Thursday, June 26, 2014

July 24th - Jacqueline K. Ogburn - A Curious Collaboration: Writing Picture Books

A Curious Collaboration:  Writing Picture Books

Jacqueline is a spectacular author who has written a piece for the blog about the process of working with an illustrator.  If you are thinking about writing a children's book or you've ever wondered what that process might be like, this is a must read. 

I first met this amazing writer at a SCBWI conference over ten years ago.  She is a great friend, a very down to earth person, and has been everything from a sounding board to a mentor.  She belongs to a group of writers and illustrators called WINC, Writers and Illustrators of North Carolina.

It is great when you love and admire the work your friends do.  Jackie Ogburn is one of my favorite children's book authors...and I'm not just saying this because she named a character in one of her books after me.  The Bake Shop Ghost is a great read.

I'm not the only one who thought it was amazing.  It was turned into a short film.  Check out the trailer for it.

She's also the author of one of my favorite literary tales to tell.  The Magic Nesting Doll is a feast for both the eyes and the ears.  This piece is so beautifully written, it reads like a traditional tale.  It involves an enchanted Czar, a magic nesting doll, fantastic beasts and a young girl who breaks a spell that causes Winter without Spring, Night without Moon, and Dark without Dawn.  A great read!


She has so many good ones, I am spoiled for picking favorites, but I absolutely love Scarlett Angelina Wolverton-Manning.  What happens when you kidnap a helpless young girl only to discover there's something odd and unsettling about her?  I've been working on turning this one into a performance piece.  I'll be rolling it out later on this year!

Her work is worth exploring if you are mining for some new material.  Her entry is both interesting and thought provoking.

Happy Reading!

July 17th - Michael McCarty - More Than just a Storyteller

More Than 'Just A Storyteller'

"Have Mouth Will Run It"

What on earth do you say about a fellow whose slogan is, "Have mouth will run it"?  Lots, actually.  Michael McCarty is a dear friend and an amazing person.  On my recent trip to Argentina I found out that the DreamOn staff refers to him as, 'God'.

He was once a Black Panther.  He is still an educator,  motivator, acupuncturist, life enthusiast, and unparalleled performer.  He can make anything seem like a good idea if he says it the right way.

His entry, More than 'Just a Storyteller', explores how storytelling transforms the lives of the people who share it.  His piece, like himself, is both moving and powerful.

This is one of his personal pieces called 'Vindication'  It is a heart rending account of our history in America.

Happy Telling!

Coming Attractions For July! Lyn Ford - Common Core for Empathy

July 10th 2014

Storytelling:  A Common Core for Empathy

Lyn Ford is an amazingly versatile teller who is also a huge education advocate.  She has a wonderful, soulful voice and a powerful presence.  In her entry, she takes on the Common Core Standards, and shows how the philosophies used to create them are trying to force us into an educational system that looks deeper than the surface of instructional material.  Common Core tries to find connections with the past and present that could help us move into a brighter future.  There is more to learning than just memorizing something for a test!

I've known Lyn for more years than I care to count.  She is someone I always look forward to seeing because she has one of the most grounded souls I've ever encountered.  Watching her makes you smile, think and trust.  There is a quality about her that is both soothing and intriguing.  Find her if you can and take a seat!

Lyn is also an author and a contributor to articles, anthologies in the storytelling world.  Here is her latest!  Affrilachian Tales.

Check her out telling about that Signifying Monkey!

Happy Learning!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Antonio Sacre - Can I hit my child with a Chancla to get him off the playground? How parents can use stories to make difficult transitions slightly better.

This is a Chancla for those of you, like me, who had no idea

“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”

― Albert Einstein

Antonio Sacre

My 4-year-old son will not leave the playground. Nothing works. My calm voice, my “happiest child on the block voice”, the “1-2-3 magic” counting trick. Cajoling. Pleading. Appealing to reason. Threats. I’m watching all the other parents on the playground watch me, compassionate, smug, and fearful that their own turn for the public shaming of being “The Worst Parent on the Playground” is fast approaching.

How did my mom get us off the playground? Oh wait, I was raised in the 1970s, my mom was nowhere to be found. We came home when we were hungry and the street lights lit up the suburban sky.

How did my Cuban grandmother do it? She should throw her chancla, her slipper, out of the window, and like some magic boomerang, it would travel through little Havana in Miami to the playground, hit me and my two brothers on the head, and return to her hand in one second flat. She’d put it back on her foot and continue cooking, and we would sulk home through the Miami humidity.

I think, can I just leave my son and tell him to come home when he’s tired? It’s only three blocks through our neighborhood in Los Angeles that is patrolled nightly by helicopters and frequently tagged with graffiti. He’ll be fine.

Can I hit him with a chancla? I beg, I threaten, I chase, and I’m at my wit’s end.

And then, like my abuela reaching from beyond the grave with a spectral chancla, an idea hits me. Tell him a story. I am so rattled and embarrassed that I can’t believe I didn’t think of it until now.

Yes, I am a professional storyteller, and have been for 20 years, but in this moment, I’m a frustrated dad, looking for a life-line, and before another parenting technique I’ve learned from some well-meaning and well-written parenting books escapes my lips, I get as close as I can to the whirling, sweaty mass of humanity that my son has become and I speak the magic words.

