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“Read. Write. Share” Writers Weekend

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Read.Write.Share! Writers Weekend 

Location: Winthrop Rockefeller Institute 1 Rockefeller Dr. Morrilton, AR 7211

About the Writers Weekend…Writing our World Publishing and The Butterfly Publishing House are excited to sponsor the “Read.Write.Share” Writers Weekend for writers on their way to becoming “published authors.”  The weekend promises to be fun, educational and life-changing for those writers seeking to publish in 2016.  We couldn’t be more excited to be a part of new writers’ literary journey – helping ensure their first books are reader-ready, and…memorable.

About the Weekend Session Leaders

Janis F. Kearney is a presidential historian and founder of Writing our World Publishing. She has spent the last 15 years writing, publishing, lecturing and teaching writing. A number of her books have been adopted by schools and colleges around the country, and she has won numerous awards and critical acclaims for her writing and her books.

Iris Williams founded Butterfly Typeface Publishing  House after twenty-five years in corporate America. After interning with a North Carolina Publishing Company, she moved forward in becoming a published author, founding her own publishing company, and an online magazine. Through her company, Iris assists new authors with editing, writing, ghostwriting – and realizing their dreams.

Renee’ La Viness is the Children’s Corner imprint editor at 4RV Publishing. An award-winning author, she has written for magazines, newspapers, and anthologies and has also served as contest judge, acquisitions editor, and lead editor. She founded the Tulsa Area Children’s Book Writers critique group and Designing the World with Words, an editing workshop.

Brittany Reese is an Arkansas State University graduate, with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism -emphasis on Photojournalism, and a master’s in mass communication. She is founder, creator, and visionary of BTR Productions, an all in one production company specializing in photography, social media, and content management. Brittany combines her passion for visuals and communication to provide elements that will resonate social media and traditional media.

 

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About the Weekend Agenda…

  • Authors Manuscript Evaluation - Preregistration required
  • Introductory Session - What You Get from the Weekend

Saturday, April 9, 7:30a.m.-4:30 p.m.

  • Writers Circle hour, networking session connecting participants with writers/ artists;
    •  Checklist for Writers, on their way to becoming Published Authors, an interactive book publishing “prep” session led by publisher and author Janis F. Kearney
    • Fun and simple tips that will give your manuscript the polish to move forward featuring Renee’ La Viness, founder of the Tulsa Area Children’s Book Writers critique group.
  • BeFORE You’re Published: Choosing the Publishing Option that Works for You featuring Iris Williams, founder of Butterfly Typeface Publishing
  • Customizing Promotion/Marketing Plans that Work for You! A discussion and demonstration of creating a social media presence featuring Brittany Reese, founder of BTR Productions.

Ready to register? Visit If you are a part of a writer’s group you get $25 off your registration until April 2! Visit  https://www.eventbrite.com/e/readwriteshare-writers-weekend-tickets-18019963195 today!

** For more information about getting your manuscript reviewed and evaluated, email janis@writingourworldpublishing.com

 

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Read.Write.Share“Read. Write. Share” A Writers Workshop and Book Fair is a one-day writers workshop for authors, writers and any member of the general public interested in learning more about the art of writing, and sharing our unique experiences. Published authors and non-profit groups will also be able to exhibit information, or sell books during the “Book Fair.”

Confirmed Participants: Janis F. Kearney, memoirist, workshop leader; Nichelle Christian, freelance writer, event coordinator; Marla Cantrell, novelist, keynote speaker, panelist; Anita Paddock, novelist, panelist; Quinn Loftis, novelist, panelist; Dawn Bollinger, creative writer, panelist; Cammie Sublette, creative writer, panelist; Linda Seubold, co-publisher, Entertainment Fort Smith Magazine; Doug Kelley, novelist, and Kitty Kline, moderator.

Co-Sponsors:  Writing our World Publishing; Fort Smith Adult Education Center; The Fort Smith Public Library; The Fort Smith Roundtable; The Lincoln Echo Newspaper, UAW Local #9452, and E-Fort Smith Magazine.

