Becoming a Storyteller

Miss Stewart's Grade 4 Class. OMG, I forgot I had braces!

Miss Stewart's Grade 4 Class. OMG, I forgot I had braces!

Becoming a storyteller has not been an easy process for me. But then, the path to most things we are meant to do is typically filled with detours, roadblocks and some serious construction, isn't it?

I was always a child who made up stories. In some cases, that's just a euphemism for telling tales to get out of trouble (bless you Mom for not having the energy to get to the bottom of my lies!). But telling stories was also a way to get noticed. 

Becoming a Storyteller

My first year in school our next door neighbours, who were like grandparents to me, would put a nickel or a dime in a tomato juice can when I brought over my school papers to show them my one sentence "stories." Their kindness and interest in me, along with my special time each night with my Dad as he read to me in his monotone voice from the Childcraft books of the Encyclopedia Brittanica, made me both a reader and a writer.

When I was in Miss Stewart's grade four class, we were assigned to write the story of how Halloween came to be. I have no idea what I wrote, but I remember it being fantastical. When I got my story back, Miss Stewart wrote glowingly, "Good Job Kathy!" on it, and called me out to tell me how wonderfully creative it was.

I was so proud I almost skipped home that day! I excitedly showed my mother the story. When she read it, rather than telling me how pleased she was to have a budding writer as her child, said, "Where did you copy that from?"

I'm not telling you this for you to think my mother was a horrible person. She wasn't. She was simply passing on what she learned because she didn't know better. I know that now.

But at the age of 10, I was completely devastated by her reaction. That event changed me. I don't remember writing stories after that; not for yearsafterward. Even when I did write again, a story about a 10-year-old girl who has the seeds of her stories stolen by a cave witch, I remember thinking it wasn't good enough.

But I had to write. It's who I am. As luck would have it, advertising found me in the form of production management (which is how I learned to be on time and on budget). I've worked with creative people nearly my whole career and fortunately for me, my keen interest in the process was noticed by a crazy ad man who gave me my first (unpaid) assignment. The rest is a gradual unfolding of my writing stories for others. 

At some point, probably in letters and then emails, I began sharing bits of my personal story. Writing is a form of connecting to the deepest part of myself, the knowing part, and people who read my writing sometimes find comfort or insight there. And so I write stories of my experiences and my childhood and have found that doing so brings me peace. Writing is indeed a wonderful catharsis.

The year I turned 50 I had the incredibly naive idea of writing 50 letters to 50 people who had a big influence on my life. That my friends, was a busy and deeply thoughtful year! It opened up the floodgates of healing and forgiving (mostly myself) that continues today. As I said in my manifesto, "I may not be the girl I once was, but I'm not yet the woman I will become."

These last few years have also made me realize that I need to be who I am, not who I think you may want me to be. And so, here I sit, writing my stories, and writing the stories of other people and their businesses, because that's what I do. I am a storyteller.  

And you know what? I think there may be a fantastical story or two inside me, aching to come out.