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Hallmark at last
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As a child, I was captivated by emotional stories and how words strung together had the power to make me feel happy, touched, sad or inspired.

The rudiments of my education came around the kitchen table, or in the car, as I listened to Mama's and Daddy's storytelling.

They were always experts in delivery, dramatic effect and, most importantly, always finding an entertaining something out of nothing.

Since they both came from the hard lives of the mountains, they knew how to make something out of all kinds of nothing including stories.

My fascination with stories were aided by a full set of Walt Disney books, Little Golden Books, Bible story books, and eight or nine children's albums that played me to sleep every night with storytelling.

As I grew older, I was introduced into more nuanced, deeper, tremendously effecting stories from the Hallmark Hall of Fame movies which came on around a holiday like Mother's Day or Christmas when a lot of greeting cards were sold. I never missed one.

The Hallmark commercials were as good as the movie because they always told little stories in poignant but uplifting ways.

I laid on my belly atop a large red velvet pillow that Mama had sewn from scraps and for two hours, during a Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation, did not move.

The powerful storytelling sticks to me many years later as I remember ones like Miss Rose White, Ellen Foster, Dance with the White Dog, and What the Deaf Man Heard.

One night, when I was 12, I finished watching but could not move out of reverence for the stellar story I had just watched.

Finally, I pulled myself up and headed to bed. My heart was full and my mind was made up: Somehow, I just had to find a way to work with Hallmark. I had to be part of their tradition of platinum storytellers.

I never lost sight of that, always carrying it in my heart. Hallmark is my Holy Grail of storytelling.

On my first book tour, my publisher sent me to Rainy Day books in Kansas City for a signing. That morning, I rose early, drove my rental car to the Hallmark headquarters, parked near the building that, as far as I was concerned, was a shrine to the best storytelling. "One day," I said to the beige concrete building, "We're gonna work together. We're going to tell wonderful stories together." There I prayed that my dream would come true.

It almost happened when Hallmark Hall of Fame was interested in making my novel into a movie, but the network had another book in mind so my television movie was made elsewhere.

Just knowing that Hallmark wanted me because they saw the value in my story was almost enough.

A few months ago, I heard Tink on the phone with his manager who was going over television jobs that folks wanted Tinker for. I heard "Hallmark." The others were network jobs with big budgets and industry prestige. When he hung up, I said, the little girl dreamer in me, coming out, "You have to do Hallmark. Please, please do Hallmark."

We prayed about it and despite offers elsewhere, Tink stood his ground and took the executive producer/showrunner/head writer spot on Hallmark's new series, Chesapeake Shores, which premiers on the Hallmark channel on Aug. 14.

John Tinker is one of the industry's best drama writers with a slew of Emmy nominations and an Emmy to underscore that.

To Chesapeake Shores, he brings the same nuanced and captivating storytelling that built the Hallmark brand. This time, though, he has added storytelling skills that he learned here in the South. It's something a bit different for Hallmark, but it's still unequaled storytelling.

To borrow a company phrase, it feels good to come home to Hallmark. The world needs its soothing salve more than ever. And Chesapeake Shores does just that.

Ronda Rich is a best-selling author of Southern stories. Visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for her free weekly newsletter.