Tag Archives: Storyteller

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.

 

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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.


Lynn Flewelling– Writer

Lynn Flewelling was born in 1958 and grew up in Presque Isle, a small town in northern Maine, not far from the New Brunswick border, and often crossed over to visit relatives in southern Canada, and to vacation there. (She’s a quarter Canadian, on her dad’s side.) An “Anne of Green Gables” fan, she has very fond memories of Prince Edward Island. She also watched a lot of Canadian TV and knows Mr. Dressup, the Beachcombers, Junior Forest Rangers, and the Friendly Giant as well as she does US childhood icons.

She grew up playing in the woods, hunting, fishing, camping and daydreaming. Many scenes and people in her books are based on these early experiences. Later she went to university and earn a degree in English literature and teaching, studied veterinary medicine and did all sorts of different jobs, including house painter, teacher, and journalist, but what she really wanted was to be a writer.  But in her part of the world being a writer wasn’t considered a “realistic” goal and so she tried to be a teacher instead. But some dreams just don’t let go, so she wrote anyway and at last became a newspaper writer, and then a novelist.

Her first novel, Luck in the Shadows, was published in the US in 1995. Stalking Darkness and Traitor’s Moon soon followed in what has become the ongoing Nightrunner Series.  More recently she has completed the Tamir Triad: The Bone Doll’s Twin, Hidden Warrior, and The Oracle’s Queen.  In her books she likes to pose questions about identity, and what it means to be male and female, strong and weak, good and bad. The answers aren’t always easy, or happy.

Her books have found an audience worldwide and are currently in print in thirteen languages, including Russian and Japanese. She recently moved to southern California and is now working on two new Nightrunner books. She enjoys talking to young writers and all creative people.

 

What made you want to become a writer?

I was always a reader, but when I was in sixth grade a friend gave me Ray Bradbury’s book, The Illustrated Man, and I was blown away by his rich, evocative style. Something clicked in my mind and I suddenly thought “I want to do that!”  I was a kid who loved to play “let’s pretend” too. I guess writing is a way of doing that all the time.

 

Was the journey difficult? 

Writing wasn’t considered a realistic goal where I grew up. Writing was something other people in other places did. I should think in terms of a “real job”. And in the early ’70’s in northern man, a girl who was really good a writing was encouraged to be a teacher. I didn’t know any better so I tried that, but by the time I was done student teaching in college, I knew it wasn’t for me. I was already writing short stories by then.  I didn’t have much direction though, and still thought writing wasn’t a realistic way to make a living, so I tried other things, like ad copy-writing and veterinary school, but writing kept getting in the way and distracting me. After a while I just gave in and started doing it seriously, but still with no expectation of ever getting published. I had been working on the manuscript that would eventually become Luck in the Shadows and Stalking Darkness when by chance I took a writing workshop with a writer I really admired, Cathy Pelletier. She’s from northern Maine, too, and is simply amazing. I  was rather shy, since I write fantasy, which many literary writers look down their nose at, and she wrote more “serious” books. But she loved my work! It really changed my perspective and gave me the confidence to pursue publishing. I owe her a lot, and the only thing she ever asked of me in return was to pass on that kind of support to other young writers. I’ve always tried to do that.

When I finally finished what I thought was my first book (after about ten years of writing and rewriting) I had to learn how to sell a book, a whole separate skill in itself. That was a learning experience, and one I have since written articles about. Ultimately, I got good advice along the way, connected with a very good literary agent, and the rest, as they say, is history. I’ve been a full time writer since 1995.

Any lessons learned on your writer’s journey?

Many, many lessons! You have to be confident in yourself, but you also have to be open to learning from those who know more than you do. You have to be willing to do the hard work it takes to become good at your craft, and you have to be able to weather criticism without being destroyed by it.

 

Where does that inner drive to write come from?

I  honestly don’t know. It’s just always been there and I’m lucky that I learned how to harness it and work with it. I have a natural drive to create, but unfortunately cannot draw or paint very well, and I’m too self conscious to be an actress

. Instead, I have to do it with words on a page.

 

How do you keep readers turning pages?

