The stuff of life: the real reason why it’s so hard for me to get rid of most of it (again)

The trick is actually picking out the ones you like, first. (Photo by Karen K. Ho)

When I was in my teens, I went through hundreds of CDs. In addition to buying them at record stores, sale bins, even the campus radio station’s clearout sale, I also lived near a regional library branch that allowed me to borrow up to 50 at a time. I would rip them all at home, figure out what I liked and what I could delete from my hard drive later. I felt like I was gaming the system a little.

Like many of my generation, I almost never buy CDs anymore. But I’m confronting hundreds of the ones I loved (and some I wasted money on) because I’m moving again. Continue reading “The stuff of life: the real reason why it’s so hard for me to get rid of most of it (again)”

What I wish I could have said: #NMA16


On Friday, June 10, 2016, the 39th annual National Magazine Awards were held in Toronto. I was nominated in two categories: Best New Writer and Society, for A Daughter’s Revenge. I lost both. Wine, and the fact that my friend Desmond Cole won a lot, both helped.

A big part of me wanted to win. I had a great speech I had worked on all week inside of my head. I wore a super glamorous dress. And I wanted the chance to say something bigger about the industry itself.

But being in that room, filled with hundreds of great people, and watching so many of them be recognized, was a prize in itself. So was being seated at a table with Desmond and Toronto Life editor-in-chief Sarah Fulford.

Someone later asked me if I would have rushed the stage to say my speech, Kanye-style. I had even asked Desmond if I could speak on stage if he won in his fourth category. (He did not.)

My vision for the speech was simple: Working in media and journalism in Canada is pretty hard right now. I wanted to give people in the industry some hope and encouragement, while also saying something that would inspire them to do better.

Here is what I would have said.

“Hi everyone. Before I wrote this story, I wasn’t sure if I was going to stay in journalism past the age of 30. It is not an exaggeration to say this feature has completely changed my life.

I wish I could thank everyone that made it possible, but that’s a really long list*. I do have to thank Malcolm Johnston, Ronnie Maddocks, Mark Pupo, Edward Keenan, Denise Balkissoon and Nick Hune-Brown. They deserve a lot of credit for this story’s genesis and success. And special thanks to my mother, whose love, support, encouragement and sacrifices are why I get to do what I do. Everything good about me is because of her.

And to Chris Turner’s point (a reference to the dominance of Rogers Publishing, Toronto Life and The Walrus nearly every year in terms of total nominations), I’d like to point out Toronto Life invests a lot in stories about and by people of colour. Not a lot of places can afford to do the deep research, editing, big covers and promotion they do any more. But it really matters, especially for when you don’t look like a lot of the people in this room.

I hope Canadian magazines continue to provide opportunities to more people of colour to be involved in creating great work. And I hope Desmond and I are proof the investment is well worth doing so.

Thank you.”

*Among the most important: Saleem Khan, Elon Green, Jake Adelstein, Trevor Cole, Andrew Westoll, Tim Falconer, Sarah Fulford, Ken Hunt, Philip Yam, Christian Doucet, Yvonne Ho, and Caitlin Kelly.

2016! Time to do things!


Why not go on an adventure like dog sledding? (Photo by Karen K. Ho)

Christmas is definitely over, and many people have bought things they either didn’t get or forgot they wanted on Boxing Day. Today, many others are a) thinking about the booze they need to stock up for New Year’s Eve celebrations tonight and/or b) thinking about all the stuff they did this year and how next year can be better. This is the start of peak new gym subscription time, after all.

If you’re a Type-A overly critical person like me, you already know all the stuff you screwed up. This week is also a great time to remember you probably did a lot of good things too. Continue reading “2016! Time to do things!”

2015: The Year I Wrote My Guts Out

Before this year, I wasn’t sure if I could call myself a writer or a journalist any more. I had barely written or reported anything in almost 18 months, except for three short blog pieces. In January, I was working at a television station as a broadcast associateThe entry-level job offered almost no opportunities to write, and I was discouraged from trying anything beyond my assigned duties. I had a freelance contract for a feature in a major magazine, but it involved a long trial and I only worked on it about once a month.

It is completely cliché to say that everything changed for me soon afterwards. But it’s true.  Continue reading “2015: The Year I Wrote My Guts Out”

30 things I miss about life in Toronto, despite their (sometimes many) faults

Discovered while cleaning/packing: Toronto media feels.

A photo posted by Karen K. Ho (@heykarenho) on

This listicle is simple: things I miss about my hometown. It’s full of good things, stupid things, and things with complicated feelings. I often think about them while walking around Yellowknife. Continue reading “30 things I miss about life in Toronto, despite their (sometimes many) faults”

A Dot in the Knife: My First Four Weeks in Yellowknife

Some days, it feels like I never leave.
Some days, it feels like I’m always here.

“It’s 11:30 pm, Karen, and we are leaving.”
“But I still have so much to do!”
“You can do it tomorrow. We’re going to get a beer.”

It’s the night before my first deadline day filing for both NWT News/North and Nunavut News/North, and I’m trying not to panic. In a few hours, I have to file four more business stories and two collections of briefs. I am still desperately emailing people for interviews for the next morning and already imagining giant holes in the paper. But at this point, my brain is already fried and my handling editor, Josh, has other ideas.

Continue reading “A Dot in the Knife: My First Four Weeks in Yellowknife”