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

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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
Illustration

Art Direction of an Entire Issue
Portrait Photography
Words & Pictures

Complete nominations coverage

Special thanks to Leah Edwards for her reporting. 

NMA 2016 Nominees: Meet the finalists for Best New Magazine Photographer

The 39th annual National Magazine Awards are coming up on June 10 and the entire Canadian magazine industry is getting ready to see whose work will be recognized at this year’s gala.

It’s always exciting to see the nominees for our best new creator categories (Best New Magazine Illustrator* / Photographer and Best New Magazine Writer) as we’re exposed to some of the Canadian magazine industry’s great, emerging talent.

The finalists have been announced and this year’s jury has nominated four finalists for the Best New Photographer award. The winner will be announced at the National Magazine Awards gala on June 10 in Toronto.  [Tickets & Gala Info].

Tweet us your comments at @MagAwards | #NMA16.

And now, please meet your finalists for Canada’s Best New Magazine Photographer…

SexEdRevolution

Luis Mora

Luis Mora’s portrait series for Toronto Life, “The Sex Ed Revolution” focused on changes to Toronto’s sex education curriculum and featured subjects who had never been professionally photographed, and had reservations about appearing in a major magazine themselves, never mind having their children participate. Mora’s talent in disarming his subjects’ apprehensions resulted in an honest, nuanced and powerful portrait series.

“His enthusiasm, energetic personality and unwavering professionalism give Mora the exceptional ability to put inexperienced and apprehensive strangers at ease.”
– Daniel Neuhaus, Director of Photography, Toronto Life

SexEd2

Mora approached this photo essay with courage and consistency, and as a result, touched his audience with the emotion that lives just beneath the surface of his subjects, expertly portraying them with honesty and transparency.
– National Magazine Awards Jury

TL3

Luis Mora is a full-time photographer whose work has appeared in numerous magazines including Toronto Life, VICE, FSHN Unlimited, The Kit, ELLE Canada and Flare.


Maiden

Marta Iwanek

Marta Iwanek’s photo essay, “The Maidan” published in Maisonneuve, introduces us to the human element in any conflict – the collateral damage. Armed with only a camera, Iwanek travelled to Ukraine in 2014 to march alongside protestors, and amidst the backdrop of armed forces, burning buildings and explosions, was able to expose the basic human longings that are written in her subjects’ faces.

Iwanek is a brave, courageous and objective photographer who digs beneath the surface, is unafraid to pose questions and leaves us wondering how we can make this world a better place.
– Anna Minzhulina, Art Director, Maisonneuve

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Each of Iwanek’s 14 photos is powerful and emotive, and together they expertly document the enormity, confusion and emotional drama of Ukraine’s revolution. Her use of light and treatment of imagery have a stunning impact, and her coverage of this topic is a masterful achievement and stunning example of photojournalism.
– National Magazine Awards Jury

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Marta Iwanek is a Toronto-based photojournalist whose work has been published in various publications including the Canadian Press, the Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, Maclean’s and Maisonneuve.


FaceTime

Hannah Eden

Hannah Eden was wandering through a city in Yellowknife, on the lookout for her next subject, when she popped her head into a carver’s studio and photographed him for “Face Time” published in Up Here. Whether the shoot is taking place on a windswept frozen lake at -40 C, amidst a cloud of summer bugs, or involves wrangling children on the tundra, Eden shows no fear when confronted with challenges.

 Hannah Eden has flown above the Arctic Circle to remote communities, driven hundreds of kilometres of roads through the southern NWT and visited far-flung fishing lodges across the North, returning with rare, compelling images and videos.
– Daniel Campbell, Associate Editor, Up Here

Hannah Eden is a graduate of the photojournalism program at Loyalist College and a multimedia photojournalist, originally from the U.K., currently living in Yellowknife.

Simple, elegant and impeccably executed, Eden’s portraits capture an exposition of truth in the faces of her subject, as she applied a concept of juxtaposition to reveal what lay beneath the surface of what’s expected. Though a brief essay, there’s an undeniably thorough and compelling visual story being told.
– National Magazine Awards Jury


Filler1

Ted Belton

Ted Belton is an anthropologist armed with a camera, whose creative vision continually proves his ability to excavate the spirit of the moment. He strays from the norm, as seen in his conception of an editorial on through to his final images, as was demonstrated in “Fringe & Fluff” for FILLER Magazine. Belton has a creative mind, inspiring attitude, passionate work ethic and is a well-respected collaborator.

