Open Mic Blog


Posted on February 16, 2015 at 1:15 PM

Dr. Linda Tate

StoryWeb: Storytime for Grownups


Recently, I launched a weekly blog and podcast – StoryWeb: Storytime for Grownups. Readers and listeners are abuzz with excitement about the new project, and many of them have asked how I got the idea to focus on stories.


Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison answers the question better than I can. She says:


"People crave narration. People want to hear a story. They love it! That’s the way they learn things. That’s the way human beings organize their human knowledge – fairy tales, myths. All narration."


I love Toni Morrison. To me, she is the great American writer alive today. And one of the primary reasons she’s a classic is that she understands the power of story. Storytelling – one person talking to another, spinning a yarn – is at the heart of all her fiction.


Human beings tell stories all the time, in so many ways. We tell each other the tale of what happened that day. Families pass down stories of treasured memories – the favorite in my family is the tale of my grandparents’ first date. Communities pass down lore, the history of the culture, spiritual lessons through oral storytelling. Writers convey stories through novels, short stories, memoir, poems. Dramatists write plays, and filmmakers tell stories through the world brought to life on the big screen. Songwriters encapsulate stories in short lyrics, little tale capsules. Even visual artists – painters, photographers, sculptors – tell stories.


It seems that we humans can’t stop telling stories – and as Toni Morrison says, we “crave” stories. We want to hear them. We want to read them. We want to experience them.


My weekly blog and podcast – StoryWeb: Storytime for Grownups – celebrates this human love of stories. Each week, I highlight yet another storyteller – a fiction writer, memoirist, poet, playwright, filmmaker, songwriter, visual artist, folklorist. To bring the stories to life, I feature an audio or video excerpt from the story of the week.


And when you’re inspired (and you know you will be!), you’ll find links to read the book, watch the movie, listen to the song.


Stop by StoryWeb to learn more or visit my Facebook page at       




A former Professor of English, Dr. Linda Tate loves stories of all kinds.


After 26 years of teaching literature and writing at universities around the country, Linda left higher education to focus on her writing. She’d had a great run – she’d even been named West Virginia Professor of the Year – but it was time to write!


Most recently, her memoir, Power in the Blood: A Family Narrative, won the Colorado Authors’ League Award for Creative Nonfiction and was a finalist for the Colorado Book Award. Currently, Linda is at work on Ferguson Girl: A Memoir of Family, Place, and Race. You can learn more about the research for this book at her website and blog, The Wellston Loop.


If you’re interested in learning how Linda brings her talents to the nonprofit world, check out her Tate Communications website.


Through StoryWeb: Storytime for Grownups, Linda brings her knowledge of stories to you. She hopes you’ll be inspired to read, watch, listen, learn.





















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Reply Laura Treacy Bentley
2:15 PM on February 20, 2015 
Welcome, Linda! Thank you so much for stopping by to talk about the importance of stories and why we crave them!

I remember hearing that the head of 60 Minutes told all of his reporters to "Tell me a story." That was the most important thing to him above all. Why are stories important to you?
Reply Linda Tate
2:23 PM on February 20, 2015 
I live, eat, and breathe stories. I'm either listening raptly to someone tell me a story (my grandmother was my favorite storyteller), or I'm spinning a yard myself, or I'm reading a great story, or I'm drifting off to sleep telling myself a story. You get the picture. It's stories all the time for me. When I was a professor of English (mostly American literature) and also a memoir writer, I said to my future husband at one point,that I couldn't decide if I was more a teacher or more a writer. He told me I didn't have to decide: I'm a storyteller!
Reply Carter Seaton
2:30 PM on February 20, 2015 
I couldn't agree more. I think storytelling is part of our species. I recall reading something Margaret Mitchell wrote about the back story of GWTW. She said it grew from all the stories she'd heard from her family as a child. In my family, we bred raconteurs. I spent many a night listening to them tell stories when I was supposed to be in bed. Do your stories come from a similar source?
Reply Colleen Anderson
2:49 PM on February 20, 2015 
Welcome, Linda. I'm happy to discover StoryWeb. Loved your essay about Louise McNeill.
Reply Christina
2:51 PM on February 20, 2015 
Hi Linda,
Your website is intriguing. I followed the links to your memoir on Amazon, and read the beginning. Quite intriguing. I've bought myself a copy and look forward to reading it. Your story about seeking your grandmother reminded me of my need to invent who my grandmothers were, since I never met them, and never heard them mentioned. Invisible women. But power in the blood, indeed.
Reply Linda Tate
3:00 PM on February 20, 2015 
Thanks, Colleen! I love Louise McNeill!
Reply Linda Tate
3:32 PM on February 20, 2015 
I'm trying to post replies to everyone's great questions, but not all of my answers are appearing. Please be patient while I try to figure out what the problem might be.
Reply Linda Tate
3:37 PM on February 20, 2015 
Hi Christina,

Thanks for your interest in "Power in the Blood." I think you will find it compelling given your interest in "invisible" grandmothers.

