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Former winner and musician among those vying for Leacock Medal for Humour

Andrew Philips, special to The Packet & Times

Alan Doyle

Alan Doyle

One of Canada’s most prestigious literary awards features an eclectic shortlist.

Those vying for this year’s Leacock Medal for Humour include a former winner, a well-known musician and author along with a writer for a popular television show.

Aaron Bushkowsky’s Curtains for Roy, Alan Doyle's Where I Belong, Terry Fallis’s No Relation, Zarqa Nawaz's Laughing All the Way to the Mosque and Robert Wringham's A Loose Egg are in the running for the $15,000 prize — Canada’s only national literary award for humour writing.

According to organizers, each of the shortlisted authors represents a unique talent linked by a common thread: “They’re funny.”

Mike Hill, president of the Stephen Leacock Associates, said this year’s awards committee received 73 entries.

“Because they’re humour writers, they all like to have the silver (Leacock) sticker on their books,” Hill said, adding the Leacock endorsement can have a positive effect on book sales.

“It provides a bump in sales. Terry Fallis has said winning the award totally changed his life. There’s a cachet with being associated with Stephen Leacock.”

The Leacock Medal for Humour has been awarded since 1947 to honour the “dean of Canadian humourists” and to perpetuate comedic writing in Canada. Some of the country’s finest writers — Pierre Berton, W.O. Mitchell, Mordecai Richler and Robertson Davies — have received the award.

Last year, Bill Conall won the prize for The Promised Land: A Novel of Cape Breton.

This time around, the five shortlisted entries delve into various aspects of Canadian life.

Bushkowsky's novel follows the on- and off-stage drama of live theatre, while Doyle, who is also known as the frontman for Great Big Sea, revisits his Newfoundland roots in his memoir.

No Relation is the fourth novel by Fallis, who won the Leacock Medal in 2008 for his self-published debut, The Best Laid Plans. His latest novel follows copywriter Earnest Hemingway, whose name poses only part of the problems he faces.

In Laughing All the Way to the Mosque, Nawaz, who wrote for Little Mosque on the Prairie, continues to tell the humorous tales of a Muslim in the West. And, as Wringham notes on his website, A Loose Egg is “a 150-page anthology of refined and beautified diary entries, magazine items, and completely new material.”

After receiving the 73 entries last year, Hill said, a list is created to forward to the judging teams, who eventually pare down the list to the five books. For the first time, the association released a long list of 10 authors Tuesday.

“It’s a very fair system,” Hill said. “There’s five shortlisted people ranked in a very fair point system. Judges don’t even meet each other or Leacock board members.”

Overall, the awards employ two judging teams — one national and one based in Orillia. Judges, who include published authors and university professors, are expected to read all of the submissions and rank them in order of preference.

“(Each judging team’s) combined vote counts for one vote,” Hill said, noting each judge’s picks are accumulated together with each team’s final list, counting for one point in the grand tally. “We have to say kudos to the judges for the time spent.”

The winner receives a $15,000 cash prize, courtesy of TD Bank Financial Group, with runners-up each getting $1,500.

This year’s winner will be revealed at a luncheon April 30 at Orillia’s Best Western Mariposa Inn. Tickets cost $26 for Leacock Association members and $30 for non-members. They are available by calling Donnajean Jefferies at 705-325-1757.

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