From ‘best storyteller’ to writer, I have enjoyed every minute

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By Renee Sloan, Page Designer/Staff Writer

It was kindergarten graduation and awards day. A lanky, geeky girl stood toward the back of the group, adjusting her pink wire-rimmed glasses. She was waiting to see what award she would get. Every kid in the class got one, and she couldn’t wait to see what hers would be.
Everyone was getting good awards: best dressed, most friendly, most helpful, most likely to succeed in first grade. When they called the little girl’s name, she skipped up to the front, hugged the teacher and grabbed her award as they announced “best storyteller.”
What? What did that mean? None of her classmates seemed to know, either. What kind of crappy award was that? The little girl was so disappointed.
Of course, that little girl was me.
As a child, I felt as if the teachers just ran out of good awards when they got to the end of the alphabet and said, “Hey y’all, let’s just give her ‘best storyteller’ and call it a day.” Earlier that year, I had entertained the class by volunteering to tell them a story. I don’t remember exactly what it was, but I know I repeated something my parents had said about one of my eccentric cousins.
It must not have been entirely appropriate because the teacher took me aside after story time and said, “Renee, when we ask for volunteers to tell stories, we want them to tell something like ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears’ — you know, something everybody knows?”
I remember asking her why I would want to tell a story everyone already knew. It just didn’t seem like any fun. She looked at me kind of funny, and then just walked away.
Ever since that day, I have loved hearing, telling and — most of all —writing the stories that not everybody knows. Searching for the unknown and unique in everyone is what makes being a writer great. I love meeting amazing people and telling their stories.
Over the years, I have had the honor of telling stories — your stories — in a variety of positions here at the Beacon. Eddie Sweatt, the former Beacon owner and publisher, hired me as a graphic artist in October 2001, and your stories were the ads I created. I returned to the Beacon as a page designer in 2006 and had the opportunity to begin writing some of your stories then. Earlier this summer, I joined the Beacon staff again — this time as a full-time writer.
Whether it was through art, photos or words, I have had the opportunity to tell stories about the wonderful people in this community, and I have enjoyed every second of it. Thank you for allowing me that opportunity, and thank you for letting me be part of your lives.
Spending so much time in this community, I have come think of Shallotte as my second home. Because I live in Southport and commute to the Beacon, I have often felt as though I live in two places. When I was a 20-something single person, living in two places just meant having more friends and more things to do. But now that I’m a little older (OK, about 10 years older) with a 5-year-old, I’m finding it more difficult to juggle working 30 miles away from my home.
With my little one starting school in just a few weeks, I have decided I need to give up the commute and try to stay closer to home. Next week, I will begin a new adventure as a staff writer at The State Port Pilot, where I look forward to having the opportunity to hear and tell more great stories.
Now, I look back at that scrapbook from kindergarten and see that “best storyteller” ribbon and wonder if my teachers had some insight that I didn’t. I definitely feel as though I’m doing what I was meant to do, and I am grateful that I have had the opportunity to do it here at the Beacon.