Janis Kearney held the position of official White House Diarist to President Bill Clinton during his presidency. She's also the author of two books, Cotton Field of Dreams: a Memoir and Conversations: William Jefferson Clinton, From Hope to Harlem.
In 2004 she established Writing Our World Press, an independent publishing house headquartered in Chicago. Writing Our World specializes in biography, non-fiction, fiction, children's, women's and southern literature. Its mission is to publish 1-3 quality titles per year.
LG: Who were your influences, growing up? What shaped you into the person you are today?
JK: My parents - James and Ethel Kearney, and my fourth grade teacher - Rosie Jones were probably the greatest influences in my early childhood - and most responsible for shaping my decision to become a writer.
LG: What were your favorite books as a child? Was reading always important to you?
JK: My favorite books were A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and The Diary of Anne Frank. Reading has always been very important to me...a way of survival through my childhood.
LG: Did a public library play a role in your early life?
JK: The fact that during the pre-civil right years of my childhood, there was no public library available to black children in Gould, Arkansas played a HUGE role in increasing my hunger for books.
LG: Did you always want to be a writer, growing up, or was there some point at which you changed course?
JK: For as long as I can remember. My love for writing began very early at my father's knee, nurtured by his amazing story-telling skills.
LG: What was your work week like as official diarist to President Clinton? Did you have the opportunity to explore other interests while you were in that post?
JK: As a Diarist, my week sometimes included the weekends. My day consisted of attending presidential meetings, traveling infrequently, and transferring notes I'd taken from my observations onto the dedicated computer which held my "diary."
Our days began before 7 a.m., and could last as late as 9 or 10 p.m. While it always seems that my work was all-consuming, I did attend book publishing classes some nights during my time in D.C.
LG: We all know President Clinton's image as a public figure. How was he different as a private citizen? Is there anything we may be surprised to know about him?
JK: He was much the same all the time. He was brilliant, had a great sense of humor, was compassionate, and full of interesting stories. He had a wide range of friends from all walks of life, all ethnicities and varied interests.
LG: Was there a stand-out experience that happened to you, or around you, while you were the presidential diarist? Anything that profoundly changed or impressed you?
JK: I always point to my opportunity to meet S. African President Mandela, and my trip with President Clinton to Africa as the two most profound events during his presidency. Many amazing events took place, but none touched me so profoundly.
LG: What is the focus of Writing Our World Press? If you could describe it in a few words, what is its mission statement?
JK: Writing our World Press is a small publishing house headquartered in Chicago. Our mission is to introduce new, and little-recognized voices to the literary community. While currently, there are only two authors on our list - within the next five years, readers can look forward to an increased number of new authors and genres...including fiction and children's books.
LG: What projects are you working on now? What's next for you?
JK: I am working on three book projects to be released in 2008: a sequel to my Memoir, Cotton Field of Dreams; an historical fictional based on a real murder case; and a new author, whose book is nonfiction .
LG: What contemporary writers do you enjoy reading? Is there anything you'd recommend?
JK: I love Ernest Gaines, Edwidge Danticat, Anita Diamant, John Irving...just to name a few. My favorite recent book and one I highly recommend was The Last Days of Dogtown, by Anita Diamant
LG: Finally, do you have a favorite quote, or saying, that sums up your philosophy on life?
JK: To paraphrase one author: "Each day is a gift...it is up to each of us to untie the bow."
Thank you to Ms. Kearney for her generosity in taking the time to answer my questions.