Ted’s work demonstrates an exceptional eye—the eye of an artist and an art lover. Each photo he shoots wear the Belton stamp: raw and romantic. Ted turns fashion into art.
– Jennifer Lee, Editorial Director, FILLER Magazine

Showing tremendous maturity, range, precision and forethought, Belton approached his subjects with sensitivity and a keen eye, resulting in images that are saturated with depth and expressiveness. His work is at once classic, current and relevant.
– National Magazine Awards Jury

Ted Belton is a Toronto-based portrait and fashion photographer.


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

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

About the Award for Best New Magazine Photographer:
The awards for Best New Magazine Photographer and Best New Magazine Illustrator are presented to Canadian visual artists whose early work in Canadian magazines shows the highest degree of craft and promise. Submissions are open to any Canadian editorial artist with a maximum of 3 years’ professional experience in journalism. Submissions are due every year by January 15, and submitted work must have been published within the 3 years prior to the due date.

*The awards for Best New Magazine Illustrator and Best New Magazine Photographer are presented in alternating years.

Meet the National Magazine Awards nominees for:
Illustration

Art Direction of an Entire Issue
Portrait Photography
Words & Pictures

Complete nominations coverage

Special thanks to Leah Jensen for her reporting.

Announcing the nominees for the 39th annual National Magazine Awards

The National Magazine Awards Foundation (NMAF) is honoured to announce the finalists for 39th annual National Magazine Awards, recognizing excellence in Canadian magazines for 2015.

Version française
Complete list of nominees [pdf]

Gala info & tickets
Nominees press release [pdf]

This year, 184 Canadian magazines from coast to coast to coast—English and French, print and digital—entered the best of their editorial and design to the National Magazine Awards, submitting the work of more than 3000 writers, editors, photographers, illustrators, art directors and other creators. The NMAF’s 232 volunteer judges have nominated a total of 310 submissions from 84 different Canadian magazines for awards in 39 written, visual, integrated and special categories. A record 12 magazines have been nominated for the first time.

Gold, Silver and Honourable Mention awards will be announced at the Arcadian Court in Toronto on June 10, at the 39th annual National Magazine Awards gala presented by CDS Global. More than $50,000 in cash prizes will be awarded to Canadian creators. Tickets are on sale at magazine-awards.com.

And the nominees are…

MAGAZINE OF THE YEAR

 

TOP NOMINATED MAGAZINES

FIRST-TIME NOMINEES
Magazines nominated for their first National Magazine Awards include 1968 Magazine, Buzzfeed Canada, Caribou, Chloe Magazine, DTK Men, Hakai Magazine, Humber Literary Review, One Throne, Oxygène, Reel West, The Rusty Toque, and SAD Mag.

TOP NOMINEES
Writer Nicholas Hune-Brown leads all individuals with 5 nominations for his work published in Hazlitt, Reader’s Digest, Sharp and Toronto Life. Valérie Borde (L’actualité), Desmond Cole (Toronto Life) and Emily Landau (Toronto Life, The Walrus) are each nominated 4 times for 4 different stories. Alec Castonguay (L’actualité) and Charles Wilkins (Outdoor Canada, Report on Business) earned 3 nominations each.

View the complete list of nominees [pdf].

 

BEST MAGAZINE BRAND

 

BEST NEW MAGAZINE WRITER
Sponsored by Reader’s Digest Foundation

Richard Kelly Kemick
Playing God
The Walrus
Also nominated in the category One of a Kind

Desmond Cole
The Skin I’m In
Toronto Life
Also nominated in the categories
Essays, Personal Journalism, and Politics & Public Interest

Karen Ho
A Daughter’s Revenge
Toronto Life
Also nominated in the category One of a Kind

Kat Shermack
The Tenant from Hell
Toronto Life
Also nominated in the category Investigative Reporting

 

BEST NEW MAGAZINE PHOTOGRAPHER

Ted Belton
Fringe & Fluff
FILLER Magazine

Marta Iwanek
The Maidan
Maisonneuve
Also nominated in the category Photojournalism & Photo Essay

Luis Mora
The Sex Ed Revolution
Toronto Life

Hannah Eden
Face Time
Up Here

 

FOUNDATION AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT
Announced on April 28th, this year’s recipient of the NMAF Foundation Award for Outstanding Achievement, renowned journalist, editor, teacher and mentor Kim Pittaway. A writer, editor, teacher and mentor with more than 25 years’ experience in Canadian magazines, former editor-in-chief of Chatelaine and an eight-time National Magazine Award nominee, Kim has touched the lives of many in our industry with her generosity, wisdom and skill.

