Linda Goodman was born in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia, where she learned the art of storytelling from her father, a former coal miner who was himself a master yarnspinner. She began writing her own stories while she was in elementary school and continues to be a prolific writer to this day. In November 1988, while she was living in Enfield, Connecticut, she rediscovered the “oral tradition” while attending the first annual Tellabration. She has been entertaining audiences throughout the country with her original stories, traditional tales, and monologues ever since. She has appeared and taught workshops at the National Storytelling Conference, the Connecticut Storytelling Festival, the Storytelling Institute at Southern Connecticut State University, the Three Apples Festival in Harvard, Massachusetts, the Jonnycake Festival in Peacedale, Rhode Island, The New England Modern Storytelling Festival in Portland, Maine, the Corn Island Storytelling Festival in Kentucky, Barter Theater in Abingdon, Virginia, and Storyfest in Richmond, Virginia. Her works are known for their “Southern Appalachian” flavor, and her tape, Jessie and Other Stories, has been aired on The Story Tree, a Tennessee-based storytelling program heard on National Public Radio. The tape also received a glowing review in the August 1993 issue of the national newsletter, The Yarnspinner.
“I was born into a culture that is fading away. I feel an obligation to keep that culture alive in my stories,” she enthuses. “I also feel an obligation to people my stories with Southern Appalachian characters of intelligence and integrity. This country has a stereotype of a Southerner who is slow and unintelligent. My stories seek to dispel that stereotype.”
Linda is a member of the National Storytelling Network (NSN) and the Virginia Storytelling Alliance. She is also a past Program Coordinator of Boston’s Sharing the Fire, the largest and oldest regional storytelling conference in the country, and has served on the board of the Three Apples Storytelling Festival. She became a member of the Dramatists’ Guild in 1992, after her one act play, Empty Wells, was named a finalist in a national competition. Her stories have appeared in Storytelling World, a magazine published by Eastern Tennessee State University, Chicken Soup for the Mother’s Soul, Stories for the Family Heart, The Appalachian Quarterly, and in the Storytelling Youth Olympics 1997 Guidebook. Her monologue collection, Daughters of the Appalachians, was released by Overmountain Press in December 1999.
Linda lived in New England from August, 1985 to August, 1998. While there, she was approved by the Massachusetts Cultural Council for inclusion on their PASS, Event and Residency, and Touring Rosters. She now resides in Richmond, Virginia. She is a certified lay speaker in the United Methodist Church, the 1995 recipient of the Excellence in Storytelling Award presented by the Storytelling Institute at Southern Connecticut State University, and a 1998 recipient of a Storytelling World Honor Award. She is a charter member of the Barter Storytellers of Abingdon, Virginia, the country’s first professional storytelling troupe associated with a professional theater.
What made you want to become a storyteller?
I grew up in the Appalachian Mountains and my father was a master yarnspinner. He inspired me to follow in his footsteps.
Was the journey difficult?
Even as a child storytelling came naturally to me, and I had no troubling holding an audience’s attention. It was not until I moved to New England, however, that I began to tell stories professionally. I had a lot of help from schools, libraries and theater groups in Connecticut and Massachusetts. A librarian in Somers, Connecticut sent my card around to several library systems, and my career took off from there. The major obstacle that I have faced was relocating back to my home state of Virginia. I had to build new networks of support, and that has been a challenge.
What were some of your favorite stories growing up? What made those stories so special?
I loved listening to my father’s stories about his boyhood and his experiences during the Great Depression. These stories were special because they made me realize what a wonderful and resourceful father I had. I also loved fairy tales (Hans Christian Anderson and the Brothers Grimm). They transported me to a magical world where anything was possible.
Is there a difference between writing a story and telling a story?
A storyteller uses voice, gesture, movement, and body language to enhance the story. A writer has only words to express herself. For instance, in my story “Pearl,” Sara Jane points to her heart and says that her father’s death left a big hole “right here.” In my written version, she says that her father’s death left a big hole “where my heart used to be.”
If you could be one character in a story who would you be and why?
I would be Cinderella’s fairy godmother. I love to make wishes come true!
If you could have coffee with one famous storyteller who would it be and why?
Lee Pennington. I love his Kentucky humor and his simplistic approach to this complicated world. His to story about no two leaves being the same shade of green is amazing.
What inspires you as a storyteller?
Life inspires me. I love to figure out how things could have been done differently and better.
What advice would you give a storyteller faced with writer’s block?
Make a list of first time experiences in your life: first day of school; first visit to the dentist; first bicycle ride. The longer the list the better. Stories will walk right up and shake your hand.
What stories are you working on presently?
A story about the old television show Gunsmoke. I loved that show as a child – I especially loved Miss Kitty.
Finally, what advice would you give someone who wishes to pursue a career in storytelling?
There must be a chemistry between the storyteller and the story. Choose stories that make you feel something: anger, love, fright, sadness, delight. If a story affects you emotionally, your telling of it will affect your audience.
Where can we find out more about your work?