The short answer is, I tell a good story. You have to first create characters that readers care about. They don’t necessarily have to be nice people, but they have to be interesting, and they have to change and grow as the story goes on. There have to be events that challenge them. There has to be some sort of journey, literally or figuratively, for them to lead the reader along. By the end of the book, both reader and characters must be changed in some way.  There are just so many different ways of doing this! I use mystery, dramatic tension, humor, horror–lots of different devices, but all of them must serve to move the story forward and aide in the tale to be told. You can’t just throw things in for shock value. That’s a cheat and the reader will catch on and not like it.

 

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

Many, many, many, many times. That first draft is just that: a first draft. A place to begin. I hate first drafts myself. It’s hard, getting the plot hammered out. But once I’ve gotten the main structure of the story in place, the bones, it’s fun to go back and add on details, changes, foreshadowings, all the fun, fiddley bits that really make it come alive.

 

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

I daydream. And when I get the first inspiration for a new project, I buy a pretty new notebook, a really nice one that “feels” right for the project, and write down every new idea that comes to me. Inspiration comes from living life. Everything that’s every happened to me, everything I’ve ever read or seen on TV or in a movie or out a train window– it all goes into the great subconscious brain we writer’s draw from. When I show up at the page to work, very often scenes come shooting out my fingertips that I never anticipated or planned. It just happens as you work and trust.

 

What are some practical solutions for writer’s block?

That’s a tough question. Some writers never get writers block. I do, and sometimes it can get pretty bad. There are so many reasons, and so many degrees that it would be impossible to give a short answer to that. But here are a few suggestions. Sometimes you’re trying to push the story in the wrong direction. Step back in ask yourself if the reason the scene won’t come is because it’s just wrong.   Sometimes the brain is tired and needs a rest. Go do something else. Take a walk. Go shopping. Watch a movie. Make something. Use a different part of the brain, one that doesn’t have to generate words. I find photography very refreshing.  The worst case, is when you’re fearful of doing it wrong. That takes work and understanding.   If possible, set small, attainable work goals. Show up at the page. Write a little bit, anything, and give yourself permission for it to be complete and utter crap, just so long as you show up to work.

 

Do you have a favorite book?

Oh, I  have lots, but the Sherlock Holmes stories are high on the list. I have read them many times, so the mysteries are not an element anymore, but I love the characters. There’s quite a bit of Sherlock Holmes in my hero, Seregil.

 

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

My brain often works best between 2 and 6 p.m.. I have no idea why.

 

What is one saying or proverb you live by?

“Respect the dignity of every human being.”

 

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

1. Read, read, read, and read some more! Novels, short stories, plays, especially the sort of literature you want to write. And as you do, ask yourself things like  “How is this writer capturing my interest?” or “Why don’t I like this story?”  Reading does many things. It shows you how writing works. I learned a lot about creating characters from people like Conan Doyle, Tolkien, Anne Rice, Robertson Davies, John Steinbeck, and Dostoyevsky. I learned about dramatic tension from Stephen King, Henry James, Joyce Carol Oates and Shirley Jackson. I learned about atmosphere from writers like Bram Stoker, Ray Bradbury, and William Faulkner. Those are just a few examples, but it gives you an idea of  how diverse my reading tastes are. That’s important.  You shouldn’t read just one kind of literature, any more than you should eat only one kind of food. Fish may be very  healthy, but you won’t live long eating only fish! Variety is the spice of life, and creative people thrive on variety and diversity and change. Life is our scrapbook and the more we experience, the more we have to draw on for our work.

2. Know your tools.   Grammar, spelling, parts of speech, vocabulary? Boring! Yeah, I know. But those are the tools of a writer’s trade and you have to know them so well that you can use them without even thinking about them. It’s just like playing a musical instrument or driving a car. It takes a lot of practice but after a while it becomes instinctive.

3. Write. Write without expectation, too. Your early work will most likely be terrible. Everyone’s is! But you don’t get better by waiting to be good. You have to write and write and write, practice, practice, practice, to improve. Don’t worry about publishing. Just worry about become a good writer and the rest will come in time.

