Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Stories and discussions about faerie tales!

A friend and colleague of mine, Megan Hicks, has started a discussion on faerie tales.  It is open to anyone interested in the subject.  Each month a question will be asked and folks are encouraged to respond.  Check it out!
Happy Holidays everyone.  May your festivities be wonderfilled.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Simon Brooks, storyteller does it again! This time he gets GOLD!

I am thrilled and honoured and humbled that I have been given the Gold Award by Parent's Choice for my third CD, A Tangle of Tales.  This, I feel is really my best recording to date, and a lot has to do with the help I had along the way - Rob Brookes, Steve Glazer, Rick Barrows, Rachel Clark and Stevens Blanchard, all who contributed greatly to this recording.  The music, which I feel surpasses the music on my other CDs, was written by Rachel who plays along with Steve, Rick and myself.  And Mr. Blanchard did a brilliant job putting it all together and making it sound as good as it does.  Rob did the amazing artwork for all three of my CDs.  To read the Parent's Choice review, please go to: You can hear samples of those stories on CDBaby where you can purchase it, and you can stream one of the stories from the CD and others from my website, under Free Stuff at: Thanks, of course, also goes to the all the families, including my own, of those involved in making the CD. Thanks!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The day in the life of a storyteller

Well maybe not a day, maybe an extended day ending on Sunday morning! 

I had three performances on Saturday, and all were outdoors.  I left the house on Saturday morning at 8.15 am for the first performance in Lebanon, NH at the Food Coop in Centerra Place.  I set everything up, did a sound check, got a little shopping in and then walked around telling families I was about to begin, trying to pull an audience together.  As I told my tales the audience grew, and I shared, over the almost two hours, quite a few stories!  Some were requested by fans who knew my work, others I told were new to them.  I looked at the faces and saw enjoyment, but then as I began packing up, a couple of families arrived saying they thought I started later, so we sat down and I told a couple of other tales which I enjoyed. It is funny, but as I had been packing up I had felt like something was not quite right in me ending, so telling more with those folks just arriving, seemed to put things right.

I packed up my gear and headed north to Lyme NH for their town's 250 year celebration.  Again it was outdoors and the humidity, which had begun high was getting higher.  The place which had been set up was next to a banqueting tent where a band were playing.   They were very good, but I would not be heard over the music, and I did not have any intention of starting a volume war with my PA system!  That would help no one.  We looked at other spots and then discovered that the band were were ending when I was due to begin!  This was a very large event and different people were in charge of different things so organizers were not aware of all the logistics - the event was so big with a lot going on throughout the day and evening.  Once I was set up and put on a fresh (and by this I mean clean!) shirt I waited for the band to end at 1 pm.  They did another song and then started another.  I explained to the organizer that I had to leave at 2 pm as I had a gig in southern Vermont later that afternoon; the longer they played, the less I could tell.  I began about 15 minutes late, but it was a good group and a real mix of people.  I had children wearing diapers, an elderly couple sitting holding hands, teens, young families and a guy covered with tattoos.  Some sat down and listened, some hovered listening to a tale or two and then leaving, others stood thinking they would leave after 'this tale' but staying for the next and listening to the entire 55 minute set.  The band played late because they and their audience were enjoying themselves.

The band in Lyme were not the only band I was to hear that day as later, when I was in Wilmington, Vermont I got to listen to a blues band.  I arrived in time to set everything up again for the third time, PA system included, and changed into another shirt!  The humidity had not lessened and I had come prepared!

In Wilmington there was a street party going on which was another day-and-into-the-evening event.  My contact,  was wonderful and helped set everything and as it began to spot with light rain, she found a tent to put the audience under.  I sat outside of the tent enjoying the lady-rain, the drizzle, that lightly fell.  Some of the stories I told that day were duplicated but some were not.  One thing about performing a lot in one day is that you can tell a larger family of stories.  It keeps me fresh and I not have think - did I tell that bit yet, or was that at the last performance?  A fear that haunts busy days, but one that did not play that Saturday.  It was a similar event in the  way that some folks came and went to explore other activities that were going on, but some stayed for the long haul despite the damp, some even stood with umbrellas.  Although I was mainly telling to those in the tent, when I looked up at those around I amazing and thrilled at the number of people standing, listening.  The power of story is incredible and not to be under estimated.  It was great to see people smiling in the wet.

After I was packed away, I wandered around looking at everything that was going on and stood in the rain listening to a really good blues band complete with sax.  They sounded great and appreciation was shown by a couple of young kids and grown-ups dancing along to the fabulous music, on the road in the rain.

I got home at around 9.15 pm. and brought myself, my drum and the mail indoors, unpacked some of my stuff, read the mail and went to bed.

