STORY SWAP FUN by Katie Ross

     Saturday morning, September 28, dawned bright. It was a morning full of promise. No clouds in sight, no rain in the forecast, and pleasantly cool weather.  It wasn’t just the weather, though, that made the morning full of promise. Oh no. It was the day when several of us storytellers were getting together in the LaVale library to swap stories. What could be more entertaining than that?! 

    The first two hours consisted of time together sharing stories informally. Then we caravanned to a local restaurant (Henny’s )where we continued enjoying each other‘s company.. At 2:00 a handful of local people came to hear stories in a more formal setting.

    The following storytellers were in attendance: Gil Meyer, Stas Ziolkowski, Mikalena Zuckett, Judith Clister, Jo Ann Dadisman, Cindy Christoffel, Juanita Salazar, and myself (Katie Ross). Otto Ross took charge of setting up the food and beverages. What merriment there was as we got to know each other and as we swapped stories. If I were to describe this group of people, there are several adjectives that come to mind: compassionate, creative, warm, expressive, diverse, and friendly. And that is the short list.

     Gil shared a hilarious story about one of his experiences as a WVU college student. We all laughed uproariously as he described the antics of his two friends and himself. He delivered his tale with lots of expression and gestures.  I could just see the three of them so young and full of life!

      Stas, a former science teacher, spun a tale about how a military man during the Nazi regime hid his gold medals in plain sight with the help of two scientists: Niels Bohr and George de Hevesy.  The men mixed together hydrochloric acid and nitric acid and then put the medals into the mixture. Stas then presented an experiment before our very eyes.

     Judith Clister presented an autumn story  about playing in the leaves when she was just a girl. Because of her vivid descriptions,  Judith took us all back to those magical days when we were young and when autumn offered all kinds of opportunities for fun.  At the end of the story she pulled out some fall leaves from her pocket, a great touch.

     Judith’s story prompted Cindy to tell us informally about one of her own memories of the season. She explained that she (Cindy) was not a storyteller, but the rest of assured her that she was. She had just told us a story, an interesting one at that.

       Mikalena’s animated retelling of Jack and the North West Wind brought the character of Jack to life. I would say that most of us were shaking our heads,  if not physically at least mentally, at Jack’s mishaps. Of course in the end Jack triumphed.

.       Juanita entertained us with an original catchy rap song that she uses as an introduction to the Night Before Christmas. It is entitled “Twas”. It made me want to snap my fingers in time to the rhythm. She continued with an original song assuming the role of Tia Juanita who dispensed a great deal of wisdom with how to live one’s life.

       Jo Ann kept us in stitches with her traditional tale about two women who were always in competition with each other. The two held a contest to see which of them had the most foolish husband. The results were hilarious.  In our mind’s eye we could just see those two silly men who allowed themselves to be tricked by their two silly wives. As always Jo Ann delivered an entertaining story that captured our attention from the very beginning.   

    Finally I told a tall tale about a most extraordinary parrot with whom Juan, the main character, could hold a conversation. The listeners entertained me when I had them participate in my story by taking the role of the parrot and repeating the words I fed them.  After each repetition the audience was to squawk. I couldn’t help but laugh when I looked at the faces of my audience and listened to them make those bird sounds. Who could have  ever guessed that the listeners were such talented squawkers!       

     Then around 3:00 the story swap came to an end. I can’t speak for the others, but for me our parting was somewhat bittersweet. I was ready to go home and rest, but oh how I hated saying goodbye to my dear storytelling friends. I couldn’t help but hope that in the near future we would be together again to enjoy fellowship, fun, and stories of course. 

Coming soon to ears near you...

In this email: 
1. Next WVSG StorySwap
2. Barbara Seels Recommends
3. NEST Online Storytelling Classes
4. NEST Online Storytelling Guild
5. Upcoming WVSG Member Events & Appearances

1. Next WVSG StorySwap

The next West Virginia Storytelling Guild story swap will take place at the La Vale Library in La Vale, MD (815  National Hwy, La Vale, MD 21502] on September 28, 2019. Click here for the poster. La Vale is midway between Frostburg, MD and Cumberland, MD.  More specific directions will follow.  The event will be in conjunction with the Allegany County Public Library System. The story swap will begin at 10:00AM and run until 12:00.  This is when we storytellers can get together and try out the stories that we're working on. Each tale should be 10 or 15 minutes in length. This is the time when we can critique each other's work.

Around noon we will drive to a local restaurant which is about five minutes away by car. There we can just have a time of fellowship with our storytelling friends.

At 2 o'clock those of us storytellers who wish to tell a tale will have the opportunity to share a 10 minute story with people from the community. This will be an excellent opportunity to showcase our work to the local folks.  The Allegany County Public Library has been doing an excellent job of publicizing this event by passing out flyers and possibly having an article in the newspaper. Under separate cover I will forward these flyers. This should be a fun event, one where we can learn from each other and educate our listeners about the art of storytelling.

I hope you will be able to attend. Please let me know if you plan to be there so I will know about the afternoon lineup. Thanks.
 Katie Ross 304-738-2338 or 240-522-8668

2. Barbara Seels Recommends

This is a recommendation for WVSG members who may not have heard of this book. This is a wonderful book and podcast, especially for young girls, teen and preteen, even 7 and 8 year olds. "Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls" 100 Stories of Girls and Women who did exceptional things. Many countries are represented.

3. NEST Online Storytelling Class
Northeast Storytelling is presenting an online class on EcoStorytelling. Click here for the jpg poster

4. NEST World Virtual Storytelling Guild
from Hope Lewis:

I would like to invite all the WV storytellers to join the Worldwide Virtual Storytelling Guild. We meet 2x a month via ZOOM video conference to share storytelling, discussion, and community. If you have any distant or elderly members who find it difficult to participate in the guild events, the VSG is a way to share stories around the world from the comfort of home.

Below is some information about the group.

Worldwide Storytelling Guild Info, links, time zones, invites, contacts, ZOOM tips, etc.

Facebook Group:

Emails for the coordinators:

The next Worldwide Virtual Storytelling Guild meeting is:

Thursday, September 5th: 12:00PM (New York time)

Challenge topic: Stories to Teach and Tell Children

Please go to the Facebook Group page for the link to attend, or email Hope to be added to our mailing list.  


Board President, Northeast Storytelling 

5. Upcoming West Virginia Storytelling Guild Member Appearances and Events
(these will also be listed on our web calendar soon)

STORYSWAPS: Come to as many as possible! Share tales, get feedback and grow!

September 28:  Storyswap! LaVale Public Library. 10:00-3:30. Swapping time, lunch and then free concert in library. 


September 7, 2:00pmJane Gilchrist Memorial Concert. Folklife Center. Guild-hosted reception at 3:30. Tellers: Mikalena Zuckett, Jason Burns, Katie Ross, June Riffle, Jo Ann Dadisman, Ilene Evans and Bill Hairston. Telling will end at 3:30, followed by reception (hosted by us!) 

