The Heart of Texas Storytelling Guild

By Vivian Rutherford

As a child, I was very close to my maternal grandmother.  Spending many hours with her are some of my fondest memories.  She told me stories about her family, her mom, and the grandmother that raised her.

My great-great grandmother had been a slave and most of her children had been sold into slavery except for one child, my future great- grandmother, who had been born during Emancipation.

Those stories along with ones of her childhood, adult and married life instilled in me a sense of pride in who I was and what I could become.  She believed in me.

Annie Lee would live to be almost a hundred years old. Even though she could not read or write, education was her top priority for me.  I would sit at her feet for hours listening to story after story.

Eventually I began to ask for her specific tales.  I shared those stories with other family members. And as I expanded my reading appetite, I included folk tales and fairy tales.  Throughout my school years, opportunities would arise, whether they were plays, speech competitions, church productions in which I was able to grow my expertise.

Becoming a children’s librarian was the perfect direction for me.  I was able to share old and new favorite stories each week with our youngest patrons and their families.

As a storyteller, I enjoy the almost tangible connection with the audience.  I can actually feel them being drawn in.  It is an amazing feeling, one that I both cherish and revere.

After being in Waco for several years, I attended the Tejas Storytelling Festival, an annual storytelling event in Denton, Texas.  The festival was an eye opener.  Not only were there workshops designed to improve and polish storytelling skills, but the organization itself was an umbrella for local guilds scattered throughout Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana.  They catered to individual tellers and groups. The guilds then supported the local tellers who either were professional, wanted to become professional or were just interested in listening to tellers.  Being in a guild provided the storytellers a protective environment in which to share and practice their stories.

In 2007, Terri Jo Mosely (who was a Waco Tribune reporter at the time) was attending the festival when we bumped into each other.  I was very impressed with the Tejas Storytelling Association and wondered out loud how nice it would be if we had a guild in Waco.  Terri Jo immediately asked me, “Why wonder?”  “Why don’t you do it?”  And I thought, why not?

There was a nearby guild, the Bluebonnet Scots of Mexia, which along with Tejas, mentored and guided us.  We were off to a great start.  We began with a few members: Leslie Collier (deceased), Julia Bugh, Terri Jo Mosely, Beulah Barksdale, Barbara Bridgewater, Marian Fleischmann, Tom Taylor and myself.

During that first year, we hosted our very first Tellabration!  Tellabration is a world-wide national event celebrating storytelling and Waco was a part of it!

The next event added was “Walking Tales” at Oakwood Cemetery. We wanted to combine history with storytelling.  Highlighting lives that influenced and helped to build Texas was the ideal option.

In 2016, the Guild was given the green light to facilitate and host for the first time a Tejas Summer Conference in Waco.  This Bi-annual conference teaches the storytelling nuts and bolts. The conference included attendees from as far away as New York.

We’ve been able to participate, especially with our youth, in various activities such as Art on Elm Street, Barnes and Noble Storytime, the Cultural Arts Fest, various nursing homes and of course Tellabration!

Ultimately, I would love to see an annual storytelling festival right here in Waco.  Storytelling as a community brings families together, strengthens our identity, brings out character, celebrates our diversity and unites us in our commonalities.  We are stronger for weaving our stories together.

Teaching the art of storytelling to young people, adults and students is a fun way to preserve and share the art.  And, it forever keeps me in the learning mode.

A celebrated moment in my storytelling journey occurred this past Easter, 2016.  Several churches came together to create a momentous storytelling event.  For several weeks at the Hippodrome, a variety of tellers from diverse backgrounds shared stories and experiences with the Waco community.  I was honored to be included.  It was a total life changing experience for me!

I see the Heart of Texas Storytelling Guild as a virtual front porch.  In days gone by, people would see someone sitting and rocking on the porch. They would sit a spell and talk.  Others would stop and join them and before you knew it, the stories would flow.

That’s what we do every 4th Saturday of the month (holiday exceptions).

We let the stories flow.  Some are sharing just for the sheer joy of telling, knowing someone is listening with awe.  Some are sharing with an agenda, needing specific critiques.  Some are there as beginners, gleaning from the many years of experience.  Some are there to take it all in and loving every minute. We would love to have you come, sit a spell, tell your story!

Tellabration! 2017

  • November 11 @ 6:00 pm – 8:30 pm
  • Austin Avenue United Methodist Church (Fellowship Hall), 1300 Austin Avenue
  • Tickets: $12/12yrs-adults, $6/4yrs-11yrs

Tellabration! celebrates the ageless art of storytelling. This local event, sponsored by The Heart of Texas Storytelling Guild and celebrated world-wide, is our way of sharing this traditional art within our community. Come enjoy a feast of stories coupled with a fine meal. This year we celebrate Kyndall Rae Rothaus, storyteller, poet and preacher. She is the pastor of Lake Shore Baptist Church in Waco, and the author of Preacher Breath (Smyth and Helwys, 2015).
For more information: Vivian Rutherford, 254-717-1763, [email protected]

Heart of Texas Storytelling Guild

What:   An Organization of Storytellers and Supporters dedicated to preserving the Art of Storytelling

When:   We meet the 4th Saturday of each month (Holiday exceptions)

Adults:  10:30-12 noon      Youth:  1:30-3pm

Where:  Waco-McLennan County Library, South Branch,  23 S. 18th St. (at dead end of 18th) Waco, TX

Call or email for more information:  Vivian Rutherford (254) 717-1763, [email protected]

Vivian Rutherford is originally from Houston, Texas. She moved to Waco in 2000 and joined the Waco-McLennan County Library System as a Children’s Librarian. She began The Heart of Texas Storytelling Guild in 2007. She enjoys reading, cooking, listening to music and playing the piano. She is a wife, and mother to 3 kids, 3 cats and 1 dog.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email [email protected] for more information.

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