Archive for the ‘storytelling’ Tag

Do You Need Me to Read You a Story?   2 comments

If you’re an adult you’re probably reacting to that question in one of two ways: either you are rather grumpy that I should ask you a question that’s for babies and children, or you are curious and ready to find out where the question leads.

Those of you with analytic minds may be wondering why I chose the word “need” instead of the more traditional “want.”

I love those analytical minds because you are already traveling toward the destination of this blog!

My daughter, almost an adult, has experienced a great deal of angst over the past five years about what she wants to do when she grows up.  What path should she chose?  Our culture demands that you know what you want by the time you are fourteen, and heaven forbid if you don’t have a firm career path mapped out by the time you’re a junior.  Also that career path will involve college; there are no other options.  If you haven’t already been busting your butt studying for the ACT/SAT, it’s too late; you won’t be able to get into a good enough school or pay for it, and then where will you be?  And, if you aren’t choosing a STEM major, what’s the point?  We all know that technology and medicine are where the high paying jobs are.  You’d be an idiot to pursue anything else.

At least, this is the message she’s been taking in.  I’m not 100% sure that’s the main message out there, but I’d agree that it’s pretty strong.

So, she’s graduated and is still feeling her way toward the future, while I remind her that life is what is happening right now, and as Allen Saunders famously remarked, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”  As next steps, she’s working on life skills and has enrolled to take several courses at our local community college–a very practical and wise choice.  She’s considering a couple of paths in the liberal arts that involve art, writing and film-making, but has not been certain enough to commit to them yet.  So this is a good place to begin.

But here’s what I want to tell her, as she contemplates the practicalities of life in our society, the realities of someday making her own living, and as she thinks some more about what the interface is between what she loves doing and what our society seems to demand.

There cannot be a society without storytelling.

There cannot be a city, a community, a culture, a civilization.  It’s literally impossible.

No interrelated group of people can create a world together without having a shared story, and of course, having many of them.  We by definition need stories to tell us who we are and where we’re going.  I don’t know how one can get paid for writing a story.  Our culture doesn’t reward storytelling in the same monetary ways it does STEM fields.  However, the entire civilization we have rests on stories.

Stories are a very good place to begin.

Posted August 8, 2018 by swanatbagend in writing

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Why We Love Stories   Leave a comment

I went to the Word and Words conference two weeks ago.  Before I went, I did some thinking about the questions the conference description provided. Why do we love stories?  Why do we tell them?  And how do stories inform our lives as Christian believers?

I wanted to brainstorm first to see if I was resonating with the speakers’ thoughts already.  But I wouldn’t say these questions got directly asked or answered by any of them.

Why do I love stories?  and why does it matter?

I have always loved books.  I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love a book–the smell, the feel of the paper under my fingers, the varied fonts on the pages.  The rush when entering a bookstore.  The peaceful must of the basement stacks of a library. The glorious realization: a great author has a new book I have not read.

I read to my stuffed animals in the living room. They encircled me and the book of the day.  One of my early memories is the view of a book, wrapped as a present for me, on top of the dresser in my parents’ bedroom.  At summer sunup on my fifth birthday, I was begging for my book.  I can still see my mother’s head rising sleepily from her pillow.

And now I read throughout the day to my children.  It’s probably one of the main reasons I keep homeschooling them.  I just love to read, and we’ve found some fantastic books to enjoy together.  I read the Bible and one other book at dinner.  And I read at bedtime.  Right now the four of us still at home are taking turns with the demigod characters of Rick Riordan’s The Blood of Olympus.  Yeah, there’s a whole lot of stories going on at our house, and that’s how it’s always been.

So, why do I love stories and storytelling?

As I made my way downtown the first night of the conference, these were my speculations:  Maybe we could better steward our time and energy if we didn’t spend them on something as simple as storytelling.  Maybe we should only meet needs, share the Gospel and work to change the world.  Wouldn’t that be more direct?  In a world so painful, wouldn’t that ease more wounds?

And what if storytelling is dangerous?  Stories can lead us to the wrong source; they can propel people toward empty cisterns.

At the conference, however, I was plunged into a gathering in which all loved words, stories, fairy tales.  Nobody appeared to feel the need to defend storytelling.

Aside from a religious pitch or a moral fable or a lecture on what we should do, it seems we can hear stories better.

I think we were made that way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted November 25, 2014 by swanatbagend in literature, writing

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Laura and Me   3 comments

When I listened to my weather radio this morning I learned that the record low for our city was set in 1876.  Laura was nine years old when that record was set.

Why do I even know that?

I happen to have been born 100 years after she was, and so in any given year I can easily remember her age.

When I discovered I was almost exactly 100 years younger than Laura Ingalls Wilder, it added to the kinship I felt with her and her family.

For one thing, my father also looked like Abe Lincoln, was born in a log cabin, and had itchy feet.  And to me it appeared that he could either fix or make anything we needed.  A child of the Great Depression, he knew how to make do. The best illustration of this came on our move from Colorado to Oklahoma.  The engine of our bright red VW camper died and left us on the side of the road in hot, empty eastern Colorado.  It appeared some small part in the engine had broken.  My father had a package of Black Cat firecrackers stowed in the glove box (why no idea), and he inserted one into the gap, and got the van running again.  We’d drive anywhere from two to ten miles and the firecracker would burn up.  Stop.  Open engine compartment.  Insert new firecracker.  Repeat.

My family moved all over the west when I was a child, in search of I’m not sure what, but this helped give the four of us the bond that can only come from helping each other walk through being the new people in a new place multiple times.  My brother and I lived with a father who was ever ready for a new adventure in a new part of the country, while his wife would have been more inclined to stay where society (musical, literary, church and political) was established.  Ma Ingalls only put her foot down one time when Pa wished to go further west again,  but my mother expressed her frustration in a different way.

We had recently moved to Colorado, where my father had started work at the Denver Service Center for the National Park Service.  My parents were in the process of buying the first house that was their own, not government issue, when my father saw a posting for a Coast Guard job in Juneau, Alaska.  Doubting he would be properly qualified, he applied anyway.  We had been in our lovely new house with blue wall to wall carpet and a pool table in the basement for merely weeks, when he called my mother with the fantastic news.

He had the job!

Mom was so mad, she hung up on him.  That did not stop us from moving to Alaska, however.

Another way in which I identified with Laura was in the love of words and books we shared.  I liked the way she thought through difficulties and questions.  I resonated with her fear of being the new girl at school and all those unknowns.

It goes without saying that I read her books innumerable times.  Which is my favorite?  Hard to say.

I read The Long Winter and emerge with Laura once again into spring, lettuce and new peas in the garden, after twisting hay to burn for fuel most of the winter.  I read On the Banks of Plum Creek and rejoice when Nellie gets her comeuppance via leeches.   I read Little House in the Big Woods and hear “Now is now. It can never be a long time ago.” It sets the strings of the past reverberating in my heart.

But my past or hers?  Somehow, a bit of both.