Cynthia Mosca is author of Letters from a Wondrous Empire: An Epistolary Memoir, chronicling her time teaching school in Ethiopia with the Peace Corps from 1967-69, based on letters she wrote to her family back home. This (then) single woman in her 20s from Wisconsin fell in love with Ethiopia, and remains so today!
Save the date: We're hosting a talk with Cynthia on Tue, Sep 26th.
(Mitch) What compelled you to write this book?
(Cynthia) COVID. You know, I had started cleaning things out and ran across all these letters I had written from Ethiopia that my mother and my aunt had saved. I thought, "Maybe I should read these, it’ll be a trip down memory lane." And it was. Except there were parts I had no recollection of. So I got in touch with other people from Ethiopia I'd lost touch with over the years. I was in a writing group. And it just became this project.
Which writing group were you in?
I was in a writing group at the Unitarian Church with John Woodcock. I told them I would read these letters and respond to them. They encouraged me. So I started doing it, and it became more and more involved.
How did you find a publisher?
There's a group called the Peace Corps writers imprint. I submitted the book to them, and they accepted it!
How did you connect to Morgenstern's?
Not long after Morgenstern's opened, The Herald Times did a really big article about me and the book. I was out of town, but my partner Dennis dropped off a copy of the article and the book at the bookstore. I don't think you were doing events in-store at first. It took a while, but here we are!
Let's rewind a bit: What did you do after the Peace Corps?
I moved to Chicago, got married, and raised my kids there. I continued teaching. I taught various subjects including art and English as a second language, also became the director of a bilingual program in a K-8 school district.
What brought you to Bloomington?
When My partner Dennis and I retired, he decided he couldn't handle the traffic in Chicago anymore. So we looked around. We had a friend who lived in Bloomington who thought we'd really like it. So we drove into Bloomington. We drove past Baker's Junction, and then the Tibetan Cultural Center. and I was like, "Oh, my God, I love this place, I'll fit right in."
And you are still very involved with Ethiopia?
Yes! I'm President of the Ethiopia & Eritrea Returned Peace Corps Volunteers. I'll be donating royalties from the book to Save the Children, The International Rescue Committee, and Doctors Without Borders through Peace Corps volunteers in Ethiopia and Eritrea.
We're also starting a new relief project through Save the Children for nine schools and two health clinics that were really affected by the civil conflict. I also support another organization called Selamta, which provides family homes for Ethiopian orphans.
That's amazing. I wouldn't be able to keep up with you (laughs). And I look forward to speaking with you more on September 26th!