It is with profound gratitude and a persistent stunned feeling that I can report that The Republic of Dirt won the 69th Leacock Medal for Humour.
We were graciously entertained by the Leacock Associates at a pub and trivia night, a garden luncheon and a gala dinner m.c.’d by Leacock winner, Trevor Cole. The keynote was given by Dan Needles, also known as the Mayor of Mariposa and the author of the Wingfield Farm series. Trevor and Dan are brilliant, hilarious people, but even so, I suspect Terry Fallis, Sarah Mian and I were all about to curl into fetal position for a session of quiet stress weeping by the time the announcement was made.
I’d prepared myself to lose. In fact, my plan was to immediately call back all the food I’d been unable to eat due to nerves, and have a fine time pigging out (but quietly! respectfully!) while the winner entertained us with his/her speech. But then Nathan Taylor, President of Leacock Associates (so appointed the day he missed a meeting), called out the name of my book.
I’d put together an acceptance speech, but reluctantly and with a sense that doing so was a bad idea. And so it was a bad speech. At a couple of points during the weekend I attempted to write a better speech on the back of the bad speech. I did not succeed in doing more than creating a bad, handwritten speech. I’m horrified to report that the speech is now in the archives of the Leacock Association. God.
When I took to the stage in my new red shoes, which I will henceforth be wearing to all important occasions, including Rodeo’s Canine Good Citizen test, I clutched my speech but forgot to look at it. There were tears. There was confusion. It was a mess. But I tried.
Thank you to Deirdre Percy, pictured here, for taking my mind off my nerves at the dinner. And thanks to her partner, Fred Addis, curator of the Leacock Museum, who gave me his tie when I said I liked it.
I am the seventh woman in 69 years to win the Leacock Medal. I don’t know why women are not represented in greater numbers. The judging process is scrupulously impartial and I know the Leacock Association is completely right-minded in this respect. I hope many more women will be awarded this medal in the years to come. In Canada we have some of the funniest writers in the world and when I think of the best, many of them are female. Christopher Hitchens got it wrong. Women are funny. Brilliantly funny. We sort of have to be.
I’m absolutely thrilled and honoured to join all the Leacock winners, but I’d like to send a particular thanks and tap of the red shoe to the women on the list:
Angeline Hongo (1949)
Jan Hilliard (Hilda Kay) (1952)
Joan Walker (1954)
Sondra Gottlieb (1979)
Marsha Boulton (1996)
Cassie Stocks (2013)
God bless you, brilliant, funny Leacock foremothers. Let’s all keep writing comedic books because we believe that women are every bit as funny as people who do not get to be women and because we know humour is a literary mode as worthy of respect as any of the other, less entertaining and enjoyable ones. (Hah. I’m sorry sad writers. Had to get the unseemly jab in.) But seriously. If comedy is your bag, don’t shy away from it because you feel it won’t be respected. Lean in! Put your elbow into its ribs, if necessary.
Congratulations to fellow nominees, Terry Fallis (Poles Apart) and Sarah Mian (When the Saints). I encourage everyone to buy and read their books because they are absolutely terrific. I’m so glad to have enjoyed this experience with them.
Special congratulations to the winners of the student humour writing award: Hannah Lobbezoo (3rd), Ben Wrixon (2nd) and Joe Zador (1st). They were all witty and smart and clearly poised to take over the world.
Here is Joe being poised and witty while Sarah cuts the cake. Joe could probably help me figure out how to get this picture to import right way up. But Joe isn’t here, so it’s staying sideways.
A giant, heartfelt thanks to Nathan, John, Marilyn, Ann, Christine, David, George, Jim, Leona, Lynn and Tom for all your work on behalf of Canadian Literary Humour. (I’m going to start capitalizing that term so people know it’s important.) And the biggest thanks of all to Bette, who is a git ‘er done dynamo and absolutely lovely, Adde who helped Bette pick me up from the airport and who was the most gracious host, Karleen Bradford, fabulous writer for young people who talked up my book in the most flattering way, and Leonore, who hosted us at luncheon at her home and Wendy McComb for driving me to the airport. A huge thank you to TD Canada Trust for funding the prize. If I didn’t already bank with TD, I would after this! Thanks also to my agent, Hilary McMahon for representing me for fifteen years now and Iris Tupholme, my editor, and everyone at HarperCollins. And Jim for being so certain this was my year and Rodeo for being the funniest one in the family.