There's probably no local storyteller better known than Kathy Long of Lehighton.
She tells her stories in schools and libraries. She has been making an annual Christmas visit to nationally-known Eckley Miners Village where she has a new tale to tell every year. Her storytelling has taken her as far away as Tennessee.
She has illustrated and authored two books.
Now her stories have been put on CDs.
The CD project has been over a year in the making. Although the CD will make it possible to hear her stories even while traveling and allow her to reach a wider audience, one of her goals is that a book publisher takes notice and publishes her work for national distribution.
In reality, the CD has already gotten notice. She has received a request from a firm in Germany which is interested in her work. She admits it is too early to determine if anything will materialize but she remains optimistic.
If something does materialize, timing couldn't be more critical. Long's husband, Warren, died unexpectedly on Dec. 20 and now she is depending on the proceeds from the CD to help her financially.
She exhausted most of her savings to pay for the CD just a short time before he death.
"Just around the holidays, I drained two bank accounts of over $2,000" for the project, she said.
On the morning of Dec. 20, her husband went to work as usual. Just a few hours later, she received a phone call that he became ill.
Now, she said, storytelling has to become a regular business.
She said although she is hoping the CD helps her financially, she is also hoping it helps local libraries. She has it for sale in libraries in Lehighton, Jim Thorpe, and Palmerton, with a portion of the proceeds going toward the library.
Long said she had considered the idea of a story-telling CD for a while, but realized that delivering stories on such a device is very difficult.
"You have to rely on your voice; the inflections to go along with rolling your eyes and other facial expressions," she said.
The congenial woman has been telling stories to organizations and groups for many years. She also is an accomplished artist, having her work displayed on post cards, calendars, and in her books.
In August 1994, she penned her first book, Taylor Twinkle Finds A Home. It's a story about optimism and hope.
The book, which she financed herself, is a near sell-out.
She then authored and illustrated Living In Harmony, which she uses in her anti-bullying programs which she sometimes conducts.
Her CDs are entitled The Legend of Glen Onoko & Other Stories, a general story-telling CD containing seven different tales, and Mangos & Pickles & Spiders Oh My!, a Christmas CD with six stories including "Taylor Twinkle Finds A Home."
"The Legend of Glen Onoko" is an original take on the tale of Glen Onoko, home to some of the most beautiful waterfalls in Eastern Pa. Instead of a sad ending as explained in Glen Onoko's history, Long adds a special touch which makes the tale heart-warming.
She said she got the idea for Glen Onoko while at a story-telling convention in Pigeon Ford Inn, Tennessee, one Christmas. She said she thought she would be inspired at the inn to conceive a new Christmas story, but she wasn't. Instead, for some reason, she thought about Glen Onoko "and how no woman would throw herself off a mountain for a man."
"I didn't redo the legend, but added to it," she stressed.
The story has been told by Long at several locations and has been well-received. She said that from talking with people, it has gotten them interested not only in Glen Onoko but also about Jim Thorpe in general.
The Glen Onoko CD was recorded in honor of her long-time storytelling partner, Bill Couch, who died on July 16, 2009. His death occurred on the anniversary of her father's death. Her father died July 16, 2001.
The Christmas CD was dedicated to her late sister, Kris Carole Rhoades, who had a Christmas birthday. One story on the Christmas CD, "The Miracle of the Christmas Mango," includes Couch along with friends and places of his childhood.
Long said of the CD project that it began as just a new source for her stories, but now, "I have it to get me through this tough time. It's here to keep a roof over my head, but it's also to keep a roof over the libraries head."
She said besides her story-telling, she is hoping to utilize her talent to do more fund-raisers.
Like Taylor Twinkle, you just have to believe that her optimism will help her "find a star."