Read more about Kim Pittaway and the Outstanding Achievement Award.

 

BEST MAGAZINE COVER
Sponsored by Ontario Media Development Corporation

 

BEST SINGLE ISSUE
Sponsored by Rolland Enterprises

 

ART DIRECTION OF AN ENTIRE ISSUE
Sponsored by Transcontinental Printing

 

COMPLETE LIST OF NOMINEES
View and download the complete list of nominees [pdf] in all 39 written, visual, integrated and special categories.

CREDIT CHANGES
Email staff@magazine-awards.com to make any credit changes to your nomination. The deadline for credit changes is Monday May 9.

TWITTER
Follow the buzz on our Twitter feed (@MagAwards) and use the hashtag #NMA16 to keep up with the conversation about this year’s National Magazine Awards.

GALA TICKETS
The Gold, Silver and Honourable Mention awards will be announced at the Arcadian Court in Toronto on June 10, at the 39th annual National Magazine Awards gala presented by CDS Global. More than $50,000 in cash prizes will be awarded to Canadian creators. Tickets are on sale now.

This year’s Master of Ceremonies will be announced next week.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
The NMAF gratefully acknowledges the support of the Government of Canada, the Ontario Arts Council, and the Ontario Media Development Corporation. The NMAF would like to thank its sponsors including Air Canada MediaCDS GlobalCNW GroupImpresa CommunicationsVery Good StudiosO&B Events and CateringThe Office of Gilbert LiRolland Enterprises Inc., Reader’s Digest FoundationRedPoint Media Transcontinental Printing, and Yellowhouse Agency.

The NMAF gratefully acknowledges its suppliers and its contributors who donated gifts in kind to support the awards program. We thank them for their generosity, interest and expertise.

For sponsorship enquiries please contact NMAF Managing Director Barbara Gould at staff@magazine-awards.com.

The National Magazine Award for Best New Magazine Writer

The National Magazine Award for Best New Magazine Writer will go to a writer whose early work in Canadian magazines (Print Magazine, Tablet Magazine or Magazine Website) shows the highest degree of craft and promise.

The award is open to students and magazine writers with a maximum of two years’ experience in professional journalism. The intent is to restrict this award to emerging writing talent in Canadian magazines.

Eligible work must have been published between January 1 and December 31, 2015, must be non-fiction and a minimum of 1,000 words in length. The candidate must not have a published article longer than 1,000 words in any magazine prior to 2014. Articles published in university/college magazines are eligible. Only 1 entry per person.

Submission requirements: Hard copies are not required. Entrants must upload a PDF of the article and a letter of reference from a teacher, mentor, editor or colleague, attesting to the candidate’s eligibility and providing context for the submitted work. The entry fee is only $25 for this category.

The deadline for entries is January 15, 2016.

READY TO SUBMIT? Click here to enter

A shortlist of 3 finalists will be announced on May 2. The winner will be revealed at the 39th annual National Magazine Awards gala on June 10, 2016. The winner receives a cash prize of $500. The runners-up receive Honourable Mention. All three finalists receive certificates.

Last year’s winner, Genna Buck, recently chatted with us about her award-winning story she wrote for Maisonneuve, and about the impact of the award on her young career as a magazine journalist.

Professionally, it has opened so many doors. I think it has put me on the path to being able to support myself as a freelancer, if that’s something I eventually choose to pursue. It has also opened editors’ ears and made them more willing to take a chance on a pitch from me that is a bit out-there or weird.

Read the complete interview.

Other previous winners of the Best New Magazine Writer award include Sierra Skye Gemma, Catherine McIntyre, Danielle Groen and Jonathan Trudel.

