Janis F. Kearney, Cofounder, Read.Write.Share. Writers Weekend
I am a shameless curator of stories. I love gatherings of writers, and always leave those gatherings fuller, and more settled about my role in life – not simply to tell stories, but to nurture storytellers in waiting.
As a convener of storytellers for the last six years, I have become more convinced than ever of the power of our calling. The gathering and sharing of stories is a testament to our past, our present, and certainly our future.
Those who know me, know I credit my father for my love of stories and story sharing. TJ Kearney, a lifelong curator of stories, shared his life in vignettes throughout his 107 years – sharing them with his children, his friends, his church and…even strangers. I owe my life to stories, the sharing of them, the listening and learning from them, and the need to make storytelling a part of every facet of my life.
Today, like so many other writers, I accept the awesome responsibility of revisiting the unimagined 2020, and 2021. I am humbled by the writers’ mantle –writing and sharing the stories of this moment, questioning what led us to this, and giving hope that we can, together, find our way out.
Not some writers, but All writers must walk this tightrope of telling our painful truths laced with love and hope. Not the temporary kind of love, but that infinite love that man feels for all mankind. I implore my fellow writers, as much as we are tempted, let us not share the truth of our dark moments without offering a glimmer of light – albeit dim, and flickering. Let us tell the progresses and the setbacks, and the humanity sometimes left unheralded because of the oh, so stark inhumanity. Let us not forget to celebrate the good Samaritans who picked up the pieces after destructive acts by others.
Let’s tell our truths out loud so that someone, somewhere… today, or centuries from now, will gain wisdom, learn lessons from our having been here. While we must be truthful in admitting when we see America’s glass half empty, let us look deeper, and analyze the reasons behind the always half-empty glasses that leave so many communities wanting in this great land of spilling-over abundance.
No, we must not close our eyes to the ugliness that leaves us less than we could be as Americans and residents of this world. Let us also not leave untold, the things that save us. And, as we bravely tell the truths that elicits pain, hurt, and anger, let us also be purposeful in lacing those painful truths with hope, for stories without hope fail to teach or inspire.
Our stories told in full, are our cries for help, our search for a listening ear, our prayer that those in power will see our humanity in a world that has long ignored its existence. Our stories must be lessons, told in bright or muted colors, even darkest grays – but never without love and hope.
Janis F. Kearney is an Arkansas author, educator and public speaker. Her dual passions include her roles as founder and president of the Celebrate! Maya Project, a nonprofit organization that uses Maya Angelou’s life journey as a blueprint for creating literacy, history and arts projects in Arkansas schools and communities. Janis is also CEO of Writing our World Publishing, a small independent book production company, and cofounder of the Read.Write.Share Writers Weekend, an annual gathering of writers, poets, and other artists who teach, learn and share. This year’s Writers Weekend will be presented in a one-day virtual conference on April 24, 2021. More information on Read.Write.Share. Writers Weekend, and the 2021 artists lineup can be found on the website.