Moss, is humor writer from Tennessee. She writes a
weekly human interest column about daily life and the funny
things that happen to everyone.
She has written for the Daily News of Kingsport, Griffin Journal,
Oakridge Now, Atlanta Woman Magazine, Aberdeen Examiner, Angleton
Advocate, and Smyrna AM, a supplement of the Murfreesboro Daily News
Journal. She has been
published by Voyageur Press, McGraw Hill, and the good folks
at Guidepost Books. Her articles have appeared in
numerous anthologies and other publications, both in print and online.
She is a
former board member and past Editor of the Columnists.com, website of the National Society of Newspaper
oldest and largest professional organization
for columnists. She is the Web Editor of
Humorists.com and a founder of the Southern Humorists writers'
organization. She is writer, editor, and webmaster of HumorColumnist.com.
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Online Since 1999
||Art of Storytelling....
The Art of Storytelling
hard to believe that a sleepy little town like Jonesborough could come
alive the way it does once a year. But come alive it does with so many
people that you can't imagine where they all come from or why they are
interested in something as simple as storytelling.
A couple weeks ago, we made our annual trek to East Tennessee to the
tiny town of Jonesborough. It is the oldest city in Tennessee, but is
better known as the storytelling capitol of the world and the home of
the International Storytelling Festival.
Many in the crowd are seniors who remember the days when rocking on
the front porch or sitting around the pot-bellied stove, telling
stories and listening to those told by others was splendid
entertainment. The ability to spin a good yarn was a highly regarded
asset and good stories might be passed from generation to generation.
Stories can be true or embellished with the imagination of the teller
to make a good story even better. Sometimes it is difficult to tell
the truth from the fiction. In fact, a good liar with an obvious
exaggeration might be considered even better than the truth and
telling tall tales is a skill of its own.
At the storytelling festival there is a little bit of everything. Some
folks specialize in traditional folk stories passed down for so long
that no one really remembers where they came from. Folk tales may be
told while wearing colorful native costumes and the oral history helps
to keep heritage alive.
Most visitors have favorite tellers. After all, it is not only the
story that is important, but the delivery and the way that a
particular story is told. Jonesborough began in the tradition of the
great southern humorist, Jerry Clower, who could spellbind an audience
with his funny stories of the rural South.
Modern favorites seem to be tellers such as Donald Davis, a teacher
whose story of riding a mule to the bottom of the Grand Canyon puts
you right in the saddle and on the edge looking down hundreds of feet
from a mule so bored that he might go to sleep at any moment and walk
off the edge.
Bil Lepp is another audience pleaser who uses redneck humor. He came
from the tradition of liar's contests and his stories carry you right
along with him painting a house on stilts, being chased by gophers and
catching on fire from a bonfire. The situation gradually becomes
funnier and more absurd until you realize he is skillfully pulling
Another beloved teller is 90-year-old Katherine Windham, whose sharp
wit can still charm an audience with true tales from her life as a
southern journalist. Her moving stories of a segregated south bring
smiles and tears. One moving story was about a barefoot child who
never forgot the gift of a pair of shoes and as an adult still visits
the benefactor weekly to thank her.
Stories are told by many different voices. Great stories make you
laugh or cry, sometimes both in the same story. Music is sparse and
mainly consists of folk music with a guitar or autoharp. The real
music is not from instruments, but the music of the human voice and
the harmony of souls sharing a common listening experience.
Every year I think I may not go to the festival. But the leaves begin
to change color in the fall and the hills beckon me, so I return to
sit shoulder to shoulder with others in the great musty tents, to hear
the stories, to share the laughter and emotion.
I return to a place where stories come alive, past becomes present,
and legends become art in the tiny town of Jonesborough, tucked away
between hills in the autumn splendor of Tennessee.
Copyright 2008 Sheila Moss
Nashville, TN 37219
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