Journey to Leacockland-2
I'm now in the Brownstone, a small cafe/pub in downtown Orillia. Black and white checkerboard floor, view of the street, very quiet air conditioning. This morning it was breakfast at the Mariposa Marketplace. I sat outside with my strawberry banana muffin and some impertinent sparrows while Orillia's Sunday morning came to life around me. This followed a pleasant waterfront bike ride from the magnificent Bayview Inn into the heart of touristy downtown. I'm not saying the Bayview is lower class, but there are two dogs tied up outside my room and when I left for breakfast there was a very hung-over looking twenty-something sitting and smoking on the balcony opposite mine. When I returned over an hour and half later he was still there, still smoking, as were the dogs- though they were just there, being too busy barking at me to smoke.
But what about the awards and readings you ask? The unquestionable highlight was that Peterborough's own Shelagh D. Grant won the Lela Common Award for Canadian History for her book Polar Imperative. She was also one of the very few who were there to receive the award in person. Which brings me to some general observations.
Firstly, the overall event was enjoyable and well done. What a great setting! The afternoon CAA readings were in a big white tent. There was a cool breeze on a hot day and seagulls and crows squawked in the background. All this amidst the gardens and grasses of Stephen Leacock's home on the shores of Old Brewery Bay. But, truth be told, there were barely as many or fewer people than at last weeks modest book launches by Brenda Baker (Sisters of the Sari) and Larry Tyldsley (Momentos) back in Peterborough. And at the banquet- which featured delicious food, keynote speaker Tomson Highway and the awards presentation, all for $40 (plus the Harmful Sales Tax) I don't think there could have been more than sixty people. These are national awards. Important honors. The MP and mayor of Orillia were there. I have to admit I don't know much of the history involved, but though Matthew Binn, Anita Purcell and the Leacock Festival did a fine job hosting the event, one is left with the impression that the CAA awards (at one time the organization oversaw the Governor General's Awards) have become over time rather marginalized.
In the afternoon Steve and Donna Thompson and I also watched a presentation of readings by published Penguin authors. This was most interesting in terms of assessing what it takes to be a published author and in appreciated the various degrees of presentation skills the authors displayed. In short, though the audience was, as previously mentioned, sparse, all impressed this listener to the extent that if time and money permitted, he would be interested in checking out their work. Perhaps the most compelling of these was Keith Ross Leckie's "Coppermine" a novel based on a true incident in the early 1900's where two Inuit hunters killed two priests on the northern tundra and ate their livers.
coming next: Impressions of Tomson Highway