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  • Writer's pictureJan Jensen

MO-TELL Member of the Month: Jan and Bob Jensen

I am currently living in Swansea, Illinois where my husband Bob and I moved when we retired in 2016. I was born in Dixon, Illinois and also lived in Sycamore, Illinois for five years. Bob and I met at Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois and after Bob and I got married we lived in Chicago Heights, Rockford, Dubuque Iowa, Tulsa Oklahoma, Coal City, Illinois, and Delafield, Wisconsin before retirement.

We have two grown sons who are married and have gifted us with seven grandchildren.

I got my bachelor’s degree in K-12 education and later my master’s degree in Library Information Science.

Bob began his career in business, but sensed a calling and gave up his job with the Commonwealth Edison power company to go to seminary and then worked for a higher power as a Presbyterian Minister for 32 years.

When we lived in the small town of Coal City, Illinois I was hired as the village library’s children’s librarian. In August of 1990 I received a letter inviting me to join with other librarians from across northern and central Illinois to travel by bus to Jonesboro, TN for the National Storytelling Festival. I had no idea what it was about, but it intrigued me and I asked my boss, the library director, if she would send me. To my surprise and delight she talked the library board into paying for my travel, motel accommodations and registration. Little did they know what the consequences would be!

That trip to Jonesboro changed my life. I was in love with storytelling practically before I got off the bus. People were sharing folktales and fairytales, storybook tales and personal tales. The level of telling by the professional storytellers and the thrill of being a part of the community under the tents left me mesmerized. When I returned to my library I said to the boss, “I want to start a storytelling guild and I want to hold a storytelling festival”. “O.K. You plan it and I’ll get the board to pay for it.,” she replied.

Somehow it all happened and I was the organizer, promoter and artistic director of an annual festival that was repeated for five years. I realize now how utterly naïve and downright ignorant I was, but the tellers and the audiences were so gracious and encouraging. We had fun! It would have gone on, but Bob was called to serve in a different state and we moved to Tulsa, OK. In Tulsa I joined up with the storytelling group there. When we moved to Wisconsin a few years later I joined the Milwaukee storytellers and WISGET which is similar in nature to MO-TELL. Moving to Swansea/Belleville area I joined Riverwind and Gateway... now also RAPS (River and Prairie Storyweavers) and MO-TELL!

I enjoy telling, but my greatest joy is in listening to the stories of others. My goals at this stage of my life are to work with others who are writing and or telling their own personal and family stories. We listen to and encourage each other. The pandemic has accelerated my sense of urgency to leave stories of life experiences and not just names, dates of birth and death as the way my great-grandchildren will know their ancestors. Listening to stories by Donald Davis, Beth Horner, Elizabeth Ellis and several other well- known storytellers has been inspirational.

So far, I have failed to mention that Bob has become a far-better storyteller than I. I dragged him with me to Jonesboro in 1992 and he became hooked too. He took some storytelling workshops for pastors and began to include stories in many of his Sunday morning messages. His congregations have loved it! Together the two of us have done some tandem-telling for special events like the St. Louis Storytelling Festival when we’ve told at schools. We tell stories adapted from Children’s Literature such as Cinder-Edna. We sometimes use costumes and props for those stories and since we both play guitar, music has also been added to a few stories. Since our grandchildren call us “Papa and Pippi” those are our storytelling stage names for children’s’ audiences. I love to watch the children’s faces and see their eyes, head movements and expressions as they listen to the stories.

During the past 30 years I have attended many storytelling conferences and festivals... Hoosier Storytelling Festival, Corn Island Storytelling Festival, Kansas Storytelling Festival, National Storytelling Festival, Illinois Storytelling Festival, Northlands Storytelling Conference, National Storytelling Conference, St. Louis Storytelling Festival, Chicago Onion Festival, Lititz, PA Storytelling Festival, Woodstock Storytelling Festival, Wisget storytelling Conference, Tejas Storytelling Festival, Fox Valley Storytelling Festival, and Coal City Storytelling Festival, Oklahoma City Storytelling Festival, and Tulsa Festival. This year I’ve Zoomed in for Timpanogos and many others that were available online.

I do not have a website but I do post fairly regularly on Facebook (Janet Jensen) Text and call: 262-894-6580. email:

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