The Year of the Story

Last month, I sat in a ballroom and listened to Robyn Carr’s speech as she accepted the Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award at RWA. Her speech was incredible, but one small phrase resonated with me. “Let’s make this year the year of the story.”

As a still-new author at a tricky spot in my writing journey, this struck me because it’s a reminder of why I began writing, continue to read books on the craft of writing, and read fiction until my vision blurs. I love telling stories, and I enjoy the challenge of learning to tell them better.

I came home deeply convicted to follow Robyn’s advice. I also came home to a brewing tragedy.

As I write this, we’ve just returned from a family weekend that revolved around my mother-in-law’s funeral. She was alive and semi-well when I boarded a plane for San Diego. Now she’s ... not. It’s still shocking how quickly it all happened.  

Over this weekend, we spent a lot of time comforting each other and mourning our loss. However, we also spent an evening telling stories – not just about her, but about her family. A younger generation learning family histories from their aunts and uncles. (And probably one of the last times I will be considered a “younger generation.”)

My husband’s uncle is perhaps one of the best storytellers I’ve seen. He has this wonderful voice and a great southern drawl, and he knows just when to pause for effect. All evening he was peppered with requests, interrupted with questions, and coaxed to remember events – both good and bad.

As I sat on the porch, these people I’d never met came alive for me. Not their faces necessarily, but their histories and their personalities.  I sat in the humid Arkansas evening, let the mosquitoes bite at will, and never once thought about checking my email or updating my status on Facebook. I learned how to tell a good story, and I reconnected with why I love to do it.

While I love connecting with readers and with other authors, I didn’t start writing because I love the idea of having a website, an author page on Facebook, or a Twitter feed. I’m not nuts about learning Snapchat or Periscope or Tumblr, or whatever new social tool comes up. (Except Pinterest. You’ll have to pry my Pinterest feed from my cold, lifeless hands.) 

Marketing is necessary and it’s understandable. Sales are a must, of course. However, I can’t market what I don’t have written – and no one will buy it if it sucks.

I have my must-read “keeper” authors. They create amazing characters who populate stories that draw me in from page one. Those are the authors who inspired me to write.

I want to tell memorable stories. Every person deserves to be remembered, to have what happened to them remembered – even fictional people.


So, for me, this is the year of the story.   

What about you? Favorite social tools? Introverted author? Favorite stories? 

Mia 

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Comments

Elise Warner said…
Sorry about your loss. Having family you are close to helps and stories about our loved ones brings them near. Hearing family stories when I was growing up made me love to read and write. Thank you for sharing.
Mia Kay said…
Thank you, Elise. My own family has tons of stories, but no really great storytellers. (We're really best at short anecdotes.) So my husband's uncle was a revelation. It wasn't just the stories, though. It was the way he felt about the people in them. It came through with every tale.
Rita said…
Hugs Mia. Storytelling is my heart. I have a jillion of them. Recently I decided to start writing them and am so loving it. Some are 2000 words. But they are now words on paper.
Marcelle Dubé said…
Condolences to you and your husband, Mia. I've just said goodbye to the last of my company, and we spent two weeks laughing and telling stories about growing up in our family and listening to my parents tell stories from their childhood. Story connects us. Story is all.
Mia, I'm sorry for your family's loss. And yes, it's so shocking when someone is there one minute, healthy and lively, and suddenly they're gone. How wonderful that that person will live on in her family's stories.

I loved Robyn Carr's speech. I agree that story is key to entertaining a reader. And emotion. I had already decided to focus on emotion (or try!) in my stories after hearing this over and over these past several months, but when Carr mentioned "story," it resonated again. To me, emotion and story go together and are so, so important!
jean harrington said…
Mia, So sorry to hear of your family's loss, but to read such a loving tribute from a daughter-in-law to her husband's mother was very touching.

BTW, I'm currently writing a series set in Arkansas. Is that your home state, by any chance?
Mia Kay said…
Thank you, Rita! I love taking those little stories and building them into characters to make them more real-feeling. Good for you for writing them down to remember later.
Mia Kay said…
Thank you, Marcelle. I hope you got those stories on paper. :-)
Mia Kay said…
Anne Marie - I love that saying "emotion and story go together." I think you're absolutely right. We tell those stories to laugh most of the time, but some of them bring tears to our eyes. As a reader, I remember the stories that touch somewhere under my skin. It makes the characters come to life, too.
Mia Kay said…
Jean - my mother-in-law was an incredible woman, and she raised three amazing children. She was the mother-in-law I always wanted, and she never failed to ask how my writing was going - or to brag to her sisters on release dates. She'll be an inspiration for a long time.

And yes, I live in Arkansas. :-) It's not my home state, but I've been her for 20 years now - so I might as well claim it. LOL. If you need help on details, just ask.
Toni Anderson said…
I love the 'year of the story' idea :) So sorry for your loss. Death is one of the many things we can't control and it brings us all back to what really matters most in life--relationships. Family. Love. (())
Mia Kay said…
Thank you, Toni! Relationships, family, love ... hmmm, I sense a theme. :-)
Cathy Perkins said…
So sorry for your loss, MIa. Such a loving tribute to your husband's mother.

Like you, I love storytellers --and fear their passing with a generation who sat on the front porch and talked rather than isolating themselves with their electronic gadgets. While we strive to 'tell stories' with our prose, there is something about the rhythm of the spoken word that resonates on a different level.
Mia Kay said…
Yes, Cathy! Exactly. Listening to them, watching the storyteller's face and the reactions of the audience. It makes it that much more fun.
Oh goodness, Mia. I'm so sorry to hear about your loss. The stories and celebration of someone lost keeps them so close in our hearts. And readers are wise. They know when emotion is invested in a story. Keep telling us great stories, Mia, and you'll be up on that stage one day receiving the same award!
Sandy Parks said…
That's what I love about times when extended families are drawn together...the stories come out. There is a lot to learn about writing from listening to good story tellers.

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