Tag Archives: inspiring interview

Graeme Davis– Game Designer

What inspired you to become a game designer?

I had wanted to be a writer since the age of about six. I grew up as a voracious reader, and started writing stories almost as soon as I could form the letters. I got into D&D and other tabletop roleplaying games as a student in the late 70s and early 80s, and loved the creative side of the hobby – designing dungeons and writing adventures. I even made a couple of false starts on a fantasy novel. White Dwarf was in the process of going from bimonthly to monthly, and put out an appeal for new writers. I started sending articles, and to my amazement, they printed some of them. After four years as a regular contributor to White Dwarf and other British games magazines, I was approached to join Games Workshop and help develop Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay.

How does one break into the industry as a game designer?

At the time, I was able to break in because I knew the games, I had some good ideas and wrote them up reasonably well, and I persisted. It took two years of sending two articles a month before my first piece was published. These days, anyone can get into RPG publishing, either with a blog or with a whole product line published electronically. The internet has lowered the barrier to entry considerably, reducing production costs to almost nothing and making global distribution ridiculously easy. Of course, there’s the matter of letting people know you’re there. The market now has more publishers than at an previous time (according to my unscientific estimate), and the overall hobby continues to shrink as players move to electronic games – and while the internet is great for distribution, marketing is a real challenge. If people don’t know to search for your product, they are not going to find it online.
Video games are a different matter. I had been writing for tabletop games for almost ten years before landing my first videgame contract, and that was a referral. Almost every job and contract I’ve had in that industry has been through a recommendation by someone I have worked with in the past. Breaking into the videogame industry today must be fantastically tough. There are just so many kids who are desperate to work in games, and have worked so hard to get the requisite skills, that the industry is oversupplied at the moment. Employers can afford to be very choosy about whom they hire, and they can pay almost nothing for entry-level positions. If I had to give anyone advice, it would consist of three words: skills, portfolio, contacts.

What was the most memorable game you’ve worked on?

It would have to be Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, because it was my first professional gig and it started me on the path of IP creation and development which is my favorite part of the job. When I got to Games Workshop, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay consisted of three piles of notes (some hand-written) by the company’s three main wargame designers. The Warhammer IP itself consisted of bits of text scattered across rulebooks, magazines, miniatures ads, and elsewhere. I had to pull all that together, and I take some pride in the fact that my work organizing the setting and filling in the blanks has underpinned everything Warhammer ever since, from tabletop to video games to novels and comics.

What was the most difficult game you’ve worked on?

Microsoft’s “Beyond the Limit: Ultimate Climb.” It would be unprofessional to go into details, but I will say there were some serious (indeed, near-fatal) confidence and personality inssues between the development team at Magnet Interactive Studios, where I worked, and the supervisory team at Microsoft. The relationship turned adversarial, which is almost certain death to the development process.

What keeps you inspired?

Lots of things. I read constantly and watch a lot of TV, paying attention to characters and dialogue and the building of plots and story arcs. I also read a lot of nonfiction, especially books about the ill-lit corners of history. Anyone who doesn’t believe truth is stranger than fiction needs to read more history. Sometimes an idea will be sparked by reading or hearing something and twisting it around into a different setting or context. I also make it my business to become thoroughly familiar the IP behind any game I’m working on, and that process sparks questions or suggests stories almost constantly.

What are some creative ways you’ve learned to generate ideas?

I don’t really have any creativity tricks, although I have been known to pound my head repeatedly against my keyboard. All my ideas come from asking “what if?” (Harry Potter’s great-grandfather had served in World War II, magic is fueled by belief, the Cold War had turned hot in the 80s) and by stealing bits of well-known stories, mixing them up, and putting them back together the wrong way.

What keeps players playing?

They must have a powerful desire – even a need – to know what happens next. With any kind of narrative, that’s what drives anything. With fiction, you just have to keep reading, but with games you have take the role of protagonist and overcome the obstacles for yourself. That balance of challenge and reward is crucial to good game design.

Where do you see the game industry in twenty years?

I think we’ll see a lot more augmented reality games. The form has got off to a shaky start, and it’s still defining itself, but I once people figure out what to do with it, there will be no stopping it. MMO games will either have fizzled out completely or will have figured out how to handle story a lot better than they do today. There will also be a lot more crossover – twenty years from now I expect to see interactive TV miniseries delivered to mobile devices and offering each viewer/player a unique experience.

What’s your favorite game?

For tabletop games, Cthulhu by Gaslight. I grew up on a diet of Hammer Horror films, and the combination of Victorian horror and the Cthulhu Mythos is hard to resist.
For video games, Medieval: Total War, the original. I played a lot of medieval strategy boardgames in the 80s, and a turn took forever to complete. I remember thinking at the time, “if only we could have a computer to take care of all this.” Now, we do.

What is a saying or proverb you live by?

“The Emperor is completely naked!” Anderson’s tale of The Emperor’s New Clothes is a fable for the ages, and the amount of technological hype and snake oil out there makes it more relevant than it’s ever been.

Any advice for aspiring game designers?

Play games. Everything you can get your hands on. Play them to destruction, and keep on until you can pick up a game you’ve never seen before and see the wheels going around beneath the skin. Think about what would make them better – not just new units or whatever, but new mechanisms, tweaked gameplay, and so on. Think about why you like or dislike certain aspects of a game, and how you would make it even better. Make games – start with dice, cardboard, and markers, simple mechanics – and keep the best as portfolio pieces. Beta test video games, make contacts in the industry, and blow them away with your ideas and observations. Skills, portfolio, contacts.

