Friday, September 25, 2015

Storytelling And Education...Sherry Norfolk is on Deck

The 2015-2016 season has begun!  The schools are open and lots of little tykes and big tykes are back in the classrooms where knowledge will rain down upon them, and if they are lucky, not all of it will slide off and be washed away by the janitors at the end of the day.

I had a rousing week last week in Kentucky and Tennessee working with the Haunting in the Hills Ghost Story Festival.  We filmed a ghost story special for KET, and worked in schools the week before the haunting on Saturday Night!  Mary Hamilton was our sponsor, guide, guru and all around amazing hostess  for the event.  She was brilliant.  if she does this role again next year, then whoever she asks should jump at it.  It was a great amount of fun!

P.S., the next time you are invited to the Wright/Hamilton household for dinner, request that Charles make Meatloaf.  You won't be sorry.

I am not what you'd call a rustic type of girl.......

All week, the park rangers escorted us through the area and introduced us at the schools.  The kids were fun, and loved storytelling.

We stayed in cabins on Pickett State Park.  Beautiful.

One night, right before I went to sleep, I saw a cave cricket in my room, and no husband in sight to capture the little guy and escort him to safety.  I just put my house shoes up on the dresser, as well as my tennis shoes, my skeletoes, and every other bag, purse or container I owned.  I gave him the floor.

I did a short hike with Megan Hicks, and wondered the entire time why people do it for fun.  I did see the Twin Arches.  Megan thought I was going to pass out half the time we were hiking.  The scenery was pretty, though.

Had great sets with Dan Kedding, Megan Hicks, and Carrie Sue Ayvar.  (I was sitting here for a few minutes racking my brain to remember who the fourth teller might have been, since there were four tellers on the bill, only to realize that I was the fourth teller.  Sometimes....)

One Night, I could hear something banging against the ceiling and the curtains, but couldn't locate what it might be.  Every time I turned on the light, the thing would vanish.  Finally, turned on the light to see a giant moth ghost past the lamp.  Freaked me out.  I opened the door and turned on the hall light for twenty minutes, but my noisy guest would not leave.  Finally, I just turned out the light and slept as much as I could while hearing something bump against the ceiling, curtains and glass every twenty minutes or so.

Saturday night during the ghost stories, twenty minutes into a thirty minute story, a snake made an appearance.  The snake was uninvited, freaked out the people closest to the stage, and proceeded to climb the hay bales that were in front of the stage as decoration.  I tried to ignore it, but the thing was agitated, ended up climbing all the way up on stage with me, and hiding behind the speakers.  I was going to let it be, but the head ranger came up on the stage informed me quietly it was a copperhead, therefore poisonous, and as a barefoot storyteller, I really needed to get off the stage.

Upstaged by nature.  

The rangers were terrific, and saved the day while being both polite and forceful.  I have decided that if I am ever in trouble, I totally want the Park Rangers to be the people I call.  Do I live near a national park?  No.  Do I still want Park Rangers to respond to my emergency?  Yes.

From now on, perhaps I will do my camping at the Hilton as the good lord intended.

This weekend I will be playing the Heart of NC Storytelling Festival in Greensboro.  I know it will be a fun if wet event, since it will be raining for the next couple of days.  If you are in the area, come out and play.  It will be dry and fun.

Next week I have another guest blogger.  She's one of my favorites.

Sherry Norfolk

I spend a lot of time buried in reading and research about using storytelling in education...not as much as Sherry Norfolk.

Sherry is one of the wells I go to draw from when I have a question.  If I need some advice about storytelling in classrooms or in education in general, she is a great source.

The kind of odd thing about Sherry is I have no idea when I met her.  Somehow, I feel like I've always just known her, but that can't be right.  She sort of slid right into my life, I looked up and she was just always there.  Perhaps it is because I knew her as an educator and writer, long before I ever saw her tell stories.

Her work in education and storytelling has been a gift to me as a teaching artist.  I am always honored when she agrees to do a little writing for me on the side, and her insights make me feel smarter.

