Monthly Archives: June 2011

Judith Wynhausen– Storyteller

What made you want to become a storyteller?

My mother told me lots of stories when I was young, and I was always making up and acting out little plays when I was a child.  When I grew up, I studied music and theatre in college, and wanted to be a director and actress.  However, acting in plays takes a lot of rehearsal time, usually in the evenings, and that is difficult to do with a family.  When my third son was small, a friend asked me if I would tell stories at a festival for children she was helping organize.  I had always thought it would be fun to tell stories as Mother Goose, so I made a costume, made up some stories, and performed at the festival.  I had so much fun, I knew I wanted to be storyteller.

Was the journey difficult? 

I don’t think of journeys as being “difficult”–only interesting.  The main obstacle has been my tendency to get involved in too many things, so I don’t have time to really devote to any one thing.  In addition to storytelling, I have a wonderful family.  I have four children, ranging in age from 36 to 10; the last child was born when I was 50 years old!  I also love horses, and have three horses on our property.   I am still involved in music–I play with an African marimba ensemble that performs locally.  I also teach Sunday School, and am a substitute teacher with the Joplin schools.  All these other parts of my life also demand time and attention, so I am not able to fully devote my time to storytelling.

I have received help from many storytelling friends.  I subscribe to a listserv called “Storytell” (www.twu.edu/cope/slis/storytell.htm) that hundreds of storytellers worldwide subscribe to.  This is like having a huge storytelling family to support you; they answer my questions, give advice, share their own experiences, cry with me when I need comfort, laugh with me and cheer me on when I share my own success.  There is also a national storyteling organization, NSN, that sponsors national conferences and puts out an excellent newsletter.  Being a member of NSN has helped me in my journey to become a professional storyteller.

What were some of your favorite stories growing up? 

I loved the stories my mother made up, usually to elicit some change in my behavior–like one about the “The I Can and the I Can’t Sisters.”  The “I Can’t Sisters” would always approach any new challenge by saying “I can’t” so of course they never got to do anything.  The “I Can Sisters” would always say, “I can do that,” and they would try, and always find out that they could!  She had a fantastic story about a little boy being taken away to “bathland” by his bathtub because he didn’t like to take baths.  Other stories that were special were family stories that my mother, father, grandmothers, aunts and uncles would tell.  They would tell about when they were young, and all the things they used to do (my grandmother once was dared to ride a pig, and she did it!). These stories gave me a wonderful view into the lives of my relatives.  Of course I also loved the classic fairy tales and children’s stories that were in a big book with beautiful colored pictures.  One of my favorities was Cinderella.  Mother also read several of the Oz books to us when we were small, and I carried on this tradition for my own children.  I think all these stories were “special” because of the love with which they were shared.

Is there a difference between writing a story and telling a story?

A story that is written down is preserved in that form, and while a person reading the written story can add his/her own nuances to it, it still retains the exact words and structure that the author gave it.  A storyteller, on the other hand, is not just telling a story, he/she is interacting with the listeners in a dynamic way.  The same story told to different audiences will be different.  While some storytellers memorize a story word for word, and always tell it that way, many storytellers memorize the basic outline of the story (sometimes called “the bones of a story”) and then tell it in their own words, embellishing and changing certain parts in the moment of telling, so the story is dynamicand always changing.

If you could be one character in a story who would you be and why?

I am already one character in a story–that is “Old Mother Goose.”  I love being Mother Goose because she is a storyteller, and she “wanders” around.  She loves children, and enjoys meeting them and telling them stories.

If you could have coffee with one famous storyteller who would it be and why?

I would love to have tea (don’t drink coffee) with Garrison Kiellor.  I have enjoyed his storytelling on the radio for many years.  I love the way he can spin a tale from simple, everyday people and happenings.  I also enjoy listening to his rich voice, both speaking and singing.  He seems like a person who would enjoy listening to what I have to say, too, so the conversation would be shared, not just him talking and me listening.

What inspires you as a storyteller?

I am inspired by listening to other storytellers, both “professional” and people who are just sharing stories from their lives.  There are certain stories that really grab me; stories that make me think about the human situation and involve me emotionally.  I’m also inspired by my audiences.  When I stand in front of a sea of eager faces, smiling, and attending to my stories, I know that I’ve found the right profession for me.  I’m inspired by the hugs and waves I get as the children file out from a performance.  I’m inspired by the drawings and letters I receive from children following my visit with them.  I also get inspiration from meeting with other storytellers, either on the Storytell listserv or in person at conferences and festivals.

What advice would you give a storyteller faced with writer’s block?

Pick a character, flesh it out, and put that character in a situation where he/she has to interact with other characters and act in some way.  Then start telling the story, and let it unfold.  Let it surprise you!  One fun exercise is to take a painting or drawing that has people in it, and start telling the story that the artwork depicts.  Or, tell a story from your own experience–recall all the sensations you felt when it happened–what did you hear? what did you see? what did you feel? what did you smell? what did you taste?  Describe those sensations fully.  What other people were involved?  What were they like? What emotions were involved in the experience?  Did the experience have a crisis? How was it resolved?  Then begin to tell the story of that experience–create a beginning, a middle, and an end.

