What's a Raconteur?


A person who tells anecdotes in a skillful and amusing way; a storyteller; a narrator

How My Grandmother's Love of Stories Launched My Career

published by Next Avenue


The summer I was 18, I first found myself curious about my granny's beginnings — about her entire life before me — and asked her to take me to where she had grown up.

We drove off in her old blue truck with a picnic basket of lemonade, strawberries and sandwiches. After about 45 minutes, we exited the interstate and took winding backroads.

"This little place is called L'Anse Aux Pailles," she said as we drove a Louisiana country highway surrounded by rice fields. Soon, she turned down a bumpy dirt driveway sliced through the tree line that led to an old white wooden house encircled by overgrown trees.

Granny gave me the grand tour of her childhood home — the two bedrooms, living room, kitchen and bathroom her father added on when she was about eight. She explained that prior, she and her family had used an outhouse, pump for water, and washtub instead.

Going into the house surprisingly didn't quench my thirst to know more about her history. It actually amplified my longing. Standing on the hardwood floors she had played dolls on seemed to unleash a tidal wave of inquiries in my mind. When we returned to the truck, I pulled out my journal and began jotting down questions. By the time we had reached Granny's old high school, I had conjured up a list of 44 questions I'd like to ask her someday. I didn't bother to begin asking, though, because I knew more would eventually bubble to the surface.

Seeing Where Granny Grew Up 

Once she showed me around her school, we drove to a country cemetery tucked so far back from the road we had to cross a ditch, trudge through a pasture and cut through some trees to reach it. We eventually emerged in a meadow where Granny's paternal great-grandparents were buried.

In the shade beside graves marked so long ago some inscriptions were illegible, we spread our picnic blanket, poured two glasses of lemonade and bit into our sandwiches.

"Was today what you wanted it to be?" Granny asked.

"Now that I've seen where you've grown up, I actually just want to know more."

"Well, I'm an open book," Granny said, and I believed her. She had always been the person I could ask anything and get a heartfelt reply. She would answer any prodding, listen to any dream, and encourage me so wholeheartedly I was certain she was the only person in the entire world who would always love me unconditionally.

"An open book, huh?" I repeated. "Maybe one day I'll write a book about you."

"Like one of our memoirs?" she asked, referencing the fact that we had an unofficial book club of two in which we exclusively read nonfiction. "Who'd read my boring story?"

"Your story wouldn't be boring," I countered. "Especially not to me."

'Who'd Read My Boring Story?' 

"Well, you already know the answer." She smiled. "It's always been the same. If you want to write a book about me, go for it. You know you can do whatever you want at Granny's house."

Despite all of life's uncertainties, I knew one thing for sure: I could indeed do whatever I wanted at Granny's house. It had been a free-for-all as long as I could remember.

Growing up, while my sisters and I ran rampant, Granny often sat in her rust-colored recliner reading memoirs or biographies.

"Why do you like to read that?" I asked when I was seven and standing with blackberry-stained palms in her living room with a chicken in my arms — not an abnormal scene since Granny's mantra was "anything goes."


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