Archive for April, 2009

TBLP cracks CBC Book Club’s top 10 funny books

Thursday, April 30th, 2009


Wow! What an honour.  There are some wonderful books on this list.  Barney’s Version is among my favourites.  I know this list wasn’t generated through elaborate market research, but I figure any time you’re on a list with A Confederacy of Dunces, it’s a good thing.

In a cool twist of fate, I was in Orillia today for the announcement of the 2009 Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour and I had a chance to meet Ian Ferguson, with whom I share 10th place on this CBC funny book list.  He was there representing the winning author, Mark Leiren-Young.  Ian is a wonderfully funny guy, as you might expect from a guy who won the 2004 Leacock Medal.

Update (May 9, 2009): The CBC Book Club has now released the alphabetized Long List from which the top 10 were drawn.

Here’s a shot of Ian Ferguson.  Arguably not his best side… nor mine for that matter…


TBLP essay in Globe Books online

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009


As part of celebrating the 2009 Leacock Medal presentation later this week, I wrote a piece for the Globe and Mail on what a wild ride the last year has been.  It appeared today in the Globe’s great online book section.  You can read it at the Globe Books site or to make it even easier, I’ve reproduced it below.  I’ll be in Orillia tomorrow for the Leacock Luncheon where the winner is announced.  It will be wonderful to be there again without the butterflies from one year ago.

Leacock shock, 12 months later (Globe Books online April 29, 2009)

There was no phone call or e-mail. I read it first on the Orillia Packet and Times website. It was March 27, 2008. The day before, I’d been living the glamorous high life of the self-published author, schlepping my first novel around in the trunk of my car, and pleading with independent bookstores to take a few copies on consignment. Then the news broke that my book had somehow been short-listed for the 2008 Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour. In that instant, my life as a weekend writer changed. In the next instant, I was curled in the fetal position, hyperventilating into a paper bag.

When I finished writing The Best Laid Plans, I honestly had no real expectations that it would ever be published. Hopes and dreams? Sure. Expectations? Not so much. Would I really have written a satirical novel of Canadian politics if I’d wanted to be published? It started out strictly as a personal challenge. Could I string 100,000 words together in a way that somehow approached coherence. After I’d finished the manuscript, I still didn’t know. I’d lost all perspective on it. So, based on what I’d learned on the Internet (about publishing, I mean), I sent out dozens of query letters and plot synopses to literary agents. The year-long silence that followed was deafening and discouraging. Undeterred (I didn’t know enough to be deterred), I podcast my novel, one chapter at a time, and made it available for free on iTunes and at Then I did what is unthinkable to many writers. I self-published The Best Laid Plans. It wasn’t my first choice. Self-publishing is seldom an aspiring writer’s first choice.

When I finally held it in my hands in September 2007, it looked and felt like a real book. I was thrilled. A launch was organized at my alma mater and both people who came bought books. Online sales to family and friends trickled in. Then, on a lark, I sent the ten author copies I still had gathering dust in my office up to the Leacock Association in Orillia. Appearing on the short-list was the surprise of my life. Within a week, I signed with a literary agent, the wonderful and respected Beverley Slopen. We met for drinks at the Toronto Four Seasons and though calm on the outside, I was a quivering mass of excitement inside. The turning point in our conversation came when she took my hands in hers and said “Terry, you are not going to win the Leacock Medal, so we have 30 days to find you a publisher.”

By April 30th, the day the Leacock Medal winner was to be announced, we’d had a few nibbles, several rejections, but nothing definitive (okay, the rejections were definitive). So my wife Nancy and I drove up to Orillia for the Leacock Luncheon. I had just barely begun to recuperate from the shock of being short-listed a month earlier, so hearing my name announced from the podium as the winner set back my recovery considerably. I was floored.

I stumbled to my feet in a daze and barely survived my impromptu acceptance speech. To see my name on a list of Leacock winners alongside Robertson Davies, Mordecai Richler, Paul Quarrington, and W.O. Mitchell, literally left my knees weak and wobbly (and still does). On the drive home, Nancy turned to me and said, “This will be noted in your obituary.” I slowed down immediately.