When: October 10, 2015, from 8:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Where:  Union Hall, 2107 Brazil Street, Fort Smith, AR  72908

Workshop Structure:   The day is scheduled as follows: 1) Introductory session by workshop coordinator and sponsors, and an overview of the day; 2) A Writers Circle, a networking session that connects writers and artists; 3) “Writing our Lives” Memoir Writing workshop, an interactive session led by WOW! Publishing founder and author Janis F. Kearney,  4) The workshop luncheon featuring  a keynote presentation by “Do South” Magazine managing editor Marla Cantrell, and a panel discussion on the keys to creating memorable characters and crafting stories that “stick to the bone,” 5) The afternoon session – featuring a panel discussion on Keys to “Writing it South,” creating southern characters, southern voices, southern stories, and        6)  “Sharing our Stories,” an opportunity for published authors to make a five-minute presentations on their books. The day will end with a book fair and exhibit.  A portion of the proceeds from the event, will go to a local nonprofit organization impacting children’s lives.

The workshop fee is $35 per participant – participating authors may exhibit and sell books during the book fair, free of charge. The fee for authors attending either the morning or afternoon sessions, only, is $20.00.  The fee for participating in the book fair only, is $20 per table.  Exhibit tables may be set up at 8 a.m.  For more information, contact workshop event coordinator Nichelle Christian at nschristian03@gmail.com , or janis@wowpublishing.org.  

Registration payment can be made via PayPal to kearney_j@sbcglobal.net, with notation of “Writers Workshop.” Registration is limited to the first 50 participants, and closes September 30, 2015. There is a $30 Early bird rate for participants registering by September 15. (Early bird registrants must pre-pay). 

Stay tuned for more details!

Review: “Sundays with TJ: 100 Years of Memories on Varner Road”

From a “traveling man” to a “settled-down man,” Sundays with TJ: 100 Years of Memories from Varner Road, the newest book by Janis E. Kearney, from Writing Our World Press, is not only a delight to read for tjCover_w150the raw power of its prose, but more than that, it gives the reader insight to the story of a remarkable family and how “TJ,” the patriarch of that family used stories, just as Jesus used parables, to “get his points across.”  After reading the book, one wishes that each of the stories had been developed into individual short stories and published as an anthology.  Though life was hard for the Kearney family, they had one thing that many of their friends didn’t have—a stable family life.  The discipline, dignity, perseverance, and belief in themselves as individuals was fostered and greatly encouraged by both parents, but it was TJ’s stories held the children’s interest and made the most lasting impressions, the point of which were turned into life-lessons that have paid great dividends for each of the children.  Mr. T. J. Kearney, a centenarian passing away last year at the age of 107, was a remarkable man in a period of time that was some of the worst for the African-American community in the south.  Through it all, he maintained his dignity and survived, raising a very large family, all of whom are college graduates and are successful themselves.  One can only imagine the delight of sitting at his feet and listening to these stories.  Mr. Kearney probably had not read and may not have known who Aesop was, but he was the modern version of Aesop, spinning tales, some straight-forward, and some “amplified” a bit—it didn’t matter if each and every fact was exactly true. If a small detour from the “truth of the matter” was called for to get his point across, he used it with great deftness.  This is one of those books that one will keep close at hand.  My personal copy has “sticky notes” appended to many of the pages as they were so personal to me, remembering sitting and listening to my Great-Aunt Ellie, who was born before the Civil War and lived until 1954, tell about things that she remembered.  Anyone who is interested in oral history will find this book an excellent choice.  Any public library should certainly obtain this work for its singularity of the individual as a role model, especially in the African-American Community.

Dr. James Pat Craig, Retired

Professor of Medical Informatics and Biomedical Communications

Louisiana State University School of Medicine-Shreveport.

Fatherhood…the Whole World in their Hands

 

Even a dozen of the world’s strongest wild horses could not grandpa_handshave prevented me from writing about fatherhood this year. No, not this year, just six months after the death of my own amazing father, and the deluge of memories his death has brought forth – so many wonderful, funny, sad and bittersweet memories that remind me of his indelible mark on my life.

The only bad thing about having someone like TJ Kearney as a father is that I find myself – unfairly, yes -  measuring all others by his life, his sacrifices, his commitments to his family, children, church and community.  The good thing is that I know without a doubt that good fatherhood has nothing in the world to do with ‘haves,’ in one’s life. One of TJ’s Sunday morning mantras was: “It’s what is inside of us that counts.” He believed that any man with the right stuff inside could be that phenomenal father that guides, shapes and prepares a child for a life of purpose, joy and a sense of giving back.

