National Writing Project

Lyn Ford: Why I Write

Date: October 7, 2016

Summary: Storyteller Lyn Ford writes to preserve and propagate the oral storytelling tradition of her multicultural heritage and is a member of the National Writing Project Writers Council.


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I write to preserve and disseminate my memories and adaptations of the narratives of my family's multicultural African American Appalachian, or Affrilachian, heritage of storytelling. As a practitioner of orature (spoken word art), I speak the stories lovingly carried in my head and heart, and the phrasing evolves to create connections with the heart and mind of each unique story listener. Each performance is an organic, interactive, unscripted event, influenced by the feedback and participation of the audience. This means that, no matter what I tell, participants in the story experience will carry away their own versions of the stories. My spoken words are water, and wind.

As a writer, I recreate the nuances, gestures, facial expressions, and voice of the tales I heard as a child, as literary variants in a permanent format safely maintained between the covers of a book. In this way, one variant of each story will endure. My words become as solid as stone.

I also write because I like to play with the words and ideas tickling inside my brain, to develop original material, silly stories, twisted tales, and thoughtful poems; eventually they emerge like butterflies stretching their wings beyond the chrysalis. These are new creatures, conceived in real experiences and what-ifs and maybes. The thrill of creating something from the ether, something that never was, then sharing that new something with others, is beyond joyful—it's life-changing. And I have learned that this new work of heart may be rejected, but it will not die. It may need to be stripped back down to its larval state, reformed and fleshed out with different words, but its heart is still there. I can help it grow new wings, and fly. As the story grows, so do I.

Lastly, I write because I can, and because I must. We are born to communicate. Creating and sharing meaningful expression is an act of faith in who we are. It is what we are meant to do.

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