May 17th, 2:27pm

We met with Rick, Jim, Cuz and Jan - members of the Smoky Mountain Storytellers Association, a nonprofit since 1994. They’re made up of storytellers who tell everything from traditional Appalachian tales to classic “Mountain Jack” stories, foreign lands, contemporary fiction, and personal narratives. Cuz, a bluegrass musician and storyteller, was born and raised in the region and comes from generations of storytellers. He casually slipped in and out of story, showing us genuine Appalachian humor.

Our conversation was fruitful with people whose work we should be aware of - from Sheila May Adams, a seventh-generation ballad singer, storyteller, and claw-hammer banjo player; to Doug Elliott, a local storyteller and naturalist; and Ray Hicks, one of the “original storytellers” in North Carolina who uses all of the “old Appalachian words,” according to Jan.

Many had moved away and come back, or have chosen to live in the region. They hoped that Campfire Stories would reflect their reasons for choosing to live here, like:

  • The beauty / “It’s just the most beautiful place in the world,” Rick explained.
  • The environment / the biodiversity of plants and animals alone is stunning.
  • The people / here are “the most wonderful, nicest people in the world.” As described by Jan… everyone is expected to do your part for everyone.
  • The history / These mountains are full of history (as the oldest mountain range on the planet), and the people and personalities that have lived in this place are important.

They embodied the kindness and generosity they spoke of, and we left our conversation with a stack of books and CDs. We enjoyed our time with these storytellers, and hope to catch them next time in action, on stage!