I am well and truly home. I’ve celebrated my daughter’s birthday, visited with my son and his wife, had lunch with my sister and my dad, and settled back into daily routines with my husband and my dog.
On the work front, I’ve sent a writer whose manuscript I’m editing comments to congratulate her on what she’s accomplished and to encourage her further development of its parallel stories. I’ve carefully read all twenty pages of a contract I’ve been offered, and have been reading Slam by Nick Hornby, a novel recommended by a publisher who likes something I’ve sent him but says (very rightly) that it needs more work. I’ve attended a symposium about issues created for writers by “a shifting literary landscape”.
I’ve read Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, resumed reading Falling by Anne Simpson at the CNIB Recording Studio, kept various routine medical appointments, and visited with friends. A truly Canadian winter storm blew in around the same time as an email from a friend telling me that crocuses are blooming where she lives on Vancouver Island and her husband is “out mucking about in the garden”.
Yes, I am home. And yet… And yet, Liberia remains with me.
I wonder which writers I worked with earlier this month have submitted manuscripts, hoping for publication with Reading Liberia. I wonder how many essays were submitted for the Heroes anthology by the deadline they decided to set while I was there. RL email continues to arrive in my inbox.
One writer there has recently shared with me his dream of helping Liberian youth get off drugs. Liberia has no degree level courses; do I know of any drug abuse programs in Canada? Another asks, have I shown my kids pictures of their Liberian brother? I am, he claims, his mentor and his mother! Another writer has sent me a poem, inspired by one of the handouts I left behind.
I’ve also been corresponding with a Liberian poet, Patricia Jabbeh Wesley. We met, electronically speaking, through a blog post of hers that was suggested by WordPress as “possibly related” to one of mine. She’s working on a fascinating project based on interviews she conducted with Liberian women when she returned there in 2008, having emigrated to the US during Liberia’s civil war. I have just begun to explore her web site.
Part of me says I should be putting Liberia behind me; I’ve submitted my Reading Liberia report to CODE, I’ve put together a slide show to accompany a talk on my experiences in Liberia that I’ll give at the IBBY-Canada AGM on February 27, I’ve prepared a Reading Liberia article that will appear in the next issue of the CANSCAIP newsletter. But another part of me knows that Liberia is part of me now, in ways I’d never have imagined possible when I first set foot on its soil just over a year ago. And that’s not something I need to fight. I’m a lucky woman, to have Liberia in my life, my home.
Kathy Stinson is the author of the classic Red Is Best and the award-winning The Man with the Violin. Her wide range of titles includes picture books, non-fiction, young adult fiction, historical fiction, horror, biography, series books, and short stories. She has met with her readers in every province and territory of Canada, in the United States, Britain, Liberia, and Korea. She lives in a small town in Ontario.