Holiday Magazine Subscription Guide

Looking for that perfect (okay, perfect last-minute) stocking stuffer? Do they love to read, laugh, cook or shop? Do they love great writing, photography and illustration? Then stuff a great, National Magazine Award-winning magazine in that stocking. Here are some of our favourites from 2016. (And for more ideas, check out our holiday book guide, with new books by NMA-winning writers.)

A quarterly magazine of arts, literature, ideas and culture, published in English in Montreal. You’ll find a great mix of new and established writers, artists and photojournalists packaged around award-winning design. A perfect magazine for an afternoon on the sofa or a long train ride home. Also, it’s Canada’s Magazine of the Year in 2016 (1 of 5 NMAs it won this year), so you know every issue is a must-read.
2 years (8 issues) for just $30

Absolutely required magazine reading for any foodie and aficionado of food culture. Ricardo won the National Magazine Awards for Best Brand and Best Service Editorial Package, and delivers recipes, dinner party plans and lots of other great ideas.
6 issues for $30, plus a gift, a free iPad edition, and 15% discount at the online store

Eighteen Bridges
Winner of 4 National Magazine Awards in 2016 including Essays and Investigative Reporting, this thought-provoking magazine of longform journalism published in Edmonton is consistent in introducing readers to Canada’s best writers and important stories.
4 issues for $26

CNQ: Canadian Notes & Queries
Winner of the 2016 National Magazine Award for Fiction, CNQ publishes some of this country’s finest literary criticism, poetry, graphic works, and short fiction.
1 year (3 issues) for just $25

Winner of the 2016 National Magazine Award for Poetry, Vallum is one of Canada’s very best publications for poetry and literary reviews, and regularly features Canada’s best poets as well as emerging ones.
1 year (2 issues) for $20

Globe Style Advisor
Also a winner of 4 National Magazine Awards in 2016 for its photography and design, Globe Style is one of our favourites for fashion and style journalism. Get it with your Globe & Mail subscription. And you can get award-winning Report on Business magazine, too.

Western Living
An award-winning magazine of design, decor, lifestyle and more, Western Living was a 2016 National Magazine Award winner and consistently delivers quality ideas that are in line with the latest and greatest trends.
1 year (10 issues) digitally for just $18

The Feathertale Review
A literary magazine dedicated to great humour (twice an NMA winner in that category), Feathertale makes a great gift for anyone who loves to laugh and enjoys the lighter side of CanLit.
1 year (4 issues) for $30

Cottage Life
A Canadian tradition in a magazine, Cottage Life is not only the perfect companion to country living in all four seasons, it mixes practical advice with award-winning journalism. Don’t go into the woods without it.
1 year all access print and digital for $30

Check out all the winners from the 2016 National Magazine Awards for more great gift ideas.

Submissions are now being accepted for the 40th anniversary National Magazine Awards. Read all about it and enter at Deadline January 20

Top 3 Magazine Brands in Canada | NMA 2016 Nominees

Two weeks from tonight Canada’s magazine publishers and creators from across the land will come together to acknowledge creative excellence at the 39th annual National Magazine Awards. One of the awards to be presented on June 10th in Toronto is the award for Best Magazine Brand.

[Tickets & Gala Info]

The award for Best Magazine Brand goes to the publisher whose brand best delivers on their editorial mandate through at least three platforms, which may include a print or digital magazine, website, SIP(s), mobile app(s), tablet, social media, television shows or video, radio broadcasts or podcasts, live events, innovations in print or digital media, and other forms of audience engagement.

This year’s National Magazine Awards jury selected three finalists from across Canada based on four criteria:

  • Quality: How successfully does the magazine brand deliver quality content and design in its brand’s platforms, and what is the overall quality of its presentation of material to the jury?
  • Innovation: How successfully is the magazine brand creating opportunities to reach and grow its audience?
  • Impact: How successfully does the magazine brand engage with its intended audience, satisfy their needs, and provide a rewarding experience?
  • Brand Awareness: To what extent has the magazine brand built an engaging, reliable and trustworthy identity?

