This blog over the past week has given me an opportunity to talk a bit about my family. Barbara in Rivertown commented that I had rather colorful relatives. Well, I think that we all have colorful relatives. I am just blessed to come from a family that likes to gossip and tell stories about themselves.

This was particularly true of my father’s family. My paternal grandfather had 12 siblings, all of them restless, energetic, and endowed with a wonderful sense of irony. They loved to talk and tell stories about each other.

I think it takes a lot of thought and humor to be a good storyteller. You need the right voice and the sense of what is important to communicate. You also need to have a grasp of the ridiculous.

Who are your more colorful relatives? Who are your favorite storytellers? What do you think makes a good storyteller? What were your favorite stories as a child?

45 thoughts on “Storytelling”

      1. Sister. She is a successful realtor in Tarpon Springs, Florida. Minnesota Nice.
        Children. I love it when they have a story to tell and are excited to do so. I give them full attention and respect. Often ask questions.
        Good story telling is immersive as when you feel you are right there. TED talks often have that effect on me.
        Favorite child stories are about the Biblical epics of David. I slaughtered Goliath many times with a sling shot. And those sand and sandal movies often corny but entertaining stories.

        Liked by 4 people

        1. We’re have an updated, 1973 mobile home in Tarpon Springs. We weren’t able to go down for the whole winter this year, but are heading down on Monday until spring has well and fully arrived in MN.


  1. My uncle Buddy , mom’s youngest sibling, was a real character, always joking… like the t-shirt in a reunion photo: “I’m Bob Hope’s brother, No Hope”..

    When I’m telling a story, the hardest part is the editing – I want to take all the tangents and tell the side stories too, but to be effective, you have to focus on the same story line…

    Will get back to you about favorite storyteller and stories…

    Liked by 3 people

      1. He perhaps learned it from Mark Twain who used it in his performances at which he was a genius.
        James Thurber wrote pieces in the New Yorker gently poking fun of his friend E. B. White’s work in Strunk and White. My favorite was one about split infinitives. He starts with one or two sentences about how some people think it is always wrong to split an infinitive then he wanders off on several tangents for a few thousand words which lead smoothly back to him saying that sometimes a split infinitive is the better choice. The joke being of coarse that the essay is a sort of split infinitive.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. Well, there’s no doubt that Garrison has read Mark Twain, though I know he’s not nearly old enough to have seen him perform. Just kidding, I know you know that, too.

          Roy Blount Jr, David Sedaris, and David Barry are three other storytellers whose wit and storytelling I enjoy immensely. I love Roy’s southern drawl, it lends a certain flair to his dry wit. David Sedaris’ has a very peculiar voice that somehow makes his observations of life around him even more bizarre and funny.
          I could use a good laugh just about now, think I’ll seek out one of their books.

          Liked by 2 people

  2. Families can be so interesting. A couple generations back on one of moms sides, they didn’t talk; throw out all the heirlooms so no one else can have them and never talk about it. And yet it was, and still is, Mom’s side of the family that gets together the most. Which passed down to my family.
    Dads side might have a reunion every few years. But they don’t talk much beyond that.

    Uncle Carl had a thick rough voice. And a quick laugh and twinkle in his eye. But I don’t recall too many stories. Cousin Dave was a BS’r; he was just fun to have around.
    Cousin Scott always had a joke.
    On Kellys side, I always enjoyed her uncles getting together and talking. They all had some stories. From Ralph who was in the merchant marines, and then ran a bar, to Bob who was in the legislature.
    All of those people are gone.

    Al Batt is a storyteller that I enjoy. Michael Cotter was good. Brent Olson, Russ Ringsak – I met him and we emailed a few times. He was pretty cool.
    And of course, one of the ultimates: Kevin Kling

    Liked by 5 people

  3. I am late today, Baboons,

    My great-grandfather, Joseph Newell, was a colorful Iowa farmer who apparently liked to talk about being wealthy. Here is the link to one of my mother’s stories about him and her childhood relationship to him:

    I hope the link works. I cannot try it until I post my reply. (FYI–these are books I self-published as a gift to my mother about 10 years ago. The stories she wrote as part of an Iowa Writer’s Workshop outreach program in Iowa around 1985. My sister and I edited the written content and I illustrated them with pastels)

    Apparently this grandpa was a good storyteller and much loved by his daughter, my grandmother.

    Favorite storytellers: David Sedaris, Garrison Keiller, Susan Stamberg. Cokie Roberts told great historical stories about women and American history. The author, Susan Wittig Albert, tells engaging stories about women.

    What makes it good? Feeling engaged and pulled into the story.

    Childhood story: The Hundred Dresses, anything by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Joseph and his coat of many colors.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. What a delightful little book, Jacque. I bet your mother loved it. So charming. I think I would have liked that old codger, as well. I know for certain that I agree with him about shoes.

      Husband doesn’t “get” David Sedaris at all, doesn’t think him the least funny.

      Liked by 3 people

  4. I can’t think of any family members I would call”characters”. I guess that may mean that I am the character. But I’m not much of a storyteller.

    One of my favorite storytellers is Stephen Tobolowsky, who has a podcast, The Tobolowsky Files.

    If you were to listen to one, it would be best to choose an early one since later ones make references to the early ones.

