Off the Page is an exclusive series produced by the NMAF that reaches out to former National Magazine Award winners to find out what their awards have meant to them and what they’re up to now. Off the Page appears regularly on the Magazine Awards blog. Today we catch up with seven-time National Magazine Award-winning journalist Catherine Dubé, reporter for the French-language current affairs magazine L’actualité.
NMAF: Last year, you won the a Gold National Magazine Award for your article “Demain, des centres à 7 $ par jour pour les vieux?” [Tomorrow, $7-a-day Care Centres for the Elderly?] – your seventh National Magazine Award in the past five years! What prompted you to write this story?
Catherine Dubé: The idea was generated in an editorial meeting at L’actualité. We asked ourselves what we can expect over the next 10 to 20 years. We are all going to need care, after all! And the healthcare system is not prepared to take care of the horde of aging Baby Boomers.
The main challenge of the report was to engage our readers about an issue that may not be very sexy. I did what I always do: illustrate the information with lots of concrete examples. I tried to find innovative solutions, such as the one that inspired the title of the piece.
NMAF: When you write for L’actualité, how do you develop the idea for a new story? Do you draw inspiration from consulting health professionals or other media?
Catherine Dubé: I examine the current social issues, large and small, exploring for a new angle. Any source might be a good one, whether it is from the media here or abroad, public events such as conferences, or specialized publications. The people I interview often put me onto a new track for a story.
I also try to find information that may have escaped the attention of the daily news media, which is overwhelmed by the constant stream of news.
Last year, when I was working on a profile of the hypnotist Messmer, a popular Quebec artist, I discovered that his approach was quite controversial, and my article became instead an investigation of hypnosis, seeking out what is true and what is false, and highlighting the dangers of this method when it is misused.
The process of researching and writing articles for L’actualité, where I started working two years ago, is quite similar to the process at Québec Science where I worked for ten years. But the angle of attack is different: more scientific for Québec Science, more general for L’actualité.
NMAF: What is the significance to you of winning a National Magazine Award? And what’s next for you; what topics and issues are currently attracting your interest?
Catherine Dubé: An award is the culmination of our efforts and the recognition that we achieved our goal. Nobody picks up a magazine just to find out the news. Newspapers, television and the web provide tough competition for that. But it is up to us, the artisans of magazines, to offer the untold stories, and the new and surprising angles to those stories, which are what make magazines indispensable.
Writing is also a key element: it must be clear and polished. If the reader enjoys the story as much as if reading a novel, then the job is done. It’s a challenge every time. My ultimate goal is to articulate complex and often abstract issues. I must find the human stories through which these issues are embodied, and then tell them skillfully. Even after all these years, it doesn’t get easier. But the difference is that I’ve been able to do it better!
This month I have a long feature about the world of justice, which will be published as a mini-book insert in the magazine. This is a new format that we started offering our readers last year and it’s been a great success.
Catherine Dubé is a journalist with the magazine L’actualité. This year she is nominated for 3 National Magazine Awards. Special thanks to Avary Lovell for the interview with Catherine.
From the NMA Archives, by Catherine Dubé:
Demain, des centres à 7$ par jour pour les vieux? (Prix d’or, Santé et famille, 2011)
Marmot 2.0 (Prix d’or, Société, 2010)
1,2,3…bébés? (Prix d’argent, 2010, Santé et médécine)
Vive le mangeur libre (Prix d’or, Mode de vie, 2009)
Grippe A(H1N1) – Tout savoir (Prix d’argent, 2009, Santé et famille)
Des synapses et des lettres (Prix d’argent, Société, 2008)
Péril à la ferme (Prix d’argent, Article hors categorie, 2007)
More Off the Page, with:
La série Off the Page est une exclusivité produite par la Fondation nationale du prix du magazine canadien (FNPMC) et qui offre aux anciens lauréats de Prix du magazine canadien une tribune où ils sont invités à exprimer ce que leur prix a signifié pour eux et à nous dire où ils en sont aujourd’hui dans leur carrière. La série Off the Page paraîtra périodiquement dans notre blogue. Cette semaine, nous découvrons quoi de neuf avec Catherine Dubé, rédactrice du magazine L’actualité.
[The English version of this interview will be published tomorrow.]
FNPMC : L’année dernière, vous avez remporté le Prix d’or dans la catégorie Service : Santé et famille, pour votre article « Demain, des centres à 7 $ par jour pour les vieux? », votre septième Prix du magazine canadien au cours des cinq dernières années! Qu’est-ce qui vous a incité à rédiger cet article?
Catherine Dubé : Cette idée est issue d’une réunion de rédaction de L’actualité. Nous nous sommes demandé ce qui nous attend d’ici 10 à 20 ans : nous sommes tous des aidants naturels en sursis ! Le système de santé n’est pas préparé à prendre soin de la cohorte vieillissante des baby-boomers.
Le principal défi de ce reportage consistait à intéresser les lecteurs à ce sujet a priori pas très sexy…
J’ai fait ce que je fais toujours : illustrer l’information par de nombreux exemples concrets. Je me suis efforcée de trouver des solutions novatrices, comme les haltes répit qui ont inspiré le titre du reportage.
FNPMC : Lorsque vous écrivez pour L’actualité, quel processus suivez-vous pour puiser les idées de votre nouvel article? Trouvez-vous votre inspiration en consultant des professionnels de la santé, des études, d’autres médias, ou d’autres sources?
Catherine Dubé : J’explore les petits et grands sujets de société qui sont dans l’air du temps, à la recherche d’un angle neuf. Toutes les sources sont bonnes, qu’ils s’agissent de médias d’ici ou de l’étranger, d’événements publics comme des conférences, ou encore de publications spécialisées. Les personnes que j’interviewe me mettent souvent sur des pistes inédites.
Je trouve ainsi des informations très intéressantes qui ont échappé au regard des journalistes de quotidiens, submergés par le flot continu des nouvelles.
L’an dernier, alors que je devais faire le portrait de l’hypnotiseur Messmer, un artiste populaire au Québec, j’ai découvert que son approche faisait l’objet d’une controverse; cet article est en quelque sorte devenu une enquête sur l’hypnose, faisant la part des choses entre le vrai et le faux, et mettant en lumière les dangers de la technique lorsqu’elle est mal utilisée.
Le processus de recherche et de rédaction que j’utilise pour mes articles publiés dans L’actualité, où j’ai été embauchée il y a deux ans, est assez semblable à celui que j’utilisais à Québec Science, où j’ai travaillé les dix années précédentes. C’est l’angle d’attaque qui est différent : plus scientifique pour Québec Science, plus social et grand public pour L’actualité.
FNPMC : Quelle importance attribuez-vous au fait de remporter un Prix du magazine canadien? Et que pouvons-nous entrevoir pour l’avenir : quels sujets et enjeux suscitent actuellement votre intérêt?
Catherine Dubé : Un prix est le couronnement de nos efforts, la reconnaissance qu’on a atteint notre objectif.
Personne ne se sent obligé de lire un magazine pour être au courant de l’actualité. Les journaux, la télévision et les nouvelles en continu sur le Web nous livrent une rude compétition. C’est à nous, artisans des magazines, de proposer des histoires inédites, des angles nouveaux et surprenants pour nous rendre indispensables aux yeux du grand public.
L’écriture est aussi une clé : elle doit être soignée et fluide. Si le lecteur a autant de plaisir à me lire que s’il lisait un roman, le pari est gagné. C’est toujours un défi, car mon but ultime est d’expliquer des enjeux complexes et souvent abstraits. Je dois trouver les histoires humaines à travers lesquels ces enjeux s’incarnent et les raconter habilement. Même après toutes ces années, ce n’est pas plus facile qu’avant… La différence, c’est que je le fais mieux !
