What's a Raconteur?

rac·on·teur
/ˌräˌkänˈtər/

A person who tells anecdotes in a skillful and amusing way; a storyteller; a narrator

How this Acadiana storyteller landed a spot on NBC's Kelly Clarkson Show on Monday

How this Acadiana storyteller landed a spot on NBC's Kelly Clarkson Show on Monday

published by The Advocate

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Olivia Spallino Savoie’s penchant for telling the life stories of ordinary folks landed her a spot on national TV show, which will be aired at 2 p.m. Monday on KATC.

“I didn’t realize it would be something of gravity until it was,” Savoie said of her interview on the Emmy-winning Kelly Clarkson Show. But there she was some six weeks ago, sitting in a Hollywood hotel room and chatting in an interview with such TV luminaries as Howie Mandel and Terry Crews.

Savoie and her husband, Josh, launched Raconteur Life Story Writing shortly after graduation from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. The couple lives with their daughter in Youngsville.

They’ve been at their publishing project for six years, during which time she has completed some 45 book-length biographies of people, most from Acadiana and Baton Rouge but some from as far away as the East Coast, Midwest and even New Zealand. Though the subjects themselves are oftentimes typical people, their stories can be extraordinary. Last year she wrote a book on Don Briggs, the Louisiana oilman; this year she is writing about a Holocaust survivor.

Clarkson’s show, which started in 2019, also places great weight on the lives of everyday people. So the match of Savoie with the TV show — initial communication between them began late last summer — seemed a natural fit.

Like others who will tune in Monday, Savoie has not seen the finished product of her five-to-seven-minute conversation, which occurred Dec. 1. The Hollywood visit was a whirlwind one; she and her husband flew in the day before the interview and flew out shortly after its completion. The couple did get to visit the century-old Hollywood Sign that looms over Tinseltown.

The process of landing a spot on the show lasted less than two months, she said. There were some non-disclosure agreements and a “few hoops” to jump through, and an interview process, which she said was “wonderful.” She also said she was shocked by kindness with which she was treated, before the trip to Hollywood and throughout it.

Clarkson herself was off the week of Savoie’s interview, but she said Mandel, his daughter Jackie Shultz and Crews handled the interview beautifully. She was surprised that she was interviewed from her room, not on the set, but was able to adjust.

“Terry Crews’ jokes put me on alert,” she said, and spurred her to become “faster on my feet.”

But she also knew roughly what the topics would be in the interview, and felt prepared to put her best foot forward on a program that airs nationally.

She said part of the conversion focused on the “special connection” she feels with older people, starting with her maternal and paternal grandparents. She’d finished family biographies on both before she and her husband launched the business.

She also showed samples of the biographies on which she worked and discussed the process by which they are privately published, as well as the relationships she has established and maintained with her subjects.

Savoie said the books are intended for family use, not for mass publication or sale. For example, a recently completed book on Briggs had a press run of 100 copies, enough for family and friends. That is typical: Print enough copies for the books to more deeply inform younger generations about the lives of cherished family members.

She said working through life stories with the elderly can be a joyous experience. Book subjects, oftentimes interviewed in their own homes, respond when their interviewer is interested in the subject matter.

She told her hosts that her relationships with the interviewees and their families are usually lasting. She seeks out the counsel of older people and keeps contact with their families, oftentimes sharing family events with them.

“Some journalists write memoirs, but we have researchers, proofreaders, editors, project managers and we print the books,” she said The subjects themselves needn’t write a word to get their story told.

“God has given us a vision and people have been sent my way," she said.


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