Donna Ingham is a bred-and-born Texan who grew up in the Panhandle and on the South Plains of a state noted for its tales, both tall and true. She grew up listening to stories told by family and friends and was drawn early on to storytelling entertainers like Deacon Andy Griffith and Bill Cosby. “At first I was a mimic,” she says, “but in time I began to discover my own voice.”
She began to tell stories at church socials and for her classmates in high school and college. “I found that keeping a sense of humor is a good way to keep a sense of perspective, so most of the stories I told then and continue to tell now have their funny moments even if the main gist of the story is serious.”
It wasn’t until Donna had retired from a career as a college English professor, however, that she discovered her second career as a professional storyteller. A librarian friend invited her to a storytelling concert at a library conference. There she heard three tellers. One had adapted an old joke; one described a disastrous date; and one accompanied his folktale with a ukulele. They were having a wonderful time, and so was the audience. “It was a welcome revelation to me that storytelling was actually a career choice.” So she turned pro in 1995.
Since then she has been an Exchange Place teller and Story Slam participant at the National Storytelling Festival, spent a week as a Teller in Residence at the International Storytelling Center, been featured at the Texas Storytelling Festival and almost every other major festival in the Lone Star State, appeared and/or presented workshops at the National Storytelling Conference and the Timpanogos Storytelling Conference and the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival, among many others across the country.
“I have found my calling,” Donna says. She delights not only in sharing her own stories but also in encouraging others to collect, preserve, and pass on their family and regional tales. As one audience member recently remarked about her, “Donna Ingham was wonderful and has gotten me interested in storytelling.” That’s just what Donna likes to hear. “Storytelling is the most collaborative of art forms,” she says. “It takes both a teller and a listener working together to co-create the images and the narrative that unfolds between them, and that is communication at its finest.”