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Tellers in Residence 2015

Festival Preregistration discount period ends March 31

Celebrate World Storytelling Day

ISC Hires New Center Coordinator

Creativity and Conflict Resolution

Kim Weitkamp

Children’s Concert with Angela Lloyd

Children’s Concert with Won-Ldy Paye

Children’s Concert with Andy Offutt Irwin

Evening Concert Featuring Kim Weitkamp

Evening Concert Featuring Syd Lieberman

John McCutcheon to Appear in Special Concert on March 27th

ISC Launches Storytelling Toolkit

Meet Melani Douglass

Standing Still

Jessica Hartley

Sharon Morgan

A Quintessential Southern Wedding

Kevin Kling

Kay Simmons

A Story in Progress

The History of ISC

Storyteller Jerry Clower, photo credit Jim Cooper

    The world’s storytelling renaissance began in Jonesborough, a tiny town in the mountains of Tennessee over 40 years ago.

    On a warm October day in 1973, the town of Jonesborough played host to the first National Storytelling Festival. The Festival was small, but something happened that October weekend that has changed forever our culture, this traditional art form, and this Tennessee town.

    Now in its 43rd year, the National Storytelling Festival was created by Jimmy Neil Smith, a former journalism teacher and mayor of Jonesborough. His inspiration, quite simply, was a well-told tale heard over a car radio—a story told by Grand Ole Opry star Jerry Clower about hunting in Mississippi. Why not a storytelling festival? Smith wondered.

    The first National Storytelling Festival, the first of its kind anywhere in the world, ignited a renaissance of storytelling that is, even today, far-reaching. People across America and the world are rediscovering the simplicity and basic truth of a well-told story.

    Ancient storytelling traditions are being recognized and reborn. Storytelling organizations, festivals, and educational events now dot the globe, and the professional storyteller, a fixture in more primitive times and cultures, has reappeared.

    The autumn festival, held under colorful circus tents scattered throughout Jonesborough, now attracts more than 10,000 visitors, and this first-of-its-kind event has become the flagship of the international revival of storytelling. Jonesborough, the Festival’s home, is recognized worldwide as the revival’s birthplace.

    Two years after the first festival, the National Storytelling Association was founded to spearhead America’s storytelling renaissance. For almost a quarter of a century, NSA served as the connecting point for this storytelling revival—the momentum behind this ever-widening movement.

    Today, NSA—now known as the International Storytelling Center—promotes the power of storytelling and the creative applications of this ancient tradition to enrich the human experience in the home, at the workplace, and throughout the world.

    Just as the first National Storytelling Festival gave birth over 40 years ago to a quiet revolution felt across the globe, we expect that over the next 30 years and beyond the work of the International Storytelling Center will help transform our world—making a meaningful difference in the lives of individuals and families, corporations and institutions, and communities and cultures everywhere.

    ISC’s Mission

    Our Mission

      The International Storytelling Center is dedicated to enriching the lives of people around the world through the arts of storytelling.

      It is our organization’s goal to inspire and empower people everywhere to capture and tell their stories, listen to the stories of others, and use storytelling to produce positive change. We believe that through the arts of storytelling, we can build a better world—healthier communities, more effective workplaces, and more excellent schools—and enrich lives.

      ISC’s Vision

      Doc McConnell's Medicine Show, credit Fresh Air Photo

        We live in a complex age—an era of social, economic, and civic challenges. Although concerned and dedicated individuals, organizations, and government agencies are addressing these challenges, the issues remain daunting.

        So, how can the International Storytelling Center help?
        How can we imagine—and bring into reality—a new horizon, a new tomorrow?

        Storytelling can’t directly feed the hungry, house the homeless, or cure the sick. Yet, we all have the capacity to tap into our stories, our narrative assets, and communicate more effectively.

        A well-told story can communicate truth, concept, or idea with immeasurable power. ISC is dedicated to connecting this powerful tool with the voices of individuals, organizations, and communities across the world to help them achieve their goals.

        Our vision is a better life, a better world, through the power of storytelling.

        To achieve this worthy vision, ISC is advancing the power and possibilities of storytelling and providing people across the world with the knowledge, experiences, and tools to effectively tap into the contemporary applications of this longstanding tradition.

        We are inspiring and empowering people worldwide to discover, craft, and share stories that:

        • Enliven and enrich performance—as teller and listener
        • Celebrate personal, community, and cultural heritage through the preservation of stories and story traditions
        • Enhance community services, health and wellness, and education through the professional practice of storytelling.

        During the coming months and years, ISC will expand program offerings to provide the knowledge, experiences, and tools of storytelling to help people around the world tap into the power of this ancient tradition, pursue passions, and realize potential—in the lives of individuals, in communities, and cultures. 

        The International Storytelling Center is dedicated to inspiring and empowering people across the world to tell their stories, renew their storytelling traditions, and tap into the power of storytelling to build a better life and a better world.

        Our Values

        • We believe in integrity, open-mindedness, transparency and acting responsibly
        • We respect all visitors, storytellers, supporters and our international communities as equally as we respect ourselves.
        • We are committed to excellence in everything we do.

        ISC is pursuing three program strategies to achieve the new vision:


        Through a global advocacy campaign, ISC is:

        • Promoting the possibilities of storytelling
        • Creating awareness of and appreciation for storytelling
        • Building credibility for this longstanding tradition
        • Expanding storytelling audiences

        As a result of these grassroots efforts, more and more individuals, organizations, and communities across the globe are discovering, crafting, and sharing their stories.


        Through a global learning program, ISC will provide a series of innovative, educational opportunities to teach the power of storytelling. Through this program, ISC introduces the power of storytelling, serves as a connecting point for a community of learners, and provides a resource for learning the creative applications of storytelling.