    Liked by 2 people

        1. I think that’s true of many good story tellers. Sometimes it takes a while to process what you’ve heard. The one I started listening to is an interview. A good interviewer is adept at drawing out the good stories; Terry Gross is very good at it. Here is a link to a snippet of her last interview with Maurice Sendak shortly before his death. The whole interview is well worth listening to, but the excerpt will give you the flavor of it:

          Liked by 3 people

        2. I know: sad, touching, and life-reaffirming all wrapped up together. I have shared that interview with my friend Philip. He loves it and has listened to it repeatedly, as I have I.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. My mother’s older brother Arlo was an out and out character. A true musical and mathematical genius, but he could be nasty. Three years a Stalag POW. Could play almost any instrument without lessons. A wit, a wag, a tease, his own language stylistic genius. Story teller, liar but only in fun. Brought the English aunt into our family. If alive he would be a Trumpite. But then all my relatives on that side are frightening conservatives. Don’t oppose many different people but want them dead. Except one aunt who has lived her own live by her own rules. My sister looks and sounds and behaves like her but more stable. My sister is a character in a way. Moved to Vermilion SD and a few weeks later was running three things and on two other boards. Straightened out a mess in a church along the way. My ex brother is a paranoid schizophrenic. Does that make him a character? My father’s half siblings were all odd and difficult.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. When I was little my dad told me the most wonderful stories about a troupe of pugs that all had names of popular Oldsmobiles at the time. Toranado is one name I remember. He was always getting into trouble.

    Husband told our children stories about three perch who lived in one of the small, man made lakes west of Bismarck. Flippy, Drippy, and Zippy had adventures in the lake, and had personalities that matched their names. Drippy was particularly depressive.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Both of my parents came from families with dysfunction and trauma. So there are a lot of people who don’t really deserve the moniker “character”. And that meant there weren’t as many stories either.

    A few years ago before COVID-19, I discovered a storyteller/comedian named Jeanne Robertson. She has since passed away, but a lot of her work is on YouTube and I would highly recommend it. Of course I had to stop watching her bits while I was at work because I kept laughing out loud and people would come by my cube to see what was going on.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Do you consider calling someone a “character” demeaning or hurtful in any way, vs? I interpret it to signify someone who marches to their own drummer, I don’t see it as denigrating in any way. I consider myself fortunate to know a bunch of “characters.” I also don’t necessarily think of “difficult” people in a negative way. I may very well try to limit the amount of time I spend with them, depending on they ways in which they are difficult, but I may find them interesting and fascinating nevertheless. And one more thing, most of the really interesting people I know have experienced severe traumas. People’s abilities to make peace with horrendous trauma is endlessly fascinating to me. I find the story of this man, Dr. BJ Miller, really inspiring:

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Is anyone familiar with a program aired by NPR called Story Corps? It’s a really interesting program that features stories told by regular folks from all over the country. Some are obviously better than others, but they are true stories, and what they may lack in skill of presentation they make up for in diversity and originality. I find them fascinating.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. I think I’ve mentioned that Winona now has a Storytelling Festival in the fall –
    I was able to get to a couple of the events last October. I really liked Regi Carpenter from the festival, and Rev. Robert Jones, who played guitar as he told his stories.

    There will be a single event this Saturday, an Irish woman named Clare Murphy.

    Garrison and Kevin Kling are some of my favorites, but it seems like I should be able to come up with more names…


  10. my dad, Rich, storyteller and cold radio, the camera station killer in the car whenever we were travel, he would tell stories about his father and about growing up and about the relatives came from Ireland and had the farmland in about following the ice truck and about growing up in North Dakota in the 30s so when I had my children I would always tell them history was spinning, yarns and winding through family members being able to tell them a little about what I knew of these people. Dad‘s family was pretty straight laced except for uncle kjc, who was a drunk and a millionaire but kind of bombastic and difficult to work with or to grow up under. He lied to me as a kid about getting a haircut in order to do some fun thing and then stiffed me on his end of the deal and I never thought much of them after that , grandpa Jv was very stoic, but the stories that he would tell about hunting up in the Duluth area around 1900 were fascinating. He had a hunting shack called the mock Lovech and the Michael over stories were priceless, telling about being pursued by wolverines while out deer hunting my mom’s family basically had only my great grandfather who was the Native American and he would tell thoughtful philosophical stories and his daughter didn’t get it. My grandmothers stories went on forever and ever, and never had a punchline. We would just laugh when she finished I told my children stories and they would request topics or themes and we would just build a story and I would start one day and it would go on for however long it went on and then it would drop off and a new one would be born and their favorite memories are the ones about the Wolfman for some reason they were just fascinated by my Wolfman stories and I would explain to them how HAL accidentally got bit by a werewolf and he didn’t realize there was any problem until one day when the Wolfbane was in bloom, and the moon was for hell begin to feel something and all they would get so excited tell me more dad tell me more we would go to the Timberwolves games and the Timberwolves have a hole that comes over the PA and my son Spencer pushed about seven or eight at the time, and he would always say tell me a story about the werewolf dad today I have my grandchildren and they ask for another story papa another story it’s a fun tradition to pass on

    Liked by 3 people

  11. I love David Sedaris and was just thinking yesterday about starting a new authors thing because the one that they have through penpals is so expensive and so restrictive through the library and the one that they have at the Fitzgerald is good but not enough I think one could be done that would be bigger than the bookstore tours but smaller than penpals or the wanted to Fitzgerald and it would be great fun bringing David Sedaris in between his regular visits bringing an authors like in Lamarque and Barbara Kingsolver and it’s just fun remembering the authors that I have met and that I have enjoyed who are usually wonderful storyteller some of them need to refer to pages of reading to be able to pass on their stories, but others seem to be able to tell stories about the stories that they’ve told the author of Angela’s ashes, and Pat Conroy, and many others get that I listen to lots of podcasts and the storytellers there bring tears to my eyes regularly, either laughing or living vicariously through their remembrances

    Liked by 3 people

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