Meridian Star

January 4, 2013

Storytelling is more than telling the story ...

By Anne McKee / guest columnist
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —    Story, story, story – tell your story. Everyone has a story to tell.  What was your story of 2012? The year 2012 is a done-deal, a continuing file of once-upon-a-time or do-you-remember stories of family, friends, acquaintances, and even strangers that crossed your 2012 pathway – including lifestyles, events, emotions, dreams, ambitions, ego, hurt, disappointments, depression and recovery. Yes, each moment has a story of its very own.

    If you are not journaling your life events, then now is the time to record those stories of 2012. Yes, write them down before the memories slip away. In order to prick your memory, look at your 2012 calendar and the notes that were made by each date. Also, take a look at your checkbook or credit card statements. Each will tell your life story during the last 12 months, statistically. Your words will add the human element – the real story.

    What was that? You are not a storyteller — really? Have I got some news for you – read more, as I tell the story of storytelling.

    For thousands of years stories were told in the oral tradition by the voices of the era – some were individuals who held places of high esteem, while other voices were  the ordinary people of the day. Storytelling has existed as long as humanity has had language.

    Early stories have been carved, scratched, painted and inked onto wood or bamboo, ivory and bones, pottery, clay tablets, stone, palm-leaf books, skins (parchment), bark cloth, paper, silk canvas and other textiles. Even some complex forms of historic or present-day tattoos tell a story. Songs, poetry, and every form of the written or recited word have a story. During the last few years of technical advances, stories are recorded on film or stored electronically in digital form.

    Every culture has its storytellers, and in Mississippi – well, the stories seem richer and more heartfelt, perhaps, than any place in the universe! It has seemed the favored manner of storytelling is by the oral tradition – passed down through the families, generation by generation.

    In my mind’s eye I can see a campfire with family and clan members sitting side by side as the stories were told: Tribes of Mesopotamia and Asia, Egypt, Africa, Celtic tribes and the great Vikings, plus heroes of the Greek world and the earliest inhabitants of the Americas, including Native Americans, pilgrims, African Americans, Jews, and gypsies. In short, all civilizations learned from their stories told or recorded, thus, storytelling is one of the oldest art forms of the entire world, but also an instrument to teach and in the development of communities – teaching the young important life lessons of survival, thus insuring the next generation of storytellers.

    Closer to our culture — consider Mississippi music as a source of storytelling. What is the Blues – a story of yearning for better times? Ballads, country music, and the genre of bluegrass all tell stories of lives, loves and losses, whether the musicians are talented and educated or the music performed is plunked, plunked, plunked by ear or self-taught, the original stories ribbon through the art form of music.

    Yes, storytelling through music … not a new invention, but one that must be upheld and appreciated as well as  the traditional oral storytellers of our day. The stories of today will be the recorded testimony of the remembered histories of the 21st Century. Poetry, music, stories of all categories: novels, short stories, essays, and today, personal blogs count as stories as well. Each one has the potential to become a story of the century, one remembered as the place and time of a bygone era.

    Isn’t it exciting – your story could be a valued piece of history or a significant lesson for the ones who come after our time?

    In order for that to happen, we must record our stories. Write them on a piece of lined paper, tap them out on your computer or speak them on a voice recorder, even buy a nice journal and record daily. This is an easy way – write or record the best thing and worst thing that happened each day (two sentences) and at the end of the week compose a short summary (one paragraph).

    Journaling is a valuable source for storytelling – those stories of our time that will be cherished by future generations. Cherished stories — a story such as a relative’s 1945 memory of the Mississippi Grand Opera House: “I remember the time when Granny told me about attending the first event at the Mississippi Grand Opera House located in Meridian. She said it was December 17, 1890 and a performance of Johann Strauss’s The Gypsy Baron.”  

    As proof of the popularity of history-teaching storytelling were the large attendances (1,000 plus each time) of the Historic Rose Hill Costumed Cemetery Tour, which 2013 will mark as the fourth year of this event – the date to be announced soon. Teaching Meridian/Mississippi history and heritage through the arts of storytelling and drama couldn’t be better.

    Storytelling – more than music, more than history, more than entertainment, more than a teaching tool, more than creativity, but a vital part of life. I am so happy to be an active member of the Mississippi storytelling community. My storytelling is about all things southern, especially Mississippi.

    My storytelling friends:

    Terrence Roberts – Master Storyteller, specializes in historic African culture and fables.

    Brenda Stewart – Master Storyteller, specializes in children’s stories and historic accounts.

    Nancee Greer —  Master Storyteller, specializes in children’s stories.

    Quotes from my storytelling mentors:

    Diane Williams – “I've worked very hard for the last 15-plus years to substantiate the importance that storytelling is integral to everything we do — if there is a drop of validity to our existence.”

    Sarah Mutziger – “Storytelling — making beautiful art with words, painting words.”

    So, what is your story? I encourage you to make a record of your stories. Your family will cherish them.

    Anne B. McKee is a writer and storyteller. Visit her website: