Storytelling Guilds come together for free event Sunday
by Bettie Marlowe
Aug 21, 2013 | 836 views | 0 0 comments | 22 22 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Let the storytelling begin!
Image 1 / 4
STORYTELLER Deborah Nerren Holland will be among the animated storytellers at the Cleveland Bradley County Library this Sunday. Admission is free to the public.

The Cleveland Storytelling Guild and the Cumberland Mountain Storytelling Guild will be coming together to share some of their best stories on Aug. 25 at the Cleveland Bradley County Library.

Stories will begin at 2 p.m. and admission is free.

Up to 14 local and regional storytellers will be taking the stage in this one-of-a-kind event, and “it's not to be missed,” says Judy Baker of the Cleveland Storytelling Guild.

Baker, who is included in the list of storytellers for the Aug. 25 event, has been featured in local and regional venues and festivals, including being named the "Biggest Liar in the Galaxy" at the Intergalactic Liars' Contest held in Chattanooga in 2012. From a young age, Baker said she had always wanted to play the piano. Then she heard Jean Goodwell tell stories at a December Tellebration and said, “I can do that — I can talk.”

Also on the roster, according to Baker, are:

— Bruce Hopson, better known to many as "The Candy Man," is an energetic storyteller with a magnetic personality. His stories about growing up on a small farm in Georgia are sure to tickle your funny bone, and may even make you wonder, "Is that really true?" You'll have to come hear, and decide for yourself!

— Caneta Gentry is one of our newest storytellers, but she is already an old pro at holding her audience in the palm of her hand. She comes to us all the way from Norris, located north of Knoxville, and we can't wait to hear her and watch her storytelling talents grow.

— Sylvia Idom is a retired teacher, but more than that, she is a devotee of all things traditional. She has a vast knowledge of folk and traditional tales, and is likely to throw in a tall tale now and then. Idom remembers her first storytelling attempt. She had one book to read year-round — “The Night Before Christmas.” At age 4, she stood on a stool and recited the whole book. She had memorized it and from then on, she offered it at every gathering. Later, as a camp counselor in church camp, she used storytelling to help keep order. “When you tell stories around the campfire, you don’t have to worry about the campers slipping out,” she said. “That’s using survival skills,” she said of one of her tactics.

— Deborah Nerren Holland is also a retired teacher and loves the old ballads and stories. Her vocal renditions of the old songs are haunting and beautiful and take us to another time and place.

— Steve Daugherty uses music as much as story. A multitalented musician, Steve has travelled regionally, telling stories and playing his traditional tunes in schools, camps and other venues.

Baker said, “So often, when someone says they are a storyteller, they are asked, ‘What book will you be reading?' While many times, stories that are told may have been adapted from books, the story has become a part of the teller, and nothing is between the teller and his or her audience.”

She said there are no barriers between teller and listener and so there is a connection unlike any other performing art. “Stories can heal, they can delight, they can make us think, they can change our perspective, they can bring tears, they can bring laughter,” she said. “But, most of all, stories can bring us together.”

More than 25 years ago, Cleveland Storytelling Guild was formed with the dream of someday bringing national storytellers to Cleveland. That goal has been reached several times since then, through the efforts of people who were dedicated to making sure Cleveland had the chance to experience many different aspects of culture, arts and education.

Ocoee Story Fest, held annually in February and currently in its 18th year, is one of the longest-running storytelling festivals in the state, outside the National Festival held each year in Jonesborough. Guild members have been featured locally and regionally in various venues, including schools, libraries, churches and festivals.

The Cumberland Mountain Storytelling Guild is only a couple of years old, but members are already reaching out to the Crossville area and beyond. Several of them have been part of the storytelling community for many years, while others are only beginning to craft their storytelling skills. Already, they have been telling at local venues, including the Cumberland Mountain Storytelling Festival and at the Homesteads Apple Festival in Crossville.

Baker from Cleveland and Mike and Betty Roe from the Crossville area came up with the idea of both guilds coming together and having a joint storytelling concert, first in Crossville and then in Cleveland. The event in Crossville was held in April. “There was such a good response and the tellers had so much fun that we didn't want to wait till next April to get together again,” Baker said. So, plans were made for the Crossville folks to travel to Cleveland for a joint concert here.

Cleveland Storytelling Guild meets monthly on the second Tuesday of the month, in the Community Room of the Cleveland Bradley Library. Stories begin at 7 p.m., and the public is cordially invited to come. From 20 to 30 members attend and “we tell stories and listen,” Idom said. “It takes listeners as well as tellers.”

Guild members prepare the program — sometimes with a theme — and maybe geared to a season. As stories begin to flow, Idom said, they bring reminders of other stories and so it goes ... “It’s exciting to see how the stories evolve from others.” The guild has had people go to the festivals from Cleveland — to Maggie Valley, N.C., and Pumpkintown, for instance.

“Our members get around,” Idom said. The guild has members from Athens to Chattanooga and then some, even Ringgold, Ga. Storytellers come from all professions: veterinarians, Santa (the Vanderpools), teachers, librarians, telephone line supervisor, graphic artist, computer programmer, businessmen, fundraisers, pastors and so forth. Good storytellers fit their stories to their audience. Who are they? What age are they? Some stories work with all ages and groups.

But tellers can tell a story and listeners may hear it differently — adapting it in their minds to their cultures or situations. So remembering is how you hear it. If there is an unfamiliar word, the listener will interpret it in his own way, but the story will still work.

Baker and Idom discussed how stories preserve history and tradition and awake people’s creativity. Storytelling, too, is a good family activity. Sitting around the dinner table is the perfect setting.

In contrast, in a movie, you see what the producers and filmmakers want you to see — in storytelling, people listen with their imagination. Creativity and imagination keep minds alive, Baker and Idom agee.

Listening to a storyteller, Idom added, “you never have any doubt about the good guys. That’s the difference.”

For more information, contact Baker at 479-7887 or email