Tag Archives: Inspiring Story

Sherry Norfolk– Storyteller

From the International Storytelling Center in Jonesborough, TN to the Hong Kong International School in Hong Kong, China, (and hundreds of places in between!) Sherry Norfolk’s passion for storytelling incites the imagination of young and old audiences alike. In addition to an electric stage presence developed through professional storytelling since 1981, she embodies the term “teaching artist” – that is, an artist who can not only talk the talk but walk the walk.

As a teaching artist, she leads residencies and workshops internationally, introducing children and adults to story making and storytelling. She is on the roster of seven state arts councils, a testimony to her value as a teaching artist. Her dedication to and deep interest in children and literacy have been recognized with national awards from the American Library Association, the Association for Library Service for Children, the National Association of Counties, and the Florida Library Association. Sherry is the co-author with her husband Bobby of The Moral of the Story: Folktales for Character Development (August House, 1999); they are currently working on a series of Anansi stories for the new August House Story Cove label.

What made you want to become a storyteller?

I’ve always looked for ways to make learning meaningful for kids, and ways to motivate them to read. As a preschool and primary teacher, I haunted the library, searching for stories to introduce new topics and inspire the kids – and me – to learn. Later, as a children’s librarian, I discovered that storytelling was the most effective way to lure kids to the library and into books. I was sold!

Was the journey difficult?

The first steps were natural and easy – like breathing. Telling stories to the kids in my north Miami library district led to telling county-wide (it’s a HUGE county), and that led to telling at festivals all over the SE. Any help? Along the way, I was very fortunate to be helped by wonderful storytellers like Melinda Munger in Miami, and to be able to attend the NAPPS Institutes which were being offered at the time. When I married Bobby Norfolk — a fabulous storyteller, already internationally famous — he encouraged me to take the leap and become a fulltime teller, and has been my mentor and inspiration every step of the way! Any obstacles? Well, it’s scary! Leaving behind a guaranteed paycheck and benefit package and striking out into the unknown felt like walking off a cliff! I HATED the marketing aspect — and I still avoid it whenever possible! But I’ve been remarkably lucky. We received a contract for The Moral of the Story: Folktales for Character Development (August House, 1999) just before I left the security of the library, and that kept me productively occupied as my performing career got off the ground. We also spent the first 6 weeks of my new life in Anchorage, AK, telling and workshopping for Alaska Children’s Services. That led me to the discovering how much I love to TEACH kids to tell and to write their own stories.

What were some of your favorite stories growing up? 

I got hooked on the Hans Christian Andersen stories — the more maudlin the better, it seems. “Little Matchgirl” was a special favorite. Maybe I jsut loved th power of story to evoke emotion!

Is there a difference between writing a story and telling a story? For me, it’s one and same: I create text as a told story first — honing and polishing it with by responding to the audience reactions. When writing the same story, there’s a translation process — translating the actions, sound effects, character voices, etc., into words. You can’t see the audience response — no immediate gratification!

What is the difference between a fable, a parable, and a fairy tale?  The intent: a fable teaches a moral or lesson, and so does a parable, but the fable does it explicitly where the parable relies on intrinsic understanding. Fairytales often teach lessons, but that usually is secondary to entertainment value!

If you could be one character in a story who would you be and why? I love the title character in the Russian folktale, Woman of the Wood. She is brought to life and given the gifts of beauty and intelligence — but she chooses freedom above all else. A truly wise woman!

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

My favorite storyteller and human being will always be my husband, Bobby Norfolk. ‘Nuff said!

What inspires you as a storyteller?

The faces of the listeners…their total surrender to story..their joy and surprise! Nothing better!

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

Go tell stories, get away from the computer and work with living, breathing, responsive human beings. That’s where the inspiration is.

What stories are you working on presently?

Bobby and I are developing a series of Anansi storeis for the StoryCove label, and we have a picturebook titled Billy Brown and the Belly Button Monster in production.

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

Follow your heart! Find out what aspect of storytelling is the most appealing to you, and learn everything you can about it. Listen to lots of tellers and talk to them about their own choices and why/how they made them, then make your own choices — and most of all, believe in the power of story!

Where can we find out more about your work?

My website is www.sherrynorfolk.com and there’s plenty of info there!

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

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
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.


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,

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

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.


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