Archive for April, 2011

Congrats to Trevor Cole on his Leacock Medal

Friday, April 29th, 2011

I have a pretty good idea how Trevor Cole was feeling yesterday afternoon. He’d just won the 2011 Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour in Orillia for his darkly hilarious novel, Practical Jean. (I still pinch myself every 20 minutes or so about my own win, and that was three years ago!) I’m thrilled for him and he deserves it. We met for the first time yesterday at the Leacock luncheon and I brought along my copy of Norman Bray, his first novel, which he kindly inscribed. I know what winning a Leacock Medal means to me, and what it’s done for my writing career, so I’m just delighted for Trevor. I’m looking forward to spending more time with him in the coming months (you know, to show him the Leacock ropes etc., etc.) and in particular, to appearing with him at the Leacock Summer Festival in July.

Congratulations Trevor, and enjoy every moment…

I’ve officially started writing novel #3

Saturday, April 23rd, 2011

After a couple years with the idea steeping in my brainpan, and a few months outlining the story, yesterday, I officially started writing novel #3. It is such a relief to be out of the starting blocks. (I’ve just discovered that this is not my first use of the track and field metaphor. Check out the February, 2009 post I wrote when I’d started writing the manuscript for The High Road.) I confess I’m later getting going than I wanted to be on my third novel, but time for writing has been at a premium lately with life at the office heating up and lots of readings and talks filling my evenings and weekends. But, at long last, the first few pages are behind me. The opening line in novel #3 as it now stands is “Welcome to the dark side.” Who knows how many words written yesterday will survive to the final manuscript, but that’s not really important right now. What is important? I’m off and writing again…

Out of the blocks

My recent reading in Keswick

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

A week or so ago, I made the easy drive north to the shores of Lake Simcoe for a reading at the Keswick branch of the Georgina Public Library. They had organized a wonderful event in their beautiful branch. The reading was very well attended and we had some great discussions during the Q&A after my talk and reading. To top it all off, they’d secured books to sell at the event so my signing hand was happily occupied for a while after the formal part of the program ended. My thanks to the team at the Keswick branch for fun evening.

After nearly four years, it’s finally happened…

Saturday, April 16th, 2011

For that last few years, particularly in the last three months, friends and colleagues have often told me that they’d seen someone on the bus, or subway, or plane, reading one of my novels. Yet, despite riding subway frequently and flying a couple times a month, I have never ever seen someone reading TBLP or THR. Not that I’m scouring my surroundings for such a sight, but I’ve just never noticed, until this past Friday. I’d returned my rental car and was standing on the subway for the single stop trip from Davisville station to St. Clair. A guy was standing next to me and when I looked up, the cover of TBLP was about eight inches from my face. Bizarre. I couldn’t resist asking if he were enjoying the book. He replied that he was loving it and found it hilarious. (Always music to my ears.) Then he looked at me, then at the author shot on the cover of the book, then back to me (echoes of the Old Spice guy, but without the ripped physique). He was quite taken aback, as was I. In fact I actually missed my stop as he asked if I would sign his book. I gladly did, jumped off at Summerhill, crossed to the northbound side of the platform, and made my way back to St. Clair and our office. It felt kind of how I imagine a songwriter feels when he/she hears his/her song on the radio for the very first time. Any way you slice it, it was nice…

Speaking of Leacock…

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

My mother-in-law was sorting through some photographs the other day and came across these two shots taken a few years ago when we visited the Leacock home on the shores of Brewery Bay in Orillia, Ontario. If you’re ever in the area, it’s well worth a visit to the beautiful home Stephen Leacock built as his refuge. Leacock wrote many hilarious works on the desk at which I’m seated below. The home has been painstakingly restored with many of the very items and artifacts that adorned the home when the man himself lived there. You can learn more about the Leacock home and museum here.

Speaking gigs a plenty…

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

I’ve been very busy in the evenings and weekends with readings and speaking gigs and am really enjoying them. I know I’ve written about it before, but I’m always struck by how rewarding it is to spend time with readers who have really enjoyed the novels. It’s a pleasure to talk with them and answer their questions about the novels. If you’re interested in seeing just how busy I am these days touring around with both books, have a look at my Appearances page. I just thought I’d provide an update on a couple of my recent readings.