READY TO SUBMIT? Click here to enter

The National Magazine Award for Best New Magazine Photographer

The National Magazine Award for Best New Magazine Photographer* will go to a photographer whose early work in Canadian magazines (Print Magazine, Tablet Magazine or Magazine Website) shows the highest degree of craft and promise.

The award is open to students and magazine photographers with a maximum of three years’ experience in professional journalism. The intent is to restrict this award to emerging creative talent in Canadian magazines.

Eligible work must have been published between January 1, 2013 and December 31, 2015 and consists of a single or series of related photographs published in a Canadian magazine. Photographs published in university/college magazines are eligible. Only 1 entry per person.

Submission requirements: Hard copies are not required. Entrants must upload a PDF of the photograph(s) and a letter of reference from a teacher, mentor, art director or colleague, attesting to the candidate’s eligibility and providing context for the submitted work. The entry fee is only $25 for this category.

The deadline for entries is January 15, 2016.

READY TO SUBMIT? Click here to enter

A shortlist of 3 finalists will be announced on May 2. The winner will be revealed at the 39th annual National Magazine Awards gala on June 10, 2016. The winner receives a cash prize of $500. The runners-up receive Honourable Mention. All three finalists receive certificates.

Hudson Christie (portrait by the illustrator)
Hudson Christie (portrait by the illustrator)

Last year’s winner, Hudson Christie, recently chatted with us about his award-winning creative work in Maisonneuve, and about the impact of the award on his young career as a magazine illustrator

Winning a National Magazine Award in my first year out of OCAD was a really huge honour. Being named in the same breath as other renowned members of the Canadian magazine community made me feel like a real contributor to a larger creative goal.

Read the complete interview.

*In alternate years, the NMAF will present distinct awards for Best New Magazine Illustrator and Best New Magazine Photographer

READY TO SUBMIT? Click here to enter

Call for Submissions: 39th annual National Magazine Awards

The 39th annual National Magazine Awards are now open for submissions at magazine-awards.com, recognizing excellence in Canadian magazine publishing in 2015.

If you’ve entered in the past, you’ll need to reset your password this year. If you’re new to the NMAs, click the option to register.

TOTAL AWARDS (39)
– 21 written categories
– 9 visual categories
– 5 integrated categories
– 4 special categories:
Magazine of the Year ]
Best Magazine Brand ]
Best New Magazine Writer ]
Best New Magazine Photographer ]

DIGITAL CATEGORIES?
This year the NMAF will offer digital categories as part of the new Digital Publishing Awards programStarting January 4 you’ll be able to enter your tablet, web, video, podcast, multimedia and other content in the Digital Publishing Awards.

Reminder: Written & visual content from digital and tablet magazines and magazine websites is still eligible in most NMA categories.

WHAT DO I NEED TO SUBMIT?
Before logging into the online submissions portal, make sure you have the following:
– name & email of the author/creator & editor/art director of each entry;
– title, date and publication of each entry;
– PDF of each entry (see instructions for PDF specs)
– statement of your magazine’s editorial mandate (max 300 words)
– form of payment (credit card or cheque)

Hard copies of entries are only required for the categories Editorial Package, Magazine Covers, Best Single Issue, Art Direction of an Entire Issue, Best Magazine Brand, and Magazine of the Year.

ENTRY FEES
For most categories, the entry fee is $95 if you submit by the early bird deadline of January 11. For large and full-book categories, the entry fee is $150. For Best New Magazine Writer and Best New Magazine Photographer, the entry fee is only $25.

SMALL MAGAZINE REBATE
Are you the publisher of a small magazine (under $200,000 in annual revenue)? You may be eligible for the Small Magazine Rebate to receive 1 free entry to this year’s National Magazine Awards. You must apply by January 11.

DEADLINES
– Early-bird deadline: Monday, January 11
– Final deadline: Friday, January 15

PRIZES
All Gold Medal winners in written and visual categories and some integrated categories receive a cash prize of $1000. Silver Medal winners receive $500. Winners of Best New Magazine Writer and Best New Magazine Photographer receive $500. All winners and finalists receive awards certificates.

CAN FREELANCERS ENTER?
Yes, freelancers as well as publishers and magazine staff members can enter their own work in the National Magazine Awards.

ELIGIBILITY & RULES
Review the NMAF’s Eligibility & Rules guidelines before submitting.