Je publierai dans quelques semaines un très long reportage sur le monde de la justice. Le résultat sera publié sous forme de mini-livre, encarté dans le magazine, un nouveau format que nous proposons aux lecteurs depuis l’an dernier et qui connaît un beau succès.
Catherine Dubé est journaliste au magazine L’actualité. Elle est nominée pour 3 Prix du magazine canadien cette année. Un merci tout spécial à Avary Lovell pour l’interview avec Catherine.
[The English version of this interview will be published tomorrow on the Magazine Awards blog.]
De nos archives, par Catherine Dubé :
Demain, des centres à 7$ par jour pour les vieux? (Prix d’or, Santé et famille, 2011)
Marmot 2.0 (Prix d’or, Société, 2010)
1,2,3…bébés? (Prix d’argent, 2010, Santé et médécine)
Vive le mangeur libre (Prix d’or, Mode de vie, 2009)
Grippe A(H1N1) – Tout savoir (Prix d’argent, 2009, Santé et famille)
Des synapses et des lettres (Prix d’argent, Société, 2008)
Péril à la ferme (Prix d’argent, Article hors categorie, 2007)
Off the Page is an exclusive series produced by the NMAF that reaches out to former National Magazine Award winners to find out what their awards have meant to them and what they’re up to now. As we prepare for this year’s NMA bash, we catch up with National Magazine Award-winning photographer Ian Willms.
NMAF: Last year you won the Gold National Magazine Award for Photojournalism & Photo Essay for “In the Shadow of the Oilsands” published in This Magazine. How has winning this award helped you expand your career?
Ian Willms: The NMA is a big award and I’m extremely grateful to have won it. I’m sure it has done quite a bit to promote my work and lift my profile as a documentary photographer. Above all else, I’m happy that this award brought the story to more viewers.
NMAF: What advice, either professional or artistic, would you give to current and future Photojournalism & Photo Essay NMA candidates?
Ian Willms: Stay true to the vision that you have for your work. It’s so easy to lose that in the editorial realm. Take the time necessary to do the work that matters to you, in the way that you believe it needs to be done; even if it’s not profitable.
NMAF: Since winning the NMAF Gold award, what photography projects have you completed?
Ian Willms: I’ve been working on a photo essay that explores the religious oppression of Mennonites in Europe and Russia during the 16th-20th centuries. The work is called “Why We Walk” and can be seen at www.ianwillms.com/whywewalk.
Ian Willms is a freelance photographer based in Toronto. You can view his work at ianwillms.com. His work has been exhibited extensively in Canada and around the world, and he’s currently a member of the Boreal Collective and Reportage by Getty Images Emerging Talent.
Special thanks to Jordanna Tennebaum for the interview with Ian. Tomorrow on the Magazine Awards blog we’ll throw the spotlight on this year’s finalists for Photojournalism & Photo Essay.
La nouvelle série Off the Page est une exclusivité produite par la Fondation nationale du prix du magazine canadien (FNPMC) et qui offre aux anciens lauréats de Prix du magazine canadien une tribune où ils sont invités à exprimer ce que leur prix a signifié pour eux et à nous dire où ils en sont aujourd’hui dans leur carrière. La série « Off the Page » paraîtra périodiquement dans notre blogue à l’automne 2012. Cette semaine, nous découvrons quoi de neuf avec Pascale Millot, rédactrice en chef adjointe du magazine Québec Science.
FNPMC: Au cours de son histoire, Québec Science a remporté 24 Prix du magazine canadien dont 13 au cours des 7 dernières années, notamment dans des catégories telles que Santé et médecine, Société, Dossiers thématiques et Science, technologie et environnement. Quelle est l’importance pour vous, comme rédactrice en chef adjointe, de voir votre équipe reconnue pour son travail? Et, selon vous, ce succès a-t-il un impact sur vos lecteurs?
Pascale Millot: À la rédaction de Québec Science, nous sommes toujours fiers et heureux de voir le travail de nos journalistes reconnu par des prix aussi prestigieux que ceux de la Fondation des magazines canadiens. D’une part, parce que ces prix soulignent le talent de nos collaborateurs.
Ensuite, ces prix montrent la rigueur et l’originalité du travail qui est fait à Québec Science depuis des années. Vous savez, derrière un reportage se cache un important travail d’équipe.
Bien sûr, le plus grand mérite revient au journaliste qui l’écrit, mais le choix du sujet, la révision, le choix des titres et surtout l’encadrement pendant la recherche et la rédaction sont aussi d’une importance capitale et font souvent la différence entre un reportage «publiable» et une œuvre remarquable.
Quant à nos lecteurs, ils sont toujours impressionnés de voir notre récolte de prix. Je crois que cela renforce notre crédibilité.
FNPMC: L’année dernière, vous avez également remporté un Prix du magazine canadien pour votre article « Quand je serai plus là, qui va s’occuper de mes poissons? ». Ce reportage racontait l’histoire d’enfants qui souffrent de maladies mortelles et traitait de la réalité des soins palliatifs pour les jeunes, au Canada. Comment avez-vous été informée de ce dossier et pourquoi avez-vous décidé de faire enquête à ce sujet?
Pascale Millot: J’aime à répéter que, si j’avais eu plus d’audace et pas d’enfants, j’aurais fait du reportage en zone de guerre. Je pense en effet que les journalistes ont la responsabilité de nous faire découvrir des réalités peu connues et extrêmes.
Je ne fais pas de reportage en zone de conflit, mais je m’efforce tout de même de traiter de sujets extrêmes où des hommes et des femmes sont poussés au bout de leurs limites. C’est le genre de sujets qui me passionne et dont j’ai besoin pour garder mon intérêt dans ce métier.
Parler des enfants qui vont mourir, du don d’organes, de la torture, du suicide, de la maladie mentale et de toutes ces situations où l’être humain est poussé au bout de lui-même est ma manière à moi de faire du reportage extrême. En ce qui concerne ce sujet précis des soins palliatifs pédiatriques, j’ai été frappée de constater à quel point la mort, et particulièrement la mort des enfants, est taboue dans notre société.
D’ailleurs, beaucoup de gens autour de moi ne comprenaient pas pourquoi je me penchais sur un tel sujet, comme si c’était trop triste pour en parler. Mais c’est justement pour cela qu’il faut en parler.
FNPMC: Cette année, Québec Science célèbre son 50e anniversaire. Qu’avez-vous fait pour souligner cet anniversaire et quels sont les objectifs futurs du magazine?
Pascale Millot: C’est un gros anniversaire! 50 ans pour un magazine au Québec, c’est une incroyable longévité. D’autant plus qu’il s’agit du seul magazine de science destiné au grand public au Canada.
Pour souligner cette grande année, nous avons produit un numéro spécial qui présente les 50 grands défis de la recherche scientifique. Notre rédacteur en chef, Raymond Lemieux, a également publié un livre, Il était une fois Québec Science (Éditions MultiMondes), qui raconte l’histoire du magazine, mais aussi de la culture scientifique au Québec. Nous avons aussi repensé complètement notre site Internet et nous avons (enfin!) rendu nos archives accessibles en ligne.
Nos objectifs futurs? Produire de l’information sous forme numérique, mais aussi et surtout continuer à produire des reportages de fond, bien écrits, à même d’informer et de captiver un public non spécialiste. Il est de plus en plus difficile de produire de l’information de qualité, de fouiller des sujets, de prendre le temps de comprendre les différentes facettes d’un dossier.
Le reportage magazine demande du talent, mais aussi du temps et de la rigueur, des valeurs qui sont malheureusement de moins en moins dans l’air du temps.
FNPMC: Merci Pascale!
