Saturday, April 26, 2008

Accidental Story Hour

Today there was an educator event at Barnes and Noble. I always go to these if it can work with my schedule simply because the discounts are so substantial. Today, I went in time to actually be there for the event, which included a raffle (I won the onyx edition of Monopoly), free stuff (I got the Nancy Pearl action figure!), and a story time.

The story moment was fabulous. A local writer, Suzanne Williams, came and spoke about her writing process, how she discovers her story-fodder, and then proceeded to read a couple of stories. Suzanne Williams had been an elementary librarian in the Kent and Auburn school districts before becoming a children's author, and came ready to tell stories. She was dressed in a princess costume and engaged very clearly with her audience.

The first book Williams read was Mommy Doesn't Know My Name
which was quite cute. She began by explaining how she came up with the concept and what inspired the story: she called her own 3 year old daughter "pumpkin," and her daughter indignantly told her, "My name is not pumpkin; it's Emily!" This inspired her to list all the pet-names she called her children, and then served as the inspiration for this book. She said that when she was a librarian and would read the book to children, she would give seven different children a mask and have them wear it when she got to that part of the book. (The mother in the book calls the daughter seven different names; the daughter, Hannah, imagines herself as each of them.)

Next, she explained about her Princess Power series (and that explained the princess costume!). Williams explained how she wanted to write about adventurous princesses, not ones who just pined away for boys. She talked about how she read a lot of fairy tales to get ready to write the 6-book series and tried to come up with new magical powers for each of the princesses that would correspond to their needs for adventure--a blue lotion that could heal bruises or cuts, a never-empty coin purse, a magical carpet--all of which would come in handy when out adventuring!

Then, she ended the time by reading her book Ten Naughty Little Monkeys. This books is a retelling of the old rhyme, "Ten little monkeys, jumping on the bed..." She retold it so that they do more than just jump on the bed and truly were mischievous. The illustrator for this book was great! Anywho, Williams explained how she used to tell that rhyme to her children while they were growing up and got tired of the monkeys simply jumping on the bed. She wanted them to do something else, and so wrote about it!

In all, this was an interesting performance. She wasn't very lively, but was a bit soft-spoken. Nevertheless, she was entertaining and engaging. Why? Probably because Williams maintained eye contact throughout the entire time. She didn't really read the books, but used them as aids to jog her memory as to what came next. (AFter all, she wrote the books.)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Great storyteller example

This was posted to the 561 discussion forum, but I thought I'd add it here as well. It's great. (From Smoke Signals)

Monday, April 21, 2008

my first storytelling experience

So, here's my first storytelling experience. It's the story of "Mines, Unions, and the Battle of Bunker Hill," one of my favorite PNW history stories. I found the story originally in a really boring textbook that I had while an undergrad, but the story was so fascinating and funny that I've really adapted it. When I tell this story in class, I usually have overheads and it's way more boring because I am making students take notes. But, it's one that I love to tell, because when my friends complain about labor unions, I try to remind them of why unions were developed in the first place. I told this one at a game night event (I told my friends that they needed to listen to a story for my storytelling class first).

Go here:

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Testing, 1, 2, 3.

While this has nothing to do with my storytelling journal, I am testing to see how the digital camera works and how it works with my blog.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Storyteller Numero Tres

Ok, one of the stories on the January podcast of is HILARIOUS; the story is "Bargain Shopper" by Kendra McGrane. It is FABULOUS. She makes use of a variety of storytelling styles, including the repetition of ideas such as "tall, dark, and handsome man" throughout the story to keep the ideas flowing. (ok, I know that there's a term for that, but I forgot.)

Check out this podcast by! The Grimm tale is FABULOUS. :-) The podcast is available in mp3 format.

New January 2008 Podcast!
Posted: 2008-01-04 By SNStaff

It’s a brand new Podcast at! You can use the link below to hear our latest. Features storyteller K. Sean Buvala telling the Grimm tale of "The Willful Child" as well as providing a coaching moment on "finding your niche". The coaching moment comes from an interview that Sean did with the "Art of Storytelling With Children" podcast. Also on this January 2008 podcast is Kindra McGrane of Arizona telling her lively, fun personal tale of "The Bargain Shopper" recorded live at one of our events. Come and enjoy. Find all our past podcasts at this link now.

Storyteller Numero Dos

Debra Morningstar on tells the story of "Grasshopper Song." This story is told with wind instruments and traditional Native American song (though it's not clear what is the particular origin of the song). According to this story, the Grasshopper Song is a prayer to make the grass grow. The Coyote wants to learn the song and tries; he forgets and tries to force the grasshopper to teach him. Eventually, the story tells the tale of how the coyote has short front teeth and how people learned how to save grass seeds and plant them in order to make the grass grow.

