Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Granite State Storytelling Festival

First of all, I was honoured to be able to tell at the First Ever Granite State Storytelling Festival and had a great time with Karen Chase with whom I shared a stage.

I went to the festival as both teller and listener. It’s about an hour drive from Orford, New Hampshire with the family, and we found all the locations easily and it was nice they were all so close to one another. The town of New London is a wonderful town, filled with interesting and many independent stores and a great library! At this time of year the colours were gorgeous; so many reds, oranges, greens and golds. Even where we live, where the leaves have turned already, we picked up a few more leaves to add to our collection!

We went early to the Town Hall to get a good seat to see Odds Bodkin with our nine and four old children. Needless to say we were not disappointed by his performance. As always, Bods, great show. We then separated and I went to see some ghost stories told by new comer to the festival circuit Donna Leard. Donna was sharing performing space with Rona Leventhal and Vandy Duffy. I have taken workshops with Rona (and would so again!) but had never seen her perform. Neither had I seen Donna or Vandy, so it was a treat. Most of the tales were new to me and I really enjoyed my time watching and listening; even the tale that I knew sucked me in to the mysterious side of life (and death).

My kids went to see Leeny tell tales for younger children and my four year daughter not only had a great time, but fell in love with Leeny and is still talking about “that nice lady with long nails”! My nine year old and wife also enjoyed Leeney’s presentation. It is so hard to make any decision on seeing all these wonderful tellers. I wished that we could split into two or three and gone to visit more than one teller at a time.

As a performer I got to see many of my storytelling friends in the Green Room for lunch, although I did not get to spend so much time with them as I might have liked as I was off to my performance.

I was lucky to be sharing the performance space at the library with Karen Chace, who although a seasoned teller, was a first timer at a festival. To say she was good would be underplaying her storytelling. It was brilliant. Where I was my usual boisterous self, Karen was quiet and centred but had the audience in her firm grasp. There is something about Karen’s telling that just sucks you in; something to do with her method which draws not just on the story, but on the thousands upon thousands of tellers who have told these tales for centuries before. She takes this energy, this magic, and brings it into the story which flies like an arrow into your soul and lodges there. There are good storytellers, and great entertainers, and then there are others who have this gift of storytelling, demanding your attention in such a way you find yourself there with her, and with all the other characters, but not in a superficial way, but REALLY there, mind, body and soul. It is a place where that story will stay with you forever. This will not be the only festival Karen performs at and I have no idea why she has not told at other festivals before this.

After that I went to see Leeny work her magic with Aidan. Aidan and I caught half of Leeny’s show and then headed out to go home. It is a long day for Perry, our four year old daughter. Leeny was, as always, wonderful and had my son and myself and the rest of the audience eating from her hand. And of course, she had the audience jump nice and high during one of her ‘jump’ stories! The first time I saw that happen I was watching and listening to Tony Toledo (sadly absent from the festival) a few years ago, and I was sitting at the back of the space. When he did his ‘jump’ bit the whole audience (must have been a hundred bums on seats there) lifted out of their chairs (including me); it was so funny to see! I asked him afterward how he managed to keep a straight face to see all those people rise up the way they did! He told me the first time it happened to him he nearly laughed out loud!

The stories we saw Leeny do were brilliantly spooky! “Woo ha ha!” as Leeny would say!

Our daughter was asleep before we left New London and our son was telling Mama all about Leeny’s tales. It was a fantastic day and I cannot wait for next year to roll around to see even more gifted tellers do their thing.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Halloween Events

It's snowing! It's not even Halloween yet!

I heard this story about one of my favourite writers, Charles Dickens. One day he walked into a bar and ordered a martini. The bartender asked if he wanted an "olive or twist?"

I just wanted to remind folks that it is THIS COMING weekend Saturday 17th October is the Granite State Storytelling Festival in New London, NH. And here are a few dates you might want to write down - they are Halloween performances! Check website for full details: www.diamondscree.com

Friday, 23rd October
Moultonboro Public Library, Moultonborough, NH

Saturday, 24th October
Orford Social Library, Orford, NH

Wednesday, 28 October
Howe Library, Hanover, NH

Thursday, 29 October
Latham Library, Thetford, VT

Remember that you will be able to purchase my award winning CD and the equally good “Second-hand Tales” from me at performances!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

"More Second-hand Tales" Wins Silver!

I am not one to usually blow my own trumpet so I will thank Steve Glazer, Rick Barrows, Greg Gundlach, Stevens Blanchard, Rob Brookes, Peter Blodgett and all my storytelling comrades for helping me achieve a silver medal for my 2nd CD "More Second-hand Tales". Please visit:
http://www.parents-choice.org/product.cfm?product_id=26681&StepNum=1&award=aw for the full lowdown. Needless to say I am very excited and have to say that the CD would not have been as good as I think it is without the help I received from all the above helpers. Thanks!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

I can't spell CLiF

I have recently been to a conference that is held bi-annually - the Children's Literacy Foundation Conference held in White River Junction, VT. It is a wonderful event where rural librarians get together and ask a panel of peers who have excelled in doing something really well how they do it. They also have a great key speaker. I have now met and seen Katherine Patterson and Natalie Kinsey-Warner and this year I got to hear and see artist John Stadler. I always come home with a stack of ideas, and my gray matter wondering what else I can do at my library. But not only that. I come away wondering wondering what I can do better as a storyteller and as a human being. I feel my brain kicking into some kind of overdrive. I wonder what I can do to better what I offer people professionally and personally. What added value can I give to people, not just strangers or clients, but also friends and family, most of all at home. These are the people who are closest to us and these are sometimes the ones that get the short end of the stick, the very ones who support us every day. Sometimes it takes a little reminder. And there was yours!

CLiF asks for donations at the conference. They are a non-profit and rely totally on money coming from people just like you. The first time Duncan, the director of CLiF, asked for donations I was overcome by some strange force (maybe it was goodness) that had me stand up and offer to a room of librarians I would do a performance for free at the library who bid the most. I thought it might encourage folks to put a little more in than they might otherwise have done so. Well, I was bid on and the highest bid that year was around $250. I felt good about that. This year I did the same thing again and the higest bid was $500 so I was thrilled, but I know that this is a reflection of how important CLiF is and the work they do is not only important, but necessary and I was glad to help in the way that I could.

What can you do?

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Waits River Elemnentary School

I have just returned from a great gig at Waits River Elementary School, East Corinth, VT. It was a late start to their school year due to construction - 6 days late, and I was invited to perform first thing in the morning in front of all the kids and some of their parents as well as school teachers and administrators. I only had a very short 30 minutes, but managed two stories: The True Story of Goldilocks (a new one for me) and The Goat From the Hills and Mountains. Each story was 15 minutes and I had a great time. It was difficult, or at least a little tricky, to come up with a couple of tales all the kids would enjoy, what with it being in age from kindergarten to 8th grade - 13 years of age - plus the 'grown-ups'. But what I did appeared to work.

It was a really nice thing to be invited to kick off the school year with the whole school. I called out to everyone 'is everyone glad to be back' and I got a resounding cheer for everyone. At least, if there were any nay-sayers they were well and truly drowned out by the others. It was so good to see everyone pumped to be back after the holidays.
Photo by Rob Rinaldi, thanks!

Thursday, September 03, 2009

New Upcoming Performances

I have two new dates to tell folks about and I will begin with the second!

I have been asked to tell tales at the First Ever Granite State Storytelling Festival which is to be held on the 17th October at the Tracy Memorial Library in New London, NH. There will be 24, yes twenty four storytellers at this event at four arenas, so no matter what sort of storytelling you like to listen to there has to be someone for you. I hope that it is me! There will be stories for children, families, and adults; there will be ghost stories and an evening event. This festival is NOT to be missed. Not only will yours truly be there, but so will Odds Bodkin, Carolyn Parrott, Hopkinton, NH; Jo Radner,Lovell, ME; Lorraine Hartin Gelardi, Salt Hill, NY; Leeny Del Seamonds, Westford, MA; Lauretta Phillips and Sisters Too, Andover, NH; Bob Reiser, East Hampton,MA and many, many more! For more details please go to: http://www.granitestatestorytelling.com/Home.html

The first and shortly arriving new performance is to be held in New Bedford, MA on Saturday September 26th. This is NOT for children, these stories are for adults.

From Aloft (or more accurately, from the gray matter)

“A terrible scream was heard as he fell from aloft, but silence followed after hitting the deck.” A ghost story from the seven seas will come with the voices of many from one man as will other tales that Simon Brooks will tell. Tales of loves lost and won, (as well as property), and maybe some personal tales too (the latter is well rare, so be out for that, if nothing more) and maybe a fairy tale to take home with you. Adults allowed. Children are not!

ADULT OPEN MIC: Sign up for your ten minute turn at the mic beginning at 7:00 p.m. Share your own story, song, music, essay or poem.
7:00 P.M. – 9:00 P.M. (Feature begins at 8:00 P.M.)
LOCATION: Artworks, 384 Acushnet Avenue, New Bedford, MA
ADMISSION: FREE (pass the hat for the featured performer)
AUDIENCE: 18 and older
For more information email Karen Chace at storybug@aol.com or call Artworks at(508) 984-1588
For directions:http://www.artworksforyou.org/hours.html
Sponsored by Artworks! Partners for the Arts & Community www.artworksforyou.org

ArtWorks! is supported in part by the MCC as well as business and individual members

Summer Stories

One of the great things about storytelling, is that it is a community event. It can be a small community, such as family, where we all sit around listening to each other’s tales; or a group of friends talking about their day, or vacation, or latest adventure in sports. Or it can be the larger community, like a summer camp, a school, or festival on the green where people tell their tales in a performance space, or under the storytelling tree. Without someone to tell stories with or to, storytelling does not exist. This is one of my favourite parts of storytelling; it is a community event. Over the summer I went to thirty four different communities, some large and some small, but all wonderful.

It is really good when someone else puts on a good festival and invites everyone to come and share, especially when it is to pay back their own customers. In my Upper Valley community of N.H. and VT there is a store that every year puts on a couple of events, one of which is their Producers Faire. Local farms and businesses who sell goods at the Lebanon, NH Coop get to give away their products. The Coop also brings in entertainment such as singers, one-man circuses, hay rides, and (this is I came in) storytellers! I must have told about 50 stories that day. Stories that ranged from Three Little Pigs to the White Trout (an ancient Irish fairy tale for older ears). It was such a good event, watching people coming and going, eating and drinking with smiles on their faces on a glorious summer day. Everyone gets to go to this faire for free and has a great deal of fun. It is a way of giving back to the community.

One of the best experiences of the year, so far for me, was when I went to CAMP! (Camp Exclamation Point) in West Fairlee, Vermont. I have been there for their mid-week literacy day, doing storytelling there late into the night, for a number of years now, but this year I did an ‘Awesome’ (a daily activity that runs the whole week) with one of the camp councilors, Erica. We teamed up to do a “Drama-rama” play with the children, incorporating storytelling. It was fun to have the kids find a tale to tell about their time spent at this camp. CAMP! is for kids who suffer from lack of social, and economic insecurities, amongst other things, kids who are not given a ‘fair’ start in life, one might say. Erica and I and the kids then took the stories and put them into a frame, which was: the only boy in our group stumbling into a girls’ tent getting lost at night and swapping stories. It worked really well and the kids were amazing. All of them (apart from two who got sick) went ahead and performed in front of the other campers and did a splendid job. In four hours, over four days, we put together a 10-15 minute play where the kids spoke their lines clearly, performed with style and confidence. It was a joy to be part of the experience.

Not only that, it was great to see the same councilor still there and be welcomed as one of the family.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Spring is Sprung

I realized that I have been a bit of a badger, hibernating over the winter and into spring, but now the buds are popping open and the blossom is filling the air with wonderful smells. I love this time of year. The frogs have been singing their hearts out but are now quietening down after the much needed rain. Yesterday I saw a bald eagle not too far from home but failed to get a good picture of it. And we have a ground hog back on our property which is nice until all our own food starts to grow!

