Trevor Cole picks up his Leacock Medal
I drove to Orillia yesterday afternoon in what has become a June ritual for me. It was my fourth consecutive Stephen Leacock Gala dinner at which the Leacock Medal is presented for the funniest book published in the previous year. This year, Trevor Cole won for his darkly comic novel, Practical Jean. I snapped the photo above with my BlackBerry last night just as Trevor was given the medal by the President of the Leacock Association, Mike Hill. I’ll never forget the evening in June of 2008 when I gratefully received mine. It was gratifying that The High Road, my second novel, was a finalist for this year’s Leacock, but I really was very happy for Trevor’s win. His novels are wonderful and have been nominated for many of Canada’s top literary awards. And now he has a well-deserved Leacock Medal.
I was honoured to have been asked to give the toast to Stephen Leacock last night, a staple of the annual gala. Wanting to do something a little different than just preparing a garden variety toast, I decided to write mine in the form of a mercifully short poem. I borrowed the rhyming scheme Robert Service employed to much better effect in his masterpiece, The Cremation of Sam McGee. Here’s what I wrote and managed to recite last night:
A Toast to Stephen LeacockWe gather here but once a year Wearing our Sunday best For a grateful look at a humorous book That was funnier than the rest But we honour the man, where it all began On the shores of Brewery Bay You made us laugh back then, again and again And we’re all still laughing today So please raise a glass, and get off your… chair For our dear but departed host You split our sides, with words so wise To Stephen Leacock… a toast
I’ll be back in Orillia next year and every year thereafter if they’ll have me. The Leacock Medal changed my life as a writer. It’s an important literary honour in this country and I’m honoured to be connected with it.