I ran across a reference to World Storytelling Day in a message from a Scottish-American group on Facebook. Lo and behold, it’s coming up on March 20. (I know, not much surprise after the headline, but what could I do?)
But what else struck my attention is that March 20 is also the birthday of Sir Walter Scott, the famous Scottish novelist who is remembered in Scotland’s capital city, Edinburgh, by the Scott Monument. So, with rustlings coming from the Imaginary Writers’ Room in my mind, I assumed that the storytelling day was planned to be on the birthday of one of Scotland’s great storytellers.
One of them, Arthur, I thought as a familiar Scots voice rumbled behind the door of the Writers’ Room. (Really familiar — I’ve seen a YouTube “talkie” film of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle here which really does sound like my grandfather.)
But sometimes coincidence is just that, incidents happening at the same time without any real link. As Wikipedia explains, ‘World Storytelling Day has its roots in a national day for storytelling in Sweden, circa 1991-2. At that time, an event was organized for March 20 in Sweden called “Alla berättares dag” (All storytellers day). The Swedish national storytelling network passed out some time after, but the day stayed alive, celebrated around the country by different enthusiasts. In 1997, storytellers in Perth, Western Australia coordinated a five-week-long Celebration of Story, commemorating March 20 as the International Day of Oral Narrators. At the same time, in Mexico and other Latin American countries, March 20 was already celebrated as the National Day of Storytellers.”
Then I thought I heard a laugh in the Writers’ Room — a joyful shout, really. When I heard a third man’s voice calling out a quiet “Wheesht!” and knew that was Louis Stevenson’s call to be quiet, I figured out that the second man I’d heard in my mind must have been Robert Burns.
“So Scott gets a party,” Burns said through giggles, “but only because they started it in Sweden!”
“That’s right,” said Agatha Christie, who sounded like she was opening the door — perhaps to edge her way away from Burns. “But we all do owe Sir Walter a great deal.”
“Yes,” said Daphne du Maurier. “He did so much to make novels popular.”
“He wisnae the only one,” muttered Stevenson.
“No, he wasn’t,” said Sir Arthur, “but he was quite a leader. Why, even I copied bits from his mannerisms.”
“Copied?” I couldn’t see from my perch outside the door, but I thought Agatha might be fanning herself at the mere word.
“The image of the man against the lighted window shade,” said Arthur.
I knew “the man” was Sherlock Holmes — this happened in my favorite short story, “The Adventure of the Empty House.”
As Arthur wrote in his great book about books, “Through the Magic Door,” Sir Walter Scott was observed working on his novels late into the night, with his profile visible in the shadow on his window shade.
I gathered my tired nerves and turned the door of the Writers’ Room in my mind.
“Hello, everyone,” I said. Agatha Christie and Daphne du Maurier were sitting on the far side of the dining-room-sized table, with T.S. Eliot and Robert Burns on the near side and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle at the head of the table. (After all, he is the chairman of my imaginary committee.)
Robert Louis Stevenson waved to me from where he lay on the sofa and said “Come in, Margaret.”
“Thank you, Louis, but no,” I said. “I just stopped by to remind you that World Storytelling Day is coming up in two days.”
The committee looked around as if embarrassed, avoiding my eyes.
“How long is that?” said Agatha Christie, reminding me of Maggie Smith’s line in “Downton Abbey,” “What is a weekend?”
They don’t need to know about time anymore, but they do love stories. Share some of their works as soon as you can!
Margaret Serious has a page on Facebook.