This week the West Coast Book Society announced the finalists for the annual BC Book Prizes, which celebrate achievement by British Columbia writers in 7 categories. Winners are announced on April 29.
3 of the 5 finalists in the Non-Fiction category are National Magazine Award winners, as well as one of the finalists in Poetry.
Mark Leiren-Young’s The Killer Whale Who Changed the World
Killer whales had always been seen as bloodthirsty sea monsters. That all changed when a young killer whale was captured off the west coast of North America and displayed to the public in 1964. Moby Doll—as the whale became known—was an instant celebrity, drawing twenty thousand visitors on the one and only day he was exhibited. He died within a few months, but his famous gentleness sparked a worldwide crusade that transformed how people understood and appreciated orcas. Because of Moby Doll, we stopped fearing “killers” and grew to love and respect “orcas.”
Mark Leiren-Young is a journalist, filmmaker, and author. The magazine article that grew into this book, “Moby Doll” (The Walrus), was a finalist for a National Magazine Award.
Deborah Campbell’s A Disappearance in Damascus
“Did I find her or did she find me?” writes Deborah Campbell in her new book, A Disappearance in Damascus(Knopf Canada), winner of the Writers’ Trust Award. Her is in reference to Ahlam, Campbell’s ‘fixer’— journalist jargon for a foreign correspondent’s interpreter or guide. An Iraqi mother and humanitarian, Ahlam is of invaluable assistance to Campbell throughout her Middle-East reportage, and when she gets taken by secret agents, the journalist, who has reported from countries including Egypt, Qatar and Russia among others, can’t help but take the blame for her disappearance. Campbell spends months in search of her friend in the perilous city.
Deborah Campbell is the winner of two National Magazine Gold Awards for her articles in The Walrus— “The Most Hated Name in News” and “Iran’s Quiet Revolution”— published in 2009 and 2006 respectively. She has written for many publications, including Harper’s, The Guardian and Foreign Policy, and has spent over a decade reporting abroad.
The Marriott Cell, by Mohamed Fahmy, with Carol Shaben
Just over one year ago, Egyptian-born Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy was awaiting bail from behind bars of an Egyptian maximum security prison. He, along with two other Al-Jazeera journalists, were sentenced to 7-10 years, accused of reporting false news, after police raided their makeshift studio in the Marriott Hotel in Cairo. According to Human Rights Watch, the trial of Fahmy was a “miscarriage of justice based on zero evidence.” Despite this, the three spent over a year in prison before making bail following a presidential pardon.
Now, finally free and back in Canada, Fahmy is an adjunct professor at UBC, and he’s just published The Marriott Cell (Random House), a book on his harrowing experience in Egypt. The book is a collaboration of efforts by Fahmy and Carol Shaben, a former NMA winner.
Carol Shaben is the winner of two National Magazine Awards for her story, “Fly at Your Own Risk” (The Walrus), about the deficiencies of Canada’s smaller aviation aircrafts and companies. She has written one other book, Into the Abyss, and lives in Vancouver.
In the poetry category, the finalists include:
poemw, by Anne Fleming
In poemw, the third finger of the left hand hits ‘w’ instead of ‘s’ and makes up a new kind of poem, the sort-of poem, the approxi-lyric, the poem that doesn’t want to claim poemness. Poemw are about daily things—graffitti, hair, sea gulls, second-hand clothes—and rarer things—dead crows, baked mice, ski accidents, Judith Butler. They’re jokes-and-not-jokes, cheeky, goofy. Tender.
Anne Fleming has been nominated for 3 National Magazine Awards, winning the award for Fiction in 2002 for her work in The New Quarterly. She has an MFA from UBC and teaches at UBC Okanagan in Kelowna. Her first book, Pool-Hopping and Other Stories, was shortlisted for the Governor-General’s Award, the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize, and the Danuta Gleed Award.
Off the Page is a regular interview series featuring National Magazine Award winners. Recently we spoke with Adrian Forrow, who won his very first National Magazine Award in 2016, winning the Gold Medal in Illustration for his series of illustrations featured alongside the article “My Prescribed Life” (The Walrus). The story is a memoir about the longstanding link between mental health and prescription dependency, and it also received an Honourable Mention for Best Health & Medicine article.
NMAF:As splashes of colour that break up pages otherwise saturated by text, magazine illustrations give the reader a welcomed break, a moment’s pause before they jump back into reading. What do you think the role of an illustration is for people reading magazine articles?