What stories are you working on presently?

I am in the process of translating my Mother Goose stories into Spanish and telling them bilingually.  My brother, Bill Carter, is a professional translator and interpreter, and he has helped me translate 38 English Mother Goose rhymes into Spanish.  Now we are working on the stories that I tell involving those rhymes. I am planning to create a DVD especially for students of Spanish, and also one for students learning English.

Where can kids and parents find out more about your work?

My web site is www.judithtells.com

Copyright 2005-2011, Jolene Owen. All rights reserved. This interview is free to copy, publish and circulate. You may reprint or publish it without permission in any format. Please credit: Jolene Owen as interviewer. The views expressed herein are those of the interviewees and do not necessarily reflect the interviewer or the official position of the publishing company, its various departments and/or the Institute of Interactive Journalism. If you’d like to be interviewed, or would like to send our team an interview, or just send us lots of gifts and candy, contact us at: inspiring.interviews@gmail.com.  Please do not try to contact interviewees through the institute. We never release confidential information or fwd messages. No exceptions.

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Judith Black– Writer

 What made you want to become a storyteller?

I tried a number of other professions, teacher, waitress, community organizer, actress and none of them felt, (as Goldie Locks would say whenever she got to the baby bears food, chair, or bed) just right.  I used to tell stories to students in my pre-school class and this was the time of day that lit us all up. Then I saw Jay O’Callahan tell tales, and thought, I’d like to that!  When I tried on the storytellers’ life, it offered the opportunity to do all the things I both love and am good at.  That is, it fit like a comfortable suit of cloths.

 Was the journey difficult?

Ah the suffering to become a true artist!  The truth is that I had a degree from Wheelock College in Early Childhood Development, had studied theater at RADA, and worked in a couple repertory companies, before taking the leap.  Thus, I had a strong background to jump from.  The hardest part was trusting the wisdom and truth of the stories themselves.  I thought that if I didn’t jump around, acting out all the characters and being 103% entertaining, no one would listen.  The first time I peeked out from the tale, people were deeply engaged, not in me, but in the journey.  Learning to provide and trust that connection has been the most difficult and gratifying part of this work.

What were some of your favorite stories growing up?

Two types of tales resonate in my memory.  The first are the ones my father would tell about his life as a soldier during WWII.  We (my siblings and I)  would howl with laughter as he acted out how he spat out liver he’d hoped was steak.  The second are the ancient fairy tales that I would listen to on records for hours and hours. I understood instinctively, as a child, that these stories were about me!

 

Is there a difference between writing a story and telling a story?

Big time!  A writer must convey emotions, small details, physicality with words.  A storyteller can do all this with the tone of her voice, how she uses her body, and what she is seeing through her eyes.

If you could be one character in a story who would you be and why?

The absolute joy of storytelling is that you are every character. This is what makes you weary of ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys.’  Once you step into someone’s shoes you realize that none of see ourselves as ‘bad guys.’  We are all people trying to do what we think is best.  Sometimes that thing hurts other people, but if we take the time to become that character, we can understand them and can possibly change their behavior.

If you could have coffee with one famous storyteller who would it be and why?

Jesus

I would love to know what his intentions were with his tales and how he feels we have used them.

 

What inspires you as a storyteller?

The power of story to help people learn about themselves and others.

 

What advice would you give a storyteller faced with writer’s block?

 

Get out of yourself and into the world.

 

What stories are you working on presently?

 

A new show about women and aging in America.  It’s a very serious comedy.

Have just completed a wonderful new piece called Esau MY Son, about raising the child you didn’t think would be yours!  “Darling, our people become doctors, lawyers, accountants!  We don’t join the Marine Corps!”

 

Finally, what advice would you give kids who wish to pursue a career in storytelling?

Tell stories where ever and when ever you can.  That’s how you both get better at it and create audiences who love it.

 

Where can kids and parents find out more about your work?

 

www.storiesalive.com

 

Copyright 2005-2011, Jolene Owen. All rights reserved. This interview is free to copy, publish and circulate. You may reprint or publish it without permission in any format. Please credit: Jolene Owen as interviewer. The views expressed herein are those of the interviewees and do not necessarily reflect the interviewer or the official position of the publishing company, its various departments and/or the Institute of Interactive Journalism. If you’d like to be interviewed, or would like to send our team an interview, or just send us lots of gifts and candy, contact us at: inspiring.interviews@gmail.com.  Please do not try to contact interviewees through the institute. We never release confidential information or fwd messages. No exceptions.


Ahn Kyubo– Writer

Ahn Kyubo is an award-winning fantasy horror writer. His first novel–Mortazarro–instantly achieved cult status. His sequel–The Dya Chronicles–is scheduled to be released this September. The new installment is a sequel to Chronicles of the Opera where opera hero Dya Singh is first introduced.

What inspired you to be a writer?

I’ve always been fond of writing. It’s always been a way to escape into a new world and experiment with the imagination. It’s also been a place for me to collect my thoughts and make sense of things going right or not going right in my life.  A form of meditation.

What is Mortazarro about?

