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Jo Fanning

When she was eight years old, growing up in a suburb of Detroit, Jo Fanning's parents built a vacation cabin on the shore of Lake Michigan. "That's where I fell in love with wilderness," she says. Fanning met her husband Richard at Michigan State, then ran a pottery studio at home and raised four kids during his career as a forester and a parks-and-rec supervisor in Detroit. "We were a camping family," she notes. "He had six weeks of vacation." Following Richard's retirement in 1983, the couple moved to Eugene, a location they had scouted on west-coast outings. "We still camp every chance we get," says Fanning, who also continued to make pots until two years ago, when she switched over to paper crafts: cards and collage. A musician since she started piano at age four, she played with the Eugene Recorder Ensemble for 14 years. "Storytelling is my new love," says Fanning, who was inspired by a workshop with Jeff Defty. "When I saw him tell stories I was hooked." As director of Talking Books storytellers collective, she schedules visits to schools, afterschool programs, and homeless shelters. "I've been doing it for 15 years," she says. "It's great to see kids with eyes bulging, listening to a story."

happening people

photograph and story by Paul Neevel

Eugene Weekly / 2 April 2009

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