Editor’s Note: “Tell me a story.”
Those of us who are parents, who are aunts or uncles, who have been around young children, we’ve all heard those words: Tell me a story. I mean, have you ever had a child look up at you, eyes wide, and ask, “Will you please tell me about a topic?”
As humans, we are hard-wired to yearn for, to respond to, stories. I have been working with a student who is interested in the field of science writing, and recently she came into my office raving about a book that seeks to explain just this assertion. In The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human, the writer Jonathan Gottschall describes stories as a force field that surrounds us and influences our behaviors, our movements. We as humans, Gottschall asserts, have placed stories at the very center of our existence. (In another book, On the Origin of Stories, an English professor in New Zealand asserts that storytelling is a result of human evolution and, as a consequence, is a key to our survival.)
All of this is to say that stories matter. Stories of love, of conflict, of exploration (of the land or of the human condition) have the power to change lives. It is, it has been, and it always will be.
Earlier this spring, I had the pleasure of hearing Jacqui Banaszynski speak. In 1988, Jacqui won a Pulitzer Prize in feature writing for her series AIDS in the Heartland, an unsparingly painful, yet exquisitely beautiful account of the life and death of a gay farm couple in Minnesota. (And yes, untold lives were changed after the publication of the series.) Jacqui was talking about storytelling, and at one point she addressed its permanence. “We have been writing stories since we first took up ochre to rock, and we will be writing stories when people figure out how to do it on the stars.”
In this issue, we introduce the next generation of storytellers. How and where they tell stories are evolving—by the day, even—but stories are what they give us. We couldn’t do without them.