Wanted: storytellers. That means you. And you. Yes, and you, too. Every single one of us has stories to tell, and who would be better to tell them than you?
That’s the premise behind “Gardiner: Stories From Our Lives,” a storytelling project conceived by Gardiner resident Roberta Clements. Clements is soliciting stories from local residents to be read aloud at monthly gatherings at the Gardiner Library on the second Sunday of each month. The first get-together will be Sunday, November 8 at 11 a.m.
The project is intended for everyone. Writers are as welcome to contribute as anyone, but storytelling is about connection, not critique, says Clements. “This is about the spoken tradition and the connection with the audience when stories are passed on orally. That kind of community experience where we share these things is kind of a lost art. But telling our stories is a way for us to connect, and it’s the emotion that they share that makes it powerful.”
A regular listener of NPR radio, Clements says she was inspired by programs like the StoryCorps project, unscripted conversations between people that reveal and honor the everyday stories of ordinary people. “I would randomly turn on the radio,” said Clements, “and suddenly be so moved by these amazing personal stories that are told so well.”
A relative newbie to the Gardiner area, it made her think about how her own story as a two-year resident connects with that of the person whose family has lived here for more than a century, or how her commuting life to her job as a school psychologist in the Beacon schools relates to that of a local farmer.
Clements came up with the story project as a way of connecting the new people like herself to the people who have longstanding roots in the community. “I see it as a way of the old teaching the new, the new teaching the old … everyone having something to offer the other.”
She emphasizes that “Gardiner: Stories From Our Lives” is not about documenting anything or about creating a volume of stories for publication. For that matter, it’s not even just for people from Gardiner: anyone from the region is welcome to participate.
“It’s like when I sit down with someone one-on-one,” says Clements, “I feel like I can really connect with them. It may be a person you think you have nothing in common with, but in hearing their story you find out something about them or an experience they had that you wouldn’t have known about otherwise. Sharing our histories is a way for us to connect. It can be very powerful.”
Stories for submission may be recorded at the Gardiner Library (just ask at the circulation desk) or sent by audio file email attachment or on a CD, DVD or cassette. Stories may be a few minutes long or up to 15 minutes in length. They can be on any topic, and do not need to be perfectly polished or performed. Clements will organize the story list and schedule them to be told aloud at the monthly get-togethers at the library.
Storytellers will tell their own stories. The first event on November 8 is for adults only, but depending on how things go there may be all-ages storytelling events held or themed presentations at future meetings.