Thursday, September 21, 2017

30 Years As A Storyteller!

My season is in full swing. I've only been visiting my home for the last few weeks as I drive all around the eastern United States.

The work has been fun and interesting.

The workshops have been successful.

The kids have been great.

The educators and parents have been great.

I have been having the time of my life.

I've also been mixing it up a bit.

After thirty years, I feel like I know what works and what doesn't. I feel like I have a good handle on my material and what I want out of it. I feel like I'm pretty good at selecting stories and composing story sets.

What I am discovering is that I seem to have moved into one of those periods where things are bubbling up to the top. Just as I get comfortable, I begin rearranging the room. I'm starting to dare myself about the work just to see what happens.

I am trotting out new material and reworking old material just trying to see how it hits an audience . I'm learning new introductions, and different ways to work folktales and personal narrative together so they speak to various populations. I'm finding nuances, connections, and coming up against ideas that have never occurred to me.

Peter Cook
I'm going to be in Chicago in October at University of Chicago on a panel about using gesture and body in storytelling. Leeny is going to be there as well! I will get to see the healing Megan Wells, and the wonderful Janice Del Negro.

I'll be out in California on my birthday, and in the schools. I don't know if I'll get a chance to visit....but I might.

I also managed to secure a literary agent, and I am now deep in edits for my first novel. Somehow, I overcame my unwillingness to admit that I really want to be writing more for a living, and someone out there said they'd give me a chance.

I'm equal parts terrified, excited, and still in disbelief as I try to reshape a novel for the real world and not my own enjoyment.

Heathwood Hall
I'm sitting in a Hampton Inn in Columbia, SC this afternoon after spending the entire day at Heathwood Hall teaching and telling.

The last few weeks have been quite a wild ride.

One of my adopted ten rules of thumb for the artist is, "If you keep hitting the target you are probably too close."

It is hard to move that target because you might miss...but if you don't move it, you don't get anywhere as an artist.

Today I'd planned to write about being honest with yourself about booking shows so that your first set is as crisp as your last. What is the largest and smallest number of sets you can do in a day and deliver the best quality and why?

I will blog about that next week, but I am feeling pretty transformed about the work I'm doing, and I am finding it hard to be practical!

So, I will continue to throw pasta agains the wall and see what sticks, and hope I come out of it better able to do my job.

I wonder if this has something to do with turning fifty this year?
My kids both in college?
Feeling like I just hit a new phase in my life?
Watching my nieces and nephews get older?
Celebrating my thirtieth year as a professional storyteller?

Who knows?

Ultimately, it doesn't matter. I moved the target. I mean to spend a decade or more trying to perfect my shot.

Happy Experimenting!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Final Day of Teller In Residence - Thoughts on Day 5

My last day in Jonesborough at the International Storytelling center was wonderful. I taught a two hour workshop about literacy and storytelling.

I got a chance to visit the farmer's market.

It was strange to be in the town without the streets blocked, the crowds roaming everywhere, and the shops so full I couldn't enter. I'm glad I got to see Jonesborough as it is every other week of the year!

I had a great conversation with Susan O'connor. Drop her a line if you can. She had a burst pipe and a flooded kitchen when she got home from visiting her grandchildren. Send her some good energy.

Kiran was hanging out at a diner and I just happened to run into him. He was, as usual, hip deep in social activism - finding beds and shelter for people affected by Hurricane Harvey.

I met Krystal Hawkins who has stepped into Becky Brunson's massive shoes and is acquitting herself well.

I am both humbled and energized by my time as Teller-In-Residence.

The story of the rise of storytelling as a profession in our country is one that fills me with gratitude.

I am proud to be part of this continuum. I am honored to be a member of this community.

After my last show, a young man named Jay came up to me.

Jay: "Do you know Rives Collins?"

Me: "Yes! He is the reason I am a storyteller."

Jay: "Really? The reason why I'm here is because I had to see a professional storyteller and write a paper about it."

Me: "Cool! He's amazing."

Jay: "Not only that, you say you live in Durham, NC, right?"

Me: "Yes."

Jay: "I was born in Durham, NC."

Me: "Really?"

Jay: "Yeah."

Me: "Durham Regional Hospital, right?"

Jay: "Yeah!"

Me: "My husband used to work there, and my daughter was born there."

Jay: "Wow. You know. I keep getting signs from the universe that maybe I should be a storyteller."

(He explained to me that he and Rives have the same middle name. It is an unconventional one!)

Me: "Do you want to be a storyteller?"

Jay: "Yeah. I think I do."

Me: "Well, let me tell you, this is a possible career. You can make a living at this."

Jay: "I'm thinking that this might be the way I want to go."

Me: "Good luck."

The story continues......

Happy Telling!

Friday, September 8, 2017

Teller In Residence - Reflections on Day 4

Home Sweet Home For The Week!

They came for the show this afternoon, and then bought me ice cream at JJ's Eatery and Ice Cream.

They were visiting from outside of Knoxville!

I bumped into this guy....

Dropped into the Lollipop Shop on Main Street

I stand up when I tell stories, but this cool, custom made storytelling chair they have at the center is enough to make me wish I sat!

