I have archived here a few of the magazine pieces I wrote in the 1990s. That decade was the busiest for me in magazine work. The first cover story I wrote was for Toronto Life in 1993. Entitled, Scenes from A Hogtown Western, it was a cultural commentary on the trend for western bars and dancing in Toronto. I had pitched the idea to the editor of Toronto Life after many attempts at other stories. He liked the idea and sent me off to write it. He then made it the cover story and it was nominated for a National Magazine Award. I had never taken a journalism course in my life.
Here are a selection of feature articles from Toronto Life magazine on Penguin Random House publisher Louise Dennys, Canadian luxury retailer Holt Renfrew, jetsetting socialite Anne Marie Sten and an interesting experiential journey I made along Canada’s longest street.
When I’m asked to talk to students about becoming journalists, I talk about three principles:
Indulge your curiosity.
Unfortunately, no one can make you curious. You either are or you aren’t.
Have the attitude that you can call up or approach anyone and ask him or her a question. He can always say no. But you won’t know the answer until you try to get one. I remember in the early days of my career as a freelance journalist, I would be sitting at home during a quiet hour, when the kids were sleeping, and I knew that I had to try to reach someone for a story I was working on. I had to work up my nerve a few times. And then I just thought, Well, what the hell, I can only try. That attitude got me many, many interesting stories.
Write what you think.
This is easier said than done. But one of the reasons I started writing for magazines occurred one day in the early nineties when I picked up a copy of Toronto Life, which had a story about Blue Jays player, Roberto Alomar, on its cover. As I started reading it, I thought,I think like this. I was noticing how the writer described the scene, the physical presence of his subject, and I realized that the sort of thing that he was noticing and writing about – details such as a manner of speaking, a way of walking – was what I paid attention to in my daily life. It had never occurred to me that how I thought was how I could write.