screech owl
by Laurie Oswald Robinson, founder of StoryTellers of the Great Plains

Screech owls make their home throughout the Great Plains. They are so small and inconspicuous that they may nest in an urban backyard without the owner's being aware of their presence. Most often they are detected by their distinctive wailing call, or a series of short whistled notes that often speed up and become a trill. The sound is like the noise of a ball bouncing to a standstill.

About two years, the idea for a creating a connective community of storytellers was birthed in my heart. And this fall, StoryTellers of the Great Plains was launched as a place and space for writers of all kinds.

Who knows, exactly, how that seed was planted? Could it be the fact that as a freelancer, I work alone a lot? Could it be that in leading several writer’s groups, I see the isolation within writers’ souls as they pull away from the world to write its secrets? Could it be that the vocation of writing has always been undervalued for the inner riches it uncovers, even as the writer is underpaid and underappreciated?

No matter, in the end. Because if one is a writer, she or he must write – against all odds, in the middle of the night, on napkins in coffee shops. In the face of a superficial world that taunts us when we want to go deeper than a brand, higher than a platform, farther than a Facebook post.

If you are writer reading this in the middle of the night as you struggle through writer’s block, know there are other night owls out there. They are brewing more coffee, deleting more sentences and nesting in trees nearby. Even though you may not see them, you will hear them, if you listen.

That is what Storytellers of the Great Plains has been launched to do – listen to all storytellers who are scattered nearby and who want to gather in various face-to-face and online venues.

Together, we will listen to each other’s screeches – so often hidden, though distinctive. In Telling Secrets, Frederick Buechner wrote, “My story is important not because it is mine, God knows, but because if I tell it anything like right, the chances are you will recognize that in many ways it is also yours. ... It is precisely through these stories in all their particularity, as I have long believed and often said, that God makes himself known to each of us more powerfully and personally. If this is true, it means that to lose track of our stories is to be profoundly impoverished not only humanly but also spiritually.”

If you are out there, hidden in the branches of a backyard tree, StoryTellers of the Great Plains is waiting for you to emerge into the light of day. We have heard you. Now it is time to see you. Welcome. Please let me know where you perch by sending me your contact information and a written piece, so that I can post it and share it with all our friends!

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