On Sunday morning I got up late, fed the animals, got myself some breakfast, made a cup of tea and listened to the CD which had arrived the day before in the post.  It was, of course, a storytelling CD!  It started my day off well.  I wrote a blog review of the CD that you can find here on A World of Stories -CD Love Story Review.

My ego likes to think it is me people are watching and listening to, but in reality it is not me at all.  When I am doing my job properly I am not even there.  It is the stories that draw people in and keep them listening.  I find myself constantly amazed at how powerful stories are.  Why else would someone stand in the rain with or without an umbrella and watch me?  There was a street full of activities and the smell of good food was everywhere.  It is the stories, and I am blessed to be able to tell a good story and be able to try to make this my living.

Also see Laura Packer's blog: on a different day in a life of a storyteller!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

True Stories, Honest Lies: Storytelling in a suit: the art and craft of business storytelling

True Stories, Honest Lies: Storytelling in a suit: the art and craft of business storytelling
This post by Laura Packer is well worth a read.  In fact many, if not all the posts on Laura's blog are worth reading.  More companies these days are looking to better themselves in the market place where things are very tough right now.  Storytelling can help and storytellers have the skills to help.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Recording Family Stories

My grandfather on his own milk wagon with milk from his own farm.
When I was growing up I loved visiting with my Grandad.  Even in my late teens and early twenties I would ride my push bike over to their house to be with my Grandad.  I loved talking with him and finding out what he had done in his life, although just being in his presence was good enough for me.  He died in 1981.  One thing I miss is the sound of his voice.  Sometimes I hear it loud and clear and sometimes I forget what he sounds like.  My mum has a tape of him but I need to get it digitized so I can listen to it again!  When I last visited my grandmother this year at a rocking 91 years of age, I took a voice recorder with me.  I will now never lose the sound of her voice and hope that I can covert it to whatever the next form of storage will be be next along, so my children can hear it too, long into the future!

These days more and more people come from far-away places.  Not only are people moving from India or China, Europe or Japan to work in the States, but people simply find they have to move to do what they do, or do what they love.  And as a result our loved ones are not seen as often as we might like.  I met a family from India over the summer and asked if the kids' grandmother was in America, or back in India.  She was far away.  I asked if she ever told the kids stories.  Yes on the phone.  Does she visit?  Yes she does.  Do you record her stories?  No, haven't thought about that.  So here are some thoughts that you might want to use, or share with others.

Although it is always nice hearing the voice of a loved one who has passed away, if the sound of their voice is covered with hiss and static it does not make for easy listening.  What I use is a higher end voice recorder but you can pick up very good voice recorders for a fairly reachable price.  A voice recorder that is worth it's salt will start at around $90.00, a lot less than an iPod or iTouch.  And less than going out for a nice meal somewhere.

Brands I know that have good quality products are: Zoom, Tascam and Edirol.  Zoom is the cheapest and does a great job.  The Edirol are at the higher end and Tascam falls in between.  All are comparable.  All have an on and off, record, stop and pause switch, all have high quality built-in microphones.  Almost all of them take SD cards which are easy to find.  They all record at or above CD quality which means you can play around and edit with no detectable loss of quality.  I record at 24 bits, although CDs are 16 bits.  Some of the higher end machines can take external microphones.  But adding a cheap external mic might give a much lower sound quality than the built-in mics.

You want the microphone as close to the person speaking as possible.  Sometime people get self-conscious when they see a shining, flashing object they know is recording them.  It might help to cover it up with a light weight open weave material so they can forget about it.  The open weave will allow the sound through, but try out different materials before hand so you don't end up muffling the person's voice that is so important to you.

Make sure the voice recorder is plugged in to the mains if you want to sit and record for a long time.  If you use only battery power, you never know if the batteries might die, or the machine (my Edirol does this) might turn itself off after a while.  Hit the record button and let it run.  Ask leading questions and not hard questions.  Sometimes if you ask a person what their school was like, they may say 'Just like any school' but if you ask 'what colour it was inside, what did it smell and sound like walking down the corridors,' they are more likely  to tell you more than you expected.  "Where did you hide if you had to," might get some interesting answers!  Follow a question like 'who was your best friend' with, something like: "I bet you got into all sorts of trouble" and wait for the tales to start rolling.  Show them something from the past and ask them about it.  My Gran told me the story of a tea cosy made by a lost aunt, when I saw her in January. Old photographs also make good triggers.  And then, of course, you have to ask what their favourite story was growing up and see if they can tell it.  "Remind me - what's that story about?" is much more likely to get them telling, than, "Can you tell me the story?" which might get a healthy "NO!"

You can edit the recording down using free share-ware such as Audacity - a great product with a great following, which  also happens to be easy to use!  You can cut out the long silences.  If it is too quiet you can amplify it.  But bare in mind that when you amplify their voice you will also amplify all the background noises too.  This is why you want the mic to be as close to the speaker as possible.