September 19: Grand Vue Storytelling Festival, Grand Vue Park, Moundsville. 9:00am. Barbara Seels, Mike Perry, Rich Knoblich, Fred Powers, Thomas Burnett, Susanna Holstein and Andrea Keller.


April 25, 2020. Annual WVSG meeting and more. Folklife Center.


What a busy group we are! Need a story fix? Come support a teller near you! If you need more information about a listed event, please contact the guild member who is listed or send a question to Jo Ann at

September-November Storytelling by our Members


Sept. 19: Grand Vue Storytelling Festival, Grand Vue Park, Moundsville. 9:00am. Barbara Seels, Mike Perry, Rich Knoblich, Fred Powers, Thomas Burnett, Susanna Holstein and Andrea Keller.

Sept. 21: Ghost Tales. Ellwood City Storytelling Festival (PA). 7:00pm. Judi Tarowsky.

Sept. 21:  Appalachian Festival, Frostburg State University, chapel on campus. 12:30-3:00. Adam Booth, Katie and Otto Ross, Mikalena Zuckett, Ilene Evans and Jo Ann Dadisman.

Sept. 23:  Stories from our Garden. Morgantown Garden Club. 12:00pm. Jo Ann Dadisman

Sept. 27: Adam Booth and Diane Macklin at Shepherd University for SU Appalachian Heritage Week. 7:30 PM

Sept. 28: StorySwap (see above!)


Oct. 4: Brown Bagging Through History, Campus Martius Museum, Marietta, OH. "Ghosting Down the River."  Susanna Holstein.

Oct. 4: Stories at the Firepit. Wilson Lodge Firepit, Oglebay Park, Wheeling (Oglebayfest). 7:00pm. Judi Tarowsky and Rich Knoblich.

Oct. 5: Appalachian Ghost Stories and Ballads, WV Book Festival, Charleston, WV 9:00am. Susanna Holstein.

Oct. 11-12: Do You Believe? Ripley Ghost Walk, Time TBA. Susanna Holstein.

Oct. 12: Dark Tales Under an October Moon: Preston County Tellers Share Area Tales. 6:30 Supper, 7:00 Stories. Ilene Evans, June Riffle and Jo Ann Dadisman.

Oct. 19:  Spooky Tales for Everyone. Old Stone House Museum, Slippery Rock University (PA). Times TBA. Jo Ann Dadisman.

Oct. 19: Adam Booth at the Flying Camel, Hagerstown, MD 8:15 pm

Oct. 24: Adam Booth at the Bolivar-Harpers Ferry Library. Spooky Stories. Not for children. 6:00

Oct. 25: Tales by the Firepit. WV Botanical Gardens, Morgantown. 6:30. Judith Clister and Jo Ann Dadisman.

Oct. 26: Ghost Tales at the Falls. Blackwater Falls State Park. Time TBA. Jo Ann Dadisman.

Oct. 28: Peters Creek Historical Society., Venetia, PA. 7:30pm. Barbara Seels.

Oct. 28: Ghost Tales. Mannington Public Library, Mannington. 5:30. Jo Ann Dadisman.


Nov 2: Tellebration! at WVU. WVU Mountaineer Week. E Moore Hall. 3:00pm. Judi Tarowsky, Jo Ann Dadisman,

Nov. 15-16 KSA Conference. Harlan, KY. Going Home: Workshop. Jo Ann Dadisman.
Nov. 15-16 KSA Conferece. Adam Booth will headline.

November 23: Tellebration! Murrysville, PA. 7:30pm. Barbara Seels.

Nov. 24: Children’s Day at the Mansion Museum, Oglebay. 10:00am-3:00pm. Judi Tarowsky.

Look what's coming....

Hi Folks, Here is some news from Judith Clister and Jo Ann Dadisman.


We have a date for an event at the WV Botanic Garden in Morgantown: Oct 25th 6:30-8:30.  I will tell some stories and do some song leading but it would be nice to have another teller or two to volunteer. We hope to do this outside around a fire.  If you are interested in helping me out, please contact me Judy Clister at 304-435-9413 or

2. Fall Schedules
This is a reminder to send your storytelling schedules for September through November to Jo Ann Dadisman ASAP.

St. Simons' Storytelling Festival will be here as we start the new year ...

The Golden Isles of Georgia: We’ve been in the news recently

*Over 30 pilot whales tried to beach themselves on St. Simons East Beach and at our Pier Village.

A very sad sight BUT the community response was fantastic as we tried to guide these special creatures back to deeper waters of the sea.  They were way off course! Gratefully DNR has an office on St. Simons so there was professional guidance for us novices. We do however enjoy frequent dolphin sightings in our waters, including the Frederica River on the banks of which the St. Simons Storytelling Festival sits.

*Jekyll Island has been named Money Magazine’s No. 1. U.S. Travel Destination for 2019.

This location is just a short hop from St. Simons (20 minutes) which makes for an easy visit when you come to the St. Simons Island Storytelling Festival.

We welcome your visit to our special place on the Georgia coast.  Hope to see you in February as we will present two new (to us) tellers on our stage – Anne Rutherford and Sheila Arnold.  Anne is coming all the way from Portland, OR. She is fast becoming a very popular storyteller and we are fortunate to have her coming to our area.  Sheila, though new to our stage, is very well known to storytelling audiences. After her storytelling on Friday and Saturday Sheila will conclude the 5th Annual St. Simons Island Storytellling Festival on Sunday morning after the worship service with what is sure to be a memorable presentation. And, Donald Davis, Andy Offutt Irwin and Bil Lepp will return with more stories for your enjoyment.  

Hope to see you at Epworth By The Sea February 14 – 16, 2020 (FRIDAY TO SUNDAY)

And, we encourage you to continuing exploring the Golden Isles of Georgia with a day trip to nearby Sapelo and/or Cumberland Islands. Please let me know if you would like information on ferry reservations to either of these islands.  Come early or stay later.


Talent abounds within our ranks...

Here's the next installment of the Member Spotlight.


I am Gil Meyer and I am a compulsive storyteller. Friends and family sometimes use a different term to describe this compulsion. Such offenders often end up imprisoned in the next story. My telling takes form in oral presentations as well as the written word. In fact I just published my first novel, The Healer's Dream. A description is on My other book is a business book, Corporate Smokejumper--Tools, Tales & Techniques, which leans heavily on stories (more info at I am a graduate of WVU. My wife and I live in Hampshire County, WV. Among other activities, I am a docent for the Nature Conservancy's Ice Mountain Preserve, where stories abound. I can be contacted via either of the above websites.


I am W.I. “Bill” Hairston, the pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Charleston, West Virginia. I have been a professional storyteller since 1985.  As a storyteller, many of my stories and music are based on my experiences growing up on the Coal River in rural West Virginia.  My stories embody the rich Appalachian culture that I was exposed to as a child.  

I have performed in concerts, festivals, libraries, corporate meetings, conventions and schools throughout the region and the country.  

Among my many endeavors is my work as the Music Coordinator at the Stonewall Jackson Jubilee for the 35 years until it ended in 2008 and my work as the coordinator of Vandalia’s “West Virginia Liar’s Contest.”  

My featured workshop is entitled “It is indeed all about me”.  It focuses on how to read audiences and how to keep the audience’s attention during a presentation.  

I am an active member of the West Virginia Storytelling Guild, the Kentucky Storytelling Association, the Ohio Storytelling Network.  I am also the West Virginia liaison to the National Storytelling Network.

I can be reached at 304-546-7786 or


I am Misty Mator, and when I am not caring for my four children, I am a storyteller. I specialize in stories for young children and families, and perform in libraries, schools, churches, and public events. I usually perform as my character “Starla the Storyteller,” and my programs are strung together with a moral theme.

I also tell stories for older children and adults, and have contributed to “Tellabration” in the past. I am co-chair for the StoryShare storytelling guild, and try to stay connected or involved with various storytelling ventures in the Greater Pittsburgh area. I especially enjoy trickster tales, heroine stories, true narratives, multicultural stories, and, of course, moral tales. You can contact me at


My name is Fred Powers, a retired miner and schoolteacher from Southern West Virginia. I became interested in presenting mining stories in character to interested audiences to preserve our history and honor our Appalachian coal miners, always thinking someone should tell stories of their hidden and mysterious world. My background of being a third-generation miner, growing up in a mining community, then being an underground miner over a twenty-year span has given me ample material to share personal mining stories in a one-man drama type of storytelling. Afterwards, I normally bring a few mining artifacts to elaborate about mining history and discuss the miner’s role in the West Virginia Mine Wars. I have presented at many types of venues including Appalachian festivals, historical societies, libraries, churches, various storytelling programs, public schools and universities in nine states from Pre-K through College. My program at West Virginia University’s First Miner’s Day was audio taped and broadcast nationally on C-Span Radio. My wife Sharon travels with me and presents her “Interactive Children Pioneer Games” at venues as well. I have written two books on mining and others are in the works. Thank you.

Telephone number is 304-920-5436

Email is

Website is


Rich Knoblich is author of Talking ‘bout the Relatives, his original tall tale collection inspired by visits to his family homestead in the mountains. His rustic humor brought home eight ribbons (including first place) from the WV State Liars' Contest.  He also has several awards from other festivals and he has served as judge for several liars’ contests. His creative tall tale writings have been published in various national and regional magazines. This storyteller has entertained festival audiences throughout the Mid-Atlantic region.

Currently, Rich does weekly entertainment at Oglebay Resort in Wheeling, WV.  This includes the Festival of Lights and Historical Wheeling narratives for Oglebay’s motor coach visitors. He also presents a lively Behind the Scenes program for Wilson Lodge guests. During the summer he delivers storytelling fun at Oglebay’s Wilson Lodge fire pit with Judi Tarowsky. On weekend afternoons he conducts Historical Walking Tours of Oglebay’s Hilltop area.

Once the Ghost Host for Steel City Bus Tours (Pittsburgh) and Wheeling’s Halloween  Ghost Tours, Knoblich relates a wide assortment of paranormal tales that will cause you to pause for a moment and wonder, “Maybe there is something to this?” Currently, his research delves into Wheeling’s river history and railroad lore of the Wheeling region. His PowerPoint presentations focus on historic Wheeling, Oglebay and Wheeling's ghost tales.

Knoblich, along with Judi Tarowsky, has co-founded storytelling festivals at Pricketts Fort State Park in Fairmont, WV and Grand Vue Park located above Moundsville, WV.


I am June Riffle from Fairmont, West Virginia.  I grew up on a small Preston County farm.  My dad was a company coal miner and farmer.  My mother was a devoted but often frustrated homemaker. Seven children with little material possessions, but almost unlimited freedom and space to roam, provided the natural broth to brew stories to entertain ourselves.

Following graduation from college , I became a teacher in Preston County.  Marriage brought the births of four children and a journey across many southern states as I followed my Air Force husband from assignment to assignment.

My professional journey as a storyteller began when I returned to West Virginia after my husband's retirement.  My good friend and former teaching partner, Jo Ann Dadisman, conspired with my sister to present a tandem storytelling program for the local reading council. Our audience was enthusiastic and Jo Ann and I had a great time.  With that inspiration, the tandem storytelling team known as the Mountain Echoes was born. We continued to tell stories and present workshops throughout West Virginia and the tri-state area for over twenty years.

Life challenges brought changes to our storytelling team.  Jo Ann continues in the professional circuit and I spend more time in family and personal pursuits.  My hours are kept busy with grandma duties, traveling, gardening, reading, storytelling and volunteering.

Life is one continuous story with unpredictable adventures. I eagerly look forward to experiencing its many new chapters and sharing my stories with others.


I'm Barb Seels. I came to storytelling through clowning. I used to be an amateur clown named "Rhubarb". At one time I was president of the Tri Rivers Clown Alley. Storytelling presentations and workshops were offered at clown conventions. I also attended storytelling conventions sponsored by WVSG at Fairmont State University.

After the alley disbanded, I segued into storytelling organizations. I started with Raggedy Ann stories because that was one of my clown costumes and alter egos. I think the selection of stories is the most important part of developing a program. My grandchildren are my selection judges and timers.

Before I retired, I was on the faculty of the School of Education at the University of Pittsburgh where I chaired Instructional Design and Technology. Storytelling takes me back to my roots. My undergraduate degree was in Drama and English. Recently, I taught a course in storytelling for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Pittsburgh.

I live in Pennsylvania near Canonsburg. Since the 1970s I have owned a vacation home on Tygart Lake in WV. Currently I am a member of StoryShare in Monroeville, PA. I have been a member of WVSG for many years.

You can contact me at 412-310-2606 or  

FYI: Upcoming...

1. Story Swap September 28, 2019

You are cordially invited to come to an event at the La Vale Library in La Vale, MD, on September 28, 2019,  sponsored by the West Virginia Storytelling Guild in conjunction with the Allegany County Public Library System. The story swap will begin at 10:00  and run until noon.  During this two hour time slot people who want to share a story with other storytelling enthusiasts have a chance to do so. Each story will be around 10 minutes. This part of the day is informal so that people who would like to try their hand at sharing a story with others, can do so in a nonthreatening way.  

Around noon the group will go to a nearby restaurant to have lunch together.

Starting at 2:00 PM tellers who wish to do so can share a 10 minute story at a free public event in the library. 

If you are interested in being part of this worthwhile event, please contact Katie Ross either by email ( or by phone (304-738-2338).