She knows how to get underneath storytelling and education better than almost anyone else I've ever met, and she can tell a wonderful story as well.

Next week she is going to be featured in this space talking about Universal Design for Learning.  Yeah, I hadn't heard much about this before I read her piece.  Very cool stuff.

If you don't know Sherry's work, here is a brief bio:

Sherry Norfolk is an award-winning, internationally-acclaimed storyteller, teaching artist, and author, performing and leading residencies and professional development workshops across the United States and SE Asia. She was a presenter at the 2014 Kennedy Center-VSA Intersections Conference, “Leveling the Playing Field: Storytelling in the Special Needs Classroom,” and for the 2015 Kennedy Center-VSA webinar, “Teach Them to Fly: How Storytelling Gives Primary-age Children with Special Needs Their Wings.”

Stop in next week!

Happy Teaching.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Stories We Tell Are The Stories We Need by Sherry Lovett

Why do we tell what we tell? While there are probably as many answers to that question as there are storytellers, I believe there is a common thread to the answer: we tell what we need to tell. On a conscious or unconscious level stories mirror our lives, help us move through them, heal, and grow. 

I have several examples of this reality from my own story selections.

Some time ago I was drawn to tell Dame Ragnell, also known as Sir Gawain and the Loathly Lady, a King Arthur tale. I had heard Donna Washington’s phenomenal version and Gwenda Ledbetter’s classic rendition, and I felt this pull, this undeniable, unquenchable desire to learn this story. I was in love with it!

At the time, I didn’t think about “why” I wanted to tell it so badly, I just knew I loved it. I began to research the story, and after reading many, many versions, I crafted my own. What was this mirroring in my life?

My mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, a long, slow, heartbreaking journey.

 I moved her in with my family, so I could care for her. This was as difficult a time in my life as I have ever had, and at every turn I felt imprisoned - by a disease, by helplessness, by caregiving - I was feeling a desperate need for ‘my own way’; for control over the circumstances of my life. So… I told that story over and over, and through it I found my voice during this hard, time.

I tell a story called Courageous Clare. It is based on an old folktale.  Initially I was drawn to it because it has a tree as one of the characters. I love trees. I started talking the story through, and it morphed into my own creation, which I told at every opportunity.

During the time when I was crafting this story, I was starting to face adult audiences more often.  I feel at ease in schools and library youth programs because that is my background, but I find that my nerves rise to a high tempo when I am performing for adults. I was in need of courage as I branched out and left my comfort zone. Courageous Clare was giving me that courage, urging me to do what I am called to do.

A long time ago I learned Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ story, Sealskin, Soulskin. It is an exquisite tale about the selkie fairy folk who can remove their sealskins, and walk as humans.  If their sealskin is taken, they must remain a human.  They lose an essential part of who they are.


In the story a woman selkie has her sealskin stolen, and grows sick when it is not returned after seven years. Only when it is returned to her, and she has gone back to the sea, does she get well. Recently I decided I wanted to create my own version of this story, so, again, I researched, finding lots of versions to read and information to study. I began to imagine the story I wanted to tell, and to talk it into my being.  

All the while the story, which I call “Isla’s Love” was telling me, “You must follow your heart, and you must be your authentic self.  That’s the only way to succeed.” This at a time of transition for me, of coming to the end of homeschooling my daughter, and moving toward… something that is a continuation of what is authentic for me: my own storytelling business.

I am currently working on two stories: one, a personal piece called Kisses Remembered, inspired by a workshop with Regi Carpenter, and a folktale called, The Leaves That Hung But Never Grew, from a collection by Daniel Morden called Dark Tales from the Woods.

With my new eye for why I am telling a story, I can see that both of these stories are about my mom and her continued journey through Alzheimer's. “Kisses Remembered is a tribute to my mom as well as a journey through my life in the form of memorable kisses.  “The Leaves That Hung But Never Grew” is about the magic of having someone help you remember who you are, which is my job now with my mom. These stories comfort and inspire me. They give me hope.

