Lynn Ransford grew up on a chicken farm in the San Fernando Valley, where she was surrounded by a variety of animals. A little like Beverly Cleary’s Ramona, or L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, Lynn often got into small bits of trouble. Years later she married Grandpa Jack, a mountaineer, who introduced her to animals in the wild and some wild adventures. Grandpa adds, “She still gets herself into a little trouble occasionally.”
Lynn Ransford has a Master’s degree in Education, three lifetime credentials and is an Early Childhood Specialist. She recently earned her Naturalist Certificate from Siskiyou Field Institute in Selma. She writes the scripts for her docent work at the Historic Beekman House in Jacksonville, Oregon, and for Living History programs offered at historic cemeteries in both Ashland and Jacksonville. Lynn says, “dressing up” in period costumes for the roles of Oregon pioneers is “a lot of fun.”
She also enjoys hiking, camping, quilting.
Maureen Flanagan Battistella interview Lynn Ransford about her book Grandma, Tell Me a Story… About Bears.
For more information “…About Bear“ stories, please go to luckyvalleypress.com/bears.
Maureen Flanagan Battistella: You got started telling stories to your children and grandchildren, so you must have a lot of experience telling stories. What’s your storytelling background?
Lynn Ransford: Thank you for the opportunity to tell a story about my story-telling! Storytelling has been part of my background for as long as I can remember. All the way back to my daddy: “I’ll tell you a story about Johnny Manory; now my story’s begun. I’ll tell you another about Johnny’s brother. Now my story is done.” My siblings and I would wail and scream, “No, Daddy! A real story! Tell us a real story!” And he’d repeat “Johnny Manory…” until we all laughing hysterically. Storytelling is an integral part of our family tradition to this day. Three generations of us still enjoy sitting around the dinner table, recalling fine old memories, entertaining one another with tales of past (and sometimes current) events.
My professional storytelling background began when I was a teenager and my mother employed me in her pre-school, with the instructions: “Never turn your back, remove ’no’ from your vocabulary, plan an activity for every 5 minutes, and be ready to tell them a story.” One of my responsibilities was to transport preschoolers home from school and I told stories to them the whole way. Earning my way through college and then after graduation, I continued storytelling to preschoolers. Later, throughout my 50 years of teaching all grade levels, reading, writing, and telling stories was an everyday occurrence. As you know, I continue telling stories at Beekman House in Jacksonville, at the Historic Jacksonville Cemetery, and at the Genealogy Library.
MFB: How have your stories influenced and affected your children and grandchildren?
LR: Of course, I continued to read to and tell stories to my own children, who did (and still do!) the same with their children. Those grandchildren are the main reason that I decided to publish some of our favorite family stories. Especially on our long trips to and from camping adventures, there was always a request from the back seat, “Grandma, Tell Me A Story.” Stories about our adventures with bears were ones they never tired of hearing, over and over. You ask how storytelling affected them: our two oldest granddaughters are professional writers; all are storytellers themselves.
MFB: What are you hoping to convey, to teach with your “Grandma …Tell Me a Story” series?
LR: What I hoped to accomplish with writing “…Bear Stories” was to record for them some of our family history. It was my granddaughters who said, “Grandma, you need to write down all the stories so we’ll always have them…” I hope, hidden in the stories, are lessons on how to conduct yourself responsibly in the wild, respect and care for animals and our environment, and also family values: appreciation and care for one another, enjoyment of life, curiosity, adventure, humor… In this way, “…Bear Stories” is like memoir writing — giving something of myself, my love, to my children and grandchildren.
MFB: Is “About Bears” a cautionary tale?
LR: I don’t consider “…Bears” to be a cautionary tale though there are cautions to be taken in the wild, of course, and I do address those, including how to conduct yourself in bear territory. But I certainly don’t want readers to be cautioned to avoid the wilderness; on the contrary. I hope readers will be amused by the stories and eager for their own adventures!
MFB: What has been your most exciting bear experience? Your most dangerous?
LR: The most dangerous bear encounters are detailed in the book, namely in the last chapter when Grandpa Jack was charged by three grizzlies. That incident and others during some of our hikes in Alaska when we came face-to-face with grizzly bears, were definitely scary. Any time you spot a bear, it’s exciting!
MFB: How was storytelling transformed from an oral tradition into a printed book? And why? What was your process?
LR: Transforming storytelling into a book is easy. Once you’ve told stories over and over, you have them down. They are in your head, along with the vivid pictures and clear memories. It’s just the task of choosing the right words to put on paper, not being too repetitive or too verbose, trying to keep up interest and suspense…checking for punctuation and syntax… I was taught that “keeping your audience in mind” is important. I think of those eager faces in the back seat of the car, and I want to keep them nodding, attentive, grinning, and wishing for more.
MFB: What’s your favorite story and why?
LR: My favorite bear story is probably the first in the book — my first encounter with a bear outside the zoo. It’s my favorite because the three other characters in the story (my parents and my brother) are now dead. Retelling that story keeps them alive for me. I can then freshly recall everything: their voices, the affection and warmth we shared, and the laughter.
MFB: About Bears is only the first story you’ve published. Will there be others? Will Grandpa tell any stories?
LR: “…Bears” is not the only book I have published. Years ago, I wrote “Creepy Crawlies for Curious Kids,” “Happy, Healthy Bodies,” and “ABC Crafts and Cooking.” Those were books for teachers, with lessons and hands-on activities for preschool through 2nd grade students. I am currently working on the second in a series of “Grandma, Tell Me A Story…” books. This one is “…About Critters.” Again, it is inspired by our grandchildren’s frequent requests…this time for snake stories, stink bugs and crickets, rats and moles, tarantulas… These are all true stories, most of them quite funny.
MFB: Where can we pick up a copy of About Bears and your next works?
LR: “Grandma, Tell Me A Story…About Bears” can be found at books stores in Ashland (Bloomsbury’s, Tree House, Northwest Nature Store, The Book Exchange, Hermeticus Books, Paddington Station’s Oregon Store) and in Jacksonville at Art Presence Gallery and Rebel Heart Books. It can also be ordered online through Amazon or Barnes and Noble.