2. The next StorySwap is quickly approaching!!!!
Don't miss it! August StorySwap will be on August 10. Arrive 9:30-10:00 until 4:00. Lunch ordered in. Location: Home of Tom and Judi Tarowsky, 3633 Brightway St., Weirton, WV. Please RSVP Judi Tarowsky @

3. Time to share your storytelling schedule. Please give Jo Ann your fall telling schedule (Sept-Nov). Send to by Aug. 15.

4. The Folklife Center is requesting details about the Jane Gilchrist Memorial Concert. The date is Sept. 7 from 2:00-3:30 in the Folklife Center on Fairmont State University campus. Jo Ann needs to confirm those who have agreed to tell. Please let her know if you are still available. She has these names: Bill Hairston, June Riffle, Stas, Mikalena, Katie and Otto Ross. If you are free and willing to tell at this special event to honor Jane's memory and to support the partnership we have with the folklife center, please let her know at asap. Whose name is not listed but wants to share a tale? The title is Remembering Jane: Weaving Words of Comfort.

It's Summer and the news keeps coming...

1. Lyn Ford's class at Augusta
2. CFT: Wellsboro, PA

1. Affrilachian Storytelling: Roots, Replanting and Common Ground with Lyn Ford at Augusta! 
Explore the diversity and transcultural traditions of Appalachian storytelling through its age-old heritage of African- American narratives. Discuss and compare stories to narrative concepts from your own families and communities–why and how do we relate to the “ancient” and “traditional” tales, and what importance do they have in contemporary education and life, common sense problem-solving and wisdom-keeping? Trace the story map of the Appalachian Region and its impact on storytelling and story styles in other parts of the country. Experience unique story variants, and discover or rediscover motifs and characters sharing humorous, haunting and heartfelt common ground. Enhance your own spoken-word stylings, too; if you’re working on a tale to tell, we’ll help you nurture its development through the honing of your unique story-sharing tools, the practice and preparation of your presentation skills, and gentle communication and coaching in a joy-filled atmosphere.

A nationally recognized fourth-generation storyteller, author and educator, Lyn Ford shares folktale adaptations, spooky tales, personal and original stories rooted in her family’s multicultural Affrilachian (African-American Appalachian) heritage. Ford’s “Home-Fried Tales” are seasoned with rhythm, rhyme, audience interaction, humor, and heart. Lyn is an Ohio teaching artist in a state-based collaborative initiative of the Kennedy Center for the Arts and the Ohio Alliance for Arts Education, and a Thurber House mentor for young authors. She is also a member of the National Association of Black Storytellers Circle of Elders, an award-winning author and a two-time recipient of the NSN ORACLE Circle of Excellence award. “An exceptional artist.” – Jim Arter, Greater Columbus Arts Council.

2. We received this message from Kevin Connelly. If you are interested, please contact Kevin directly. See below:

Name: Kevin Connelly

Email Address:

Subject: Storyteller, as part of our upcoming Storyteller series...

Message: The Deane Center for the Performing Arts is located in Wellsboro PA about 1 hour north of Williamsport. We recently had Fred Powerhouse Powers perform as part of our History Comes Alive series. We are shifting to a storyteller focus, taking our adult audience on a journey through history, Appalachia, through stories...
We are a nonprofit arts organization. We are willing to pay a stipend and provide a room and light meal if desired...
Our audience tends to be older, our region is rural, but I find our attendees to be very interested in the history and the art....
I am looking at beginning this series in September, and most performances would be either on a Wednesday evening or Friday evening.

I will wait to hear back and thank you. 

Updates on info you might not have known...

1. Grand Vue Call for Tellers 
2. National Storytelling Summit Info
3. Massachusetts Events
4. Spotlight on Members

1. Judi Tarowsky has shared the following: 

Call for Tellers for the 2019 Grand Vue Storytelling Festival
9 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 19 at Grand Vue Park, Moundsville.
As of June 5 we had 320 kids signed up already.
We anticipate needing at least 6 tellers; we may need a couple more.
If you are interested, please email Judi Tarowsky at

You will be paid.

If you are interested in staying Wednesday night or Thursday night, the park can give you a 15% discount on a one or two-bedroom treetop villa cabin. You will have to go through Ben Bolock at the park to do so - that can be arranged once tellers are chosen. 

All of the festival will be either in indoor venues or in shelters.

2. Gail Herman has shared the following: 

Hi This is Gail N. Herman, member of WVSG since the 90’s.  I lived in Garrett County, MD, which is borded by WV.  I ran the Tall Tale Liar’s Festival in Garrett County for almost 20 years.   I’m hoping to see my fellow WVSG members at this wonderful Summit Conference.  You will not regret going.  The discount is still on till June 15.

(editor's note: we apologize but we cannot replicate all the imagery and details of the original email. Please visit the link below to see everything)

The Early Bird Deadline is June 15th!

July 25  - 28 Bay Area

3. Gail Herman has shared the following: 

Just wanted to remind you all about Stories in the Park, 2019 Easthampton, MA, supported by ECC.  All events are free.  

  • June 16: Then you are invited to a performance of professional storytellers from Texas, New England and NJ at Stories in the Park   Sunday -Time 3:30 in the afternoon, Father’s Day.  So bring your fathers and family!  Have a lemonade, or humus/veggie snack, or some other good, healthy item.

  • A famous storyteller from Texas who wrote From Plot to Narrative, and who received numerous awards from the National Storytelling Network will perform along with the other tellers.  

Gail N. Herman


4. Katie Ross has shared the following: 

This month we are shining a spotlight on five of our members. As you read what they have written, you will see that they have a good deal to offer to the Guild. If any of you who were invited last month to submit something about yourselves, it is still not too late.

Spotlight On our Members 


Here's a bit about me, Raymond Alvarez..  I'm a native of Marion County, where I live today.  After retiring three times from healthcare management, I'm back to work at Fairmont State University as a visiting professor in the School of Business.  I think of myself as a writer of stories and would like to become more adept a telling them. I've worked with the FSU Folklife Center over the past six years on various projects such as historical displays and community lectures.  I've published 17 history-based articles in Goldenseal over the years focusing on retelling Fairmont stories long forgotten.  My most recent work is about the life of Navy Lt. James S. Maddox, who died in 1943 after surviving 77 days on a small raft with 4 other men; three of whom were rescued on day 83 after their ship was torpedoed by a German U-boat off the coast of Brazil. It's a gripping tale of a young man from Fairmont who found himself thrust into an impossible situation but his leadership kept them focused on survival... and story telling was one of the techniques he used.  It's available on Amazon and Kindle ("Forgotten Hero: Ensign James Maddox")--sorry about the shameless plug.  As I researched this, I found a wonderful story that, for the most part was forgotten locally. The men had very little, if any, conflict.  Two men were Dutch and one was only 17 years old.  Maddox told him folktales and stories each evening.  The other men listened as well. When we did a Folklife presentation, Judy Byers said "this is all about the power of a story."  Recently, I helped organize a Writer's Group in Taylor County at the Taylor County Arts Council.  Storytelling was one of the aspects I want to incorporate into the group--and my neighbor down the road, June Riffle, agreed to come talk to us.  I'm bringing a lot of information to the group that I gathered at the April 27th meeting. We hope to have storytelling by members of the group at some point in the future at Grafton's First Friday events at the Arts Center.  I find a lot of information from the 50+ years of newspaper columns by C. E. "Ned" Smith.  These were published in the Fairmont Times from the 1920s to the late 1950s.  He was a story teller every day in his column... amusing tales and incidents of a city dating to the 1800s.  So I guess the stories I like are those that are colorful tales of the early 20th century... if we don't tell them in stories, they won't be remembered.  Our Taylor County Writing Group meets at 6:30 p.m. on the third Tuesday of the month at the Arts Council building on Main Street in Grafton.



