Gillmor grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and graduated from the University of Calgary in 1977. He is a novelist, journalist, and children’s book author, and is the recipient of 11 National Magazine Awards medals and 41 National Magazine Awards honourable mentions.
His collection of NMAs began in 1991, when he won a silver medal for “Dangerous Liaisons,” published in Saturday Night. Most recently, in 2016, he received a silver medal for “A Poet Self-Destructs,” published in The Walrus. In the 25 years between, Gillmor has earned honourable mentions “in categories ranging from Essays to Profiles to Personal Journalism to Arts and Entertainment to Travel to Short Feature to Politics and Public Affairs to Editorial Package to Humour to Lifestyle to Business to One of a Kind to Sports and Recreation to Social Affairs to Investigative Reporting to Fiction to Environmental Journalism,” notes Dianna Symonds, freelancer editor, former managing editor of Maclean’s, and editor of Saturday Night. She goes on to ask, “Is there any category in which he hasn’t had a nomination? Perhaps Poetry.”
Aside from Gillmor’s remarkable NMA track record, Gillmor was involved with The Walrus as contributor and editor, and was a longtime contributing editor at Saturday Night—two of Canada’s most recognizable magazines. He has written “for Maclean’s, Legion magazine, Toronto Life, Report on Business, enRoute—and that’s leaving aside his stories for the Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail” says Symonds.
So, what is it about Gillmor’s writing and stories that resonate so widely? Perhaps it’s the “[c]alm and uncluttered prose. Sober-minded assessment of the facts without judgment. A bone-dry trace of humour. A skeptical but not cynical intelligence that generously presumes the same of the reader,” says Curtis Gillespie, author, journalist and board member of the National Media Awards Foundation. It could be “his empathy and understanding of even the reprehensible among us—his appreciation of human foibles and failings, ego and desire” says Anne Collins, Publisher at The Knopf Random Canada Publishing Group. Consider, too, “the deft storytelling, the sly sense of humour, and the occasional sentence that has the reader come to a full stop in order to absorb what’s on the page or screen” adds Symonds.
This masterful storytelling extends beyond the magazine world. Collins—impressed by Don’s “magic, on display for us in print and now online for more than 30 years”—continued to work with Gillmor after she left the field. She published two of his novels (Long Change in 2015 and Mount Pleasant in 2013) and two works of non-fiction. The most recent of which is To the River (2018); that book went on to win the 2019 Governor General’s Literary Award for non-fiction and was a CBC Best Book of 2019.
Gillmor has also mentored emerging writers at The Banff Centre’s Literary Journalism program, and currently teaches creative writing courses at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies. He has consulted on methods of long-form journalism for Legion Magazine, and since 2017, “has been writing the magazine’s back-page column “O Canada” says Eric Harris, Editor of Legion Magazine.
In his letter of nomination, Gillespie posed a series of questions: “Who has mentored countless other writers? Who has been part of the founding and/or editorial team of nearly every major general interest magazine in Canada? Who never, ever mails it in? Who is the gold standard in Canada? Who deserves the Outstanding Achievement award for 2020? Answer: Don Gillmor.”
The National Media Awards Foundation concurs with that answer. For Gillmor’s incredible contributions to the Canadian magazine industry, we are proud to present him with this prestigious award. Congratulations, Don!
Over at the National Magazine Awards, we’re celebrating the last long weekend of summer by looking back at the best of the past 10 years in Canadian magazines. We’ve rounded up the smash reels that opened each gala, and we’re inviting you to reminisce with us. Sit back—ideally with a cold, summer beverage—enjoy these short, punchy videos, and vote for your favourite over on Twitter.
Regrettably, we are missing the smash reel from the 33rd annual NMAs.
Follow the National Magazine Awards on Twitter, and visit us on Facebook. The call for entries for the 43rd annual awards will open on December 1, 2019.
Originally from Topeka, Kansas, Linda moved to Toronto, Ontario (after stints in Hawaii and Mexico) in 1982. In 1985, the “story goes Linda took on the role of publisher of Brick on a dare,” says Laurie D. Graham, the current publisher of Brick. That dare lasted a remarkable 33 years, as Linda oversaw 75 issues of Brick. Linda was the “editor and sometimes publisher” says Kim Jernigan (Special Projects Editor, The New Quarterly), and now she “continues as the one of the magazine’s owners (a.k.a. Fairy-godparents).”
Throughout Linda’s 75 issue tenure at Brick, the magazine “underwent an unbelievable transformation… a complete editorial and design overhaul, really turning the magazine into something completely new—a transformation that would by any standards be thought of as a very risky undertaking, were it not so successful,” says Laurie.
With Linda at the helm, “Brick dared to be international,” Kim reminds us, despite existing in a time of literary nationalism, with funding dependent on publishing Canadian content. Pushing at the boundaries of Brick allowed the magazine to flourish within Canada and gain recognition globally. Linda’s transformation of Brick included publishing a multiplicity of content (photographs, drawings, handwritten letters, manuscript pages, meditations, field reports, essay length reviews, memoirs, and more) and voices.
Canadian novelist Michael Helm writes that, “until I found Brick, as a writer I’d been low on hope, and as a reader, starved for local amazements.” Kim echoes this sentiment, in that “it was Brick that allowed [her] to imagine there might be a place for a new writer.”
growing Brick, Linda published an
astonishing seven books, her novel “The Purchase” winning the 2012 Governor
general’s Literary Award. Earlier, in 2003, Linda received the Harbourfront
Festival Prize recognizing her contributions to the Canadian literary
Kim is careful to point out that Linda “paid attention to the bottom line, working to keep Brick solvent but not at the expense of its contributors.” Michael gives us a glimpse into Brick’s editorial meetings, in which Linda “was forever trying to find ways to give contributors more of the magazine’s meager funds.” It seems that throughout Brick’s transformation, Linda’s dedication to both established and emerging voices remained constant.
Constant, too, are the words by which Linda’s colleagues describe her: Kim speaks of her “editorial acumen and fierce determination,” reading submissions with “clarity, tact, and trenchancy.” Michael Redhill—in a letter to Linda, published in Brick—writes that he has been “lucky to encounter such ferocity, which is a sign of authenticity, because behind it is a person whose love can never be doubted and whose passion is so deep it’s a style.” This fierce love for Brick and its surrounding community makes the fairy godparent comparison all the more true. Linda Spalding spent 33 years working magic, turning the magazine into “more than the sum of its parts,” says Kim.
“To be part of Brick is to know that Linda is now in your corner, and that’s perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned from her: that you can show care for the people who are making this magazine with you, that it is required of you to show care,” says Laurie.
the transformative role Linda has played in the Canadian magazine publishing field
and in the lives of Canada’s creators, the NMAF is incredibly proud to present
Linda with this year’s Foundation Award for Outstanding Achievement.
NOMINEES – 2019 NATIONAL MAGAZINE AWARDS Finalists for the 42nd National Magazine Awards will be announced tomorrow, May 1, 2019 at 10am ET on www.magazine-awards.com,on Facebook and Twitter at @MagAwards. The 42nd National Magazine Awards gala is set for May 31, 2019 at the Arcadian Court. Join us to Celebrate Canadian Creators. Tickets will be on sale on Wednesday, May 1.
ABOUT THE OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT AWARD 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 everyone in the industry. It cannot be given posthumously. For more information and previous winners, visit magazine-awards.com/oa.
With excitement and anticipation, the NMAF is calling for nominations for the Foundation Award for Outstanding Achievement. This is our most prestigious award, presented annually to an individual whose work in, and contributions to, the Canadian magazine industry exemplify innovation and creativity. Creators, editors, publishers, art directors, circulation experts, and others are eligible, and previous winners have included Joyce Byrne, Penny Caldwell, Kim Pittaway, Kim Jernigan, Michael Fox, Stephen Trumper, Heather Robertson, Stephen Osborne, Jean Paré, and Sally Armstrong.
Anyone working in Canadian magazine may submit a nomination, which should include:
A letter of nomination, including a brief bio of the nominee and a summary of their career achievements;
At least two (2) supporting letters from other individuals in the Canadian magazine industry or colleagues of the nominee.
Materials can be emailed to email@example.com. Note that March 1, 2019 is the nomination deadline, and that there is no cost to submit a nomination.
At the 42nd annual National Magazine Awards gala, we will proudly present the OA winner with their award. More information can be found at magazine-awards.com/oa.
Publisher Grand Prix
With this award, the NMAF strives to recognize the publisher whose brand best delivers on their editorial mandate through numerous platforms. Eligible platforms are various, and may include websites, special issues or other publications, mobile apps, social media platforms, television shows, podcasts, events, merchandising, or any other initiatives or forms of audience engagement. Entries are due by March 1, 2019. The inaugural recipient of this special award will also be announced at the spring gala. Click here for further details.
A recipient of the 2017 CJF-CBC Indigenous Journalism Fellowship, Julian is a correspondent at Real America with Jorge Ramos, contributing editor for Canadian Geographic and a freelance writer. His work has appeared in The Guardian, The Nation, The Paris Review and many other publications. He is a proud member of the Canim Lake Band Tsq’escen and a descendant of the Lil’Wat Nation of Mount Currie.
Your article on the Tribal Canoe Journey mentions traditional oral histories. You make an interesting comment of how calling these stories legends or fables “infantilizes” them. Do you think this undermines the culture?
The direct answer is I think that it can. Words matter, and the language we use to describe them affects the way we think about them. I’d like to view all sorts of stories, whether they be more traditional origin stories or masterful multi-volume novels, as all part of an interrelated practice of storytelling.
How important do you consider these traditional stories to Indigenous culture, in terms of understanding the culture and continuing it?
I think they’re obviously important, but so are new writers and novels. For example, Tommy Orange’s book There There. They’re all very important.
