Of the Page is an interview series featuring National Magazine Award winners. This week we’re chatting with Montreal writer and editor Simon Diotte. He gained recognition for his 2016 National Magazine Award-winning travel story “Sur les traces d’un écrivain voyageur” (“In the Footsteps of a Travel Writer”) published in Oxygène, where he is editor-in-chief. The story recounts a multi-day hiking trip in France in the company of a donkey named Muscade, following the trail of the great Scottish adventurer Robert Louis Stevenson who hiked the same path in 1878. NMAF: For the uninitiated, tell us about Oxygène magazine and your readers? Simon: A newcomer to the world of outdoor magazines, Oxygène launched in 2013 and is published twice annually. We have a circulation of 25,000 copies distributed for free in Quebec, mainly at shops and businesses that specialize in the outdoors. Distinguishing itself from other publications that focus on all outdoor sports (trekking, climbing, alpine skiing, surfing, etc), Oxygène focuses on the classics—camping, hiking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. NMAF: So which came to you first: A taste for adventure or a love of writing? Simon: Writing. I grew up reading L’actualité. I loved their “territoire” features which explored a particular region under a specific theme. I admired the journalist Luc Chartrand in particular, winner of numerous National Magazine Awards. I recall one of his reports that explored the wild regions of Haute-Mauricie. As I read it, I dreamed of walking in remote areas, a notebook in hand. It was stories like this that prompted me to choose to become a freelance journalist, and I started writing articles about the outdoors, which then gave me opportunities to go on adventures.
Paradoxically, in real life I am not necessarily a great adventurer. But I like to have the opportunity to travel in a professional context, where I can have access, as a journalist, to places and people (such as business leaders, politicians, etc) who are not easily accessible to everyday folks. NMAF: So in addition to your role as editor-in-chief of Oxygène you’ve also been a freelance journalist for over fifteen years. Over the years, you’ve been published in magazines including que L’actualité, Les affaires, Coup de pouce, Châtelaine and Nature Sauvage. And you cover a wide range of topics, including personal finance, the environment, and tourism, to name a few. Tell us about the process of selection stories to pursue. And what topics are currently arousing your curiosity as a journalist? Simon: Even though I love to work on adventure-oriented stories, I see myself as a jack-of-all-journalism-trades, which corresponds well to my personality. I enjoy stories on the performance of the stock market or the latest film of a famous filmmaker. And so I transpose my diverse tastes into my work as a journalist.
To succeed as a freelancer, you have to be an idea-generating machine. As soon as an idea starts to form in my mind, I immediately make notes on it. I do a quick search to see if it’s a subject that’s already been covered. Sometimes it takes years for an idea to grow into a magazine story—often because of the lack of time or opportunity to pursue it. I have tons of ideas in the bank, but unfortunately I lack the time and budget to pursue them all. Right now I’m working on several stories about hunting. Stay tuned. NMAF: Your story called “Sur les traces d’un écrivain voyageur” won a Silver Medal at the 2016 National Magazine Awards. You weren’t able to attend the gala, but you responded almost instantly to the announcement on Twitter. What was the first thing that came to your mind when you heard the news? Simon: I was really proud that a story by a freelancer writer in a small Quebec publication had managed to stand out among the panoply of high-quality magazines across Canada. As a freelancer I often have the feeling of being David against Goliath in various journalistic contexts. Winning the National Magazine Award is proof that with audacity and determination, you can do great stories. NMAF: You also received an Honourable Mention last year for your story “Le ski change d’air” published in L’actualité. And in 2014 you also won an Honourable Mention for “Rares et précieux champignons” in Nature Sauvage. What impact has this recognition had on you at this stage of your career as a journalist? Simon: In my many years as a freelancer, I’ve experienced periods where I’ve questioned myself. Should I continue or should I do something else? The recognition of the National Magazine Awards has affirmed my decision to keep living by the writer’s pen. And working independently gives me the freedom to work on the stories I really want to. Awards provide confidence to freelancers and raise our profile among clients. They help us stand out. NMAF: The Canadian magazine industry has undergone some profound transformations over the past few years. One need only think of all the print publications that have migrated to digital platforms, or of the recent announcement of the sale of a number of Quebec magazines by Rogers Media, including L’actualité, the most decorated French-language magazine in the history of the National Magazine Awards.* In such an uncertain environment, what is the key to success for a freelancer? Simon: As a freelancer, diversification is a major asset. The publications I write for trust me to handle a wide range of topics, as they know I’m versatile enough to do them. It’s also a great idea to get creative and pitch stories that seem a little off the beaten track. The work I do is about 50% ideas that I pitch, and 50% ideas that are commissioned.
