The finalists vying for the 2009 Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour will have first crack at a larger pot, organizers revealed in Orillia, Ont., on Wednesday as they announced this year's shortlisted authors.

The cash prize for the annual humour-writing prize is now $15,000 — an increase of $5,000. Also, each of the runners-up will now receive $1,500.

Nominees for the annual writing prize are:

  • Renowned children's author and poet Sheree Fitch for Kiss the Joy As It Flies, her debut novel for adults about a woman who sets out to put her life in order before undergoing surgery.
  • Award-winning crime writer William Deverell for Kill All the Judges, a laugh-out-loud sequel to his April Fool.
  • Filmmaker and writer Mark Leiren-Young for Never Shoot a Stampede Queen, based on his own experiences as a rookie reporter stationed in a small town in British Columbia.
  • Former political science professor and comic novelist Jack MacLeod for Uproar, about a sad-sack college professor jolted out of his doldrums when a zany old friend lands in town.
  • Charles Wilkins for In the Land of the Long Fingernails, his memoir about working a summer job as a gravedigger.

One of Canada's oldest literary honours, the Leacock Medal for Humour was established in memory of Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town author Stephen Leacock and to celebrate excellence in humour writing by Canadian authors.

A panel of six judges from across the country and 11 readers from Orillia will choose the winner, who will be announced at a luncheon ceremony at the Stephen Leacock Memorial Museum on April 30.

First awarded in 1947, the prize has been won by Canadian literary greats such as Mordecai Richler, Farley Mowat, Roch Carrier and Pierre Berton. In 2008, Terry Fallis won for his self-published novel The Best Laid Plans.