When you go to my own website - - and go to the FREE STUFF pages you will find audio files you can stream of stories I have recorded just this way - a simple voice recorder and a Digital Audio Workstation like Audacity. Remember that none of us live forever and to capture the voice of those close to you is a treasure indeed.

If you would like to listen to the Teller to Teller Conference call I did with League for the Advancement of New England Storytelling on Producing and Promoting a CD, one track at a time, it contains more tips and advise for recording and can be obtained by contacting Yvonne Therese Zinicola at lanesdirector@GMAIL.COM or by going to the LANES website at:

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

New places to see storytelling

This coming weekend there is a new venue for storytelling in the White Mountains.  If you want to get away for a weekend and listen to stories then this is for you!  There will be about 16 storytellers there performing in three separate venues which allows anyone to find something they will like.  There is a place for adult tales, family tales and tales for young children!  And at $20 for an adult and special family rates for the whole weekend, along with discounted rooms available at the Snowy Owl Inn, this event at Waterville, NH, in the heart of the White Mountains is going to be great and affordable!  For more details please go to: Oh, and I will be performing Saturday morning, and Saturday afternoon!

It has been a great summer!  I have been kept busy, and yet had plenty of time to spend with my kids.  I have been working on new stories and have a new CD plan in the works of my mind.  I know this is very soon after the release of a brand new CD this spring, but this one will have VERY limited availability.  It will be a short run and will not be re-released.  As some of my readers will know, I tell stories once a year at CAMP Exclamation Point.  This is a place for very under privileged kids and so I want to make a CD for these young people.  The CD will be a gift to them next summer.  Even with a short run, I am not in a position to fund this myself, so I will be setting up a Kickstarter funding project to pay for it.  The ONLY way you will be able to get this new CD will be to help fund this project - unless you are a child going to CAMP Exclamation Point in 2012!  And the only way I can make this project work is with your help. Visit Kickstarter to see how it works and Keep Your Eyes Posted Here for more information later this fall.

Lastly, I wanted to say a huge thank you to the Friends of the Library groups, to libraries, towns, individuals and organizations who have invited me to your community.  Without folks like you I would not be doing this wonderful work I am so fortunate to be able to do.

Enjoy the fall weather - what?  It is going to get to 75 degrees again today?  Well, enjoy the apples, the cider, and the wonderful colours which are now starting to come in.

And don't forget to keep in touch.


Thursday, September 01, 2011

Collecting Stories from people, from the sidewalk and from the internet.

Jonathan Harris talks about the stories we have and share and what he has done with them!

Sunday, August 07, 2011

CD Love Story Review

I have a confession.  I am always very weary of true life stories.  I have a confession.  I like good ones that have a point and make you look at yourself.  I love funny ones that have a point and make you look at yourself. 

I never ‘got’ personal story telling until I heard Laura Packer and Meg Gilman (many years ago before I knew them), who both made me think, wow that’s cool, but I couldn’t do that.  Maybe it is part of my (hidden but there) British reserve.  I have been to live events and heard some great stories but I have also heard some stories which should have been a lot shorter or never told and sure, there are some that have made me very uncomfortable.

This year I worked briefly with Megan Hicks.  I had heard her name and read her comments on the Storytell listserv and was thrilled to be working with her.  She blew me away with what she did and like other great storytellers left me in awe.  But I have heard precious little of her work.  When she offered a one of a hundred pressed CDs I took a small chance and ordered one.  I picked it out of my mail box last night after returning from a day of performing and traveling for 12 hours.  After a lie-in, feeding the cat and guinea pig, I made a cup of tea and sat down to listen to Megan’s origami wrapped, one story CD entitled: “The Bob Mapplethorpe Memorial Condom Wallet: A Love Story.”  The story runs at a tad over 20 minutes and I wished it was longer.  I wished Megan had shared more about her love story.  I wanted to hear more about Jack.  It is a wonderful story of a woman, who was taught by her mother to act like a flower and attract men - like bees to the flower and not call on men.  This tale jumps from the teen years of Megan to later in her life, two husbands and two boyfriends later, when she finds herself single. She talks about her angst and what she really wants or needs from a partner.  And how she finds that partner in Jack and the beginning of their relationship.

The story is wonderfully told with humour and completely without pity.  There is no ‘poor me’.  It is a life tale that describes ‘this is the way it was’ in a way that is poignant, enlightening, and funny – which was just what I needed this Sunday morning.  The CD gives hope and romance to a world that sometimes lacks it.  The telling brightens a world that is sometimes dark.  And I cannot wait until I hear more of Megan’s life with Jack and I hope it is in front of a fire with a cup of tea sitting with Jack and Megan seeing their bright eyes and smiles.

