SEQUIM — Ingrid Nixon of Sequim will be featured in the 44th annual National Storytelling Festival this October in Jonesborough, Tenn.
“It is a big honor,” Nixon, 53, said Friday from Orem, Utah, where she was participating in the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival held each Labor Day weekend.
“The invitation is an indication that festival organizers have faith that my storytelling work has reached a certain high level of crafting and delivery. My goal is to affirm their faith in me.”
The three-day outdoor festival, which begins the first Friday of October each year, draws thousands of travelers to Tennessee’s oldest town each autumn, according to a news release.
The 2016 Festival will feature nearly two dozen storytellers who will take turns performing under big-top tents scattered across downtown Jonesborough, according to the release.
Nixon will tell about three hours of stories throughout the weekend event, she said “20 minutes of stories here, a 10-minute story there, 50 minutes here.”
While on stage, Nixon said she will tell personal stories and folktales — including stories from the Brothers Grimm — Greek myths, “and perhaps a lie/tall tale or two.”
Nixon is no stranger to tall tales.
In 2014, she was the champion liar at the Liar’s Contest, held annually at the Port Angeles Library.
“I think it is the most useful trophy ever,” Nixon has said.
Many of Nixon’s stories have been inspired by her years traveling around the globe, she said.
She’s visited all seven continents.
“Since 1987, I have been working on and off in expedition tourism,” Nixon said, “initially leading trips to places like the Canadian Rockies, Alaska and the Caribbean.”
Later, “I started to get farther and farther afield — Africa, South America, the high Arctic and Antarctica,” Nixon said.
“These days when I work trips, I tell stories to the passengers as we travel — history stories, folk tales and other kinds of stories. Star stories are popular when we are in remote places and we can see the night sky.”
Nixon currently is in the process of earning a master’s degree in storytelling from East Tennessee State University.
“I am a thesis away from earning my masters,” she said. “I hope to have it in hand by next spring.”
Nixon said she enjoys spinning yarns “for a number of reasons.”
The art form is “creative, engaging and fun,” she continued.
“It’s a way to connect with people and to help people discover their own connections with the world — culturally and with the natural world.”
Also, “stories — even stories on difficult topics — can be very life-affirming,” Nixon said.
“We — the teller and the audience — discover our shared humanity. It is easy to keep people at arm’s length if you don’t know their story. If you take the time to listen to their stories, it is amazing how the walls between us fall away.”
Before moving to the Dungeness Valley with her husband, Kevin Clement, Nixon served as head naturalist at Denali and Mount Rainier national parks.
“When I shared stories while working for the national parks, stories were a way to help park visitors understand more about the parks, but also to help them discover their own connections with the landscape or the culture or to discover what the place meant to them.”
For Nixon, “telling stories is following my bliss,” she said.
“I feel incredibly lucky and grateful to be doing what I am doing. I love that connection with the audience when you can feel like they are with you.”
When asked what brings a story to life, Nixon replied: “It’s hard to name any one thing and all tellers have their own styles.
“First and foremost, the teller has to love the story she is telling. If the teller loves the story, that comes through and the rest can fall into place. Audiences that love stories want tellers to succeed, and they can be very supportive and forgiving.”
For more about the National Storytelling Festival, visit www.storytellingcenter.net.
Features Editor Chris McDaniel can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56650, or at [email protected].