7960579455?profile=originalCaren Neile, storytelling class leader, holds a microphone

up to Ellie Lingner as she tells a story at the Boca Raton Public Library.

Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star

By Ron Hayes

    This is a story about the importance of stories.
    “When you tell a story, you take us on a journey and we experience it with you,” says Caren Neile. “If the world would hear stories more often, rather than just opinions, we’d have a much more connected world.”
    Neile knows stories. For the past 15 years, she has taught classes in storytelling at Florida Atlantic University, where she’s an affiliate professor, and every Sunday at 4 p.m. she co-hosts “The Public Storyteller” with Michael Stock on WLRN 91.3 FM. She has performed, taught and produced storytelling events throughout the U.S. and abroad, and she’s a former chair of the National Storytelling Network, the professional organization of storytellers.
    Now she’s brought her love of well-told tales to the Boca Raton Public Library with StoryShare, a weekly meeting for folks who want to tell stories, listen to stories, or  just ponder the importance of stories.
    When the group’s second meeting began on April 20, only four participants were gathered in the library’s community room, but Neile was unfazed.
    “A story is anything that has a beginning, a middle and an end and has a problem and a solution,” she said.
    By that standard, the stories told were more anecdote than story.
    Neil Schulhoff, the library’s events planner, recalled the time he was evicted from a music concert after drinking too much pink lemonade, with alcohol added.
    Ellie Lingner drew laughs with a self-deprecating account of a tumble she and a friend took while searching for their seats at the theater.
    Naturally, the most polished story came from the professional storyteller herself.
    “This is a little tiny folktale,” Neile began. “A very adult folktale.
    “There was a man who lived on one side of a lake, opposite a woman. The man was a yogi. He just sat and meditated all day. And the woman’s job was even older than the yogi’s. She was a lady of the night.
    “All day, the yogi would see men flow in and out of the lady’s house.
    “Well, eventually they died close together in time, and when the yogi got to heaven, he was surprised to see the lady of the night standing in the same line, waiting to be processed.
    “He said, ‘I know why I’m here, but why is this woman in heaven?’
    “And St. Peter or whoever told him: ‘While you were trying to mediate and thinking about what she was doing, she was doing her job and thinking about what you were doing.’”
    The group was puzzled. Most assumed the lady was admitted to heaven because she’d brought so much heaven to her fellow man, but Neile refused to explain or speculate. A story, she said, can have many meanings, and often grows and changes over time.
    “Stories change in their details,” she said, “but the human truth remains the same. When you’re telling a story about human bravery, it doesn’t matter whether the hunter killed 16 buffalo or a hundred. But once you’re trading buffalo skins for leopard skins, it has to be exact. And that’s why writing developed.
    “Everything I tell you may not have happened,” Neile insisted, “but everything I tell you is true.”
    That’s the storyteller’s story. And she’s sticking to it.
    The next StoryShare session is May 20, at noon. To register visit bocalibrary.org.

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