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  • Writer's pictureKevin Cordi

An interview with Storyteller Jim May

It is my privilege to bring to you author/professional storyteller and friend Jim May.

Jim May is an Emmy award-winning storyteller, teacher, and author of the critically acclaimed “Farm On Nippersink Creek” and a children’s picture book, “The Boo Baby Meets The Ghost of Mable’s Gable”. A professional storyteller for over twenty-five years, Jim has told stories to all ages across the United States, and in Canada and Europe. He is available for assemblies, writing/storytelling residencies as well as author visits and staff training. His keynote and training venues have included the American Library Association, Illinois Reading Council, Texas Library Association, National Park Service, Austin Library System (Texas), Illinois Teenage Institute, and numerous school districts.

“A master storyteller.” — Studs Terkel “You could call Jim May a modern-day Homer if the Greek had told stories about farm life.” — The Chicago Sun-Times “Jim May tells stories in the fine tradition of Mark Twain and Will Rogers.” — Jim Ritchie, Farm Journal Magazine


As a storyteller, you value telling, but what can we learn from listening?

Everything started with listening for me: to my dad’s old horse trader and farmer friends, aunts and uncles at holidays, nuns and priests who had been out in the world with their stories of missionary work and administering to the dying. I remember being transported to thos moment of my youth at the first storytelling event that I stumbled into.

What do you mean we need to ask for stories?

Today we often stand at polar opposite positons and yell at one another, or argue and debate. We speak from these dearly held political. But the space between our opposite positions on the continuum are often filled with the stories, some of them painful, as to why we arrived at the belief that we so dearly kling to. So ask for the story rather than the opinion or belief.

You share a Jack story that you learned from Duncan Williamson, do you believe that Jack tales hold relevance today? Would you like to see a resurgence in Jack tales? Why or Why not?


In this fast paced age, how do we convince others to slow down and listen to mountain stories of Appalachia? For that matter, how do we convince others to slow down to listen to stories?

Tell them a good story. There is no convincing otherwise. Just begin invoking the narrative trance.

You state that a crooked road will lead us to new directions. As a storytelling coach, does this apply to your coaching as well?

The best way to learn is to make mistakes and adjust. So to try to tell the story perfectly “straight” the first time, or for me, everytime, leads to stress and often a subpar telling of the story. I was just thinking about this as I prepare for my featured role at the National Festival this Oct. I have to remember that “nailing” the story is not the goal. It is to connect the triangle: the story, the storyteller, and the audience. I do that best when I don’t rigidly “prepare” and worry.

If your life story was a nursery rhyme, how would it start?

One day, a little farm boy, happy among his animals, garden, and orchard, was frightened by God.

Here is a link to Jim's new work.

How can stories be a form of resistance?

Wow. I’m really thinking about this as Laura Simms and I prepare to be guest editors for the National Storytelling Network, Spring 2018 edition. Stay tuned, for now, I’ll quote Len Cabral, “If you hear something, say something.”

We can't wait for that issue. We look forward to hearing more insight and stories from noted teller/author Jim May. Find out more at Stay tuned for more. If you have someone who needs to be featured, let us know. We are listening. Tell your story.

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