If you want to find out about how the Bob Mapplethorpe Memorial Condom Wallet plays into the story you will have to buy the CD directly from Megan to hear the story.

The CD can be purchased directly from Megan Hicks: but order soon, there are really only one hundred of them for sale and when they are gone, they are gone!  And at $10 including shipping it is VERY well worth it.

Megan talks a little about “The Bob Mapplethorpe Memorial Condom Wallet: A Love Story” on her blog: and you can hear an except.

Megan’s website is:

Now I am off to do some errands and have another cuppa!

Monday, July 04, 2011

4th July

Well, what a weekend!  I saw fireworks in Manchester, NH on the 3rd; and then the parade in Hanover and nearly got to the Old Home Day in Grantham today, the 4th, but was beat!  I think it is great that America celebrates it's "birth" as a new nation, a mere 235 years old.  This is such a young nation - there are not many nations that can celebrate it's birth.When I left college and got my first photography job, I worked in a building that was erected in the rein of Henry XIII - 300 years before that big piece of paper was signed by Mr. Hancock et al! 

Anyway, sitting waiting for the fireworks to begin in Manchester with all sorts of folks from all sorts of backgrounds, I got a really good sense of what this big birthday party means to people here.  There were people of many nations there waiting on their own or with their families; couples old and young sitting together, some with sparklers, some with plastic light bands; large families, young new families.  It is a big enough city and we were in a big enough park that you knew that everyone did not know each other.  But for that evening we were at least all there together for one reason - to celebrate the birthday of this young nation.

The fireworks were great.  Everyone was having a great time.  And the finale was a huge finale which drew great cheers that seemed to fill all of Manchester.  I captured on camera fireworks that looked like flowers, like palm trees, one seemed to tell the time, there was a great peace sign (I am in awe of the people who can make such things happen) and explosions and colours galore.

Hanover was celebrating the 4th July before The Fourth of July!  As one of the speakers said, there was a Hanover before there was a Dartmouth, a Hanover before there was a Republic.  In Hanover, after the parade, the national anthem was sung and I thought about some of the words - "land of the free and the home of the brave". I had always thought, when I first heard the song years ago in my youth watching the Olympics, that the brave were the Native Americans.  Later I learned my 'error', but when I hear the song I always think of the first people who lived here and live here still and the price they paid for the colonization of America. It is humbling to me. The speaker then talked about freedom and liberty and the responsibility of that. He was a man with similar sentiments as my own.  We have the freedom of speech and it is well used here, but the right to listen is just as important.  With so many people talking we have little time to pick through all that is said and find, not the opinion, but the truth behind the spin, the truth behind the rhetoric.

And as I still hear fireworks cracking and popping in and around New London at 10 pm I think about this country I live in and the freedoms that are enjoyed and the people who sacrifice themselves in small ways and great ways.  People who make sure those living here are safe and looked after - the homeless shelters and kitchens, the charity shops who donate to and assist those less well off than ourselves, the people who visit the elderly in their own homes making sure they are well, the hospitals open 24/7, the police, the soldiers risking and giving their lives and fire brigade, who I have a huge amount of admiration for, also always waiting to be there for us.  My thanks, on the close of this 4th, goes to them all and their families.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Community and communication

There are many communities.  There are political communities, communities of friends and family, storytelling communities, work communities and those that thrive all have something in common:  good communication.  Without communication everything would fall apart, crash.  Take the community of the road as an example. This might be the best to examine how communities can survive or die with communication.

Those funny things people call blinkers on motorized vehicles have another name: indicators.  Aptly named, they are designed so we can indicate what lane we changing to, or to let others know we are turning.  By using indicators we are communicating with other road users, telling them what are intentions are.  It allows others to act accordingly, such as slowing down or giving extra space.  Likewise brake lights help those behind us know we are slowing down for some reason or another.  It could be that there is something in front of us that needs to be given time to move out of the way, or something is blocking the road.  We are letting others know what is going on.  By using safe signals we are telling others our intentions so they can react.  If everyone did this and did it in a timely manner (not one blink once you have crossed from one lane to another for example) the roads are a safe place to travel; it is a less stressful trip.  But when people brake late, turn without indicating, or drive erratically we have a stressful, unsafe journey.

Life is like this no matter what the community.  If we talk and let people know what we are doing or thinking, it allows others to join in and have a good shared experience, or can help someone in crisis.  If we leave our indicating too late we create a stressful environment.  When we have to go somewhere I try to get off the computer well early because I know time can fly by when using it.  Then I can give 15, 10 and 5 minute warnings - get folks ready for whatever we are doing without the last minute - "okay kids, time to go, RIGHT NOW!"  Then we rush, get in the car, are tempted to speed and everyone is stressed.

