This weekend, October 6-8, is the annual National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee. According to the International Storytelling Center, where the festival is held, studies in more than a dozen fields have concluded that storytelling is integral to effective human communication.

"People crave, remember, and honor stories," they say.

Sharing our stories creates empathy for one another. Sharing stories makes us feel connected.

One of my favorite activities is sitting around a bonfire in crisp autumn air, sharing stories, be they stories of the day, tall tales and folk tales, long-winded jokes, or stories of horror and mayhem. I can't remember each story I've told or listened to, nor, often, who I was even with, but I remember the feeling of leaning back in a lawn chair or on a stump or on the desert floor and listening to the cadence of others tell their stories.

In honor of storytelling day, I've asked my co-workers to help me put together a story. Each line was written based solely on the previous sentence, except the last paragraph, which is my own wonderful storytelling. So buckle in, this is the story of Kards Unlimited, in an alternate universe, at least.

Once upon a time,

in a magical realm called Pittsburgh, lay the wondrous kingdom of Kards Unlimited.

The kingdom was ruled by a kind and generous queen, but it held a dark secret. The queen was not the rightful heir; the circumstances of her inheritance are dubious at best.

People claiming to be the rightful heir kept popping up like flowers in the spring, which made for unsettled times in the kingdom: things were reaching a boiling point.

It didn't help that a mysterious rash was making its way over the hearts of the children, manifesting in the shape of a many-ringed planet.

"It's a good thing I hate children," grumbled Bernice, as she slurped down a poached egg. In her mind were thoughts of a cookbook featuring recipes of little children.

Finding them would be easy, but getting them to produce high quality food would be another story.

The next town over had, somehow, convinced the cows to skip milk entirely and produce cheese fresh from the udder, but no one considered it 'high quality.' The town had to act fast, and slaughtered all the cows before PETA could find any evidence of genetic animal testing.

This left the townspeople with a different problem entirely--how to explain the absence of so many cows?

It turns out the cows got sick of being treated like second-class citizens and went on livestock strike.

Which was super weird 'cause all the cows were dead, but zombie cows are cool, too. Anyway, going on strike for zombie cows is actually going on a murderous rampage, so they killed all the townspeople, the fake heir to the throne, and also the REAL heir to the throne, who was actually Bernice the child-eater.

They did not live happily ever after. The end.

What's your Kards Unlimited story? Let us know in the comments!

So, what do you think?