The 37th annual National Magazine Awards are coming up on Friday June 6. One of the most special awards to be presented at the gala will be the honour of Canada’s Best New Magazine Writer, an award sponsored by the Readers’s Digest Foundation. This year there are 3 finalists, and recently we chatted with each of them to get to know the person behind the pen.
Our second nominee is Liz Windhorst Harmer, author of “Pain: A Brief History of My Intensity” (The New Quarterly).
NMAF: What is something about yourself that others would be surprised to know?
Liz: I’m always surprised by what surprises people about me. Sometimes people are surprised when they find out that I’ve been married for more than ten years. Another thing that seems to surprise people is that I like the pain of giving birth, which is something I explored in my nominated piece. I can also be very credulous—I believed in mermaids for too long, for example.
NMAF: When it came to writing your piece, did you have any sources of inspiration?
Liz: My piece explores different kinds of pain I have found myself seeking or choosing: CrossFit, childbirth, and fasting. I am inspired by the possibility for the transcendent in the everyday. The phrase “pain is weakness leaving the body” was the explicit catalyst for my essay.
NMAF: What are your career goals?
Liz: I’d like to write as much as possible, in as many ways as possible, as well as I can. I hope to be a published novelist and to continue to publish nonfiction.
NMAF: How did you feel about being an NMA nominee?
Liz: Overwhelmed with excitement. Also proud.
NMAF: What advice do you have to up-and-coming magazine writers?
Liz: Grace Paley’s advice to write what you don’t know about what you know is a good rule for writing nonfiction. Also: no idea is too small. Work hard on your craft—be greedy for good advice and good editing.
This interview was edited for content. Special thanks to Nadya Domingo for conducting the interview.
Here’s what this year’s NMA jury said about “Pain”:
In Pain, Liz Windhorst Harmer explores pushing her body to extremes of suffering—from intense exercise and natural childbirth to the passion of religious belief. In a starkly original voice, and with uncommon ferocity and grace, she opens herself up completely and compels the readers to return the favour. Covering a difficult and serious subject, she has crafted an essay unique in conception, construction and articulation.
We’ll find out who wins the award for Best New Magazine Writer at the 37th annual National Magazine Awards, Friday June 6. Tickets.
Q&A with the creators of the finalists for best Magazine Cover
More info on the award for Best New Magazine Writer