Her voices for the different characters are entertaining and different. she makes the coyote seem slightly menacing (and he is the villain in the story) and the grasshopper sounds very happy. When she has the characters sing, they do not sing zany tunes, but rather sings the Native American song. (Again, I don't know what the particular Nation is, but it is from the Americas).

She keeps the story going by threading in wind instruments, whose music sets the tone for the story. The story was very interesting and quite different from others I'd heard.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Storytelling in my daily life

I have been pondering how storytelling is present daily in my life. I don't listen to NPR (or at least, not for the story shows; only for the news while commuting), don't listen to books on tape, and don't even generate wild tales of my own life. When I was in college, I tried to turn my adventures in to epic stories, but seem to lack follow-through. I do, though, attend church, and while a sermon is not the same as a story, the pastor uses stories to illustrate points in the sermon.

Today, our pastor began the sermon with a few short stories (maybe 45 seconds long each) about children's prayers and their assumptions in their lives. He then preached on the topic of prayer, but continued using stories to illustrate his point. Our pastor always uses sports analogies (which I usually tune out), but today, he used a You Tube video to illustrate the way Little League baseball players' attitudes and outcomes change when they were "in the Big Leagues" (part of an every-day Improv program).

The storytelling elements that seemed evident were the use of props (the PowerPoint and the video), the hook to listen to the story, and the modulation of voice.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Thinking about stories

I was thinking about the stories in my own life and was reminded of my sister. She's always telling stories or jokes, and you can always tell when she's about to start. She ALWAYS starts by saying very definitively, "So." Her stories/jokes follow this same format: "So, I heard" or "So, let me tell you" or "So, she said..." It's really funny. We make fun of her regularly, but it reminds me of the Anglo-Saxon griot tradition for starting a story with the word "Hwaet" which is usually translated as "so" but more closely means "shut up and listen to me." :-) That is, effectively, what my sister says when she begins a story with "So."

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Storyteller Numero Uno

Ok, my favorite poet, Billy Collins, came to the Pantages Theater in Tacoma on April 4th. I have loved this poet since I first discovered his poetry in 2000, while an English major at Whitworth College in Spokane. My favorite poem of his involved a cello and young love. Other favorites include his poem "Another Reason Why I Don't Keep a Gun in the House" and "Victoria's Secret." I was excited, then, when I saw that he was coming to town, and immediately called my husband and told him that we had to go.

When we got to the Pantages, we discovered that we were there for a particularly special night. No, evidently it was not enough that the former national Poet Laureate was there, but Tacoma was establishing its own poet laureate post in an effort to promote poetry, and the 4th was the evening when they were promoting and honoring that poet. The honor went to a professor from the University of Puget Sound, whose name I have forgotten, but he opened the evening by reading two of his poems.

Then, it was time for Billy Collins. He entered the stage looking just as one would expect for a man who wrote poetry and taught college creative writing: black pants and sweater, eyes cast down, stage lights shining off the bald head fringed with tufts of hair. He entered, and without much elaboration, began reading his poetry. Occasionally, he introduced the poem by explaining how he was inspired: a quote here, a poorly written poem (by another poet, of course) there. He was humorous and engaging, joking with the audience, and while he was fully aware of the presence of the crowd, was completely occupied with reading his poetry. He read poetry spanning a wide array of topics: dogs, sex, poetry, the reader's role in poetry, other poets. He let the poems speak for themselves and the focus was on the poetry. It was fabulous.

He ended as inauspiciously as he began, and exited to go sign books and theater tickets. In all, he was very delightful, and my husband who had never heard of Billy Collins before left feeling enlightened, uplifted, and entertained. I couldn't stop talking about it all evening. It was great.

Adventures in Storytelling

As we left class on Friday, I was jazzed about storytelling, and began brainstorming what sorts of stories I could tell and to whom I could tell them. I immediately called my mom and asked her to pull out my favorite childhood book, Just the Thing for Geraldine, so that I could try to figure out how to use that as one of my stories. (For those of you that haven't read this fabulous tale of a possum who tries to find her perfect thing to do, just wait until I figure this out!) I think I'll try to find a stuffed possum for that one. And, I really like flannel-graphs and always have; if there is a way to use a flannel-graph, I'll be a happy woman. I did, though, decide that I should get a digital video recorder, because with trying to find live audiences for the story, it will be too difficult to cart around my computer and microphone and try to strategically arrange everything perfectly. (Thanks for the suggestion for the Flip Camera!)

Ok, stories await!