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Storyteller Jim May uncovers stories throughout a life's journey

Jim May describes the importance of storytelling in his discussion on September 8. (Northern Review photo/Kasy Long)

Jim May describes the importance of storytelling in his discussion on September 8. (Northern Review photo/Kasy Long)

Writer, teacher and professional storyteller Jim May recently advised Ohio Northern University students to write from life experiences. That’s what he has done throughout a literary career whose roots are sprouted in a childhood on a farm in rural Illinois, was nurtured as an elementary school teacher, and has now featured three novels and an Emmy Award.

His latest novel, “Trail Guide for a Crooked Heart: Stories and Reflections for Life’s Journey,"  brought May to campus on September 8 for a discussion, sponsored by the Department of Education, that allowed students to witness the author’s humorous, yet inspirational, stories told from his own humble life journeys. ONU was the first stop on his current national book tour.

May’s stories focus on human imperfection. The title of his latest novel symbolizes the storyteller’s philosophy on failure.

“We’re all crooked. We all struggle with one thing or another, but that doesn’t mean we don’t deserve love. For those that betray us or disappoint us, they deserve love, too. And they deserve our forgiveness. Not forgiving someone is like trying to kill them by drinking the poison yourself,” May said. 

May seeks to reestablish live storytelling as a unique art form in the 21st century. He has a passion for writing and chooses to educate others on the value of creative expression.

May’s storytelling – featured in his other novels, “The Farm on Nippersink Creek” and “The Boo Baby Girl Meets the Ghost of Mable’s Grove” – stems from a childhood filled with stories from relatives. Time spent as a fifth grade teacher inspired him to continue teaching others how to successfully write about life experiences. 


He now travels across the globe, absorbing cultures and brings these experiences back home to reflect in future stories. May frequently seeks for new ideas to greet him, in which he transforms the opportunities into lively stories for audiences. 

“When I tell a story I try to entertain, but also capture the direct communication we all have experienced at some time in our lives under the ‘spell’ of a story, either by listening or telling,” May said.

Assistant Professor of Education Kevin Cordi, an accomplished storyteller himself, supports May’s thoughts on writing about true life experiences. 

“Jim May is the perfect person to bring to Ohio Northern, especially for pre-service educators but also for anyone searching for their own story. Jim teaches when he tells stories and reminds future teachers that personal narratives are invaluable to teaching. ONU pre-service educators have rich stories to share. Regardless of age or experience, one of the ways that their future students can connect is through stories,” Cordi said.

May’s discussion concluded with a final reading from his new novel, in which the storyteller summarizes his precise thoughts on the importance of writing.


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