While there are endless memories I could share in honor of this Father’s Day, there is one particular story that best defines fatherhood, for me.  My father shared this new story with me on a day so much like many others I’d spent with him after returning to Arkansas in 2007. That day, I sat with him on his front porch, talking, laughing, enjoying the summer warmth he loved so much. The trains that passed like clockwork through the small town of Gould each day always brought forth new stories, old memories of his young love affair with trains.

We watched the cars and trucks lumber by, Dad waving back in response to the drivers who sometimes yelled greetings, sometimes softly blowing their horns.   We both enjoyed quiet as much as conversation, and both listened to the birds as they sang. I was always amazed when Dad could actually name the birds by their songs.  TJ Kearney was 105 years old, then. And, it was a wonderful and normal day in most respects, except that it would be seared into my memory – only to resurface now.

I can’t begin to imagine what it was that moved my father to enter a new story into the already large repertoire of stories I’d collected over the years.  But as I recall those many other stories; I know for certain that none of the others symbolize fatherhood like the story he shared that day. It remained in my subconscious, I believe, for a number of reasons. But, most specifically, was the fact that this was yet one more thing I’d not known, though I thought I knew so much.

I had learned the stories of TJ’s own `Papa’, and how as a child young TJ had followed him around like a pup, vowing he would grow up to be that special kind of father. I also knew of his parents’ constant moves through southeast Arkansas – from Lake Village, to Plum Bayou; the painful loss of his father at 11, and the trajectory of his own journeys – jumping trains, hiring out on ships, learning from a stolid Greek restaurateur how to cook Greek food in Chicago; and how to speak Spanish from a pretty Mexican girl out west.

As his children became adults with children of our own, Dad would share his stories with his grandchildren of his and my mother’s early struggles to raise a houseful of children on sharecropper’s earnings that never came until the end of the year- and were always pitifully inadequate for a family as large as ours. Those struggles, I am sure, were the impetuses for my parents’ shared frugality, their habit of creating something out of nothing – patching long-worn out shoes and jeans; creating home-made patterns for the girls’ dresses; making a meal out of bread, molasses and fatback – and working into the late evenings to ensure their spring and summer gardens would take the family through Arkansas’ often-times harsh winters. More importantly, I know it was the motivation for their instilling in us the importance of dreams, hopes, hard work and educational excellence.

I am mildly amused, now, when I read and watch Christmas stories. It is always the mother portrayed as she hurries and worries to ensure Christmas time is special for her children. Not so in the Kearney household. My parents were true partners in most things, including ensuring that Christmases were memorable for their children.  How they scrimped and saved and baked and decorated, all in anticipation of glimpsing the happiness and hope in our small faces on Christmas mornings. And, oh how our faces shone – from little sleep, and anticipation – as we claimed our tin foil pans of fruit, candy and firecrackers…and, when we were lucky, toys.

It wasn’t Christmas, and I was no longer a child when Dad gave me the gift of this new story from his life. He told it in a way that made me know the memory still seared his emotions. In his eyes, I saw, a remaining wonderment about the miracles of life.

TJ Kearney, the poor sharecropper, was in his early 40’s when he’d learned that his baby son was deathly ill, and neither TJ, nor Ethel had any idea of how to make him better. It was on a cold winter day that a young Ethel awoke, looked closely at her whimpering child and hurriedly awakened her husband to share her fear for their child’s life.

As fate would have it, TJ’s 1953 Chevy truck refused to offer even a sound that morning, no matter how hard he prayed – or cursed; and there was no neighbor with a car to come to his aide.

My father vividly described the eight mile walk that seemed like nothing less than 50, on that cold winter morning.  Though he’d more than once walked those miles from Varner Road to Highway 114, and into the small town of Gould; never with the weight of a dying child in his arms, and, that weight was multiplied by my father’s fear.

