What a delightful surprise. When Susan O'Connor from the ISC wrote to me to invite me to tell at the Exchange Place - I had to read the email twice - I was that stunned. Yes! I would be honored to come and perform at the 41st National Storytelling Festival on OCT 4th 2013.
Although a storyteller for 20+ years this was my first opportunity to come to the National Storytelling Festival. - As a mother of 4 and an independent artist (aka living in splendid penury) I never could pull it off. But a paid gig plus a gig to pay for the gig got me there - literally.
Well...it was a long weekend. When we arrived in Jonesboro it was dark and I had missed the welcoming dinner and the sound check at the tent. This turned out to be more problematic than I thought. We'd been in transit since quarter of four on Thursday a.m. and let me say how wonderful it is to have a friend like Carolyn Stearns to do a road trip like this. Although we did fly most of the way we drove from the airport in Atlanta to a private school where I had three presentations and a 3 o'clock book signing. So we hopped in the car a bit late to drive what I thought was 4 hours to Jonesboro Tennessee. Carolyn did a lion share of the driving as I got very very sleepy but never completely fell asleep. We were stuck in some massive traffic and realized there and then that it is in fact + six hours from Atlanta to Jonesboro not 4 hours. Especially when you drive through Chattanooga and Knoxville. Having missed dinner and unable to find the church on Main Street ( there are more than a few churches) we checked into the hotel and then were looking for some refreshment. God Bless America! In Tokyo, Paris or London, could hungry travelers, at 10:30pm just waltz across an interstate to a Shell station and buy salted peanuts and a quart of beer? I think not! But once we got to meet up with the Festival staff, all the people around us were incredibly friendly, helpful and caring. And, there was nothing but fabulous storytelling surrounding us at every moment - on the street, in the lobby, at the breakfast table - just everywhere.
I had a 12 minute slot and Exchange Place which is everything they advertise it to be – and more. It is a revered tradition and thousands of people listen to your stories and they do send you lots of love! I had told the producers back in July that I would be telling a story inside a story and it was really the story of how I became a storyteller. Although I had no time to rehearse the parts that I knew I wanted to put together, in fact I had been telling these stories for decades. I really wanted to do what I told them I would do and to keep to the 12 minute time limit. Mainly because I wanted to do that kind of mash-up story that showed I could tell both traditional and contemporary 1st person tales. So, I used most of Friday to time and rehearse and time and rehearse over and over again.
You might logically think that the state I was in was Tennessee but on Friday, mostly I was in a state of Terror-fication. It was way too late to explain to people who had hired me that I wanted to change up what I was going to do. So I just had to make it work. Whether I did or not is questionable. So many of the folks who gave me comments afterwards were very kind. They mostly said that they appreciated or were intrigued by the structure of my story. I told about my first time speaking up and folded in the traditional tale of the girl with no story, Molly O'Donahue. My sense is that had I been truly successful they would have noticed the technique and structure less and the story more. But then, I tend to be a very harsh self-critic. Yet my first note from the audience was on a different topic altogether. A woman zipped right up to me, rushed to the stage really, tell me how she enjoyed my performance but that she did want me to know something very, very important. I needed to know it in a hurry. Ouch! When I told my husband what she told me he said "Don't worry, maybe somebody at the local Bonga-Bonga room might ask you back to Jonesborough." There is more but if you haven't heard or just want the full story from the horses...um, mouth? You'll need to write me - firstname.lastname@example.org. My immediate reaction was not "Lord have mercy!" -as we often hear around these parts.
As for the career move of performing at the premier festival in the nation ? Who knows, maybe I'll be back to Jonesborough again... the Bonga-Bonga room may be calling any moment.