Where can readers find out more about your games?

My LinkedIn profile (http://www.linkedin.com/in/graemedavis) has links to a portfolio of cover shots and a list of videogame credits. I also have a blog at http://graemedavis.wordpress.com/ which I update occasionally, but probably not as regularly as I should.

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.


Patti Christensen–Storyteller

Patti is a professional storyteller with a rich, diverse background.  She
works in many different venues including bookstores, hospitals, museums,
Juvenile Hall, religious groups, festivals, scouting groups, senior centers,
as well as other school and social service settings. She believes in the
power of storytelling for all ages, preschoolers through Seniors, both in
listening and telling stories.  Patti is an artist in residence with the
SUAVE Program, a cultural and professional development program using the
arts to work with classroom teachers and students through Center ARTES, at
California State University at San Marcos, and was the Families for Literacy
coordinator for the Escondido Public Library Literacy Program.

Her BA in History taught her the magic of “making history come alive”. She
has Masters of Theology and Masters of Social Work degrees, which make her
uniquely qualified for work in different settings using story to speak to
important value issues.  Patti is also a founding member of The Patchwork
Players Story Theatre. Recent performances have included the J. Paul Getty,
San Diego Museum of Art and LEGOLAND California

 

What made you want to become a storyteller?

I always loved stories.  I grew up with a dad who was a storyteller as well
as read books to all four of us kids every night until I was in 8th grade.
We covered a lot of ground during all those years of stories.

The first time I saw professional storytellers I thought, “Wow, that looks
like fun.”  Then, I was asked to be part of a Girl Scouting event where
women in the community researched and then dressed up like a historical
woman and told her story.  I chose Louisa May Alcott, the author of Little
Women.  I had such a fun time telling her story.  Then the director of the
county historical society asked if I would be the speaker at a Women’s
History month event, and she would pay me $50.  I said, “Yes!” and was
hooked.  I knew I would become a real storyteller.
Was the journey difficult?

Any journey has its difficult and its fun times.  The hard parts early on
were learning new stories.  At first I thought I had to memorize them word
for word.  This is very hard and takes a long time.  Then I learned that
storytellers actually just learn what the events are, in what order did
things happen, and then tell it their own way.  This was so much easier.

I had a lot of help, including many great storytelling teachers and friends.
Most storytellers go to a lot of classes, trainings, and workshops as well
as read a LOT of books an listen to others tell stories.

A storyteller named Papa Joe says, “If you want to be a storyteller, tell
stories.  If you want to be a great storyteller, tell a lot of stories.”  I
really got a lot better when I was in charge of a preschool storytelling
program at a local bookstore every week for a couple of years.  I had to
learn a lot of stories because many of the families came back over and over.
That gave me a lot of confidence, and taught me how to learn stories fast.
What were some of your favorite stories growing up? What made those stories
so special?

I loved many stories.  One that my dad told over and over (and still tells
to this day) is Br’er  (Brother) Rabbit and the Tar Baby.  That story is so
funny, and it teaches an important lesson about never giving up, even when
you are in a really difficult position.  You may still be able to use your
brain and get yourself out of it.

I also really grew up on a lot of classic European stories like: the
Gingerbread Man, little Red Ridding Hood and the Three Little Pigs.  Last
summer, I was able to make digital recordings of me and some of my nieces
and nephews telling those stories together, from our hearts.  It is so
satisfying knowing that another generation of kids in my family is getting a
chance to know those stories that I grew up with.

I was recommend that families try telling some of those old stories that
they have read so many times…to put down the book and say them from memory.
This is so much fun and kids of all ages can be involved if the adults help
them remember what comes next.

I also loved hearing Christmas stories as a child.  Now, at Christmas time I
get to dress up as Mrs. Santa and tell stories to children.  This is such a
joy for me.   Mrs. Santa is an unsung hero.
Is there a difference between writing a story and telling a story?

Yes, many of the stories that I tell I also write down or made up in the
first place. The way that we write and we talk sounds really different.
Sometimes stories that are written down are not very “tellable”, they might
have so many details and descriptions that aren’t that interesting to hear
out loud.  And sometimes when you try to write down something that is really
clear when you say it, it sounds not very good in writing.

I enjoy doing both and know that most storytellers also work on their
writing skills, too.
What is the difference between a fable, a parable, and a fairy tale?

There are ever so many different types of stories.  You mentioned just
three.  A fable is a short story, often with the characters being animals.
The story has a moral or a lesson at the end.  A man named Aesop in Ancient
Greece developed the most famous fables.

A parable is also a usually short story that teaches a lesson.  Many times
these stories might be religious or spiritual in nature. There are many
parables that are in the bible that were told by Jesus.

Fairy tales are stories that often have some type of magical component to
them.  They often include settings such as a kingdom long ago and far away.
The characters are also often royal (such as kings, queens, princesses,
princes and knights) as well as magical (such as witches, fairies or
wizards).

There are also many other types of stories such as biography, ghost stories,
folktales, literary stories.
If you could be one character in a story who would you be and why?

There are so many characters that I would love to be.  I ALWAYS love getting
a chance to play princesses in stories.  Left over from liking dress up as a
kid.  I would like to spend some time actually being one of those
princesses, at least for a while.  Servants and getting my way sound like
fun.
What inspires you as a storyteller?

I am always inspired by the powerful stories that people share with me,
especially true life tales.

