The fifth edition of StoryFest 2022 starts today! To kick things off, we corresponded with a few of the 40-plus authors who will be in attendance to get their take on writing through the pandemic, the role of libraries in modern society, the power of books to transform lives, and why stories matter.
In the final installment of this four-part series, we asked Clay McLeod Chapman (Whisper Down the Lane, Ghost Eaters), Stephen Graham Jones (The Only Good Indians, Don’t Fear the Reaper), Alma Katsu (The Hunger, The Fervor), Mallory O’Meara (The Lady From The Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick, Girly Drinks: A World History of Women and Alcohol), Gus Moreno (This Thing Between Us), Kate Racculia (This Must Be the Place, Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts), Paul Tremblay (The Cabin at the End of the World, The Pallbearers Club), and Libby Waterford (Can’t Help Falling in Love, Take Two) about the role of storytelling and why stories matter.
Here is what they had to say:
With so much happening in the world right now, what role can (and should) storytelling play in our lives? Why do stories matter?
Paul Tremblay: Stories hold a mirror to society and civilization and history. The best stories trade in truth, showing us at our best and at our worst and everywhere between. Stories help us to know and to remember and to reckon.
Stephen Graham Jones: First, stories provide escape, if escape is what we need for this next hour or two, or week or two, or however long — a series like Wheel of Time or The Dark Tower will give you a lot more than that. Second, stories are where we encode culture, to be passed down and down through the generations. Third, stories teach us empathy, which we all need to learn, and relearn, and then learn again. Fourth, stories passively instruct us how to manage narratives, which is something we can take into the narrative of our lives, foregrounding this, skipping over that, and thus reshape ourselves into something different over and over. It's kind of the only way to keep up with the changing world, yes? Fifth, a well-told story can leave us feeling less alone: Someone else has had this feeling, someone else has been in this situation. And not being alone, having someone there with you, even if they're 500 gone, and never spoke your language — is there anything better than that?
Mallory O’Meara: Stories help us figure ourselves out. In this age of fear and confusion and upheaval, having the ability to learn and discover more about yourself through storytelling and story reading is more important than ever.
Kate Racculia: Stories help us understand — who we are, really, and who we might still become, where we might go, and what kind of world we want to live in and build. They comfort; they challenge; they reveal. They let us speak and give us the chance to be heard. And they remind us that we're not alone.
Clay McLeod Chapman: The electricity is going to go out. ... The batteries will all eventually die. ... All we're going to be left with is a campfire and each other. What better way to connect than spinning a yarn? It was there at the very beginning of man, and it'll be there when circumstances return full circle. Gulp.
Libby Waterford: Stories have always been a way to change hearts and minds and share different ways of life. Their ability to bring different types of people closer to each other is tremendously valuable. Escaping into a book isn't burying your head in the sand, it's opening your mind to a different world. We should celebrate the freedom that stories give us to spend time in other, sometimes better, worlds.
Alma Katsu: The last few years have been particularly difficult ones. Thanks to COVID, it often hasn't been possible to escape from our daily stresses. We turn to stories — in their many formats and media — to quickly, easily, and often inexpensively escape from the pressures bearing down on us. You can pick up a book when you're ready, put it aside at your own pace. It's low tech and undemanding. Stories provide the escape valve so many of us need right now.
Gus Moreno: I think we navigate reality through stories, the stories we tell ourselves as well as the stories we experience. A story can provide someone respite from the world at large, or it can inform something that they're going through, or it can reveal to them something they've never considered before. Stories have an amazing way of taking something considered to be "known" and make it novel once again, reminding us that we don't have everything figured out and must proceed through life with a willingness to be open.