The Morning After an Election

A long-time friend, Kristyn Wong-Tam, decided to run for City Council in Toronto. Although I’ve helped out a little in other candidates’ campaigns in the past, this was the first time I’ve ever been so deeply involved in a ‘big P’ political campaign. It was intense. And what do writers do with intensity? We write. Here are some morning after ramblings.

I’m still amazed that half the city didn’t vote at all. This was the sort of contentious election that should have had more people engaged. Why weren’t they interested? I logged many hours doing phone canvassing and door knocking, and up to the eleventh hour (9pm, Sunday night, as late as it’s really polite to call) people were still saying they were undecided. A few people said they hadn’t yet done any research and would ‘just make the decision in the voting booth’. Others said they wouldn’t vote at all. The apathy nearly cracked my sugar-coated phone voice.

Monday was like being in an episode of The Amazing Race. Kristyn’s campaign team boasted almost 150 election day volunteers who ran around the city reminding (and cajoling) people to vote. I argued with security guards and building managers who didn’t want to let me in, snuck into other buildings, sweet-talked residents who I’d clearly woken up, and made nice with elections officials who didn’t seem to know what a scrutineer was. I talked to people who had forgotten that it was election day, and thanked me profusely for reminding them. I spoke to people who beamed at me when I arrived at the door, who proudly declared that they’d just come back from voting for our candidate.

At 8:30pm, I hurried back to join the victory party in progress. My girlfriend, in front of a TV in another city, phoned with results, the first set looking as though a near loss was imminent. She was behind by 100 votes, then ahead, then behind again. And then everything changed. When I got to the bar the crowd was cheering. She’d won. I was elated, relieved, overwhelmed.

After months of work by Kristyn and her fabulous team, the campaigning is over. I suspect the real work of standing up for Toronto is only beginning. I know she’s up for it. I am so glad to have been part of this effort, and this win.

A postscript: Kristyn ran a campaign that was positive, without any mudslinging. Here is a short memo to those who did the opposite:

Dear Mudslingers,

You are a wannabe politician and your girlfriend is a hack journalist whose ‘work’ even the Sun shouldn’t be publishing. You lost, not because you are bad people, but because you don’t tell the truth.



Being a clue-giver at the Diaspora Dialogues Scavenger Hunt at Word on the Street

What a lot of fun it was to be at WOTS this year. I was a clue-giver and the correct answer was “Maury”. Here’s a link to the video. Here’s a photo from the Diaspora Dialogues flickr stream.

Thanks to Diaspora Dialogues for this content, and also to videographer Chris Jones and editor Matthew Manuge. 

A year of words and community

Conversations between neighbours in dog parks can lead to great things…

Just over a year ago, Melanie Janisse, local poet, artist and Zoot’s Cafe owner, and I were standing around St. Veronika’s schoolyard, watching our dogs sniff the ground. We started talking about the need to create a literary space in the neighbourhood, a space that would be welcoming of all writers and readers. A couple of months later, we began the Brockton Writers Series. Melanie offered her space, and I organized the writers. At first, we highlighted those who lived and worked in the neighbourhood, but soon requests from writers living all over the city, and even from out of town, began to flood in. Our audience grew too, and soon Zoots became just a little too crowded for our series.

So, in the spring, we were invited in by the Jeremiah Community at St. Anne’s Church a marvellous, historic church on Gladstone, just north of Dundas.

Another change came in September, when a few writers spoke about the need to chat with one another about the writing life. We now have a writers’ networking time that begins a half hour before the event so that emerging and established writers can talk about publishing, craft, funding, and promotion.

Over the past year, BWS has hosted over 40 featured writers and about 20 open mic writers as well, including Anthony De Sa, Claudia Dey, Carey Toane, Vivek Shraya, Rose Cullis, Salimah Valiani, Nora Gold, White Noise Machine (aka Mike Smith) and Adebe D.A., to name just a few.

As a writer and Brocktonite, I’m honoured to curate this series. Writers bring their best work. The audiences are respectful and friendly. People talk with one another during the break. I leave each night feeling just a little more connected and inspired.

Join us!  Our next event will be on Tuesday November 2nd, 7-9pm (with writers’ networking at 6:30pm) at St. Anne’s Church, 270 Gladstone. The event is free, but donations for the writers are welcomed. Refreshments also by donation (to the Jeremiah Project) and books available for sale. November’s featured writers are: Nehal El-Hadi, Carole Giangrande, Jules Lewis and May Lui.


Farzana with Jasmine D'Costa, Sept 2010