        The learning program will include online courses, subscriptions to educational services, and a series of symposia and mini-conferences under the banner of the Horizon Global Forum—all fueled by research, study groups, and pilot projects.


        A worldwide beacon and a center of excellence for storytelling, ISC’s campus is located in Jonesborough—the small Tennessee town that gave birth to the world’s storytelling renaissance. Known affectionately as the storytelling capital of the world, Jonesborough and our campus are providing expanded, on-site opportunities to experience the power and potential of storytelling.

        Jonesborough-based activities now include the National Storytelling Festival and Storytelling Live!, ISC’s teller-in-residence program. In the future, a series of visitor experiences showcasing storytelling will also be added to ISC’s Center offerings for visitors. 

        A Story In Progress

        A Story in Progress

          As our changing world constantly presents new ways to craft and share stories, as an organization, we’re excited by these possibilities. The mission of the International Storytelling Center has always been to enrich lives through story, through arts and the oral tradition of storytelling. Our new vision, A Story In Progress was born of a strategic planning session with our board, but it’s been more than 40 years in the making. 

          It’s time to expand our programmatic reach,  as we focus on our seven key strategic steps to Innovate, Engage, Grow, Connect, Educate, Communicate, and Earn.  We invite you to join us as we build a better world through the power of storytelling.

          Telling Stories for Peace

          Tom Lee

          Linda Gorham

          Ellouise Schoettler

          Ellouise Schoettler

          Will Hornyak

          Odds Bodkin

          Odds Bodkin

          Angela Lloyd

          Megan Wells

          Won-Ldy Paye

          Won-Ldy Paye


          Kate Campbell

          Pipp Gillette

          Announcing the 2015 Teller-in-Residence Lineup

          I Needed to Unplug to Recharge

          Our Year in Review

          Holiday News at the International Storytelling Center

          National Storytelling Festival: My Story

          Introducing Anita Norman

          International Storytelling Center receives National Endowment for the Arts Grant

          Expanding the Circle

          A First Timer’s Trip

          Tim Lowry in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol

          Stamp of Approval

          Remembering Kathryn


          Google Cultural Institue

          The International Storytelling Center (ISC) has launched a digital partnership with Google’s Cultural Institute, a free online exhibition that explores the stories behind history’s most important historic and cultural moments. The exhibit focuses on the 42 year cultural impact of ISC’s signature event, the National Storytelling Festival, which is the largest and most prestigious storytelling event in the world.

          United Nations and MasterPeace -  A Storytelling Competition for Peace

          The International Storytelling Center joined with MasterPeace, a grass-roots peace movement based in the Netherlands, to launch a global storytelling competition, offering all storytellers around the world a platform to share their personal experience about what inspired them to work for peace. The winning story was presented at the United Nations headquarters on September 19, 2014, the International Day of Peace. “The power of storytelling is unquestionable. By listening and telling our stories we can unite as one creative global human family and then together contribute to building a better world. We are delighted to have partnered with the international award-winning MasterPeace organization on this exciting project to celebrate UN International day of Peace.” Kiran Singh Sirah.

          Alliance for Peace Building

          The National Storytelling Festival is the International Storytelling Center’s signature program, but ISC is also active on the global stage, fulfilling it’s mission to enrich the lives of people around the world through the arts of storytelling. The center’s goal is to inspire and empower people everywhere to capture and tell their stories, listen to the stories of others, and use storytelling to produce positive change. As a partner with the Washington, D.C. organization, Alliance for Peacebuilding, the International Storytelling Center reinforces the importance of sharing stories to build peace among peoples and nations. ISC is active in numerous projects with AfP to promote storytelling and peacebuilding here and across the world.

          Desmund Tutu Peace Foundation - USA

          The storytellers performing in ISC’s 2014 programming are being featured as part of the Desmund Tutu Peace Foundation - USA website and social media pages. The site will also feature the National Storytelling Festival, which will reach its followers and readers worldwide and provide greater exposure to ISC’s website. 

          Great article in the Huffington Post

          Feeling the post National Storytelling Festival Blues?

          Jonesborough welcomes folk legend John McCutcheon

          WAR: Collierville Tennessee 1863

          Brain Freeze

          Storytelling Strengthens Our Community

          National Storytelling Festival to Air on Sirius XM

          ASL welcome from Kiran Singh Sirah and Libby Tipton

          National Storytelling Festival Preview

          Live Streaming from the National Storytelling Festival

          The Story of My First Year

          Building Peace Through Storytelling

          2014 National Storytelling Festival Schedule Now Available

          Storytelling for International Day of Peace

          New Digital Partnership

          This week’s teller in residence: Linda Goodman

          Thursday Night Concert Featuring Suzy Bogguss

          2014 Storytelling Studio Schedule Announced

          Interested in a ticket subsidy for your school?

          The Teller in Residence Experience

          Diane Wolkstein Storytelling Celebration will be held September 13th

          Telling Stories that Matter

          Kenyan Storyteller Velma Mukoro selected to tell at the United Nations International Day of Peace

          Congratulations to Bil Lepp!

          Daniel Morden tells a cliffhanger…

          National Storytelling Festival Announces Special Guest - Anita Norman

          Stories for the Future

          Dedicated to my friend Johnny

          Cherished Roots

          National Storytelling Festival announces Special Guests - Larry Smith & Piper Kerman

          Congratulations to Daniel Morden!

          My MasterPeace Moment Storytelling Competition

          Cathy Jo McMaken

          Will Hornyak

          Linda Gorham

          Pete Griffin

          John Thomas Fowler

          Catherine Conant

          Join Our Story - Buy a Brick!

          National Storytelling Festival 2014

          Thanks to You!

          Daniel Morden

          Tim Tingle