That said, the future doesn’t look so bright for journalism, even for the best freelancers. With falling revenues, magazines have less and less money, and of course that has an impact on content. Like most freelancers, I often wonder whether I’ll still be able to do this exciting work in a few years.
Simon Diotte is the editor-in-chief of the magazine Oxygène and a National Magazine Award-winning freelancer writer based in Montreal. Follow him on Twitter @sdiotte.
This interview was originally published in French on the blog Prix Magazine. Interview by Émilie Pontbriand. Translated from the French by Richard A. Johnson.
* Editor’s note: Since publication of this interview in French, L’actualité has been purchased by MishMash Media.
La FNPMC a le plaisir de présenter « En marge », une série d’entretiens réalisés avec des auteurs primés aux Prix du magazine canadien. Pour amorcer la série, la Fondation s’est entretenue avec la journaliste scientifique Dominique Forget.
Maintes fois récompensée aux Prix du magazine, Mme Forget raflé pas moins de cinq prix: quatre mentions honorables et une médaille d’or. En 2012, elle a récolté trois mentions honorables pour des textes publiés dans autant de magazines. Lors de la plus récente édition des prix, elle s’est encore une fois illustrée, avec l’équipe de Québec Science, en remportant la médaille d’or dans la catégorie Dossiers thématiques : imprimés.
FNPMC : Québec Science a accumulé les honneurs aux Prix du Magazine canadien au fil des ans. Cette année, votre équipe a remporté la médaille d’or dans la catégorie Dossiers thématiques- imprimés. Que fait la force de Québec Science à votre avis? Dominique : Québec Science occupe une niche peu exploitée. Il est le seul magazine au Canada qui aborde des sujets de société sous l’angle des sciences.
L’équipe est petite, mais dévouée. Malgré les pressions grandissantes des annonceurs pour publier du contenu payé dans le magazine, Québec Science arrive à préserver farouchement son indépendance et à miser sur des sujets qui comptent. Continue reading “En marge, avec Dominique Forget”→
[This post has been updated to note that the Western Magazine Awards have extended their submissions deadline until May 29.]
This Thursday, May 1, the National Magazine Awards Foundation will announce the nominees for the 37th annual National Magazine Awards, to be held in Toronto on June 6. The list of nominees along with gala and ticket information will be posted right here on this blog, as well as on the NMAF website. Rounding up the awards season in Canadian magazines:
The Atlantic Journalism Awards have announced the finalists for awards to be presented on May 10 at the Halifax Harbourfront Marriott. There are three categories for magazines (Best Cover, Best Atlantic Magazine Article, Best Magazine Profile). Herald Magazine, Atlantic Salmon Journal, Progress and East Coast Living are among the leading nominees.
The Western Magazine Awards are accepting submissions until April 30May 29 for their awards program to be held September 26 at the Renaissance Vancouver Hotel Harbourside. The early-bird rate applies to all submissions entered by April 30 May 29.
The Association québecoise des éditeurs de magazine (AQEM) has not yet made an announcement about this year’s Quebec Magazine Awards (Grand Prix de Magazines du Québec). Last year’s were cancelled due to an urgent need to focus on the recycling issue.
The Manitoba Magazine Awards (the “Maggies”) will be held on October 2. Details about submissions will be posted soon on the website of the Manitoba Magazine Publishers’ Association.
The Alberta Magazine Awards were held on March 20 at the Carriage House Inn in Calgary. UPPERCASE won Alberta Magazine of the Year. Glass Buffalo won Best New Magazine. Janine Vangool (UPPERCASE) won for best achievement in editing. Tom Tait (Galleries West) won for best achievement in publishing. Eighteen Bridges, Swerve, Alberta Venture, Freefall and AlbertaViews were among the winners in individual categories.
