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Resurrecting The Lost Art Of Storytelling At The Hotel Emma

It's a series of gatherings for those who treasure the spoken and written word.  Sherry Kafka Wagner created the gatherings, and they grew out of her love for literature. Because of that, she spent a lifetime buying and reading books. Recently, she gave them all away. 

"Those books have found a home in the Hotel Emma at the Pearl," she says of the quirky lending library near the hotel's lobby.

Kafka Wagner grew up in Arkansas, where front porch storytelling and music made the pre-air conditioned summer nights not just tolerable, but fascinating.

"We would all gather on my great grandparent's front porch and listen to stories and drink ice tea," Kafka Wagner says.

She says that those front porch storytelling nights were great equalizers.

"You were sitting out there and anybody who happened to wander by would just come up and sit on the porch with you," she says. "Very often a story would be told that would start out with 'well I saw ol' John So-and-so yesterday and he told me this good story.'"

In the spirit of that tradition, she will read an excerpt from chosen authors in the Hotel Emma's library.

"We will hear a story each week from a different southern woman writer of the 20th century," Kafka Wagner says. "What better story than having Katherine Ann Porter, Eudora Welty, Carson McCullough and Flannery O'Conner tell those stories."

The next four Tuesdays, Kafka Wagner will read excerpts from those authors along with a discussion and hopes that soon, the local storytelling will begin.

"It will start at 6:30 p.m. and go to 8 o'clock," she says. "Admission is $15 which covers cocktails and snacks. There's something very social about sharing a story, and thinking about the person who wrote the story."

And in so doing, the solitary exercise of reading becomes a shared one.

"I used to say that in my family it didn't matter so much if you were smart or successful, but it mattered a lot if you were funny or musical."

For Kafka Wagner, that family tradition lives on. 

Jack Morgan can be reached at jack@tpr.org and on Twitter at @JackMorganii