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Special Invitation to Teachers, Instructors and Professors:

Our aim is simple: bring outstanding writing, photography and design to the classroom. Sure, we know we have great work in Western Canadian magazines, but how do we make it more accessible?

The answer: The Magazine School 2010

This year, there are 11 PowerPoint teaching presentations available free to educators for use in the classroom.

The written categories comprise four Gold Awards for best article in each province/territory, as well as winners for fiction and human interest.

In the visual categories, we have presentations on award winners for “Best Cover,” “Best Art Direction – Article,” “Best Photo – Portrait,” “Best Photo – Feature or Series” and “ Best Photo – Architectural, Landscape or Still.”

These teaching presentations are free to you as an educator as part of the Western Magazine Awards Foundation’s Magazine School 2010. Each aims to tell the story behind the story or visual award winner.

The PowerPoint presentations allow students to meet the creators and understand their challenges. They provide a starting point for your class, highlighting key aspects of the category winner. We hope you will find our award-winning material engaging for your students to read and view.

The publications represented in the Magazine School 2010 are: The Beaver (Manitoba), Prairie Fire (Manitoba), Westworld Saskatchewan (Saskatchewan), Swerve (Alberta/N.W.T.), AlbertaViews (Alberta/N.W.T.), Vancouver Review (B.C./Yukon), The Malahat Review (B.C.), Western Living (B.C.) and BCBusiness (B.C.).

Gold Award, Best Article – Alberta/N.W.T.

Jeremy Klaszus

“Mr. Tree”

Alberta Views

Background: “Mr. Tree” is about “Opapa” Ernst Klaszus, the elderly grandfather of 26-year-old author Jeremy Klaszus. Ernst Klaszus, a native of Germany, was a member of Hitler Youth, as was mandated by law. Jeremy began to record his grandfather’s stories as a personal project, but ultimately worked on a story about him during his residency at The Banff Centre. He then sold the story to AlbertaViews and “Mr. Tree” was published in three installments. Key to the story: How much did his grandfather know?

Story Themes:

  • Profile writing
  • Personal journalism
  •  Writing about a family member
  • World War II Nazi Germany
  • Memory and truth
  • Family relations

Teaching Suggestions:

  1. Have students read “Mr. Tree” (available on PDF).
  2. Show the PowerPoint, which focuses on the award-winning segment.
  3. Discuss the difficulties of writing about a family member in a way that anyone else would care. Why does this story succeed?
  4. Ask students if there is a family member they’d like to interview. If this is a practical class, assign students to produce a story about a family member with a compelling story.


Gold Award, Best Article – B.C./Yukon

Timothy Taylor

“Foodville: Part One”

Vancouver Review

Background: Vancouver author Timothy Taylor was interviewing Gudrun Will, Vancouver Review editor, for his column in the Globe and Mail. The two struck up a conversation about food criticism in Vancouver – and how overblown it seemed. The idea to examine food culture and writing in Vancouver germinated. Taylor wrote a 6,000-word essay that ran over three installments in Vancouver Review. The first part won the Western Magazine Award for best magazine article in B.C./Yukon.

Story Themes:

  • Expensive Vancouver restaurant food
  • Gushing restaurant reviews
  • How food critics work
  • Is a $500 meal worth it?
  • Sectioning out an article for clarity

Teaching Suggestions:

  1. Have students read “Foodville: Part One.”
  2. Show the PowerPoint, which focuses on the award-winning first part. Discuss.
  3. Ask students how they choose restaurants. Do they read restaurant reviews and/or depend on them for choosing a restaurant? Can restaurant critics be trusted? What did they learn from this article?
  4. If this is a practical class, ask them to write about the last restaurant they visited, with special emphasis on the food.


Gold Award, Best Article – Saskatchewan

John Campbell

“Getting Their Kicks”

Westworld Saskatchewan

Background: This story is about the annual Labour Day game between the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers Canadian Football league teams. Author John Campbell describes and photographs the rivalry, as well as the party that ensues every year. His thesis is that this is an important cultural event between two small-market CFL prairie teams. His main challenge, he says, was “staying sober.”