Next time your are thinking of doing something, or having a bad moment, or get in your car: use the indicators, brake early and drive safely for a better shared experience.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

New CD out now!

A Tangle of Tales is now available at!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

TED, and CD release party

First of all a quick line to say that my CD release party went well.  Lots of people showed up on the overcast Saturday morning, which was great considering how much sport was going on!  Even my own family had another appointment with a friendly, rival lacrosse team!  And quite of few of those who were there bought the CD!  I felt it was a great day, and we all had a good time.

Tracy Memorial Library did a great job hosting and indeed there were balloons, drinks, cake, CDs and stories.  I even had some friends come down from Orford, NH, an hour drive, and a colleague Peter Brodeur from Elkins came, too.  It was great to receive this support.  The kids seemed to really enjoy it as did the adults, and I also enjoyed it.  What could be better?

On another note I have started watching the TED talks.  They have a huge range of topic.  They often funny; they are sometimes heartfelt and courageous; they usually make you think, but are always inspiring.  These are the TED talks.  If you have not seen a TED talk, then please visit  This Sunday I watched three incredible stories.  One was originally made in 2005 and 'aired' in 2007 by William McDonough.  He talked about how we, as the global community, need to think about not the end game we need to aim for, but what he calls "Cradle to Cradle".  His point was that there is no END game, as we live in a constant cycle. He asked what we need to do to survive.  Another talk/story was by photographer Paul Nicklen about the ice caps and how entire ecological systems rely on the ice and will vanish without it.  This man is so impassioned about what he believes in it was a joy to watch.  Finally, and most inspirational for me, was Mick Ebeling's story of a case where if he didn't do it, who would?  Mick heard about a graffiti artist called TEMPT who was disabled by ALS.  Only his eyes functioned.  Mick decided that he should do something about this and with a team of hackers, programers, designers and his own family made a pair of glasses which allowed TEMPT to create art once more. To use the title of the TED talk, he unlocked an artist who was locked-in.  TEMPT, with the help of Mick and his team, was able to project new artwork up on a parking lot wall.  He sent Mick an email afterward that said: "that was the first time I've drawn anything for 7 years.  I feel like I had been held underwater, and someone finally reached down and pulled my head up so I could take a breath."

This was an incredible statement.  Mick and the team he had has made this technology free to all so no hospital can say 'no' and no insurance company can say 'no'.  And this story is something we, as storytellers, are able to do.  We can help people breathe with our own stories and images.  Mick Eleling's story is incredible and I invite you to view it on TED Talks.


Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Connecticut Storytelling Festival

Wow!  What can I say?  A great event, well hosted, wonderfully attended, fantastic tellers, and great hosts - all at the Connecticut Storytelling Festival in New London, CT..  I have never been to the Connecticut College before, where it was held and I found there one of the nicest looking campuses I have seen.  A huge green, old stately buildings, art installations all over the campus, music coming from open windows and from stages and rooms and a recording studio too.  (I wanted to dive in there and play around.)  There was also dance, not only in the form of Contra, which was part of the Festival, but somewhere on campus Saturday night there was dancing, but I missed that attending the wonderful Midnine Cabaret.  The weather was joyous so I got up early both mornings to enjoy the silence, peace, warm breeze and sunlight before heading into the Festival and got outside between events.

I was sharing the stage with some strong tellers; it was an honor and joy to be part of those events.  Although everyone was really good, and I mean Really Good, the two stand outs for me, if I were forced to pick, would have been the headliner Tim Tingle and the youngest teller there Sanju Sathish.  Sanju is 11 years old and came to the States not speaking English six years ago.  He was chosen from 200, that's right, Two Hundred sixth graders who participated in the Rowayton's Tellebration! last November. He told as well as any of us on the stage.  He had presence, power in his telling, and confidence.  And what I loved seeing was his obvious joy of being up there, doing what he was doing: telling a wonderful Jack tale.  I hope we see a lot more of him over the years - brilliant.

Tim Tingle blew me away.  This was my first time seeing or hearing him, although I have read his books, and his tales were funny, poignant, gracious, striking and boy were they powerful.  They were the kind of stories that leave you in silent thought, after the event, mulling over what you heard and distilling the wisdom in the tales.  And when I met him and chatted with him I found he was like his tales: funny, poignant, gracious, striking and kind. He was so open to everyone who came up to speak with him and spent as much time as he could with all.  It made me want to, for a moment, instead of go home, drive to Oklahoma and study with him.

I was also fortunate to share the stage twice with Megan Hicks.  She is another great teller I would recommend seeing.  She  is so joyful and relaxed both on and off stage it was a pleasure to not only work  with her, but to hang out with her and her man Jack who is a fine craftsperson himself.  As I said, everyone was good who I saw and I heard only good things about those I did not see which left me with a new list of people to see perform.