One of my most satisfying jobs as a storyteller is working on staff as a
storyteller at a children’s hospital.  Every Friday I go with my
storytelling partner and tell stories to the children there.  Many of those
children have very difficult health and life circumstances that they have to
cope with.  I feel very honored when I can go and hear their stories as well
as share some of my own. Storytelling is very healing, as important as
medicine and surgery.  I love being part of that healing process.
What advice would you give a storyteller faced with writer’s block?

My storytelling teacher Doug Lippman offers this advice, that you sometimes
need a safe person to listen a story out of you.  If you are really stuck
and don’t know where to go with a story, sit with a good listener and just
start taking.  There is magic in having a delighted listener just allow you
to explore.  This works very, very well.
What stories are you working on presently?

I am also working on learning new true stories about the state that I live
in, California.  I am also working on special stories about my dad and my
husband’s dad.

Because it is just about Halloween, I am also working on learning some new
scar and not too scary stories for that spooky time of year.

Advice?

When I was a kid, my report card often said, “Patti is a little to social.
Patti talks too much to her neighbors.”  Boy, wouldn’t those teachers be
surprised to find out that I now get paid to talk!

If you want to be a storyteller, you must read a lot of books.  Read, read,
read.

You can also listen to a number of stories and storytellers on-line.  A
great website to go to that has a bunch of stories (including some of mine)
is www.storyteller.net.  Listen to others telling stories will give you
ideas for what stories you would like to tell.

You can look at my websites:  www.pattistory.com  and www.patchworkplayers.com and
www.myspace.com/pattipanchita

These include a lot of photos, stories and information about my storytelling
work alone and with storytelling partners, James Nelson-Lucas, and Spanish
speaking friend, Panchita Acevedo.  Storytelling is so much fun, and there
is always a new story to learn or tell.
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.


Melanie Zimmer– Puppeteer

Melanie Zimmer has worked as a storyteller for fourteen years and also performs puppetry as Dancing Bear Puppet Theater. She has worked across the country, performing in a variety of venues, live and for television audiences. She has performed with marionettes, rod puppets, hand puppets and shadow puppets and is the current president of PGUNY, the Puppetry Guild of Upstate New York, a local arm of the Puppeteers of America. As a storyteller, she has performed live and on television, performed symphony narration and spoken at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for the League for the Advancement of New England Storytelling.

Melanie Zimmer has created puppets using a variety of techniques including carved wood, jigged wood, polymer clay, sheet foam, fabric, and paper mache. She also is an experienced mask maker and has created masks using a variety of media.

What made you want to become a storyteller?

When I was young, I was quite shy and embarrassed to speak in public so when I was in college at the University of Texas in Austin, I decided to overcome that, I would practice public speaking. I joined Toastmasters, a public speaking organization, and that did help me. Years later, I heard a group of storytellers perform and I thought that storytelling was an even better medium of expression because there was so much more that could be done with that using gesture, facial expression and character voices. I joined a storytelling guild in Clinton, NY called The Pearl in the Egg. The group was named after a medieval storyteller. Little is known of her other than the name she called herself, but the group was very helpful. I was able to listen to other, more advanced storytellers and to tell stories myself. In the guild, you could bring a completed work to present, or a fragment that you were working on. After you told, you could ask the group to critique you. Much of the advice was very useful and helped me develop as a storyteller. The other advantage the guild offered was that it would find you work. There were a certain amount of work that came into the guild, and it was distributed among the storytellers who wanted jobs. Being in front of an audience of strangers was essential to developing my skill as a storyteller. Sometimes I would go to the Salt City Storytellers in Syracuse, NY. The group was so-named because salt used to be mined in the Syracuse area. That group was quite different from the Pearl in the Egg. Salt City did not offer you jobs or critique you, but they did have open mic once a month where you could perform or listen to other tellers. They also, at that time offered inexpensive workshops on issues of importance to storytellers. Salty Sam (William Lape) gave a workshop on telling for radio. Another woman gave a fabulous talk on types of fairies and so on.  The Pearl in the Egg also offered workshops, but only occasionally. Their workshops were not given by members, but by well-known storytellers who were hired for the day and so I was exposed to the wisdom of a number of great tellers through that. As I became a better storyteller, and bolder, I took on more work. During this time I was still working full time elsewhere. Eventually, I decided to begin working on puppet theater as well with a partner. We were called A Room in the Woods since my last name – “Zimmer” means “room” in German. Julie’s last name “Waldas” meant “Woods.” We also performed masked interactive Greek theater. Though the partnership did not last, I remained both a storyteller and a puppeteer forming Dancing Bear Puppet Theater after my partner left.

Was the journey difficult? 

Iam not sure if the journey was difficult or not. Perhaps it was and is both. I was helped by many kind people and great advisors. I was helped by my reading and research, and I was helped to start economically in a strange way. When I decided to become a full time performer, I had been an independent contractor selling non-fiction books to libraries (public and school libraries) across New York and Vermont. When I began selling books from my supplier, they promised I would always be paid when the order was sent in. However, within months, they changed their plan and paid only when the libraries paid them which was sometimes a year after the order was taken depending on their budget cycle. That left me with a horrible financial gap in the beginning, but later when I decided to start the puppet theater, it enabled me to stop selling books to build the theater, and still have an income from sales made six month to a year earlier.

One of the biggest obstacles I have is time. As a performer, I have to generate my own publicity, book my own shows, build the shows in the case of the puppet theater, load, unload, drive to the destination which may be very far away even in a different state, and perform. Sometimes it is hard to do it all. If I get busy performing, sometimes the other areas are ignored and then later I will see less work because of it. It is a bit like doing two or three jobs.

