Author Thompson to speak
at upcoming History Dinner Series
He organized the Corn Island Storytelling Festival
LA GRANGE, Ky. (February 2018) – Bob Thompson never runs out of stories. It’s in his blood. He is a true storyteller, having learned the tricks of the trade from listening to his grandmother and the customers of her country store in McCracken County, Ky., swap tales.
While many in Kentucky know Thompson for his outstanding storytelling abilities, he has now converted this talent into a book, “Hitchhiker: Stories From the Kentucky Homefront.”
Thompson will present a program about his new book at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 15, at the Oldham County Historical Society’s Rob Morris Educational Building, 207 W. Jefferson St. in La Grange, Ky. This program is part of the 2018 History Dinner Series, which includes a meal and cash bar. Thompson’s presentation will follow the meal and he will have copies of his book for sale.
Thompson has his own way of spell-binding the reader by interweaving ghosts of the past with real and imagined worlds.
• Cost is $20 for members of the Oldham County Historical Society and $22 for society non-members. Registration is required as seating is limited. Call (502) 222-0826 to register.
“I only tell original stories,” said Thompson, who has a 150-story repertoire. He’s been a professional storyteller for more than 30 years in addition to having a career as an engineer, event producer, hosting a weekly National Public Radio show, and been instrumental in helping to organize the Corn Island Storytelling Festival.
Fellow author, storyteller and friend Roberta Simpson Brown has worked with him on the Corn Island Storytelling Festival for years. She said of Thompson that his stories cover “a wide range of subjects, including ghosts, humor, sadness, inspiration, and personal experiences that give a vivid picture of his western Kentucky roots. Many of us Kentuckians can identify with Bob’s childhood experiences which often parallel our own.”
Brown is the one who three years ago encouraged Thompson to write his book. He pitched it to The University Press of Kentucky, ending up with a 30,000-word book. They asked for 5,000 more words and the result was a sort of “fictional memoir” for Thompson.
On the publisher’s request, he tied in some history of western Kentucky, the area in which he grew up. The editorial board suggested that it would “sell best if it were a collection of ghost stories,” he said. They felt that ghost, or spirit, books were very popular with many readers.
After publication, Thompson sold more copies in a month than he thought he would sell in a year.
“The book has done quite well,” he said.
The collection of stories in “Hitchhiker: Stories From the Kentucky Homefront” brings together coming-of-age tales, family stories of bygone eras, and even true accounts of unsolved murders and mysteries. Thompson describes his source of inspiration on his website as his ancestors.
“I listen to their voices almost daily through their letters, diaries, recipes and notes in the margins of books and Bibles. I sleep under their quilts and mark the passing of time by shadows and the chiming of their clocks. I open all the blinds and walk around my house in window light, navigating in the evenings by their lamps to understand their world, their light. I shave with their brushes and straight razors and carry their pocket knives and watches.”
Writing the book was a discovery process.
Years ago Thompson took a six week “How to be a Storyteller” class with Lee Pennington, who founded the Corn Island Storytelling Festival in 1976 with his wife Joy Pennington. Thompson took writing classes and began writing his own tales to tell.
The University Press of Kentucky has asked him to write two more books. One will be a collection of short stories with a narrative that ties them together, similar to the current book. The second will be about the counter culture community at The Paddock in Lexington.
Thompson grew up in Paducah, and later moved to the Peewee Valley area of Oldham County. He earned an engineering degree and traveled all over the world in his line of work. His wife, Cathy, was an AP English teacher for Oldham County High School.
Thompson has his own National Public Radio show, Kentucky Homefront. John Gage is the host while Thompson is known as the “Front Porch Philosopher & Master of Mayhem”. The show “makes me write a new story every month,” he said, which keeps his creative juices flowing. “I always thought I would put some in a book.”
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