Mortazarro is much more of a universe than a story. It s basically the Devil’s Opera where souls are hijacked from our world to play part in this intensely violent, psychedelic, Tim Burton ish opera. Actually I’m not the only one writing in the Mortazarro universe. There are several authors writing Mortazarro stories, but I’m specifically writing the stories that revolve around one particular Opera Hero–Dya Singh. He’s basically this bad-ass gangster from Surrey, Vancouver, who willingly enters the opera to save his brother Taran Singh. Dya is Taran’s younger brother and Taran–long before he was shanghaied into Mortazarro–helped Dya  get out of the streets and back on the right path if you will. But one day Dya’s bigger brother goes missing. After much investigation Dya soon discovers that Taran was a victim of a cursed opera, and, refusing to let his brother go through hell alone, follows him straight into Mortazarro and vows to bring him back dead or alive. Dya, in Mortazarro, quickly realizes the incredible power of music, and as he discovers the power of music and words in this living hell, he rediscovers the power of his religion, Sikhism. Why I chose this particular religion is because a friend intorduced me to it and I soon discovered the entire holy book of Sikhs is truly a collection of hymns and ragas that are powerful and meaningful and from my understanding almost seem crafted to elevate the soul above great darkness. My original Opera Hero was a game designer–Jordan–and he used his acute knowledge of games to beat the Devil’s Opera. In another series of books I used an actual music student studying opera who used her knowledge of classical opera to survive the Devil’s Opera. For the main character I was looking for a person with a strong almost instinctual background in music that had ties to our world. Well, my fried teaching me about the Sikhs was almost like an omen. When the Sikhs abolished the caste system in India many centuries ago they were persecuted by the upper castes who to protect their power did things to these people that are totally and completely genocidal in nature. Music and hymns, I’ve been told helped them rise above this darkness. So with that kind of backstory, I knew I had a solid character for my Mortazarro universe. I knew I had a hero that by his very instincts would want to stay in hell to help stranded souls escape. Anyway, if you research the musical and warrior side of the Sikh religion you will see it was a sensible choice.

What is the main theme of Mortazarro?

Remembering who you are and where you come from so that the opera doesn’t destroy your essence and make a mindless minion out of you. That’s it, that’s all. Of course I explore the power of music. But that is not the premise. The premise is holding on to your truth so that you can navigate through worlds as hellish and wild as Mortazarro.

What are you working on now?

I’m working with several writers to see where we are going to take the Dya Singh stories. I’m also working with an author who proposed an Opera Hero which I like very much and which they will be writing about. The universe of Mortazarro is expanding, and that is why I define it as a universe and not a story. I hope to have at least a dozen writers working on Mortazarro stories by the end of 2114. I’ve already got six so it’s very possible. anything is possible.

Where can we read more about your work?

People can pick up the Mortazarro books in bookstores, or they can just visit Amazon which always has the best deals. I think, anyway. If writers have an Opera Hero that would fit well in the Devils Opera and they would want to write about, they can contact me at ahn.kyubo(AT) gmail.com. I get like hundreds of email every day so please be patient.

http://www.amazon.com/Mortazarro-Chronicles-Opera-Ahn-Kyubo/dp/0981152821/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1308823667&sr=8-3

Game designer Jordan Williams is about to enter a world beyond anything he has ever imagined. After a brief argument one night with his girlfriend Micaela he storms out of their apartment and heads to a secret, underground opera. Performed by a mysterious band of gypsies, the opera unexpectedly opens a temporary interdimensional gateway and Jordan is unwittingly vacuumed into another world. Marooned in a seemingly boundless musical world known as Mortazarro he is asked by invisible entities to suffer and play his part as protagonist in the Devil’s Opera. Guided by the journals of heroes’ past, he slowly learns how to harness and wield the power of the opera as he desperately searches for a way home.

Interview conducted by Jolene Owen.

Copyright 2005-2011, Jolene Owen. All rights reserved. This interview is free to copy, publish and circulate. You may reprint or publish it without permission in any format. Please credit: Jolene Owen as interviewer. The views expressed herein are those of the interviewees and do not necessarily reflect the interviewer or the official position of the publishing company, its various departments and/or the Institute of Interactive Journalism. If you’d like to be interviewed, or would like to send our team an interview, or just send us lots of gifts and candy, contact us at: inspiring.interviews@gmail.com.  Please do not try to contact interviewees through the institute. We never release confidential information or fwd messages. No exceptions.


Joycia- Writer

Debut author, Joycia, a sixteenth-generation American, hails from a family tree steeped in Americana, especially the traditional South.  Born in Tennessee, she grew up on grits, fried okra, pork BBQ, and Dr. Pepper.  Today, she lives and writes near the Fountain River along the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains.  A retired computer programmer, her passion for life and learning has transferred to her adventure stories.  Writing is a passion now indulged in full-time.

 What made you want to become a writer?

I have always enjoyed reading, and anything having to do with writing.  I began writing poetry around age eight, and was editor of my junior high school newspaper.  In high school, my fascination began with calligraphy, where art meets words.  I love to learn and I love to read.  I also love to teach.  I wanted to share things, listen to music, and work anywhere.  When I decided to start a new career, writing stories seemed to blend everything nicely.

 Was the journey difficult?

