Off the Page is an exclusive new series produced by the NMAF that reaches out to former National Magazine Award winners to find out what their awards have meant to them and what they’re up to now. Off the Page will appear regularly on the NMA blog during the winter and spring of 2012. This week we catch up with National Magazine Award-winning writer Jeremy Klaszus.
NMAF: In 2007 you won the award for Best New Magazine Writer (then known as the Alexander Ross Award) at the 30th anniversary National Magazine Awards. You’d written an investigative piece in AlbertaViews called “Big Oil on Trial” about a Canadian energy company and the Sudanese civil war. How did that piece come about for you and for AlbertaViews?
Jeremy: I was an intern at the magazine at the time. Somehow I heard of a lawsuit filed in the U.S., in which the company was being sued for complicity in genocide. As I looked into this, I was amazed that Alberta’s media (with a few exceptions) weren’t reporting on this case. That, to me, seemed like a story in itself, and that’s the angle I pursued. I filed Access to Information requests which gave information on how the federal government had tried to get the case thrown out of court.
AlbertaViews very graciously gave me the time to work on this story, and never once balked at the idea. It paid off.
NMAF: What has it meant for you personally and professionally to win that award (and your more recent NMA — a 2009 Gold prize in One of a Kind for “Mr. Tree,” a three-part biography of your grandfather’s life in Germany during World War II, also published in AlbertaViews)?
Jeremy: It’s funny how it all worked out. I was out of my element at the 2007 awards ceremony, a green Alberta writer among seasoned Toronto magazine types. It was all very intimidating. But I happened to be sitting at a table with Ian Pearson, who was at the time an editor at the Banff Centre’s literary journalism program. You should apply, he told me. I didn’t think I had a shot, but sure enough, I applied and got accepted. At the Banff Centre the following summer, I wrote “Mr. Tree,” working with editor Moira Farr. So when that story ended up winning an NMA, it was as if everything came full circle. It was all quite surreal.
Winning that NMA was especially rewarding because the story was quite personal. As well, the story had been rejected by numerous magazines before AlbertaViews picked it up. That fact made the win even more gratifying, and dulled the sting from those rejections.
NMAF: Where has your career taken you since then?
Jeremy: I have been freelancing for the past couple years. In 2010, I ghost wrote a memoir for legendary cowboy singer and rancher Ian Tyson (The Long Trail, published by Random House Canada). I suspect my NMAs might have helped me land that gig, as I don’t know one end of the horse from the other. At least when I drove out to Tyson’s ranch to meet him for the first time, terrified, I could point to the awards as proof that I could do the job.
These days, I do a lot of stuff for Swerve magazine based in Calgary. I write a regular column in the Calgary Herald. I’m working on something for Reader’s Digest. As well, I am a part-time journalism instructor at Mount Royal University.
Jeremy Klaszus’s new book, Mr. Tree, is available through Blurb books, and all profits are being donated to Médecins Sans Frontières. Read more about Jeremy at jeremyklaszus.com and at the NMAF’s Creators Profiles.