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VPR's coverage of arts and culture in the region.

Pomfret Woman Is A National Park Ranger By Day, Moth Storyteller By Night

Courtesy Julia Lynam
The Moth Storytelling Vermont GrandSLAM Championships take place in Burlington on Friday. One of the performers is Julia Lynam, a national park ranger from Pomfret.

Julia Lynam has had a wide variety of jobs in her lifetime: She’s worked at a PR firm, as a stay-at-home mom and a national park ranger. Now, she adds storyteller to that list.

Lynam is one of the Vermonters who will take the stage on Friday in Burlington as part of the Moth Storytelling GrandSLAM Championships.

On how long she’s been telling stories

“I have been telling stories all my life. The first time I remember telling stories was when my little sister was about 7 years old, and I’m seven years older than her, and I used to have to walk her to school. We passed the time walking to school by telling her stories of Mr. Bushytail the squirrel and the lilac fairy.

“As I say, I’ve been telling stories all my life, one way or another. But they’ve mostly been fiction or traditional stories, and then about three years ago I started going to a story sharing session run by Recille Hamrell in the Williston public library. That was a very challenging opportunity to do ad-lib, impromptu stories and that really got me going with the personal storytelling. Following from that, I found out about a number of open mics that were held throughout the Burlington area and also in other parts of the Vermont … and then, lo and behold, suddenly The Moth arrived in Burlington and that was a wonderful opportunity to continue with the personal storytelling.”

On how being a park ranger helps with storytelling

“Of course with The Moth, I’m telling a personal story. But as a park ranger, I’m interpreting the history, culture and nature of the country and turning those into a narrative form. So it really exercises me, it gives me a chance to try to work out how to do that and that really does help with my storytelling.”

On the process of coming up with a story to tell

“I work in my head. I don’t write things down very much at all and I find that ideas just come into my head sometimes and then they begin to form themselves. It often happens when I’m out walking in nature or when I’m driving – an idea will come up, a memory, an incident, and then it gradually creates itself and it ends up sitting in my head like a kind of movie. Then when I want to retell it, I just start the movie reel going and I watch the movie and interpret, explain what’s going on as I go along.”

"It often happens when I'm out walking in nature or when I'm driving – an idea will come up, a memory, an incident, and then it gradually creates itself and it ends up sitting in my head like a kind of movie." - Julia Lynam, storyteller

Can anyone be a storyteller?

“I always thought it was something everybody could do. I find that a lot of people are a little bit wary of telling stories. I’ve been looking for stories about national parks for a book that I’m writing and I find that when I talk to people whom I know [who] … have had lots of wonderful experiences, they don’t see them as story. Given time, given desire, everyone could probably learn to tell a story, but not everybody wants to.”

On stories she’s working on that haven’t made it to the stage yet

“I haven’t told a lot of stories about my work as national park ranger and I know that there are a number of different things there that I want to bring forward and work on as stories. I’m kind of waiting for that inspirational moment someday when I’m out there in the woods …”

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