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Where Do Storytellers Come From?

by Dana Mentink

Writers are storytellers. Most will tell you something along the lines of “Oh I’ve been jotting down stories since I was a kid!” Guilty. When I wasn’t jotting them, I was thinking about them (most likely during a math lesson.) Somewhere in my formative years, the seed was planted deep, sprouting into a jungle of stories. So where oh where did that little seed come from? Do writers have people in their lives that foster that yen for story? Folks that took the time to bring us into another world before we had the skills to decode the words on the page ourselves? Perhaps it was a grandparent, an enthusiastic teacher with the silver tones of a true storyteller? For me, it was my father.

I remember as a child listening to my father read to us, both from the Bible and the plethora of story books on our shelves. He has a certain intonation, a soothing inflection that brought the words to life for me. I can picture him sitting there on the bed, with his thick fingers delicately turning the pages. No matter how tired he was, or how much work he’d brought home with him at night, there was always story time.

Fast forward a few decades in time and now I am the mother of two girls. Somehow I do not see my father enough, anymore. The days are filled with business and though we live in the same town, our lives travel down different directions. Imagine my surprise when I first read to my own children, and found that I used the phrasing and inflection that my father used with me, trying to wrap the words in the same love and wonder that he did. Story time was sacred time, a father/daughter tradition now passed on to mother/child.

So was it the magic of the stories themselves that captivated me, or the fact that my father took the time out of his always busy days to read to me? Probably a little of both. The fact is, I will always hear my father’s voice, reading the Bible or the magical stories of “the great gray green greasy Limpopo River” and the Giant Jam Sandwich and though the stories have faded in my memory, his voice will not.

Do I capture those rich words and mesmerizing plots in my own books? I can’t say. The stories that come from my desk go out into the world to be experienced by others, shared or discarded, impactful or forgettable. They take with them the indelible imprint of all the stories my father shared with me, born from the same seed that took hold all those years ago.

Did you have a storyteller in your life growing up?

Dana MentinkDana Mentink got her start writing the UP FINNY’S NOSE mysteries for Heartsong Presents, recently re-released as ebooks. She writes for Harlequin’s Love Inspired Suspense, where her books have earned a Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award, a Holt Medallion Merit Award and a Carol Award. Her River North debut, JUNGLE FIRE, released in July and she’s begun a series for Harlequin’s Heartwarming line. Visit her at danamentink.com.

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3 Responses to Where Do Storytellers Come From?

  1. Anna Labno says:

    I didn’t have anyone reading stories to me. But my mom read to herself and collected so many books. I took after her by reading at night.
    I try to read every night to my six year old. My older one reads to himself. He took after me. :) My younger one cries if I don’t read a story to him. When I see his sad face, he wins every time even when I’m so tired. Now, I’m reading disney books to him.

  2. Neither did I have a storyteller in my family. I’m not sure why I’m a storyteller, just know that I am. Interesting blog!

  3. Thank you, Dana, for your wonderful post! As in your case, my father was the major influence in my life that led to my becoming a writer. When I was a little girl, he would read to me from the Oxford Book of Great Poetry. I was mesmerized by the inflections in his voice and the power of the written word to take me to other places, both physically and emotionally. I am grateful for my father’s influence and did my best to pass on the love of words to my own children. Today, both of them are excellent writers and bloggers, and I am now passing on this love of words to my granddaughter. So the legacy goes on from one generation to the next. :)

    Thank you again for your inspiring words.

    Blessings,

    MaryAnn