Hillary Rodham Clinton in Vancouver

My daughter and I joined a crowd of some 5000 at the convention centre in Vancouver this morning/afternoon to hear Hillary Rodham Clinton. We’ve both been Canadian fans of hers and were very disappointed when she lost the U.S. election just over a year ago; an evening that we thought would be a celebration of the first woman president turned into a long walk in the crisp night air to process our disbelief and emotions.

I’m not posting here to stump for Hillary in retrospect, however, but just to tell a little about today’s event from my perspective–because it was great fun and inspiriting too. We arrived soon after the doors opened 9-ish, though it didn’t start until 11:30. A long line had already formed around the building. We secured the closest spots possible in the cavernous hall, in the Silver section, also known as the Somewhat Cheaper Seats Where You Don’t Get a Copy of the Book. But no problem, I’ve already read the warm and very honest memoir, What Happened, and enjoyed it. For the next hours we hung out together, talking and reading and chatting with folks seated around us. The woman next to me had a HRC figurine in her purse. She kept it on her desk, she said, for inspiration I presume. So, without direct access to Hillary herself we photographed the figurine in the blue pantsuit, and the poster!


The poor tenor who opened for her — he had such a fine voice but one, two, three songs in… Well by four and then five songs a bit of groaning was audible; we’d come to hear Ms Clinton after all, but after five numbers she did appear, in a pantsuit of course (black and white) and we could settle back and listen to the woman herself. She had some nice things to say about Canada, where she started this book tour and is ending it, including a big compliment for gender balance in the federal cabinet.

When people ask her if she’s okay after her loss (in spite of winning the popular vote), she says “As a person I’m okay, it’s America I’m concerned about.” She offered four points to remember:

  1. If you’re knocked down, get back up.
  2. The only way to get sexism out of politics is to get more women into politics.
  3. The forces at work in the 2016 election are still with us. (A whole chapter of her book concerns Russian involvement in the election via cyber attacks of all kinds that seek to turn people against each other–“the new Cold War.”)
  4. There is no such thing as an alternative fact. Democracy requires a well-informed electorate.

After her opening remarks HRC responded to questions from emcee Bob Rennie on everything from last night’s election in Alabama (“for me a turning point…I’m heartened, but we have to keep at it…”) to what she would have done differently if she was elected (a whole list of things) to the threat of nuclear war (“nuclear weapons still my biggest fear”) to Jerusalem (“you don’t give your leverage away”) to media and ‘fake news’ (“we’re awash in fraudulent information”) to how she maintains resilience and focus.

Hillary Clinton seemed relaxed, was often humourous. She got a lot of support in laughter or applause from the audience. In reference to the current president’s twitter habit: “A lot of the tweeting may be [due to] an excessive amount of Diet Coke. [reportedly up to 12 a day.] Who knows what that does to a brain?” As far as what keeps her resilient she said it was her faith, and her family. She told the story of her mother’s remarkable spirit and example in spite of a very difficult childhood. She also spoke of the courage she’d seen in people in dire situations during her travels as Secretary of State.

“I’m an optimist,” she said, “hoping we’ll get back into balance [as a country]” But it won’t happen without effort, she said. She meets many people in book signing lines who tell her, “I’m so tired.” Tired of fighting for the right, resisting wrong, trying to make the world better for people. Her answer to us on this point was from Scripture, “Do not grow weary doing this good work, for in due time we’ll harvest what we’ve sown.”

“We’ll have to do that for a couple years yet,” she said. “But when we take our country back, everyone can have a glass of chardonnay!”download


Personal Narratives of Place and Displacement: Day Two

It’s been a long day, a good day, and I’m tired, but a few thoughts as promised about day two of the Mennonite/s Writing VIII conference. Beginning from the end.

The conference re-located from the University of Winnipeg to Canadian Mennonite University across the city this evening for what was billed as a “Creative Evening.” That is, we listened to five writers of varying ages and genres as well as a pair of musicians: Jennifer Sears, Len Neufeldt (his writing read by Robert Martens), Jessica Penner, Casey Plett, Maurice Mierau and Carol Ann Weaver on piano with Marnie Enns singing. Although not all these artists are young or entirely new to Mennonite Lit, in the main they are newer voices gaining strength and recognition among us, and it was a delight to hear them. Continue reading

Words will be wanted

I was so ready for this. For this weekend. A festival of women writers called “Growing Room,” put on by the ROOM journal collective.

I’ve been happy in our move, I can certainly count the ways I like Tsawwassen, but I was unusually excited about the opportunity to be in the middle of writers again. Never mind that I wouldn’t know anyone. Or would have to plan and plot my getting there on a map. I was reading at the launch of ROOM’s latest issue (below) on Saturday evening, since it contains a creative non-fiction piece of mine (“Notes Toward an Autobiography”). Why not spend the day at panels and workshops? Why not spend the next day too? Just to hear the familiar vocabulary of writers’ talk. Just to hear them read, even complain, about their work.

Why not indeed? And a rich two days they were. A highlight: a panel on writing about trauma with Evelyn Lau, Christine Lowther, and Sonnet L’Abbe. Another: a panel on “rewriting the stories we tell about our bodies” with Lorna Crozier, Francine Cunningham, Nilofar Shidmehr, and Juliane Okot Bitek. Continue reading