Muffie and Liza Newell.

Text and photo by Peter Vankevich

Donald Davis runs storytelling workshops throughout the country.

Every year he holds two of them in his home village of Ocracoke and the island benefits from having the storytellers perform at the Ocracoke Preservation Society and at Books to Be Red.

One of those performers was Liza Newell of Richmond, Virginia.

She has been attending storytelling festivals with her mother, Muffie Newell, since she was eight years old and fell in love with the art.

“I had so much energy when I was a little girl and I remember having a really hard time sitting still,” she said. “But at the Storytelling Festival I was so drawn into the stories that I could sit still and listen to stories for hours.”

Liza has heard Donald Davis tell stories since she was a little girl. When she learned that he led workshops on Ocracoke, she and her mom signed up.

Liza was selected to recount her humorous and surprise-ending story on a lovely Saturday June morning at Books to Be Red about her first summer camp as a young girl. It was her first time telling a story in front of an audience.

“My mom went to Camp Lachlan outside of Lexington, Virginia, when she was a little girl and so did three of my aunts,” she said.

By the time it was her turn for camp at age 10 she had heard many stories about Camp Lachlan, including stories about the Jump Mountain Hotel and Country Club, which sat on top of the mountain, overlooking Camp Lachlan.

“The image of the hotel and country club had been built up in my mind through years of hearing stories from my mom and aunts about how special it was,” she said.

She recounted how all the camp girls with the camp leaders set out on an adventure to visit the resort only to learn when they got to the top of the mountain that the hotel and country club did not exist.

They had been pranked.

“It was really special to have the chance to work on that story with Donald and the other workshop participants, including my mom,” Liza said.

Donald Davis has been one of her favorites.

“He’s the type of storyteller who makes you want to pull up a chair and not miss a word,” she said. “It was such a special experience to learn from his expertise during the workshop.”

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