There is power in the written word, Janis Kearney, lecturer, author and founder of Writing our World Publishing, said. People sometimes better express themselves through writing. What better way to help people deal with the problem of bullying than to have them write about it and express themselves, Kearney said.
The title of the 2017 writing workshop for adults only, sponsored by the Janis F. Kearney Writers Group, is “Bully Prevention … Talk About It … Write About It!” The workshop is scheduled from 10 a.m. to noon Sept. 16 at Girls Inc., 1415 Old Greenwood Road in Fort Smith.
Nichelle Christian, president of the writers group, said she started the read, write and share workshops in 2015 after she met Kearney. After the 2015 workshop was a success, she pursued starting a writers group, and the group currently has 11 active members in the community, she said.
For the 2017 workshop, Christian said she wanted the writers group to offer the workshops as a gift to the community because bullying is a big problem right now. She wanted to connect creative writing with the community, she said.
Christian had met Kearney after Kearney’s dad had been stranded on the highway during triple digit temperatures and Christian’s mom, concerned because of the high temperature, had stopped to assist. The chance meeting developed into a long-term friendship between Kearney’s dad and Christian’s parents, Christian said.
When the American Democracy Project, of which Christian was a member, was preparing for Constitution Day in 2015, Christian contacted Janis Kearney. Christian said she had learned through her parents’ acquaintance with Mr. Kearney that the younger Kearney had worked as a presidential diarist to President Bill Clinton.
Christian said she reached out to Kearney, who agreed to participate in the Constitution Day events, the two remained in contact afterward, and consequently, the writers group Christian and her husband, Tracy, later co-founded was named in Kearney’s honor.
Kearney spoke at both the 2015 and 2016 writers workshops, and she is scheduled once again for this year's event, Christian said. It is wonderful to have an icon like her, someone of her caliber, to speak at the workshop, Christian said.
The workshop, according to an event flyer, is designed for adults “who love to write and enjoy expressing themselves creatively.” Workshop leaders, Iris M. Williams, with the Butterfly Typeface Publishing Co., and Kearney “will lead attendees through a writing session and explain the road towards publication,” according to the flyer.
Williams is interested in guiding writers to take their writing to publication, Christian said. She and Kearney will share with attendees about the writing process.
Ila DeBose, a licensed social worker and assistant director of field education for the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith, will serve as the keynote speaker and workshop facilitator, and she will discuss the issue of bullying, the flyer states. She has been working in mental health with youth and adults for nearly 25 years.
Teen author Miracle Jones was bullied. She was allowed to express herself through creative writing and now has a published book, "Anmir, Different." Jones will read from her book and answer questions from the audience. Willliams will share about guiding Jones through the process to publication, Christian said.
Anyone interested in becoming a writer is encouraged to attend the workshop, Christian said. Participants will be coached through the process of being published, she said.
Very shy and introverted, Kearney said writing helped her a lot and gave her confidence. That is what they want from the workshop for people today, she said.
The workshop allows people to create a conversation, Christian said. They may develop something to share with their parents they have never shared before, she said. Whether an advocate or not against bullying, they would be encouraged to write about their experiences, she said.
The annual workshops have been mostly memoir writing, Kearney said. People like to come to the workshops and record their memories. Attendees will then be helped with techniques, and examples will be provided, she said.
The event will conclude with a book signing by the authors, according to the flyer.
Kearney said this is the first of the bullying workshops, and she thinks it is a very important event. It is such a real thing for people as they work to get past and not just deal with bullying if they are experiencing it, she said.
Amanda Daniels at Girls Inc. agreed to partner with the writers group and has allowed the writers group to host the event there, Christian said. It is a good partnership and for a good cause.
"I just appreciate how generous they have been," Christian said. Students are learning to express themselves creatively, they are gaining knowledge, and they are becoming advocates for themselves and/or others regarding the issue of bullying, she said.
This article has been updated to reflect the writing workshop being open to adults only.