I am still on the journey, and yes, many things were difficult.  Most difficult were the technical things I needed to learn how to do.  However, I did not worry about any of that “technical stuff” until I had already written several books.  After my third book, I knew I needed to go back to the first book and “make it right” so it could be submitted for publishing.

I could not write without the support of my family.  They helped cook meals, let the dog in, out, then back in again, and even answering the phone, aids a productive writing environment.

The biggest obstacle I have found along this journey would have to be me.  I get in my own way sometimes.  I found myself frustrated and impatient at my learning curve, and the mass of information I needed to absorb in order to begin competing in the literary arena.  In other words, I had no idea what I was doing, but I knew that.  I also knew I could fix it, but I wanted to fix/know everything now, and sometimes, time teaches best.  Impatience with me has been the biggest obstacle.  When I remember my dreams and goals, then I regain balance and patience.

 What were some of your favorite stories growing up?

 My earliest memories are of Bible Stories.  They fascinated me for the adventures and lessons they taught.  Author, Beverly Cleary, was a childhood favorite.  Her books made me laugh, and left me feeling more confident about myself.  I also enjoyed Pippi Longstocking stories immensely.  I remember her as an independent, capable, and spunky young girl.

 What inspires you as a writer?

People, places, and things.  I love to visit special places, meet people along the way, and discover items that resonate with me.  Each individual I meet is fascinating, has loved, dreamed, and hoped… but most take their hopes and dreams for granted.  Many times, their antidotes, appearance, or circumstances inspire me, almost anything can spark my vivid imagination.  I enjoy creating “mental movies” and exploring what happens when people follow their dreams and listen to their spirit.  I also am personally committed to writing stories the whole family enjoys, from grandparents to young children, although my target audience is adults.  I am fascinated how every character (person), at any age, can bring wisdom, insight, and humor to a situation.

 What inspired you to write ‘Within the Mirror’ ?

Initially, I wrote it for my family, specifically, my grown children.  I wanted them to know what I had learned so far in life, how to deal with situations, conflicts, and to know themselves, etc.,

I wanted to tell stories demonstrating how people are so similar, yet each so unique.  How relationships, conflicts, and struggles can be some of our best teachers.  How people learn–if they want to.  How answers to all the questions you seek are available, however, you must look into the mirror to start learning.  How to have peaceful serenity in a mad, chaotic world.  How there is real magic in this world–if only we know what to look for.  What is “real magic”?  That’s what I write about!  To name a few, “real magic” (for me) is the magic of understanding, the magic of learning, and the magic of forgiveness.  And the magic of humor envelops everything, for Life can be funny.

 What was the process like?

My main goal when I sat down to write my first book was to have fun–-and not let anything stop me.  When I write, I keep a general routine, but it’s a whacky routine.  I’m consumed with the process of getting the story onto paper.  I may write twelve, eighteen, or twenty hours, then collapse to sleep, only to repeat it again the next day.  I write almost non-stop for weeks or months.  Then I take a break for awhile.  When I am not writing a book, I scratch the writing itch by gracing family and friends with interesting long emails, and lately, have dabbled again in poetry.  My point is, when I’m not writing books, I’m still writing something every day.

When I write books, my daily routine consists of selecting music to play, and then I eat breakfast while I read the last chapter I wrote.  It’s not long before it occurs to me what’s supposed to happen next, and I start writing again.  Or, I may spend time editing/fixing the previous chapter, and then move on to write the next chapter.  I wear a watch, but don’t keep track of time.  Time seems to have no meaning when I start working.  It never ceases to amaze me after working on a chapter, that hours may have passed, not minutes.

The writing process goes great some days.  Other days are more challenging, and you cannot get any writing done–because Life happens.  On those days, I let it happen, and know I’ll get back to writing soon.  I’m intensely focused, to the point of distraction sometimes, when I’m “in the zone” and writing.  I never worry about the ability to “get back into it” since, for me, I never leave it until the story is finished.

Research and interviews occurred anytime I had a question about something specific.  I stopped the writing process to find an answer I needed to continue.  If I could research on the Internet, I did.  Sometimes a telephone call to a family member or friend sufficed.  Little details and facts can become overlooked, or buried in the story, so I try to make it right the first time (the “do it once” mentality).

 What lessons did you learn in writing Within the Mirror’?

I learned many technical and occupational terms, techniques, tools, etc., all very important, and cover the boring, but necessary, hard work needed to write novels.

I’m still learning lessons from WITHIN THE MIRROR!  The story is filled with lessons, some small, some big, and each time I read it, I still learn something! (which amazes me).

First lesson I learned was to make the decision to “just do it”–I sat down and started typing “my first book.”  I knew I wasn’t afraid of trying, or failing.  I realize now, but didn’t then, I learned to apply the concept of blind faith and believe in myself.  I already believed in what I had to say, and strongly desired to convey.  That passion gave me the initial courage to start.  Once I began writing, I did not want to stop, so I didn’t.  I have yet to become tired of my stories (no matter how many times I’ve reread it).  They still inspire me, make me laugh, make stomach knot up, and cause me to tear.  If they didn’t, I would not continue.

 What advice would you give a writer with writer’s block?

