A freelancer’s life isn’t easy. “When someone actually pays a dollar a word,” writer Chris Turner told an audience of magaziners last week, “they present it like it’s a Christmas bonus.” And even when magazines do pay a decent rate, they rarely pay on time. “We have rents and mortgages,” Turner admonished.
Photo credit: Ashley Bristowe.
So why hasn’t this four-time National Magazine Awards winner, who spoke at the 12th annual Alberta Magazines Conference held last week at the Red & White Club, moved on to a career with a better salary and reliable accounting? “At their best, magazines give you an enormous opportunity to experiment and take risks,” he said.
Turner, the author of Planet Simpson and forthcoming The Geography of Hope, said both books came out of essays he wrote for the late Shift magazine, where assigning editors trusted him and allowed him to take the pieces wherever he wanted. Shift was “the biggest risk-taker,” he said, which served both the writer and the magazine well.
Turner, who lives in Calgary with his wife, photographer Ashley Bristowe, said Albertans, with their “maverick spirit,” don’t have to “adhere to conventional wisdom” when it comes to publishing. “And since there’s lots of money floating around here, you can be more daring,” he added.
As he ended, Turner suggested Cowtown might not be such a bad place for freelancers after all. “The reason I’m here and not in Toronto is that there’s so many stories here that no one is telling.”