Author Encourages Catawba College Students to Make the Most of Their Stories
August 26, 2011
The subject was stories at Catawba College's Opening Convocation on Thursday, August 25. Lumberton native and author Jill McCorkle wove that subject into her keynote address, telling students gathered, "we all have a story to tell," and encouraging them "to make the most of yours."
McCorkle, a professor in the MFA in Creative Writing program at N.C. State University, shared the importance of storytelling in her own life. She noted that she did not come "from a long line of literary people, but I do come from a long line of creative ones."
The creations of her people, she said, "were either promptly devoured, washed threadbare or simply given over to the air in the form of stories often spun and told." These stories were usually spun using the "meandering method," she explained, where many random details were delivered and connected, and where one fact fed another fact, and bleed from one incident to another, tying tales together and weaving a whole.
McCorkle said that in the 25 years she has taught writing she has continually used a tried and true ice breaker, where she says a word and the students write down the images that come to mind in association of that word. "Home" is one word she has used during this activity and explained that more often than not, her students' have responded with vibrant personal images to associate with that word. She has heard from them of "childhood beds and kitchen tables, front porches and climbing trees — the smells of food cooking or music playing and the faces of family members filling in the spaces."
"The parts of your home — your story — that belong only to you," she said. "Now that you are here, your perspective of home will change — I would wager grow even sharper in your vision and recognition and understanding. I lived in Massachusetts for almost twenty years and yet, the whole while, when I sat down to write, I first had to go to Robeson County and into the city limits of Lumberton and then to the house where I grew up but also the one where my grandmother lived. As far as I could tell the whole world existed in those two places and the movie theatre and dime store in between."
McCorkle said she encouraged her students "to look back and reach for those moments that for whatever reason remain vivid."
"Those moments are also a very important part of your education and they are yours alone. They are the details that will distinguish your story and your life from all others."
As she wrapped up her remarks, McCorkle admonished the students in the audience "to let your story and all that makes your story your own be a part of your education – the one here at Catawba as well as the one that continues throughout your life." She conclude by reading a poem by B.H. Fairchild entitled, "The Story."
Catawba's Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees Darlene Landis Ball '62 brought greetings from the trustees during convocation. She noted some key activities of the Trustees this year include the search for Catawba's 22nd president and development of a long-term strategic plan for the college.
Ball directed her closing remarks to the students in the audience. "As trustees and alumni, we know from own personal experiences that your success at Catawba will give you the skills and tools to pursue not just your first undertaking after you graduate, but all of the opportunities that will become available to you in your future. We rejoice in your individual achievements and wish each of you a successful year."