I got a tax refund in the mail and I knew exactly what I was going to do with it. I went on line and purchased a ticket to the 2013 National Storytelling Festival. It was 6 months away but I was making the commitment to go. Then I made a reservation with Allegiant Air Lines to fly to Tennessee. A few days later, at the monthly meeting of my guild, Storytellers of Central Florida, I interested a couple of friends to go with me. They, it turned out, were Jonesborough veterans, and that was a stroke of good luck. The National Storytelling Festival is a huge event. Imagine thousands of people piling into a sleepy little town, dotted with huge tents – tents that hold upwards of 1500 people – scattered in the green spaces behind Main street, every little eatery filled to capacity, fields turned into parking lots and choices to be made about which tent to go to next. It was wonderful having friends who knew the ropes. Day after day I listened and learned. I drank up stories. I made notes. I bought cds. I went to sleep each night in a swirl of the day’s words and images. I vowed to return. It is a vow I have kept every year since.
In 2016 I competed for a spot in the National Storytelling Festival Story Slam. I made it into the finals and took third place. Waiting for my name to be called to take the stage, I had to press my knees together and brace them with my hands so that no one would see my legs shaking. When Andy Offutt Irwin introduced me, I rose, climbed onto the stage, looked at my audience and my nervousness vanished. It was a sea of smiling faces! The air was thick with joyful anticipation. They were ready to love me … and I was ready to love them back. The experience was glorious.
And now it is 2017 and I have been invited to tell at the Exchange Place at the National Storytelling Festival! Wow! It is a special event that features talent new to the national scene. So come this October I will pack my little black hybrid hatchback , pick up my bff, storyteller and 2014 National Slam Winner, Robin Schulte, and together we will cruise control our way to Tennessee. I can’t wait to look at that amazing audience and give them all I got … eye to eye, mind to mind and heart to heart.
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