Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Writing and Writers - G. Malcolm Kelly

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At first glance, what you notice about Malcolm Kelly is his energy. On closer inspection, what strikes me is his thoughtful intelligence, his passion for his work and his determination to be clearly understood. That particular skill comes in handy for the man who not only works as a writer for CBC Sports but who is the Program Coordinator for the Sports Journalism Graduate program at Centennial College in Toronto.

Intrigued by the path that brought him to 4 published books, I sat down with him to have a chat.
As is the case with many writers, it was not what he studied at school – he graduated from the University of Toronto in 1981 with a degree in American History and with a minor in Medieval Studies – but what he did while at school that made the difference. Malcolm worked on the campus paper all the way through school which gave him the experience he needed to offer to volunteer for the Town Crier which had just been started by Harry Goldhar.

Malcolm has had a very impressive career to date which has included 12 years at The Town Crier, 7 years at the National post, 2 years as a freelancer, 2 years in pro Basketball as a PR person, 2 years with Thomson Newspapers before coming to CBC Sports where he has been working for the last 5 years.

Writer or Journalist? Malcolm says that he considers himself to be a journalist first. With 4 published books, I was interested to know how he differentiated between the two. He explained that in his opinion, anyone could be a writer but that being a journalist required a certain number of skills. He elaborates by saying technology in this day and age has allowed anyone to be able to write and express what they choose by using blogs and facebook and twitter any other manner of electronic possibilities. The difference between writers comes at what level a writer is working at, in terms of competence and skill and whether they are an amateur or a professional. He says that just the use of the word professional denotes a certain skill level or experience and illuminates that they are able to earn a living by their skill. Journalists, by Malcolm’s definition, if they are doing their job correctly are supposed to be able to tell both sides of a story by searching for relevant facts. The facts are as accurate as they can be at the time they are published and the story should not reflect personal bias which he says with a tone of sadness doesn’t always seem to happen.

Malcolm Kelly’s first of four books (so far) was The Complete Idiot's Guide® to Canadian Sports History and Trivia was published by Pearson Books in 1999 (which has since been acquired by Penguin) and was a Canadian Bestseller. He and friend Mark Askin wrote The Complete Idiot's Guide® to the History of Hockey which was published in 2000 with a 2001 version produced for the US which was larger again by about a third. In 2002, he published his fourth book with Prentice Hall which was a critical success called Hanging it Out on Camera 3 –a look at Canadian sports and the media who follow it.

This is a man with a track record as a successful author in Canada. I asked him what he suggests for anyone looking to become published. He is pragmatic when he says that he feels that getting published in non-fiction is easier than fiction and that having an identity as an already established writer also helps. That isn’t to say that there aren’t writers every day who are getting a shot, there are, but you just have to know that with all they have to do, Canadian publishers don’t have the time to drag a first time writer through a book and teach them what they need to know. If you are looking to get published, your first step should be to find out who the editor is on staff and contact a publishing firm with your “going over the transom”. (My first step is to figure out what that means!) Apparently, all this means is a writer not represented by an agent, approaching a publisher with an idea.

A writer with a proven track record either with a newspaper, magazine or some other outlet is going to be able to get some time from a publisher that an unproven writer may have difficulty getting. In plain language, if you want to be a writer – write! Start out by taking advantage of whatever opportunities you can whether in small papers or online sites or whatever else in order to build up a portfolio. Malcolm says that a writer doing a work of non-fiction has to understand that there are a lot of skills involved including a tremendous amount of research. Being able to do the research and assimilate it into the writing of a piece in a way that people will enjoy reading it, is a distinct skill in itself.

In his spare time, Malcolm is working on his first historical novel set against the backdrop of World War II. He loves classic fiction and is very enthusiastic about the possibilities that exist when you create a fictional character and place them into historically correct scenarios. He has great respect for the men and women who fought so bravely in World War II, including his own parents, and would like to honour the spirit of the time.

Malcolm Kelly makes his home in Toronto with his wife and son and can be found online almost every day at www.cbcsports.ca – look for the interesting stories.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Pj Kwong

Pj Kwong is a figure skating expert and writer currently working for CBC Sports. Her first book, Taking the Ice: Success Stories from the World of Canadian Figure Skating (BookLand Press), will be in stores in September 2010.

Go to Pj Kwong’s Author Page