Then the surreal circus came to town. It was truly bizarre to see my face in the Globe the next day. The Best Laid Plans podcast went to number one on the iTunes charts (at least for an hour or so). The Globe reviewed it. And best of all, Beverley Slopen’s phone started to ring. Within a week of my Leacock shock, we signed with McClelland & Stewart, with the revered Douglas Gibson as my editor and publisher. In September 2008, the M&S edition was released, and I hit the speaking circuit.

There was a Harbourfront Reading. I flew to Montreal for a day of media interviews. I soloed at the wonderful Canadian Authors Reading Series in Port Colborne. I shared the stage with Giller winner Joseph Boyden at the Headwaters Arts Festival. I read at Toronto’s Word on the Street and the Ottawa International Writers Festival. And a few weeks ago, I appeared with Paul Quarrington at the Grimsby Authors Series. Paul and I drove down together for the event. Like an unhinged author stalker, I slid into the back seat clutching my complete collection of Quarrington first editions. He kindly inscribed each one. My dance card is full well into the fall with readings and speaking gigs at book clubs, libraries, dinners, and various other gatherings. What amazing literary company I’m suddenly keeping. At 49 years old, I’ve been blessed with an entirely new side to my life.

I know there are countless worthy writers with four and five unpublished manuscripts in their desk drawers, who deserve to break through. It’s as if published authors are sequestered in a well-defended castle, while the hordes of struggling writers amass beyond the moat, desperate for a way in. I feel like the guy who delivered a pizza to the castle’s service entrance, slipped off his fluorescent orange delivery vest, and stayed.

And now that a year has passed and the 2009 Leacock winner is soon to be announced, I still pinch myself every day. In this past, charmed year, I have surely exhausted my lifetime allocation of good fortune. I keep expecting to fall off the stage at my next reading and break both my legs. I still have my day job, but on weekends, I’m banging out the sequel to The Best Laid Plans. It’s different this time around. I feel more than the weight of the words I still must write. I now shoulder expectations, mine, and those of others. But don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. One year later, I still feel like the luckiest rookie writer in the world.

TBLP featured on CBC Radio’s The Next Chapter

Saturday, April 25th, 2009



Several weeks ago I went into the CBC Radio studios in Toronto to record a segment for Shelagh Rogers’ wonderful book program called The Next Chapter.  Well, it hit the airwaves today.  Here’s the three and a half minute segment.  Many thanks to producer Tom Howell, and host Shelagh Rogers at CBC Radio.

CBC Book Club contest asks a question…

Saturday, April 25th, 2009


I’ve been a die-hard CBC Radio listener since childhood when my mother would tune in from dawn to dusk in the kitchen.  My brother and sister and I listened to “The World at 8:00” before heading off to school in the mornings.  Then, home again shortly after noon, our lunch would be accompanied by the Radio Noon and the farm reports.  Finally, we’d hear “The World at 6:00” as dinner simmered on the stove. When I’m not listening to podcasts, many of them CBC podcasts, you’ll still find my radio set to CBC.  So it’s been a real thrill to do the occasional TBLP-related interview with my favourite radio network.  I discovered this morning online that Hannah Sung, who leads the CBC Book Club, has actually made me contest fodder for the coming week.  Very cool.  As for the answer to the contest question, you’ll need more than Goldfinger’s laser to get me to talk…

A wonderful day at the Port Hope Public Library

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009


This past Saturday, I drove an hour east of Toronto to the beautiful town of Port Hope on the shores of Lake Ontario.  Alex Mahabir, the Community Outreach Coordinator at the Port Hope Public Library had invited me to participate in an author event called The Writer Next Door.  I sat on a panel with three interesting writers, Paul Arthurs, Donna Wooten and Pat Bryan.  All of us are self-published writers and we shared our stories with a capacity crowd.  The welcome from Alex and her husband Dave was very warm and we enjoyed an amazing lunch at the Palm Restaurant.

It was wonderful to spend some time with other authors and to swap experiences.  I intend to read their works:

Paul Arthurs:  Enforcement

Donna Wooten: Leaving Paradise

Pat Bryan: My dear Father

My thanks to Alex Mahabir and the Port Hope Public Library for such a great event.  And thanks to Alex’s husband Dave for taking the photos.