FAQ
Got questions? We’ve got answers.

WHAT’S NEW?
Enter the NMAs regularly? Not much has changed this year, except this.

FOUNDATION AWARD FOR OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT
Each year the NMAF recognizes an individual whose contribution to the Canadian magazine industry deserves special distinction. Nominations for the Foundation Award for Outstanding Achievement can come from anyone in the industry. There is no fee to nominate someone. The deadline for nominations is March 1, 2016.

CALL FOR JUDGES
There’s still time to nominate yourself or a colleague to judge for this year’s National Magazine Awards.

NOMINEES & WINNERS
Finalists for all awards will be announced by May 2, and the 39th annual National Magazine Awards gala will be held on June 10. The date of the Digital Publishing Awards event will be announced in the spring. Follow us on Twitter and on the Magazine Awards blog for news and updates.

Questions? Contact staff [at] magazine-awards.com.

Good luck to this year’s entries. We look forward to recognizing excellence in Canadian magazine publishing from 2015.

Off the Page, with Genna Buck

Genna Buck (photo by Jessica Darmanin)

This week on Off the Page, our interview series with National Magazine Award winners, we chat with journalist Genna Buck, who won the 2015 NMA prize for Best New Magazine Writer, given annually to an emerging journalist whose early work in Canadian magazines shows the highest degree of craft and promise. 

NMAF: Congratulations on the award for Best New Magazine Writer. Your winning piece, “Finding a Place,” found a place in Maisonneuve. Can you talk a bit about how you discovered Savannah’s story, and why you decided to pursue it?

Genna Buck: I was a super green reporter on a summer contract at the Telegraph-Journal in Saint John, N.B., assigned to cover the provincial court. This was 2012. Savannah, a young woman with severe autism, was brought in for a hearing — I tell that story in the piece — and it was memorable because a representative from Social Development was supposed to be there and had failed to show. The normally very taciturn judge got a bit miffed about it, so I wrote it up for the paper.

Read Genna Buck's award-winning story in the Winter 2014 issue of Maisonneuve
Read Genna Buck’s award-winning story in the Winter 2014 issue of Maisonneuve

The next day I got this heartbreaking phone call from Joy Sullivan, Savannah’s foster mother of many years, who had no idea that her kid was in this situation. She’d been looking for answers but had gotten discouraged by that point.

I learned that this young person who was totally alone, who had no one to speak for her, who was a child of the system, actually had people. She had a family who loved her. And an institution that was supposed to be all about supporting families to stay together had dropped the ball in a really profound way. So the story had a narrative element — the arc of Savannah’s life — and a public-interest element.

I’d seen similar cases, sadly, many times in my short period covering the court, but I’d never found a way into the story until Joy reached out and let me into her life and opened up.

It was extremely brave and I will always be thankful to her for that.

NMAF: In your award-winning piece, readers are given a portrait of woman with autism who quotes Shrek, who crouches by a puddles and pretends to drown a doll, who is bounced from one “holding tank” to another. While you were writing the piece, what were the challenges you faced in trying to accurately represent Savannah’s story to your readers?

Genna Buck: There are a lot of things I would do differently if I could do this story over. I made the choice to share most of Savannah’s life story through Joy’s voice, which wasn’t ideal. I felt very uneasy about questioning Savannah because I didn’t know her well, and I wasn’t totally sure that I would be able to adequately inform her about what I was doing so that she could give her true consent.

I wanted to follow legal and ethical rules to the letter, because when I was doing the initial reporting, it was for my Master’s project, and I didn’t know if it would ever be published.

For practical reasons, I wasn’t able to visit Savannah in hospital. And I really, really did not want to make her think that I had the power to change her situation.

But if I were to do this again, I would spend extensive time with her and get everything from her perspective. It’s important that marginalized people are given a chance to express agency and speak on their own behalf. And that element was lacking in my piece.

There were also just the regular struggles to piece together things that had happened ten or twenty years before — names, places, dates, government agencies, all that.

“[Genna Buck] exhibits patience and grit in this magnificent profile. ‘Finding a Place’ has everything a good magazine piece needs: a gripping story, strong research and poignant writing that is balanced and sensitive.”
National Magazine Awards jury

NMAF: Your piece ends on an ambiguous note — with Savannah still in a psychiatric hospital. What was the impact (if any) of bringing Savannah’s story to the public’s attention? More generally, what do you hope to accomplish with your investigative reporting?

