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Jonesborough – 2013

October 3, 2013

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Jonesborough – 2013

Almost twenty years ago, I landed in Jonesborough, Tennessee. Several months later, I joined the Jonesborough Storytelling Guild – and launched my sixth career. Storytelling seemed the perfect way to use all of my experiences as a teacher, trainer, international development specialist, etc. For four years, I watched the little town of Jonesborough come alive in preparation for the National Storytelling Festival – and now I was doing it again.

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Flags and bunting were already up and the spaces cleared, blocked off, and ready for the big tents. Merchants were putting the finishing touches on displays; I stopped in at “The Appalachian Crafters” and looked over some lovely handmade work. On the courthouse steps, I watched a farmer and his wife grab piles of cornstalks and tie them onto the antique lampposts.

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I dropped by the International Storytelling Center. It’s a handsome building devoted to storytelling. Teller photos – and quotes (wonderful quotes!) –adorn the walls. The auditorium is small, but very attractive and well equipped. I was to tell there that evening…. I was bringing “Rebecca”, my one woman show, back… to my storytelling home.

Two years ago, I won a grant from our national storytelling organization, the National Storytelling Network (NSN) called the Huebner Grant. The grant had allowed me to do specialized historical research for “Rebecca”. The grant was funded by the Jonesborough Storytelling Guild and named for a former Guild member and dear friend, Carole Ann Huebner. I vividly remember the day I received the grant – because I burst into tears.

Carole Ann and her husband, Jack, had been vital supporters in those hard, early days as I struggled to learn my craft. I remember, more than once, railing at Carole Anne, “That’s it! I quit! I will never learn how to do this!! I’m going back to something I know how to do!!!” She just looked at me and said quietly, “No, you won’t. You’re a storyteller… like it or not…so, get on with it.”

And that evening, I was going to perform an excerpt of the story the Guild had funded at their weekly telling at the Center in memory of Carole Anne.  

As the audience filed in, I began remembering so many weekly tellings here in Jonesborough: at Dillworth’s Diner, The Wedding Loft, local churches. Gradually, sometimes painfully, over the weeks and months and years, I had learned how to be a storyteller. As I scanned the faces, I saw a few old friends. Now… it was time to make some new ones.

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Later, as I stepped out into the soft Tennessee air, the glow from those antique streetlights once again worked their magic; Main Street was transformed back in time. I could almost hear Carole Anne’s husky laugh and see the smoke from her cigarette spiraling into the air. Somehow, she was there… in the mist… beyond the trees. I whispered a soft “Thank You”.

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