Off the Page is an exclusive series produced by the NMAF that reaches out to former National Magazine Award winners to find out what their awards have meant to them and what they’re up to now. Off the Page will appear each Thursday on the Magazine Awards blog during the fall of 2012. This week we catch up with three-time National Magazine Award-winning writer Curtis Gillespie, editor of the new magazine Eighteen Bridges.
NMAF: Some might call it a bold venture: launching a publication of narrative non-fiction journalism—a magazine of big ideas—in an age when long-form is seemingly subsumed by Internet media and niche publishing. Perhaps that’s a misconception. As an editor and an award-winning long-form writer, what were your founding objectives for Eighteen Bridges; what did the magazine seek to achieve that wasn’t already on the landscape?
Curtis Gillespie: The founding objectives of Eighteen Bridges were very simple: marry sound research with compelling narrative. We wanted to offer a home for great writers who can also do trustworthy research.
Long form is more important than ever, because context is more important than ever. We’re awash in information, but lacking in depth and background, and that’s precisely why the long-form narrative journalism format is, I believe, essential.
This kind of in-depth journalism is expensive, and so most outlets are shying away from it. Digital-age, quick-hit, small-dose journalism is fine, but it needs to be supported by genuine investigative journalism that offers trustworthy and thorough research (to further our insight) along with genuine writing talent (to keep us reading!).
We didn’t see this style on the Canadian landscape. The Walrus is a great magazine, but doesn’t necessarily focus on narrative. Maclean’s is newsy. Brick is arts and culture. All are good magazines and serve their readers well.
The point of doing something like Eighteen Bridges is to create an immersive experience for readers, so that they’re enjoying a story but also gaining context.
NMAF: One of the pledges Eighteen Bridges makes to the Canadian readership is that it will “initiate vibrant debate.” What has informed this perspective that we’re in need of enhanced public debate in this country, and what is the role of narrative journalism in fostering such discourse that is unique among the myriad forms of Canadian media.
Curtis Gillespie: The “narrative” aspect is crucial. It’s our base camp, in a way. We believe in story telling as the perfect conduit for in-depth journalism, because we believe a magazine article should be both enlightening and entertaining, and that the two are not mutually exclusive. But this takes talent, hard work, and a clear editorial mandate.
Too often, newspapers and television provide facts, but no context. We learn the issues, but not the subtleties behind the issues. We don’t get to know the personalities in their complexity.
You can’t really have a vibrant debate without feeling well informed. Otherwise, conversations, arguments, debates and discussions are simply an exchange of opinion.
Our goal (if we can ever reach anything like the level of cultural penetration of a major media source) is to offer enough background and context to allow for vigorous discussions based on good research and compelling stories, rather than sound bites and quick hits.
If we can take the principles of narrative (characterization, dramatic arc, psychological and emotional inquiry, and so on) and use those to convey the stories that are shaping our world, then we’ll be creating journalism that people enjoy and value.
NMAF: Among the early measures of success for Eighteen Bridges are the ten National Magazine Awards nominations and 2 wins—Gold for Don Gillmor’s “All In” and Silver for Alissa York’s “Class Mammalia”—that came from just your first two issues from 2011. Was this a key step in the realization of your vision for the magazine, and what have the awards meant to the magazine and its future?
Curtis Gillespie: I can’t honestly say it was a key step in the realization for our vision for the magazine, since it would be unwise to ever plan on winning awards!
Having said that, we did feel that if we were lucky enough to get noticed at the National Magazine Awards in our first year of eligibility it would help us spread the word of what we are about and who we are trying to reach.
The NMAs mean a great deal to people in the magazine industry and to writers in general; they indicate what is working at a high level and signal to the country what might be worth paying attention to.
We were stunned and delighted to get 10 nominations and two wins in our first crack at it, partly because it means people might notice our magazine and what we’re trying to do with it; that we take issues that matter and create great stories about them. But more because it was recognition for some outstanding writing.
Don and Alissa were rightly recognized, but it also drew attention to many other fine writers.
We think it also showed, in some ways, that our rationale for creating the magazine wasn’t completely without merit!
Curtis Gillespie won 3 National Magazine Awards for his writing in Saturday Night magazine, and has been nominated for a total of 14 NMAs since 1999. He has also served as a judge for the NMAs. Eighteen Bridges was nominated for 10 NMAs last year, and won Silver in Travel (Alissa York, “Class Mammalia“) and Gold in Arts & Entertainment (Don Gillmor, “All In“; featured in the new NMA eBook). Discover more at eighteenbridges.com.
Off the Page is an exclusive series produced by the NMAF that reaches out to former National Magazine Award winners to find out what their awards have meant to them and what they’re up to now. Off the Page will appear each Thursday on the Magazine Awards blog during the fall of 2012. This week we catch up with the 2011 winners of Best New Visual Creator: The Coveteur. The Coveteur are designer Erin Kleinberg, stylist Stephanie Mark and photographer Jake Rosenberg.
NMAF: At this year’s National Magazine Awards The Coveteur was named Canada’s Best New Visual Creator for your spread “Strictly Top Shelf” in Report on Business magazine. First of all, what is The Coveteur, and where does it make the biggest impact on the world of fashion and style?
The Coveteur: The Coveteur takes you into the closets of today’s celebrities and fashion icons so you can discover their unique style. Our site features exclusive photography and videos and provides a behind the scenes community for fashion lovers. Our followers can collect and share their favorite images in their own “closet” and then shop the look of Coveteurs from around the globe—from New York to Paris, London and beyond.
We make an impact by redefining the way people shop and the way they view the still-life by showcasing the styles of today’s tastemakers in a new light that is also shoppable.
NMAF: How did you get involved with Report on Business, and how did you develop your winning piece—which the judges lauded for “magnifying the desirability of objects”; “a perfect balance of style and composition”—for the magazine?
The Coveteur: We are loyal readers of Report on Business and we were thrilled and honoured when they approached us to contribute. We created a holiday gift guide in signature Coveteur fashion and arranged the products in such a way that brings them to life and makes each one appear as a character in an environment.
Our community enjoys the quirk of an image—a stuffed monkey wearing a pair of designer glasses styled amongst other great products—as it highlights the product when showcased in an unexpected, eccentric way. Keeping the sophisticated Report on Business reader in mind, we chose exceptional, high-end products for the feature.
NMAF: Your online “curations” (coveteurs) seem to borrow a bit from traditional fashion magazine layouts while also being remarkably innovative in tapping the power of social media, digital publishing and e-commerce. What have been some of your influences from the world of magazines—fashion, style, design, etc—while developing this unique approach to exhibition?
The Coveteur: We have all had individual and unique experiences working in these different yet connected areas. Erin worked for W Magazine alongside director Alex White who taught her to push stylistic boundaries, which catches the reader off-guard and calls for a second glance. She recalls a photo shoot with model Doutzen Kroes staged in a field and littered with teddy bears—a consistent quirkiness that has remained an integral part of her styling since.
Stephanie, who went to Parsons [School for Design] for fashion marketing and interned with Kate Lanphear at Elle Magazine, has a keen eye for picking great product from across the globe and is our in-house e-commerce wiz.
Jake’s visual inspiration comes from the work of Ben Watts and his vivid editorial imagery as well as Raymond Meier’s ability to bring product to life through editing. His photography is bright, vivid and intimate, adding a certain “glow” which tells a unique story about each subject and their personal style.
NMAF: Do you have any other current or upcoming projects in magazines to tell us about?
The Coveteur: We just shot an exclusive, eight-page spread for the October/November 2012 issue of Air France Madame magazine filled with the best accessories of the season and shot in our distinct stylistic approach. As for what else is coming up? You’ll just have to stay tuned!
Check out all of fantastic curations of Stephanie, Erin and Jake at thecoveteur.com.
Off the Page is an exclusive series produced by the NMAF that reaches out to former National Magazine Award winners to find out what their awards have meant to them and what they’re up to now. Off the Page will appear each Thursday on the Magazine Awards blog during the fall of 2012. This week we catch up with National Magazine Award-winning writer Heather O’Neill.
