A person who tells anecdotes in a skillful and amusing way; a storyteller; a narrator
Olivia Savoie loves to tell stories.
To be more precise, Savoie, a life-long resident of Vermilion Parish, loves to capture the stories of those who have a life-time of stories to tell.
After graduating with a degree in English from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Savoie, 24, began writing the life stories of elderly locals. Savoie takes those stories and creates something that will last forever.
“I sit down with beloved grandparents in Vermilion Parish,” Savoie said, “ask them to excavate the details of their lives, and then craft a complete life story book on their behalf. Rich, vivid Cajun stories flow forth.
“The family heirloom books include at least 30 photos and 50 pages of text.”
To date, Savoie has written more than 20 life-story books through her Raconteur Story Writing Services (www.RaconteurWriting.com(link is external)). The storytellers have ranged from ages 70 to 105.
“I have worked,” Savoie said, “with a lifelong educator in Delcambre, a shrimper, a businessman in Abbeville, a World War II soldier, a wife and mother in her late 90s who recalled life in Vermilion Parish during World War II, a farmer, and so many more incredible storytellers.”
While those stories are there, younger family members may not know the stories, and the storytellers themselves may not have thought about them in years.
“This allows them to be preserved,” Savoie said. “We can go in-depth and dig up those memories. Even though we know our family and we think we know our grandparents, when was the last time you stopped and asked them about their own grandparents? When was the last time you asked them about Sunday car rides that they went on and what Abbeville was like in the 1930s.
“We don’t talk about those things, so it’s great to ask them about that and then their family gets that record.”
Savoie allows herself plenty of time when gathering those stories. She will work with a storyteller for as much as 15 hours during the course of several visits. This allows Savoie to uniquely craft the stories.
“I write in first person from each person’s unique voice,” Savoie explained. “I use a lot of their own words and their own tones. A lot of the reaction from families is, ‘It sounds like my mom wrote this.’
“That’s something they tell me they really value.”
Savoie said she sees that the storytellers themselves appreciate the process.
“I think a lot of older people may feel like they don’t have the opportunity to reminisce,” Savoie said. “Maybe they feel their families have heard the stories. With an unbiased, new person like me, who wants to talk to them for 10 to 12 to 15 hours, in small increments, of course, they can find it very cathartic to have that opportunity.”
Family members and the storytellers themselves are not the only ones who get something great from Savoie’s work.
“When I see the pride in them from the stories they tell,” Savoie said, “I am just inspired by my storytellers.”
Savoie will also write tribute books, as she calls them.
“If someone passes away,” Savoie said, “maybe someone who didn’t get a chance to know their grandchildren well, I will interview the family and write a biography about them.
“Their family still gets to know their story.”
Great, lasting stories can come from anywhere. Savoie’s work has taken her to all parts of the country. With that said, her home provides something really special.
“In Vermilion Parish, like all of Acadiana,” Savoie said, “we love our family, our food and our good times together. There are a lot of good times to document.
“That love of family is the motivation for recording your life story.”