The winner will be presented at the National Magazine Awards gala on June 10th. And the nominees are…

Cottage Life
Published by Cottage Life Media, a division of Blue Ant Media Partnership
Penny Caldwell, Publisher

From a magazine founded in 1988 to answer all the confounding questions about owning a cottage, Cottage Life has evolved into a multidimensional media brand reaching a monthly audience of 3 million with radio and TV programs, consumer events, books, branded merchandise, interactive media and more. In 2015 the brand expanded to augmented reality through the Blippar platform, enhanced its e-commerce site, partnered with Moose FM on the “dock-to-dock” program, and created a special Cottage Life-themed menu for the Carbon Bar in Toronto.

Published by Ricardo Média Inc.
Brigitte Coutu, Publisher

A truly national food magazine—with an English edition recently joining the French-language title that reaches over 1 million Quebec readers—Ricardo is famous for its test kitchen which has created over 5000 original recipes. In 2015 its website reached over 2 million monthly visitors, while the brand launched an English-language YouTube channel and several interactive digital editions, published a children’s cookbook, and partnered with the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation on Cook for the Cure. Its renovated headquarters now includes a boutique, event space and a rooftop garden and apiary with over 20,000 bees for a branded line of honey.

Published by Spacing Media
Matthew Blackett, Publisher

Spacing continues to raise the bar for small magazine brand innovation through events, retail and audience engagement. Its four 2015 issues focused on contemporary themes of city life and reached a 80% or more sell-through rate on newsstands. The Spacing Store has opened up new avenues for partnerships and revenue through branded and city-themed merchandise, resulting in a 100% increase in revenue for the magazine during 2015. Last year Spacing teamed up with Metrolinx to put on two events on wayfinding in Toronto, and also hosted popular launch parties, book readings and contests including the Jane Jacobs Prize and a photographers’ tour of Lower Bay Station.

Which is your favourite? Leave us a comment or tell us on Twitter: @MagAwards | #NMA16.

Tickets are on sale for the 39th annual National Magazine Awards gala, Friday June 10 at the Arcadian Court in Toronto.

Meet the National Magazine Awards nominees for:
Best New Magazine Writer
Best New Magazine Photographer
Photojournalism & Photo Essay
Single Service Article Package

Art Direction of an Entire Issue
Portrait Photography
Words & Pictures
Best Single Issue

Complete nominations coverage

Top 10 Best Issues of Canadian Magazines | NMA 2016 Nominees

The judging is complete and the nominees for the 39th annual National Magazine Awards have been announced. This year the judges have selected 10 finalists for the award for Best Single Issue, an award sponsored by Rolland Enterprises, Inc.

The Gold and Silver winners will be revealed at the National Magazine Awards gala on June 10 at the Arcadian Court in Toronto. [Tickets & Gala Info].

And now, we invite you to learn more about the magazines that made top 10:

Air Canada enRouteThe Food Issue


The entire November 2015 issue actively delivers on supporting the development of a national food identity, promoting the contributions of new and established Canadian chefs, sommeliers and industry players and fostering a sense of community from farm to kitchen to table. This issue is shaped around culinary themes, from front of book personality profiles to culinary-minded hotels.

This issue includes features on the new concept restaurant/performance space from the Adrià brothers and Cirque du Soleil, how one sustainable Caribbean destination is taking resort food out of the international buffet trough and into local hands, and also a look into the happy hour scene in Austin. The goal of this issue was to dish up tasty and thoughtful stories and to whet the appetite for great food as well as knowledge.

