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Linda Poland celebrated as town’s ‘resident storyteller’

For 15-years, Linda Poland has served as Jonesborough’s resident storyteller.
It’s no surprise Poland can tell a story. She’s had a tale to tell from the moment she was born.
“I was born in an avacado grove,” Poland said. “My dad delivered me. I was two weeks early.”
Raised in Miami, Poland first discovered Northeast Tennessee when she came up to visit her sister, who “married a boy from Kingsport.”
“I came in the fall,” Poland said. “In Miami, the weather is the same all year round. When I came here to visit, I fell in love with the fall — and with the people.”
At the time, Poland was a college student attending the University of Miami with hopes of one day getting involved in the film business. After that first visit, Poland transfered to East Tennesssee State University.
She returned here to live in 1976 with her husband, Jim, who is originally from Houston.
Poland garnered a job as tour coordinator for the town. It didn’t take her long to add storytelling into the mix, offering historic tours in Jonesborough starting in 1991.
Poland is one of the first in the country known to use the art of storytelling when developing tours to share a town’s history.
“I was named resident storyteller in 1997. That means everwhere I go, I tell stories about Jonesborough and for Jonesborough,” Poland said. “It’s been great meeting people and telling Jonesborough stories.”
But it wasn’t always easy. Getting people to open up was hard work.
“I wasn’t from here and people didn’t want to tell me their stories,” Poland said, crediting the late Dr. George Byrd with helping her get started. “Doc Byrd heard that people weren’t opening up to me so he came and offered to take me around to introduce me to people and let them know that I was trying to collect history and stories of the town for a tour.
“We sat on people’s front porches drinking tea. As the weather cooled, we moved into people’s homes and they shared their stories with me. Doc Byrd would say, ‘Tell her your stories. She won’t shame ya. She’s a good girl just trying to do her job.’”
Poland’s first tour series through the town was called Discover Jonesborough: Times and Tales. It won national, state and local awards.
Every story she told on the tour was true. In fact, to ensure authenticity, a tale had to be documented in three different sources before it could be shared.
In 2000, Poland formed her own company — Positive Solutions Tours — to take the tour program to the “next level.”
In its heyday, the tour program saw 200 overnight tours in a year, Poland said. Today, Poland hosts an estimated 80 overnight tours annually and another 50 to 70 day tours.
“It’s an honor because you are representing the storytelling capital of the world,” Poland said. “These are people’s stories. You value them and you share them.”
Jonesboorugh Mayor Kelly Wolfe recently showed Poland just how much she is valued in the town with a proclamation in her honor.
”This lady does a lot of things in our town. She is a premiere storyteller,” Wolfe said before reading from the proclamation at the May meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. “This lady is the official ambassador to the town of Jonesborough.”