First, I would throw away the concept, or at least the term/label.  It’s upon hindsight, I realized I experienced “writer’s block,” but was too naive to realize it at the time.  For me, I would reach a point where a character was stuck, (note I said, character, not me, LOL!)…  what was so-and-so going to do now?  They were in a proverbial corner, and needed to get out.  How?  I didn’t know, so I didn’t know what to write.  Of course, this may be one instance where my natural impatience paid off, instead of hindering.  I pondered ten to fifteen seconds, and if nothing surfaced, instead of fretting, that’s when I decided it was time to take care of me.  In my way of thinking, it never occurred to me I was stuck, it was the story and/or character that was stuck.  But, since they were, I evidently needed to eat supper, take a bath, or go to the store, something.  So, I did.  After every bath, supper, or walk to the mailbox, I returned to the computer, reread where I had left off, and continued from there.

When I wrote the first book, I learned many things.  For example, I never let the small stuff stop me from writing.  If I needed a name for a new character, I stopped and decided on one.  If I couldn’t think or find one fast enough, I’d immediately ask someone nearby or pick up the phone.  I knew I could go back later and change anything with the ‘scan & replace’ tool.  Of course, I never have, so I still giggle at some of my labeling choices.

Besides naming people or places, a few actions were also selected this way.  For example, when writing my third book, I reached a point where I needed the characters to do something, it didn’t matter greatly what, but they needed to do it together.  Something fun, and I was stumped.  My teenaged daughter walked nearby, and I grabbed her.  I told her I needed three ideas.  She blurted, “skinny dipping, trapeze artist, and poison ivy,” before she continued on her merry way (by book three, she had been kinda trained in what I wanted–random ideas).  Her suggestions instantly sparked my imagination.  The main character and his friends go skinny dipping, and get poison ivy afterwards.  It worked perfectly.  I’m not afraid to ask for help!  (I haven’t worked that trapeze artist into any storyline yet though.)

 What are you working on presently?

A professional editor and I have been polishing my first book.  My focus currently is seeking a Literary Agent, and a Publisher.  Until my first book is published, I realize none of my other books matter.  Sad, but a true fact.  That’s the hard-work/boring part of writing.  The exciting thing I’m working on is completing my fourth book soon.  Like my readers, I want to know what happens next too!

 What advice would you give kids who wish to pursue a career in writing?

Pay attention in English class, everything you learn there will help you make good grades in all your other classes.  No matter the purpose of the paper, punctuation and grammar are VERY important!  It amazes me how much power the comma, or period, can give a thought.  As an American, I believe our English language the common denominator in our country.  Today, it unites us in ways nothing else can.  The ability to communicate clearly is very important for a successful life, whether that communication is in written form or not.  However, you will always be judged by your ability to communicate in written form–fortunately or unfortunately–but, it’s a fact of life.  You don’t have to be eloquent, flashy, or even intellectual, but you must be clear and accurate.

Some practical tips I would like to share are simple, but effective.  One; don’t watch the clock, writing is work, and requires concentration.  Be kind to yourself.  I personally cannot listen to music with words when I write, so don’t befuddle your brain, which is always trying to analyze everything it hears (whether we realize it or not).  Two; before turning that essay or writing assignment in for grading, print it out once more, but use a different font.  It is important to use a really silly or bizarre font, one you would never actually turn in for a grade.  However, the different font forces your eyes (and brain!) to read what you have written, as if for the first time.  You’ll be amazed at mistakes you’ve overlooked.  Make the corrections, put everything back into the appropriate font for submission, and have confidence you edited your work to the best of your ability.  Three; if you have the time, after you believe you have completely finished with the paper, let it “chill” overnight at least, and then read it again in the morning.  Again, your eyes and brain will catch more from having a fresh look.

Don’t be afraid to “do the homework,” even after graduation (this could be additional reading, research, investigation, and almost always means applied “elbow grease”).  Read, read, read, and write, write, write.  I started my first journal around the age of eight, and have never stopped.

Most of all, discover yourself, your passions, and have the courage to follow your dreams!

 Where can parents and kids find out more about your work?

Parents and children can discover more about WITHIN THE MIRROR stories, and me, by visiting my website www.joycia.com.  Everyone is welcomed to email me at Joycia@joycia.com with any questions or comments.  Nothing motivates, or inspires me more, than hearing from readers, other writers, or those interested.

Copyright 2005-2011, Jolene Owen. All rights reserved. This interview is free to copy, publish and circulate. You may reprint or publish it without permission in any format. Please credit: Jolene Owen as interviewer. The views expressed herein are those of the interviewees and do not necessarily reflect the interviewer or the official position of the publishing company, its various departments and/or the Institute of Interactive Journalism. If you’d like to be interviewed, or would like to send our team an interview, or just send us lots of gifts and candy, contact us at: inspiring.interviews@gmail.com.  Please do not try to contact interviewees through the institute. We never release confidential information or fwd messages. No exceptions.

 


Jo Wos– Storyteller

What made you want to become a storyteller?