The other major obstacle has been my voice. Because I do extreme character voices, often by the end of a telling session or after several consecutive sessions, I would become hoarse. I worked very hard to overcome this studying with a speech pathologist, an expert on the Alexander Technique, and taking a college course on speaking voice. This situation has improved tremendously. It is very dangerous to abuse your voice and if you have vocal discomfort, you should seek training so that you do not permanently damage your voice. After all, a storyteller without a voice isn’t much of a storyteller.

What were some of your favorite stories growing up? 

Quite honestly, I have no recollection of anyone reading folk tales or anything else to me when I was young. I must have heard them somewhere because I knew the common fairy tales, Mother Goose rhymes and the like, but I don’t recall hearing or reading them. My first memory of reading is lying in bed between the age of five and six reading a pictorial dictionary. Strangely, I still do read dictionaries sometimes. Words and language have always interested me. It doesn’t surprise me that no one would read to me before bed. As a small child, I had horrible vivid nightmares such as being eaten by a lion, and other grotesque dreams. My father had been the same as a boy. He shared a room with his brother, and once awoke in the middle of the night convinced they were trapped in the hold of a ship. It was so real to him, he was actually able to convince his brother of this, and the two of them knocked a hole in the bedroom wall trying to escape. By the time I was in second or third grade my nightmares had ceased, or at least I did not remember them any more. I do remember seeing a monster when I was maybe between eight or ten, though. I had gone to bed and was just laying there in the dark. The bedroom door was open and the light from the hall illuminated the doorway.  I looked over, and there was a short creature standing there with its hand on the door knob. It didn’t stand much taller than the door knob, and it had a long tail. It stood upright, but instead of flesh, its body seemed composed of flashing, moving energy like it was made of electricity or some such thing. The movement was in jagged fashion, almost the way lightning moves and was bluish in color. I was horrified and just stared at it for the longest time and it watched me, still standing in the doorway. Finally, I was so scared, I ducked my head under the covers and curled up tight. I stayed like that for some time. When I dared look again, the creature was gone. I never saw it again. I never told my parents. Years later, though, when I was an adult, my mother confided in me that she had often seen strange creatures around her bedroom and bathroom at the house when we were living there. At least I wasn’t the only one seeing things.

I do remember in Junior High School when I would stay with my grandmother she would read to me after lunch from library books. In High School and Junior high I liked to read mysteries, science fiction and biographies. I do know my grandmother was a storyteller when she was young. She would tell the neighborhood children ghost stories, and scare them half to death, but she never told me any. My grandfather on my father’s side was an amateur historian specializing in Maine local history and the American Civil War. He would make up the most ridiculous things to tell us girls. I think storytelling was present in members of our family even though I might not remember having been read to or reading stories when I was young.

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

I think there is absolutely a difference between telling a story and writing a story. Perhaps the most important thing I do in learning a story to tell is to not write it, or if I do, to write it after I have completed creating it. I have found that if you simply memorize writing on a page, two things happen. First, if you forget one little thing, you are suddenly lost, struggling for the next word or line. Secondly, if you are thinking about words on the page, you are not as likely or able to interact with the audience, such as have good eye contact with them, etc. For that reason,  I recommend if you are creating a story to be read, write it. Then the words are all important. However, if you are creating a story to be told, tell it, then write it afterward or record it electronically as you tell it if you think you will forget it and need to refresh yourself later. Storytelling involves words, but also the face, the eyes, the voice, the body. None of that can be written easily on the page. Also, there are big difference in the way things will be said. If you have a written story, you will likely see things like “Sally said…” “He said…” In telling a story, you probably would not say that. You can tell by your body and voice who is speaking. To say “he said” or “she said” would just be boring.

Traditionally there was a world of difference between on oral story and a written one. Societies that had no written language or societies in which few people wrote, told stories in a completely different way. Things were repeated again and again with small variations throughout the story in ways which would lose an audience’s interest today. The whole structure was different. I think telling a good story today is a compromise between the old way and the written way.

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

I think I would like to expand this question to include also, folk lore and folk tale because it can be confusing. First, let’s look at the words “folk lore.” “Folk” means people, and “lore” is any kind of wisdom or knowledge. Folklore, then can be any kind of wisdom of knowledge that was or is passed down among the people it can be stories, it could be some sort of craft or medicinal knowledge. “Folk tales” are specifically tales or stories that were told by the people. This is different from a modern story. Each piece of modern literature is written by a person or perhaps a couple people, in some cases. Folk tales are not. They were passed down orally – mouth to mouth. No one person invented a folk tale. Sometimes you will see books containing a folk tale and it will say “ by” and then an author’s name, but this is, in fact, inaccurate. In actuality, it should read “retold by” because the “author” has not made up that story, but simply told it in his or her own way. A folk tale has been passed down generation to generation, changing over time, often existing with many variations, and often existing in many countries. There is no author. Many folk tales were collected and written down during the 1800’s and so we think of them as being static, as being what we see on the page, but that is only the version that was recorded. A fairy tale is something different in a sense. A fairy tale is often a magical story that involves, if not fairies, magical creature or events, typically in an unspecified time and place, and often has a transformation included in the story.  It may or may not be a folk tale. Some folk tales are fairy tales, some are not. Hans Christian Anderson wrote (he made up) fairy tales, as have other authors. The Brothers Grimm collected fairy tales that were folk tales, and did not make them up. To make this even more confusing, at the time of the Grimms, (they were German) there was no distinction yet between folk and fairy tales as there is today. The word they used which meant both was marchen Now for parable and fable. I am actually going to get out my dictionary for this one. I infrequently tell fables. According to my old Websters Dictionary a parable is a species of fable. A parable is a “story or allegorical relation or representation of something real in life or nature from which a moral is drawn for instruction.” The same dictionary describes a fable as “A feigned story or tale , intended to instruct or amuse: a fictitious narrative intended to instruct some useful truth or precept.”  Hmmm…I believe I would like to leave this distinction to someone wiser than myself.  I’m not certain how much more I can add to that discussion beyond the hint if you always use the word “fable” for either of the two, you’ll not be wrong.