AzureToronto, A City on the Rise


This issue celebrates three decades of Azure by highlighting some of the most exciting architecture and design underway in Toronto. With stories looking into how Union Station’s expansion is addressing the city’s need for citizenry, how architects, city planners and developers worked together to host PanAm athletes in the pre-sold but not-yet-occupied waterfront condominiums and also how the city has attracted top-calibre architecture, through an in-depth look at the Aga Khan Museum and Ismali Centre in Don Mills.

This issue represents what Azure is all about: presenting the future of design in a format that encourages readers to get excited about the great changes to come – and those that are underway.

Cottage LifeThe Hot Issue


The centrepiece of this issue is the Canoe Love package, which consists of two parts: an essay about the canoe and its special place in our national consciousness and also a collection of anecdotes from readers about “courting” with their own canoes, complete with original photography and quirky illustrations. Together these pieces hit the right balance of entertainment and information, in true Cottage Life-style.

Readers will also come across a profile of entertainment expert Trish Magwood, a story about the latest dockside accessory, the portable fire pit, an in depth look at the dragonfly and also a look at the hottest trends in décor from international design superstars Colin & Justin.

explore – Winter 2015


For their Winter 2015 edition, explore delivered on their mandate and epitomized the “live the adventure” ideal with great vigour. Working with writers, illustrators and photographers – both seasoned and new contributors – these diverse voices helped to deliver an exhaustive anthology of content that both accurately reflects their reader demographics and offers story angles that are fresh and unique.

Articles take readers through a one-of-a-kind backcountry skiing trip into Banff National Park, a floe-edge exploration in Nunavut, a youth-at-risk outdoor education program in British Columbia and an extreme race in Yukon. In addition, there is a dynamic service article, profiles, a how-to guide and product reviews.

FlareICYMI Issue


This is a clever, cohesive and incredibly vocal issue that exemplifies FLARE’s new millennial positioning – and non-conformist spirit. The issue dismantles the magazine’s existing architecture and rebuilt it as a year-in-review issue, exploring a wide array of topics such as what it’s really like to be young and trans in Canada, a look at why otherwise genius designers can’t distinguish between cultural appreciation and appropriation, and also recapped the year in feminist outrage.

Visually, the entire issue was treated as an editorial package, playing up graphic shapes, designing new typographic look-ups specific to the issue and colour coding each department in lieu of section openers.

Legion Magazine – The Fight for Italy


The goal for this issue was to produce a bold, definitive words-and-pictures publication that would convey the significance of the bravery and sacrifices made by Canadian soldiers more than 70 years ago to Canadians of all generations today.

Bursting with dramatic historical photography and artwork, colourful and detailed maps and infographics and original spot illustrations, the story of the fight for Italy comes to life in this issue’s pages.

Nouveau ProjetSpring/Summer 2015


This issue is dedicated to the new boundaries – both tangible and and less tangible – of modern Québec. The territorial limits are sometimes contested by cultural barriers and linguistic persistence (or not). Through the eyes of foreign migrants and symbolic borders, Nouveau Projet unfolds the concept of borders and the various incarnations currently in Québec. This issue includes stories on the Anticosti Island, architecture in the North, the border between Newfoundland and Labrador, the story of three refugees and also the unusual path of writer Guillaume Morissette, who left the Saguenay to seek literary fame in the English-speaking sphere.

Stories about solar power in Québec, innovative uses for urban underpasses and the state of the “sharing economy” are also included in this issue, as well as essays, critical commentary, poetry, etc.

Sportsnet What it’s Like to be Connor McDavid Right Now


The cover story of this issue tells the story of Connor McDavid; a young man who is on the cusp of superstardom, but all the while remains a teenager at heart. The story was a huge exclusive on a huge name. Another uniquely Canadian story is that of “Gulu Rises” which follows a Canadian man’s journey of starting a soccer club in the tiny Ugandan town of Gulu, hoping to give its children – and by extension community – a chance at a better life.

Aside from these two gripping features, you’ll find a quirky story about an athletes love of meteorology which exposes the real-life passion of a superstar, a story about pro football’s first openly gay player, as well as CFL previews, interviews and columns from Canada’s best sports writers.

