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Kristen Gentry: Why I Write

I’m not going to lie or sugarcoat, writing is hard sometimes. More times than I’d like. More times than I’d like to admit even without the sugarcoating. Sometimes the words are trapped somewhere I can’t reach and I wonder why I’ve decided to dedicate my life to writing. Inevitably, I’ll be walking my dogs and hear a white male driver throw a racist, sexist slur at a black woman or witnessing dirty looks cast upon participants in the Pride Parade or watching a news story about immigrant families separated at the Mexican border and will be reminded why word, stories matter.

Words can hurt, but they can also heal. Stories allow us to shadow people we wouldn’t in real life. They make us feel, offer opportunity to sympathize, empathize, understand. This understanding can make the angry driver pause before speaking, cause the judgmental parade passerby regret their dirty look, prompt the viewer who once left the broken families on their TV screen blurring to white noise to join a local protest. This is one of the many reasons why I write. It keeps me returning to the desk when the words are elusive, when I’ve skipped days writing because what’s happening in the world to people who look like me–and people who don’t–leaves me sad and spent. It’s also one of the reasons why I’m excited to teach the SummerWrite Write for Right: A Social Justice Workshop. The workshop commemorates the life of Geneseo High School student Claire Allen, a dedicated social justice advocate.

In Write for Right, we will discuss relevant and urgent social justice issues affecting local, national, and global communities, study short stories that address those issues, and help one another write stories that illuminate the realities of those issues. The work will culminate in a public reading at Wadsworth Library to raise awareness and stir discussion about these issues. These stories can heal. They can create connection. They can be the change we want to see in this world.