Storytelling Festivals


Storytelling is one of the ancient arts of communication, existing all the way back to prehistoric times. In Appalachia, storytelling has been perfected. This weekend, Cave run Storytelling Festival will be held on the banks of Cave run Lake, outside of Morehead, KY in northeastern Kentucky, a town on the northern fringes of the Appalachian region of Kentucky.

The Cave Run Storytelling Festival is held in large tents at the Twin Knobs Recreation area at Cave Run Lake, surrounded by the beautiful Daniel Boone National Forest. It is open to the public on September 23 and 24. The featured storyteller this year is Bil Lepp, a nationally renowned teller. Other famous storytellers will join Lepp including Geraldine Buckley and Kevin Kling among others.

The Cave Run Storytelling Festival is an offshoot of the National Storytelling Festival held every year in Jonesborough, Tennessee. Carolyn Franzini, a professor at Morehead State University, visited that festival with her daughter and brought the idea back to the Morehead community. Finally, the festival was organized on the banks of Cave Run Lake and the rest is history. It is attended by thousands of people each year.

Visit Cave Run Story Festival for ticket and more information. #storytelling #Appalachia



Appalachia: The Foxfire Books and Magazine



The Foxfire Magazine and the Foxfire series of books are some of the most fascinating works you will ever read on the culture and traditions of Appalachia. The Foxfire Magazine was started in 1966 in Rabun County, GA and was the result of a writing project by one of the teachers at Rabun Gap Nacoochee School in that county. The students were challenged by their teacher to interview local people about Appalachian customs and write an article about what they discovered. What happened was a phenomenon. The stories told to the students about different bits of Appalachian culture were so fascinating that by 1972 they were gathered together in book form and published. It became a bestseller and brought attention to the Appalachian region and the Foxfire project.

Before the books came the Foxfire magazine. It was a compilation of the stories told to the students assigned this project in Eliot Wigginton’s English class. This magazine has been in publication continuously since 1966. The name “foxfire” came from a naturally occurring bioluminescence in fungi in the mountains of North Georgia.

Gradually, there were so many stories about crafts, folklore, recipes, Appalachian history, and culture, that a series of books were developed. The first book was an immediate bestseller when it was published in 1972. Other books were published and the proceeds were used to develop the Foxfire Project. There are now eleven companion volumes to the original Foxfire book.

The Foxfire Project has been able to build an Appalachian Heritage Center in Georgia. It is the repository of material having to do with Appalachian culture and, of course, the Foxfire books and magazines. It also is a source of learning for teachers about experiential teaching and learning, which is what allowed the Foxfire Project to be born. Much later than 1966, experiential education became commonplace in high schools and colleges.

The Foxfire Project, books, and magazines are true Appalachian treasures. You can find how to subscribe to the magazine and donate to the project at FoxFire Project. You can find the fascinating Foxfire series of books wherever books are sold. #foxfire #amwriting #writing #blogging



Roundup of Appalachian Blog Posts

Friday Fare to Appalachia

I have committed to writing about my native area, Appalachia, every Friday. Today, I want to do a roundup of the blog posts I’ve written on Appalachia to date. This is for the readers who may have missed a post. It is also for the members of the wonderful new group I have joined on Facebook, Appalachian Americans. Enjoy!

Introducing a Friday Blog Feature on Appalachia

Mother’s Day: Founded in Appalachia

Personality Traits of the Appalachian People

Appalachian Cultural Stereotypes: TV Show “Outsiders”

Appalachia and Food: Green Beans and Corn Bread

Recipe for Memorial Day: Corn Pudding

The Early Homes of the Appalachian Mountain People

Appalachia: Settlers of Eastern KY in the 1700s

The Smokehouse: Preserving Meat

Appalachia and Food: Potato Pancakes

Appalachian Folklore: The Jack Tales

Book Review: Clay’s Quilt

Appalachian Roots

Bluegrass Musician Ralph Stanley Dies

I will blog about Appalachia every Friday, and perhaps on other days, at Writings from the Heart. I look forward to your comments! #amwriting #writing #blogging #appalachia







Appalachian Folklore: The Jack Tales


Storytelling is a tradition in Appalachia. Down through the decades, many Appalachian children and adults have spent nights on the front porch, gathered around an elder, listening to stories that have seldom found a place in written forklore. Most of the stories have been in oral format only. This is true for the Jack tales though historians and some storytellers are making an effort to capture them in writing. Jack tales are seldom told in the same way twice which makes writing them down difficult. Different storytellers tell them in different ways. Even the same storyteller may change the telling of a Jack tale from telling to telling.

We’ve all heard of Jack and the Beanstalk, Jack and the Giant Killer, Jack and Jill, Jack Sprat, Jack Horner. There are many other Jack tales. All are examples of the Jack tales that originally came to America from the British Isles. The first Jack tales can be traced back as far as the fifteenth century in Great Britain. By the next two centuries, the first tellings of the Jack and the Giant Killer story can be found. That’s when the rhyme, “Fi-Fy-Fo-Fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman,” can be found in English literature for the first time, including in Shakespeare’s King Lear. Jack, who was supposedly located in Cornwall, England, trapped the Giant in a pit in order to kill him. Other giants were also present in the tale. By the eighteenth century, the Jack tales were found in the nursery as they had been turned into nursery rhymes.

As the British immigrated to America, along with the Scots and the Irish, each culture brought their own rendition of the Jack tales. The versions of the Jack tales were likely combined to become the Jacks that we know and love today. A book by Richard Chase, published in 1943, is a collection of at least some of the Jack tales. Chase alleged that many of the Jack tales were collected by a group of families in North Carolina and came into Southern Appalachia from that area. Chase did acknowledge that new Jack tales were surfacing in other parts of Appalachia, specifically in Virginia and Kentucky. In Harlan County, KY, Mrs. Sally Middleton of Martin’s Fork, knew versions of two of the Jack tales of North Carolina that she carried on. In all of the Jack tales, Jack is thrown into difficult situations. In the Appalachian versions, the themes reflect the problems of the area such as poverty and farming and the harsh conditions of life.

Jack is probably the first legendary hero in American literature. Counce Harmon was one member of the families in North Carolina that passed the Jack tales down for most of 200 years before they were ever written down. Here is a telling of a Jack tale for your enjoyment by a descendent of Counce Harmon, one of the original tellers of the Jack tales in America:



Chase, Richard. (2015) The Jack Tales. HMH Books for Young Readers.