She started out by asking whether any of us had the old Irish name 'Shaughnessy'. None of us did. She then told how it arose from the Gaelic 'Seannachie', or 'storyteller'. I thought it was interesting, and there and then made up a pen name for myself. I may yet use it.
A seannachie was somewhat more than a 'storyteller'. According to Webster, the definition is:
Sean´na`chieA bard among the Highlanders of Scotland, who preserved and repeated the traditions of the tribes; also, a genealogist
Most cultures had them. The story of the siege of Troy was passed down verbally from generation to generation before it was written down. To a degree, those of us who listen to the stories our parents and grandparents tell and either write them down ourselves or bully them into doing it, are fulfilling the same function.
I remember reading a woman's account of her mother teaching her some songs and saying 'You'll need this some day', as though the songs would help her to cope with whatever life deals out. She said that it had.
I can attest to that. I was listening to The Mary Ellen Carter, a song written by Stan Rogers about the wreck of a ship. It had been recorded by an Irish group of pub singers (and darned good they were, too!), and I was enjoying the tale of the ship, how she was wrecked, and how the remnants of her crew determined to bring her back ('make the Mary Ellen Carter rise again').
And then I heard the last verse:
I sat up, breathless. I'd dealt with those 'smiling bastards lying to you everywhere you go'. I had! It was like remembering a time when I had thought myself alone and abandoned and discovering that I'd had friends and sympathizers beside me, that I hadn't known of. And this from a song I heard on a CD.
How many of us read a novel and get something from it aside from a moment's entertainment? I know I do. (Heck, I've taken away some pretty profound lessons from Disney's cartoon The Emperor's New Groove - watch it and you may see what I mean!)
We write our books (most of us) to entertain people. I am still blown away when I see that someone shelled out cash to read something I 'made up out of my own head', but maybe that's just my oddness. Our creativity is fueled by everything around us - whether stories our grandparents told us or myths we have heard or things we have read. When I talk to people about what they have read, that I have written, and what they have gained from reading it, I am left feeling a little breathless.
Perhaps I, too, am a seannachie.