Adrian: The role of editorial Illustration should be additive. It should help set the mood of the forthcoming text. The image can help evoke visual interest and transport the reader to a place where ideas and understanding intersect.
NMAF:What details do you need before you can properly begin your creative, designing process? Are there certain elements or information that your client or partner needs to relay, in order for you to develop your concept?
Adrian: What I find that works best for me is to receive the brief and the text and really absorb the core idea before putting pen to paper. Once I feel I have a grasp of the idea, I might discuss the tone of the imagery that I feel is best for the article. This is where collaboration can happen with the art director and it’s a great way to help inform your imagery. I try not to think about the imagery at this stage–just the mood, atmosphere and tone of the picture.
The other detail that is critical for my process is the dimensions of the image. It’s really important for me to consider the whole compositional area. The dimension can ignite my conceptual approach and really make the art feel customized to the space available.
NMAF:You won Gold in Illustration at last year’s National Magazine Awards for your pieces featured in a memoir called “My Prescribed Life.” The story, published in The Walrus, discussed the link between the author’s mental illness and related dependence on medication. How did the subject matter of the memoir influence your creative conceptualization for the piece? How did you decide what tone would be most appropriate?
Adrian:This was a great article and so interesting. It was a delicate and somewhat saddening topic. I knew the colours were going to be really important. I didn’t want to do what was expected. I knew I had to take an approach that might have to be more ambiguous and surreal.
I didn’t want to use this illustration to summarize or define the problem. Instead my intent was to ask a question or pose a contemplative composition so the viewer would be left to decipher the visual symbols that I included.
The colours were mostly primary and that helped carry the idea of youth and aging. The colours also helped to create a surreal or even jarring feeling in relation to the content. The goal was for the colours and composition to carry ideas about an altered state of reality.
NMAF:Your Gold win last year was also your first time being recognized by the National Magazine Awards Foundation. How does winning awards for your illustration work help you, on both a personal and professional level?
Adrian:It feels great to know that my work is being received and appreciated within the industry. Personally, it helps to motivate me to keep developing my skills as a visual communicator. Professionally, it helps to open doors and possibilities for new and exciting opportunities.
NMAF:Your work has adorned coffee cups, been part of the creative for major music festivals and has been made larger-than-life by outdoor mural installations. Your work has also appeared in magazines, including The New Yorker, Corporate Knights and The Walrus. As an illustrator, what types of creative collaborations do you like to pursue? Do you try to not limit yourself to any one medium?
Adrian:I feel that in many ways I am just getting started. I have so many ideas and desires to push what I can do. The best thing about my profession is the variety it offers. One day I’m drawing a coffee cup, the next day I’m painting a huge outdoor mural. Variety is the spice of life, so I try to be diverse in the projects I take on.
I also love the collaborative process and making things that fulfill a need or desire. I have always experimented with different approaches and tools for making images. I think it helps my clients see different possibilities and vary their experiences with illustration.
As of now, I have been collaborating with Warby Parker for a new store mural which I am really excited to share with people. I have also been collaborating with Keilhauer to make some artful promotional products.
Adrian Forrow is a National Magazine Award-winning illustrator whose work has been published in The Walrus, Corporate Knights, Canadian Running & Cycling Magazine and The New Yorker. His debut National Magazine Award was the Gold Medal in Best Illustration, for his series of illustrations featured in The Walrus memoir, “My Prescribed Life“.
Submissions to the 40th Anniversary National Magazine Awards The 40th anniversary National Magazine Awards are open for submissions until January 20, including awards for Illustration and for Best New Magazine Illustrator.
Enter at magazine-awards.com.
In alternate years, the NMAF presents distinct awards for Best New Magazine Illustrator and Best New Magazine Photographer. For this year’s 40th anniversary National Magazine Awards, the Best New Visual Creator award will go to an illustrator whose early work in magazines shows the highest degree of craft and promise.
Read more about the Best New Creators Awards here.
Off the Page is a regular interview series featuring National Magazine Award winners. Recently we caught up with Richard Kelly Kemick, who was nominated for 2 National Magazine Awards in 2016–winning the Gold Medal in One of a Kind for his story “Playing God” (The Walrus), a reflection on his singular obsession with building Christmas villages. The story also won him a nomination for Canada’s Best New Magazine Writer.
NMAF: “Playing God,” your story thatwon Gold in the One of a Kind category at last year’s NMAs, was developed at the Banff Centre for Literary Journalism. Can you describe your experience there, and how this somewhat unconventional idea was developed into an award-winning magazine story.
