The genetic markers of storytelling are sprinkled throughout my DNA. I'm sure of it.
My grandparents, my aunts, my uncles, and my parents were some of the finest people I’ve ever known, and moreover, most of them were prodigious storytellers. My maternal grandmother (Ona Jarrard Jarriel) was a repository of family stories. I was a thirsty child, and listening to her was like drinking water from a well. My mother’s brothers told tales filled with long pauses, sailor-worthy cuss words, and comical observations. At family gatherings, I sat at their sides and absorbed their stories—hanging on their every word. I quietly studied their delivery and hoped some day, I, too, would master the art of weaving and telling a tale with such panache and flair.
My paternal grandfather, Henry Herman Lanier, told my siblings and me larger-than-life stories of Old Moe, an elusive bass that reigned supreme in Papa's small pond near Metter, Georgia—the proverbial "big fish in a small pond." Our imaginations ran wild, and we spent the days of our childhoods trying to hook that giant fish from the grassy banks. In the evenings, we retreated to the cool breeze of a small covered porch that overlooked a grove of crepe myrtle trees showcasing fuchsia blooms and chandeliers of Spanish moss. There, we rocked, swung, and listened to volumes of family histories, local folklore, rumors, memories, and the stories passed from one generation to another.
I was a little blonde-headed girl drawn to stories and books, especially picture books with their whimsical characters and illustrations. I loved the way books felt in my small hands and the way the pages smelled. I loved the public library, which was connected to our local recreation department. We always followed a trip to basketball practice with a visit to the library. Afterwards, I skipped to the car with an armful of picture books and a big smile on my freckled face—such happy memories.
As a teenager, reading novels such as A Separate Peace, Of Mice and Men, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Catcher in the Rye hooked me forever. I feasted on the quirky tales of Flannery O’Connor and felt a special bond with her and her Southern-fried characters.
As a young adult, my attraction to stories and my appetite for reading evolved into the desire to write and tell my own stories, but I did not pursue a career in writing—not then. Writing came later for me, as a second career—my "act two," as I like to call it.
Today, I worry that storytelling is dying like other art forms such as tatting, sewing, printmaking, hand lettering, and string puppetry, and so I advocate for storytelling. As I travel around Georgia promoting Project Keepsake, I stand before crowds and talk about the importance of sharing stories with others.
I urge my audiences to tell the stories that matter. "Be fearless," I say. "Free the stories trapped inside you. Preserve your stories by writing them down. Share them with others."
Please join me in my crusade to keep storytelling alive. Write a story today. Share my meme with your family and friends on Facebook and other social media outlets. And if you are on Twitter, please use the hashtags #amwriting, #keepstorytellingalive, and #projectkeepsake to communicate to the world how you are helping to promote the endangered art of storytelling. And don't forget to share your thoughts with me. I'm at @AmberLNagle.