On that bright summer morning as we sat side by side; Dad remembered that both he and his child had shivered the full eight miles. By the time he arrived at his destination, he couldn’t feel his feet. No one stopped to offer them a ride on that unusually cold Arkansas morning.  Toward the end of his story, my father paused, his handsome face beaming, still, with gratitude for the young white doctor who attended his son and miraculously returned health and life to his small body…and, out of kindness, or wisdom, or both; charged the sharecropper `only what he could afford.’

My brother would have surely died had it not been for the good doctor, and most certainly had TJ Kearney’s commitment to being the best father had not been what it was.  Did he happily make the sacrifices demanded of him that morning? I believe not. But the depth of his investment in being a good father had been, maybe unknowingly, written into his blood.  He had witnessed amazing fatherhood in his own beloved `Papa,’ throughout his childhood.

I can only speak from the memories of a daughter, but my father’s story convinces me that fatherhood is not for the faint of heart, but something that tests men’s ability to transcend beyond their everyday selves. It is a commitment that calls on a larger person than they likely believe they are, and it demands sacrifices they may have never signed on for.

More than ever, our children are in need of those fathers who see beyond today and understand that what they sacrifice today, is an investment in theirs, and their children’s tomorrows. Fatherhood is both an honor, and a responsibility. No child asks to be brought into the world, but it is only fair and honorable that those who play a part in their births, provide them with the nurturing required to survive and, yes… to soar in this world.

Yes, in some very real sense, fathers do hold the world in their hands. I can only hope that, as TJ did on that cold winter day; today’s fathers will regard their precious cargo with that same sense of responsibility, same commitment. The joy, TJ believed, was in knowing you’ve lent a hand to God, helped him create something good, something purposeful… a better world for those who come tomorrow.

____

 

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Ethel at 25

Ethel Virginia Curry Kearney

 

“I Never Sang for my Mother”: A short, Bitter-Sweet Memory

It is Mothers’ Day weekend, and I’ve been turning over in my head how I can honor my mother this year.  Immediately after my first memoir, I began writing pages of memories of my mother. The memories kept coming, and I kept putting them away, telling myself it wasn’t the right time to write about my mother.  I write a lot about my personal experiences – the people in my life, the place in which I grew up, the village that helped shape me into being.   It’s not the only things I write about, but it is what I know best, what I treasure most.

I happen to believe that our earliest relationships impact the rest of our lives more than any other later relationships. If we have the most amazing mother in the world, we spend an inordinate amount of our lives trying to live up to that image of who she was. If she was…human, for want of a better word; we spend most of our adult lives denying that there are any similarities between the two us. Good luck with that one, right?

So, yes, my personal relationship with my Mother was important. And, yes, my parents – most particularly – my mother, impacted my life far more than anyone else in my world.  Even after 32 years, it is still painful to recall the loss of this beautiful, complicated woman from my life.  I still pick up the phone some holidays, smile into it and begin to dial her number. I hang up, recalling the painful reality of her leaving us some three decades ago; too soon, and with so many questions still unanswered.

I hope you enjoy these few memories I chose to share with you. Even more, I sincerely hope that each of you treasure the woman you call Mama, or Mother, or Ma, as much as I treasured mine. And those of you who know the feeling of endless unconditional love for a child…Happy, Happy Mothers’ Day.

  ______

 At nine years old I was certain Mama would live forever…even the scantest hint that this wasn’t true turned my black and white world into something soft and gooey.  A few years later, like most teens old enough to “smell their own piss,” I was on the edge of placing a wedge between Mama and me. I wanted so badly to be that cool teenager who surely loved her mother, but was also bold enough to curse her under my breath, or give her the finger behind her back as I sniggered into my hands. And, it almost happened

Almost…until the unimaginable happened. I woke up one morning and Mama needed me. The Cancer had come, and I was the child she chose to care for her, to help her heal. I was just fifteen years old, but the fleeting thoughts of being a normal teen evaporated on that morning. My mother needed me, and I would be what she needed – not some flighty teenager with insubordinate thoughts or actions.

There was something redeeming in caring for my mother; something humbling, yet empowering on those mornings I tenderly, timidly touched her wounded body in a way that I would never have thought possible; cleaning, then dressing the scars left by the doctors’ knife. As my mother healed, my sense of the daughter I should be became clearer. I never again thought of forging a space between myself and this woman I loved and held in such awe. And, later I would believe that it was nothing short of a benevolent, but angry God that brought such an abrupt end to my desire to be a cool girl. It was Him, I’m guessing, who decided it was time I got on with my trudge toward adulthood.

Falling into adulthood is the best description of how I moved so quickly from childhood into adulthood – something more akin to a second baptism. I left my mothers’ home at 17, still evolving; conflicted by my freedom to become anyone I wanted to be. Just two years later, I returned during spring break, bringing with me a boy I introduced as my future husband – and the future father of the child I carried.

Mama never flinched, never asked how dare I bring shame upon our family. This staunch Christian and pillar of the community embraced this new me, this boy-husband and the child we were bringing into the world. This was yet another realization of the many dimensions to Ethel Virginia Kearney. My rediscovery of mama was an opportunity to forge a friendship I’d always yearned for.  I watched her just days before my wedding, sit at the sewing machine and magically create a beautiful sapphire blue dress out of the home-made patterns she’d cut just hours before. I blushed as she made me try it on to ensure it fell just right over my growing child.  I was entranced by her small, strong hands that even then, were replicas of mine. Her smile said everything I needed to hear. She loved me, in spite of everything.

I realized at that moment that our relationship was now more than mere mother and child. I was something beyond simply one of Miss Ethel’s daughters.  I imagined that with childhood behind me; mama and I could finally, truly share our selves…my future, her past. You see, my mother’s past, the whole unadulterated span of it is what I’d greedily craved for as long as I can remember. I was convinced that it was the looking glass that would foretell my own future, explain who I was, what I could expect to become.

On March 19, 1982, that looking glass shattered. I had only just begun to peek inside, beginning to learn my mother. I was married, a mother and wife, ready to learn all there was to learn about how Ethel came to be the person she was, and how much of her I had inside me.  Again, I had been so close… almost able to peer behind that beautiful, mysterious veil; to read the deep, edgeless eyes.  Until the uninvited guest arrived, unfashionably early; bearing gifts of rest, and tranquility; and my mother’s tired soul accepted.

What I remember most about my mother is her voice; not just her words, but her voice in song. She was not a singer for others. She never sang in a public arena, not even in church do I recall hearing her voice soar above the others.  She sang inside her own home, inside her one space that was truly hers – our kitchen. I never asked, but I am certain that singing gave her joy, and peace and expressed her love , her fears and sadness.  It is the singing that makes me know there are still shards of that mirror I thought had shattered in 1982.  There is nothing that gives expression to my highs and lows in life quite like singing.  Song, for me, is both self-expression and self-exploration. Most importantly, more than anything, singing is the mirror, the connection, that oneness with my mother that I now know, I never lost. Yet.  Oh, how I wish I had sang for my mother, and she to me.

                                                                               ______

For Me…It’s `All About Daisy’ Week

Daisy - Between a Rock and a Hard PlaceThree gold stars for Arkansas on this Daisy Bates Holiday, as we recognize the life and contributions of one of America’s and Arkansas’ premier civil rights leaders. The Daisy Bates Holiday symbolizes a different side to our state, and places Arkansas in a very unique and special category. What’s more…it gives me one more reason to proudly call Arkansas home.

There is no question that Daisy Lee Gatson Bates is deserving of such an honor. Because of that, I continue this week sharing her life story,  her  contributions and her challenges with audiences throughout the state.

Our citizens must be reminded…but, more importantly, our children must know that there was a woman who dared to believe, dared fight, dared challenge the status quo, to ensure that all children receive a fair and equal opportunity to learn, to thrive, to live the American dream.

I am so honored to call Daisy a friend, a mentor, and guide. What a rich life story; what sacrifices for change.  Our youth must never forget that there was such a woman who dared fight for their rights; dared fight to balance the scales of justice – for our children, for us all.

Happy 99th Birthday, Daisy…

Daisy Lee Gatson Bates

 

What do you offer a woman who has seen it all, done it all, risked it all, including her life…and, that of her husband, for that elusive thing called justice?

What do you promise a woman who came into the world because of broken promises;  grew up on unfulfilled promises …yet, chose to fight for all Americans, especially the children…based on promises made so long ago?

