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  • Writer's pictureJackie Wright

MO-TELL's Member Profile: Jackie Wright

Jackie and her husband, puppeteer and percussionist Glen “Papa” Wright, work together as a team. They have been featured tellers at the St. Louis Storytelling Festival, the Kansas City Storytelling Festival, and the By Word of Mouth Storytelling Festival.

Jackie is a member of the National Storytelling Network and is their Missouri State Liaison. She is a member and former vice-president of Missouri Storytelling; a member of the National Association of Black Storytellers; and a member of St. Louis Gateway Storytellers. She is on the St. Louis Storytelling Festival Planning Committee. In 2014, Jackie became a first-time editor for author Diann Joy Bank’s A Pot of Mizvot - 18 Jewish Folktales.

Jackie and “Papa” were featured in the January 2018 issue of St. Louis Magazine in an article entitled, “The Many Artistic Facets of Jackie and Glen “Papa” Wright” and in 2007 they were recipients of St. Louis Magazine’s 2007 A-List Awards for Best Story Time.

What is your interest in storytelling? How did it begin?

It was July 1994. I travelled to Hannibal, MO, with my husband Glen “Papa” Wright, to the By Word of Mouth Storytelling Conference. I had no idea what storytelling was all about. Gladys Coggswell, the founder of the the By Word of Mouth Storytelling Guild, hired “Papa” to do a percussion workshop. I was really impressed with the tellers I met and the stories I heard. It was a great atmosphere of comradery and fun. I wanted to become part of it, but I didn’t think I had the courage to speak in front of an audience. Nonetheless, Gladys encouraged me to try. She even sent me home with one of her cassette tapes.

But for twelve months, I did nothing toward becoming a storyteller. “Papa” was invited back to the conference again the next year and I attended with him. Needless to say, I had to tell Gladys that I wasn’t prepared to perform a story. But this time at the conference, I met Diann Joy Bank, a St. Louis storyteller who taught a workshop on becoming a storyteller. So, in late September 1995, I signed up for her class.

Why did you decide it was important to be a member of Missouri Storytelling?

I decided that it was important to be a member of Missouri Storytelling because MO-Tell is keeping the oral tradition alive throughout Missouri. It creates community and opportunities for its members to spread the art and joy of storytelling.

What tellers have been influential in your life?

The tellers that have been influential in my life are Gladys Coggswell, Diann Joy Bank, and Sue Hinkel. Of course, I enjoy listening to all of them tell, but Gladys was the first to ignite the desire in me to tell.

Attending her conferences and listening to her and the other tellers was inspiring. When I was ready, Gladys allowed me and “Papa” to be a part of the By Word of Mouth Storytelling Festival.

After Gladys ignited the desire to tell, Diann took me under her wings and taught me how to tell. She introduced me to the St. Lous storytelling community by taking me to storytelling concerts and storytelling guild meetings. I learned about the St. Louis Gateway Storytellers, MO-Tell, Riverwind Storytellers, and the St. Louis Storytelling Festival. Diann and I told tandem tales and presented storytelling workshops together. I learned a lot from her. To this day, I seek her advice, and she continues to encourage me.

In 1997, Sue Hinkel was the president of MO-Tell. ON Diann’s recommendation, Sue featured me and “Papa” at MO-Tell’s annual Missouri River Storytelling Festival. I was thrilled and honored. “Papa” and I always looked forward to the festival in the Fall of the year. Since then, Sue has also encouraged me to get more involved in storytelling. I became an officer in MO-Tell; an officer in St. Louis Gateway Storytellers; and she and I have worked together for years on a couple of committees for the St. Louis Storytelling Festival. Lastly, Sue suggested that I get involved on the national level and become NSN’s MO State Liaison. So, I did. So, I am.

What is your favorite story, movie, or song?

I don’t really have a favorite story, movie, or song. However, I love musical theater. My most favorite musicals are Wicked, Les Miserables, The Phantom of the Opera, Jersey Boys, and The Lion King.

Favorite Trick or Treat Joke? Memory of Christmas? Valentine memory? Favorite vacation?

My favorite Valentine memory just occurred this year. “Papa” and I made a reservation at a White Castle restaurant. It was a very nice experience.

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