NMAF: Two years running you’ve won the Gold National Magazine Award for Best Short Feature—“The First Time She Ran Away” (Elle Canada) and “When Your Mother is a Stranger” (Chatelaine)—both of which could be described as memoirs of adolescence. Indeed, one might reasonably infer from your body of work that you’re especially passionate about that stage of life. What do you find particularly special (or challenging) about connecting with your audience through the short, episodic memoir?
Heather O’Neill: The challenge of the short memoir is having such little space to tell a story in. You end up having to make every sentence contain a strong idea. There’s no room for any superfluous thoughts or tangents. It’s like the short program in figure skating championships. I do like the power of that form. I work in it a lot. There seems to be a lot of demand for it anyways in magazines and newspapers.
A short memoir piece is like a very powerful photograph: it’s a short snapshot from my life that is supposed to invoke an entire world.
NMAF: Your acclaimed debut novel Lullabies for Little Criminals began life as a short story in Toronto Life magazine in 2003, since which time you’ve been published frequently in many Canadian periodicals. What is the significance for you, as a young writer, of working in magazines and ultimately winning a National Magazine Award?
Heather O’Neill: I remember when the story was accepted in Toronto Life. I received a mass email from Anita Chong at McClelland and Stewart saying that Toronto Life magazine was looking for stories for its summer issue. I stuck mine in an envelope, wrote the address of the magazine on the front, kissed it and dropped it in the mailbox. It was such a big day for me when they accepted it!
I got a lot of great feedback and everyone at the magazine was effusive and full of praise. It was very validating and it really encouraged me to continue the novel. Or it certainly put a skip in my step as I was finishing the rest of it: knowing that people had taken a peek at it and had approved. The editor, Sarah Fulford, gave me a lot of feedback and edits on how to make the story stronger, and I applied her ideas to the rest of the novel.
Publishing in Canadian magazines was absolutely indispensible to me. I had to work like a fiend to get in them. Their standards are high. It’s a way to polish your craft and see what is working in your writing and what isn’t. It’s also a way to get the attention of publishers and agents. I sent a copy of that magazine around to different agents. It was like dressing up my story in a tuxedo. It got the attention of an agent though.
I’ve since published frequently in Canadian periodicals. It’s helped me to create a unique voice and develop as a writer. It allows me to write in different forms. I love writing essays and magazines have been the primary home for them. And, depending on the magazine, it gives you new and varied sorts of audiences. It was fabulous fun winning the prize for short essay two years in a row!
NMAF: In addition to your novel and magazine work, you’re also a poet, playwright and radio journalist. What are you working on these days?
Heather O’Neill: I’m just finishing up my new novel, called The Girl Who Was Saturday Night [forthcoming from FSG/HarperCollins]. I’ve also finished a collection of short stories that will be coming out shortly afterwards.
Heather O’Neill is a two-time National Magazine Award-winning writer whose work has appeared in Toronto Life, Chatelaine, Elle Canada and other magazines. Her award-winning debut novel Lullabies for Little Criminals (HarperCollins) was an international bestseller. She recently published And They Danced By the Light of the Moon, an ePub eBook from The Walrus and Coach House Books. One of this blogger’s favourite pieces by Heather O’Neill is “How to Date a Writer” (from CBC Canada Writes).
Off the Page is an exclusive series produced by the NMAF that reaches out to former National Magazine Award winners to find out what their awards have meant to them and what they’re up to now. Off the Page will appear each Thursday on the Magazine Awards blog during the fall of 2012. This week we catch up with National Magazine Award-winning illustrator Selena Wong.
NMAF: Back in 2009 you graduated from the Ontario College of Art & Design and your work appeared in, among other places, The Walrus and was later nominated for a National Magazine Award. How did you get started illustrating for magazines, and how did your work grab the attention of The Walrus?
Selena Wong: The first illustration that started it all was a piece done for PlanSponsor magazine with Art Director SooJin Buzelli. I had a chance to meet SooJin during a semester of study at the Rhode Island School of Design through OCAD’s mobility/exchange program.
As for The Walrus, I applied for an art internship with the magazine in 2009, and through the interview process I met the art director Brian Morgan and the senior designer Paul Kim. Since I majored in illustration at the Ontario Collage of Art & Design, the portfolio I brought with me was full of illustrations from my fourth-year thesis.
I had no samples of any graphic design/layout work so I wasn’t an ideal candidate at the time, but was later so fortunately offered to do an editorial illustration for the magazine.
NMAF: At this year’s National Magazine Awards gala you won the Gold award for illustration (“Meet You at the Door”). This piece seems exemplary of much of your body of work: fantastical, dream-like, full of wonder. In composing a piece like this, to what extent does the text or the author or the art director guide you, and to what extent are you guided by your own style and instinct?
Selena Wong: I really enjoyed illustrating Lawrence Hill’s story and not to mention had a blast at the NMA gala. For this particular project, I worked with Paul Kim, the senior designer at The Walrus, who introduced Hill’s story accompanied by a few proposed key imageries.
With Paul’s suggestions in mind, I highlighted words and phrases that I thought represented the climax of the story after reading it through several times. From that point on, I created two or three sketches based on those highlighted moments I had set aside. I then sent the sketches to Paul while secretly hoping that he would pick the sketch I yearned most to develop.
Luckily, what Paul thought worked best for the story and the audience of The Walrus was a piece that was meant to capture the most dreamy atmosphere of one specific setting. It was a description of the beautiful starry sky that tried to divert the gaze from the most important job in life in the vast Canadian Prairies.
The approach I used for this illustration is one that I learned and exercised throughout my training in illustration at OCAD. I appropriate the same practice to all of my work. Through illustrating, I aim to determine the part in a piece of writing where the author opens up to the reader. Sometimes this moment is not the most meaningful and significant one, yet it captures the essence of the story. I believe that it enables me to involve and evoke the deeper emotions in the audience.
NMAF: What impact does winning a National Magazine Award have on a young artist, professionally or personally?
Selena Wong: As a young artist, it is a great honour to be recognized nationally, which in turn provides many assurances of support for my career. I was thrilled to be nominated for a National Magazine Award in 2009 even though I only received a honourable mention. That is why I was very surprised to learn that I was given a rare second chance and nominated for a NMA a second time with The Walrus!
Even with greater astonishment, this time I was called up on stage to receive the Gold award. An award not only provides charming publicity but it raises the standards in my work and, therefore, produces a wonderful opportunity to surpass my previous accomplishments.
Selena Wong is a National Magazine Award-winning illustrator and graduate of the Ontario College of Art & Design. Her exhibit “Black Math” is on at the Steam Whistle Brewery in Toronto until the end of October. You can view her work at selenawong.com and selenawong.blogspot.ca.
Off the Page (back after a summer hiatus) is an exclusive series produced by the NMAF that reaches out to former National Magazine Award winners to find out what their awards have meant to them and what they’re up to now. Off the Page will appear each Thursday on the Magazine Awards blog during the fall of 2012. This week we catch up with National Magazine Award-winning editor Patrick Walsh of Outdoor Canada magazine.
NMAF: In the last 10 years, Outdoor Canada has been nominated for 52 National Magazine Awards—and won 11—with particular success in the categories that reward the packaging of collaborative editorial content to instruct, inform and stimulate your readers. Okay, so what’s the secret to a successful editorial package?
Patrick Walsh: Pacing. We strive to create an editorial package that contains an even, thematically linked mix of quick, snappy items, short articles and longer features. And within that mix, we’ll include info-packed service and how-to pieces, as well as engaging narratives.
You don’t want the package to be too weighed down with just one element. The same applies to the visuals—we want a good mix of graphics, illustrations and photography.