Daisy is 99 years old this year. November 11, 1913, to be exact. My small token of love and celebration to her, is to use every ounce of the gifts God endowed me with, to continue her noble fight for the things she held dearest: justice, equality, freedom to be who we choose to be.

Don’t we all owe her that much? Certainly, we owe it to our children and to our future… to  continue to fight for the best America, the best world, the best you and me  we can possibly be.

At 99, this beautiful size-five giant remains my inspiration of what can be…if, only we make it so.

 

Telling Daddy’s Stories…

I’ve always had a short answer for those who ask how and when I began writing. ` I was born to write.’  The truth, however, is that I fell in love with stories well before I figured out that writing would be the vehicle I’d use to share my stories.  The two don’t always go together, you know.  I have met many story tellers who are not writers, but they can step onstage and mesmerize you with their stories – the sad ones, the happy ones, the scary or dramatic ones.  I could never in a million years find the nerves to stand before a crowd with the expectations of serenading them with my voice alone.  Thankfully, no one expects it.  A brief reading will do for me, thank you.

I was very young, not much more than a toddler when my father passed the craft of storytelling on to me.  I remember the magical evenings when Dad would pull up a chair next to the living room heater, and begin to spin his tales.  I can still hear his strong, gravelly voice, and see the twinkle in his eyes as he told his circle of children about a younger T.J. Kearney who loved adventure more than anything in life.

I was absolutely consumed by those stories, and green with envy because I knew no girl would ever be able to jump onto a moving train, walk miles from one city to another; or stand around a fire at night with just a barrel of burning paper to keep them warm.   I imagined my father; a young man full of energy and inquisitiveness going places I knew I’d never be able to go. By the time I was seven years old, my hands were itching to document some of the stories my Dad shared, and even to create some of my own. Back then, the only way I could write a story was to close my eyes and hear Daddy’s voice telling it; then, hold my no. 2 pencil tight in my hands as I scribbled out a story about the man and the train ride.

I never thought of it as writing back then, but story telling; about sharing, not just putting words on paper; but making readers see what I saw or what I imagined.  When I was a little older I even set some of my stories into plays, and forced my younger siblings to act out the story.  I laugh now when I think that I elected myself writer, producer and director of those masterpieces!

My love for writing is incomparable to anything else I’ve done in life, and now that I’ve made it my life…there is nothing that could tear me away. I have Dad to thank for that, his life, his stories…his sharing his stories so many years ago.

______

Janis F. Kearney is founding publisher of Writing our World Publishing, LLC, and author of five books, including Cotton Field of Dreams: A Memoir,, Daisy: Between a Rock and a Hard Place, her most recent book; and, her next book, due out fall 2013: Sundays with TJ: 100 Years of Memories on Varner Road, which chronicles the amazing life and experiences of 107-year old TJ Kearney, of Gould, Arkansas.  More about the author and her books, can be found at www.writingourworldpress.com; on her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/SundaysWithTJ . Or, you can also follow her on twitter: @kearney99496735

Happy Birthday Daisy, Arkansas’ Size-Five Giant!!

It’s November 11, 2012. I have been working very hard for the last six months to complete a book on my mentor and friend Daisy Gatson Bates.  Daisy: Between a Rock and a Hard Place, is a book that celebrates Daisy’s life, and educates those in the world who
know little about her.

Unfortunately, I have been so intent on completing this book that I almost let her birthday pass without acknowledgement. Daisy would not be amused. She would be 98 years old.  She passed into the otherworld on November 4, 1999. She was 84, just days from turning 85.

Daisy told my father once that her very favorite dessert was caramel cake. That, after my father told her that caramel cake was what he loved to cook more than any other.  If she were alive today, I would bake a caramel cake and place one candle on top, and sing “Happy Birthday” as I placed it before her. All, to see Daisy’s eyes twinkle with glee, and the million-dollar smile that dazzled so many for 84 years.

The Huttig, Arkansas orphan surely never dreamed her life would take the turn it did, or that she would one day be dubbed a world-renowned leader, thanks to her heroic role in
the 1957 Central High Crisis.  What a heavy burden for the tiny woman with the electric smile, and an aura that lit up any room she graced.  Both sophisticated and naïve, Daisy Bates was more astute than intellectual… an astute life observer, a woman with cat-like instincts. Growing up motherless in the lumber mill town of Huttig, her instincts would have surely served her well.

