A Writer’s Life

My first job in journalism was at Quill & Quire in the early 1970s. It was a much smaller magazine back then—I think there were three of us on the editorial side, so we all did a bit of everything. Mostly, though, I wrote news articles and profiles and assigned and edited the book review section. Looking back, it was good training for a journalist.

From Q & Q, I moved to Books in Canada as managing editor and from there to the precarious life of a freelance magazine writer. There were many more magazines back then including weekly newspaper supplements so it was possible to make a living by pounding away on a typewriter.

I wrote for Saturday Night, Toronto Life, Report on Business, Maclean’s, Chatelaine, Weekend, The Canadian, Elle Canada and lots of other places, including The Globe and Mail and The Toronto Star. Over the years, I have written hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles, including reviews, profiles, columns, investigative pieces, public policy proposals, obituaries and memoir essays.

I’ll mention a few and provide links.

Favourite Son was a profile of Michael Ignatieff that I wrote for Saturday Night in 1993. My piece captured Michael Ignatieff before he returned to Canada and entered politics. Back then his best friend was Bob Rae, the NDP premier of Ontario. My profile later became a source for other journalists covering Ignatieff, as he and Rae, by now his former best friend struggled for the leadership of the Liberal Party and failed to defeat Stephen Harper as prime minister of Canada.

I wrote a lot about race, gender and political correctness in the 1990s, winning an Atkinson Fellowship from the Toronto Star in 1994 to study race and gender in the workplace. I also wrote about political correctness in the firing of Ontario Agent General Carlton Masters, the targeting of Showboat as a racist musical, and an article for Toronto Life about Ryerson university firing openly gay writer and teacher Gerald Hannon. It won a national magazine award in 1997.

In 1998 I took a full time job at The Globe and Mail. For the next 16 years I wrote editorials, cultural analysis, literary profiles, news features and obituaries. People laughed and called me the grim reaper or the angel of death when I started writing obituaries but I loved trying to condense an entire life onto a newspaper page and learning new subject areas from politics to science. Curiosity drives all journalists and I loved discovering fascinating details about strangers, people who were a mystery to me until I began researching their lives and writing them up, usually under crushing deadlines.