The key is to evenly distribute all these disparate elements throughout the package, such that the reader enjoys a seamless, entertaining reading experience. It’s like designing and assembling a puzzle—it will all fall together properly if you’ve planned ahead, visualized the end product, and created all the right pieces.
NMAF: What is the significance for you, as an editor, to win a National Magazine Award and see your staff, freelance writers and photographers recognized for their work? And what does this success convey to your readers?
Patrick Walsh: I don’t want to overstate the significance of such recognition, as some might argue that true success should be gauged by the likes of subscription renewals, newsstand sales and advertisement insertion orders.
However, it is immensely gratifying, on a professional level, when our team and contributors earn a National Magazine Award, or simply garner a nomination for that matter. It’s yet another measurement of how well we are serving our audience, based on the criteria for magazine excellence as determined by our industry peers.
We are not creating the best content possible to win awards, mind you—we’re doing it for our readers, and I like to think they appreciate that.
NMAF: Which is more challenging: Editing a successful hunting and fishing magazine, or reeling in a seven-foot, seven-inch sturgeon in the Fraser River? And what does one teach you about the other?
Patrick Walsh: After I beached that 250-pound sturgeon, I thought, Well, I’ll never do that again. I have a bad back, you see, and by the time the 26-minute fight was over, my lower back was on fire. But actually catching it wasn’t a huge challenge.
It’s a crapshoot, really. My fishing buddy and I simply took turns grabbing the first rod that got a hit, and with this particular fish, it just happened to be my turn to set the hook. Then all you have to do is keep tension on the barbless hook and hang on, reeling in line when you get the chance. The credit really goes to our guide, who put us on the fish in the first place.
But when it comes to editing a magazine, it’s all up to you, and your team, to get the job done—from start to finish. That’s decidedly far more challenging. If there’s a shared lesson to be learned from either pursuit, it’s to be persistent and do your best. Then, success will eventually come your way.
NMAF: Thanks Patrick! Keep up the good work.
Check out some samples of Outdoor Canada‘s National Magazine Award-winning work:
“75 Whitetail Essentials” (Silver, How-To, 2011)
“The Ultimate Danger Guide” (HM, Editorial Package, 2010)
“Visit. Hunt. Stay.” (HM, Single Service Article Package, 2010)
“Ultimate Skills Guide” (Gold, How-To, 2009)
“The Best of Living off the Land” (Gold, Service: Lifestyle, 2008)
Off the Page is an exclusive new series produced by the NMAF that reaches out to former National Magazine Award winners to find out what their awards have meant to them and what they’re up to now. Off the Page will appear regularly on the NMA blog during the winter and spring of 2012. This week we catch up with National Magazine Award-winning illustrator Jillian Tamaki.
NMAF: You won your first National Magazine Award for illustration in The Walrus in 2005, barely two years after graduating from the Alberta College of Art & Design. How did you get started illustrating for magazines, and what was your experience winning a NMA so early in your career?
Jillian: When I graduated from ACAD, I felt quite natural illustrating for newspapers and magazines because that was definitely the focus of my illustration training. When I graduated in 2003, the Visual Communications program was perhaps more rigid and less diversified than it is now.
I think back to Rick Sealock’s class and it was basically one editorial project after another—with perhaps a few book projects thrown in—which was a fantastic way of honing your conceptual skills. It’s incredibly advantageous to be able to do editorial work when you’re starting out, because it’s one facet of the industry that regularly takes chances on new talent.
The National Magazine Award was a vote of confidence that I was in the right line of work. We all need a thumbs-up from the world sometimes, as we toil away in the studio.
NMAF: After that your career blossomed in magazines both in Canada and the US. You won another National Magazine Award in 2007, for a series of evocative illustrations in More magazine accompanying a feature article (“A tale of two sisters“) by renowned memoirists Joyce and Rona Maynard. That piece has the feel of the visual and written elements of a magazine story working in perfect harmony. What was the process of creating those illustrations, and would you say that was typical of your creative practice working with magazines?
Jillian: I approach all assignments the same way. I try to commune with the source material and let it guide me, whether that be a book, article, piece of music, or whatever. I often count my blessings that my schooling at ACAD was half graphic design, because I actually believe my conceptual process is very design-influenced. I use a lot of words and try to think about metaphors and word associations or even just tune into the atmosphere (physical or emotional) of the content—always keeping in mind the client and their audience, of course.
NMAF: Your 2008 graphic novel SKIM was the first of the genre ever to be nominated for the Governor General’s Award (in the Children’s Literature category). Tell us a bit about that project on which you collaborated with your cousin Mariko Tamaki. And what are you working on these days?
SKIM started off as a very small project instigated by Emily Pohl-Weary’s Kiss Machine zine in Toronto. Mariko and I both wanted to try a small comic project (we had never worked together before) and it was perfectly bite-sized: a 24-page story that was to be bound as a small floppy. It’s since been expanded to a 144-page book (published by Groundwood Books) and translated into six languages, I believe. Mariko and I are working on a new book together, entitled Awago Beach Babies, set in Muskoka; I’d say it’s about summer mythologies. Other than that, I teach at the School of Visual Arts here in NYC and occasionally toss up a comic on my very silly webcomic, SuperMutant Magic Academy.
Jillian Tamaki is an award-winning Canadian illustrator. Her website is jilliantamaki.com, where you can view her portfolio and order prints of her work.
Off the Page is an exclusive new series produced by the NMAF that reaches out to former National Magazine Award winners to find out what their awards have meant to them and what they’re up to now. Off the Page will appear regularly on the NMA blog during the winter and spring of 2012. This week we catch up with National Magazine Award-winning photographer Roger LeMoyne.
NMAF: In 2008 Maisonneuve published your photo essay, “Serbia, the Sad South,” which ultimately won you your first Gold National Magazine Award. You’d spent time in the Balkans early in your career and for this assignment you went back to document your experiences in Serbia a decade or more after the Balkan wars. How did you make that return journey happen, and how did it get the attention of Maisonneuve?
Roger: That project was funded with the Lange-Taylor Prize from Duke University, which writer Kurt Pitzer and I shared for 2007. Kurt had also worked in the Balkans in the late 1990s. We first met and worked together in Iraq in 2003 covering the invasion. You really get to know someone fast in a situation like that, running around an open city.
I called him up a day before the deadline and we drew up a proposal to return to the Balkans and follow up where we had left off. So in 2008 we spent 5 weeks covering the Kosovo declaration of independence and southern Serbia.
Serbia is a fascinating place psychologically, and I have always been struck by the fatalism and complexity of its living history — the “why” of their tragic history and recent civil war. If there was ever a place with a “national psyche,” it is Serbia.
After the trip, Kurt got to writing a book about North Korea and wasn’t able to complete his [Balkans] piece. After a while, I started shopping the pictures around and Maisonneuve was first to pick it up. They asked me to write as well, which I was glad to do because I have a lot to say about the place.
NMAF: You’ve now been nominated for thirteen National Magazine Awards and won two since 1992 for your photojournalism in Maclean’s, Destinations, Saturday Night, Chatelaine, Report on Business, Canadian Geographic, Border Crossings and others, and no doubt we’ll see more of your work recognized in the future. What is the significance for a well-travelled freelance photographer to win a NMA and be recognized for all that hard work?
Roger: Personally, the significance of awards is that they’ve helped me overcome self doubt. When I began working I had no idea if I could survive, make a living, be any good as a photographer. Whenever I felt that I was hopelessly inept and dark voices inside were telling me to give up, I would defer to other people’s opinions (such as those giving out awards) and carry on. Of course the prize money is helpful in funding the next project, and it is good fun to go to the awards evenings. I don’t think anyone will deny that recognition from your peers is especially gratifying.
