JANET GRACE RIEHL calls herself a country girl who roamed the world, then followed her heart back home.

A seasoned writer, artist, musician, and storyteller, Janet defies the stereotype of a down-home, heartland gal. Her travels have taken her across Africa, Asia, and Latin America, where she initiated and directed development projects, provided training, and taught. Her cross-cultural focus continued upon her return to the U.S. in her work with Native American pueblos, inner-city African Americans, Latinos, and—perhaps most foreign of all—the California computer industry. Janet was also the recipient of a three-year leadership fellowship in international development from the Kellogg Foundation.

Sightlines: A Poet’s Diary is Janet’s family love story, a remembrance narrated in story poems that traverses the boundaries of life and death. In the words of one reviewer, the collection offers “village wisdom for the 21st century.” Sightlines won an honorable mention in the 2007 DIY (Do It Yourself) festival.

Janet’s writing has also been published in numerous literary venues including the Harvard Review, Cream City Review, and the International Poetry Review. Hot Flashes: More Sexy Little Poems and Stories is one of three publications where her work has been anthologized. She was twice selected as finalist for Poet Laureate of Lake County, California.

Writing is the backbone but not the complete body of Janet’s creative life. In 1990 she mounted “Celebrating an African Experience,” a full-scale visual art exhibit incorporating large-scale paintings on cloth, creative writing, chants, songs, dances, and ceremonies. The enthusiastic reception spurred her to earn a BFA from the California College of Arts and Crafts. Janet was subsequently awarded an Artist in Bioregional residence from the University of California at Davis.

With her father in his 90s, Janet returned to the Midwest in 2007.  After her father’s death in 2015 she settled on the home place her ancestors founded in the 1860s. In southwest Illinois, it sits high on a bluff above the Mississippi River. A return to her roots has re-stimulated Janet’s writing beyond professional and literary journal writing. Poetry, memoir, short stories—all are genres she has embraced.

Further exploration of new arenas led to the publication of an audiobook “Sightlines: A Family Love Story in Poetry and Music.” A companion piece to Sightlines: A Poet’s Diary, music from her father’s parlor and his jokes and stories anchor the original poems in their time and place. Her audio book won an honorable mention from the San Francisco Book Festival in the audio/spoken word category.

Africa and the Midwest. Visual, written, and performance arts. The intimate and the public. The woven strands secure Janet’s heart so that she may follow it no matter its destination.