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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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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.