NMAF: A year ago at this time you were in Tahrir Square in Cairo, documenting the popular revolt unfolding in Egypt, and you’ve also worked in Kurdistan, Palestine and the Amazon, among others. As a veteran photographer what motivates you to document events and people in times of upheaval or transition?
Roger: The transition/upheaval question is an interesting one. With so many photographs being made around the world—and flying around the internet—there is a kind of existential dilemma of what to photograph and why.
I am constantly watching for the right subject, weighing the pros and the cons of investing myself in a story. I am looking for photos that will have some lasting value, that I can get financing for; photos I really want to make and ones that I can make well, which are not always the same thing.
Periods of transition meet the criteria in several ways: these are moments of change that won’t be repeated, ever, in the same way. They have news value at first, but then become part of a historical record. The moment may pass, but the changes have long-lasting repercussions that keep the photographs relevant.
On another level, these situations also reveal the fragility of society and the human enterprise. I see many of our social constructs as illusory and therefore the potential for chaos as ever present, be it physical, financial or in other forms that we are seeing even now.
Conversely, in times of upheaval, the individual regains some of his self-reliance (or perishes). There is something quite liberating about working in these zones of chaos, where your own actions determine your fate.
NMAF: What else have you been working on recently?
Roger: I have just been to Port-au-Prince again, looking at how the city is putting itself back together two years after the earthquake. Very few people who go to Haiti only go once. It is a fascinating place. I have also been working on a story for The Walrus here in Montreal about circus arts. They paid me to go to the Circus. Fun. In the last few years I have been shooting regularly for Maclean’s, which I usually enjoy, because they have to do all the thinking. Sometimes it is a relief to be told what to photograph and what the point is.
Roger LeMoyne is a Canadian photographer whose images have garnered more than 50 national and international awards. His website is rogerlemoyne.com. Find out more about Roger’s National Magazine Awards at our Awards Archive. Photograph of Tahrir Square courtesy Roger LeMoyne.
Off the Page is an exclusive new series produced by the NMAF that reaches out to former National Magazine Award winners to find out what their awards have meant to them and what they’re up to now. Off the Page will appear regularly on the NMA blog during the winter and spring of 2012. This week we catch up with National Magazine Award-winning writer Joshua Knelman.
NMAF: Your new book – Hot Art: Chasing Thieves and Detectives through the Secret World of Stolen Art – is getting great reviews. You mentioned in an interview with The Walrus how this book came to life after you won a National Magazine Award for a story on art theft (“Artful Crimes,” The Walrus, November 2005; Arts & Entertainment category). Can you tell us a little more about how you were able to turn your NMA success into a book?
Joshua: The National Magazine Award was crucial into shifting The Walrus feature into a book project. Awards have a lot to do with luck. That being said, they also attract attention and provide some leverage.
After the magazine award, I received a few phone calls from literary agents, inquiring about the possibility of a book. I thought there was enough material for one, although I didn’t know exactly how the book would work, or where the research would lead me. I just knew I’d need my passport.
The NMA was also a source of confidence, to pursue the larger, broader story. It’s funny how an award can have that effect. The right agent (Samantha Haywood) found me, and I am sure the NMA helped her in the all-important pitch to book editors and marketing departments; to be able to say the idea had already garnered a Gold Award from the community of magazine journalists.
It also gave my reputation as a writer some edge, and in the publishing business, any edge helps — especially for a first book. The Walrus feature, combined with the NMA and a dedicated agent who believed in the story, were a perfect storm of support to get a first non-fiction investigation off the ground and into the publishing bloodstream.
NMAF: Describe the feeling of a young writer winning his first National Magazine Award, especially after the long process of researching and writing the piece that became “Artful Crimes.”
Joshua: I remember the feeling, because it was the only year since I’d been working in magazines that I was not present at the actual ceremony. In fact, I was halfway across the world, in Russia, teaching at the Summer Literary Seminars, which had a partnership with The Walrus.
I completely forgot about the NMAs that night, because, let’s face it, I was wandering around a stunning, sprawling Russian city with a bunch of writers and editors.
There was this dingy internet café, called “Players,” where we’d go and check our email at odd hours. St. Petersburg, in June, does not experience full darkness. Often, I could be checking email at Players at 3:30 or 4:30 in the morning, and it seemed normal.
I went to check my email at a very late hour. I remember scanning the screen: it was full of new emails, probably 50 or 60, and they all had the same subject line: GOLD.
It was a beautiful moment. Shaughnessy-Bishop Stall had agreed to say a few words on my behalf [at the NMA gala] in case I won. I still don’t know what he said, but I’m thankful he did. I remember walking out of Players into St. Petersburg and feeling proud.
What I did not think: I will now write a book about international art theft. That happened later.
NMAF: What are you working on next?
Joshua: Hot Art took four and half years of research and writing, and if you include the arc of time from when I first stepped into a local art gallery to write a short article about a burglary, we’re looking at 2003-2011. I’d like to trim that time span down, just slightly, on the next book. I am, though, hoping there will be a next book. There are a few non-fiction stories that interest me. I’m exploring. As I learned with this book: you never know. Follow the thread, and see where it leads you.
Joshua Knelman is an award-winning writer and a founding member of the editorial staff of The Walrus. He has also been a volunteer judge for the National Magazine Awards. His new book, Hot Art, published by Douglas & McIntyre, is in bookstores now. See what other NMAs Joshua has been nominated for at our Awards Archive.
[For this special edition of Off the Page, we present our interview with Jonathan Trudel in its original French, with the English version below.]
La nouvelle série Off the Page est une exclusivité produite par la Fondation nationale du prix du magazine canadien (FNPMC) et qui offre aux anciens lauréats de Prix du magazine canadien une tribune où ils sont invités à exprimer ce que leur prix a signifié pour eux et à nous dire où ils en sont aujourd’hui dans leur carrière. La série « Off the Page » paraîtra périodiquement dans notre blogue à l’hiver et au printemps 2012. Cette semaine, nous découvrons quoi de neuf avec le rédacteur Jonathan Trudel.
FNPMC : Vous avez remporté le Prix Alexander Ross du Meilleur nouvel auteur, en 2001, pour votre travail dans L’actualité. Quels souvenirs avez-vous de la réception de ce prix et qu’a-t-il signifié pour vous dans le contexte de votre début de carrière?
Jonathan : J’étais nerveux et intimidé! Je débutais ma carrière en journalisme magazine, et il s’agissait de ma toute première présence à un gala des Grands prix du magazine canadien à Toronto. Écrire de longs reportages de type magazine n’est jamais un exercice facile — même après 12 ans à L’actualité. Quand je m’installe devant mon ordinateur, je me demande encore parfois si j’ai choisi le bon métier. Le Prix Alexander Ross m’a permis de croire, le temps d’un instant, que j’ai peut-être fait le bon choix. Les prix de journalisme — et les Prix du Magazine Canadien sont certainement parmi les plus prestigieux — aident les jeunes journalistes à bâtir leur confiance en soi et à se forger une crédibilité et une réputation dans le milieu.
Cela dit, c’est toujours à recommencer. Après avoir gagné le Prix Alexander Ross en 2001, ma rédactrice en chef m’avait félicité mais aussitôt lancé un défi. En souriant, elle m’avait dit : «Maintenant, il faudra revenir ici, à Toronto, et gagner un prix dans une catégorie rédactionnelle, en compétition avec tous les journalistes du monde du magazine, pas seulement les nouveaux.»
FNPMC : Depuis cette époque, votre carrière dans le secteur des magazines a été prolifique : vous avez été en nomination 17 fois aux Prix du magazine canadien, remportant 4 médaille d’Or et 1 médaille d’Argent pour vos articles dans L’actualité, pour vos textes sur des sujets tels que la santé au masculin, l’écosystème amazonien et même la vedette du hockey Alex Kovalev. À quoi attribuez-vous votre réussite et celle de L’actualité?