4. Write what you love. Writing is hard work, especially for those of us who do it for a living, on deadline. If you don’t like what you’re doing, it’s misery. Explore what you love and do that. It might be short fiction, or essays, or ad copy, or science fiction, comics, or gritty political satire. Doesn’t matter. If you love it, do it!  Follow your bliss. I can’t promise you riches, but you’re more likely to find personal satisfaction.

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

www.sff.net/people/Lynn.Flewelling
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lynn_Flewelling

 

 

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.


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.

 

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Rajan S Thackeray– Writer and Activist

Swami Thackeray (Rajan S Thackeray) is a positive role model and leader in the Hindu community. He has just begun a program called Hindu Watch USA to make sure the media doesn’t slander or misrepresent Hindutva in any way. His forthcoming book ‘India Beware’ takes a look at hard-line Christian Conversionists who have begun a campaign of manipulation and violence to denationalize Indians and destroy Indian culture.  He fears that these Conversionists will continue their persecution of Indians unless the Indian government doesn’t take hard action against them like the communists.

What made you want to become a writer?

My religion did. It’s one of the most peaceful religions in the world and I wanted to bring the teachings of Hindutva to America and to Americans who need a more peaceful outlook on life.

What inspired you to write ‘India Beware’?

Lies created by Christian fundamentalist in America who are trying to slander one of the most peaceful countries in the world. How can these Christians say and write all these lies about India and Orissa. The Christian fundamentalists in America are very aggressive and use violent means to trick poor Indians into conversion. They say Hindus are hurting Christians, but it is very much the other way around. We need to stop Hindu persecution from the Christian Conversionists before it’s too late. The conversionists are a threat to a very peaceful country and I suppose I wanted to expose this threat to the American people. Americans need to know the truth about what is happening to India because of these violent conversionists.

What is happening in India?

What is happening is conversionists are actually denationalizing Indians and that is upsetting many Indian people who are usually so peaceful. Even an elephant can get angry so why upset the elephant? The government of India has given its people good laws—anti-conversion laws to protect the Indian people under attack—but still conversionists continue to denationalize our people. These conversionists also say we love Hitler. But that is not true. We respect Hitler for being patriotic and loving his country but we do not love Hitler. Respect is not love. Americans must also understand that India had nothing to do with Hitler or the wars so most Indians know little about what he did. They just know he was a good leader. India is the only country in the world that achieved total freedom by total peace by one Hindu man.  As a peaceful people we cannot deny even Hitler’s humanity even if that upsets people in the Western world. The new movie Dear Friend Hitler is all about Gandhi embracing Hitler’s humanity and viewing Hitler as a friend. We must embrace Hitler’s humanity and look at his good qualities like leadership instead of focusing on violence or negativity like people in this country do.

Was the journey difficult?

I’m having a hard time with American publishers, but some publishers in India have helped me set up a publishing company here to publish and distribute my books. So I am grateful and I believe ‘India Beware’ will be ready very soon. It needs to be because the problem with the conversionists is getting bad and a peaceful elephant is getting really upset.

Where can we find out more about your work?

Face-book. Please also look for my Hindutva group page and sign my petition against the conversionists hurting the most peaceful elephant in the world called India.


Linda Goodman– Storyteller

Linda Goodman was born in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia, where she learned the art of storytelling from her father, a former coal miner who was himself a master yarnspinner.  She began writing her own stories while she was in elementary school and continues to be a prolific writer to this day.  In November 1988, while she was living in Enfield, Connecticut, she rediscovered the “oral tradition” while attending the first annual Tellabration.  She has been entertaining audiences throughout the country with her original stories, traditional tales, and monologues ever since.  She has appeared and taught workshops at the National Storytelling Conference, the Connecticut Storytelling Festival, the Storytelling Institute at Southern Connecticut State University, the Three Apples Festival in Harvard, Massachusetts, the Jonnycake Festival in Peacedale, Rhode Island, The New England Modern Storytelling Festival in Portland, Maine, the Corn Island Storytelling Festival in Kentucky, Barter Theater in Abingdon, Virginia, and Storyfest in Richmond, Virginia.  Her works are known for their “Southern Appalachian” flavor, and her tape, Jessie and Other Stories, has been aired on The Story Tree, a Tennessee-based storytelling program heard on National Public Radio.  The tape also received a glowing review in the August 1993 issue of the national newsletter, The Yarnspinner.