I came to storytelling from a very different path. I am a cartoonist and storyteller. I draw stories as I tell them. It is very much like watching a picture book be created before you eyes. I have found that all successful cartoonist must also be skilled storytellers. Cartooning is a non-verbal form of storytelling. The difference between me and most cartoonist is a choose to tell my stories both in pictures and words, verbally and visually on stage. There is something wonderful about having an audience. I encourage them to participate in the show, everything from sound effects, to helping decide what a character will look like. I wanted to be a storytelling cartoonist because I really enjoyed that audience interaction. Cartoonist don’t often get to hear applause.

Was the journey difficult?

I had been telling stories on stage in schools, libraries and festivals for five years before I knew I was a storyteller. I just thought I was a cartoonist talking about the adventures of my characters. When I started getting more involved in the storytelling community and telling at storytelling festivals, that is when the real journey began. I had been a successful storyteller for almost a decade, but had a hard time getting acceptance from the storytelling community.

There were many who thought of cartoons as the enemy! They felt that cartoons took away the stories, and their audiences. And to some extent they were right. But then they began to see me as a sort of bridge back from television and visual mediums to traditional oral storytelling. My journey continues as I begin to venture into video and television. I just completed a pilot for a tv show which features cartooning lessons, storytelling, animation and much more. I never thought of new media as being a bad thing. Television is another tool to present storytelling in a new way. But there are many storytellers who resist that concept.

I also found many who shared the vision, storytellers like David Novak, Bobby Norfolk and Papa and Jackie Wright. All wonderful tellers who are animated and almost like watching human cartoons!

What were some of your favorite stories growing up?

My favorite stories growing up were the stories in the Peanuts comic strip. Its amazing how much of a story can be fit into four little panels on a page. The magic of comic strips is this: the story doesn’t just take place in those four little panels, it takes place in the white space in between where the story ends and your imagination takes over. Peanuts was my inspiration. The adventures of Snoopy as the Flying Ace were amazing. Linus and the Great Pumpkin, all the great characters Charles M. Schulz created. Those were my favorite stories and I would read them like another child would read a picture book or fairy tale.

I had the great honor of becoming the first resident cartoonist of the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, California. I return every year to perform there and it is so magical to feel such a strong connection to my hero and those stories.

 Is there a difference between writing a story and telling a story?

There is a big difference. Writing a story is a very personal experience. Just the author and some blank paper, or a blank computer screen. You create those characters and situations and then bring them to life. But when you tell a story, those characters and the story have a life of their own. Each person in the audience hears a story a different way. They all bring their own personality and experiences to each of those characters. So writing a story brings a story to life, but telling it gives it a life of its own.

What is the difference between a fable, a parable, and a fairy tale?

A fable didn’t happen but explains how something could have come to be, a parable didn’t happen but tells us how we should be, a fairy tale didn’t happen but it should have, as it would make the world a much more fun place to be.

 If you could be one character in a story who would you be and why?

I am a character in a story! I am the boy who drew cats. It is an ancient folktale about a boy who receives a magic brush and draw things that come to life. I may not have the magic brush but I do draw with a magic marker and my stories bring the drawings to life.

If you could have coffee with one famous storyteller who would it be and why?

I have met Mister Rogers who was one of my heroes, Charles M. Schulz was my other hero. But there is one great storyteller, one hero who I admire the most. Benjamin Franklin. He was not only a great storyteller, but he was America’s first cartoonist. It often seems he was America’s first everything. It has even been said he was the first true American! He would have such amazing stories to tell. His biography should be read by every teenager in America. His stories are very human, he made mistakes and learned from them. He is one of the few American Forefathers who seems human.

What inspires you as a storyteller?

Children inspire me. They have such great ideas. The are unencumbered with the limitations of what can’t be done. To a child anything is possible. So in cartoons and stories, chickens can talk, elephants can juggle and thing that never were, are, every day. I am inspired by a youthful imagination, which means everything around me inspires me.

 What advice would you give a storyteller faced with writer’s block?

Who says you have to write. Very few of my stories are written. I just work them out in my head, get on stage and perform them! The excitement of hearing a story for the first time as you speak it is amazing. You and the audience share in the adventure. It’s the best way to work out a story, by watching the reaction of your audience. I tell a story twenty times before I ever think of writing it down.

What stories are you working on presently?

I am working on a tv show right now that I am hoping will air soon. I will have lots of stories on there. Including a new one I am working on about a bumbling bee who wont fly straight so he always miss behives. My son who is four came up with the idea. We get a lot of story ideas at bedtime.

 

Finally, what advice would you give kids who wish to pursue a career in storytelling?

Get in front of a group of friends, kids or an audience and tell stories. It’s the best thing to do is to just get up and do it! So go for it!

Where can kids and parents find out more about your work?

You can find out more about my live performances at www.onceuponatoon.com

You can find out more about my tv and dvd productions at www.wosstudios.com

Top Drawer Tales Cd available at cdbaby.com , How To Toon, dvd at filmbaby.com

 

Copyright 2005-2011, Jolene Owen. All rights reserved. This interview is free to copy, publish and circulate. You may reprint or publish it without permission in any format. Please credit: Jolene Owen as interviewer. The views expressed herein are those of the interviewees and do not necessarily reflect the interviewer or the official position of the publishing company, its various departments and/or the Institute of Interactive Journalism. If you’d like to be interviewed, or would like to send our team an interview, or just send us lots of gifts and candy, contact us at: inspiring.interviews@gmail.com.  Please do not try to contact interviewees through the institute. We never release confidential information or fwd messages. No exceptions.


