I was working my way through the morning email backlog this morning. It had me wondering why I subject myself through all of the miscellaneous newsletters I have subscribed to. That’s when I was reminded what attracted me in the first place. It was a little jewel hidden in Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion Newsletter…
I’m not a storyteller, Stella, but I impersonate one and that is almost as good. Storytelling is an intimate art, practiced between people who know each other well, and I’ve known some great ones, a sculptor named Joe O’Connell and my great-uncle Lew Powell and the late Chet Atkins. Chet was a true storyteller. He blanched at the thought of doing it onstage, but when he drove you around in his pickup truck, he’d tell a whole string of stories, some of them ribald, about Nashville stars and he’d imitated their voices beautifully and he embroidered the stories beautifully and, listening to him, I just sat and laughed and wished we’d drive forever. I don’t have that gift. What I do have is chutzpah, to stand up in front of an audience and take them into my confidence and try to tell a story, which often as not turns into an essay instead. But sometimes it hits on all two cylinders. I started out, as you did, writing lofty things and then, out of curiosity, got started as a performer, and that, as you know, is a whole other game. The difference between high lit and performance is that high-lit writers can imagine that their readers are as fascinated as they are. In performance, you can see the audience and that is a sobering sight. There is nothing so scary as seeing an audience look off toward the wings, hoping that someone else comes out soon and does something interesting.
Reading Garrison’s answer crystallized in my mind the commonality of the newsletters I subscribe to, the blogs I read, even a lot of the books I add to my library…It’s the stories woven by the working wordsmiths, both pro amd amateur. Just this week I’ve seen stories from Andy Giffin of Marquita Farm, Burr Morse out of Vermont, Christopher Kimball from America’s Test Kitchen, as well as the Garrison piece above. All of these newsletters caught my attention when I stumbled on stories by the authors. Hell, I subscribed to COOK’S ILLUSTRATED just to read the Editor’s page each issue. Though admittedly, I’ve become a better cook in the process.
It was the storytelling that got me interested in blogs to begin with. It was when I was searhing the internet back in 2004 for more info and pictures from the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina that I discovered Marie Freeman’s Blue Ridge blog. I will admit I started visiting regularly for the images of the mountains I had started to love. Along the way I fell in love with the stories that accompanied the images…It’s been almost six years now and I still can’t get enough of both.
My evolution as a lover of the personal stories told in blog and email led from that beginning search. And the connections from one blog and new friend (for if Garrison is right, you have to befriend in order to practice the intimate art) to another. Marie led to Fred, Fred led to Colleen, Colleen led to Patry, Patry led to Elizabeth…Along the way I added many others to my daily list…But each and every one is, in one way or another, a storyteller.
Once in a great while I get lucky and manage to string together the right words in the right order to tell a story of my own…I don’t imagine its worth trying to winnow the chaff from the few gems in my backstory. But I’ll keep trying to hit my head on that hammer of inspiration. Hopefully, life won’t hold the hammer too high above my head…
Here’s hoping for a long run of new stories…and new storytellers.
- A Slow Road Reader (coffeemuses.com)