Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Recognizing the Value of Stories—Carolyn Wilker

A certain photograph album lay on my grandparents’ coffee table in their city home. They’d been on a train ride through the Rockies and had made an album of their pictures and postcards. I’d kneel by the coffee table, as a six- , seven-  or eight-year-old and just look through the pictures. 

My world was circumscribed by the rural farm community in which I grew up, with some trips to the city to see our grandparents and perhaps an occasional drive outside those boundaries. I was interested in what I saw and wanted to see and hear more.

A highlight of my Grade 8 year in school was the afternoon of each school day when our teacher read to the class. All we had to do was listen. Tom Sawyer and Swiss Family Robinson were among the stories he read, and he read them well. So well that I didn’t want to miss school and lose parts of those stories. We had few books in our home at the time, and I just soaked in the stories.

In confirmation class, at 13 and 14, I remember our pastor teaching and the stories he told to illustrate certain truths. He had served some time as a young man with the navy during the Second World War before his marriage and children. The stories made those classes memorable for me.  I know now that he was a storyteller at heart.

At church camp as a teen, as a counsellor-in-training, and then a counsellor, I loved campfire time. We sang songs and told stories, with the night at our backs and the circle of new friends and campers around the fire. I wished we could make them last longer.

Maybe that’s why I enjoyed reading to our daughters and my nursery school students. Or is it just that we all have stories within us? Maybe that’s why I’m writing and telling stories now and why I so enjoy listening to other storytellers.

As a writing instructor, I have my students write as much as possible. I offer story prompts, pictures, word combinations to tease them into writing. Their writing has produced fiction, humour, creative nonfiction and some stories as close to the truth as they remember. 

 This week, Janice, one of my returning students, asked if she could read her impromptu piece first. This student had come far in her writing and is able to put a lot of meaning into something compact, including poetry, and so I was not surprised when she said that her story was short. She wrote:

“The first day of writing class was absolutely terrifying. Who did I think I was attending this writing class? Little did I know that my fear would turn to joy, self-acceptance and [that I would gain] some very dear friends. The classes were small but a wealth of knowledge and learning.”

With five sessions behind her, she looks forward to learning and is confident in reading her work. When people ask her what she does, this is how she answers: “I am a writer.”

Stories come from so many places and in so many forms. It’s not just folk tales or history, but adventure and stories of bravery too, not to exclude stories of God’s people in the Bible, either the originals or modern-day versions.

As a member of a storytelling guild, I am intrigued by all there is to learn about storytelling and so when I looked for a quote to use in my own book, I chose this one by Ursula K. LeGuin, because I think it rings so true of  us as humans:

 “There have been great societies that did not use a wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories.”


Author of Once Upon a Sandbox


Tracy Krauss said...

Enjoyed this peek into what makes you tick!

Carolyn Wilker said...

Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Tracy. I will look forward to your posts as well.

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