Let me know what you think after you read it!

Reply Linda Tate
3:39 PM on February 20, 2015 
Hi Carter!

Yes, I do indeed draw heavily from family stories in my work. In fact, "Power in the Blood" is all about reclaiming and reconstructing lost family stories. I LOVE family stories . . . and I'm glad you do, too!

Reply Laura Treacy Bentley
3:48 PM on February 20, 2015 
I love the piece you wrote about Truman Capote on StoryWeb, and I am so moved each time I read his short story "A Christmas Memory." What makes him such a great storyteller?
Reply Linda Tate
4:02 PM on February 20, 2015 
Laura, I love "A Christmas Memory," too! I can't get through it without crying. I think it's a deeply moving story. One thing I admire about Capote's story is his amazing attention to detail, both about physical objects (such as the fruitcake ingredients) and about the characters he's portraying (especially, in this case, Buddy's elderly cousin). I think some of his power also comes from the fact that he writes about outsiders, misfits, and makes us care about them, empowers them in a way just by paying attention to them. He and his cousin are both outsiders, but he paints them so lovingly, elevates them and says, "These people mattered." And in doing that, he weaves a story that resonates with all of us.
Reply Laura Treacy Bentley
4:17 PM on February 20, 2015 
Who are some of your favorite oral storytellers?

One of mine was Richard Burton. I used to be captivated by the stories that he told on talk shows like Dick Cavett's. Occasionally I watch the reruns of that show just to hear Burton tell his tales again.
Reply Linda Tate
4:50 PM on February 20, 2015 
My favorite oral storyteller was, hands down, my Grandma Landsbury. We all especially loved it when she'd tell the tale of her first date with my grandfather. As far as publicly known oral storytellers, I will have to give that some thought. I love the story collecting that Zora Neale Hurston did, but as far as I know, there are no recordings of her telling those tales. (BUT I have discovered a treasure trove of Hurston singing songs she collected in Florida. Look for a future StoryWeb post on that!)
Reply Linda Tate
4:52 PM on February 20, 2015 
More thoughts on oral storytellers:

Jean Ritchie could spin a good yarn, and so does Jim (Jimmy) Costa, from Hinton, West Virginia.
Reply Susanna Connelly Holstein
5:01 PM on February 20, 2015 
I've been a traditional storyteller for 20 years; it was part of my life growing up. I am always intrigued, and humbled, by the hunger people have to hear a tale well told. Especially in our Appalachian region, where storytelling was part of the culture for so long, listeners long for that return to a simpler time when one voice could capture imaginations and spin entire worlds right on the porch. It's what I strive for, that simple magic of the tale well told.
Reply Linda Tate
5:19 PM on February 20, 2015 

It's great to hear from a traditional storyteller! What kinds of tales do you find that listeners most want to hear?

Reply Rita Quillen
6:38 PM on February 20, 2015 
As I've said before, in the mountains, storytelling and using language in inventive ways is a kind of currency! The ability to use language in entertaining ways gives you a kind of prestige and popularity in the community! Sitting around and swapping stories was what you did to spend time with family & friends. It's good to see the focus on that cultural rootwad....
Reply Linda Tate
7:38 PM on February 20, 2015 
Nice to hear from you, Rita! I think your comments are spot on. I look forward to featuring your work on StoryWeb. Just need to get some technical things figured out (with the hope that I can record you reading from your work!).
Reply Linda Tate
12:23 PM on February 21, 2015 
Hi everyone! I wanted to add that, given my deep love of Appalachian storytelling, I'll be featuring quite a few Appalachian stories on StoryWeb. Since the launch in November, I've highlighted Hazel Dickens's song, "Mama's Hand," Louise McNeill's poetry book, "Gauley Mountain," and George Ella Lyon's poem, "Where I'm From." Coming up, there will be features on Kirk Judd, Rita Quillen, Lee Smith, and Betty Smith. So if you love Appalachian stories, consider subscribing to StoryWeb:
Reply Cat
1:33 PM on February 21, 2015 
Linda, I recall your memoir when it was still in the writing stages. I was involved in editing an anthology that Lynda Ann Ewen proposed back in the early 2000s. Unfortunately, that never made it to publication. However, I remember the power of your story very well. I, too, am a storyteller, from a huge family of storytellers. I referred to my memoir, which is focused on many family tales, and many of my own, as The Last Storyteller, but once WVU Press decided to publish it, it's now titled Riding on Comets; however, all the storytelling remains. I'm looking forward to subscribing to your new website. Brava!