When he was nearing the end of a career in Business Management and Information Technology, Bill Wight enrolled in ETSU’s storytelling program to “brush up on his stories.” Much to his surprise, he discovered he had a creative side. Now retired, Bill tells stories to his five grandchildren, and he’s launching a second career with audiences at festivals and business workshops. He’s also lectured in college business classes about stories for business. As Bill says: “I went to school to work on my stories, but then they started working on me!”
When she moved to Northeast Tennessee in 1991, MaryGrace claimed she “moved back home”. Her mother’s people lived in Tennessee from 1795 until the early 20th century. MaryGrace grew up in southern West Virginia where stories and old time music could still be heard around kitchen tables and on front porches. While in college MaryGrace performed at folk festivals, summer camps, youth groups, and churches. These experiences prepared her for her toughest audience: her three sons.
MaryGrace has worked as a mental health therapist, using the healing aspects of storytelling, with individuals, groups, families, and couples and in workshops. For seven years MaryGrace worked as a historical interpreter at Rocky Mount Museum in Piney Flats, TN indulging her love of storytelling and ballad singing.
In 2005 MaryGrace completed her Master’s Degree in Storytelling at East Tennessee State University and began a new career as a professional storyteller.
With her love of history, it’s no surprise that Mary Grace loves to tell historical stories. She also tells folk tales, sacred stories, fables, humorous stories, personal stories, traditional Appalachian stories, and ghost stories.
Mary Grace is a performing member of the Jonesborough Storyteller’s Guild and Beaver Creek Storytellers in Bristol TN/VA, and is a member of NSN (National Storytelling Network) and Volunteer State Tellers.
Libby Tipton is a professional sign language interpreter from Flag Pond, TN. Having deaf parents, she was always a natural communicating other people’s stories through her hands. However, she now tells her own stories about life in a colorful deaf Appalachian family.
Dubbed the “Mountain Terp Teller”, Libby utilizes a combination of sign, gesture, and voice to tell stories about her culture, her subculture and her roots. She also enjoys telling folktales, fairytales, stories of healing, historical stories, and singing the old ballads.
In addition, Libby has provided sign language interpreting for deaf audiences at a number of storytelling venues and is a member of the Jonesborough Storytellers Guild.
Libby is currently the Interpreter Coordinator at East Tennessee State University where she works with students who are deaf and hard of hearing.
Types of Stories: Jack Tales, Historical, Tall Tales, Appalachian, Family, Scary, Children’s, Original/Creative, Humorous, Personal, Inspirational/ Religious
All audiences and settings
Special Talents: American Sign Language
Delanna Reed is a storyteller, teacher, mentor, and scholar. She began her teaching career and discovered storytelling in 1985 as a MA student at the University of North Texas. In 1999, after teaching communication and performance for 13 years, she brought her performance experience to the Master’s Program in Storytelling at East Tennessee State University. While teaching full time, Delanna completed her PhD in Cultural Studies in Education from the University of Tennessee in 2012.
Experienced in coaching students in dramatic performance, Delanna’s expertise is in guiding fledgling storytellers in character development and delivery skills. Her favorite courses to teach at ETSU encompass the basics of oral performance, including vocal delivery skills. Whenever possible, she offers electives in oral history collecting and performance. Delanna has told stories for children and adults in schools, conferences, festivals and at historic sites. She enjoys telling folktales, fairy tales and ghost stories from Appalachia, Texas and around the world. She particularly enjoys humorous stories and stories of strong women. Her favorite stories touch upon the sacred, explore relationships, and expand our understanding of humanity. You can reach her at email@example.com.
Joy’s personal voyage has brought her from the tenements of the Lower East Side of New York, to the Edenwald Housing Projects in the Bronx, to the rocky shores of eastern Long Island, to the gulf coast of Florida—and to the gentle hills of Jonesborough, Tennessee. She has been a teacher, a job coach, a union leader, a musician, an actress, a hiker, a ballroom dancer—as well as a wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. Mix this full life together—with passion, perseverance, love and wonder—with a dash of laughter and a sprinkle of tears—and Joy has taken on her new life’s role as The Braided Teller.
Joy has almost completed the requirements for a Masters Certificate in Storytelling at ETSU. She has studied with Elizabeth Ellis, Doug Lipman, David Novack, and Shonaleigh Cumbers.