Story Themes:

  • Football as religion
  • Small-market CFL teams
  • Tradition
  • A football game framed as a cultural event
  • Sporting fans

Teaching Suggestions:

1. Ask students to read the story PDF of “Getting Their Kicks.”
2. Show the PowerPoint presentation to the class.
3. Ask the students to discuss how the writer captured the action, and if this story could appeal to non-football fans.
4. How would the students approach writing about a sporting or other large event for a general audience?
5. Ask students to write about the last sporting/cultural event they attended that had a zealous fan base and/or following.


Gold Award, Best Article – Manitoba

Mary Horodyski

“The Geography of Ambiguity”

Prairie Fire

Background: Mary knew something was not right with her child, who was in kindergarten. After her book club read a book that involved autism, she got up in the middle of the night to do some online research. Much of her son’s behaviour pointed to autism, and indeed he did receive a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome. She details her strong emotions in coming to accept him, how she dealt with the school and medical system, and ultimately the shifting of her parental expectations to make him “neurotypical.” As was her goal, she weaves personal anecdotes with research. The article first won the Prairie Fire creative non-fiction competition judged by Lawrence Hill.

Story Themes:

  • Autism/Asperger’s Syndrome
  • Managing parental expectations
  • Frustration with the medical and school system
  • Moving from ambiguity to acceptance

Teaching Suggestions:

1. Have students read “The Geography of Ambiguity.”
2. Show the PowerPoint presentation and discuss.
3. Ask the students to discuss why this article won the award. Was it the quality of the writing? If so, what passages resonated?
4. How is Colton represented and how do we hear his voice.
5. How does the author weave research and anecdote? Ask students to examine how the author weaves research into her essay in a seamless way.


Human Experience 2010

Lindsay Cuff

“On Atrocity and Grace: A Contrapuntal Vision”

The Malahat Review

Background: Lindsay Cuff is a musician and writer from Atlantic Canada, and became intrigued with the notion of combining the themes of fugue music, atrocity and grace. She sought to apply all themes to an essay about her family, and detail how an uncle went to jail for sexually abusing his daughter, the author’s cousin. Cuff wrote this piece while a student of creative writing at the University of British Columbia. She workshopped the article with her fellow students but rejected many of their suggestions in order to stay “true to herself.”

Story Themes:

  • Writing about families
  • Writing about a family secret or tragedy
  • Weaving together many themes into one story
  • Fugue music as a metaphor

Teaching Suggestions:

  1. Ask students to read “On Atrocity and Grace: A Contrapuntal Vision.”
  2. Discuss stories they could write detailing family tragedies.
  3. View the PowerPoint presentation with the students.
  4. Did the author succeed in weaving in fugue music, sexual abuse and New Orleans?
  5. Do you think the author should have listened to her peer critiques and changed the story, or does is stay true to her vision and still hold the reader’s attention?


Fiction 2010

Andrew MacDonald

“Eat Fist!”


Background: Andrew MacDonald wrote this article while pursuing his master’s in creative writing at the University of Toronto. His women’s studies professor gave him the option of writing a story rather than a research paper. He took her up on it, and wrote “Eat Fist!” He wove together three disparate stories: one about his inability to learn Ukrainian and letting his family down, another about bodybuilding and the third about comic books, specifically Wonder Woman. “Eat fist” is what she says when she punishes evildoers.

Key to the story: fresh water fish: pickerel

Story Themes:

  • Immigrants working to maintain their language in successive generations
  • Weaving together many themes in one story
  • Sexuality and “coming out”

Teaching Suggestions:

  1. Ask students to read “Eat Fist!”
  2. Discuss. Did they enjoy this story? Did they learn from it, and if so, what?
  3. The author attempted to work in several themes: a comic book character, weight lifting and Ukrainian language. Did this work?
  4. Take a second look at the author’s use of descriptive passages, and how he describes the women in the article.
  5. This story is written by a man. Does he succeed in his portrayal of women? Why or why not?

