Meridian Star

March 21, 2014

My storytelling hat and me …

By Anne McKee
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN — Story, story – tell me a story. Years ago granny shared a special story about my daddy. When he was around three-years-old, he was naughty. Granny couldn’t remember what it was all about, but what she did remember was his sweet, childish words. When she asked him what he had done, she knew he was fibbing. She said, “Howard, don’t tell me a story.”

    He answered. “Momma, tell me a story – tell me a story, please.”

         Storytelling – the earliest form of communication as well as the beginnings of early educational and entertainment skills. Whether gathering family and friends around the campfire, the dinner table, a classroom or historic cemetery, the stories are what the folks will enjoy and remember.

    In the realm of artistry, i.e., the arts: visual art, movement, and music, storytelling is not totally supported as a true art, a real art. What? Just ask any teller, and he/she will tell you the true story (no pun intended) – without the story first, all others would fail.

         These days I find myself a traveling storyteller, but without my storytelling hat, I am almost wordless. Of course, my husband would disagree, but I know it is true. However, once the hat is perched in its appropriate place, cocked to the side of my head, the words tumble forth, like a gushing fountain of nouns and verbs, gestures and expressions, laughter and grins, even a few gyrations and musical connotations.

         Ah, yes, the life of a storyteller is a constant whirlwind of characterization and mighty tales. My characters and oral tidbits are 98 percent Meridian/Mississippi inspired. So the old adage goes, write what you know. The same is true about a teller – tell what you know and I know Mississippi. I’m mighty proud of that fact, too.

         I was in Florence this week with my stories. Next week, I will tell in Rose Hill Cemetery, and later in the month, The Hilton in Jackson, also an event in Laurel. Coming up as well is an event in Walnut Grove and two local presentations. I never tire of the stories.

        Years ago, I was telling at the coliseum on the Gulf Coast, when I misspoke the name of my character. My husband sat near the back of the auditorium and whispered to the person next to him. “Oh, boy – she’s forgotten who she is.”

         My character should have been Miss Fannie B. Hine and mistakenly I called her Miss Ippee Rainwater. I mean in the context of the story what difference would it make? Well, well, well, it made a big difference to me. I became flustered and discombobulated all over the place, until I could get back on track.  

        Storytelling secrets: When a teller can keep a clear focus, step by step, image by image – then the story will come off without a hitch, but sometimes it can be difficult. For example, I enjoy audience participation. I always take costumes, and if possible, learn the names and personalities of a few in attendance. If I am assured these folks will be okay with it, I call them to come forward and play parts with me.     There have been times my called upon players are so hilarious that I forget to focus on the imagery. That’s when the discombobulating occurs, however we always make our way through, with lots of giggles, and downright belly laughs.

         Do you need a 20 or 30 minute program or presentation for your group, church, community or civic clubs – a story that will teach and entertain, (and not put people to sleep) then, call a storyteller? We are never out of tune and always in-step. In Meridian, we have four Master Storytellers: Brenda Stewart, Terrence Roberts, Sarah Mutziger, and Annie B. McKee (me!).

     If you call me, I will put on my storytelling hat and arrive with unique stories of Meridian and Mississippi. It is a real possibility you might recognize some of my characters and storylines – be prepared for tons of fun.

        The true art of storytelling is the stuff of legends, plus a little discombobulating, when needed.

    Anne McKee is a storyteller and writer. See her website: