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

 

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About Jolene Owen (Editor-at-large)

Jolene Owen is an interactive journalist working in the transmedia sector. View all posts by Jolene Owen (Editor-at-large)

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