Having an Amazing Time!

Happy Telling!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Teller In Residence - Thoughts from Day 3

Jackie Torrence

If you asked me which storyteller had the most influence on how I tell, I would definitely say it was Jackie Torrence.

Jackie's style of telling, the way she used expression, and hand gesture were my models.

It is always a joy to me when someone asks me if I knew her, because every now and then I do something that reminds them of her.

Walking around this tiny little town, I am reminded of Jackie's last performance. I stood right in the front of that tent with tears streaming down my face shouting for her at the top of my lungs.

My third day here in Jonesborough, TN has been lovely. The rain stopped, the temperature was pleasant, and I got to walk around downtown.

Today I told stores from my 'Relationships Gone Sideways' program. It is a great deal of fun.

Boone Street Market
Afterwards, I stopped at the Boone Street Market and got lovely gluten free cookies some excellent

cheese and some beautiful purple grapes.

The Corner Cup gave me a free latte seen' as I'm a teller and all, and I popped into a few other places.

Davey from Downtown Sweet! He makes the chocolate and such!
I bought truffles for The David (don't tell him) at a new chocolatier on Main Street called Downtown Sweet who makes some incredible pralines.

One of the audience members left me a lovely little bouquet of flowers.

Yesterday, after the telling, I asked if anyone had any questions they wanted to ask me.

One woman raised a hand. "I don't want to be rude or anything, but did you used to be a really big woman? you know, really big?" and she made a large gesture.

I grinned at her. You're thinking of Jackie Torrence. She snapped her fingers. "That's right! I'm sorry."

"Don't be," I said, "I'm honored that I called her to your mind. She was one of my favorite tellers. She was one of my mentors."

 I love being here in Jonesborough.

Happy Telling!

Teller In Residence - Thoughts From Day 2

Started my second morning with a fun hour and a half laugh riot discussion with Pamela Miller from the Jonesborough Storytelling Guild at The Corner Cup!

Caramel Latte and a gluten free tart!

For seven years, Pam has been driven by a dream to create a space in Jonesborough that is dedicated to the history of the resurgence of storytelling through books, costumes, puppets, writings, and anything that storytellers want to contribute. It would house all of the early history and recordings of the National festivals, and any CDs people wanted to send. The bottom floor would hold books and such, and the upper floors would have listening and viewing rooms.

Pam's dream is that it would be "A National And International Resource For Storytelling Research, Collections, and Artifacts"Laura Simms, and and Liz Weir are also engaged in this work.

Their long, tireless effort has finally begun to bear fruit!

They've found a space. The City has granted them a 20 year lease.

They have been given permission by the family to call it The Kathryn Tucker Windham Center.

If you are interested in finding out more about this organization, what it will do specifically, or wish to get involved with this project as it gets off the ground...CLICK HERE!

As for me,

My cat and I
I did a set called Witchy Women yesterday afternoon. These are tales about love, cleverness, resilience, hope, and facing the dark with determination and love. They are some of my favorite types of stories.

I love witches in general. Considering what I look like without my make-up.....

Really enjoying this quiet time to write and edit.

If you are in Irma's path, stay dry. If you are in the path of the wildfires raging out west stay clear.

Be well!

Happy Telling.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Teller In Residence - Thoughts From Day 1

I love Folktales. I have loved them since I was a tot. Whatever else you can expect of me if you see me perform, you can be sure that if at all possible, I will work folktales into personal narratives included.

As the world of storytelling is more and more defined by the personal narrative, it often gives those of us who tell folktales pause.

(Personal Narrative (PN) is a prose narrative relating personal experience usually told in first person; its content is nontraditional.[1] Personal refers to a story from your life or your own experiences. Nontraditional refers to literature that does not fit the typical criteria of a narrative.

Is there a market for folktales amongst adults?        

How do adults deal with folktales?

How do people react to them?

Do we really need to hear these stories again?

This week, in Jonesborough, all of the sets I plan to present have folklore in them somewhere. Some, like today, have an introduction that is definitely personal, but the meat of the set is folklore.

The answer is...grown people will listen to folklore.

Adults enjoy it when it is done wholeheartedly and they react to it in some ways like children react to it.

Click here to watch Marilyn Tell The Juniper Tree
When I was out in California, I heard the wonderful Marilyn McPhie throw down some amazing folktales.

Adults are often mortified or shocked or interested in different elements than the children, but they react with the same gusto. I'm always pleased when I get audible gasps from the grown folk.

Storytelling audiences will play with you.

I've done my first turn as an almost straight up folklorist here as a Teller In Residence, and the response was positive.

One woman said to me afterwards, "I don't tend to like folklore, I'm tired of hearing the Cinderella story or whatever, but that was creative and interesting. I liked that!"

Tell what you tell with enthusiasm and genuine love. That is what is required of us as storytellers.

Happy Telling.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Teller In Residence at Jonesborough, TN

I'm in residence at the International Storytelling Center in Jonesborough, TN

I'll try to write a little about it every day so I won't be stuck trying to remember what happened next week.

My first public concert is tomorrow at 2 pm at the Center Theatre here in Jonesborough.

Happy Telling!