It's all about connection, isn't it? When we listen to a story, we connect with the story, with the storyteller and with the other listeners. In that listening state, we're no longer isolated beings on this blue marble we call earth.
My story starts in the time-honored way, of course.
Once upon a time...
In 1988, I discovered storytelling. I was a children's librarian in Middletown, Connecticut (after a stint as a Slavic Librarian, but that's another story) and my colleagues invited me tell stories at a school. Gulp. One of them suggested a book by Philippa Pearce, Lion at School. I flipped through and found the perfect story: "The Crooked Little Finger." I was born with crooked fingers! I told that one, as well as a story I'd made up when I was a teenage babysitter. The kids at the school liked it. I could feel that connection. I was hooked.
The journey into the world
I began telling stories in preschool story hours and school visits. I soaked in the art of storytelling by going to workshops, conferences and festivals. I listened to other storytellers, read about storytelling history and technique. A year into my job, my new boss taught me to use puppets. I started using them between stories.
I told stories whenever and wherever possible. My friend Papa Joe says, "If you want to be a storyteller, tell stories. If you want to be a better storyteller, tell more stories." He's right. As I got better, I began to tell stories outside of my job. Though I loved being a librarian, I knew I would love being a full-time storyteller even more.
Answering the call
As Elizabeth Ellis says, "If anything can keep you from being a full-time storyteller, let it!" Nothing could keep me from it. In 1993 I answered the call to be a full-time storyteller and moved back to Kansas, where I'd lived before (I grew up in Rhode Island and Vermont, though). This is my only job.
Trials and tribulations
Being self-employed in the arts isn't for the faint of heart (and I wouldn't trade it for anything). I face the challenge of marketing the essence of who I am, of conveying the best of what I bring to each venue. I am constantly working on innovative programs, finding new stories, putting some of the old tales back on the shelf. I carry around 150 stories in my head at all times, ready to tell.
I travel around the US and abroad (Brazil, Germany, Bulgaria, Mexico, Peru, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Romania and Belgium, to date) with a bagful of puppets and a headful of stories. I give 150+ performances a year at schools, festivals, libraries, Juvenile Detention centers and special events. I have stories for all ages. My longest story? Tristan and Iseult is 95 minutes long (PG-9). My shortest? About a minute. My favorite audience? The one in front of me.
I love the variety of my work. I've performed for over 300 audiences of English language learners—I speak slowly and clearly, use lots of synonyms, as well as facial expressions, body movement, songs and puppets. I perform at Family Reading Nights and at public libraries as a way to convey how much fun reading is. One of my newest programs is Shakespeare's Inspiration, a program for older kids and adults in which I tell the stories that inspired Shakespeare to write King Lear, Taming of the Shrew and Hamlet. Teacher in-services and workshops for early child educators? You bet! Giving writing workshops is a treat for me, too. Festivals? Fun! The best response I get is "Tell it again!"
In 2015, on a Fulbright Scholarship, I had the enormous good fortune to live in Sofia, Bulgaria, where I researched animal tales and trickster tales (yes, in Bulgarian!) and did around 35 performances and workshops. My newest program, Kindness, Compassion and Courage: Telling Stories for Character Education grew out of one of the stories I found on that trip, Grandmother Bear and the Hurtful Words.
My CDs and DVDs have received critical acclaim and have accompanied many families on long car rides.
Happily ever after...
I live in Lawrence, Kansas with my cat, Francis Bacon (Sir) and around 75 puppets. I'm always looking for stories to tell. When I'm not telling stories, I enjoy sitting on my porch with a good book or working in my garden. I am also looking for the best restaurant pie on earth (fruit, not cream).
Got questions? Ask away!