Steven George & the Dragon by Nathan Everett
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Publisher: NWE Signatures, LLC
Release Date: March 1, 2011
The Art of Storytelling
Some of my fondest memories of my mother are of her sitting on the steps in church calling all the children around her to tell them a story. They weren’t just Bible stories either. She told stories adapted from Birdlife in Wington, Thornton Burgess’ Mother Westwind, and even the odd fairy tale if she thought it had a strong message. My nephews and nieces would often be the first to gather round her, whether they were 15 months old or 15 years. She occasionally had children who were over 50 sitting at her feet because her stories, though told to children, were often told for parents.
I guess I grew into storytelling naturally.
At the end of the 60s, I was a rebellious college student, determined to see this country for what it really was. So I mounted my bicycle (a Schwinn 5-speed Collegiate) and rode off cross-country. I found work along the way mowing grass, baling hay, or washing cars. My favorite of all was telling stories, whether while standing on street corners, visiting summer camps, or doing an impromptu performance in a cafe. And all my favorite stories began “Once upon a time…”
Now, I knew how to tell children’s stories from watching my mother. But I had also found an entire body of literature that was not, shall we say, rated G. I told and retold Edgar Alan Poe’s “The Telltale Heart,” “The Cask of Amontillado,” and “The Mask of the Red Death.” I discovered that there was a world of difference between Grimm’s Fairy Tales and Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. I had a trusted copy of The Annotated Mother Goose, and discovered the dispute over what “Ring Around the Rosy” meant. And finally, I began to write my own once-upon-a-time stories, often with a preamble to give a twist to the trusted words.
“Time is like an onion we peel. As we go deeper to the heart, layer-by-layer, our tears grow more intense. And once in a layer of time…”
Whether you are telling children’s stories, classics, fairy tales, or shaggy dog stories, the secret is to make the story completely your own. That often means that it doesn’t the way it was written. But it does come out your story.
Eventually, I decided to write a book in which a village dragonslayer is sent out to battle the fearsome beast only to realize he doesn’t know what a dragon looks like, where it lives, or how to slay it. As he journeys on his quest, Steven George exchanges once-upon-a-times with the people he meets. Each story leads him a step closer to understanding the nature of his quest.
Steven George & The Dragon is not a children’s tale. The stories include the rape of his ancestress, the bloody slaying of an ogre and rejection by the hero’s temporary wife, the drowning of a tyrant, the cheating of a miser, and the love of a dragon. It is a book for young adults, not for children.
I like Steven George. He is mildly CDO. (That’s the same as OCD, but the letters are in alphabetical order like they should be.) He counts his footsteps believing that he if he knows how many steps away home is, he will never be lost. He mistakes a tinker’s cart, a company of knights, and the shadow of a thief for the dragon. He has a mixture of the deep wisdom of a very small village and the utter naiveté of a country bumpkin in the big world. But he is faithful to his village and discovers that all roads lead to the dragon—even if the dragon is not what he expected.
That is what I want my storytelling to be. No matter what path it takes, it must always lead to the dragon. And if the dragon is not what the reader or listener expects, so much the better. The story is my own.
My mother was so clever in her story-telling that, when I was doing genealogical research, she let me videotape her telling about her life in Chicago when she and Dad were married. The story had to do with always being puzzled about how Dad could “make things from scratch” and ended up with her suggesting they raise chickens. I swallowed the entire story, hook, line, and sinker. It was the Christmas after she passed away in 1999 that a friend sent me a clipping from a book. It was the same story, almost word for word, but with a different cast of characters.
She had made the story her own.