In Florida, she has performed at Tellabration, and at the Florida Storytelling Festival. In Tennessee, she has performed at the NSA Festival Swapping Grounds, Walter State College, and the Umoja Festival in Johnson City; she tells regularly at the Story Slams in Johnson City and at the Crumley House.
Joy loves to tell inspirational stories of hope and love—and of belief in the future (fairy tales, folktales and personal tales from her varied and full life). She believes that all is possible. “If you believe it, then it will be.”
Linda Poland, Jonesborough’s Resident Storyteller, also called “The Jonesborough Flame,” teaches storytelling at the John C. Campbell Folk School and is a founding member of the Jonesborough Storyteller’s Guild. Using her talents as a storyteller she was one of the first in the country to use of the art of storytelling when developing tours to share a town’s history. She has created award winning historical storytelling tour programs and directed Tennessee Humanities oral history projects throughout Tennessee and beyond. Because of these accomplishments she was officially honored in 1997 with the title of Resident Storyteller for the Town of Jonesborough, TN. This was and is quite an honor since Jonesborough is the home of the International Storytelling Center and the National Storytelling Festival. A Resident Storyteller is like a public minister in a foreign court that uses the art of storytelling to craft stories about people and places they represent.
Linda not only teaches storytelling, but she conducts a variety of workshops throughout the country that incorporate the use of storytelling for “Opening Doors for Change,” “Empowerment Through Stories,” and “Building Teams and Enhancing Teamwork Through Stories.” She has both original and traditional material, which enables her to custom design programs to fit any agenda. Her repertoire includes a multitude of stories collected over the years while traveling, teaching and telling.
There’s so much more to tell…for instance, Linda was born in a Florida avocado grove two weeks early and delivered by her father. That’s perhaps one of the reasons people who know her think that she steps to the toot of a different flute…but that’s another story.
Quotes shared by some listeners:
“Ms. Poland’s use of story creates a positive atmosphere for making necessary changes.”
L. Mandel, Springer & Associates, Miami, FL
“Linda’s dedication, creativity, infectious enthusiasm, and love for the human spirit are evident in everything she does.” Katie Doman, Musician & Storyteller
“I can say with confidence that Linda Poland and Positive Solutions Tours have-through the power of the told story-been major forces in “selling” our region to people throughout the nation.” Jimmy Neil Smith, President, International Storytelling Center
“When I first heard Linda introduced as “The Flame” I thought it was because of her red hair. I was soon to learn it was because of her style. Her stories burn into your memory and ignite your senses.” Pat Corkin, Boone, NC
References available on request.
Types of stories: Historical, Appalachian, Family, Scary, Original/Creative, Humorous, Adventure, Personal, Inspirational/ Religious, World War II
Preferred Audience: Adults, Mixed Ages
Preferred Settings: Churches, Hospitals, Festivals, Civic Organizations, Businesses, Workshops, Schools
Special Talents: Costumed Characterization
In 2016 when Betty Ann Polaha signed up to audit a story telling class, she never dreamed that three years later she would have earned a storytelling certificate and would be named Outstanding Storyteller Performer at East Tennessee State University.
Betty Ann was always a storyteller coming from a large family with lots of women who sat around the kitchen table telling stories. Betty Ann always thought they were just gossiping but upon moving to Tennessee she discovered that her relations were actually storytelling and that it was a genuine art and a career choice she wanted to pursue.
In 2017 Betty Ann became a member of the Jonesborough Storyteller’s Guild where she performs all kinds of stories that are impactful, poignant and purposeful. Her personal and original stories have unexpected comedy and her original ghost stories will have you on the edge of your seat.
Betty Ann was chosen to tell stories at the 2017 ETSU Donor Dinner where she told railroad stories to over 150 people. She also performed a one women show about the immigrants who came to work at the steel mills at the National Museum of Industrial History in Bethlehem Pa. Betty Ann tells wherever she gets the chance whether it’s a story slam, school, nursing home, civic group or most recently at the bedside of hospital patients.
Bruce was born in Indianapolis, Indiana. His education was quite varied. He attended Indiana University and The University of Minnesota, and graduated from Minnesota Bible College for undergraduate school. His Seminary and graduate training included Emmanuel Scholl of Religion, Earlham School of Religion, Christian Theological Seminary (M.Div.), and Bowling Green State University where he completed his Ph.D. in Interpersonal and Public Communication. Bruce and Carol were married in 1968, and they have three children and nine grandchildren.