Genna Buck: Well, someone offered to mail a copy of the magazine to the relevant government minister in New Brunswick, so I know that the story got at least a few people fired up over the serious lack of housing and support for people with high needs in that province and across the country.

But to my knowledge — as of a couple of months ago — Savannah’s still in hospital to this day. She’s not sick. And she’s isolated from her family and friends and people who love her. So not a whole lot has changed.

Most of the momentum around this issue in New Brunswick seems to be about making what are essentially institutional environments, hospitals and group homes, nicer and bigger and better-equipped. There’s a real belief, and a stated goal, of supporting people to have a meaningful life in the community. But making that happen for someone like Savannah requires a huge investment of money and expertise.

What do I want to achieve? Well I don’t necessarily want to change the world, that’s not my role and it’s not in my power. My goal is always to get readers to imagine themselves in another person’s situation, to see their lives in a new and complex and visceral way.

Once you help cultivate genuine, sincere empathy, change flows from that. At least you hope so.

Genna Buck accepts the award for Best New Magazine Writer at the 2015 National Magazine Awards gala.
Genna Buck accepts the award for Best New Magazine Writer at the 2015 National Magazine Awards gala.

 

NMAF: Professionally and personally, what the impact of winning a National Magazine Award? How do you see your career as a magazine writer continuing to develop?

Genna Buck: Professionally, it has opened so many doors. I think it has put me on the path to being able to support myself as a freelancer, if that’s something I eventually choose to pursue (I might, one day; it’s TBD).

It has also opened editors’ ears and made them more willing to take a chance on a pitch from me that is a bit out-there or weird. I have a forthcoming piece in Flare about thrift shopping, and I’m working on a long form project that incorporates elements of Canadian history, women’s history and the story of how my own great-great-grandmother came to Canada.

Personally, it’s a big motivator. I think everyone in this business has moments where they’re just like, “WHAT WAS I THINKING? I CAN’T DO THIS. THIS WAS A BAD IDEA!” And I’m able to tell myself, “You can do this. Look, you have done it!”

I’m an editor full-time now, and I’m currently working as part of a team to make another MJ grad’s thesis into an investigative series. So what goes around comes around!

National Magazine Award winners Genna Buck and Richard Greene at Winners' Circle, a special networking event for NMA nominees and winners, on Nov 25
National Magazine Award winners Genna Buck and Richard Greene at Winners’ Circle, a special networking event for NMA nominees and winners, on Nov 25

NMAF: What advice would you give to emerging magazine writers?

Genna Buck: I know this is lame, but seriously, be manic about organization. Keep all your notes in one place. Scan and upload your documents. Label all your audio and store it in one place. Don’t shove a bunch of super important loose pieces of paper into a bunch of different folders and binders and notebooks and what-have-you. I learned that the hard way. Evernote is your friend!


Genna Buck is a National Magazine Award-winning journalist, the recipient of 2015 NMA award for Best New Magazine Writer, and a section editor for Views at Metro News Canada. She earned her Masters of Journalism at Carlton University, in 2013. Her work has appeared in Maclean’s Magazine, The Globe and Mail, Maisonneuve Magazine, and other publications. Genna’s Twitter handle is @genna_buck.

Very special thanks to Leah Edwards for researching and conducting this interview with Genna Buck. 

The 2016 National Magazine Award for Best New Magazine Writer is open to any emerging Canadian journalist or creative non-fiction writer whose first feature-length magazine story (1000+ words) was published in a Canadian magazine (including university/college magazines) during 2015. Submissions must be accompanied by a letter of reference from a teacher, mentor, editor or colleague. The submission fee is $25. Three finalists will be named and the winner receives a cash prize of $500. The deadline for entries is January 15, 2016. Enter at magazine-awards.com.

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, winner of the 2013 award for Best New Magazine Writer
Jeremy Klaszus, winner of the 2008 award for Best New Magazine Writer
Carol Shaben, 2-time NMA winner & 2009 finalist, Best New Magazine Writer
Suzannah Showler, 2013 finalist for Best New Magazine Writer
Liz Windhorst Harmer, NMA winner & 2013 finalist, Best New Magazine Writer