Up Here The Fish Issue


This issue hopes to leave readers with a hearty appreciation for all the fish that contribute to the diet, the art, the history and the economy of Northerners, while remaining interesting to non-fish-nerds. Stories about the lakes in the Northwest Territories – on an ecological level – becoming the new Galapagos, how a family built a fishing lodge empire that built up a loyal, affluent clientele and also a look at why the North’s fishing industry isn’t booming. This issue also contains a look at career opportunities for young graduates, the party-spot Legion in Iqaluit and a pickers guide for the summer morel mushroom boom.

In addition to these stories, readers will also find beautifully photographed fish recipes, as well as other photography showing fish like you’ve never seen them before, in their pristine underwater habitat. The Up Here team jokingly refers to this edition as their “fissue.” Ha!

Western Living Magazine – Designers of the Year, September 2015


The September issue is always Western Living’s biggest and most exciting issue of the year, as it features their Designer of the Year awards; a celebration of the best designers in Western Canada, from architecture to interiors to fashion. Over 800 designers and architects attend both events, resulting in a space for the local design community to connect and celebrate their work together.

In addition to extensive coverage of the awards, this issue explored the inner workings of Canada’s most iconic hotel, the Fairmont Banff Springs and also shared insider tips for exploring New York’s best neighbourhoods. The remaining pages of their newly over-sized issue includes interviews, photography, designer tips and must-try recipes.

Which is your favourite? Leave us a comment or tell us on Twitter: @MagAwards | #NMA16.

Tickets are on sale for the 39th annual National Magazine Awards gala, Friday June 10 at the Arcadian Court in Toronto.

Meet the National Magazine Awards nominees for:
Best New Magazine Writer
Best New Magazine Photographer
Photojournalism & Photo Essay
Single Service Article Package

Art Direction of an Entire Issue
Portrait Photography
Words & Pictures

Complete nominations coverage

Special thanks to Leah Jensen for her reporting.

Best Canadian Magazine Photojournalists | NMA 2016 Nominees

On June 10th journalists from around the country will gather at the 39th annual National Magazine Awards gala, where one of the awards presented will recognize excellence in Photojournalism & Photo Essay, an award sponsored by the CNW Group.

[Tickets & Gala Info]

Here are the nominees. Tweet us your comments @MagAwards | #NMA16

Paul Colangelo
World Beater
Canadian Geographic


Kamil Bialous
A Whale of A Story
Cottage Life


Peter Mather
Running with the Herd


Peter Mather
Shingle Point and Shoot


Angela Gzowski
Foraging for Fortunes


Marta Iwanek
The Maidan

Lana Šlezić
If These Walls Could Talk
The Walrus

Congratulations to our finalists for Photojournalism & Photo Essay. Tweet us your comments @MagAwards | #NMA16

The Gold and Silver medal winners will be revealed at the 39th annual National Magazine Awards gala on June 10. Tickets

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

Art Direction of an Entire Issue
Portrait Photography
Words & Pictures

Complete nominations coverage

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

And the nominees are…




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.

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].




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



Ted Belton
Fringe & Fluff
FILLER Magazine

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

Luis Mora
The Sex Ed Revolution
Toronto Life

Hannah Eden
Face Time
Up Here


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.


Sponsored by Ontario Media Development Corporation


Sponsored by Rolland Enterprises


Sponsored by Transcontinental Printing


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

Email to make any credit changes to your nomination. The deadline for credit changes is Monday May 9.

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.

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.

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

Kim Pittaway to receive 2016 NMAF Outstanding Achievement Award

The National Magazine Awards Foundation is pleased to announce that renowned journalist, editor, teacher and mentor Kim Pittaway will be the recipient of the 2016 Foundation Award for Outstanding Achievement, recognizing career excellence and service to the Canadian magazine industry. The NMAF will present Kim with this prestigious honour at the 39th annual National Magazine Awards gala on June 10. The nominees in all other categories will be announced on May 2.

