We Are All Storytellers

By Karen McPhee | 2020 Write Michigan Judges’ Choice Winner

I’ll admit I was apprehensive about entering the Write Michigan contest. What story could I tell that would be worth reading? What would reviewers and readers find interesting, relatable and good? If I didn’t make it on the finalists’ list, would my ego be bruised?

But we were eight months into a pandemic and there was one thing becoming clear to me as the days and the lockdowns pressed on: we simply don’t know how many chances we’ll get, so do now what you might not get the chance to do tomorrow.

So, I started to write.

A few months later, as I read the finalists’ work, I remember being stunned by the diversity in genre, voice, emotion and the sheer artistry with which each author had applied word to screen. It was like walking through an art gallery viewing works from disparate painters. Each was unique in approach and tone. It was clear; there was no one right way to impress the readers and reviewers. There was an abundant appetite and an appreciation for diverse storytelling.

Even if you’ve never considered yourself a writer, you are a storyteller. How do I know this? Because we are all storytellers. It’s in our blood. Our ancestors carved their stories into rock. Today, we type them into computers. But, in either case, the story comes before the writing. Inside you ― maybe deep inside you ― is a story wanting to be
told. It might be inspired by a personal experience, or a wild imagining, a dream or a nightmare. No matter what that story is, trust that it’s worth telling. One word after another, write it down.

The Write Michigan rules couldn’t be simpler. You must live in Michigan. 3,000 words or less. Original work. There’s a rubric the reviewers use to assess your entry. It’s a very helpful tool, but even I bent a few rules. By choice. More than once. (Four – nope five – times in this paragraph alone!).

In the end, it’s your art. You hold the brush. They are your fingers on the keys. You are the storyteller. The world will be richer for the telling. You simply don’t know how many chances you’ll get. I encourage you to tell your story now.

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