Nelson author Jennifer Craig has made the short list for the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour for her 2017 novel Gone to Pot.
“I’m going to Ontario next week to be wined and dined, and they will announce the winner on Saturday,” Craig told the Star this week. The awards gala takes place in Leacock’s hometown of Orillia, Ontario.
Craig, who writes both fiction and nonfiction, is perhaps best known for her memoir Yes Sister, No Sister: A Leeds Nurse in the 1950s, which sold more than 160,000 copies in the UK.
Craig joins authors Laurie Gelman and Scaachi Koul on the shortlist. The award, which comes with a $15,000 prize, goes to the best Canadian book of literary humour published in the previous year. Previous winners include Stuart McLean, Arthur Black, Will Ferguson, Mordecai Richler, and Bill Richardson.
Gone to Pot is set in Nelson and chronicles the adventures of Jess, a woman who loses her waitress job when the restaurant burns down. She’s left with a house but no income and falls on hard times, having to visit the food bank.
“She finds this appalling.” Craig said. “She always donated to food banks, and the fact she has to use one just blows her away. She can’t get a job because she is 64, and 64-year-olds don’t make it in the job market.”
On her way back from the food bank she bumps into a fellow waitress, a young woman with the decidedly Nelsonesque name of Swan, who asks Jess how it’s going.
“Everything has gone to pot,” Jess says, thus kicking off her new career, with Swan’s help.
“So Jess ends up with two lives – she has the life where she is grandmother and a friend of many older women, and she moves into the pot growing environment and learns all about that.”
Craig said she had to research the pot growing world and how young people talk.
The turning point comes when Jess has to learn how to use a computer and discovers ads for male enhancement pills and wonders if they would work on the limp and wilted pot plants in her basement.
The result is a fortune for Jess and a surprising humanitarian choice about what to do with the money.
“It’s a Cinderella story,” said Craig. “A rags to riches story.”