A few weeks ago, my younger son, Ben, and I flew down to Halifax for a reading I was doing at the Keshen Goodman branch of the Halifax Public Library. We had a great time and had the chance to visit family as wel. My wife’s family lives in the Annapolis Valley and drove in for the reading. As well, in a spasm of pure serendipity, my twin brother Tim and his wife Melanie were also in Halifax visiting their daughter and son who both attend Dalhousie. I joked from the podium that I had more family attending my Halifax reading than I’d ever had in any hometown Toronto reading. The crowd in Halifax was wonderful. Many of them had already read both novels and they kindly laughed in all the right places during my talk and reading. They videotaped my talk so if any of you suffer with any kind of sleep disorder, clicking on the graphic below ought to help you out.

My brother, Tim, also took a few shots during the signing. Here’s one of them:

Pelham and Fort Erie

Last week, I drove down to the Niagara Region for an afternoon reading at the Pelham Public Library and then on to Fort Erie for a library reading there in the evening. Both events were wonderful with very enthusiastic audiences, who showed up in great numbers. At each stop, I spoke for a while about The High Road, and then read a few sections that I thought were particularly relevant in the midst of a federal election campaign. There were great questions posed afterwards and I was even able to answer some of them. After the Fort Erie reading, I bought a Coke at a nearby convenience store and listened to the Blue Jays game on the radio to help keep me awake for the drive back to Toronto. There are plenty more readings coming up, including the Georgina Public Library in Keswick tomorrow, and the Port Hope Public Library on Saturday.

When I arrived in Pelham, a few people had brought copies of the previous weekend’s St. Catharines Standard. It was a bit of a shock to see the front page of the Arts section. Click here or on the photo to read the article:

Here’s a shot taken just as my talk/reading at the Pelham Public Library got underway.

Leacock Medal Shortlist: Thrilled all over again

Saturday, April 2nd, 2011

Yesterday, in an annual ritual freighted with wonderful memories for me, the five finalists for the 2011 Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour were unveiled in Leacock’s beautiful home on the shores of Brewery Bay in Orillia. At about noon, in between meetings, I discovered via Twitter that The High Road was among the finalists. What an honour, what a thrill. The other authors shortlisted are very talented and very funny. Here’s the list of the 2011 Leacock Medal finalists:

I’ve already read and enjoyed most of the novels Trevor and Todd have written, including Practical Jean and Toby: A Man. I’ve read an earlier book by David Rakoff called Fraud which I thought was great. While I haven’t yet read Red, as it were, I’ve watched his show enough to know that he is one hilarious dude (although I’m not sure anyone has ever called Red Green “dude”). It is truly an honour to be among these accomplished Canadians.

You might think, having been blessed with a Leacock Medal already, (here’s my post from March 27. 2008 when TBLP was shortlisted), that the thrill of being a finalist might be somewhat moderated the second time around. Uhmmmm…, no. Not a chance. While I kept the handsprings to a minimum when in public yesterday, rest assured, my calm exterior belied an internal excitement that still has my ‘insides” vibrating nearly 24 hours later. You see, I truly believe that the Leacock Medal gave me the writer’s life I now have and enjoy. When I’m invited to readings and festivals as “a writer,” when I signed on with Beverley Slopen as my literary agent, when the legendary Doug Gibson at McClelland & Stewart published The Best Laid Plans, and last year The High Road, and when TBLP somehow made it through to be crowned the winner of this year’s Canada Reads, I know that none of it would have happened without the Leacock Medal. It started it all.

I would think that very few authors can pinpoint a date, time, and place, when and where they felt like they’d actually become “a writer.” I can. Wednesday, April 30th, 2008, 12:30 p.m., Swanmore Hall, Orillia, Ontario.

My congratulations to my fellow finalists and I look forward to meeting them at this year’s luncheon on April 28th when the winner will be announced. Still walking on air here…