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Immerse yourself in a good story

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By Wayne Lazarus on May 17th, 2010

Categories: Linda's Travel Articles

When was the last time you found yourself mesmerized by a good yarn? The ancient art of storytelling is actually flourishing, nurtured in the Appalachian Mountains through organizations and festivals such as the International Storytelling Festival held every year in Jonesborough, Tennessee (just outside Johnson City) and the Smoky Mountain Storytelling Festival in Pigeon Forge.

The International Storytelling Festival has created a connection among people through the power of oral storytelling for almost 40 years.  Every year about 10,000 attendees arrive to find themselves drawn into narratives told in person –  more compelling than a story dramatized on film (or on YouTube!) And the people that appear at the International Storytelling Festival are masters of the art. Many have published multiple books,  have national radio or other entertainment credits. davisCrowd-t

In 2010, you can see Carmen Agra Deedy, Andy Offut Irwin and Bill Lepp, five-time winner of the West Virginia Liar’s Contest. (See the website for a complete listing.) The festival is held on the campus of the International Storytelling Center, which has a gift shop with story telling books and resources, as well as live daily storytelling May through October.

Now that your appetite has been whetted for a good story – hate to wait for fall? Attend the annual Smoky Mountain Storytelling Festival in Pigeon Forge, held every June. This year, the 19th annual festival will include the National Youth Storytelling Showcase as part of the festivities. WillyClaflin_frogStorytellers include Willy Claflin (with his sidekick Maynard Moose,) Mary Hamilton, Michael Reno Harrell, Lyn Ford, Elizabeth Rose, Larry Kelley, Rick Love and Mountain Man Bob Phillips (whose appearance is suggested for mature audiences, as in “these ain’t your momma’s stories.”) The Smoky Mountain Storytelling Festival includes workshops to hone your own storytelling talents.

Photos: by Tom Raymond, Fresh Air Photographics. Donald Davis and crowd courtesy International Storytelling Center. Willy Claflin and frog courtesy Pigeon Forge Tourism. Used with permission.

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