Professional Storyteller

Share a Story - Change the World

The 29th of this month marks an interesting anniversary – the passing of JJ Reneaux. She died on February 29th in 2000. Twelve years have passed since I have physically heard her rich, melodic voice, yet still I hear her in my heart. However, there are many who have come to our community within the past decade that have never had such a blessing.


It begs the question, what are we doing to honor the voices of those who have passed on? Or, more specifically, how do we intend to keep their stories vibrant and alive? Is there an accepted path? Should there be? If we fail to discuss the options do we fail to honor the voices we have lost?


The 2012 NSN conference promises to address the discussion in part. The theme, “A Conference to Remember” carries a dual meaning and intends to “to honor all our storytelling heroes who have passed on as well as one focused on our learning for the future.” The workshops promise to address some specific aspects of this topic. However, for me, there is a discussion brewing we still need to have if we are truly to learn for the future. I know full well this may be a hot topic. But discussion fuels thought, which breeds opinion, thus calls for action. Bring it on.


I have often reflected on the origin of folktales. We revere and share them because they have withstood the test of time. Personal narrative may never reach such a status. Though, I can’t help but wonder if personal narrative is not the nursery wherein all folktales began? Who can know whether my personal narrative of today will not evolve into a folktale of tomorrow? Who’s to say that’s not the way it was when story first graced the earth? And if that is the case, have we somehow handicapped the ebb and flow of story in a media driven world?


In ancient times there was a natural flow of story from storyteller to storyteller. Stories were not owned or captured; they were shared, embraced, reflected upon, retold, and refashioned in the voice of the next storyteller. The technology of our day may have literally retarded that process. While I would never suggest that the personal narrative of someone who is still with us should be overtaken by such a process, I do have to pause and wonder if the personal narratives and signature tales of those who have passed on should be assimilated through such a process?


Should the tales of those who have left us be shared only in mimicry of how we heard them from their lips? Is there ever a time when it’s appropriate to pass them on for reinterpretation and discovery? Do we honor those silent voices by keeping their stories under glass for inspection or do we honor them best by lifting the lid and setting the stories free?


On any given day I could argue this either way. My views are not yet solidified, but I would love to have the discussion. What do you think?

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