One story that was told which popped my socks off was a story told by Teresa Whitaker and Frank Schwartz.  Teresa told the story of the Seal Hunter whilst her partner Frank accompanied on guitar.  It is a story I have been wanting to tell but have not, as I have not yet found the voice of the story.  Frank and Teresa couched the story in such a way, that it came to life, vividly, wildly yet with peace in the telling that gave it power and such meaning.  And they were such a cute couple on stage too!  A joy to see.

And of course at such events I got to mingle with all these great tellers and more, and the audience and chat with folks about the stories, storytelling, and art.  It is a fantastic festival and I encourage those who have not been to the Connecticut Storytelling Festival to do so, and for those who have not been for a long time to pay another visit.  Next year's headliners, I believe, are Eshu & Motoko.  I had a quick chat with Eshu and had a great time with his nephew John Paul.  I heard Motoko talking and if any of that is anything to go by, Eshu and Motoko (who both have beautiful voices with great timbre) will be fantastic to see.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Earth Day Everyday

Earth Day has been and gone, but we should be conscious of our environment everyday.  My family went to see a documentary called "Bag It!" which is all about plastic.  Christine Giordano who made it did not think that plastic was bad, she just thought that we could do a damn sight better job of recycling and making better products - such as getting rid of single use plastic bags.  We, at home, already recycle and use reusable bags, but we bought cotton bags to put things like produce in and investigated some more robust bags which use recycled material.  A company which make incredibly durable reusable bags from recycled plastic bottles is Chico Bags and another, who make the cotton produce bags, is EcoBags.  Christine Giordano told an amazing story and since seeing this movie we have increased our awareness more than it already was.  If you get the chance to see the story of plastic, check out where Bag It! is playing or bring it to your own community.

On another and completely different note, this weekend (29th April to the 1st May) I will be performing with a slew of other storytellers at the Connecticut Storytelling Festival in New London, CT.  There is a truly incredible collection of tellers that will be there, including the headlining Choctaw storyteller Tim Tingle.  If you have not already got your tickets, go on line now or call the Connecticut Storytelling Center.  This is an event not to be missed. Imagine - a weekend of stories!  Ahhh, bliss!

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Working the Crowd

Last night I went to the Mount Washington Resort and Hotel, New Hampshire to tell stories at the travel summit they were hosting for Discover New England. If you want to visit the Mount Washington Resort and experience this event, it runs until tomorrow, the 6th April.  And the one room I was in I think is a great reason to go.

I arrived with plenty of time to set up after I found the room I was to tell tales in.  In each room there were different events and foods.  In my room the food was also the event - it was candy!  Imagine a large room with a huge table in the center of it.  Now imagine in the center of the table a tree decorated with lights to look like an inverted chandelier.  Now imagine around the tree, tier after tier, plate after plate of fine candies and chocolates, pralines, dipped strawberries, candied apples decorated in so many different ways, and nuts presented with such exotic tastes.  And there was me in a corner trying not to be distracted by the mouth watering goodies and atempting to tell stories to people.  People who were wandering in in small groups discussing the salads this room, the cheese in that room (why didn't they put me with the cheese - ah, the torture!), or the rock and band in another suit!  And don't forget the skiing!

Artwork by Rob Brookes, copyright 2010
It was impossible to tell to the room without overpowering the space with me and I did not want to spoil the ambiance of the event! So I looked around for a small friendly looking group, and with my drum, made my way over to them.  A gentleman and two ladies.  I told them the story of the Dragon and the Monkey's Heart.  Another group was watching me slyly so I drifted over there, gently playing my bodhrán as I went. I told them a story about a couple of pick-pockets.  Another group I told the story of the Song Unsung and Story Untold.  From one group to another I made my way round and round the room, shortening stories so I did not take up too much of people's time, but giving them, I hope a special and intimate tale.  I hope this added to their experience of the evening - candy to the ears and mind, to go with candy on the table!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Artwork done!

Artwork for new cd: A Tangle of Tales.
CD by Simon Brooks
Artwork by Rob Brookes (c) 2011

So for those who might have seen something like this two days ago, this is now the finished artwork! And Rob Brookes, once again did a bang up (really, really good) job!

And what, I hear you ask, are the stories?  Well I will tell you the title of one - The Fly!  See it there?