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

If I could be one character in a story, I might like to be Baba Yaga, from Russian lore. She is the witch-like character who lives in a house that stands and rotates on chicken legs and is surrounded by a fence of skulls and bones in the woods. She rides in a mortar rowing with a pestle and sweeps away her tracks behind her with a broom. Yes, she is strange, but what I like about her is this. All the heros and heroines are always lacking something, and so venture forth on a journey to find that thing, be it wife, a husband, a kingdom, riches, a key to unlock a spell, whatever it may be. They go on a journey, at last obtain what they need, and it is over. They live happily ever after. Baba Yaga, however is just there. She is unchanging, and unconcerned with those things. She has an eternal quality about her and is surrounded by symbols of life (seeds) and death (bones and skulls.) She is powerful and deeply connected with nature. Recall her three riders, the red one – her dawn, the white one-her day, and the black one- her night. She is full of mystery and appears as some sort of primeval natural force. I like her for that.

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

I might like to have tea (I’ve never been one for coffee) with either Jacob or Wilhelm Grimm. I am fascinated by their collection process – scouring old libraries for manuscripts and interviewing peasants for their folk tales. However, I am also interested in the other work of the Grimms. Jacob, the older of the two, did a great deal of work regarding the classification of languages, discovering the roots and origins of the languages that spread across Europe and beyond. Inside an unabridged dictionary, you might well find a language tree showing the relationship of all the Indo-European languages. We owe this tree to Jacob Grimm. He and Wilhelm also created a German dictionary that was so great in scope, and took so long to compile, that it was not finished until almost a century after they began its work, in 1960 though the project was begun in the 1852. That would certainly be something to discuss over tea! (Though rumor has it the brothers passed on sometime during the entries for the letter “F” so I’m not sure if they’d have the full picture on the project.) Jacob and his younger brother Wilhelm, the sickly, and more social of the brothers translated the Elder and Younger Eddas. The brothers  taught themselves to read a dozen languages, and much of the knowledge we have today of the old Norse myths stems from their translation work of the Eddas.  Again, that would make for very interesting conversation. Another option might be to speak with a now unknown Celtic storyteller as I would be curious about how stories were studied, learned and told, and since the Celts had no written language, much of that process remains mysterious today.

What inspires you as a storyteller?

This has changed over time. Initially I was interested in the actual physical telling of the story – the sound of the characters, what they might be like. Now I am more interested in noticing the transition between the oral tradition and the written tradition, and also the world wide similarities among folk tales.

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

Sometimes the best way to make progress is to step away from the work. My greatest inspirations come at times when I am not just sitting at a table with a pen in hand, but rather when driving, walking my dalmatian, Cuchulain, in the woods, lying in bed, or even soaking in the bathtub. ( I heard Agatha Christie, the mystery writer, used to write in the tub. I think she was really on to something.) The key is to be in a relaxed state where you can access your imagination. I also helps to have a great deal of knowledge about a variety of subjects so that you may draw on that, combine things in new ways and be original.

What stories are you working on presently?

I am working on a puppet show and it involves a leprechaun that comes to the New World, but I won’t tell you any more. It’s a secret! (Leprechauns are known to be secretive, you know.) Actually, the idea comes from a talk on leprechauns I gave years ago. When I was researching them, I was astounded at the number of people I personally met who claimed to have seen Leprechauns in the U.S. so I thought I would do a show on that premise. Apparently we have a large indigenous population of Leprechauns here, or maybe they emigrated at the time of the potato famine. Whatever the case, they certainly weren’t registering at Ellis Island. Interestingly, the people who testified to seeing Leprechauns here weren’t necessarily Irish or Irish descendants but were from a broad variety of backgrounds including Native American so keep your eyes peeled!

Finally, what advice would you give to someone wishing to pursue a career in storytelling?

First and foremost, tell stories. You will improve as you perform, and as you age too as your understanding of the stories will deepen. There may seem a great deal to learn at first, but really, it an illusion. When dealing with folk tales, eventually you will find that there is a tremendous repetition of plots among them. These storylines exist regardless of the location world wide with only slight variations and so like me, you will find a story from Norway will be almost identical to one told in China. (This is true of folk tales, not modern literary tales.) According to one classification system of folk tales, there may be as few as a hundred of these story possibilities, even when the plot seems relatively complex. Sometimes the elements are mixed and matched. Sometimes the story is almost the same entirely. And the story lines can skip from folk tale to myth, and remain relatively unchanged. What this means for you, is that learning a great body of material is entirely possible. Often when I am telling stories, kids will ask me how many stories I know, and I really don’t know how to answer as there are a limited number out there, with many variations. Once you get to a certain point, you find the stories are repeating, and so they become very easy to learn, since you already know the story. Someday, when someone asks you how many folk tales you know, perhaps you will be able to  quite honestly answer “all of them.”

