Tell Me a Story

“Tell me a story.”

I said those words hundreds of times when I was little and afraid.

I was small but my fears were great. Bigger than the room I shared with my sister.

The bed I slept in was small, too—a twin. But it seemed huge to me. At night, when the house was quiet, the place that should have been safe became an endless, menacing landscape of black and gray. I tried hard to hide myself in it. I’d pull my legs up as high and as tight as I could and hug myself through the long nights—like a terrified animal hiding from its hunter.

You never forget fear like that. And you never forget how important those stories were. Those imaginary tales that sometimes kept you company through the long nights—that kept you safe until those first slivers of morning light pushed the shadows back into hiding. The stories that my sister told me weren’t really stories at all. They were sounds, mostly. Strings and jumbles of disconnected words that rolled around and never really got anyplace. It didn’t matter. None of it mattered because I knew that as long as I lay there beside her and listened to that soft litany of vowels and consonants, I’d be all right. I’d be safe.

nighttimeWe’d both be safe.

We never talked about those nighttime vigils—not to each other and never to anyone else. Part of that was because we understood that silence was the compact you kept with abuse. Another part of it was because those special watch nights we shared were more sacred to us than any of the church services we were forced to attend with the family on Sundays. We never found grace in those hollow spaces that reeked so much of varnish, mildew, and cheap cologne. We found it, instead, in the deepest parts of those dark nights when we’d lie awake and stack up words like Lincoln Logs. We believed those fantastic, nonsensical bastions of sound could protect us from the known world we feared.

Mostly, they did.

It was then I learned the power of words. I knew with my child’s mind that whispering them in the dark could keep me safe—but it would be decades before I understood that saying them aloud in the daylight would set me free.

It’s not hard to figure out why I became a writer.

Yes. I just said that, didn’t I?

I’m a writer. I. Am. A. Writer.

I am.

This admission is new for me. Something else I’ve learned—and something I must now say aloud.

In my brief tenure, I’ve published five novels and two collections of short stories. The books have fared well. Many would say very well. And even though I’ve had some wonderful experiences and checked a lot of the boxes that appear on most of the lists that define success, I’ve never really thought of myself as a writer. Not really. Not me.

But all of that changed for me on a Wednesday afternoon when I sat down in a chair, folded my hands together to keep them from fidgeting, closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and listened to someone else tell me a story. Beautifully. Perfectly. And that story was my own story. One I wrote.

“And god divided the light from the darkness.” And it was good.

The audio book of Hoosier Daddy went live at on the day before Thanksgiving. Listening to it—hearing it—did something miraculous for me. Suddenly, magically, all of those disconnected words from my youth coalesced into phrases and sentences that did go someplace—that did speak truths that now might see someone else through their own long, dark night.

I am humbled. I am grateful.

I am a writer.

And I tell stories….


Listen to a sample of Hoosier Daddy, narrated by Christine Williams.

Read a sample of Hoosier Daddy.

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    • Astrid Krämer on January 30, 2015 at 7:41 am
    • Reply

    Thanks for your really wonderful and funny stories. I had a really bad week and meeting Diz, Clarissa, Jill and El made it a lot funnier an easier.
    thanks Ann and Salem,
    Astrid (Germany)

    • Amy on December 2, 2014 at 7:19 pm
    • Reply

    Your awesome! Please keep writing.

  1. Ann:

    Every once in a while you read something that resonates on a deep, instinctual level. That is what your blog did for me. Though we have had different experiences, I understand the darkness. I understand the need to write. Thank you for penning (typing) such a raw and telling blog.

    • Renate on December 2, 2014 at 6:09 am
    • Reply

    You make me laugh….Really laugh…..whenever I feel kinda low I re-read your books, even after x-number of re-reads they still make me smile ….specially Diz and Clarissa….you truly have the “make your readers feel good” gen…….keep them coming and thanks for the hours you made me laugh…….

    • Mary Anne on December 1, 2014 at 2:59 pm
    • Reply

    You are indeed a writer. It’s a shame we can’t all send you soundtracks of the laughter that your stories bring us. Then, perhaps, you would have realized much sooner. I thank you for your stories. I thank you for writing them and sharing them with the rest of us.

  2. To me a writer is someone takes you from the so called real world into a new world so completely that you can picture every scene, every character, you laugh and cry with them. You feel that if you reach out you would be able to touch the walls of the buildings, drink the wine, in simple words you are there! That is what you do, you take us with you into that world. A wonderful gift and you have it in spades for which I, for one, am very grateful.

    Hoosier Daddy is brilliant on Audio 🙂

  3. Now I understand. Yes, you really are a writer. Your words have touched me in ways I am still learning. Kindred.

    • sheila on December 1, 2014 at 12:04 pm
    • Reply

    Oh you are a writer indeed, Ann McMan. An author, a wordsmith, a storyteller and a wonder. Thank you for all you share. Pax.

    • Bev on December 1, 2014 at 11:51 am
    • Reply

    I love your stories. And, I love you, sister.

    • Carrie on December 1, 2014 at 11:16 am
    • Reply

    You’re not only a writer, you’re a damn fine one. Thank you for sharing your stories, your words..yourself. Bless you.

    • Jane Waterton on December 1, 2014 at 11:06 am
    • Reply

    I am moved beyond words. Yes, you are a writer and an incredibly good one. I hope hearing your words made you laugh and let the sunshine pour into those dark places. I also hope that there will be many more books in the future!

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