TBLP on CBC Radio Book Club

Monday, April 20th, 2009


Over at the CBC Book Club webpage, Canadians have been invited to submit favourite funny books.  Towards the end of the month, a list will be compiled and released.  As part of the CBC Book Club’s celebration of humour, I did a brief interview with host Hannah Sung.  You can listen to the interview here.  In f act, if you listen closely in the early going, you might even be able to hear my cell phone ring before I frantically turned it off while trying to sound intelligent at the same time (a challenge at the best of times!).  In my conversation with Hannah, I’m asked to recommend a funny book.  I suggested The Home Game by Paul Quarrington, a favourite novel from a favourite writer.  Anyway, feel free to head over to the CBC Book Club blog and add to the comment string to submit your favourite funny books.


CPRS Hamilton Pinnacle Awards Dinner

Friday, April 17th, 2009


A week or so ago I spoke at the Canadian Public Relations Society (Hamilton) Pinnacle Awards dinner in Stoney Creek, about an hour southwest of Toronto.  I was very pleased to have been invited and it was a great evening.  I’ve never given a book talk to an audience of my public relations peers, so it felt a little different.  Everyone was very kind and clapped and chortled when they were supposed to.  The centrepiece of the event was the presentation of the annual Pinnacle Awards for excellence in public relations.  This is my profession, and these were my people.  It gave me a shot of pride in our profession to see the energy and enthusiasm of the award recipients as they made their way up to the front.  Many thanks to Carleen Carroll for the invitation to speak.  I should also thank bookseller extraordinaire Bryan Prince for taking care of book sales at the event.  The photos were taken by S. Wilson from CP Images.


Indigo Lists, good for readers and writers

Friday, April 10th, 2009

I’ve always been a fan of the various lists that can be created and offered by and through most online book retailers like Indigo and Amazon.  With so many books out there from which to choose, I can use any help I can get in sifting through them all to find the ones I’ll like.  I always check out the reader reviews and tend to rely more on them than on the formal reviews by mainstream media.  I’m a reader and not a book critic so the reader reviews are often more relevant to me.  As well, I usually check out the various lists available developed by readers, publishers, and the in-house editors of the major online book retailers.

I had a look this morning and TBLP actually appears on six different lists on the Indigo website (click on the link and scroll down to just above the readers reviews).


I’m particularly pleased to be on that last list, Award-Winning Literature recently posted by Indigo’s Fiction Editor.


(To save some space, this graphic self-servingly skips entries two through six, but they’re all great books too. )

This is the online equivalent of having TBLP placed on the “Award Winners” table at your local Indigo store.  It may seem like a small thing, and perhaps it is, but anything that figuratively or physically pulls your book off the shelf and puts it in front of readers is good news.  It’s also wonderful to be in such close proximity to such amazing writers as Junot Dias and Lawrence Hill.

Grimsby Authors Series – a great night

Saturday, April 4th, 2009


This past Wednesday, late in the day,  my wonderful publicist, Frances Bedford, picked me up at my office for a drive to Grimsby.  I piled into the back seat because the one and only Paul Quarrington was in the front seat. Yes, I drove to the Grimsby Authors Series night with one of my Canlit heroes.  I tried not to be the gushing author stalker but it was a challenge given that I dragged into the back seat with me a backpack filled with my first editions of all ten of his wonderful novels.  I’d been collecting his novels  long before I ever contemplated writing TBLP.  As well, Paul Quarrington won the 1988 Leacock Medal for King Leary, the same book chosen last year for CBC’s Canada Reads.

We had dinner together and then the two of us read before a very generous and enthusiastic audience of nearly 200 at the Casablanca Winery Inn.  Mercifully, I read first for about 25 minutes and then answered a few questions.  Then Paul read from his latest novel, The Ravine, and he was hilarious and wise.

A local bookseller took care of book sales at the event and I’m pleased to report that TBLP sold out.  On the drive home after the reading, Paul generously inscribed each of my Quarrington first editions. An evening I won’t soon forget.



I just stumbled upon an article in Niagara This Week about the evening.  Here Paul and I are signing at the Grimsby Author Series.