Jonesborough's Spellbinders

In the fall of 1991, I visited a small town in Tennessee. People came from all over the country at considerable expense to sit for hours on folding chairs under huge tents, sometimes even sitting on blankets in the rain. What brought 7, 000 people to Jonesborough, Tennessee, a town of 3,000?

The annual National Storytelling Festival.

I watched one storyteller after another captivate listeners. I watched people sit spellbound for hours, compelled to listen to the storytellers' tales.

The stories were diverse--sad, happy, funny, sentimental, historical, fictitious, mythological. Some stories had an important message; some simply entertained. However, the stories and the storytellers had one thing in common: the power to sustain the attention of listeners.

I asked myself, Why are these people effective? I noticed several traits they had in common.

* Enthusiasm. The storytellers obviously enjoyed what they were doing, expressing themselves with joy and vitality.

* Animation. The presentations were ...

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From Issue:Winter 1994: Preaching
November

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