Bruce spent twenty-seven years in preaching ministry in Ohio, Indiana, and Texas. During those years he also used stories to teach speech classes at various colleges and universities. He loves to tell stories to make people laugh, imagine, learn, and encourage. He has been a Professor of Communications at Milligan College since 1995.
He has spoken at national and regional gatherings for Youth In Ministry and Higher Ministries. He loves telling stories: spiritual, Biblical, humorous, and personal stories that relate to his audiences.
With a twinkle in her eye, Judy Donley describes her stories as “practically true…at least in my mind!”
She grew up in a large family of 12 children in Massachusetts who, with encouragement from their father, would share stories at the dinner table. “What did you learn today?” or “What did you do today that was interesting?” were common questions from Dad. The answers were sometimes funny, sometimes informative, and sometimes even scary. But it was part of theirof life…a way of communicating in those formative years. Looking back, she is thankful for her fascinating and close family and also for the many friends who have enriched her life by instilling in her a love of telling stories.
Her life has literally been full of adventures that she is looking forward to telling from the stage…such as joining the U.S. Air Force, marrying her husband, Jeff, who later joined the Navy as an intelligence officer (aka a spy), and their many escapades. She has lived in many states including New York, Maine, Maryland, and Alaska, and also Scotland and Guam. She and Jeff have always enjoyed traveling, which took her to many other states and countries.
But no matter where she has lived or traveled, she found that every place has its own beauty and magic. Every place offers adventures – all you have to do is reach out and experience it…and she did. She has flown airplanes, rode on motorcycles, gone scuba diving and sailing, worked at several airports and for a couple of airlines, and even built a robot.
When not telling stories, Judy is immersed in art. She is an award-winning artist and enjoys painting in a variety of media such as watercolor, pastels, oil, pen & ink, and acrylics.
Types of stories: Historical, Family,Original/Creative, Humorous, Adventure, Personal, Inspirational/ Religious, Women in Aviation, Military
Preferred Audience: Adults, Mixed Ages
Preferred Settings: Churches, Festivals, Civic Organizations, Businesses, Workshops, Schools
“Once upon a time,” my Grandfather would read to me, and I was totally enchanted. These fairy tales made perfect sense to me. The world that I lived in was full of magic: blossoms pushed out of the dead ground, rainbows spanned the sky, and every chicken provided a wish bone. Sometimes as I grew up, the line between fairy tale and my life became blurred. In Indiana I, too, was a princess awaiting discovery.
I was off on a grand adventure into the unknown. After my mother died when I was twenty, I graduated from college, sold everything I owned, and bought a one-way ticket to California for graduate school. No fairy tale heroine ever met more colorful characters than I did in Los Angeles in the 1970’s.
My first teaching job took me appropriately to the “Land of Enchantment.” As I taught Communication Education on the Indian pueblos, I learned about storytellers and stories which formed the texture of their culture. After several years, I went to another magical land famous for a castle, Hearst Castle. I taught at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo for twelve years: performance of literature, storytelling, and readers theatre. The more I taught about storytelling, the more my passion grew to become a teller and share the wonderful stories, no longer commonly known, with new generations. Fairy tales still made the most sense to me. They provided a world view consistent with my own. Many events could not be explained except through magic. People, even the most unlikely people, often surprised me with their goodness and strength. Every one, regardless of status, struggled and had to overcome challenges which were often overwhelming. Help comes from the most unexpected places. Kindness is never ever wasted. The ones who can never repay you and cost you your last resources are often the best people to help.
Motherhood altered my dream, from a theoretical to a practicing storyteller. The addition of a little listener brought forth all my need to share, to open worlds, to enchant with “Once upon a time.” I told stories in parks, churches, schools, and at birthday parties. My daughter’s birthday parties had themes of great stories: Cinderella, The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland.
My adventure finally brought me to the heart of the art: Jonesborough, Tennessee. Fairy tales are the best way for me to connect hearts, to encourage dreams, to grow faith. As George MacDonald said, “My imagination was baptized and converted by reading fairy tales, the intellect came later.”
I am celebrating the magic of storytelling in Jonesborough, reminding listeners by colorful re-telling of the excitement, wisdom, and joy found in fairy tales from all over the world.