I grew up in South Georgia in the small town of Swainsboro.  It is where Highways 1 and 80 intersect.  If you were born before the days of Interstates, you know that Highway 1 went from the southern United States to the tip of the Northern United States and Highway 80 did the same from East to West. Therefore, we billed ourselves as the “Crossroads of the Great South.”

This Georgia Peach was transplanted to Beckley, West Virginia in 1969, and I blossomed under the acceptance and friendliness of Mountaineers. I did not get into storytelling until I met Danny McMillion about 2004.  This was after my husband passed away, home was an empty nest, I sold the family business and had taken a part time job because I didn’t know what else to do with myself.

I have always been an avid reader and Danny showed me how to share myself and my stories through storytelling. She would always introduce me as, “Sue Atkinson. She has lived in WV for 45 years, and she still talks funny.”

Now I live in Ohio, next to my daughter and tell stories rarely, although I do enjoy telling a good lie from time to time. And that’s how I am usually billed…a liar. Most of my stories are lies, with a grain of truth. I want to work on telling stories written by others so I can share what I enjoy reading.



I am Judith Clister. I live in northern Preston County, West Virginia.  My background is in elementary education and counseling and environmental education.  Many summers have been spent camping and telling Native American stories around the campfire.  One of my loves is Celtic stories and I have been involved with the Garrett County Celtic Fest for several years now.  I have not yet, but can provide music along with my stories and pictures if talking about Ireland.  I hope to begin learning some West Virginia stories to share in classrooms and around campfires.

I can be reached at 304-379-3564 or

Judith Clister

Spiritual Companion



I am a full-time professional storyteller who resides in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia. I have told stories professionally for fourteen years and, of that, this is my seventh year telling full-time. I am fortunate in that I get to travel the country telling stories. I have told at some of the premiere storytelling events in the US, including the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival and the National Storytelling Festival. I have worked in twenty-five states and am proud to get to tell quite a bit around WV each year. I got my start in the WV Liars' Contest but have broadened my repertoire to include traditional Appalachian stories, ballads, and original neo-traditional stories. I have released five collections of stories which have received Parents' Choice Awards and Storytelling World Awards. I have been an active member of the Guild telling at events around the State, previously serving as President, and now I volunteer as the Webmaster for the Guild.  



When asked “who am I?” I turn to my friend and colleague George Ella Lyon’s “Where I am from” poetry.

I am from rich stories of deep hollers of Clay County and rural life in Newburg West Virginia.  My parents who told me my first stories and allowed my veins to speak narrative. 

I am from the richness of stories of Appalachia. 

However, I am also from teaching 14 years of teaching in Ohio and California.  

From African American teens to migrant workers , I held on to each tale as my students

found their voice in story and together we formed a storytelling guild for 11 years.

I am from listening and learning from storytellers such as Jackie Torrence, Jay O’Callahan, and from everyday storytellers like my neighbors and friends.

I listened so much I have written about the importance of listening in my new books.

I am from Jack who  stands as a metaphor for my journey of being a teller.

In the tales of Jack, I am connected to story.

I am a deep listener of the mountains, nation, and the world, as they echo their tales to be heard.

Being a storyteller for over 25 years has taught me that there is so much more to learn.

The only way to know Jack and his story is to find out more about both.

The only way to discover narrative is to use narratives.

This has brought me to correction officers in Qatar helping them use narrative to discover people not inmates.

Children with parents suffering from AIDS to remind them laughter and story can comfort them.

standing alongside the lollipop kid from , now grown up, from the Wizard of Oz being not Kansas, but a new place called narrative as they wait for the film to begin.

To study the art and earn a doctorate in narrative and education

and teach future teachers that their story needs to be strong, as well as their students.

Where I am from

is where stories reside and where people need to know the simple message that stories 

help create meaning.

It has done this for me and my journey has only begun.

*Kevin D. Cordi has been telling stories and teaching the art professionally for over 25 years.  He currently has taken a new position at Ohio University Lancaster serving as an Assistant Professor of Education and Literacy.  He is the author of You Don’t Know Jack: A Storyteller Goes to School (2019) and Playing with Stories: story crafting for writers, teachers, and other imaginative thinkers.   He continues to travel teaching and telling about the art we know as story.  He runs the monthly series Storyville at Columbus, Ohio and serves on the National Advisory Board for Teaching Tolerance.  You can find out more at   Email: 

2019 Garrett County Celtic Festival


The 2019 Garrett County Celtic Festival was another big hit.  From the duck and sheep herding dogs to the children's activities in Rainbows End to the dance, games, folk lore and music stages, folks were gathered to listen and learn more of Celtic history in story, music and dance.  Presenting at this event were three members of the West Virginia Storytelling Guild : Katie and Otto Ross and Judith Clister.  

Katie told Celtic tales to the children and the adults with Otto playing Celtic tunes between the stories.  Judith did a build our own story using Celtic symbol props with the children. She then presented the Irish story of the proper order of things leading into the formation of the Irish Spirit Wheel.

Join us next year on the first Saturday in June to hear these and other wonderful stories and learn more about your Celtic roots and the Celtic history of the British Isles. For more information contact Katie and Otto ( or Judith (  

Judith Clister

Spiritual Companion

Challenges to Those of Who Respond with Story—A Call Out to Storytellers 

Challenges to Those of Who Respond with Story—A Call Out to Storytellers 


Kevin D. Cordi 

June 15, 2019

 (I invite you to post this or pass it around or amend it so it fits for you.)

 One must continually reflect when they chose to take on the ‘mantle of storyteller’ or decide to use stories in their work and daily life.  For over 25 years, I work to honor this mantle.  This includes not only telling stories, but researching and reading about using narratives.   I listen deeply to named and unnamed storytellers and narrative practitioners.  Most of all, using story is often my first response to addressing my life and my work.

 In the interest of encouraging all of us to grow as storytellers, I share challenges that I have made and are making in this wonderful journey into narrative.  I invite you to consider these challenges.  The intention is to guide you knowing more about the wide circle contained in the storytelling and storytelling making process.  If we widen our understanding of how story is used, we can strengthen our awareness as we build not only our comprehension but our community.  

