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Letter to the editor: Stories only you can tell

"Everyone has stories," storyteller Kathryn Windham would always say at the close of a telling. "Go home now. Share your stories."

Windham was perhaps the most beloved of all storytellers to tell at the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee. She was the only teller there, my partner's mother has noted, who got a standing ovation when she walked onto the stage - before she'd uttered a word.

What endeared her to us was her life's project of encouraging everyone to tell their own stories. Windham's influence helped to bring back into common use the "personal story" - stories drawn from the life of the teller. Writers would call these sorts of stories memoir. Inspired by Kathryn, many storytellers have tiptoed into personal story at some point in their careers.

I heard an echo of Kathryn Windham's words as I was developing my first personal story, when fellow storyteller Tom Cassidy said to me, "You know, Rachel, the great thing about this story is that only you can tell it." He was right! So Kathryn's influence inspired me to create my first personal story.

Because personal story is the most natural way to walk into storytelling, we have made it the focus of this year's Big Water Story Fest in Duluth. Anyone can tell a personal story. The material is right at your fingertips - your own life experience.

All of the workshops in this year's Big Water Story Fest are designed to invite you into storytelling by giving you ways to share those stories that only you can tell. Whether it is memoir, collective memoir, a song drawn from your personal life, or figuring out how to approach the crafting or telling of your personal story, these workshops can invite you in.

Keep an eye on this FB page and this website for details on those workshops, which will happen on Saturday, Nov 23. And come to the free Tellabration story share concert on Friday, Nov. 22 or the festival concert on Saturday evening. Discover the humor, heartbreak, and inspiration of those stories only you can tell. Then go home, and tell those stories, as Kathryn Windham would say, "and tell each one with love."

Kathryn Windham - final appearance at 2010 National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough - audio with photographs: