Renita Boyle (an almost Autumn Voice) is best known to young fans as a Tale-Telling, Tongue-Twisting Troubadour, Picture Book author and Poetry Pixie. Her appeal spans the generations. She is a previous winner of the Wigtown Poetry Prize in Scots, and Resident Storyteller for the Wigtown Festival Company for whom she hosts Book at Bedtime and Cosy as a Hug for YA/Adult audiences. She is Lead Reader for Open Book, facilitating shared reading and creative writing groups for over 60s. She regularly offers wellbeing workshops which combine storytelling, poetry and art, and mentors those interested in writing memoir and legacy letters.
Renita is a committee member for the Scottish Storytelling Forum and for LAPIDUS, is former Patron of Reading at SJP in Renfrew, and Scottish Book Trust Reader-in-Residence for DG Libraries. She is a proud ‘WisconiScot’, having grown up in the wilds of Wisconsin and now living under the wild wide skies of Wigtown. You can discover more here:
Renita kindly offered us some of her bedtime stories to help us nod off to sleep last month. To round things off, and to get us into the mood for our September theme of pets, animals and the natural world and our forthcoming poetry competition, she has a woodland theme and a poem for us.
As a preface to this week’s reading (link below), Renita shares her thoughts and experiences connected to stories and storytelling.
As I come to reflect for this final blog post on storytelling, I wonder how you came to your love of stories. I came to mine through the autumn voice of my great grandpa Bob just as my young voice was beginning to bud.
He was a quiet man; practical and industrious. His gnarly hands were always chopping wood or working with it, his red checked flannel shirt dusted with sawdust shavings. He smelled like pine and tree sap and fresh air as might be expected of a retired lumberjack.
I did not know him, of course, when he was a child – one of ten. But, on the rare occasion when he was so inclined, he would tell me stories about his youth. He was proud of his eighth-grade education and the beginning of his working life in the local sawmill at the age of thirteen. Days began with harnessing the horses at 4 a.m. and often involved icing the logging roads or hauling logs and other things until 11 p.m. at night. One time, he proudly told me, he hauled two tonnes of dynamite with a team of horses for 42 miles – and made it safely. Another time he had a lucky escape when the pair of mules he was driving ran off and the dynamite boxes fell off the wagon but didn’t blow up.
By the time he was nineteen, he was driving teams of work horses with big loads of logs as well as cutting and scaling lumber and learning carpentry. He took his skills into adulthood, working in the woods as a lumberjack and on the family farm to support equally hard-working Great Grandma Abbie, and their eight children. ‘During the Depression,’ he’d say, ‘You were lucky to get a dollar or two a day.’
I loved those rare moments when great grandpa Bob would speak about his life. But my favourite stories were the tall tales he passed on to me from his logging days around the campfire with other lumberjacks. The stories of Paul Bunyan – America’s giant lumberjack and Babe the Blue Ox. These stories have long been written down, of course, but I first heard them as my great grandpa Bob did, orally in the truest and oldest form of storytelling, one generation to the next. Today’s story is not a Paul Bunyan story – but my very favourite woodland poem perfect for bedtime, memories of long ago and echoes of cherished autumn voices.
Settle down and cosy in.
Now our story can begin.