Best Art Direction – Article

Danae Thompson

“You’re Invited”


Background: Leah Hennel is a staff photographer at the Calgary Herald. She likes to keep pushing herself artistically and wanted to shoot a wedding with a strong cultural theme. Friends put her in touch with a South Asian couple and she photographed the weeklong celebration in Calgary as a personal project. Then she brought the photos to the attention of Swerve, a weekly magazine published by the Calgary Herald. Art director Danae Thompson chose the cover image first, then worked to lay out the article using full-frame photos. She also carefully chose the fonts and created a henna-like drawing for photo caption overlay. Finally, she used YouTube to produce a how-to sidebar.

Story Themes:

  • Laying out a photo spread
  • Developing thematic photo caption art
  • Developing a how-to sidebar with illustrations
  • Choosing Fonts

Teaching Suggestions:

  1. Show the PowerPoint presentation.
  2. Give the students printouts of the PDF of “You’re Invited” to examine further.
  3. What is their impression of the layout? What adjectives would they use to describe it?
  4. What were the strongest elements of the layout?
  5. Ask the students what they would have done differently.


Best Art Direction – Cover 2010

Catherine Mullaly

July Cover


Background: Each year, BCBusiness publishes a roundup of the top 100 businesses in British Columbia. It’s an annual issue that demands a unique cover treatment each year. Art director Catherine Mullaly discusses brainstorming the cover to come up with the golden egg theme. She worked with photographer Clinton Hussey to bring the image to life, then spent time choosing appropriate fonts and a fifth colour to make the issue “pop.”

Story Themes:

  • Brainstorming
  • New ideas for an annual issue
  • Working with a freelance photographer
  • Choosing cover type


Teaching Suggestions:

  1. Present the BCBusiness challenge to the students: There’s an annual issue of the 100 biggest and best companies. How would they create a cover for a business audience?
  2. Show the PowerPoint presentation.
  3. What is their impression of the cover? What adjectives would they use to describe it?
  4. What were the strongest elements of the cover?
  5. Why would it appeal to a business audience?

Best Photograph – Architectural, Landscape or Still Life 2010

Clinton Hussey

“The Real Deal”

Western Living

Background: Editor Charlene Rooke wanted to produce a story on Tex Mex cuisine. Normally, Western Living food stories are also paired with several recipes. The challenge was to produce an opening spread for the Tex Mex food article and photograph the meals mentioned in the recipes. The art director worked with a food stylist and photographer to produce a lush and visually tempting spread.

Story Themes:

  • Food styling
  • Background choice
  • Colour choice
  • Working in a visual team

Teaching Suggestions:

  1. For a practical course, have students prepare a Mexican-themed meal and photograph it, or photograph the items that go into a Tex Mex meal.
  2. Discuss the challenges of making the food look tasty.
  3. Show the PowerPoint presentation.
  4. Ask the students why this photograph won the award.
  5. What is the role of the food stylist?
  6. How would they have handled this photograph and art?
  7. Does the food look appealing? How does it compare to their own photographs?



Best Photograph – People and Portraiture 2010

Venturi + Karpa

“Saving Skid Row”

The Beaver

Background: The Beaver (now renamed Canada’s History Magazine) decided to do a story about Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and the historic hotels and buildings that stand to be demolished there. The art director wanted “before and after” photographs of the buildings as well as a profile shot of Jim Green, the housing activist. He hired Robert Karpa and Jessica Venturi to realize the images. Their challenges? The buildings were dull looking and the profile subject had been shot many times before. How to create something new? For the portrait, it meant scouting an interesting gritty back alley background that reflected the Downtown Eastside. The photo subject, Jim Green, was encouraged to dress any way he saw fit – and he didn’t disappoint.

Story Themes:

  • Photographing a much-photographed subject
  • Working with a team based in three cities (Montreal, Winnipeg and Vancouver)
  • Subject styling
  • Matching typefaces to photographic background

Teaching Suggestions:

  1. Show the PowerPoint presentation.
  2. What are the students’ impressions of the photographs?
  3. How would this image appeal to an audience interested in the popular treatment of Canadian history?
  4. Brainstorm alternate profile approaches for the subject.
  5. If this is a practical course, ask students to use a back alley as a backdrop and take some photos.