Though I know this article is about storytelling, and storytelling is an interesting profession, I would like to encourage young people to go into puppetry. The truth is, there are few itinerate puppeteers left. Almost no young people are entering the profession and old puppeteers are dying off or retiring. If this continues, once the middle age puppeteers reach retirement, live puppet shows will become rare indeed, and many young people may never experience the excitement and wonder of that kind of live performance. In one sense, puppetry is a form of visual storytelling and the two profession share many techniques. Both puppetry and storytelling tell a story. Both require voice work. Puppetry is more labor intensive, but creates a worthwhile and unique experience that I believe is worth the extra effort, and it allows the artist to create mobile visual art as well as using the artist’s vocal expression. For those intending to go into puppetry, you may search out Puppeteers of America online for information and resources. (There are also Canadian members, in fact, the Great Lakes Regional Conference was held in Canada this year.) For those interested in storytelling who wish to join an organization there is LANES or the League for the Advancement of New England Storytelling, and also NSA or the National Storytelling Association that has a yearly conference in Jonesborough,TN each October for those wanting to surround themselves with great storytelling.

 

Where can we find out more about your work?

My website is www.thepuppets.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.


Mark W. Dooley– Writer

Mark W. Dooley is a husband, father, and grandfather. He describes himself as a student of life and a wanderer growing roots. He is a drummer, a writer, storyteller, and a friend to many. He likes to divide his time between the western mountains of North Carolina and the eastern mountains of West Virginia, where he is currently involved heavily in the study of nature spirits and at work on at least two books, The Second Coming of Mother Earth and Song of ‘O Henry.

What made you want to become a writer?

I have always loved words; they are my favorite toys. I often take them out in the forest or to the top of some mountain and let them dance on the end of my tongue. I have echoed them across valleys and caused them to bubble up from my favorite swimming hole; but I could never get them to hold still or get them where I could look at them for long.

Until I discovered writing. With writing, I could sneak up on them, capture them, and hold them until I could get them delivered to the eyes of a reader, where they could then be rescued and released into the mind and imagination of others.  Writing gave me the ability to share my toys and gave me a way to express my dreams and share my ideas,  hopes, and laughter.

Was the journey difficult?

Perhaps the most difficult part of all was allowing myself to write. It was tough getting permission to do so …….. from ME. I soon discovered that I couldn’t always get the words to come out on the paper nearly as pretty as I’d imagined them in my head nor could I always get them to look like they had sounded when I was speaking them alone in the forest.

My biggest help came when I realized that if I waited until I could write as perfectly as I thought I should to start writing I was never going to get any writing done. But as I allowed myself to write anyway the words came out, I could always fix them better later, in fact, the more I wrote the more they begin to sound like I thought they should.

What were some of your favorite stories growing up? What made those stories so special?

Faerie tales of all kinds, westerns, and animal and wilderness adventures. They always took me to the places in the stories and I became actively involved in the story. I could visit anywhere in the world that I wanted and always be back in time when mom called out that dinner was ready.

 What inspires you as a writer?

Nature, wind and rain, people on the street and in shops and cafes, and watching and listening to my own family.

 What inspired you to write ‘Song of the Forbidden Mountain?

Song of the Forbidden Mountain is the story that I made from my own personal journey of discovery of who I am and how the things around me work. Writing it allowed me to “see” and be reminded of all the wonderful discoveries I’d made along that journey.

What was the process like?

The process of writing Song of the Forbidden Mountain was very long for me. Much more so than most stories that I write. It took me through nearly twenty years of personal life changes, caused me to travel across the United States and into the Carribean area. It caused me to keep countless notes and journals and constantly changed my patterns and preferences for living my daily life. Writing Song of the Forbidden Mountain took me away from a life of dull and ordinary existence and carried me to a life that is full of constant wonder and amazement and has made me glad to be alive and able to share stories with others.

What lessons did you learn in writing ‘Song of the Forbidden Mountain’?

I learned to take time to live. I learned to take time to laugh and sing, and to notice all the magical wonders around me. It taught me to enjoy my family and friends and caused me to want to share life with everyone. I learned to be present in the moment and to enjoy each one of those even as I’d always enjoyed words. And it taught me to listen …. to myself and others, and to discover yet many more words that I did not know existed.

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

First of all, allow yourself to have it … admit that it exists. Then write a five thousand word essay why you have writers block. By then, perhaps it will be gone. If not, realize that to everything there is a season, corn is not always eaten from the ear, there is a large amount of time that must grow and there is even a time that it lies dormant as a seed. Allow yourself the same courtesy. Be easy with yourself and in the proper season, you will find the words again bursting forth from the pen.

What are you working on presently?

Two books in particular, The Second Coming of Mother Earth and the Song of O Henry. In addition I’m doing extensive research and notetaking on nature spirits and the energies that make up our lives. I’ve written a series of essays on these subjects and await the season to see exactly what they will become.

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

Write something everyday. Allow yourself to write however you can at the moment and make the time to do so. Write for yourself first of all and allow yourself plenty time to see what type of writing you most love and are comfortable with. Reasearch and study and experiment with the many fields of writing, but most importantly, follow your dreams …. allow your imagination to run wild in the fields of your mind, and only listen to reason to the degree that it agrees to be unreasonable.

Where can we find out more about your work?

Song of the Forbidden Mountain

http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/1411698215/ref=dp_olp_2/002-5515095-8224011?ie=UTF8

Dare We Dance the Faerie Dream

http://www.lulu.com/author/item.php?fSubmitContentView=1&fCID=359551

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.


Louise Ure– Writer

Louise Ure spent a quarter of a century in advertising and marketing in the United States, Singapore and Australia before finding her true love: writing crime fiction. Her debut novel, Forcing Amaryllis, won the Shamus Award for Best First Novel of 2005. Ure currently lives in San Francisco.

