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Beth Horner uses an axe to get what she wants

Jonesborough’s teller-in-residence program will offer a week’s worth of performances by the renowned storyteller Beth Horner.
The witty and wise entertainer will share light and poignant personal tales, as well as her signature story collection, folk tales from the Missouri Ozarks. She will accompany herself on both the autoharp and the kazoo.
Since her last storytelling residency in 2009, Horner has been busy with a top-to-bottom renovation of a 1939 row house in Chicago. While there has been a lot of back and forth with her contractors, the teller — ever an optimist — considers it excellent fodder for her profession.
“Eventually, it’s going to be a hysterical story, this renovation tale,” she says, recalling an incident with a plasterer who was falling down on the job. “I was talking until I was blue in the face, and he really wasn’t listening. My contractor reached into his truck cab and pulls out one of my storytelling CDs. The cover has a photo of me smiling very pleasantly, but holding an axe.
“He held it up to the plasterer’s face and said, ‘Do you see this? This is not Photoshopped. This is Beth holding an axe. Don’t mess with Beth!’”
Given storytelling’s reputation as a gentle art, Horner laughs with delight to think she’s its first practitioner to use a spoken-word CD to intimate violence.
Of course, the contractor was just joking; the context for the picture was a popular tale of Horner’s, a story about how she scared herself silly reading a book about an axe murderer when she was staying alone in the Ozarks.
Horner has been working on a whole host of new personal tales, including a set of stories about her parents, who are now 90 and 91.
She laughs out loud even thinking about recent conversations between her father, who’s still a farmer, and her mother, a retired scholar. “The stories of their conversations are hysterical,” she says.

She also enjoys telling stories about her parents when they were more youthful. One of her best-known pieces is about her mother’s journey from being a city girl to a farmer’s wife to an academic who studies historical rhetoric. “She burned down the outhouse because she wanted to get indoor plumbing,” Horner says. “That was the only way to do it.”

No doubt there are plenty of city slickers who can relate. That’s Horner’s specialty: picking out moments in life that we can all relate to, whether it’s the time you accidentally frightened yourself or the time your mother said something ridiculous. We all have those stories—some of us just tell them for a living.

The Teller-in-Residence series (also known as Storytelling Live!) is a seasonal program that invites a new storyteller to Jonesborough each week through the summer and fall. Tickets are just $12 for adults and $11 for seniors, students, and children under 18. All ticket stubs will save audience members 10 percent on same-day dining at The Creekside Restaurant, The Dining Room, or Main Street Café.

The Center is open 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Storytelling Live! is sponsored by Mountain States Health Alliance. Media sponsors are News 5-WCYB, FOX Tri-Cities, Tri-Cities CW4, Johnson City Press, Kingsport Times-News, Jonesborough Herald & Tribune and Cumulus Media.

For more information about Storytelling Live! or to make a group reservation, call (800) 952-8392 ext. 222 or (423) 913-1276. A detailed schedule of the 2012 season is available at HYPERLINK “”