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Daily Dose — Nelson Author Rayya Liebich Longlisted in CBC Writing Contest

Award-winning Nelson author and creative writing teacher Rayya Liebich was nominated for the 2022 CBC Nonfiction Prize. — Submitted photo

Liebich is an award-winning writer of Lebanese and Polish descent.

Her debut poetry collection Min Hayati was released in 2021 by Inanna Publications and has appeared in literary journals internationally.

The writer finds joy in teaching creative writing to youth and adults in Nelson. Her chapbook Tell Me Everything won the Golden Grassroots Competition and was published by the Ontario Poetry Society in 2015. 

The inspiration behind the CBC contest story is multilayered, Liebich explains.

“My essay is about retracing my languages. My mom was from Lebanon, and my dad is Polish, and they raised my sister and me in Quebec to be completely bilingual. I learned French first, I learned English at five. But in our family household, there were always many languages and pieces of languages. I’ve always loved languages and been passionate about playing with words.”

Liebich hopes her piece connects with readers.

“Writing this essay allowed me to see how many ‘in-between’ spaces I occupy in life and on the page. I hope it resonates with other readers.”

The following is an excerpt from Liebich’s longlisted piece, “Right Hand Justified”:

I cannot read Arabic

despite a year of Sundays 

in a basement that smelled of mildew 

pressed next to my sister

 criss-cross apple sauce

ashamed

in a circle of real 

Lebanese children

there to play 

 “Rin Rin Ya Jaras”

 a version of duck-duck goose

 with a brass bell.

 Liebich is working on a memoir.

“It’s a hybrid memoir, so it’s written in different fragmented forms, and it’s about the decade of my thirties when I became a mother and lost my mother. It explores big themes.”

The author knew from a young age that she was a writer. After she studied English at McGill and had no idea what to do, so got a teaching degree from the University of Victoria. She ended up in Nelson in 2004 and taught at Nelson Waldorf School for a decade. And then everything changed.

“When my mom died suddenly, I had real clarity on what I wanted to do and that if I wanted to be a writer, then I better get down to it. So I left teaching and committed fully to the writing life in 2014,” says Liebich.

At that time, things started to happen for her creatively.

“I wrote my first book of poems and started teaching creative writing classes at Oxygen Art Centre.”

If it’s related to writing, Liebich has done it. She served on the Elephant Mountain Literary Festival committee for six years, she teaches poetry to kids through ArtStarts BC, and designed and taught a class for the bereaved called Writing Through Grief at the Kalein Centre hospice.

She had a unique childhood, geographically speaking.

“I was born in Montreal, and then our family moved to Geneva, Switzerland when I was eleven and lived there for my teenage years, and then I came back to Canada to go to University.”

The author loves Nelson, where she is raising two boys, aged eight and 12.

“This is definitely home. I can’t imagine living anywhere else.”

Outside of writing, Liebich enjoys the outdoors.

“I’m a water person. It used to be canoeing with young children, and now I’m into sailing. I love taking pictures of the outdoors, cooking and reading as much as possible.”

The writer supports herself with funding from Canada Council for the Arts and BC Arts Council.

“That’s been awesome. It allowed me to work almost full-time for the past six months on my manuscript and editing it through mentorship. It’s such an amazing and critical part of having an artistic practice, of receiving grants for your projects.”

Liebich offers advice to other writers:

“Writing allows us to access difficult emotions and process our experience in a safe place. I encourage you to keep your pen moving and see what wants to be written.”

For Liebich, this CBC nomination reminds her to stay dedicated to her artistic practice.

“It's tough to commit to an artistic life. Being longlisted is such an amazing affirmation that I am supposed to do what I love to do. It gives me so much motivation to persevere.”

Find Liebich online:

www.rayyaliebich.com

Instagram: @rayliebich

Facebook: @rayyaliebich (Rayya Liebich Writer)