Jonathan : Un des grands avantages d’être journaliste à L’actualité, c’est d’avoir du temps. Du temps pour concevoir un sujet. Pour réfléchir. Pour aller sur le terrain, que ce soit en banlieue de Montréal, dans le nord de l’Alberta ou ailleurs. Le journaliste Thomas Friedman, du New York Times, a l’habitude de dire : «If you don’t go, you don’t know.» C’est encore plus vrai en cette heure plutôt difficile pour le journalisme, alors que nous devons trouver des façons de nous démarquer, de montrer pourquoi nous sommes pertinents.
J’ai aussi la chance d’avoir le temps d’écrire. C’est à la fois un luxe et une responsabilité. Quand on dispose de plusieurs semaines pour produire un reportage, on a moins le droit à l’erreur ou d’amorcer son texte avec un mauvais «lead», par exemple. On n’a pas d’excuse.
FNPMC : À quels projets avez-vous travaillé récemment, et croyez-vous que nous verrons votre nom aux prochains Prix du magazine canadien?
Jonathan : Pour le meilleur et pour le pire, je reste un indécrottable journaliste généraliste. C’est inscrit dans mes gènes. En ce moment, je prépare un reportage sur les Canadiens de Montréal, un autre sur les conditions de travail des médecins et je m’apprête à me plonger dans la couverture des élections américaines. J’ai aussi la chance, depuis l’automne, de partager une charge de cours en journalisme à l’Université de Montréal.
Quand à savoir si je serai présent aux prochain gala des prix, je n’en sais rien. Mais bien honnêtement, il est totalement irréaliste de s’attendre à gagner chaque année à Toronto. La compétition est beaucoup trop féroce!
Jonathan Trudel est un rédacteur attitré de L’actualité. Son plus récent article lauréat d’un Prix du magazine canadien, « Un bulldozer nommé PKP », a remporté le médaille d’Or dans la catégorie Affaires, en 2010. Pour plus d’information sur le travail de Jonathan, consultez ses archives à L’actualité.
Off the Page is an exclusive new series produced by the NMAF that reaches out to former National Magazine Award winners to find out what their awards have meant to them and what they’re up to now. Off the Page will appear regularly on the NMA blog during the winter and spring of 2012. This week we catch up with National Magazine Award-winning writer Jonathan Trudel.
NMAF: You won the Alexander Ross Award for Best New Magazine Writer back in 2001 for your work in L’actualité. What do you recall about winning that award and what did it mean for your young career in magazines?
Jonathan: I felt nervous and intimidated! At the time I was just beginning my career as a magazine journalist, and I was attending the gala for the very first time. Writing long feature stories is never an easy task — even after 12 years at L’actualité, I have to admit it’s still a struggle. When I sit in front of my computer, I sometimes wonder if I have chosen the right career. The Alexander Ross Award allowed me to believe, for a moment, that I might have made the right choice. Journalism prizes — and the National Magazine Awards are certainly among the most prestigious in the country — help to build self confidence and give young journalists a chance to establish credibility and reputation in the industry.
That being said, it’s always a new beginning. When I won the Alexander Ross Award back in 2001, my editor in chief congratulated me but almost immediately issued a challenge. With a grin, she said: “Ok, now you’ll have to come back here and earn a prize in a written category, competing with all the journalists in the magazine industry, not only the new ones.”
NMAF: Since then, your magazine career has been prolific: you’ve been nominated 17 times for National Magazine Awards, winning four Gold awards and 1 Silver award for your reporting in L’actualité, for writing about topics such as men’s health, the Amazon ecosystem and even hockey star Alex Kovalev. Why do you think you and L’actualité have been so successful?
Jonathan: One of the main advantages of being a staff writer at L’actualité magazine is that we have time: time to conceive a story; time to think; time to do reporting on the ground, whether it’s in a suburb near Montreal, in northern Alberta or elsewhere. Thomas Friedman, from The New York Times, often says: “If you don’t go, you don’t know.” I think it’s especially true in these rather difficult times for journalism, when we need to find ways to show our value and prove that we are still relevant.
I also have another opportunity: time to write. It’s at once a luxury and a responsibility. When you have weeks to file a story, the expectations (from your boss and your readers) are higher. You don’t have the right to be boring. There is no excuse.
NMAF: What have you been working on recently, and do you think we’ll see your name at the next National Magazine Awards?
Jonathan: For better or for worse, I have very broad journalistic interests. It’s in my DNA. These days, I’m working on one story about the Montreal Canadiens, another about the working conditions of physicians, and I’m about to jump into the coverage of the upcoming presidential elections in the USA. Since last fall, I’ve also been teaching journalism at Université de Montréal.
Now, will I attend the next National Magazine Awards gala? Of course I can’t possibly know. But honestly, it’s totally unrealistic to expect to win every year on this stage. The competition is way too ferocious!
Jonathan Trudel is a staff writer at L’actualité. His most recent National Magazine Award-winning article — “Un bulldozer nommé PKP” — won the Gold prize in the Business category in 2010. Read more of Jonathan’s work at his archive at L’actualité.
Off the Page is an exclusive new series produced by the NMAF that reaches out to former National Magazine Award winners to find out what their awards have meant to them and what they’re up to now. Off the Page will appear regularly on the NMA blog during the winter and spring of 2012. This week we catch up with National Magazine Award-winning writer Alex Leslie.
NMAF: You won a 2008 National Magazine Award in Personal Journalism for “Pre-History,” a moving memoir of childhood published in Prairie Fire and a piece that had previously won that magazine’s creative non-fiction contest. How did that piece evolve from your desk to the Prairie Fire contest and ultimately to a National Magazine Award?
Alex: The piece was written for a workshop led by Andreas Schroeder, and I wrote it over the course of about two months. I submitted it to the Prairie Fire contest because Mark Anthony Jarman was the non-fiction judge that year and I admire his work. Prairie Fire nominated the piece for the NMA and let me know that it was in the running.
NMAF: How did it feel to win a National Magazine Awards, and what has it meant for you as a young writer to win?
Alex: I think every award and publication helps in terms of visibility and other opportunities coming up. I was surprised to win the National Magazine Award as it was the first time I was nominated (the next year my short story “Catalogue of the Coast” got an Honourable Mention in the fiction category). As a young writer every gesture of support is very meaningful because writing is ultimately utterly solitary.
NMAF: Since then you’ve also won a CBC Literary Award and you’ve been focusing on fiction. Where are you in your writing career now and what are you working on?
Alex: My first book of short stories, People Who Disappear, will be published by Freehand Books in April. I’m looking forward to reading from the book in several cities — Vancouver, Calgary, Regina and Toronto. Freehand has been amazing to work with. I’m also guest editing the Queer issue of Poetry Is Dead, a Vancouver poetry journal; I’ll be looking for submissions of Queer poetry and experimental prose by Canadian writers. I’m working on a second collection of short stories right now and I just did my first reading outside of Canada, at an offsite reading for the Seattle MLA conference.
Alex Leslie is a Vancouver-based writer and the author of the blog Stories That Happen Elsewhere. Her forthcoming collection of short stories, People Who Disappear, will be out in April from Freehand Books. You can read more about Alex and her work at her Award-Winning Creators Profile page.
Off the Page is an exclusive new series produced by the NMAF that reaches out to former National Magazine Award winners to find out what their awards have meant to them and what they’re up to now. Off the Page will appear regularly on the NMA blog during the winter and spring of 2012. This week we catch up with National Magazine Award-winning writer Jeremy Klaszus.
NMAF: In 2007 you won the award for Best New Magazine Writer (then known as the Alexander Ross Award) at the 30th anniversary National Magazine Awards. You’d written an investigative piece in AlbertaViews called “Big Oil on Trial” about a Canadian energy company and the Sudanese civil war. How did that piece come about for you and for AlbertaViews?
Jeremy: I was an intern at the magazine at the time. Somehow I heard of a lawsuit filed in the U.S., in which the company was being sued for complicity in genocide. As I looked into this, I was amazed that Alberta’s media (with a few exceptions) weren’t reporting on this case. That, to me, seemed like a story in itself, and that’s the angle I pursued. I filed Access to Information requests which gave information on how the federal government had tried to get the case thrown out of court.
AlbertaViews very graciously gave me the time to work on this story, and never once balked at the idea. It paid off.
NMAF: What has it meant for you personally and professionally to win that award (and your more recent NMA — a 2009 Gold prize in One of a Kind for “Mr. Tree,” a three-part biography of your grandfather’s life in Germany during World War II, also published in AlbertaViews)?
Jeremy: It’s funny how it all worked out. I was out of my element at the 2007 awards ceremony, a green Alberta writer among seasoned Toronto magazine types. It was all very intimidating. But I happened to be sitting at a table with Ian Pearson, who was at the time an editor at the Banff Centre’s literary journalism program. You should apply, he told me. I didn’t think I had a shot, but sure enough, I applied and got accepted. At the Banff Centre the following summer, I wrote “Mr. Tree,” working with editor Moira Farr. So when that story ended up winning an NMA, it was as if everything came full circle. It was all quite surreal.
Winning that NMA was especially rewarding because the story was quite personal. As well, the story had been rejected by numerous magazines before AlbertaViews picked it up. That fact made the win even more gratifying, and dulled the sting from those rejections.
NMAF: Where has your career taken you since then?
Jeremy: I have been freelancing for the past couple years. In 2010, I ghost wrote a memoir for legendary cowboy singer and rancher Ian Tyson (The Long Trail, published by Random House Canada). I suspect my NMAs might have helped me land that gig, as I don’t know one end of the horse from the other. At least when I drove out to Tyson’s ranch to meet him for the first time, terrified, I could point to the awards as proof that I could do the job.
These days, I do a lot of stuff for Swerve magazine based in Calgary. I write a regular column in the Calgary Herald. I’m working on something for Reader’s Digest. As well, I am a part-time journalism instructor at Mount Royal University.
Jeremy Klaszus’s new book, Mr. Tree, is available through Blurb books, and all profits are being donated to Médecins Sans Frontières. Read more about Jeremy at jeremyklaszus.com and at the NMAF’s Creators Profiles.
Off the Page is an exclusive new series produced by the NMAF that reaches out to former National Magazine Award winners to find out what their awards have meant to them and what they’re up to now. Off the Page will appear regularly on the NMA blog during the winter and spring of 2012. This week we catch up with National Magazine Award-winning writer Carol Shaben.
NMAF: Your debut magazine article, “Fly at Your Own Risk” published in The Walrus, about the state of safety regulation in Canada’s airline industry, was a big hit at the 2009 National Magazine Awards, winning Gold in Investigative Reporting, Silver in Politics & Public Interest, and Honourable Mention in Best New Magazine Writer. How did you develop that story and find a home for it in The Walrus?
Carol Shaben: The issue of aviation safety came to my attention several years ago when I met the pilot involved in a 1984 small plane crash that killed six people. My father was one of four survivors.
The pilot told me that he hadn’t wanted to fly that stormy night, but as a twenty-four-year-old rookie struggling to work his way up in a competitive industry, he’d felt he had little choice. The crash ended his career and in the decade that followed he tried without success to improve airline safety.
I began investigating his story and discovered two staggering realities: 1) the situation hadn’t changed in a quarter century, and 2) the Canadian government was now trying to offload responsibility for aviation safety to airlines themselves. My research also unearthed tragic personal stories of loss resulting from small plane crashes that could have been prevented. In short, the Canadian government was failing to protect the travelling public when it came to airline safety.
The Walrus immediately came to mind as one of the few magazines where this story could be told in the depth and detail it required. The magazine has a reputation as one of the smartest and most rigorous investigative reporting venues in the country and has a crackerjack editorial team.
NMAF: How did it feel to win a National Magazine Award? What has it meant for you professionally and personally?
Carol: The impact of this award was stunning. Here I was, writing from an isolated basement office in Vancouver, and all of a sudden my work is being recognized nationally. Personally, it was an unbelievable affirmation that the sacrifices I’d made to leave a twenty-year corporate consulting career had been worth it. Professionally, it was a game changer. The NMA nominations provided me with an entrée into one of the country’s top literary agencies. I met with and acquired Jackie Kaiser of Westwood Creative Artists as my agent the day of the awards ceremony. In short, I believe that the recognition of the National Magazine Awards catapulted me from the ground floor of my writing profession to the penthouse suite.
NMAF: Where has your career in magazines/journalism taken you since then?
Carol: The article that won the awards had been part of a larger story—one that I’d hoped to publish one day. However, both literary agents and publishers had rejected my previous attempts to “sell” that story. Days before the announcement of the 2009 National Magazine Awards nominations, I’d decided to give up on the book.
The NMA resurrected it. Three months after the awards, rights to publish my book sold to Random House Canada. Less than two weeks later Macmillan (UK) and Grand Central (US) also acquired publishing rights. I’ve spent the past year writing the book, titled Into the Abyss, which will be published in the fall of 2012.
Also exciting is the fact that major magazine editors have approached me to write articles. The opportunity to take advantage of the doors that have opened as a result of the National Magazine Awards is something I will gratefully look forward to in the future.
Off the Page is an exclusive new series produced by the NMAF that reaches out to former National Magazine Award winners to find out what their awards have meant to them and what they’re up to now. Off the Page will appear regularly on the NMA blog during the winter and spring of 2012. This week we catch up with National Magazine Award-winning illustrator Roxanna Bikadoroff.
NMAF: You won your first National Magazine Award for illustration back in 1991 for Saturday Night, and your most recent in 2009 for Vancouver Review. How did it feel to win that first award, and was it any different 18 years later?
Roxanna: Has it only been 18 years? Seems like lifetimes ago… In 1991, my career was just starting to take off. There were relatively few female illustrators working in edgy styles then, so I was also kind of ‘hot’ in that respect. Plus we were in a golden age when publications had money and were willing to let illustrators be more conceptual. So it was a very exciting time for me to receive this attention, accolades and whatnot. These days, it feels like an award is more something earned from years of experience and craft-honing. There is perhaps a level of respect that comes with having been around a while. It still means a lot, but in a different way.
NMAF: We’ve seen a lot of your artwork on the covers of books and in newspapers, as well as in magazines such as The New Yorker, The Walrus, Cottage Life, Maclean’s and others. What is unique or special for you about working as an illustrator with magazines?
Roxanna: It depends on the magazine and the article. Illustrating for magazines is like being in a partnership; sometimes, the illustration is like a dutiful wife who has to make her less exuberant husband look good, other times it’s a challenge to rise to the excellence of the prose or at least do it justice. It’s always a relationship of some sort between the two.
With book covers, the primary function of the image is to sell books. Still, I’ve always tried to be faithful to the writing, which is why, in some cases, my work has been associated with certain writers (Flannery O’Connor and Angela Carter).
NMAF: Where will we see your work next? Are you hoping to continue working in Canadian magazines?
Roxanna: I’ve really only worked for a handful of magazines over the last several years, due to changes in both the publishing industry and my own art practice. Illustration is still my first love and I’ll probably never stop doing it entirely, but it’s been taking new forms and I’m just letting it. I currently have several, longer-term projects in the works, which involve painting, mixed media, writing… maybe teaching. It’s nice to feel things are new again, even if it’s not the most art-friendly climate in our country right now.