A child orphan raised in a boarding house surely never imagined her star would rise so high, or that the lime lights would for a time enshroud her. What is for certain is that once Daisy found herself inside that bubble…she knew how to make the most of it.   Her excellent timing would also serve her well throughout life.

On this November 11, 2012, I am reminded that knowing Daisy is one of the
blessings of a lifetime – this woman who had a special place in her heart for
the children of the world; this woman, who dared to change the world, and
succeeded in helping change the landscape of civil rights in America.  Happy Birthday my friend;` my mentor. Thank you for daring.
Former journalist, and author Janis F. Kearney’s new book debuts January 2013. Daisy: Between a Rock and a Hard Place transforms civil rights legend Daisy Gatson Bates’ life from black and white, to living color.  The author “fills in” places left un-filled, and colors incidents and experiences, to bring Daisy Bates to life. Kearney plums the mysterious murder of Bates’ mother, and the orphan’s childhood; the young woman’s prophetic decision to share a traveling salesman’s life; her non-traditional role as co-publisher of an award winning newspaper; her leadership role at a time, and place where women rarely led, and her most prominent role as the face and voice of the 1957 Central High School Integration Crisis.  For more information
about the author’s other books, go to
www.writingourworldpress.com

I Am Gould

It’s a small dot `just thirty minutes south of Pine Bluff, and about an hour from the Louisiana line.’ There were always corny jokes like that. Or another one I heard over the years, `if you dare blink your eyes you’ll find yourself in the next town, or maybe inside Cummins Prison farm.’ This was how my hometown was described back in the day…the good old days, before the political wrangling and violence began.

Back then, I snickered right along with others at the self-deprecating jokes, even after I realized we were really only trying to beat outsiders to the punch of laughing at our small town. Petticoat Junction, Arkansas, some called it. Back then, we didn’t self-analyze about why it was we’d denigrate the town’s rich history, and good people. Sometimes, if the jokes became more than I could stomach, I’d half-heartedly redeem myself with some weak retort, like: “You may be right, but, it’s my Petticoat Junction…and, always will be.”

Most recently, though, my heart has gone back and forth between that childish pride and an adult disgrace as I’ve watched my little town bare its tattered underwear for the world to see. My weak refrain of yesterday hasn’t disappeared. In fact, today it is a purposeful, thoughtful position; a genuine, and unconditional pride in my past and the place I call home. Gould remains my little town. It is who I am, my place of birth, my childhood, my coming of age through the 50s and 60s; that place where years of living and sharing, engraved something deep and permanent inside my heart. A love that I’ve never been able to recreate in other cities …even the most exciting and exotic ones I called home for a while.

The truth is, I’ve spent much more time in the small town of Gould as an adult than I ever did growing up. I’m not counting the hours I toiled under the eagle eyes of my teachers at Fields Elementary and Gould High school, or the more enjoyable times on the football field, or gym floors cheering the Gould High Panthers on. The balance of my childhood, though, was spent out on Varner Road – five miles outside the city proper. There, I learned the real life lessons – just how long cotton rows can be; just how unwieldy my dreams could get, and how scary Revelations was when the pastor preached on Sunday evenings. Gould, and Varner Road taught me the values that remain with me today- that hard work, family, education and faith are the foundations for life. And, that you never turn your back on the person or the place that helped make you.

Certainly, mine and my siblings’ childhoods were different from most of the “town” kids. But, surely, ours were not the only parents to instill the invaluable life lessons. Gould was home to all of us, even if we dreamed of being somewhere else when we became adults. I vividly recall that a number of my classmates spent summers “away;” in Chicago, Detroit, even California and St. Louis! Their return from their travels in September was almost as exciting for me as my leaving the cotton fields and returning to school.

I lived vicariously through those lucky students’ summer experiences, excitedly listening as they shared those awesome experiences with the unlucky ones like me. I’d later notice that it was these very same summer travelers who bragged to visitors that they weren’t really born in Gould; that they were actually from Chicago or St. Louis, or Milwaukee. They weren’t country, like the rest of us.

