Q and A with a Story Guru: Diane Wyzga: We Are “Homo Narrans” … Storytelling People

See a photo of Diane, her bio, and Part 1 of this Q&A, Part 2, and Part 3.

Q&A with Diane Wyzga, Question 4:

Q: In your interview with Stephanie West Allen, you tell an absolutely fascinating story of how you discovered storytelling, of being “in a book and coffee shop in Pacific Grove, CA, [when] a book fell off a shelf. I picked it up. The year was 1994. The book was a 20th anniversary edition of best-loved stories told at the Jonesborough, TN, story festival. I read a story. I said: I can do this.” One little piece seems to be missing from this story, though — what do you think drew you into that story and that book? What was powerful enough in that book or story to motivate you to want to “do this?”

A: We are going back a long time — time out of mind on this one. Even so I can recall the entire episode as if it was yesterday. The story was “The Wish-Ring” as retold by Martha Holloway, a retired bacteriologist at Scripps Institute who began a second career at age 62.

I remember thinking one is never too old to give voice to the values that reflect who you are and your vison for being of use in the world. I still have notes on the flyleaf of the book with names and telephone numbers of local storytellers and guilds I contacts as soon as I returned home. One of them, Linda King Pruitt [pictured], remains a close friend and storyteller.

What called me? A knowing. That’s the best I can say. Remember when you had the experience of knowing that someone or something was right for you? It’s like that. A friend calls it the “Wilson Factor” She found her dog in a shelter, knew when she saw him he was “the One” and called him Wilson. It’s like that.

My experience is also aligned with a belief system of paying attention to the whisperings or beckonings of truth. I blogged on this recently. There are many things in life that will catch our eye, but only a few will catch our heart — those are the ones we are destined to follow if we are paying attention.

Looking back I believe that what I found was a way of being I could relate to, that came naturally: thinking like a storyteller. I was looking for a tribe of people who were having fun while making a life built on life-affirming work that helps others.

It took a book falling on my head to launch me into a world where grown-ups shared stories for a living. Some of those tellers have passed on; other young ones are now the grey-haired elders. The message is the same one I heard then: We are “homo narrans” — storytelling people.