What made you want to become a writer?
I’ve always been a voracious reader. Not just a bookworm, I was more of a booksnake. I devoured books like chocolate. And while I always swore that I would someday write a book, I didn’t take that challenge until just after the tragedies of 9/11, when I was discussing with a friend all the things we’d really like to do if we knew our time was short. And I came to realize that time is short for all of us, terrorist threat or not. I didn’t want to look back at my life and say “I wish I had.”

Was the journey difficult?
I had it easier than most, I think. I met a wonderful mentor who worked with me in a writers’ group, wrote my first novel in less than a year, and sold it almost immediately.

But the people I admire most are those who toil through six or eight unsold manuscripts, who learn and perfect their craft, and who don’t give up. I don’t know that I have the self-confidence to do that.

Lesson learned–
Too many to count. But the best advice I can give is to write from the heart.

Ernest Hemingway, in A Moveable Feast, wrote: “All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know.” Your head will take it from there.

Where does that inner drive to write come from?
The French writer, Colette, said it best: “We write to live life twice.” I agree.

To rewrite something that actually happened and make it better. To provide the perfect dialogue you didn’t have when the argument took place. To change the ending, so that everyone lives happily ever after.

How do you keep readers turning pages?
Some authors do it with fast-paced plots — twists and turns that keep the readers wanting to know what happens next.

I think it’s equally important to do it with your characters. I can’t care about what’s going to happen unless I care about the person it’s happening to. And creating multilayered, emotionally-impactful characters is one of the best parts of writing.

How often will you revise your work?
It’s never ending.

I start my writing day by re-editing the pages I wrote the day before, and I usually do five to eight complete revisions of my work before it’s ready to send to an editor. But I also find that I want to continue revising the work long after it’s published! Someone once said that a writer is a person who would like to edit the words on his tombstone.

What are some creative ways you’ve learned to generate ideas?
Ideas come from everywhere … from newspaper articles and song titles and stories told by friends. But my two best sources are “what if” and my mother’s magic kitchen drawer.

“What if” is the question I ask when I’m stuck on a plot point or a scene. What if the only witness to the crime was a blind woman? What if she’s a natural born liar and no one believes her now? What if she’s the only one left to fly the plane? Sooner or later, you’ll stumble across an image or an idea that is intriguing, interesting, and begging to be written.

And my mother’s magic kitchen drawer. For over fifty years, she’s tossed all the odd papers into this unassuming wooden drawer. Interesting news clippings, recipes, notes from friends, unusual photos. And every now and again, she’ll put something out and sent it on to me. It might be an article about the desert Southwest bandit who put the shoes on his horse backward, so the posse wouldn’t know what direction he was going. Or it might be a reminder that on the Feast Day of San Juan Batista, it’s considered lucky to get your hair cut, as it will then be guaranteed to grow back full and lush and long. Whatever the clipping is, it’s exactly the right thing to add to my manuscript that day.

What are some practical solutions for writer’s block?
There is no such thing as writer’s block. But there are four great excuses for not writing:

Interruptions
Timidity
Bad Temper
Loss of Nerve

Elizabeth Hay wrote about those four things in A Student of Weather, citing them as reasons for her protagonist’s inability to paint. They’re equally true for writing.

So every day, I figure out which one is bothering me the most. “Bad Temper? You again?” And I start writing.

Do you have a favorite book?

I think I fall in love with a new book every day, but some of my favorite writers are John Updike, Barbara Kingsolver, Margaret Atwood, James Lee Burke and Cormac McCarthy. They are, at heart, storytellers, but they have a magical command of language in telling those stories.

Do you have a favorite time of day when you like to write?
Mornings. The earlier the better. Before my mind gets cluttered with news and errands and real life.

What is one saying you live by?
“Rock is dead. Long live Paper and Scissors!”

TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT MY WORK:

Please visit Louise Ure’s website at: www.louiseure.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.


Nalin Singh– Writer

What made you want to become a writer?

I am a litterature student…..and a very lazy writer…i beleive that ‘a drop of ink can make a millions think…’

Where and when did you first learn about  Hitler?

A common indian is aware of who hitler was, though we did not suffer the concenteration camps…he is known as the worlds greatest dictator”’

When you think about Hitler what do you think about?

Hitler’an eye for an eye””…to which gandhi replied an eye for an eye will make the whole world blind”””…..hitler was an eccenteric brutal animal…though there are shades of grey.between black and white to a normal human being…we remember a leader through his decisions that he takes for his country..unfortunately hitler let his country and the whole of mankind to a disaster….

Indian politicians sometimes use Hitler as an example of patriotism. One politician even said he admired him for being an artist. Was Hitler an artist? Do you see Hitler in any other light? 

hitler was a common person at the initial, he rose up to the power of  ‘fuhrer’..his speeches were fiery and did bring infuse patriotism in his people at that time…we can see that in the footages where he is giving the speeches…he was a painter (horrible one),and got rejected when he wanted to take admission in an arts school)he did read a lot of shaekespear and other writers like nietze etc…(some critics think that his philosophy of suicide was inspired by his reading on netzse)its not a part of my movie hence i will keep my oopinion reserved…

INDIAN POLITICIANS have never admired the brutal killings that hitler had done…its a wrong notion which the section of western media has always carried.. i cud never find an answer as to why???? i see him as a leader of a country who took wrong decisions which led his counrty and the whole of world into world war 2…

How has the reception been at Cannes?
World premier was very nice , all the misconceptions about the movie was removed ….

What is one saying or proverb you live by?