Richard: During my month at the Banff Centre––as every tagline on their website attests––I worked alongside some of the best editors and writers in the business (Ian Brown, Victor Dwyer, Charlotte Gill, to say nothing of the exceptional participants I was writing alongside). What I wasn’t expecting, however, was how affirming it would be for me as a writer.
As I’m sure we all do, I wrestle a lot with insecurity and mediocrity. Banff’s LJ program placed me an environment where I had a month to only write, read, and sit in Michael Lista’s room to watch The Bachelor (he forced us to watch, like, every episode with him). It was an environment which told me––day after day for a month––that as long as I’m writing, I am a writer.
Anytime I get an opportunity to work with an editor, it’s an absolute privilege. The “Playing God” piece was edited, edited, kicked around, and edited again. And while I came to develop a profound hate for the Track Changes bubbles on a word document, my editor, Victor, took the piece from the ramblings of a limp-wristed despot into something with form, narrative, and an actual arc.
NMAF: More recently, your debut collection of poetry, Caribou Run was included in this year’s CBC must-read poetry list. How is recognition — from the NMAF and other organizations — significant to you and your work?
Richard: The CBC list was bizarre. I had no warning; I received an email from my publisher with the link and a note saying “this better translate into book sales” (just kidding, they’re incredibly supportive). It was a very rewarding surprise, just like the NMA.
These types of recognition are indeed significant. So much of what we do as writers is sit at a desk and clack away in an isolation the rest of the world would refer to as cruel and unusual punishment. (If you’re lucky, you’ll have a dog to aid you through this.) Any recognition that someone has actually read your work and––god forbid––actually enjoyed it is inexpressibly quenching.
On the other hand, however, I don’t want to think that recognition objectively signifies quality. There were poetry collections which were far stronger than mine but not included on the CBC list. Same goes for the NMA. A writer once told me that saying you “deserved” to win an award is like saying you “deserved” to win the lottery because you played the numbers well. (That writer was Michael Lista and it was on a commercial break of The Bachelor.)
Rewards are fantastic; anybody who says otherwise is either lying or Buddha. But it’s boom/bust. I was on the boom for a bit. Now is the bust. And I’m finding it hard not to become petty, jealous, and focused on recognition instead of the writing. But I’m trying to work against that, work through it. Because I think there is a name for writers, and the writing they produce, who are like that: fucked.
NMAF: Robert Moore, English professor at the University of New Brunswick, recently wrote apiecefor The Walrus questioning the future of poetry as an art form. In Adam Kirsch’sreviewof The Hatred of Poetry by Ben Lerner, he claims poetry is “the site and source of disappointed hope.” He adds acclaimed poet Marianne Moore’s famous line “I, too, dislike it,” in reference to the craft. You’ve just published your first collection. What inspires you to write poetry?
Richard: As a poet, the perpetual death of poetry is my favourite topic. Yes, poetry now panhandles in the literary ghetto––neighbouring junk mail and the academic essay. Yes, poems gather more dust than acclaim. Yes, when I write “Poet” on credit card applications I all but assure rejection.
I think, however, that this apocalyptic setting is what enables Canadian poetry to be so exciting right now. We have an environment which produces writing, not writers. The pinnacle of this is when writers have brilliant collections (Michael Prior’s Model Disciple, anyone?) without floating off into the ether of poisonous pomp. Because the stakes are hedged, there is a democratizing force in contemporary Canadian poetry, a force which I’m not sure exists in any other commercial genre, a force in which free-verse upstarts and seasoned sonneteers are working within the same circles. Yes, there are politics within the CanPoetry community––just like anywhere. But at least we have the decency to wage our wars in divisive Facebook threads, rather than at the Giller’s or, for example, in a wildly offensive open letter.
I started writing poetry (and still do) because I wanted to be a better writer. Poetry––for my money––is the genre that best develops your craft. The attention to language is merciless, and if you can make fourteen lines of ten syllables each tell a story, think of what you can do with some elbow room!
NMAF: Much of your work centres around animals. How does your love for animals influence your writing, and what inspired the theme of caribou migration in your latest collection?
Richard: I write about animals because I’m unable to convey actual human emotion. Animals provide a healthy alternative. Like, if you’ve got a character that is unlovable but you want to make him lovable but you don’t know how–give him a dog. Then name that dog Maisy. Then let Maisy fool a woman, preferably a public school teacher because of the job security, into a long-term relationship. Then feel safe and loved and statistically unlikely to now die alone as you work on your poems all day, drinking coffee from small cups as your wife toils in a grade one classroom, with Maisy curled at your feet.
