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!