Jay Singh–Writer

Jay Singh inspired and delighted an entire generation with his classic tale The Butterfly (2001), a story about a caterpillar who leaves a superficial existence to pursue her dream of becoming a real butterfly. Two sequels, Solomon’s Song (2002) and Once Upon a Time in a Forest Far Away (2004), soon followed and were met with equal success and popularity among young readers who could relate to the trilogy’s gripping stories and strong environmental themes. Jay Singh is known for turning ordinary plots into stylistic memorable innovations that amuse children and parents the world over. Instead of just another cliché story about a hero saving the environment, each book explores the interconnectivity of the hero’s journey and how that journey must eventually open up to embrace and benefit the collective whole. The beauty and brilliance of the trilogy is that each book stands on its own and illustrates not only the importance of pursuing your dream but helping others realize their dreams as well. In The Butterfly Singh introduced the industrial caterpillars who, having isolated themselves from the rest of the forest in a Silk Palace, forget how to become real butterflies. We discover the brave little caterpillar who leaves the comfort and safety of the Silk Palace only to discover how destructive and abusive the caterpillars are in the forest. In Solomon’s Song we meet the dove who leaves the comfort and security of home to learn how to sing with the song birds. Doing so, he meets the brave little caterpillar who helps him realize his dreams. In the chilling opening scene of Once Upon a Time in a Forest Far Away birds begin to drop dead from the sky and all the heroes must force the technologically superior caterpillars to change their wasteful and abuse ways before the entire forest is lost. Wild, wonderful and unforgettable. When I’m asked to name the most significant and entertaining books about the environment—Jay Singh’s great trilogy always comes foremost to mind. Since The Butterfly’s initial release, Jay Singh has released several books including Myth and Mayhem and The Little Samba Boy. Presently he has begun a new series titled O.G. Lafunk Poor Little Church Mouse. The first book in the series is aptly called ‘Let the Story Begin’. An on-line  game bearing the same name is due to be released in the coming months. In it children and teens will be able to explore issues pertinent to them. The game will also feature a unique comic book making system. By playing the game and making unique choices, a camera takes a picture of the player’s character and then places it in a pdf comic format to be downloaded at the publisher’s website. These comic books children can share with their parents!

What made you want to become a storyteller?

Stories and storytellers and the magic they wield. I just love the endless possibility of stories and words and the effect they can have on another person’s life. I traveled quite a bit around Asia in my twenties. I spent a quite of time in Punjab, in my grandfather’s village. There you’ve still got your traditional storytellers who tell stories for hours on end without break or pause. Their memories are incredible. You could not believe how they can just go on for hours telling a story that’s more descriptive than a Proust novel. Thinking about it, it kind of reminds me of Alex Haley’s novel Roots when he describes how he visited his ancestral village where the storyteller could recount his family’s history for days without missing a beat. I didn’t believe it when I first read it. But when I experienced it, I knew that was what I wanted to do. Tell stories. Still can’t though. I can write them, but tell them like storyteller of old, well that I still can’t do.

Was the journey difficult?

Journey isn’t over, and it remains more difficult than ever. I think the big lesson for me was that there is no end to this journey. This is what I love doing. I’m at the center of my wheel. Success, failure, rain or shine, I’m exactly where I want to be, doing exactly what I love. Though what I think has happened in writing The Butterfly trilogy is that I recognize and realize that the journey doesn’t just end with a book or books, but it broadens and blossoms to encompass bigger and more meaningful pursuits. Where once it was about ego, it slowly became about others and community, and when that happens you realize the real journey has just begun.

What are you working on now?

O.G. Lafunk Poor Little Church Mouse. It’s this story about this mouse that lives in an old abandoned Church in Alphabet City, New York.  She was given special powers by an angel a long time ago to help the poor and oppressed. These powers afford her the strength to help New Yorkers in need so she’s constantly taking on drug dealers, bullies, and abusive landlords. A character dealing with harsh realities that children and teens go through every day.

Who or what inspired O.G.?

You know many things. Many people think Mighty Mouse or Mickey Mouse. But not at all. If you see the character, she’s a lot more real and relatable. If anything inspired O.G. I’d say the older cartoons. Cartoons from the seventies and eighties. Stories that dealt with meaningful topics relevant to teachers, parents and kids. Truth is I’m a big fan of Bill Cosby. I have a profound respect for his Fat Albert series. Fat Albert was a serious cartoon dealing with real life issues that I felt not only touched a lot of kids but helped them out as well. I guess I wanted to write something cute and entertaining but meaningful as well. Something that parents and teachers could talk about with their children.  A story that inspires and stimulates meaningful discussion.  I don’t know. Maybe I’m a little concerned about the lack of substance in cartoons these days. Or maybe I’m just getting old. Who knows? Either way I’ve embarked on little Ms. Olivia Garcia Lafunk’s story and we’ll see where it takes me and the O.G production team. Right now I’m working on a feature film script and discussing the possibility of realizing the script in Dubai. They’ve got a booming animation industry and incredible talent. We’re also talking to a major game studio in Montreal, Canada about creating an O.G game. That could be cool too.

