Meet the Finalists for Best New Magazine Writer | NMA 2016 Nominees

We’re just three weeks away from the 39th annual National Magazine Awards gala, where among other surprises and delights we will find out who is named Canada’s Best New Magazine Writer, an award sponsored by the Reader’s Digest Foundation.

[Tickets & Gala Info]

Earlier this week we introduced you to the nominees for Best New Magazine Photographer. From pictures to words, let us now acquaint you with the four individuals whom the National Magazine Awards jury has declared to be the best emerging writers in Canada.

Tweet us your comments @MagAwards | #NMA16

Richard Kelly Kemick
Playing God
The Walrus

He has sold his wife, Litia’s, clothing and has snuck dried rice into his dog, Maisy’s, kibble to save money, to spend that saved money on his miniature, Victorian Christmas village. His mother thinks it is a fascination with scale, his cousin a ritual of collection. Richard, he doesn’t even really like Christmas.

An account of Kemick’s continuing obsession with creating a Victorian Christmas tableau, “Playing God” turns over any assumptions you might have had going in, and convincingly wrests the sublime from the trivial. He manages, astonishingly, a tone both earnest and ironic, with details and insights that are lively, unexpected, funny, and poignant.
– National Magazine Awards jury

Richard Kelly Kemick completed his MA at the University of New Brunswick. His debut collection of poetry, Caribou Run (2016), was included on the CBC’s list of 15 must-read poetry collections, while his poetry, prose, and criticism have appeared in The WalrusMaisonneuve, The Fiddlehead, and Tin House. He lives in Calgary with his dog, Maisy.

It’s hard to think of a more unpromising premise than model Christmas villages. But Kemick managed to turn that material into a compelling portrait of creative obsession. Marked by astonishing hallucinatory flights and moments of unsparing and hilarious self-reckoning, the writing feels fresh and unique.
– Carmine Starnino, senior editor, The Walrus

Read the full article.

Desmond Cole
The Skin I’m In
Toronto Life


Desmond Cole has been stopped, and often carded, at least 50 times by the police in Toronto, Kingston, and across Southern Ontario. An exhaustive set of narratives — interrogations have occurred, for instance, while walking his bike along Bathurst St.’s sidewalk and while smoking a cigarette outside of a local community centre — highlights the exhausting task of having to justify one’s freedom.

In an intimate portrait of systemic discrimination and how it erodes one’s sense of self, Cole has written in “The Skin I’m In” a powerful exposé of Canada’s justice system with clarity and integrity, holding up a mirror to readers of any ethnicity and making them rue what they see.
– National Magazine Awards jury

Desmond Cole is an activist and freelance journalist in Toronto. He began his journalism career writing about housing, public transit, policing and Toronto City Hall for the news website Torontoist. His work also appears in the Toronto Star, The Walrus, Toronto Life, VICE, NOW Magazine, and Ethnic Aisle.

In crisp, evocative prose, Cole discussed his long and thorny history with police, the psychological effects of constant surveillance, and how his racialized identity causes him to him question every decision he makes.
– Emily Landau, senior editor, Toronto Life

Read the full article.

Kat Shermack
The Tenant from Hell
Toronto Life

When Wilf Dinnick and Sonia Verma moved from Toronto, Canada to Doha, Qatar, they rented out their west-end house to Jesse Gubb, who turned the residence into an illegal rooming house. The 20-25 young females living in the rooming house were bound by strange rules (storing shoes only at the back of the house and a floor mopping schedule, for instance), while Gubb’s fraudulently secured leases allowed him to rake in roughly $200,000 a year.

A gutsy and thorough exercise in investigative journalism, Shermack’s demonstration of how unscrupulous landlords bilk both property owners and tenants is as fascinating as it is utilitarian. “The Tenant from Hell” is a many-faceted exploration, educating its readers about the flaws in the system and the often life and death dangers of illegal rentals.
–  National Magazine Awards jury

Kat Shermak, a native of Thunder Bay, completed a degree in social sciences and political science at the University of Ottawa and a post-graduate diploma in print journalism at Humber College. She is a freelance journalist based in Toronto, with work appearing in Toronto Life and Investment Executive.

Shermack elegantly connected Jesse Gubb’s story (a landlord with an ethically dubious rental scheme, sub-subletting rental houses) to the larger issue at play: the fact that Toronto faces an affordable housing crisis, and landlords hold immense power over their tenants.
– Malcolm Johnston, senior editor, Toronto Life

Read the full article.

Karen Ho
A Daughter’s Revenge
Toronto Life

Jennifer Pan never graduated high school, doctored her report cards, lied about attending Ryerson and U of T’s pharmacology program, and concocted a harrowing plot to have her parents —Bich Ha and Huei Hann Pan — killed. Karen Ho’s telling of the story is complicated by the fact that she was once friends with the people involved, and by her own experience of growing up with strict, disciplinary parents.

Using interviews, court documents, and other research, Karen Ho masterfully reconstructs Jennifer Pan’s journey from precocious elementary school student to a chronic liar who, eventually, hired hit men to kill her parents. “A Daughter’s Revenge” is inherently gripping, with a deliberately neutral tone, strong storytelling throughout, and a timely look at a cultural obsession with achievement.
– National Magazine Awards jury

Karen Ho is a University of Toronto graduate, and earned a journalism diploma from Centennial College. Currently, she is a Toronto-based independent writer and editor specializing in business journalism, with work published in (among others) Toronto Life, The Billfold, Canadaland, Torontoist, Masthead Magazine, the Ethnic Aisle and Longshot Magazine.

The piece required a staggering amount of research: thousands of pages of court transcripts, countless days in court, and a long list of interview subjects. Ho shows an impressive ability to objectively assess events and personalities.
– Malcolm Johnston, senior editor, Toronto Life

Read the full article.

Congratulations to our 4 finalists for Best New Magazine Writer. Tweet us your comments @MagAwards | #NMA16

The winner will be revealed at the 39th annual National Magazine Awards gala on June 10. Tickets

About the Award for Best New Magazine Writer:
The award for Best New Magazine Writer is open to students and writers with a maximum of two years’ experience in professional journalism. The intent is to restrict this award to emerging writing talent in Canada. Eligible work must be non-fiction and a minimum of 1000 words in length, and must have been published between January 1 and December 31 of the awards year in a Canadian print or online magazine. Articles published in university/college magazines are eligible. Submissions are due each year by January 15.

Meet the National Magazine Awards nominees for:
Best New Magazine Photographer
Single Service Article Package

Art Direction of an Entire Issue
Portrait Photography
Words & Pictures

Complete nominations coverage

Special thanks to Leah Edwards for her reporting. 

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