The caribou idea was just that I thought the migration was pretty rad and already had poetic elements within it. Four years later (which is about a third of a male caribou’s life), a book! Aim for the stars, kids.
NMAF: Your writing ranges from fiction to nonfiction, poetry to prose — do you have a favourite form? And, if you can tell us, what can we expect to see from you next?
Richard: I don’t have a favourite form. I consider forms like my children: they all disappoint me for different reasons.
I’ve currently got a collection of non-fiction essays (one of which is the piece that won the NMA) under consideration. I’ve also got a collection of short stories that was turned down for publication, but I’ve since been working on it and hope to submit again soon.
I’m trying to view rejection as an opportunity for me to make the work better. In five, twenty, or a hundred years (I plan to live forever), I know I won’t mind having been delayed in publishing a collection of short stories, but I will mind if those stories are shitty. I’m not saying that every rejection a publisher makes is sound; but in this individual case, the rejection has given me the clarity to realize that I can make the stories stronger and (after I’d cried myself dry and drank myself wet) I’m trying to do that.
Richard Kelly Kemick is a National Magazine Award-winning writer whose work has been published in The Walrus, The Fiddlehead, Maisonneuve and Tin House. His debut collection of poetry, Caribou Run,(2016, Goose Lane Editions) follows the Porcupine caribou herd through their annual migration, the largest overland migration in the world. Caribou Run was included as a one of CBC’s fifteen must-read poetry collections. Follow him on Twitter @RichardKemick.
Special thanks to Krista Robinson for her reporting on this interview with Richard.
Tonight in a room full of Canada’s best digital publishers and creators at the Spoke Club in Toronto’s fashionable King West district, the NMAF presented the winners of the 2016 Digital Publishing Awards–recognizing excellence in the content and creation of Canadian digital publications.
The NMAF presented Gold and Silver awards in 14 categories at the Digital Publishing Awards Soirée at the Spoke Club in Toronto’s chic King West district, hosted by journalist Christopher Frey.
DIGITAL PUBLICATION OF THE YEAR Sponsored by Suite 66
The winner of the prestigious award for Digital Publication of the Year is CBCNews.ca.
“CBCNews.ca makes the most of their tremendous resources to deliver high-quality multimedia digital content, while adapting quickly to new trends and technologies in digital publishing to ensure an efficient, relevant and satisfying user experience. It’s a truly excellent digital publication that serves all Canadians and flexes some serious digital skills in the process.”
Honourable Mention for Digital Publication of the Year was awarded to: Canadian Business, L’actualité, Maclean’s, and Toronto Life.
Also receiving Honourable Mention: Canadaland, Canadian Art, Canadian Business, Chatelaine, L’actualité, Planète F Magazine, Torontoist and TVO.org.
The Digital Publishing Awards promote and reward the achievements of those who create digital publishing content in Canada—the writers and editors, designers and developers, video and podcast producers, photographers and illustrators, and many others. The DPA program recognizes, celebrates and promotes to a national audience the innovative publishing teams that produce digital content in Canadian media.
This year, 63 Canadian digital publications participated in the DPAs, submitting the best of their digital content, design and innovation from the past year for consideration in 14 awards categories. 42 individuals volunteered their time, their expertise, and their passion for digital publishing in serving as judges for this year’s awards. They nominated 66 entries from 21 different digital publications for this year’s awards, including 5 finalists for the coveted award of Digital Publication of the Year.
The Digital Publishing Awards are produced by the National Magazine Awards Foundation, a not-for-profit, registered charity that has administered Canada’s annual National Magazine Awards since 1977. With a reputation for facilitating a rigorous, fair and transparent awards program in which content creators are recognized and rewarded for outstanding achievement in magazine journalism, the NMAF is proud to present the Digital Publishing Awards in consultation with Canada’s leading producers and creators of digital publishing.
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.
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.
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 Walrus, Maisonneuve, 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
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
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
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
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.
For this year’s National Magazine Awards the jury has selected 10 finalists for the category Illustration & Photo Illustration. Gold and Silver winners will be revealed at the 39th National Magazine Awards gala on June 10. Tickets are on sale now.
Here are the nominees for Best Illustration & Photo Illustration:
Kagan McLeod The Trial of the Century Maclean’s
Mike Ellis Reduce, Reuse, RIP Maisonneuve
Raymond Biesinger An Anatomy Course Circa 2115 New Trail