Jennifer Craig of Nelson has won the Leacock Medal for Humour, given annually to Canada’s best piece of book-length humour, for her novel, Gone to Pot. The award, given on Saturday in Orillia, Ontario, comes with a $15,000 prize.
But it wasn’t all good news for Craig.
She had a stroke the day before the award ceremony. She and the other two short-listed contenders, Laurie Gelman and Scaachi Koul, were getting ready to meet Orillia’s mayor at a dinner, but Craig ended up in the hands of paramedics and then in the hospital, from where the Star interviewed her on Tuesday.
“I am thrilled to bits. And I’m not in great shape,” she said.
Craig, who is 84, said she is experiencing some balance problems but expects to recover from that. She’s hoping to return to Nelson soon.
She did not get a chance to go on a number of outings for the contenders, or attend the award event.
“But my daughter did,” Craig said. “She’s the one who had all the fun.”
Craig’s daughter Juliet is at her bedside these days and gave the acceptance speech on her mother’s behalf.
“I would not exactly call it fun,” Juliet told the Star. “I was thrilled and so excited and proud of her that she won, but I was a bit of a wreck due to lack of sleep and high stress. It was the most nervous public speaking I have ever done, never mind it had to be funny in a room full of humourists. So there was no pressure there at all.”
Craig says her acceptance speech would have been about all the reasons why it is ridiculous that old age is referred to as the golden years, and about how her publisher took extreme amounts of time to make decisions about whether or not to publish the book.
“So I wrote back asking if they publish posthumously, because in your ‘golden years’ you don’t have months and months to just throw away.”
Craig has some advice for older aspiring writers, spoken in her characteristic feisty style despite her illness.
“I started creative writing in 1994, when I was 60. So when people are old or think they are old, they shouldn’t just say forget it, they should do what they want to do. There is a lot you can do. I would like to encourage that. It’s time we showed those youngsters what life is all about.”
Gone to Pot, set in Nelson, is about a grandmother who has fallen on hard times and takes up growing pot as a livelihood.