Ryerson School of Journalism graduate Lindsay Mattick is an award-winning author and public relations professional. She recently won the prestigious Caldecott Medal for her book Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear, inspired by the story of her grandfather, Harry Colebourn, the Canadian soldier and veterinarian who bought a cub from a trapper in White River, Ont., in 1914 and named her Winnie after his hometown Winnipeg.
How did it feel to win the award?
My illustrator, Sophie Blackall, won the award but obviously she won it for my book so I felt pretty amazing, it was incredible. There are how many picture books in the whole U.S., and to have my book selected for Sophie’s amazing work was awesome. A big part on why I wanted to write this book in the first place was I really wanted the story, which not that many people know, to be known. I think that when you win that kind of award it instantly puts your book on a classics list and it means that our youngest audience, which is kids, is going to grow up with this as one of the stories that they know. That was huge for me.
What kind of significance does winning this award have on you?
On an immediate level, it hit number one on The New York Times Best Sellers List a week later. It means that my family story, my legacy, this incredible thing that my great grandfather did will now become more far and widely known by children around the world. The rights have already been sold in several markets but shortly after, it sold the Spanish rights as well. So, it means more children will learn about the story at a very young age.
What was the process like when writing Finding Winnie?
I wrote Finding Winnie in lots of different places; I wrote in Costa Rica. I wrote in coffeeshops. I had two very excellent editors who were very helpful. I think there are a lot of different ways this story could’ve come out and I think I had some really good guidance and advice that. I wrote a dedication to my son Cole almost before I wrote anything else. You never know the impact of one small loving gesture will have in this world. I wanted my son to keep this story close to him so it was my editor’s idea to frame the story from a perspective of me telling Cole, my son, the story. It was a collaborative process, it was a challenging process because there are so few words in children’s books and every word counts. When an illustrator is involved in the process, there are certain descriptions you just don’t need to have because the illustrations provide enough information.
Why did you choose to get into PR?
I have loved to write and I have loved good narratives and good stories forever. I found that PR is a field, like journalism, where you’re constantly learning about news topics. Every single day, the amount of topics I’m learning about is amazing. From technology to wine to fashion to banking, I’m always learning about something new and I love that. I’m also meeting a lot of interesting people in the process of doing that. I think if you’re somebody who loves ideas, and you love learning and you love stories, PR is a really amazing field. It’s not as pure as journalism because you’re doing it for a purpose like helping a brand but it’s just as compelling.
When you were in school did you know that PR was something that you wanted to get into?
I was very torn between going to school for journalism and going to school for PR. I chose journalism because I felt that even in the end if I wanted to go into PR that journalism was the best possible training. Being a good journalist and having a good journalistic sense makes you a better PR practitioner. I know that when I hire people for our agency I really value when somebody has experience in journalism.
Do you prefer journalism or PR?
I definitely think that they are both excellent professions and there is a symbiotic relationship between the two. If you’re good at PR, you’ll be able to help journalist do their job better and I think that journalists can do their job better if they know how to use PR to their advantage. Journalists who learn to work with PR people to help fuel the pipeline of interesting story ideas and new information it’s very valuable.
Any advice for journalism students who are looking into PR?
I think the things that make you good at journalism like having a sense of curiosity being a great writer, being a great story teller like understanding how to tell a story and what are the write elements of a story, I think all those things are skills that you should hone but if you apply them to PR you’ll do really well.
March 8, 2016
INTERVIEW BY CHRISTIANE BEYA (RSJ ’18)