The story of the first symbolic canoe expo, coming out of a centennial celebration, and your description of it as “Thanksgiving in reverse” was also interesting. Canada recently celebrated its 150th anniversary, and there was much discussion in the Indigenous community about what that meant in their history. Do you think these moments in time, where there is a heightened lens on Indigenous issues, could be turned around to an advantage, like the examples in your article?
Yes. I think there’s a way of seeing these events as somewhat one-sided, but I think it’s often more complicated than that. If we look back at Canada 150, Canada’s celebration of its 150 years was, in comparison to other centennial celebrations in Canada, quite cautious and tepid. At the same time, Indigenous protests of and counter-narrative to Canada 150 was really powerful.
I do think that is ultimately what can happen, especially when we have such a strong Indigenous movement like we do today.
How have you learned to respond to? Your article features some inner monologue about how you would have liked to respond, but didn’t. Have these gotten any closer with experience?
I would say that it’s always sort of a process, knowing that is the climate and structure we are up against, but also becoming increasingly confident and comfortable in our own skin. And believing that despite forces aligned against us, we can come into these spaces and succeed. In the world of journalism, we can show up at newspapers and magazines, and write stuff just as good or maybe even better than our peers. We can go into the halls of power and political situations, into jobs and corporations, and do a kick ass job.
In that one instance, it was quite a challenging experience for me, even when I reflect back on it. But ultimately it also did prepare me for the next interview where that happens, the next situation where my race leads people to challenge me, question me, or undermine me in particular ways.
What was it like interviewing Connie Walker, who’s such a prominent Indigenous journalist, as a young Indigenous journalist yourself?
I think what’s really cool about journalism is that you get to talk to all these awesome people. Connie Walker was an awesome person to talk to, but there’s also been many other cool Native and non-Native people I’ve had the opportunity to talk to. That’s what I find really cool about journalism. That opportunity not only just to write the story, but to talk to people who are experts, who have lived the experience you are trying to relate to your readers.
In your interview, she mentions how she is almost now exclusively reporting on Indigenous issues, where ten years ago there was little to no interest. Do you agree it’s an opportune time for young Indigenous writers to have their voices heard?
Absolutely. [In that interview] we talked a lot about digital technology. There’s a lot more opportunity for entry. There’s more blogs, there’s new publications starting up all the time. There’s a lot of writers who get their start on Facebook and Twitter. For Indigenous writers, a community who has something to say and add to the conversation, that technology shift is a big opportunity to us.
On the flip side though, I worry sometimes that there is going to be, as Harold Cardinal [Cree writer and political leader] wrote about in the 60s and 70s, a “buckskin curtain”. That we will be confined to reservations of not just literal geography, but also of political discourse, of journalism, of career opportunities. That we will be constantly cast as Indigenous people who only talk about Indigenous issues.
And to me, on a continent that has taken so much from First Nations, everything is in some way an Indigenous issue. And Indigenous people should have a say on all of the issues of the day, whether that be the rights of our community, or questions of economic equality, justice or immigration. We clearly have something to say about all of these things.
Do you think Indigenous people have a certain responsibility to their culture? To learn it, and continue it. In a way that other cultures may not with the same urgency? And how would you suggest going about this? You’re an accomplished writer and activist, but how can anyone become involved?
I think all cultures have a lot to offer. I think culture is just fundamentally cool, and I don’t think that it is exclusively an Indigenous thing. Obviously, we have a particular history of our culture being under attack. So I think that creates a certain imperative to maintain, strengthen and carry forward our culture, but I think those cultures are constantly changing.
Our culture is not exclusively the traditions of our grandparents, or the generations before them. They’re also the things that Native youth are today with in Winnipeg with hip-hop, Native actors and directors are doing today in Vancouver, or any of the things our fantastic writers are doing with the written word. I think that it’s all of those things.
What are some of your next projects, or goals for the near future?
I have conversations constantly with different publications about articles that I’m writing. I recently got back from Paris where I spoke at the Festival America, which is a North American-focused literature festival. I’m writing a couple of pieces about that, about the history of Indigenous travellers in Paris, and Indigenous artists and writers passing through there today. Playing with the question of “What is Indigenous Paris”? And in the longer term, I’d love to write a book. I’ve been getting queries from publishers and agents, and I’m in the early stages of figuring out what that book would be about.
Julian Brave NoiseCatis a correspondent at Real America with Jorge Ramos, contributing editor for Canadian Geographic, and freelance writer whose work has appeared in The Guardian, The Nation, The Paris Review, and many other publications. He was a finalist for a National Magazine Award, Best New Magazine Writer in 2018. A proud member of the Canim Lake Band Tsq’escen and descendant of the Lil’Wat Nation of Mount Currie, he resides in Washington, D.C.
Interview conducted by Tobey VanWeston.
Submissions for the 42nd National Magazine Awards are now being accepted! Magazines and creators are invited to submit their best work of 2018 in 29 categories, including the prestigious Best New Magazine Writer category. The final submissions deadline is January 18, 2019. Click here to begin the submissions process.