 1. Do not be quick to define what stories you tell.  ---I recently read an excellent book on telling personal narratives, but a section of the book spoke to how telling folktales and fairytales can’t reach an audience the way a personal tale can.   I do believe they can have different impacts, but the importance is they have impacts.  The book implied that personal narratives have more power.  I don’t believe this.  Storytellers often chose ‘the type of storyteller’ they want to be without ever diving into the new ways stories are being told.   I would invite you to experiment with the range of stories and slowly, ever so slowly discover your direction.  Perhaps you will find, like I advocate, what accomplished teller Jackie Torrence once said to me, “It is not a matter of who you are as a storyteller, but do you have the right story for this person right now.”  I let this guide me as work to honor what it means to be a teller. 

 2. Do not be quick to define where you tell stories.  People are quick to define the places they want to tell stories.  I have heard, “Oh, I would never tell for teenagers, I could never get through that battle armor.”  This is the wrong mindset.  We often decide we won’t go to schools because when we were there (some 20. 30 40 years ago) and back then, it was not a place where guest artists were welcomed. We may have a bad school experience.  I have news.  This is not every school and much has changed since then.  My friend and colleague Katie Knutson advocates telling in new places for new growth.   How do you know that a bar room at an open mike night would not be a welcomed placefor your work?  Does your traditional mindset prevent you from this?  It is because your experience as a teller is limited in the scope of telling environments.  As you develop as a teller, tell at parks, bars, open mikes, libraries, retirement centers, teen gatherings, weddings, and riverboats.   Holding the honor of storyteller means responding to those who need stories.   Let us not restrict our experience simply because we have not been there before.

 3. Accept that the definition of storyteller has changed, is changing, and will continue to change. Storytellers told and tell in tents.  Storytellers are consultants in business.  Storytellers tell and work in hospitals.  Too often I have heard that when people tell others they are storytellers, they immediately ask about dressing up and sitting in a circle telling to little kids.  This is a storyteller.  We should accept this. We should honor this work.  However, if this is not the storyteller you are at the time, help educate others about what you do.  I have found more and more people accept the diversity that is in the work of storytelling.   I don’t often find resistance to my work.  Perhaps it is because story is integrated in me.    It is true that writers, actors, and journalists take on the name of storyteller or at least say their work is storytelling.  However, we need to educate in what way our role of being a storyteller is different and our tools for storytelling accentuate that role.  People have called themselves storytellers for years.   This has changed over time.  However, honor the mantle within the work that you do and your work will find more of the respect it deserves. (This is at least the campaign that I workto follow.)

 4. Storytellers should be accepted at all ages.  I have had the rich pleasure of working with and helping kids and young adults engage in the telling process.  I know many storytellers who see kids as listeners and not as emerging tellers.   In truth, this happens less and less, but we need to be reminded that kids and teens voices need to be heard.  I invite you to the National Youth Storytelling Showcase to see a sampling of quality youth telling.  A video of some of the tellers is here.

  5. Storymaking is fundamental to the work of storytelling.  For years, I spent more time working on building a performance from my work, at the expense of valuing what it took to craft the story.  As storyteller, we are also story makers.  We need to invest in the time to design our work from careful research, exploring multiple directions, examining perspectives, and experimenting with choices. Storymaking is integral to what we do.  Spend more time on this process before moving on to telling.

 6. One should consider, talking stories out loud before writing it down.  When I started the storytelling process and I wanted to create my version of a tradition tale or recall a personal tale, I always turned to writing it down.  This is the way we are trained in school, write your ideas down and when you have a workable draft, the teacher will review it.  However, after serving as the Co-Director for the Columbus Area Writing Project at The Ohio State University and studying storytelling at the same university, I have learned the value of talking aloud ideas and working with both writing and talking at all stages of the storymaking process.  I have also developed a new “story mediation,” with others to coach or guide the story process.  

 7. Storytellers can expand their work when they realize that telling does not have to be the outcome.  Storytellers work in many circles.  Stories can be used to promote inquiry.  I recently used multiple perspective stories to help high schoolers think deeply about “cruel and unusual punishment.”  You can read about this at  I have worked and see stories used to help children address how children adjust to having parents suffering from AIDS.  I used stories to help guide writing practices. The outcome of this was not performance but inquiry, healing, and oral editing.  Stories are used to understand business practices and community development.  We can expand who we are and what we do when we extend the range of how we use stories. 

 8. Deep listening builds better tellers.  A well-known storyteller was asked how do you become a great storyteller?  He replied, I tell some stories, I listen to thousands, this makes me a better teller.”  There is a stark difference between hearing and listening.  Listening is a practice that you must work on to improve.  Walk onto a busy street and listen to the rain.    Deeply concentrate on blocking everything except the teller.  You have to work to hear the rain, the same is true to listening to not only the tale but the teller. The same type of listening applies to your work.  Listen deeply to what you are saying and what you are not.   Developing as a deep listener is a practice that builds you as a teller and as a person.  

 picture by Wonderlane on

 9. Reflection is the key to success.  Educator/philosopher Parker Palmer said, “Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am.”   However, we are often in too much of a rush to listen to what we are doing.  Make space and time to revisit your practice.   Reflect and revise.  Reflect and honor successes. Reflect and rework when needed.  

 10. Play should be essential to the work.  Play is not a ‘rehearsal for life,’ it is so much more.  It is the opportunity to re-see, revisit, re-charge, re-view and re-act differently to your work as a storyteller.  It is more than a “do over,” it is a time to use play, the real work of story.   Give yourself permission to play with your ideas and story directions with partners and you will be amazed at your growth.   

 Kevin D. Cordi, Ph.D. is a reflective and active story mediator and reflector.  He believes in the inherent work of story but understands it is a practice that requires, time, effort, and company.

He holds a Doctorate in Storytelling and Education from OSU and is the author of You Don’t Know Jack: A Storyteller Goes to School (2019, University of Mississippi Press), Playing with Stories: Story Crafting for Writers, Teachers and Other Thinkers (2016, Parkhurst Brothers) and the Co-author with the talented Judy Sima of Raising Voices: Creating Youth Storytelling Groups and Troupes.  Discover more at  

 “Together we make a difference with stories.”

"Growing Pains" Lessons learned as a blog-boy ...

Hello fellow tellers.

I am fond of reminding my two daughters that one of them made me bald and one of them made me gray, and I don’t care which one did what, but please stop! So here I am, bald and gray and blaming others for a process called growth. I continue to learn that maturity a synonym for patience, Perhaps because I continue to be impatiet with myself, I ask others to be patient with me. My daughters will vouch for that as well.

“So”, said the bald, gray blog-boy, “here are a few pointers that will increase the success of posting articles and pictures”:

  1. Send your posts to

    In the opening sentence and the subject write, ‘Please Post this.’