The insinuation, of course, was that small, rural towns were naturally backward, even embarrassing; and that cities like Chicago and Milwaukee were not only bigger, but better.
Even then, my pride in my small town of Gould remained intact. In spite of how exciting my classmates’ travels were, what I treasured most was my feeling of security in this small world of mine, and the people who made Gould what it was to me. 

Now, even as I cringe at the television pundits, the newspaper articles and radio jokes in response to the bad politics playing out in my home town; I am no less proud of the Gould that helped shape me, helped propel me to the place and person I am today. Even, my anger and incredulity at the sad undertakings won’t make me disown, or turn my back, or change what I feel for my town.

I am not an apologist for the city of Gould. I do not apologize for its past, or excuse the more recent political shenanigans, or shameless violence. And, as one who has proudly cast my lot as a native of the small town…the face it has shown the world these last few months is almost enough to make me want to hide my head in shame, almost…but my past, and my memories won’t allow it.

I am Gould. The small town runs deep in my veins and in my heart, and was part of the endless dreams of my childhood, and who I was all those years before I left for college and found my niche in life. And, because of this…because of that history, and that knowledge, no five or ten, or 15 people in my hometown can change what I know, what I hold dear…that place in my heart.

It is the memory of the people of Gould, those who shared my experiences, and helped shape my destiny that hold fast. The recent death of two educational icons, who gave so much to the families and the children of Gould, reminds me as much as anything, of what Gould was for youngsters like me. A.C. Johnson and his beautiful wife, Frances, came to Gould as strangers, in the 50’s; but left some decade later as much a part of the fabric of the town as any of us born there. Like so many others, they brought with them a pure heart and good intentions, seeing something worth staying for. And, in return, they made a world of difference in the city’s landscape. It is that history that tell me that Gould must survive this bad turn.

I am Gould…and, no small-town political warfare can erase what I remember about my home. Memories of parents like TJ and Ethel Kearney who toiled and sacrificed to make their 19 children productive human beings; of Rosie Jones, that wonderful young teacher who enhanced my already budding love of reading and books; of Pat Craig, the kind instructor at the “white school” who believed that the color of mine and my sister’s skin weren’t natural deterrents to our learning; or Melvin Caldwell, who nurtured my love of history that began at my father’s knee; or Pat Failla, whose humor and intellect stretched my mind as he taught the elements of science and chemistry…and, how life was different, and the same, on the other side of the tracks. But, this list is only a fraction of the people who touched our lives, and reshaped our futures and made Gould what it is to people like me. These people, and my memories of those times, allow me to love Gould, unconditionally… even with these most painful recent events.

And, lest we forget… we must not forget that history is an unyielding teacher. That part of our lives we fail to address and resolve, in time, returns to haunt us; always finding a way to rear its ugly head. Gould, like so many other small rural towns, is a victim of its history and past; a product of centuries of missed opportunities. A town stifled by what should have been, and by its refusal to change when change was inevitable.

Now, today, it is a town yearning to grow out of its past, wrestling with the insidious scars left decades before – racism and oppression and hopelessness that infiltrated so many other small southern towns, propelling the great migration, bringing the era of King Cotton to an end, hurrying the demise of communities, commerce, and quality education. What city can prosper and grow without these basic values?

While our pasts do not oblige us to forget the meaning of democracy or disregard the law, the unadulterated truth is that Gould is much, much more than what the world witnessed these last months. As a daughter of the Arkansas Delta, and of the town whose image has suffered, I implore those looking in from the outside to remember: Gould is made up of real people, real families, and a rich history mixed with both good and bad that predates the recent news stories. It is a town with promise and possibility, and one that –with any luck, and lots of hard work–will see itself out of this recent shameful period. I believe in that possibility because I am a product of its past.

I am Gould, still proud, and ever hopeful.

                                                        _____

Janis F. Kearney is a native of Gould, Arkansas. She is founder and publisher of Writing our World Publishing, an Arkansas-based micropublishing company, and author of five books, including Cotton Field of Dreams: A Memoir, an historical perspective of Gould, and a narrative on hers and her family’s extraordinary lives as cotton sharecroppers. The author and publisher purchased the Arkansas State Press Newspaper from Daisy Gatson Bates, in 1988. She also served as Personal Diarist to President William Jefferson Clinton from 1995-2001.