A great storyteller is a rare treat as they connect with the heart and soul of their listeners. One that has been blessed with that talent is Judi Tarowsky from St. Clairsville. Her road to storytelling began with a letter.
When Judi was in 8th grade, a friend of hers said she had a cousin in Wales, who was looking for a pencil, which we would call a pen pal. Judi was looking for one too. Since Judi comes from a Welsh background, this contact seemed perfect .
Eirwen from Wales and Judi corresponded all through high school. They wrote about typical things like school, music, and activities. For a graduation present, Judi was given a trip to Barry, Wales. As they grew older, correspondence wasn’t as frequent but in today’s world you can always find someone through the computer
Eirwen came over years later with a Welsh dance group to perform in Harrisburg, and the next year came to the Three Rivers Storytelling Festival in Pittsburgh. Judi and her husband went to see them, and it was during those visits that Eirwen said, “You could be a storyteller too.”
Judi thought about it and decided to enter the Adult Liars’ Contest at the Strand Theatre Storytelling Festival in Moundsville, West Virginia. She won!
Since then she has even gone to Wales twice to perform as a storyteller. While there, she told one of her favorite stories, her version of “The Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Fox”, based on an old folk tale.
While storytelling was new to Judi, she had been involved in writing for much of her adult life. Previously she worked as a newspaper reporter and for an advertising agency. Putting words together is something she has done well for years.
Today, she tells two kinds of tales: tall and true. Both of them involve extensive research. While she delights in telling old legends, historical presentations have become very popular. After selecting a story from history that is little known, interesting facts are then collected.
This storyteller wants to make certain that all her facts are correct before writing her story. But she doesn’t memorize the story. Judi knows it very well from her research and just tells it. Every time it’s a little different.
When speaking, no props or character costumes are used. She is simply a storyteller. According to Judi, “No special effects are required…just your imagination!”
Her story of the crash of the Shenandoah dirigible brought the flight of the airship to life for those present. This original story, “The Heroes of the U.S.S. Shenandoah”, has become one of her most popular presentations in this area since the crash happened near Ava between Byesville and Caldwell in 1925.
Another well-told story, “Burning Springs”, took place during the Civil War along the Little Kanawa River in West Virginia. She adds a touch of humor to her talks, such as calling the fire at Burning Springs:
“a Sodom of Sin anointed with oil” ~Howard Lee, “The Burning Springs”.
Or by pointing out that when fire reached that town, the first thing the tavern keepers carried to the mountains was their supply of whiskey. They wanted to keep it from the Confederates, and it was expensive besides.
Humor added to historical facts keeps the audience in her grasp. Following her storytelling, there are always many questions to be asked regarding whatever subject she has been sharing. Her knowledge of her subject is impressive and shows much time spent in research. At the present time, there are over forty stories in her repertoire, but that list is constantly expanding.
She frequently speaks at libraries, festivals and civic clubs. Her programs are so varied that she has something for any age group. One of her special workshops, “The Bones of a Story”, guides people to find their own family stories. For more information, contact Judi at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Judi hopes to continue sharing her research through storytelling and perhaps speaking at some larger festivals in the future. In her spare time, she enjoys baking, cooking and traveling by train – most likely with a tablet by her side to record future story ideas.