If you could be one character in a story who would you be and why?

Well, I certainly know who I wouldn’t want to be. I wouldn’t want to be that guy who wakes up as a cockroach. One character…I think I would have to go with is Luke Skywalker. I always told my parents that when I grew up I wanted to be a Jedi. I never actually realized until I was in my teens that Jedi wasn’t a valid profession. That’s pretty much when I made the shift to writer.

What do you like in a good story?

A masterful ending.

Finally, what advice would you give aspiring authors?

Do your best and let the forest take care of the rest.

Where can we find out more about your work?

Pavaar@gmail.com Or Tap into these links:

http://www.amazon.com/Butterfly-Fable-Jay-Singh/dp/1553694066/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1307070663&sr=8-1

http://www.amazon.com/OG-Lafunk-Little-Church-Teachers/dp/0981152899/ref=sr_1_13?ie=UTF8&qid=1307070663&sr=8-13

http://www.amazon.com/Once-Upon-Time-Forest-Away/dp/0978061799/ref=sr_1_12?ie=UTF8&qid=1307070663&sr=8-12

http://www.amazon.com/Myth-Mayhem-Rojja-Jay-Singh/dp/0981152848/ref=sr_1_15?ie=UTF8&qid=1307070663&sr=8-15

http://www.amazon.com/Epic-Stick-Guy-Chapter-One-Gilgamesh/dp/1412001986/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1307070663&sr=8-6

Copyright 2005-2011, Jolene Owen. All rights reserved. This interview is free to copy, publish and circulate. You may reprint or publish it without permission in any format. Please credit: Jolene Owen as interviewer. The views expressed herein are those of the interviewees and do not necessarily reflect the interviewer or the official position of the publishing company, its various departments and/or the Institute of Interactive Journalism. If you’d like to be interviewed, or would like to send our team an interview, or just send us lots of gifts and candy, contact us at: inspiring.interviews@gmail.com.  Please do not try to contact interviewees through the institute. We never release confidential information or fwd messages. No exceptions.


Jim Woodard– Storyteller

What made you want to become a storyteller?

 

When I observed how strongly kids responded to storytelling, I decided to become a professional storyteller.  It gets better all the time.

 

Was the journey difficult?

 

In the majority of cases, my storytelling programs have been a solid success.  Occasionally, the host does not promote it sufficiently and the audience is small, but even those are usually successes.  My favorite venue over the past 10 years is the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum where I’m the resident storyteller.

 

Is there a difference between writing a story and telling a story?

 

I don’t read stories — I tell them.  This way, you can better use voice expression and body language in effectively enhancing the telling experience.

 

What is the difference between a fable, a parable, and a fairy tale?

 

There are many types of stories.  Some are keyed to teaching a lesson (parables) — some are for communicating a subtle message (animal-talking fables) — some are fantasies primarily designed to entertain (fairy tales).  But all forms can teach lessons, particularly to kids.

 

If you could be one character in a story who would you be and why?

 

I’d be a storyteller.

 

If you could have coffee with one famous storyteller who would it be and why?

 

Abe Lincoln.  He always had a good story to fit any situation.

 

What inspires you as a storyteller?

 

The greatest inspiration is seeing how kids respond to storytelling, and observing their creativity and imagination when thinking up and telling stories of their own.

 

What advice would you give a storyteller faced with writer’s block?

 

Start by telling stories about yourself and family, particularly when addressing kids.  Also, read and learn success-proven stories for telling.  Many books are available with these types of stories.

 

What stories are you working on presently?

 

I have several programs coming up with historic and patriotic stories.  This is my specialty and the reason I was presented with the George Washington Award for Excellence in Public Communications by the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge (excuse the plug).  But I also like to tell the old folk tales, fables — and I sometimes include a bit of history about the age-old art of oral storytelling.

 

Finally, what advice would you give kids who wish to pursue a career in storytelling?

 

The best way to get into storytelling is just start telling — to  family, friends, groups.  I’ve seen some very good storytellers develop in my “Storytelling Club” at our local Boys and Girls Club.  We meet every week, and the kids have an opportunity to make up and tell stories.  Most kids, and adults, are surprised at their ability to tell stories once they try it.  I’ve also discovered this in my storytelling courses at our community college.

 

Where can kids and parents find out more about your work?

 

I have a storytelling Web site:  www.jimwoodard.net

 

Copyright 2005-2011, Jolene Owen. All rights reserved. This interview is free to copy, publish and circulate. You may reprint or publish it without permission in any format. Please credit: Jolene Owen as interviewer. The views expressed herein are those of the interviewees and do not necessarily reflect the interviewer or the official position of the publishing company, its various departments and/or the Institute of Interactive Journalism. If you’d like to be interviewed, or would like to send our team an interview, or just send us lots of gifts and candy, contact us at: inspiring.interviews@gmail.com.  Please do not try to contact interviewees through the institute. We never release confidential information or fwd messages. No exceptions.