As a mentor, Kim has inspired my own path in magazine publishing with simple advice: Get involved, volunteer, mentor a young person, have an opinion, lead an organization.
Joyce Byrne, president of the NMAF and publisher, Avenue Calgary

Kim Pittaway began her magazine career as a writer and columnist of exceptional insight for Chatelaine in the early 1990s, and soon earned herself a staff position as managing editor, where she oversaw the development of the magazine’s early digital platforms in an era when few saw the true publishing potential of the web. “Kim quickly earned a reputation for leadership on many fronts,” said Chatelaine’s former editor-in-chief Rona Maynard. “Among her readers for her forthright column; among her peers for generous mentoring; and among corporate decision-makers for her strategic sense.”

When Kim succeeded her mentor as editor-in-chief of Chatelaine, she continued to nurture emerging writers. “With her guidance,” said Beth Hitchcock, who wrote her first magazine story for Kim, “I learned the art of structure, the importance of word choice, and most importantly for the editing process, the language of collaboration and respect.” Writers who’ve worked with Kim frequently praise her commitment to building a strong relationship that can lead to the kind of challenging questions that bring out the best in a writer and a story.

Over the years, I’ve read Kim’s many powerful stories in Canadian magazines, and often used them in my advanced feature-writing course at Ryerson. And I know her as a tireless promoter of the best in magazine journalism. I have witnessed her inspired approach to teaching, and students laud her for her generosity and dedication when working with writers.
David Hayes, National Magazine Award-winning magazine writer, teacher and director of the NMAF

After moving on from Chatelaine in 2005, Kim returned to freelance journalism—she’s been published in Today’s Parent, More, Homemakers,Cottage Life, Best Health, Reader’s Digest and others, earning 8 National Magazine Awards nominations—and teaching. She taught journalism at Ryerson University, went on to earn her MFA in creative non-fiction from Goucher College, and joined the faculty at the University of King’s College, mentoring students in its journalism and MFA programs. As a teacher, said 2014 King’s graduate Nicole Halloran, “Kim taught us that a magazine is like a puzzle; it’s a matter of playing with the pieces until you get it right. She emphasized the value of teamwork and how to make stories come alive.”

“Kim Pittaway is not only a gifted writer and editor,” added Stephen Kimber, professor of journalism at King’s. “She is also an exceptionally generous and thoughtful mentor and teacher. We are honoured to have her at King’s, especially as part of our new MFA in Creative Nonfiction program.”

As a respected leader in the Canadian magazine industry, Kim has long been an advocate for inclusivity, volunteerism, brand building and knowledge sharing. She served on the editorial board of THIS Magazine, demonstrating a commitment to small, independent magazines where many young writers and editors get their start. For many years she has served as a consultant for Magazines Canada and the Alberta Magazine Publishers Association, travelling the country to engage in dialogue with her peers about how to improve our craft and work collaboratively. “As a magazine and digital consultant,” said Lisa Murphy, creative services director of House & Home Media, “Kim has been an invaluable help to countless publishers and brands—always offering innovative, creative, honest and challenging advice delivered with warmth and humour.”

As a consultant, Kim brings not only a wealth of magazine knowledge, but also an understanding of small magazines and the challenges they face. Always patient and inspiring, she ensures that professional development activities represent the needs and interests of the entire Canadian magazine community.
Lisa Whittington-Hill, publisher, THIS Magazine

Long a champion of the rights and recognition of magazine creators, Kim assumed the presidency of the National Magazine Awards Foundation in 2006 and helped guide the organization—and the industry—to strengthen its mandate to support and promote the work of the teams and individuals who create the award-worthy content that magazine readers across Canada love.

