WHY? Janna publishes the literary magazine, Under the Gum Tree and she co-founded the True Story, an open mic non-fiction reading series. She helped found the Urban Hive and ThinkHouse Collective, the latter of which she’s managed with her husband for several years. She is an ardent proponent of Sacramento’s creative class. In addition to all that she does, she is a strong woman who encourages other women to share their stories with each other. She practices what she preaches by sharing her journey with M.S. since her diagnosis just over a year ago.
BETCHA’ DIDN’T KNOW:
–3 WORDS THAT DESCRIBE SACRAMENTO? Creative, loyal and scrappy (in the best way possible).
–FAVE LOCAL CAUSE? Fit For Girls. This nonprofit provides after-school nutrition and workout programs for middle school girls and trains them to run their first ever 5K. On race day the girls are paired with a Sole Sister, an adult running partner. As someone who believes strongly that it’s essential for women to find their voice and the courage to share it, I have seen first hand the positive effect that FFG has on the young women it serves. FFG reaches girls at a critical age, teaching them how to care for themselves and how to be comfortable with who they are. (Full disclosure: I am on the FFG board of directors.)
–WHICH SACRAMENTO WOMAN INSPIRES YOU? Does Maria Shriver still count as a Sacramento woman? When she first came to Sacramento, I read an interview that she had done in Sacramento Magazine. I remember that she said something about since she comes form such a political family she intentionally choose a husband who wasn’t in politics—then when Schwarzenegger was elected as governor, her reaction was something like “oh, well, I tried!” To me, it was such a graceful response and demonstrated a lot of wisdom, because you can’t always control your life path or the life path of your partner. She also talked about maintaining an identity of her own by perusing projects that she’s passionate about, like while she was in Sacramento her involvement with the California Museum, and I was so impressed and inspired to see a woman in such a prominent position, married to a man with a very distinct persona and media presence, who didn’t let that shadow keep her form doing what she wanted to do—and she never talked about her husband as someone who overshadows her. She truly is an example of a strong, independent and powerful woman.
–WHAT DO YOU WANT TO SEE IN SACRAMENTO IN 5 YEARS? A new arena? Yes! Roof top bars? Yes! Beyond that, since I’m immersed in the city’s writing and literary landscape, I would love to see a large-scale writing and literary conference of some sort. There is one at the end of May that ARC puts on and it’s great. I think what I envision is something that really encompasses all things that make up storytelling, creativity and literature, which is more than just writing. My passion is to bring storytellers of all sorts together—there really is a magic that happens when people share stories, and not everyone who has a story to tell identifies as a writer, per se.
–FAVORITE SACRAMENTO “GUILTY PLEASURE”? This is a hard question—it’s a toss up between Jared’s margaritas at Tres Hermanas and a European-style dinner of tapas and a glass of wine at 9 p.m., sitting at the bar at Aioli.
–IF I WASN’T IN MY CURRENT CAREER… I’d probably be teaching full-time. If I didn’t have the personality to sustain the riskiness of freelancing and being self-employed, teaching and being part of an academic community at a college campus is the secure job that would make me feel connected to all the things I love: words, writing, literature, collaboration, community, creativity and learning.
–LADY MENTOR GROWING UP? My Omi, who is my mom’s mom. She grew up in Frankfurt, Germany during World War II, married an American soldier after the war and moved to America in 1954. I grew up listening to her tell stories about getting sent out to the country with her sister during the war to find safety from air strikes, about learning English while she worked as a housekeeper for Americans, about standing for hours with her arm at the Nazi salute while waiting for Hitler to parade through town, and about not knowing where to get water (from the out door pump) once she found herself transported from city life in Frankfurt to farm life in rural Ohio with an 18-month-old daughter. She’s 86 years old today and she still inspires me.
–BEST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU’VE EVER RECEIVED? It’s not selfish to take care of yourself. Taking time for ourself is something I think most women struggle with—we feel like we have to take care of everything and everyone else, then if there is time left we can sit down and maybe even indulge. But since being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in June 2012, and making the decision to not take drugs, I have learned that I cannot feel guilty about taking care of myself first. It is the only way I can contribute and even begin to think about taking care of others.
–ONE PIECE OF ADVICE YOU’D GIVE TO A SACRAMENTO WOMAN IN HER 20’S? Instead of complaining about what Sacramento isn’t, contribute to making the city what you want it to be. Sacramento doesn’t have fill-in-the-blank? Well then, do something about it.