“Once upon a time…”

My son slows for a second and his eyes lock in on mine. A tiny window opens, precariously, hovering, expectant.

I have 50 stories in my repertoire that I can pull out at any time for any audience. I can tell stories for 12 hours and never repeat a story. I know folk tales, myths, legends, histories, jokes, riddles, dichos, tall tales, personal stories, magical stories.

And it this moment, it’s all gone. I can’t think of a story or a character or an archetype to save my life. Three little pigs? Gone. Hansel and Gretel? Juan Bobo? Lazy Jack?

All gone.

His eyes flicker, he’s looking at the slide and the swings and the tree and his friends and the sand box, and it’s way, way past bath and dinner time, and now his bed time is in jeopardy.

My grandmother hits me with another chancla, and I remember the lesson I just taught to 4th graders a few hours before, when my life was good and calm and I was competent and sane.

“Most stories have four elements: people (character), place (setting), a problem (conflict) and a solution (resolution).” I even wrote it on the board.

And I say to my son, before he can escape, “Once upon a time, there was a 4-year old boy, at the park, who didn’t want to leave. And then, something amazing happened.”

If someone were to give me a million dollars in that moment for the next sentence in that story, I would not have been able to answer them.

But my son says to me in Spanish, “Daddy, what happened?”

And I say, “Mi’jo, I’ll tell you what happened on the walk back home.”

He eyes me for a long, long three seconds.

And then, like magic, he grabs my hand, tugs me in the direction toward home, and in a sweet, angelic voice, like nothing at all has transpired on the playground, he says, “Daddy, what happened?”

In the few seconds it takes for all of this to transpire, all of my story memory floods back, and I take one strand from one story, one character from another, and the story gets us through a quick bath, dinner, and on to bedtime books, only an hour past his normal bedtime.

Antonio’s story recipe:

1.            Character: choose two of your favorite family members, living or passed. Have them talk with a voice you miss or one that you love, even if they didn’t sound that way.
2.            Setting: put them in your favorite place to be when you were the age that your child is now.
3.            Problem: have them want something your child wants: one more minute on the playground, another scoop of ice-cream, whatever it is you are dealing with, but adjusted for the time period. For example, they don’t want to play on their iPad, they want to play kick the can again.
4.            Have them not get that thing, but get something surprising or silly or wonderful instead.

Does it always work? Of course not. That’s what chanclas are for. But when it does work, it’s magical.

Antonio can be found in many places.  Here is a fabulous video series he did about storytelling.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Sara DeBeer : Storytelling Ancient Mind Melding

Sara DeBeer

Storytelling: Ancient Mind Melding

 In my work as a teller of traditional folktales, I engage listeners in the experience of co-creating stories. Children often mirror my expressions: when I scowl with greed or scorn, they scowl as well; when my face grows worried and concerned, their faces share the worry, the concern; when my face lights up with joy or triumph, I look out on a sea of smiles. 

While the bond which joins teller and listener is strong, equally powerful is the realization that every listener perceives the characters, the setting, and the story in his or her own way. Story-listening and story exploration provide important opportunities for students to exercise their ability to create their own internal images.

We see what we see!
Being a teaching artist is quite different from telling stories to hundreds of kids in an auditorium (or a cafetorium, or worse yet, a gym). In the classroom, I shift back and forth between being a performer, telling a story while students listen in rapt attention, and being a facilitator, encouraging students to share observations about the stories and the art of storytelling.  Students see that voice, gesture, and language can strengthen the presentation of a story and its impact.  

An artist can serve as a role model for students, whether the students are going to model their lives directly on that artist (becoming artists themselves) or whether they incorporate some aspects of that art form into their daily lives; contact with a resident storyteller strengthens all students' communication skills.  At the same time, by observing the students' interaction with the artist and the art, teachers often perceive their own students in a whole new way. 

Click here for a study about the importance of teaching artists!

During my visits to classrooms, I include time for students to process the story which they just heard. Younger students draw pictures of their favorite part of the story, and sequence the drawings, creating a book which retells the story. Older students work as a group to create monologues based on different characters in the story. They then take turns reading aloud the monologues. We choose to make parts of the monologues choral, so there is a role for the entire class during the oral reading activity.

Whether I am presenting an assembly program, or working as a teaching artist, I ask for information from teachers ahead of time so my presentations integrate with themes currently being studied in the classrooms. Although some see me as an “entertainer”, I see myself foremost as an educator. With a Masters in Education from the Bank Street School of New York, and years of experience as a classroom teacher, I am able to partner with teachers and design programs which tie in with on-going classroom studies of science, social studies, and language arts.  Teachers who work with me soon recognize that stories can be a tool for helping students learn any subject.

Click here to check out Artsblog for Arts & Ed info!

In these different ways, I aim to instill a love of the value of storylistening and storytelling, as well as an appreciation of the richness of the folktales and folk traditions of a broad range of world cultures. When children lose themselves in the world of stories, they find new understanding of what it means to be human.

You can find our more about Sara at

Happy Teaching!