For her enduring dedication to the Canadian magazine industry, for the principled leadership and mentorship that has impacted the careers of many, and for her unfailing support of magazine creators, the NMAF is proud to recognize Kim Pittaway with its highest individual honour, the Foundation Award for Outstanding Achievement.

I am so proud to share a last name with my sister Kim. She is foremost a gifted writer and editor. She has been endlessly generous in sharing her gifts of finding the heart of a story, and plotting a path towards telling it, with countless writers whom she has worked with and mentored. Her understanding of the business side of publishing and how to best serve readers and the bottom line is something I, as a freelancer, have sought advice on frequently as well. I am completely thrilled for her, and join all of you in celebrating her incredible contributions to journalism and Canadian publishing.
Tina Pittaway, freelance journalist

Kim Pittaway in the National Magazine Awards archive:

  • 5-Star Tribute” (More, 2012, Honourable Mention, Words & Pictures)
  • For Goodness’ Sake” (More, 2009, Honourable Mention, Single Service Article Package)
  • The Game of Risk” (More, 2008, Honourable Mention, Service: Health & Family)
  • Sudden Impact” (Today’s Parent, 2008, Honourable Mention, Health & Medicine)
  • Too Young for Breast Cancer” (Homemakers, 2008, Honourable Mention, Best Short Feature)
  • The Last Time” (More, 2007, Honourable Mention, Words & Pictures)
  • “A Call to Arms” (Chatelaine, 2003, Honourable Mention, Columns)
  • “Sex Offenders: What You Need to Know” (Chatelaine, 1995, Honourable Mention, Service Journalism)

The NMAF’s most prestigious individual prize 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 anyone in the industry. It cannot be given posthumously. Nominations are welcome from everyone in the industry and are due each year by March 1. The recipient is selected by the Board of the National Magazine Awards Foundation. No entry fee is required. Applicants not selected will be kept under consideration for two (2) additional years.

For more information visit

The nominees for the 39th annual National Magazine Awards will be announced on Monday, May 2. Follow us on this blog or on Twitter @MagAwards for all the nominees.

The winners will be announced at the 2016 National Magazine Awards gala on June 10 in Toronto. Tickets go on sale May 2 at

Photo of Kim Pittaway by Aaron McKenzie Fraser

Off the Page, with Dan Rubinstein

Dan Rubinstein (photo by Lisa Gregoire)

This week on Off the Page, our interview series with National Magazine Award winners, we chat with author and NMA-winning journalist Dan Rubinstein, whose 2015 book Born to Walk emerged from a National Magazine Award-nominated story in The Walrus.

NMAF: Congratulations on the recent publication of your book Born to Walk: The Transformative Power of a Pedestrian Act (ECW Press). You’re a self-described obsessive walker, meditating on the many benefits walking offers. How did your obsession with walking begin?

Born to WalkDan Rubinstein: I’ve always been interested in walking, both for fun and as a way to get from A to B. I like how the act allows me to intimately explore places or routes we typically don’t experience on foot. You never know what you’ll see or who you’ll meet, and you gain a deeper sense of how you fit into the natural and human ecosystem in which you live.

But this interest became an obsession in 2012. My “dream job,” as a magazine editor, had become a nightmare, and the long lunch-hour runs I took to escape the stress led to a blown knee. So I started going for walks at lunch, which offered a similar physical and psychological release.

And when I was back at my desk, I kept stumbling over news stories and research studies online that spoke to the many curative properties of walking, from physical and mental health to social cohesion and economic sustainability. I was hooked!

NMAF: Your article “The Walking Cure” — published in The Walrus and winner of two National Magazine Honourable Mentions in 2013 in the categories Society and Health & Medicine — seems to be the starting seed for Born to Walk. Can you talk a bit about the expansion of the article and the development of the book?

