The National Storytelling Festival

jonesboroughFriends, I know it is Friday, but I am sad. Today is the start of the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee, and I am stuck in Indiana! For one weekend each year, giant white tents fill the tiny, historic town of Jonesborough. The streets become pedestrian paths lined with hay bales, mums, and pumpkins, and stories can be heard wafting through the crisp, fall air.

Oral storytelling is an Appalachian tradition, and from traditional Jack tales to personal stories of childhood mishaps, the National Storytelling Festival has it all. I certainly remember listening to the legendary Ray Hicks tell stories of Jack and his bumbling antics when I was a child, but I also heard African and Caribbean folktales from Len Cabral, what it was like to grow up in Georgia by Kathryn Windham, perfectly spun lies by Bil Lepp, and how to deal with nuns taking your tonsils by Donald Davis.

storyThis cast of storytellers has helped me better hear the stories around me—both true and made up. Perhaps that is why I followed the path to writing creative nonfiction.

Regardless, I know each of the stories I’ve heard in Jonesborough over the years has opened my heart just a bit more.

If you ever find yourself in East Tennessee on the first full weekend in October, this festival is not to be missed. docmcconnell




Six-Word Memoirs

by xoxo press
by xoxo press

Nearly a year ago, I was at the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee (which is awesome, by the way, and you should totally go), and was able to see a talk by Piper Kerman (yes, of Orange Is the New Black) and her husband, Larry Smith. Piper talked about prison reform and her experiences, and Larry talked about his work on Six-Word Memoirs. I’ll be the first to admit that I went to see Piper because I am a fan of the show, but Larry’s portion surprised and excited me.

Continue reading “Six-Word Memoirs”