Kim Jernigan wins Foundation Award for Outstanding Achievement

Kim Jernigan (Photo: John Haney)
Kim Jernigan (Photo: John Haney)

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.

[Version française]

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.

2 thoughts on “Kim Jernigan wins Foundation Award for Outstanding Achievement

  1. Hear hear, a thousand times! Kim is the editor anyone who has sat on the editor’s side of the desk would wish to emulate, and the one in whose hands countless writers have felt incredibly lucky to find themselves. Her contribution has extended beyond that paid to individual writers and their work, to encompass a vision for the publication she shepherded through all those years, a vision that has made The New Quarterly stand as a particularly distinct and highly respected specimen among the little magazines.

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