Chris Simpson

Semper letteris mandate

Personal History – 2.0

My introduction to the publishing industry started back when life was all new and shiny. I had a new wife, I had a new baby and we’d just moved from Toronto to a new life in a new apartment in Welland. The Tribune building, the city’s daily newspaper, was just across the street  and since I also had a new typewriter (a Brother portable), I popped over to see if I could possibly get a column. The editor asked for samples, which I provided and he began printing them. The column was a series tracing the history of Christianity as it led to the foundation of each denomination represented by our local churches. In the meanwhile I attended Niagara College, earning solid credits in Psychology, Sociology and English.

When the twins were born, however, raising the number of children from one to three all in one go, and all three being under the age of two, my wife and I decided that a more substantial income might come in handy. With graphic design becoming a growing industry we moved to Toronto where I earned a graphic arts certificate from George Brown College. Upon graduation I became one of the artists at the Mice in the Night studio, which specialised in painting murals for schools, hospitals, daycares and other institutions. After a year I jumped into freelance work, even picking up some small-time ad and promotional contracts along the way. Truth be told, though, while I’ve got decent, simple sense of design, I readily bow to those who truly have the talent.

Through a somewhat peculiar set of circumstances, I joined the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency where I was head of their newly-created IT department until its outsourcing in 1992. As it turned out, I was a pretty good programmer and systems analyst. When the outsourcing hit in ’92 I was offered technical-writing and software-analysis contracts from DeBeers and Command Data.

Around that time, Jim Makin was starting up his paper, The Outrider, and I approached him with the idea of a regular column that reviewed advertising in much the same way TV shows and movies were reviewed. He found it intriguing and “Ad Nauseam” was born, which I wrote under the pseudonym Blaise Meredith — the protagonist in Morris West’s novel, The Devil’s Advocate. Shortly thereafter I found myself as the assignment editor, working alongside Rod Goodman of the Toronto Star and his wife, Jan Hayes of The Globe and Mail.

Image from Ryerson Review of Journalism

The eventual fall of The Outrider is told with much relish, and some degree of accuracy, by Lee Oliver in The Ryerson Review of Journalism Spring, 1995.

Following the demise of The Outrider I returned to the University of Toronto, where I spent the next six years earning my BA in English.

During this time I worked as senior staff writer and sub-editor at the popular community magazine, What’s On Queen? Each month I wrote on various aspects of Queen Street culture — both East and West. My beats included its history, arts, theatre, literature and music. Over the course of five very enjoyable years I met and interviewed many of Queen Street’s (and Toronto’s) more notable personalities including Linda Griffiths, Michael Hollingsworth, Robert Berlin, Menno Krant, Milton Jewell, and Dorothy Cameron.

For much of this time I was also editor for the popular Celtic Curmudgeon: Arts & Entertainment Review, a publication I co-founded. Its launch was covered by John Northcott of CBC and within a few short months was attracting advertising from the Canadian Opera Company, the Toronto Symphony and the legendary Allens on the Danforth, all of whom found it a reliable way of reaching Toronto’s Celtic community. We provided regular media presence at the Canadian Bookseller’s Association’s (CBA) trade show from 1999 to its last real exhibition in 2001. During its heyday it was a great place to meet and network with publishing representatives while getting a chance to interview iconic Canadian and international authors from Michael Ondaatje to Maeve Binchy. It was also an opportunity to seek out new authors of merit and help promote their work.

A good editor is always willing to confront dangerous situations - such as petting a sedated tiger cub

This photo is from the 2000 Canadian Booksellers’ Association Trade Show. In the centre looking back distrustfully at us is Tatiana, a tiger cub who showed up to help promote Eric Walters’ newest “Tiger” book, Tiger by the Tail. That’s Eric on the right dressed in black, and Vernon (Tatiana’s trainer) in white on the left. In the centre is my lovely wife and co-editor, Barbara. The guy with the deer-in-the-headlights expression is me.

In 2000, I was offered the position of Managing Editor of the Circa2000 Time Capsule, an interesting experiment aimed at archiving various unusual and interesting web sites, and offering them for download as a virtual time capsule. Our public interface was an online magazine, Circa2000, featuring topics of Web-related interest.

During that time I also created Editor’s Sidebar, an information site aimed at journalists in Ontario’s smaller urban markets. It was received with appreciation and many warm welcomes from various editors across the province. The Canadian Press Club listed it as a recommended resource, the award-winning newspaper designer Tony Sutton submitted articles, and the Canadian Community Newspaper Association wrote about it in The Publisher.

Throughout this period I also began picking up contracts for technical writing again, and took a strong interest in immersive Internet (or “virtual worlds”) for enterprise. One of my regular gigs was as columnist for the Metaverse Messenger (over 100,000 readers) covering the growing culture and marketing potential of virtual worlds.

In 2009 we moved to St. Catharines where I was an editorial columnist for The St. Catharines Standard from 2010 to 2011. I also grew the tallest thistle in our neighbourhood, possibly in the entire city (see photo on the right). From 2003 to 2012 I taught College English and Professional Communications at George Brown College while also taking contracts to write and edit corporate papers and marketing plans.

In 2012 we moved to southwest Saskatchewan where I took the position of managing editor of The Gull Lake Advance from Sept. 2012 to April 2013.

Following my tour with the Advance, and a couple of nice journalism awards for Barbara and myself, we returned to Toronto where I have since been freelance editing, writing, researching and even transcribing.

That’s pretty much where things stand at the moment. Enjoy your visit, and feel free to contact me through the Contact link to the left.

Notable Interviews

To the right are a few of the noteworthy interviews I've conducted.

Ian Rankin

Ian Rankin

Maeve Binchy

Maeve Binchy

Astronaut James Lovell