Give peace a chance…solve all issues of your house and the world through non voilence…

What advice would you give aspiring writers?

Know your target audience,creativity has to be marketed well…

Where can we read more about your work?

I am just another common man like you,and i love America…!!!peace on earth!!!!

 

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.


Louise Penny- Writer

 What made you want to become a writer?

I was always a solitary child.  As punishment when I was bad my mother would send me outside to play.  She knew all I ever wanted to do was lie on my bed reading.  And dreaming.  Since the day I read Charlotte’s Web and lost my fear of spiders I’ve wanted to write.  To lose my fears, perhaps.

 Was the journey difficult?

I was eight when I knew I wanted to write and forty-eight when my first book came out.  I tried earlier but I honestly had nothing to say.  I was quite wrapped up in myself and a good writer, I believe, is wrapped up in humanity.  Curious about the rest of the world.  I needed to mature enough, and become less self-centred and selfish.  Then I could write.  I was also handicapped by a very happy home life and as we know, most writers need to be warped just a little.  It took time to get warped enough.

 Any lessons learned on your writer’s journey?

To enjoy it.  To understand writing is a blessing, a privilege.  It can be hard at times, but the reality is, most people have it far harder than writers.  Aren’t we lucky?  To be able to express ourselves in a way we choose?  To live in a time and a society that allows and even encourages it?   To be asked to contribute to this marvelous site – now that’s great good fortune.  And all I have to do in return is have the courage to face the empty page each day – and face the things deep down inside me that don’t necessarily want to be seen.  But way more difficult things are asked of people each day.  I get a little tired of writers who complain how difficult it is.  Yes, it’s hard, but so is working as a short order cook, or in a car wash, or a job that offers no satisfaction.

Each day I wake up and count my blessings.  This might sound silly, but it’s powerful.

Where does that inner drive to write come from?

Honestly, I don’t know.  I think we all have something we’re meant to be doing.  I think this is simply my path.  And I’m so lucky to know it.

How do you keep readers turning the pages?

You’re presuming they do!  Thank you.  Well since I write murder mysteries I hope they’re just dying to know whodunit.  Beyond that I figure if characters are compelling, and fun and interesting and real, we begin to care about them, and want to know what happens.  It’s also a great technique to try to end each chapter with a bit of a cliff-hanger.

How often will you revise and re-write your book?

The first draft is quite rough – I think of it as a huge hunk of clay (or mud).  All sorts of words, ideas, thoughts.  Then for the revision my job is to chip away at it, shape it, whittle it…add here, take away there…until something elegant and shapely forms.  And the story and characters get clearer.  I’m sure you’ve heard it before, that writing is re-writing, and great writers must be prepared to kill their young.  I know that to be true.  It’s probably a good thing I don’t have actual children myself.

 What are some creative ways you’ve learned to generate ideas?

I get ideas everywhere.  I have boxes in my office labeled, ‘Book 4’,  ‘Book 5’  etc.  And when I come across something I think will fit I jot it down and toss the paper into the box.  I get ideas from books, magazines, overheard conversations.  I LOVE reading poetry and get lots of ideas from poems, oddly enough.  I also love reading books of quotes, and get thoughts there too.  Basically I’m a vulture.  Or Dr. Frankenstein.  Lopping off other people’s thoughts and putting them together.  I steal from everyone.  And I stare into space a lot.  People think I’m doing nothing, but in fact I’m creating the universe.

What are some practical solutions for writers block?

I suffered writers block for six years.  Then I realized two things – I was taking myself WAY too seriously.  Trying to write the best book ever written.  And I was also trying to write the wrong book.  So I looked at the books I love to read and realized most of them are mysteries, so I decided to write a book just for myself.  A book I’d love to read.  And it worked.  No pressure.  Just fun.  That was STILL LIFE, which went on to win best first mystery prizes in Canada and Britain.  Amazing.  If you’re suffering writers block, relax.  Don’t try so hard.  And ask yourself whether the book you have in mind is really the story you want to tell.  Maybe there’s a reason you’re blocked.  Maybe there’s another story crying to get out.

Do you have a favorite book?

To Kill a Mockingbird.  Sublime.  It’s simple, clear, elegant, powerful without trying too hard.  Lovely.

Do you have a favorite time of day when you write?

I always write in the morning after breakfast.  I go to the office and don’t leave until I’ve written 2,000 words.  I try not to be too rigid about it, though.  If it just isn’t working I won’t imprison myself, but I find discipline is a great asset for a writer – or at least for me.

What is one saying or proverb you live by?

Do unto others.

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

Believe in yourself.

Don’t listen to people who tell you you can’t do it.  You can.  You know you can.  Don’t chicken out.  Writing is worth all the work.  Believe me.

Read.  Writers read.  And, strangely enough, they write.  No one plays a great game of hockey the first time on the ice.  Great players practice.  And great writers practice too.

Writers also notice things.  And they listen.

Have the courage to look deep inside yourself at all the nasty little feelings you have, because I have them too.  We all do.  I’m petty and over-sensitive and jealous and afraid of failing, and afraid of rejection.  But I’m also courageous and kind and loving and loyal.  These qualities I own, I know what they feel like, and can give them to my characters to make them human.  So can you, if you look deep enough.

And have fun!  What a joy writing is – not always easy, but it frees our hearts and makes them sing and soar.  It’s the best job ever, and worth working for!

Where can we find out more about your work?

I have a website.   www.louisepenny.com    There’s a ‘contact me’ page there.  I’d love to hear from you.

Many thanks for inviting me into your lives like this.  And know, if I can do it, so can you.

 

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.