Perfect for the Holidays: “The Storyteller”
Norman Rockwell’s “The Storyteller” (scanned here from a Knowles China Company collectible plate) first appeared in 1925 in Literary Digest magazine. It portrays a girl and her grandfather’s involvement in a shared reading hour that had undoubtedly become an anticipated pleasure to both over her short years. With closer study, this painting can become so many stories on its own.
The volumes missing from the bookshelf appear to have been searched and strewn around the grouping. Is this a pleasure reading or a lesson? Are the books part of an Encyclopedia being used to clarify points in the story (as suggested in the notes accompanying the plate), or of a specially bound collection of great literature? Is this a holiday visit or an everyday occurrence? Who chose the day’s story? What did the little dog sense in the man’s voice and gestures to stop him in the middle of a dog’s adventures? How many children call this man their Storyteller? Is he in fact reading, or does he make up a story as he goes along? Have you experienced the joy of finding yourself totally immersed in a storytelling hour and found the child equally enthralled? (Sorry. OCD/ADD alert)
All good and appropriate questions at holiday time, but not the purpose of this post. I was blessed with the gift of this plate many years ago from a close schoolmate and friend (Louise) who grew into a sister for life. She has always been one of my biggest fans, supportive and encouraging in all my many adventures. I was thrilled to receive a gift of the Storyteller, knowing she carefully picked it out as a representation of my life and ambitions: the title, the little dog and the adult loving the moment with a related child. It has been joyfully cherished over the years … from a safe distance.
Each time I opened its protective box to admire it, I considered where I might display it. Each time I decided my life was too chaotic; my décor didn’t match; there was no safe place for it outside the shipping box. I am in the process of hanging it in the living room now, for the holidays. I realized as I placed it in a plate-hanger my real reason for not displaying it over the years was: (drum-roll please) I secretly felt I had not earned it. My writing had been like my life, chaotic, messy, unsafe, often disastrous and unsettled. In the last three years, I finally grew up (fireworks here please). I now call myself a Writer! I have books completed and awaiting an editor and publisher. I acknowledge that copywriting is authentically a form of writing, and I’m good at it. I have a voice.
I also know that other writers have been brave enough to write about the hesitancy we display to call ourselves Writers. That’s important and greatly appreciated. We Are Not Alone, or WANA, as Kristen Lamb, author of the #1 best-selling books We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer calls her supportive organization. It seems most writers feel the same lack of credentialed label as they develop. If you write, you are a Writer. You may be unpublished. Your books may be “in different stages of development” (one of my personal favorites), or you may be “dabbling in different genres and media, finding your voice, rhythm and specialty.”
If you create in any of the fine arts, give yourself a gift this Christmas: Call yourself out. If you can’t say it straight out, tell people you ______ (insert appropriate word – write, paint, compose) in your free time. It is a part of you, and defines a large part of your soul, personality and brain. Personally, I’m a Writer and Storyteller!
PPS: Love and Thanksgiving for Louise (& Happy Birthday in 12 days!), and for all of my Family!