As a magazine editor, Linda Lewis had to know what her readers wanted to read. But her brilliance was knowing “what her writers could pull out of themselves, even more than we knew ourselves,” recalls one freelancer, mourning Lewis who died Monday from leukemia. She had just turned 52.

As a magazine editor, Linda Lewis had to know what her readers wanted to read. But her brilliance was knowing “what her writers could pull out of themselves, even more than we knew ourselves,” recalls one freelancer, mourning Lewis who died Monday from leukemia. She had just turned 52.

Until last November, Lewis had been the first editor of the Canadian version of More magazine since 2006, until Transcontinental Media shut it down, just weeks into her chemotherapy treatment for acute myeloid leukemia.

Lewis launched More Canada after writing and editing at Chatelaine, Toronto Life and Saturday Night and EnRoute magazines before landing as editor-in-chief of Today’s Parent. For almost a decade, she made readers laugh at the tough job of raising children.

At a time when many journalists shied away from writing in the first person, sometimes cloaking their own experiences in a neutral or third-person voice, Lewis embraced transparency. At Today’s Parent she pushed writers to reflect on their own challenges and revealed her own imperfect parenting style, as the mother of a son, Casey, and daughter, Nikki, in deeply personal essays.  Lewis missed a couple of issues of the magazine while on sick leave fighting cervical cancer.

At More, a magazine for women over the age of 40, Lewis forced her writers to plumb their own experiences. She asked writer Cheryl Hawkes to write about widowhood shortly after her husband, broadcaster Bill Cameron, had died. It was a daunting process to write about their own lives. “I'm sure I wasn't the only writer Linda threw over a cliff and dared to fly. You'd go to lunch with her, toss her half a dozen ideas which she'd reject for one reason or another and then say something offhanded and personal. And she'd yell: Write that!”

Lewis chronicled her leukemia diagnosis in public on @LindaOnLeukemia earning her 1,300 followers who appreciated her witty social commentary on entertainment shows, the Maple Leafs (“Aaaargh. Leaf fans now understand the meaning of Eyes wide shut.”) and the progress of her illness:“Just letting you all know I’m here, but not tweeting much cuz my prognosis is not what we’d hoped. Thanks for thinking of me.” (June 12, 2013)

Contributors admired Lewis’ ability to “get to the core of a story, pull away all the b.s. and get to the essence,” according to photographer Laura Arsie, whose lush photos filled many of More’s pages.

Lewis knew she would find readers, and More was an early success so her challenge was “keeping up with the pace of growth”, according to an article in the Ryerson Review of Journalism.  Apparently, just a year after its 2007 launch, More turned in its first audit statement, even though “most publishers and editors prefer to wait a couple of years before they have enough confidence in the circulation numbers to prepare an audit statement.”

When asked to describe Lewis, freelancer Kim Pittaway told Judith Timson: “She’s like a really great magazine,” says Pittaway. “She’s got humour, depth and style, and she’s that smart companion you want over a glass of wine.”

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Please also see:

Media, Darling: Linda Lewis 

RRJ: Not Older, Better

RRJ: (Today’s Parent)  Family Planning

Star: Magazine editor Linda Lewis shared life with readers

Star's Timson: More editor Linda Lewis learns of magazine shutdown while battling leukemia