A storyteller’s memoir based on cardinal holidays …
days of celebration
infused with an artist’s insight
"Elizabeth Ellis's gift, and a rare gift it is, is to illuminate the universal through her honest explorations of the deeply personal. Sometimes hilarious, sometimes powerful and moving, her stories are always true to her own journey and her own remarkable storyteller's voice."
--Gayle Ross, storyteller and author, Cherokee Nation, OK
"Elizabeth Ellis is a storyteller who touches her audience in such a deep, caring way that you can almost hear them sigh, let out a deep breath and think to themselves, 'she knows.' We have all waited for a long time for these wonderful stories of the human spirit and its triumph to be published and the wait is over thanks to Parkhurst Brothers."
--Dan Keding, storyteller and author, Urbana, Illinois
"A glorious, memorable brew of witty, irreverent, profoundly wise, and deeply sacred autobiographical tales, served up in Elizabeth’s lyrical, insightful, humorous style. Here we have written proof that the divine Miss E is both a master storyteller and an unofficial national treasure."
--Geraldine Buckley, storyteller and pastor
“Elizabeth Elllis has long been one of my favorite tellers, especially when it comes to her personal stories. I don't know of anyone who can do a better job of crafting and then telling the sort of down-home, engaging,amusing, moving, and thought-provoking tales that characterize her performances and stick to you like a burr.”
--Joseph Bruchac, storyteller and author
"From her childhood in Appalachia to her adult life in Texas, Elizabeth Ellis has soaked up life's big stories, re-shaped them with compassion and wisdom, and now retells them with humor, honesty, and gentleness. Readers and listeners can do no better than to sit at her feet, feeling glad to be human and ready to be kind."
--Jimmy Neil Smith, Founder of the National Storytelling Festival (USA)
"Elizabeth Ellis is pure psychic of a storyteller. She somehow is able to always appropriately comfort the afflicted or afflict the comfortable ... often at the same time!"
--Donald Davis, storyteller and author
“Elizabeth Ellis’s words jump off the page and into the secret part of your heart where you keep treasured memories and sacred feelings. She sings to you of her life and the lives of others with whom she intersects. Compassionate and thought provoking, an Appalachian/Texan with a whole-world point of view with a little rabble rousing thrown in, Elizabeth Ellis is a true master of the written and spoken word.”
--Robin Bady, storyteller and arts educator, Brooklyn, New York
“In the forty-some-years of the (so-called) American storytelling revival, Elizabeth Ellis has been one of our most treasured truth tellers. Here she tells her own truths – some full of hope and others hard to hear. But in the hearing or the reading of these narratives, we are called to resilience, generosity, wisdom and love.”
--Milbre Burch, storyteller and workshop leader
Paperback • $18.00 • 978-1-62491-040-1
176 Pages @ 5.5” x 8.5”
E-book • $13.00 • 978-1-62491-041-
AN INTERVIEW WITH ELIZABETH ELLIS
The title of this book says that it is a “storyteller's memoir”. When did you become a storyteller?
The truest answer to that question is that I have been a storyteller all my life. I think I came out of the womb telling stories. As a child, I needed to talk as much as I needed to breathe. I got in trouble at school every day. Every single solitary day. Always for the same thing: talking too much. My teachers often said to me, “What on earth will you do when you grow up? All you do is run your mouth.” I am grateful that I thought of something.
In 1969 came to Dallas to work for the Dallas Public Library. Storytelling was the part of my job I liked the best. Some days it was the only part I liked. In 1978 I attended the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee with my old friend Gayle Ross. We had never heard of anyone making their living as a storyteller. On the long car ride back to Texas, we kept saying, “We could do that. We could do that.” About the time we crossed the bridge that spans the Mississippi River, “We could do that.” turned into “I'll do it if you will.” By the time we got to Dallas the decision was pretty much made that we would quit our regular jobs and become professional storytellers.
Did each of you embark on a solo storytelling career?
No, we began as tandem storytellers, telling together as the Twelve Moon Storytellers. We had heard The Folktellers (Barbara Freeman and Connie Reagan Blake) at the Festival. Their work had a big influence on us. At the time I don't think either of us would have had the nerve to start out on our own. It felt much safer to have a partner when jumping off the cliff, a sort of Butch and Sundance concept, though I wouldn't want to venture which one of us was Butch, and which was Sundance.
How long did you work together?
Four or five years. It was so hard to get work as a storyteller back then it was impossible to make enough money to support our needs. I had kids. Gayle had a horse. They all needed shoes. We needed to go our separate ways in order to pay the bills. Each of us has developed a solo career. Gayle has become a widely respected Cherokee storyteller, focusing most of her energy on sharing Cherokee stories and culture.
Are all the stories in this book stories you have told?
I have stories I tell from the stage. I have lots more stories that I tell informally. The “Old Christmas” story is the one I tell informally. Though I have told it many times, I have never shared it from the stage. The others have all been part of public performances.
Photo by Paul Porter