I am hoping to be able to 'release' A Tangle of Tales at the Connecticut Storytelling Festival in New London CT on the weekend of April 29th.  It is going to be a great weekend filled with wonderful tellers.  There is a family concert on the Friday, but the rest is going to be for grown ups!  There are also a few workshops.  So if you think you might like to hear me tell grown up stories for a change, try to make the trip, and feast, not only on me, but also the likes of Tim Tingle, Simon Brooks, Tom Lee, Sanju Sathish, Nancy Tucker and Keith Munslow, Tom Callinan, Simon Brooks, Megan Hicks, Jennifer Munro, Teresa Whitaker & Frank Schwartz, Carol Birch, Tom Callinan, Simon Brooks, Sara deBeer, Connie Rockman and Elllie Toy, me (!!) and many more!

Keep visiting here and my website for updates!

Sharing the Fire of storytelling at the New England Storytelling Conference

The League for the Advancement for New England Storytelling grew from the storytelling conference, Sharing the Fire.  And that is what happens - the fire of storytelling is shared.  This year was the third year in Rhode Island and next year will be moving to Albany, New York.  Although I was there in the mode of photographer, and as such was not really able to participate fully in any workshops, what I saw was great.  Participants were filled with enthusiasm and the presenters certainly had fire in their bellies.

The keynote was Odds Bodkin who is always great to see and the conference was graced by Jay O'Callahan, Michael Parent and Bill Harley who did lunch time discussion groups - a great way to glean from true masters whilst being able to eat!  The choices of workshops was wide, varied and plentiful.  Over the entire weekend a total of 32 workshops were offered, a panel discussion, two lunchtime q & a sessions, and opportunities to be coached.  A shopping 'market' or maybe bizarre was created where you could buy jewelry, clothes, musical instruments, books, CDs and meet with other like-minded people.

As testified at the end of the weekend by many of the new comers to Sharing the Fire, many folks left with new friends, new experiences, new skills, new stories and new memories.  I am really looking forward to next year's New England storytelling conference in Albany, NY.

My thanks go to all those who helped make the event the wonderful experience it was, those who patted me on the back when the day was feeling really long and to those who reminded me what a wonderful community we have.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Music for CD Three

Stevens and Simon
Well, the Latham Layabouts got together another time.  And then last night Rick, Rachel, Steve and I went into the studio with Stevens Blanchard in Fairlee, Vermont to lay down the tracks for the music for the CD.  We have been very fortunate in getting Rachel Clark involved as she has added, with her own tunes, a new dimension to the CD collection.  Maybe a few people who already know the story of the Cow and the Piper, or the Piper's Revenge will get the pun in the title of the music 'Cold Snap'!  So now you know one of the stories that will be on the CD, but the rest, for now, will be kept secret!

Stevens keeping an eye on us all!
We got to the studio at around 7 pm and set up, taking a few shots at the tunes to warm up.  It sounded pretty good when we practiced at Latham Library, but at the sound studio in Fairlee it was brought up a notch at least.  The music was recorded 'live' with two mics in the room.  This is similar to how we have done it before, but this time we did not mic up each instrument, sticking with two room mics.  We did a few takes until we were all happy with how each track sounded and Stevens played a little with the sounds - a bit of post-production.  It sounds great and I am very excited about what we have.  Two pieces of Rachel's music will be featured on the CD: The Waltz at the Edge of the World and Cold Snap.  Eventually both pieces will be on both my website and Rachel's website and of course on the CD.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Grants now available

Great News!  I am now Grantable!  I am a NEST artist.  If you would like to hire me and are based outside of New Hampshire you can apply for a grant through the New England Foundation of the Arts.  Here are the details:

New England States Touring (NEST) provides support to nonprofit organizations based in New England for community-related activities by select New England performing artists from outside of the presenter's state. Any nonprofit, school, or government entity based in New England (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont) is eligible to apply for a NEST grant.

The nonprofit organization does not need to be an arts organization. An organization that does not have a federal tax identification number (such as a national historic park) may apply as long as it is part of an official government agency (such as the National Park Service).

Nonprofit organizations who are interested in bringing cultural arts programming to its community may apply for NEST funding. Examples of eligible applicants include: libraries, schools, theaters, service agencies, and arts organizations. Applicants may only receive NEST support for presenting select NEST artists.

Contact program staff with questions regarding eligibility.
617.951.0010 x533
* First-time applicants are encouraged to call NEFA.
The New England States Touring program is made possible with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts Regional Touring Program and the six New England state arts agencies.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Music and stories

One of the hardest things to do for my CDs is work out music to go between each tale.  I have been really lucky in that I have two very good friends who are also great musicians.  Without them the music would not be as original or good as it is.  Last night I met with the core members of my story band, Steve Glazer and Rick Barrows, and this CDs guest star, Rachel Clark.

Somehow each CD has had a 'guest star'.  The first CD was Maureen Burford on violin, the second was Greg Gundlach on guitar, and this time we have Rachel on accordion, whistle and Irish flute.  I have been wanting to make a new CD for some time as those who receive my newsletter will know. In fact I have ideas for two MORE CDs after this one!