Last week on the 8th of May I did a workshop for the New Hampshire Association of Educational Office Professionals (quite a title, but it can be reduced to NHAEOP). Originally there were to be 18 people only in my workshop, but because of requests to attend we added a few more seats and ended up close to 25 of the between 300 - 400 attendees. It was a blast!

We started with some very shy people, but in a couple of hours ended up with about six participants telling some wonderful and hilarious stories. Some of these folks had never told a tale in their lives, certainly not to a group of peers. Using a number of exercises the tellers went from telling a tale of their life, rather flatly in some cases, to telling the life story in a way that had us in stitches. Some stories were about first jobs, some were about embarrassing moments, and some were about fears. One of the organizers admitted to me after that they thought my workshop might be a bit fluff. She planned on popping in to "check-up" on me, but ended up staying for the whole thing and saying, after, that she learned a lot and wants me back! It was great.

I was thinking about Earth Day a few weeks ago and how storytelling might fit. I know lots of tales about Earth and nature, some very spiritual, some promoting honesty and ‘good moral fibre’, but I wanted something to talk about, something a little off the beaten track! Another storyteller, Gregory Leifel, put something on a storytelling listserv which inspired some thoughts in me. As Gregory said, “storytelling is a sustainable, organic, shared and green art form. Stories are entirely recyclable, require little if any energy to generate, often communicate how we are all in this together, and address our challenges with magical spells of thought that bring peace to any world.”

All stories are recycled, be them folk, faerie, or news stories. Some of the stories are good, some bad, some are Just Stories. Each time a tale is heard and retold by the listener it is recycled. The good storytellers (in all senses of the word) hopefully try to tell a story to help others in one way of another. Some ‘good’ storytellers also try to bock the truth and we see that every time there is a war and we are exposed to propaganda of one sort or another. Even ‘story’ stories can be a form of propaganda. Look at Little Red Riding Hood! It is propaganda for little girls to listen to their mothers or else they will end up in more trouble than they can imagine! (Hopefully it is propaganda young people can take through high school, college and beyond.)

By retelling tales we (and here I will refer to mainly folk and faerie tales) are sustaining not only the stories themselves, but also those who listen and tell. Good, healthy family history stories sustain family members. By hearing stories, you are given an insight into another realm, be it an historical part of your (or someone else’s) family history, or the realm of the story, be it mythical, folk, or faerie. The flip side of this coin is when the retelling of stories (news broadcasts) keeps the listener (and/or viewer) in a state of anxiety, putting the general populous into a state of fear - but let’s not go down that road. Stories are certainly organic; there are some tall-tales I have heard which use a liberal amount of fertilizer!

In regards to energy, I have to disagree with Gregory on: “little, if any.” I know that many storytellers, and I am sure I am including Gregory in this, put an awful lot of energy into researching, learning and telling our tales. For me, some stories might take a day or two (once found) to learn, but then take another week or two to hone, and another three or four weeks to polish. Some stories might take months to learn, and a year or more to get to the polished end-product – and quite often that can only be done in front of a live audience. So there is lots of energy, but I liken it to kite flying on a blustery day; or kayaking on a fast flowing river; there some stories that come easy which I liken to relaxing under the sun lifting a drink to your lips every so often.

Some performers sit and tell with their face and hands, some use their musical instruments, some even use puppets, and then there are some, like myself, who move around all over the place (and on a hot day expend as much ‘energy’ as Bruce Springsteen does at one of his concerts)! But that energy, hopefully, comes from good wholesome organic products (and the odd cup of tea or coffee, and bar of chocolate)!

Lastly, Earth Day is all about the world community and what we can do together to make things better. Sharing stories - good stories, stories that promote well-being, joy, love, and understanding to those around you creates a great sense of community.

Gregory's website is: www.AhhhFinally.com
His children's story book website: www.ThrivingMoss.com

So get out there and share a story.