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  • Writer's pictureGlen "Papa" Wright

A Bit of MO-TELL History: MO-TELL Memories of Glen "Papa" Wright

It was September of 1995. My wife, Jackie, took a storytelling workshop with Diann Joy Bank to learn how to become a storyteller. Diann told Jackie about an organization called MO-TELL. Of course, Diann had to explain exactly what MO-TELL meant. I was interested in storytelling as well. Years earlier, I had partnered with and accompanied, playing percussion instruments, a storyteller named Bert Minkin. Diann told Jackie that MO-TELL had an event coming up in October. So, Jackie and I both decided to attend MO-TELL’s event.

I believe it was a two-day festival. It was called the Missouri River Storytelling Festival. I recall MO-TELL on one of the nights, having dinner first, then a storytelling concert followed. I don’t recall who told at the first festival I attended, which was at some place called a School Mall in St. Charles, MO. Jackie and I attended so many festivals, it’s difficult to pinpoint who was featured in any particular year. In the early years of our attendance, the late 1990s, I do remember seeing Jackie Torrence, Loren Niemi, Angela Lloyd, Milbre Birch, and Doug Lipman. That’s all I can think of right now.

Every year, Jackie and I looked forward to going to the Missouri River Storytelling Festival. It was the highlight of our fall. We still miss it to this day. The festival had several locations over the years. I also remember attending on the Golden Rod Showboat that was docked in St. Charles on the Missouri River riverfront. Later it was at the Depot on the riverfront.

Of course, we soon became members of MO-TELL and got acquainted with the St. Louis storytelling community. A couple of years later, Diann Bank suggested to Sue Hinkel that Jackie was ready to tell on the Missouri River Storytelling Festival concert; and of course, I would accompany her on percussion instruments. So, Sue invited us to the October 1997 Missouri River Storytelling Festival. It was the year Milbre Birch was the featured teller. I believe it took place on the Goldenrod Showboat. Jackie and I were thrilled to be asked to be at the concert and thrilled to share the stage with Milbre Birch and the other tellers, Karen Young, Deb Swanegan, Joyce Slater, Pat Baker, and Donna Merz. Later, we were on the festival concert with Doug Lipman on the Golden Rod Showboat.

Jackie and I also attended Tellabration concerts every November, which included a silent auction. The silent auctions are now held during the Liars’ Contest. I believe I attended a Tellabration that was held at the Union Avenue Christian Church in St. Louis on Union Avenue. I recall Jackie and I telling on a couple of Tellabrations, including last year’s Tellabration in St. Louis at O’Connell’s Pub, upstairs at Jack’s Joint.

I remember the annual membership meetings that were held in January and still are. Back in the late 90s and early 2000s, we usually met at Karen and Mike Potts home in St. Charles. Members came with a story to tell and a dish to share. Jackie told “Tale of the Three Trees” one year, as I accompanied her on percussion instruments. I also remember Jackie and I doing an upfront puppet show, “The Three Billy Goats” at one of the meetings.

In the early 2000s, Jackie and I were asked to be Co-Vice President of MO-TELL. We held the position until our term was up. Since 2023, I am on the board as a member- at- large and Jackie is the treasurer. Since I got involved with MO-TELL so long ago, my memory of a lot of the details has left, but I remember how I felt. I enjoyed the stories and the camaraderie of the storytellers and the story listeners, and I still do today.

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