Growing up in the suburbs of Kanata, Ont., Ward remembers having an all-access pass to play in the outdoors as a child.
“I should say, I grew up appreciating the outdoors, but I think it was part of being an ‘80s kid, you know, that’s what we did. But we didn’t do any camping or hiking,” Ward explains.
While completing her undergraduate degree in drama at Queen’s University, Ward heard through a family member about the summer employment opportunities in the Canadian Rockies.
“They were talking about Num-Ti-Jah Lodge up at Bow Lake and something sparked in me,” Ward recalls.
Ward consulted her father, Doug Ward, about how she felt. Having spent some time working in the mountains of British Columbia in his late teens, he shared his insight.
"I think when Meghan came to me to talk about that, I just said, 'Look, it’s an incredible place ... it’s a place for adventure. It will really challenge you.' I communicated a bit of excitement about the mountains, about mountain culture, because I lived in that."
In 2005, Ward worked at Num-Ti-Jah for her summer job and spent much of her free time hiking in the surrounding area.
“That completely changed the course of my life forever,” she said.
Ward worked several summers at the lodge before she made Banff her home with her husband, Paul Zizka, an adventure and mountain landscape photographer – who she met while working that first summer.
“We moved out here in 2008 and wanted to give it a year, and moved out here with two suitcases and no job...11 years later, we’re still here,” Ward explains.
Ward worked multiple jobs while pursuing a career in freelance writing until she was able to make the writing gig a full-time endeavour.
“I was starting to turn down written work because of my other jobs, so I decided that I would just jump into it full-time and see what happened. That was nine years ago and I haven’t held a normal job since,” says Ward.
By “normal” she means a typical 9 to 5, leave-it-at-the-office kind of job. She’s been a freelance writer and entrepreneur ever since. Ward co-founded Crowfoot Media with Dee Larosa, a graphic designer based in Banff. Out of that collaboration came the Canadian Rockies Annual magazine.
“We saw a gap in the market locally for a premium quality mountain culture publication,” Ward recalls. “We knew there was a hunger for something that would unite the community here.”
Premium quality means it’s not a typical magazine — the pages are thick, the photos are vibrant; it feels almost like a book. Each year, the publication process takes about nine months. Volume one of the Canadian Rockies Annual was awarded Best New Magazine at the 2017 Alberta Magazine Awards.
“We had a really good concept, we were savvy, we were talking to all the right people,” Ward states. “We had both built up a client base that we could rely on and a network and a reputation.”
Part of that network is associate and copy editor, Jen Groundwater. Groundwater was working at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity when Ward reached out to her.
“We met in a coffee shop in Banff and she told me about the concept for the magazine,” Groundwater recalls. “She wondered if I would be interested in copy editing and I said yes. I had admired her work in various locations, I suppose various venues, and wanted to be involved.”
Ward is currently working on volume five of the annual magazine, which is set to be released in May 2020. You can find it across Canada in major stores such as Indigo and MEC, and a myriad of independent bookstores.
“Every time we start talking about the ideas for the new issue, and we get to see the pitches that have come in, it’s so exciting to see how it’s going to shape up,” Groundwater says. “But every time it comes out, I’m even more impressed … It seems to go from strength to strength, and I think that is a lot to do with Meghan.”
Moving forward, Ward is collaborating with a local Calgary illustrator on a children’s book about kids in the outdoors, coming out in 2021. She is also working on a personal travel memoir, coming out in 2022. Writing a children’s book and a memoir is a new experience for Ward, but as a mother of two young daughters and an avid traveller, she’s excited to pursue these new creative projects.
“I think part of what helps me through these situations … It’s just having this ability to just go for it, you know.” Ward says. “You have no idea what you’re doing, you just go for it.”
- By Lindsey Wynder