feathertale is still a magazine of course, but our current issue (and our next one for that matter) does look a lot more like a book than a mag. I don’t know how that format will serve us on newsstands. We have one of the thicker spines out there right now, and I think we’ve got some pretty appealing covers but we don’t take up nearly as much space on the magazine rack. That said, our subscribers seem to be enjoying the new forma, which is encouraging. It’s also substantially cheaper for us to print the smaller layout and from what we’ve seen at festivals, people are more inclined to pay $10 (or even $15) for the new format. We’re under no pretense of being the first to come out at this size, but so far it makes sense for us.
NMAF: In addition to winning the National Magazine Award for Best Single Issue (for issue no. 9), Feathertale has also won NMAs for Humour and for Best Magazine Cover; remarkable achievements for any magazine, no less a young literary one. What impact have achievements like these made on Feathertale and its writers and artists?
Brett: The accolades have certainly helped us stay motivated, but this has never been a vanity project. Our first win for Best Magazine Cover of 2010 came as a shock, both to us and I think to others in our industry. That cover was really special to us. It was illustrated by a young artist in Oshawa named Dani Crosby. She had just graduated from Sheridan and didn’t have a huge portfolio when we handed her our magazine and told her to do as she pleased with it. There aren’t many magazines that will hand over that kind of opportunity to such a young and relatively inexperienced artist. When we won best cover, we were really just humbled and honoured to be recognized by our peers.
After our first NMA a lot of illustrators and writers who hadn’t really been looking at us started submitting work our way. It definitely helped us grow and added some more established voices to our ever-expanding list of contributors. I guess you could say that award helped us beef up subsequent issues, including Feathertale 9, which won Gold for Best Single Issue last year. I was surprised when we were nominated for that award as well and I was ecstatic when we won. I think what I’m most proud of about that issue is that we pulled it all together on a $7,000 budget. I can’t really explain how it feels to have published and edited a magazine on that kind of budget and then see it nominated alongside magazines that are easily 100 times our size.
Feathertale was probably the smallest magazine nominated for any awards last year, so to win one of the evening’s most prestigious was an unexpected honour, something Cathal Kelly (one of our frequent contributors) touched on when he tweeted that watching Feathertale win that NMA was, financially speaking, “like your home movies winning an Oscar.”
There were 37 contributors in that issue and each of them was integral to its success. I can’t speak for any of them, but I can say that I am extremely proud to have worked with each of them on that issue. I’m equally as proud of Cathal for picking up silver in the Humour category last year. We’ve always said we’re a humour magazine, and Cathal’s award and work helped validate that claim. He’s probably the most naturally gifted writer I’ve had the privilege to work with.
NMAF: You’ve spoken elsewhere about the early success story of Feathertale, where start-up funds from a successful anti-bullying comic-book venture seeded the start of the magazine, and support from Canadian arts funding has helped you grow. What lessons have you learned about publishing a literary magazine in Canada that might benefit other publishers, writers and artists out there?
Brett: The biggest lesson I’ve learned is you have to believe in the value of what you’re doing because you won’t necessarily see any benefit from your labours in your bank account. Canada is such a small market that it’s very hard to make a profit with this type of venture. Financially, Feathertale is subsidized by grant money and sales of Lee’s and my anti-bullying comic books. But aside from that, this whole thing survives on the passion of its creators. That passion comes and goes. There are times when each of us have wanted to run away from Feathertale but the longer we spend working on the project the more we realize that it’s like a child that deserves a shot at growing up and becoming a fully functioning adult. It has definitely grown up and matured, but it’s still not ready to feed itself or change its own diapers.
Publishing, especially in the 21st century, is a very fickle industry. Lee and I wandered into it without any real experience. We had some spectacular success early on with our anti-bullying comic books and have no regrets at having used that success to launch The Feathertale Review. We are fortunate to now have support from both the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council. I think it’s important for every Canadian to understand that if the Arts councils ever pulled out of funding literary journals in this country the entire industry would likely die, or at least cease to print.
NMAF: Who is D’Artagnan, really?
Seriously though, he’s the blue monkey who appears on all things Feathertale. We used to think of him as our Alfred E. Newman or Eustace Tilley, but he’s become more than that. He’s our face in this world. What’s his story? Why is he blue? We’ve been asking ourselves those questions for a long time now but still haven’t figured it out.
Brett Popplewell is the editor of The Feathertale Review, as well as a National Magazine Award-winning writer — he won Gold in the category Sports & Recreation at the 2011 National Magazine Awards for “The Team that Disappeared” (Sportsnet). Follow him on Twitter @b_popps.
Images courtesy Feathertale.com and National Magazine Awards Foundation.
Submissions are now being accepted for the 2013 National Magazine Awards. Deadline for entries: January 15.