I don’t think I will ever look at stories the same way again. There is no way for me to not know that every story I tell connects with my life in some way, so I embrace this knowledge and use it to inform my work.

When I am drawn to a new story, when I fall in love with a character, and when I find myself telling a piece over and over, I surrender to the pull, open my eyes and see why I tell what I tell. 

So… why do you tell what you tell?

For mor information about Sherry, just click the link!

Sherry Lovett!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Alive...Mostly also, Sherry Lovett Is On Deck!

Well, it is done.  Both of my children are flown from the nest.  My daughter is safely ensconced at boarding school.

My son is in college.

I'm at home with this guy I married almost twenty years ago.

The week before my children left, I posted a number of stories about them on Facebook.  Once I wrote them out and posted them I could laugh, cry, and enjoy snatches of memory, and share them with others who know them in person, or watched them grow up online.

Here is one of the tales.

Surrounded by Angels

Darith 3 Devin 5
Devin was learning about beginning and ending sounds to work on his spelling. He was saying things like, 'bird begins with 'b' and he'd make the 'b' sound, and ends with 'd' and he'd make the 'd' sound. Darith found this annoying, because she wasn't learning this in her class. So, she jumped in with her own word.
Dar - 'My name is Darif. It begins with 'D' and ends with 'F' and she made the sounds, but didn't say the letters.
I considered letting it go, but decided not to. "Actually, honey," I told her, "your name is Dari-'th'." I made the 'th' sound very hard. I figured that if she couldn't make the sound of 'th' then we might as well begin to work on that now, helping her hear it. 
She sat in the back seat for a few shocked seconds. Then...
Dar - My name is Dari-'th'? (She made the sound perfectly)
me - (surprised) Yes.
Dar - Dari-'th'?
me - Yes.
In the days to come it was obvious she was annoyed that we hadn't corrected this error earlier. She would come to me every now and then with a word that ended in either 'th' or 'f' and demand I make sure she was saying it properly. I should have realized she was an unusual person at that point. Parents are slow learners.

As I've said more than a few times this summer, the transition I've been dealing with has been challenging.  Not for my kids, no, they are ready to go, but for me.
If you do your job right, they leave.  That doesn't make it any easier.

It is, therefore, only fitting that my next guest blogger is none other than the lyrical Sherry Lovett.  

Sherry Lovett

If ever there was a teller who told from her heart, and moved through the world with story, it surely must be Sherry Lovett. 

 She is an active member of the North Carolina Storyteller's Guild, organizes the Toe River Storytelling festival, and is helping organize the Heart of North Carolina Storytelling Festival.

Sherry also writes a blog called Life...You Gotta Lovett about raising a precocious homeschooled child, being married to the caretaker at the beautiful Wildacres Retreat in Little Switzerland, NC where the North Carolina Storytelling Guild holds its annual retreat, caring for an elderly parent, and telling stories in her free time!

By the way, if you are interested in more information about the retreats with NCSG, then just click the link!

Here is her official Bio for those of you who have not been lucky enough to encounter her.

Sherry has been a storyteller for twelve years starting when she was a middle school teacher. She quickly discovered the power of stories within a classroom to create enthusiasm for learning. She began to explore the craft in earnest after the birth of her daughter, when she became a stay-at-home mom and a professional storyteller. The thing that draws Sherry to storytelling is the magical ability of stories to shine the light on our interrelatedness – the connection of people with people and people with nature – and by this awareness to create more harmony in the world. Sherry Lovett tells a variety of stories including folktales, Native American tales, scary stories, and fairy tales, using precise language, eloquent movement, and dramatic voices to bring the stories to life.

Sherry's piece entitled: The Stories We Tell Are The Stories We Need is a look at how our pursuit of certain stories mirrors what is happening in our own lives.

I certainly lived that out over the last few months!

Stop by next week and enjoy an interesting perspective on how we end up building the stories that resonant in our souls.

(I don't know where this storytelling took place, but the 'audience' seems to be a roving type situation.  Ignore the noise and let the story take you where it will!)

Happy Telling!