Wednesday, May 1, 2013


Post by Lynn

I served in the Peace Corps in Mali, West Africa in the 1980’s and discovered much about the magic of language – and how it reflects the culture of the people who speak it – by learning Bambara, a West African dialect.

When I first arrived in Mali, I was concerned with being polite. One of the first questions I asked was, “How do you say, ‘Thank you’ in Bambara?” Simple question, but it turns out that it doesn’t quite translate. The closest equivalent is  I ni baara – “You and your work.”

You speak this phrase when you’re walking around the village, say, and see a guy mixing mud to make bricks. You smile and say, I ni baara, and he smiles and waves back. It’s an acknowledgement of the effort you see before you – kind of like saying, hey, you’re doing good work there, buddy. I grew to appreciate this phrase. It recognizes the inherent value of work and lets the worker strut his stuff.

At last weekend’s Northern Colorado Writer’s conference: The Art of Writing, I was, along with a lot of other writers, witness to the results of a lot of hard work.

I’d like to send out a big I ni baara to:

• Kerrie Flanagan, NCW Director, who labors all year long on our behalf, but really strains her creative muscles (not to mention her leg muscles) to put on this conference. Apparently she drags her whole family in on the project every year and so they deserve our gratitude as well.

• The “creative team” who supports Kerrie in doing, well, I’m guessing lots of creative things like choosing the theme, making cute videos, and designing centerpieces. Sounds like they have fun, too, judging from the wine-enhanced creativity which produced the magnets we received during the last session (mine says “embrace imperfection). Sorry I can’t name names, but your work is noted and appreciated.

• Marie Burghard, who designed the fetching conference poster.

• The Ambassadors who do all the nitty-gritty work to make the conference run smoothly. Again – can’t list you all, but thanks a million!

• The presenters – the dynamic folks who get up front and lay it all on the line for each and every conference participant. There was a dizzying array of inspiration, information, and instigation this year. I’ll be going through my notes and the conference handouts for months to come, ruminating on the insights these writers so generously shared.

Kerrie’s introduction to the conference stated, “My hope is that throughout this weekend you will gain the tools you need to breathe new life and color into your writing, make new connections and be inspired to continue on your writing journey.”

Mission accomplished, Kerrie et al. Thanks to you and your work!

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