  2. Google Drive it is my prefered format, but Microsoft Office works for me. (Documents, pictures etc.) Pictures should be sent as a PDF.

  3. My mantra is KISS… Keep it simple stupid… use fonts and formats that are universal, since I’ll most likely have to copy and paste them, colors and lesser known programs offer challenges. (That’s a polite term meaning problems.)

  4. Although I can often post things in a day or two, I usually have a number of projects going and most of them have deadlines.

  5. You can always call me: 412 - 327 - 8969

    (That camera, text, encyclopedia,message machine/ note taking device is also a phone!)

  6. Thanks…. (Sorry you had to read all this to get to the good part!) I’m happy to post for us…

Onward and upward!

Mike Perry

What would the world be without stories? No telling! mperry


Mom’s refrigerator….

How many stories is that!


Encouraging Growth

Encouraging Growth

Top WVSG Secretary Jo Ann Dadisman & Dr. Kevin Cordi (1).JPG

I started April 27th as the sun came peeking over the rolling hills near Pittsburgh, when a fellow member of the West Virginia Storytelling Guild (WVSG) came to pick me up so that the three of us could carpool down to the Frank & Jane Gabor West Virginia Folklife Center at Fairmont State University. You may not know that although the guild is centered in West Virginia, its members extend into nearby states – wherever Appalachian culture thrives. We were driving down to attend the guild’s annual meeting, and it was my first time attending.

The conversation was fluid, as it often is with a car full of word weavers, and we were quickly at our destination. I had been to the Frank & Jane Gabor Folklife center once before for a workshop, and it’s wood paneling and memorabilia were the perfect backdrop for a storytelling workshop and storyswap. I was able to exchange smiles, handshakes, and hugs with friends and fellow storytellers before sitting with my complimentary cup of coffee, camera, and notebook  for the mini-workshop to begin.

I had heard positive reviews of Dr. Kevin Cordi’s work before meeting him, and his workshop definitely revealed why. Dr. Cordi, an award-winning national storyteller, has performed multiple times at the National Storytelling Festival.

 He was also the first to be a full-time storytelling teacher in a high school. So when it comes to storytelling, you can trust he knows his stuff.

It was this area of expertise, storytelling in schools, which our workshop was about. But what stood out the most was his kind and encouraging spirit, and I could understand why he is so well-liked. He not only imparted knowledge on how to reach students in schools, but did so with a force of joy and belief in us as workshop participants to give us the confidence to go out and apply that knowledge. He reminded us that when we are approaching schools, where administrators, teachers, and professors may have a slew of credentials, we are coming in as “the narrative expert,” to “show the proven method of learning with story.” I loved how he said that he doesn’t tell his students in schools “how brave” they were to present a story (because, then, you’re teaching that speaking in front of a group is something to be frightened of! Malarkey), but explained that “A story is a gift that we have to receive,” and then asks his students, “Who has a gift to share?”

Faster than I could jot down all my notes, his workshop time was up. 

Kevin graciously stayed past his scheduled time to answer questions, sign a few of his books, and listen to a few of the stories at the afternoon storyswap! Before the storyswap, however, more good things happened. Both Paige Tigue & Mikalena Zuckett gave reports on the storytelling enrichment programs they are doing in their respective schools in eastern and central West Virginia.

I thought the way that Paige built an interest in storytelling among her school’s students was unique and clever. In many schools, students will have some time before classes begin after their buses drop them off.

There are usually designated areas where students can congregate during this time, and one of those areas was the library – so she started telling stories there. As more students started attending, she finally asked, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we had a storytelling club?” Monkey Shines Storytelling Club was born!

Mikalena’s path to her group of storytelling students was very different. Her job within her school gave her the liberty to hand-select a few students she believed would be interested in learning storytelling, and she works with those students periodically in the same way you would with any other enrichment program. These students have had the opportunity to perform before their classmates, and the students loved hearing their peers tell stories!

I believe it’s so important for the storytelling tradition to continue, and I believe in today’s technologically saturated world, the current generation of children may need traditional, face-to-face, oral storytelling experiences more than any generation before them. It was great to hear how different tellers are initiating very young tellers into this tradition, even though the paths that got them to that point are different. I found it all very encouraging.

Both Paige & Mikalena’s troops would like to broaden their library of stories by listening to national & international tellers. If you have any CDs or DVDs you would like to donate, please contact the guild for instructions on how to do so.

After spending the morning learning ideas and finding out ways to connect with schools  impact future storytelling, the guild presented the annual Bob McWhorter Clock award to Dr. Fran Kirk, professor at FSU and interim director of the Folklife Center, the home of the WVSG. She has tirelessly promoted storytelling in 2018 and contributed her own stories through school visits and her one-woman show 9 Before IX. She spearheaded the Mountain State Storytelling Institute for several years on campus, as well. And true to form, her first and only request was that the guild seek to honor the memory of Jane Gilchrist, another storyteller who passed away in 2019.

Then we parted separate ways for an hour for lunch before the storyswap.

The difficult part about trying to describe a storyswap or a storytelling concert is that you truly do just have to be there (shameless plug: the Jane Gilchrist Memorial Concert will be on September 7 of this year at the Folklife Center; check the guild’s event page in the future for more details!). The major difference between writing and storytelling is that a written story can be handed out to 10 different people, and regardless of whatever takeaway they get from it, all 10 different people will have “heard” the same story. But with storytelling, the gestures, tone of voice, even the expressions the teller uses make for a unique experience – with few exceptions, with two different tellers, you will hear two different stories, even if it’s the same story.

What I will tell you is that we heard stories ranging from a teller telling for the first time for anyone outside of Toastmasters to a teller who has been doing storytelling for over 70 years. Everyone who had a gift to share was given the chance to tell a story. There were chilling tales, like the one about a murderous house within an unexplained time warp, and the one about the Flatwoods Monster. There were humorous tales from a series of unfortunate events trying to get a harpist to a wedding, to a case of mistaken car ownership by a liar’s contest winner. There was also the historical tidbit of the stones used for the Washington monument to the lady who outsmarted bad luck. What a kaleidoscope of stories, and I haven’t even mentioned them all.

There was also a meeting after the storyswap, but, alas, we PAers had to start the car ride back to the ‘burgh. We said a few more goodbyes and “see you next times” and expressed gratitude for good stories told. In was one of the better ways to spend a Saturday, and as the rolling hills of West Virginia frolicked seamlessly into the rolling hills of Western Pennsylvania, we talked about the stories we had heard, about stories we have yet to tell, both of which helped keep “story” at the front of my thoughts all the way home.

