Did you win a National Magazine Award at this year’s gala? Were you a nominee? If so, we’ve created a guide just for you.
The NMAF is pleased to introduce the first volume of our Best Practices Guide. This guide is an extensive resource for how National Magazine Award winners and nominees can best leverage their recognition of magazine excellence.
The guide provides detailed promotional strategies, insightful personal testimony and plenty of other useful resources to help award winners and nominees best leverage and optimize their National Magazine Awards. Click here to download the full PDF version. Winners’ Circle Webinar
On November 25, 2015, the National Magazine Awards Foundation presented Winners’ Circle, an exclusive learning and networking event. More than 70 NMA winners and nominees gathered at The Spoke Club in Toronto’s King West district to meet, mingle, network and learn about how a National Magazine Award can be a boost to your career.
In addition to our Best Practices Guide, the NMAF has created this webinar to uncover other effective ways to leverage and optimize your National Magazine Award win. In a discussion led by D.B. Scott, three NMA winners–Penny Caldwell of Cottage Life, Matthew Blackett of Spacing and Katherine Laidlaw of The Walrus–share their best practices on how they leveraged their recognition of winning a National Magazine Award.
Please stay tuned for when we announce our next Winners’ Circle event.
Download this year’s National Magazine Awards Winners’ Seals here.
The National Magazine Awards Foundation is all about celebrating Canadian creators and storytellers. Our mission is to recognize excellence in magazine writing and art production.
At the NMAF we tip our hats to the storytellers who skilfully fill the pages of Canadian magazines. To highlight the hard work and meticulous crafting that goes into creating an NMA-winning piece we’ve produced a portrait series of this year’s winners and nominees, discussing what makes for great storytelling.
“The key to great storytelling is respect for the person whose story it is that and a willingness to develop that trust with them as well as a recognition of the responsibility that you carry as a storyteller. Good storytelling is a way for us to connect to somebody else’s reality. It can capture us in reflecting on an experience we thought was unique to us and that we discover is universal.”
“I really appreciate development of plot at delayed intervals, when the writer can suspend action, but still keep interest in the development of the story. I find that fascinating. That works really well to keep the reader attached to the story as it unfolds.”
“A great story is when I have a lot of different kinds of information coming to me, so I have the person telling me what they remember or what they went through or what they think and I also have documentary evidence, so I see medical records or I see emails from the time or contracts or documents or official letters. I like the detail.”
“If you do a good job in the investigation, the story almost tells itself and so you have a sense of story while you’re doing the investigation. I think another thing, too, that makes for a good and important story is finding people who normally wouldn’t have the opportunity to speak.”
“Storytelling is uncovering stories that haven’t been told or finding a new way to tell those stories. In our world, we write a lot about inanimate objects, buildings and bridges, so we rely on good storytelling, simply because we’re not writing about people. We’re writing about things that have been around for 100 years, so it’s about getting that hook in there and getting that hook in there early.”
From left to right: Haley Cullingham, former Editor-in-Chief; Jennifer Varkonyi, Publisher; Anna Minzhulina, Art Director; Daniel Viola, Editor-in-Chief. Daniel Viola (right), Editor-in-Chief: “For me (scenes are) what separates what’s going to be a good story from a great story and a really great story, because that’s what’s interesting – people are interesting, events are interesting. You need to be able to have both the ebbs and the flows of the story, great scenes, research to back it up, all of the context needed, but it’s knowing the role of all these different elements of storytelling and how you put them all together to make an 800-word story or a 2, 000-word story and how you adapt to the length that there is.” Anna Minzhulina (seated), Art Director: “I think that art and the words, they should exist together, but at the same time they should exist separately and individually as well. It’s not necessarily that art should be an illustration of what the story is word-by-word, but it should be an interpretation, not a narration.”
“I think that’s the key to any good storytelling is the listening part, so you need to hear what they have to say and take the time to consider it and string it together. The best part is to have many different voices to make sort-of a tapestry of voices. I think that’s the key to storytelling.”
“I think an underdog makes a great story, because cheering for somebody that you know is going to win is not interesting and exciting. What’s gripping about storytelling is the unexpected and I think most of the time the unexpected is when somebody who doesn’t win, somebody who doesn’t get to talk, somebody who gets ignored finally gets that chance to talk, to win, to say something.”
“It’s through the language of emotion and how we connect as humans that you can tell stories through photography. I think I’m always trying to dig deeper into that level of what people are feeling and where they’re at, at that moment. It’s from being there and immersing yourself in the story that you start to recognize those moments that tell it because you’re side by side with the people who are experiencing it.”
“A great story is when someone, through their artistic intelligence, creates a beautiful shape out of hours or weeks or months or years of total chaos.”
“It all starts with a recipe. The recipes that are in the magazine that are on the cooking show and all of the stuff that you need to make those recipes is available in the store. You walk through the store, you can buy everything that you see on the show, in the magazine; you walk into the restaurant, you will be served the food that is in the magazines, on the TV show – it’s just this symbiotic universe.”
“We try to be indispensable to our readers with our service journalism and we try to be very relevant through our other stories, and just give them a great read, where they sit down and it puts them in the moment. It makes them feel like they recognize that moment and they’re there.”
“(The key to great storytelling is) timelessness! A story that transcends time, that can be told today that’s pertinent to today and that people know that it happened in this era, or you can tell it 20 years from now and people can still glean universal truth from it.”
“You need tension to make it an interesting story. (The most important thing when writing profiles) is that there are as many levels as possible within that person, from public persona to inner struggles. No one’s a simple story and so what you have to do is create that trust so that people will bare those levels of tension and it’s a gift when someone does that with you.”
Off the Page is a regular interview series produced by the National Magazine Awards Foundation. Today we’re chatting with illustrator Gracia Lam, whose work has been published in Maisonneuve, The Walrus, More, Corporate Knights, The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Atlantic and others. At last year’s National Magazine Awards, Gracia won both the gold and silver awards for Spot Illustration for two pieces of work published in Maisonneuve, the first illustrator ever to achieve that distinction. NMAF: The spot illustration holds a special place in the makeup of a magazine. Diminutive, often playful, sometimes underrated in comparison to larger elements of artwork. What do you think makes spot illustration such a fundamental component of a magazine story?
Gracia Lam: I think that spot illustrations are a splash of colour within a sea of text, constructing direction or a break for the reader’s eye. Within a confined space, it is carefully conceived to enhance the content of an article. It assists in the creation of tone and mood, and is used purposefully to amplify a reader’s senses and experience. NMAF: You achieved an unprecedented feat at last year’s National Magazine Awards, winning both the Gold and Silver medals in Spot Illustration for two different works published in Maisonneuve. The jury awarded gold to your spot illustration accompanying a story called “The Elite Yellow Peril,” which is a very evocative work. What was your creative vision for this piece, and was it created specifically for the text or did you have a broader idea in mind when you created it?
Gracia: I often describe my two-dimensional pieces of illustrations as a short film. In film, the story is narrated through multiple frames and over a time period; my illustrations reveal the climax of a story in one frame.
My vision for the “The Elite Yellow Peril” was to create a connection with the viewer that is immediate and impactful. To achieve this, I created an illustration with imageries and representations as closely related to the text as possible. NMAF: The article that featured your Silver winning spot, “The Tar-Sands Trap” dealt with the highly controversial, nationally debated topic of the Keystone XL pipeline. As a spot illustrator, how does your level of awareness on the associated story influence your creative process? Before you begin working on an illustration, how does your familiarity with the topic guide your conceptualization process? Gracia: When working on any assignment, I allow the story to directly inform my creative process from conceptualizing initial sketches to final colourization. During the first read through of the assignment, I take notes and highlight bits and pieces of writing that round up the theme.
