All around me in the room where I write are things that act as symbols for much that keeps me going when the writing gets tough: who owned my desk before me; writer-friends; illustrators whose art has perfectly extended the stories I’ve written; the determined minds and open hearts of writers and artists who’ve participated in workshops I’ve led.
In the corner of the room sits a desk that was once my father’s and it was his father’s before that. My father was an appliance repairman; my grandfather owned a bicycle shop. I try to bring to the desk the willingness to take risks that each of them demonstrated in setting up their own businesses at a time when they had families to support.
On top of the desk, beside a lamp that belonged to a dear friend (more on her later), sit assorted pebbles gathered in my travels, along with a rock that was a gift from another writer-friend into which is carved one word: imagine.
On the wall beside me is a drawing of Budge Wilson (referred to above) by editorial cartoonist, Bruce MacKinnon. A writer herself, Budge always took interest in anything I was working on or thinking about, always asked just the right question that would encourage me in a good direction. I hope I did the same for her.
Above the portrait of Budge is a gift from Dušan Petričić, his illustration for the last page of the story part of The Man with the Violin. How lucky I was that Annick Press hired him to bring his talent to this book, and subsequent one featuring violinist Joshua Bell. What a joy, later, to stand proudly with Dušan when our book received the TD Children’s Literature Award.
The black and white drawing is Chase Walker’s response to an exercise I gave at a writing workshop in Liberia: Write about your neighbourhood, introducing it to someone who has never been there. Since Chase was an artist, he opted to do a sketch of his neighbourhood instead. When I expressed an interest in purchasing what he had created, he insisted on taking it home first, to “make it better.” Chase would soon be illustrating several of the first Liberian-authored children’s books published in Liberia.
The colourful painting below Chase’s drawing is by another artist in the group, Lawson B. Sworh. Most of the women in the workshops I led as part of the Reading Liberia program wore garments very much like those worn by the women in the painting. My memories of the people and the parts of the country I saw are still so vivid, it’s hard to believe it’s been over ten years since my last trip there.
What’s the story behind one of the meaningful pieces of furniture or artwork in your home?