  ~Misty Mator

Bottom Award Recipient Dr. Fran Kirk (1).JPG
Bottom Oglebay favorite Rich Knoblich swapping a story (1).JPG
Bottom Telling for over 70 years, Betty Cross captivates (1).JPG

How Storytelling Enhances a Motor Coach Tour: Intertwinging History, Folklore,Anecdotes, and insight with the Facts

As the West Virginia Storytelling Guild enters into 2019—with all of its opportunities to network, grow professionally and individually as artists and givers of wisdom—it seems fitting to begin with a special blog article that shares something of the treasures found within the borders of our own state. Most will agree that Oglebay is a West Virginia crown jewel. Read on to see how one veteran storyteller has put his imprint on storytelling at Oglebay and then look at some ways that storytelling can be re-invented for educational purposes as found in West Virginia ARTWorks, a publication for artists from the Division of Culture and History.

How Storytelling Enhances a Motor Coach Tour:

Intertwining History, Folklore, Anecdotes, and Insight with the Facts

by Richard Knoblich

For thirty-three years Oglebay Resort, operated by the Wheeling Park Commission, has successfully staged a major holiday light festival spread over three hundred acres of the park, featuring over one million LED lights. Motorcoach companies offer day visits or overnight trips to experience the Winter Festival of Lights staged each evening from early November to early January. Not surprising to storytellers, the creators soon realized that just looking at the displays is not enough. Guests want to hear about the creative backdrop that developed this amazing light show.

The tours have three different starting points depending on what the motor coach company has planned for its passengers. For an enjoyable sightseeing visit to the museums and shops, you can start at the Visitors Center. Perhaps a laser light show with 40,000 flashing LED lights choreographed to music is the main attraction, with the jumping off point as the Good Zoo. Or you can plan an extended overnight stay to visit historic Wheeling, Oglebay Resort, or the casino; in this case, a dinner buffet with a musical show would have you beginning at the newly renovated Wilson Lodge.

These locations are where the Festival of Lights tour guides step into the picture, literally. Joining the motor coach driver and tour escort at each starting point, the Oglebay tour guide climbs aboard to greet the seated guests with a hearty welcome. Here begins the light tour, carefully word-crafted by the storyteller to match the light show with backstory unparalleled. Doubting that this magnificent light show can be enhanced? Read on.

To paraphrase the manual description (which is factually straight forward) of one major display: ‘the candy cane wreath debuted in 1985. The wreath is over 50 feet in diameter and up to 47 feet high, with 18,657 lights.’ Huh? How many numbers did this brief description supply? With nearly one hundred displays, guests will only follow a narrative with so many numbers. And this is where the storyteller heightens the interest.

As a storytelling guide, I still contribute interesting information, such as which display is the tallest, longest, oldest, or heaviest. That information does not require storytelling skills. But along with the basics, I also intertwine history, folklore, personal anecdotes, and insight with the facts.

For example: How did the Winter Festival of Lights begin? When the Good Zoo began (founded by the generosity of the local department store family to honor their son, Philip), there was a need for revenue to help sustain the zoo. As a storyteller I weave the personal narrative of the family into the initial Good Zoo Lights Up For You extravaganza. Blending this narrative with the creative leadership development of the Wheeling Park Commission gives a satisfying answer for the motor coach guests.

During the evening tour I infuse historical perspective into the pageantry of the lights, even going back to when the property had Native Americans roaming the Ohio Valley, before the first permanent settlers arrived in the 1770s. In fact, logs from the first two-story cabin can be seen in the construction of one of the Wilson Lodge fireplaces. Along with the development of Wheeling, VA (later West Virginia), I detail how Colonel Earl Oglebay’s purchase of 25 acres with an eight-room red brick farmhouse quickly evolved into the classic Oglebay Mansion Museum that is open today. He grew the property from twenty-five acres into a 650 acre experimental farm where his family resided from July till early November.

Interspersed with the historical account are the anecdotes that amuse the tourists and highlight life at Oglebay. For example, when motoring past the farmhouse manager’s former home, I point out how he raised four daughters there. Next to the house is where the horse stables were located. As I tell the guests, “I don’t know much about raising four little girls, but I’d bet my next paycheck that a lot of sugar cubes disappeared off the kitchen table into the mouths of Earl’s horses.”

But along with the historical aspects of Festival of Lights, all the guides inject their own personality and especially humor into the narratives. Displays like Christmas Kittens in a Box (losing entry that year was Christmas Litterbox), Tyrannosaurus Rex (the newspaper headline read ‘Tyrannosaurus Wrecks Ford Mustang’, Cheerleader Pyramid (before sticking the landing she disappears into the night), Frisbee Dog Jake (sometimes the wires get crossed and it looks like a frisbee throwing a dog back to the little girl), allow for ample opportunities to infuse humor.

Before the tour ends, the tourists usually ask how I became a tour guide and resident storyteller at Oglebay. I relate how after I retired from teaching, I became a movie extra (Unstoppable, Super 8, Batman: Dark Knight Rises), a writer (search, and brought home 8 ribbons from the WV Liars Contest. It doesn’t hurt that I live in Ogelbay’s backyard, so an easy drive to work is also a major plus. In addition to the light tours, I also offer a variety of programs including a walking tour of the historic hilltop area. For me, Oglebay is a happy place!

Oglebay is so much more than tours and opportunity for tourists to learn more about our state. In the following article, we can see how Oglebay was chosen as the site for using storytelling in the learning process for children. Now consider where you live, what is available in your “neck of the woods”—libraries, schools, civic centers, parks, tourist attractions, book stores and much more—and determine ways to offer proposals for partnering with your community as a storyteller.Your own backyard awaits you!

Blogboy apologies...

Hello one and all.

As we near the end of the year I’d like to take a moment to comment on a few things…. Thanksgiving is gone, leaving annual leftovers, or as I call it ‘Christmas.’ December just ramps to insanity, so now is my moment of clear vision to communicate before cynacism trumps (lower case… pun intended) my generous spirit

Let me say that January should replace December as the last month of the year. Janus: looking back and looking ahead. Certainly this is more appropraite to end a year than begin one? Besides, December has the ‘deca’ root, meaning ten… it belongs in October, October belongs at August, and September? July. September thru December, the seventh thru tenth months got moved long ago, when they ‘fixed’ the calendar, Daylight ‘savings time’ merely added to the confusion.

I mention all this for two reasons: one is to trigger a story for all you tellers whose brains are as disfunctional as mine, and the other to obfuscate the fact that I have been lax in blogging… thus the portmanteau: lax + blogging = ‘lagging.’ Oh, wait, that’s alreading a word. There is nothing new with my ‘lagging’ as life offers daily challenges, which explains why I am late in blogging (Combine these words? It doesn’t form ‘blovating’ but it should!)

I had the privilage to portray Otto Frank this past summer in PrimeStage Theater’s production of ‘The Diary of Anne Frank.’ Now, after the tragic shooting here in Pittsburgh, I have been asked to jointly create and present a seminar: ‘Using Theater to Teach the Holocaust’ to teachers. This has been a challenging project the results of which have recently stolen my calendar. (Not lierally, just daily.) