‘A story wanting to be told’
“Once upon a time, there was a story that wanted to be told. This story was new, this story was old. This story was alive, this story was true, this story was about me, this story was about you.”
Such began the talk given by award-winning author Crescent Dragonwagon in the Bob Cohen Room of the Bethlehem Area Public Library Dec. 12. The talk, whose title matched its opening line, focused on the power of literature and storytelling.
Dragonwagon aimed to prove that “the world is thick with stories,” drawing upon readings of her work, personal anecdotes and exercises requiring audience participation.
“Surprising things happen, good and bad, terrible and marvelous. And how do we make sense of this chaos of events happening simultaneously? Narrative is a bowl through which we hold all of this experience and give it shape,” Dragonwagon said. “We are all part of a larger whole and stories are just the way that the universe is trying to figure itself out in a little tiny way through us.”
The exercise she requested the audience take part in drew upon each individual’s stories, challenging everyone in the room to listen to another participant’s anecdote and respond with their own. This activity was an abbreviated version of an exercise she uses in her Fearless Writing workshops to help writers transition from memoir to fiction.
Dragonwagon held a shortened version of the workshop, “An Afternoon of Fearless Writing with Crescent Dragonwagon,” earlier on Dec. 12 and, according to content strategist Sweetie Berry, Dragonwagon intends to return to the Bethlehem Area Public Library in April for a full two and a half day long Fearless Writing class.
Berry recalled a day 24 years ago when Dragonwagon came to her Arkansas classroom to work with her intelligent yet learning disabled students. She remembered thinking the idea “sounded like a recipe for disaster” but came away from the experience with a different outlook.
“Within 45 minutes, I was enchanted. My children not only found the value of their story, but whether they could write, spell, read or grunt, they understood they had value. And because of that value, my children spent about 16 weeks after that being thrilled to write every day,” Berry said.
Dragonwagon is the first lecturer in a new initiative by Sahl Communications, Inc. to bring speakers from all around the world to Bethlehem, said SahlComm CEO and Founder Kim Plyler. Proceeds from the lectures will be donated to the renovation of the library’s Bob Cohen Room, in which all future speakers will be hosted.
For more information about Dragonwagon, visit dragonwagon.com. More information about her Fearless Writing workshops can be found at fearlesswriting.com.