For “The Tar-Sands Trap” article, I needed to familiarize myself with specific elements of the story such as its location, the visualization of its landscape and environment, and the pipeline.
When the Art Director gives me complete freedom, I approach the conceptualization process with how I think the mood should be represented—which is to portray the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline as a danger to the community. NMAF: Your work has appeared in a large number of magazines, including many National Magazine Award-winning publications. Is there a “Gracia Lam” style that is boldly consistent throughout your work in various publications? And what is the process of adapting that style to align with the vision of the art director or of the textual part of the story? Gracia: My visual language is created using mixed media, combining hand painted and drawn elements along with digital execution. I love to delight the audience with wit by reimagining everyday objects, mundane environments, and familiar situations with visual puns.
The process of adapting that style is mainly through practice. I am grateful that throughout my career I have been given many opportunities on various topics and stories from business and finance articles to science and health stories. These challenges allow me to identify my strengths and edit out my weaknesses, so each project contributes to the gradual tightening and refining of my work and portfolio.
NMAF: You swept the Spot Illustration category at last year’s gala, taking home both the Gold and Silver awards. Before that, you had been nominated three times since 2010. Winning both top spots within a single category is no small feat. Can you describe the difference in transitioning from nominee to two-time winner? What effect have the awards had on your career since last year’s ceremony? Gracia: I was absolutely blown away by last year’s awards and want to thank the judges who recognized my work. I have always been excited to be nominated alongside many known names in the field—many of which are my peers and idols. The transition from nominee to winner is humbling because winning any award from the NMAs had been a goal. Since the awards last year, I have been working proficiently to improve on each piece to be on top of my own game. Gracia Lam is a National Magazine Award-winning illustrator, born in Hong Kong and raised in Toronto. She likes to reinvent everyday objects and mundane environments.. To view more of her work visitGraciaLam.com.
Special thanks to Leah Jensen for conducting this interview with Gracia Lam. To view more nominated and winning work, visit the National Magazine Awards online archive at magazine-awards.com/archive.
Check out more of our Off the Page interviews with National Magazine Award winners, including illustrators Byron Eggenschwiler, Roxanna Bikadoroff, Jillian Tamaki and Selena Wong. The nominees for this year’s National Magazine Awards will be announced right here on the NMA blog on May 4. This year’s awards gala is June 5 at the Arcadian Court in Toronto.
The Winter 2015 issue of Prism International (Vol. 53, No. 2) is hot. Yes, we’re especially fond of the National Magazine Awards winners seal that adorns the cover, acknowledging writer Pasha Malla‘s silver medal for fiction (“The Actual” from Prism 51:3) at last year’s NMA gala.
The new issue features creative non-fiction by National Magazine Award winners Ayelet Tsabari–recent winner of the Sami Rohr prize–and Liz Windhorst Harmer, among others. And an impressive menu of short fiction and poetry, including a piece by NMA winner Alice Major.
You can find the new issue in select bookstores and literary newsstands, or online from the Prism store.
Sarah de Leeuw’s incredible story of abnormal childbirth, “Soft Shouldered,” featured in Prism International magazine, received an Honourable Mention in One of a Kind at last year’s gala.
Margo Pfeiff has won four NMA Honourable Mentions since 2001, and her essay “When the Vikings Were in Nunavut” was published in Up Here magazine, which won five Honourable Mentions at last year’s gala.
Dan Tysdal’s fiction piece, “Year Zero,” was published in the multiple NMA-winning magazine, Prairie Fire. D.W. Wilson has received four awards within the fiction category, with three Honourable Mentions at the 2010 gala and a Silver Award for his piece The Elasticity of Bone in 2008. Naomi K. Lewis’ essay, The Assault on Science, was published in NMA-winning magazine, Alberta Views. In 2011, she won an Honourable Mention in Health & Medicine for The Urge to Purge (Alberta Views).
Check out the complete list of essays by ordering the 2014 book from Tightrope Books.
Special thanks to Leah Jensen for compiling this post.