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Professional Storyteller to Haunt McCracken Co. Library with Scary Folktales of Kentucky

Mary Hamilton will be visiting the McCracken County Public Library on Tuesday, October 30th, with haunting folk tales of Kentucky origin.

Storytelling is a pasttime that has traveled through hundreds of generations all over the world. But to some, their ability to humanize recycled prose is not only an artform, it's a profession. Professional storyteller Mary Hamilton visits Sounds Good to discuss her craft and her upcoming visit to the McCracken County Public Library.

Mary Hamilton decided she wanted to pursue a career in storytelling in her early 30s. Previously working as a children's librarian, budget cuts in Grand Rapids, Michigan left her unemployed and ready to pursue her passion. Since 1983, Hamilton has told stories and folk tales of all different genres to schools, libraries, storytelling festivals, private groups, and churches all over the country. Hamilton has no limitations on where she could perform, as long as there is some sort of audience, saying, "really, [I tell stories] anywhere where there are people, [where] there could be people who want to hear a storyteller." 

In honor of Halloween, Hamilton will be bringing her storytelling abilities to the McCracken County Public Library with her presentation, Feeding Nightmares. Nightmares is a collection of Kentuckian folklore and is not suitable for young children. The storytelling presentation will involve themes of "dread, deception, death, and dismemberment -- such are the ingredients of tales that have fed Kentucky nightmares for generations." Hamilton will not only share these haunting tales of the Commonwealth; she also reports on the ancestral lineage of each story (who told them originally, who collected or archived the story for public use, why Hamilton tells certain stories in particular ways, and even alternate endings when available). 

When asked about the integrity of the moral undertones with which most folk tales have come to be associated, Hamilton is adamant about the removal of herself from the comprehension process. "Often the moral or the underlying theme is like beauty in the eye of the beholder. The moral is in the ear, the mind, the heart of the listener," Hamilton explains. While she believes it is the listener's responsibility to obtain their perceived moral lesson, and the teller's responsibility to not impose on that personal process, Hamilton also stresses the importance of maintaining cultural integrity. Telling stories of other cultures requires a deep understanding of that specific culture so that, Hamilton says, "[the story tellers] don't change something that takes the story out of the culture or alters the meaning the story might have for people of that culture." 

Maintaining cultural integrity within the Nightmares presentation will not be an issue for Hamilton. "When I'm telling stories, I know they're being filtered through me. I'm a Kentuckian, and I grew up on a farm, and that history is part of what makes me, me. I've also always been an avid reader, and that's also what makes me, me." Hamilton's local upbringing and ability to humanize spoken word results in a chilling, captivating, and authentic performance. 

Hamilton is a Kentucky Arts Council Teaching Artist and trains others in the art of storytelling. She is also the creator of several storytelling albums, a member of the Kentucky Storytelling Association and the National Storytelling Network, and a recipient of the 1999-2000 Jesse Stuart Media Award. In 2009, the National Storytelling Network honored Hamilton with a Circle of Excellence Oracle award, presented to artists recognized by their peers to be master storytellers who set the standards for excellence and have demonstrated, over a significant period of time, a commitment and dedication to the art of storytelling. 

Mary Hamilton will be presenting Feeding Nightmares in the 2nd floor meeting room of the McCracken County Public Library on Tuesday, October 30th, at 7 p.m. The event is free and open to the public, but viewer discretion is advised. For more information, visit the McLib website.

Tracy started working for WKMS in 1994 while attending Murray State University. After receiving his Bachelors and Masters degrees from MSU he was hired as Operations/Web/Sports Director in 2000. Tracy hosted All Things Considered from 2004-2012 and has served as host/producer of several music shows including Cafe Jazz, and Jazz Horizons. In 2001, Tracy revived Beyond The Edge, a legacy alternative music program that had been on hiatus for several years. Tracy was named Program Director in 2011 and created the midday music and conversation program Sounds Good in 2012 which he hosts Monday-Thursday. Tracy lives in Murray with his wife, son and daughter.
Melanie Davis-McAfee graduated from Murray State University in 2018 with a BA in Music Business. She has been working for WKMS as a Music and Operations Assistant since 2017. Melanie hosts the late-night alternative show Alien Lanes, Fridays at 11 pm with co-host Tim Peyton. She also produces Rick Nance's Kitchen Sink and Datebook and writes Sounds Good stories for the web.
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