Edward Keenan is a Toronto writer who works as a senior editor of Eye Weekly (shortly to become The Grid), where he writes a weekly column about politics. He is also a contributing editor at Spacing magazine and a contributor to Yonge Street. He also contributed essays to two books in the Toronto Book Award-nominated uTOpia series from Coach House books.
Although he often writes about municipal politics, Keenan’s interests as a writer have been widespread: he has written frequently about the arts, sports, sex and sexuality, and business, and for a time he wrote a blog about manliness for The Walrus. A four-time National Magazine Award nominee, Keenan is a lifelong Toronto resident who has lived in Riverdale, Scarborough, The Annex, Harbord Village, Greektown and Bloorcourt Village. He has now settled down in The Junction, where he lives with his wife Rebecca and their two children.
What was your favourite class in high school? Why?
My favourite class in all of high school was a senior level history course called “Modern Western Civilizations.” I loved it for many reasons: because it was primarily a class about ideas, because it used a university-style seminar format that allowed for small-group discussion and debate, because there was a lot of reading and thinking involved and very little tedious memorization.
But what really made Mod WestCiv the best class I ever took at any level of schooling was the teacher: George Wrobel treated his students as peers, he was funny, a great storyteller, and many of his stories involved how he put himself through grad school in Cold-War Poland by trading US currency on the black market. He encouraged me to be a writer when no other teacher thought that was a good career path, and helped form my analytical approach to big essential questions. Plus, he gave me a grade of 100 per cent on a 22-page term paper once, which made me like him even more.
How did you get your start as an editor/producer/host?
I went to journalism school and had a false start early on as a trade magazine editor, but then wandered away into the restaurant business and fiction writing for a while. I really got the start that led me to my current career by interning at Eye Weekly and treating it as a chance to learn how to do every element of journalism and prove I was capable. I worked harder as an intern than I did for several years after that, and I suppose my efforts paid off: I got hired at the end of my term as a Staff Writer, which a little later led me into editing.
As a side note, I still consider myself primarily a writer, but I got into the editing side for two reasons. The obvious one is that editing tends to pay better. The less obvious one is that in magazines and especially in newspapers, editors are really the driving creative force behind the publication. Good writers provide the stuff a publication is made of, but editors are the ones who compose the way a reader experiences the publication – choosing the subjects, selecting the right writers to pair those subjects up with, arranging the mixture of stories and other items, working with the art department to manage how things feel on the page. Like a director in film, the editor uses the efforts of other talented people to build something greater out of them, crafting an experience for readers. That control-freak aspect appealed to me.
If you weren’t a Media, Darling, what would you be doing right now?
What would I want to be doing, or what would I likely be doing? Either way, I’m not sure. I considered going into law at one point, but I’m not sure I’d have had the passion for contract parsing required to see it through. I also dipped my toe into entrepreneurship, and I may have pursued more small business ideas… I may still.
And then there’s my love-hate relationship with the prospect of going into politics, which comes up now and again. The thing I’ve most enjoyed as a side project is being a DJ – a couple friends and I had a pretty successful dance night at a local bar for a while. I have no turntable skills or anything, I just love composing a party. Pressing play on a song and having a packed dance floor jump up and down cheering is a powerful rush.
Pitching or follow up: Phone or email?
The truth is that you’re unlikely to hear back from me either way unless I’m interested in what you’re pitching (see: 200+ press releases by email PER DAY, in addition to the other 100 or so assorted bits of other business in my inbox). But email, please, unless it’s urgent and you feel lucky about the prospects of finding me at my desk.
We know irrelevant pitches, calling you the wrong name and eight follow-ups are no-no’s; what else should publicists avoid doing?
Sending me three copies of the same release, assuming that a good cause is equal to a good story, feeling upset that I did not call or write back…
Sunrise or sunset?
Sunset. Just because I’m actually awake when it happens most of the time.
Eau du Tobacco (for a few more weeks, at least, until I finally quit).
Why yes, please.
I like them, but I’m afraid I cannot be bothered to plant them or buy them (special occasions excepted) or take notice much of which is which. Orchid-looking interesting, brightly coloured ones are nice.
Not particularly. I think I got all tickled out as a kid.
Shower or bath?
Not sure anybody wants that mental picture conjured up. But: showers for cleaning, waking up, focusing; baths for relaxing and reading.
I have a few, but they’re the same as everyone else’s favourites: The Godfather and The Godfather II, Glengarry Glenn Ross, Eternal Sunshine on the Spotless Mind, Annie Hall, Pulp Fiction – off the beaten track slightly, Down By Law is probably my favourite of all time.
Orange, definitely. But I tend to prefer Root Beer.
Flyer delivery. The best week was when we delivered chicken soup samples rather than flyers. I wound up with a year’s supply of overstock that I used to make myself snacks after school every day.
I have a surplus of inspiration, and I don’t find it or the sources of it particularly remarkable (I’m inspired by almost everything and everyone – the world is fascinating and the people in it more so). What I have a shortage of is the time to see all my ideas and ambitions through. If anyone with a science background needs inspiration for a new invention: how about the 48-hour day?