Dan Rubinstein: One of the first conversations I had about the myriad benefits of walking was with Stanley Vollant, the medical doctor at the heart of the “The Walking Cure.” He’s an Innu from eastern Quebec — the province’s first aboriginal surgeon — and had started a multi-year walking project, a series of group treks between First Nations communities in which dozens of participants experience the power of this healthy activity and re-establish connections to the land and to one another.

Stanley’s walks are hundreds of kilometres long, often in the winter, and people realize that the only way to reach the end of such a daunting journey is to approach it one step at a time — and they realize if they can do this, they can attempt to overcome any challenges they face. Stanley had the vision that inspired him to begin this project while doing the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in Spain.

He didn’t know why he had to start walking with aboriginal youth and elders in Canada, but as he told me when we first spoke, “When you begin a journey, you don’t know why. The trail will show you the way.”

Writing this article was a natural first step for me, and expanded into the opening chapter of my book, it establishes the main themes and sets the tone. It also introduces Stanley, a recurring voice of wisdom in the book.

Read "The Walking Cure" (The Walrus)
Read “The Walking Cure” (The Walrus)

NMAF: Walking clearly influences the content of your writing, but does it influence how you write? Does the physical endurance built by walking long distances transfer to the long-term focus and dedication one needs to complete a book? Moreover, has walking influenced the form or pace of your writing?

Dan Rubinstein: I find it easier to walk for hours and hours than to sit and write for hours and hours. Walking is invigorating and inspiring — writing, for me, is hard work. But I did keep reminding myself, while working on the book, to take a “one step at a time” approach.

And the book, like many great walks, is a meandering journey, with a lot of side trails, that ultimately leads to a satisfying conclusion. At least I hope it does for readers.

NMAF: Do you have a familiar, favourite walk? Where is the strangest place walking has led you?

Dan Rubinstein: I don’t really have a specific favourite walk. I like walking from the place I am to the place I have to be. I like utilitarian transects that force me to go somewhere unexpected — say, an industrial park, or a subdivision that’s still under construction.

When I lived in Edmonton, I loved walking along the Athabasca River in Jasper National Park, or along the North Saskatchewan River in the city’s river valley. In Ottawa, where I now live, there are some beautiful trails along the Rideau River or in nearby Gatineau Park.

But really, I prefer the more unusual places where I’ve walked, such as the four-day hike I did from my parents’ house in Toronto to their cottage near Algonquin Provincial Park (which became an article for Cottage Life).

You don’t have to travel somewhere exotic to have a profound experience. You can literally walk out the front door and keep going.

NMAF: Since 2003, you’ve won a number of National Magazine Awards for work published in a variety of magazines (The Walrus, Canadian Geographic, Western Living, and Alberta Views). What is the role of magazine work — and magazine award nominations and wins — in the life of a freelancer?

Dan Rubinstein: Magazine assignments help freelancers explore ideas that they’re curious and passionate about. I’ve written about walking, for instance, in a dozen different publications.

This is the fun part of a freelancer’s life. Other gigs, like communications work, help beef up your income, but it’s the magazine assignments that provide the freedom that makes it all worthwhile. And if you write a story that wins an award, that makes it easier to pitch ideas to editors you haven’t worked with before.

Awards and nominations are a good calling card. They can help get you in the door. But at the end of the day, they’re not why most of us do this. It’s the stories that matter.

Dan Rubinstein is a National Magazine Award-winning journalist and author of Born to Walk: The Transformative Power of a Pedestrian Act (ECW Press). Read more about the project at Follow Dan on Twitter @dan_rube

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

The 2016 National Magazine Awards are now open for submissions until January 15. Awards will be presented in 39 categories at the 39th annual NMA gala on June 9. Digital publications and magazine content can also enter the Digital Publishing Awards (deadline Feb 16).

More “Off the Page” interviews with award-winning writers
Heather O’Neill, author of Lullabies for Little Criminals
Emily Urquhart
, author of Beyond the Pale
Arno Kopecky, author of The Oilman and the Sea
Joshua Knelman, author of Hot Art