Writing and Storytelling – Passions that should be indulged

Published 4:19 am Monday, April 28, 2003

By By Lloyd Albritton
A couple of years ago, while still living in New York, a friend told me about the National Storyteller's Convention, which is held annually in Jonesborough, Tennessee, the hometown of Davy Crockett.
I had not heard of this forum before, but having long been an avid student of the art of storytelling, I purchased a ticket for the weekend-long event and flew to Tennessee to attend. It turned out to be a most enjoyable weekend and I was utterly surprised to learn that there are so many storytellers from all over the world who are participating in this unique and entertaining arena.
Having grown up in the south, I have spent many hours sitting on back porches listening to friends and relatives tell personal stories. I had not realized how influenced I was by these experiences until many years ago when a business associate asked me a question. As I started to answer in my usual way, my friend abruptly stopped me and laughingly blurted, "Lloyd, can you never just answer a question with a 'yes' or a 'no?' Do you always have to answer with a story or an analogy?"
I truly do love to write and tell stories, a passion which I believe I acquired from a lifetime of association with great storytellers. My own preference is for stories of southern humor, but as I learned at the Tennessee convention, the south does not have a corner on good storytelling, for people all over the world love to hear a good story and great storytellers hail from all these regions. Storytelling symposiums and events have are becoming ever more popular all over the U.S. and around the world.
Still, having lived and traveled in various places in the U.S., I believe the area of Atmore, Alabama, hosts some of the best natural storytellers anywhere. Some are able to communicate their stories better in a spoken format, while others who are not skilled in writing prefer to just tell their stories as they roll from their lips. Each of these techniques has its own charms and audience.
In the little farm community of Chumukla, Florida, there has developed a weekly Friday and Saturday night event called The Farmer's Opry, a musical presentation fashioned after the original Grand Ole Opry.
This event is held in a big barn with a stage and has become very popular in the past few years, drawing musical talent and fans from far away. I attended a few weeks ago and was greatly impressed with the success of a project which was not along ago just an idea in a farmer's head.
As I watch the hometown of my youth struggle these days to find its place in the grand scheme of a changing world, I think there is possibly a seething reservoir of entertainment talent along the back streets and back roads of At more which ought to be developed and brought to the forefront of At more's personality. I believe At more has the innate talent to develop as a entertainment mecca of storytelling events on a par with the little town of Jonesborough, Tennessee, a town about the size of Jay which serves as the national headquarters for the National Storyteller's Network (NSN) and hosts the annual convention, a huge event with thousands attending.
There is plenty of enthusiasm and support for such a quest. I have discussed this idea with Emilie Mims, Executive Director of the At more Area Chamber of Commerce, and Emilie said she finds the idea exciting and one which the Chamber would support fully.
Atmore Advance Editor James Crawford has expressed the same level of interest in developing such a project and pledges the support of the Advance. I believe I will continue to find support throughout the At more business and residential community and that such unified effort could lead to support in our neighboring towns and communities as well.
But, where to start? The first step in developing this project is to begin holding local writer/storyteller symposiums to discover and develop local talent for the first scheduled event. These are coffee-hour discussions that would be held once or twice weekly in a local restaurant. This is not a new idea! In fact, small towns all across America nurture this format with great success. It brings creative talent together to share, inspire and nurture their talents further. The result is that many who are greatly talented are able to find a format for the expression of their talents and the public at large is the beneficiary.
The real first step then, is to recruit a core group to begin. Accordingly, I am making a request that any and all who are even remotely interested in developing and nourishing your storytelling skills, either through the written or spoken word, volunteer immediately to participate in this new symposium. This is not the Army! You won't be asked to pick up cigarette butts or clean up the kitchen.
You won't be asked to speak in public or before the group. This will only be a discussion group where the very worst thing that can happen to you is that you will meet some wonderful new friends who share your love for good stories.
Here is how you may volunteer. You may contact me directly by e-mail at LloydAlbritton@aol.com, or by phone at (850)384-6676. You may also volunteer by contacting Emilie Mims at the Chamber of Commerce at (251)368-3305, or by e-mail at atmoreal@frontiernet.net. As soon as a core group has been established we will schedule our first meeting and AWAY WE GO! Don't let me down. Call today so we can get started tomorrow.

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