Before an audience of about 100 people at Orillia’s Best Western Mariposa Inn on Thursday, April 30, Terry Fallis was named as the winner of the 68th Stephen Leacock Award for Humour.
The announcement came at the conclusion of a luncheon that was also attended by three of the five writers whose books were shortlisted for the national award.
Fallis, whose latest book, No Relation, was submitted by publisher McClelland and Stewart of Toronto, appeared to be as unprepared to hear his name as he claimed to have been at his first win in 2008 (for The Best Laid Plans).
“I am utterly bowled over and unprepared,” Fallis said when invited to the podium, “…as much as I was the first time I was here, exactly seven years ago to this day! I can’t believe I’m standing here and not sitting over there!”
As though to make up for a possible lack of comment, Fallis held up a business card. “I carry it as a reminder,” he said, describing how he scribbled brief notes on the back of the card “just in case” at the announcement luncheon in 2008. At the time, he was self-published. Almost immediately after that announcement he had the support of one of Canada’s top literary agents, Beverley Slopen, and McClelland and Stewart.
“All roads in my writing life lead back to Orillia,” Fallis said, expressing gratitude for his family’s patience at his many road trips for book signings (with four books now published) and speeches in support of the Canadian literary community.
Early in the proceedings, luncheon guests heard greetings from the Mayor of Orillia, Steve Clark, and from representatives of the offices of the Member of the Provincial Parliament, Garfield Dunlop, and the federal Member of Parliament, Bruce Stanton. All had certificates of congratulation for the five finalists.
Representatives of TD Financial Group, corporate sponsor of the Leacock Award’s $15,000 cash prize, brought greetings. District Vice President Stephen van Wart told the luncheon gathering, “We believe literacy helps our kids grow to become part of the fabric of our community.”
Bette Walker, a director on the Associates’ board, briefly described the premise of each of the five shortlist titles. Several appeared to be memoirs. Settings ranged across Canada.
Alan Doyle was not at the luncheon. His book, Where I Belong (Doubleday Canada), introduces us to life in his Newfoundland hometown, a coastal fishing port, with familiar stories that help us recall our experiences growing up.
Zarqa Nawaz was represented by her parents, Parveen and Ali. Her book, Laughing All the Way To the Mosque (HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.), showcases her comic talent. In his comments at the podium, Terry Fallis, a friend of Zarqa, recounted a conversation as the two attended a Word On The Street event in Saskatoon last year. “I didn’t say much,” Fallis recalled. “I spent most of my time laughing!”
Robert Wringham identifies himself as an avid devotee of Stephen Leacock. In A Loose Egg (self-published) he takes the reader on an intense journey from childhood misadventures to adult idiosyncrasies.
In Curtains for Roy (Cormorant Books Inc.), Aaron Bushkowsky emphasizes the importance of life and friendship.
All but Fallis were first-time entries in the Leacock Award competition. Each of the four shortlisted authors received a cheque for $1,500.00.
As Leacock Museum Curator Fred Addis put it in his Toast to Leacock, for every medal given, all but one of the authors goes home with no medal. This year, 72 of the 73 entrants were in that category, one which Addis calculated amounts to over 5,000 Canadian writers over the years.
Terry Fallis returns to Orillia on the June 5 weekend as the guest of the Stephen Leacock Associates and TD Financial Group to receive his medal and cash prize at a Saturday evening gala, to be held at Geneva Park YMCA Conference Centre on the east shore of Lake Couchiching. Tickets are available from the Leacock Museum at $65 each, $60 for members, and a package option is available for all the weekend events featuring Fallis.