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Summing up a very special week

There is not nearly enough distance from the Leacock ceremony for me to offer any kind of perspective on what winning the Leacock Medal for Humour means or will mean to my life as a “writer.” I think I can say with certainty that life after the Leacock will, almost by necessity, be different. In a way, I am already different in my own eyes and likely in the eyes of others. The shock of winning is compounded by the fact that I really had little sense of whether I had written anything worth reading. I was far too close to it to have any literary objectivity. Here’s a passage from my very first post on this blog when I was about to record and publish the very first episode of the TBLP podcast. At this point in January 2007, my manuscript had not yet been submitted to iUniverse to start its long journey to print.

“I spent close to a year writing this book. As a PR professional with over 20 years of political and communications experience, it would not be inaccurate to say that I write for a living. I’m also an avid reader, particularly fiction. Having said that, I’ve been immersed in writing this novel for so long that I fear my sense of perspective has deserted me and may well be filing for divorce. The upshot? I actually don’t know whether this book is any good at all. I honestly don’t. So I’m a little anxious about pulling my pants down and running around in front of all of you. But I finally decided I need to get this story “out there,” for better or worse, to justify all the hours I spent sequestered in my attic office clacking away on my Fujitsu Lifebook.”

The Best Laid Plans blog, January 14, 2007

In large measure, despite some very positive feedback from people I know and some I don’t, this sense of doubt in what I’d written remains with me. I confess that the Leacock shock helps assuage my fears on this front to a certain extent. As I said in my remarks thanking the Leacock Association for this extraordinary honour, “you have made a weekend writer feel like a bona fide novelist.” While this is true, I think my writing will be better if I never stop wondering and worrying about how the reader will react. Will they enjoy this? Will they stay with me for the whole story? Will they chuckle at this scene? Are they just consuming words or are they invested in the story? Does it all hang together? Am I trying too hard? Have I crossed the line? Etc. etc…

It’s difficult to imagine feeling the same way writing my next book as I did while toiling on the first. It cannot be the same. The first time around, I was just writing for me. It was a personal challenge to see whether I could string 100,000 words together in a way that kept the reader engaged and turning pages. I had no expectations. After last Wednesday, I, and I suppose many others, have expectations. How could I and they not? Yes, everything has changed now, in a most wonderful way, but it has changed. I like change…

Here’s a quick shot of my favourite clipping from the last week. It ran in the Orillia Packet & Times the day after the Leacock announcement. The headline says it all. I would only add that quickly on the heels of shock, came an almost overpowering sense of gratitude. My life as a writer, such as it is, has been irrevocably altered by this wonderful medal that carries with it such history and prestige. I am immensely grateful.

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