The 60th anniversary Kenneth R. Wilson Awards for B2B magazine publishing will announce the finalists for this year’s awards on May 5. The KRW gala will be held in Toronto on Tuesday, June 3, at Hotel One King West. Nominees, ticket information and other details will be posted on the KRW website next week. The KRWs are also currently accepting submissions for the Harvey Southam Award for Career Achievement – deadline May 2. Keep it here for more info about magazine awards, especially the National Magazine Awards nominees, to be announced on Thursday May 1.
La série En Marge paraîtra périodiquement dans notre blogue. Cette semaine, nous découvrons quoi de neuf avec l’illustratrice Isabelle Arsenault, lauréate de 2 Prix du magazine canadien et de 2 Prix littéraires du Gouverneur général.
FNPMC: Nous vous félicitons de gagner récemment votre deuxième Prix littéraire du Gouverneur général (illustrations, jeunesse, français). Votre livre, Jane, le renard et moi, écrit par Fanny Britt, raconte l’histoire d’Hélène, une jeune fille qui fait l’objet d’intimidation par ses condisciples, se sent inférieure et dont le seul plaisir est de lire Jane Eyre. En quoi cette histoire a-t-elle une résonance chez vous, et comment avez-vous créé l’image d’Hélène?
Isabelle : Le personnage d’Hélène est une jeune fille discrète qui se retrouve sans amies à un âge où l’appartenance à un groupe prend de l’importance. Sans avoir été moi-même victime d’intimidation, je me suis inspirée de souvenirs de ma propre jeunesse, de scènes dont j’ai été témoin et d’impressions que ces souvenirs m’ont laissé.
J’ai décidé de représenter Hélène comme étant une fille sans style particulier, plutôt neutre et effacée à laquelle le lecteur puisse facilement s’identifier.
FNPMC: Plus tôt l’année 2013, vous avez remporté un Prix du magazine canadien, votre deuxième, pour une série d’illustrations dans Québec Science, dans le cadre d’un article intitulé « Organes recherchés ». Quel processus créatif utilisez-vous lorsque vous illustrez un article de magazine? Puisez-vous votre inspiration exclusivement du texte, ou d’autres sources? Continue reading “En marge, avec Isabelle Arsenault”→
They publish much of Canada’s best poetry and prose. The writers whose creative work appears in their pages range from established icons of Canadian literary arts–such as Alice Munro, Margaret Atwood and Lynn Coady, to name just a few–to new writers published for the first time.
They are Canada’s literary magazines, and they are not only a source of reading pleasure, but also a critical part of our country’s culture and a forum for literary artists across the land.
The following list, an A-to-Z guide to Canadian literary periodicals and their submissions guidelines, compiled by the National Media Awards Foundation, focuses on those magazines that currently publish short fiction, poetry and/or creative (aka literary) non-fiction. Many also accept submissions for essays, literary criticism, reviews, interviews, graphic narratives and visual art. And many have won National Magazine Awards. If we missed any, tell us via Twitter @MagAwards or contact us by email.
NōD Published In: Alberta (U. of Calgary) Founded: 2014 Genres: Poetry, Fiction, Creative Non-fiction, Reviews, Visual Arts Issues per Year: 2 National Magazine Awards: None Submission Guidelines
Northern Appeal, The Published In: Ontario (Simcoe County and Muskoka) Founded: 2016 Genres: Poetry, Short Stories, Photography, and Visual Art Issues per Year: 2 National Magazine Awards: None Submission Guidelines
Pulp Literature Published in: British Columbia Founded: 2014 Genres: Short Stories, Novellas, Novel Excerpts and Graphic Novel Shorts Issues per Year: 4 National Magazine Award Nominations: None Submissions Guidelines
Read all about this year’s National Magazine Award winners, which included medals by literary magazines Arc Poetry Magazine, Event, Hazlitt, Little Brother, Prairie Fire, PRISM International, sub-Terrain, The Feathertale Review, The New Quarterly, Vallum and Maisonneuve, which won Magazine of the Year.