When folk musician Rachel Clark sent me a tune called "Waltz at the End of the World" and asked if I could use it in any way, I immediately knew what story it would work with. And since then I have been chomping at the bit to get this thing going.

Last night, Rachel, Steve, Rick and myself met at Latham Library in Thetford, Vermont to work out what pieces of music would go where and what feel and tempo they would have. We decided to use "Waltz" as a springboard, this being the first time we have had a finished work of music to work from. In the past we have sat together and made something up, beginning with a basic idea of SOMETHING and taking bits of it, adding here, changing there until we had a tune. Then we would break it down into sections, and make changes to account for the feel or type of story it was leading into or out of. But last night we had 'The Waltz." And then when we were talking about the ghostly story and the fact it was a winter tale, Rachel said she had written another piece (she's written a ton) called "Cold Snap." She played it, we loved it, it is also being used.

It did not take as long as we thought to work up all the pieces, but it came together quickly.  I put it down to having a finished work at the beginning!  Anyway, it was great fun.  But I forgot one thing - one of the stories I want on the CD!  Oops!

Once we had finished working on the music, we played a few other tunes, some original, like Peppermint Polka from a forthcoming CD by Bob and Rachel, and others traditional.  Not an early night by the time I got home, but a good one and a step closer to getting the CD complete.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Happy New Year - Ancient Stories, are they relevant today?

There are many things that the ancient stories can help us with today.  Mostly inspiration.  You can’t take a story at face value, unless we want pure entertainment.  Looking deeply at the stories we can learn a lot and see ourselves staring back at us.  Not much has changed with us humans really if you think about it.  There is still greed, corruption and war usually over what others have that we want (the big bully in the playground after the good candy).

I also believe that with so much mobility with people these days, folks lack grounding, and the ancient stories allow us to gain some grounding and in some cases recapture our heritage.  Many of the old tales tell us about the ‘cruel world’ that is out there and how the heroes and heroines (mostly vagabonds and waifs) of these stories figure it all out.  By doing this the stories give us hope.

We all know there are no magical spells in the real world, but there is hope that we will find solutions if we look hard enough and find the right people to help us.

The really ancient stories such as Gilgamesh and Beowulf teach us about the old cultures, and the hero code of conduct.  Many of the ancient heroes talk about their kin, their relatives.  Theses characters are usually introduced as son of son of such and such, cousin to so and so, and warrior under this lord or that.  These heroes are deeply rooted in their own genealogy, they know who they come from, where they come from, and are fiercely proud if it.  And when it comes to walking the talk, they definitely do that.  Some might see this as bragging, but there is more to it than that.  It is about pride of the family name and honour to themselves and their lineage.  When a hero says he will slay the dragon he will slay the dragon or die trying.  We could all learn from this.  He doesn’t pretend to slay the beast by hiding it somewhere and giving it a pay off.  He slays the beast.  I think some of the West’s politicians could learn something from this, as well as some CEOs.

When warriors have done well for their lord or chieftain, these men and women in these tales receive great honour and recompense.  I have to confess that I see a lot of greed in some of the country’s leaders (and also abroad), be it company owners or world leaders.  The kings and rulers would offer much in the ancient tales, to the men that made their kingdom (company?) what it is.  In some cultures the leaders give away almost all to the rest of their people knowing that they will get it back in the future if they are a good leader.  I think this is something the West could learn from!  Of course we know these are stories, and in real life the riches came from plundering and invading other nations.  And still do.  But if we look at these stories and how some parts (by all means not all!) we could learn from it.  And no, I don’t mean we go beating our chests and buy guns saying we will kill the beast, but look at the problems we have and when something needs to change, change it.  If something needs fixing, fix it.  Don’t just patch it up and make do, but fix something.  There is much that is broken in our society and some of these ancient tales can help us.  If not just to see the issue, but to confront it and do something to make things better for all, and not just one person.  Some of these tales are mirrors to our own inner selves and can help us see what we are really trying to achieve.  This applies to adults as well as children.  Also they are really good stories.

At this time of year I could point to two legends that show remarkable ethics: the story of King Wenceslas and the Arthurian story of Sir Cleges and his miraculous winter cherries.  Cleges routes out corruption and greed and is rewarded for this.  His Lord, King Uther Pendragon (Arthur’s father), looks after Cleges and his family (who had become penniless).  Wenceslas of Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) was one of the most revered Kings (actually Duke) of his time, a fair and just man who dispensed justice with an even hand, despite his somewhat dysfunctional family (his mother killed her own mother in law on his father’s death and Wenceslas was eventually murdered by his brother). Wenceslas was made Saint because of his good treatment of his citizens.

We could all do showing a little more compassion to one another and to ourselves as well.