My name is Raelene Crotser. I live with my daughter and her son in Mt. Vernon, Missouri. Most of my working years were spent in commercial printing and the hospitality industry. I learned to love events of every type as a child and continued to be involved in a variety of events as an adult. At times, having worked with carnivals, rodeos, horse shows, girl scouts, craft shows, community events and various parks and historic sites, I feel as if I’ve become a professional volunteer.
In my formative years storytelling was not well known. At the age of eight I was introduced to stories by my great grandmother. She was my designated babysitter that day and was desperate for a way to entertain me on a hot summer day in S.E. Kansas. As a last resort, she brought out a hand pieced quilt and covered us with it. She then began to point out various quilt blocks saying, “This was part of the shirt worn the day...and then tell me what had happened that day. In my foolish youth, I was so focused on the miserable heat that I missed more than I remembered.
During my junior high school days I was introduced to family history as a school project. My grandmother was a fountain of information and some of it was fascinating. That’s when I became the family historian.
Decades later, after moving to Springfield, MO, I found a group called Storytellers of the Ozarks and learned that grandma was telling me personal stories. A totally new concept for me.
In the course of my volunteering, I learned that history of all types was slowly but surely being forgotten. I decided to preserve some small piece of that history. Unfortunately I had no idea what to preserve or how to go about it. Then a small historic site where I was volunteering, commandeered me as their storyteller. I hated speaking in front of groups of people and was terrified. My stage fright lasted for several years. Finally before one performance I was especially nervous and thinking of cancelling, when my daughter said, “For crying out loud mom, just put on the dress and quit worrying. It will be fine.”
She was right and that was when I realized what I should be preserving: stories. I suspect I’ve been a storyteller all my life and didn’t realize it.
I joined Mo-Tell as a way to learn from other more experienced storytellers and to find storytelling events. We, as tellers, need to concentrate on finding more ways to connect with people. I have found, in my area especially, most people don’t know what to expect when you invite them to a storytelling event. In an effort to break through that barrier my family, prior to covid-19, put on two storytelling events. Both drew very small, but attentive crowds.
I’ve learned a lot from watching/hearing other storytellers. My favorite teller is Donald Davis. He has a remarkable repertoire of personal stories. I love them all and hope to follow in his footsteps as a teller of personal stories.
If I have any advice to share with all storytellers it would be, don’t save your stories for performances, share them at every opportunity. One of my favorite ways to share my stories is to tell them to the family. We have a tradition of telling family stories while we are decorating the Christmas tree, in this way it is almost as if many generations are there helping us celebrate. Remember: Story lives matter.