 

“I was born into a culture that is fading away.  I feel an obligation to keep that culture alive in my stories,” she enthuses.  “I also feel an obligation to people my stories with Southern Appalachian characters of intelligence and integrity.  This country has a stereotype of a Southerner who is slow and unintelligent.  My stories seek to dispel that stereotype.”

 

Linda is a member of the National Storytelling Network (NSN) and the Virginia Storytelling Alliance.  She is also a past Program Coordinator of Boston’s Sharing the Fire, the largest and oldest regional storytelling conference in the country, and has served on the board of the Three Apples Storytelling Festival.  She became a member of the Dramatists’ Guild in 1992, after her one act play, Empty Wells, was named a finalist in a national competition.  Her stories have appeared in Storytelling World, a magazine published by Eastern Tennessee State University, Chicken Soup for the Mother’s Soul, Stories for the Family Heart, The Appalachian Quarterly, and in the Storytelling Youth Olympics 1997 Guidebook.  Her monologue collection, Daughters of the Appalachians, was released by Overmountain Press in December 1999.

 

Linda lived in New England from August, 1985 to August, 1998.  While there, she was approved by the Massachusetts Cultural Council for inclusion on their PASS, Event and Residency, and Touring Rosters.  She now resides in Richmond, Virginia.  She is a certified lay speaker in the United Methodist Church, the 1995 recipient of the Excellence in Storytelling Award presented by the Storytelling Institute at Southern Connecticut State University, and a 1998 recipient of a Storytelling World Honor Award.  She is a charter member of the Barter Storytellers of Abingdon, Virginia, the country’s first professional storytelling troupe associated with a professional theater.

What made you want to become a storyteller?

I grew up in the Appalachian Mountains and my father was a master yarnspinner. He inspired me to follow in his footsteps.

 

Was the journey difficult?

Even as a child storytelling came naturally to me, and I had no troubling holding an audience’s attention.  It was not until I moved to New England, however, that I began to tell stories professionally.  I had a lot of help from schools, libraries and theater groups in Connecticut and Massachusetts.  A librarian in Somers, Connecticut sent my card around to several library systems, and my career took off from there.  The major obstacle that I have faced was relocating back to my home state of Virginia.  I had to build new networks of support, and that has been a challenge.

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

I loved listening to my father’s stories about his boyhood and his experiences during the Great Depression.  These stories were special because they made me realize what a wonderful and resourceful father I had.  I also loved fairy tales (Hans Christian Anderson and the Brothers Grimm).  They transported me to a magical world where anything was possible.

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

A storyteller uses voice, gesture, movement, and body language to enhance the story.  A writer has only words to express herself.  For instance, in my story “Pearl,” Sara Jane points to her heart and says that her father’s death left a big hole “right here.”  In my written version, she says that her father’s death left a big hole “where my heart used to be.”

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

I would be Cinderella’s fairy godmother.  I love to make wishes come true!

 

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

Lee Pennington.  I love his Kentucky humor and his simplistic approach to this complicated world.  His to story about no two leaves being the same shade of green is amazing.

 

What inspires you as a storyteller?

Life inspires me.  I love to figure out how things could have been done differently and better.

 

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

Make a list of first time experiences in your life:  first day of school; first visit to the dentist; first bicycle ride.  The longer the list the better.  Stories will walk right up and shake your hand.

 

What stories are you working on presently?

A story about the old television show Gunsmoke.  I loved that show as a child – I especially loved Miss Kitty.

 

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

There must be a chemistry between the storyteller and the story. Choose stories that make you feel something:  anger, love, fright, sadness, delight.  If a story affects you emotionally, your telling of it will affect your audience.

 

Where can we find out more about your work?

Visit my website at www.lindagoodmanstoryteller.com. Or email me at happytales@aol.com.  I love to answer questions about my work as a storyteller.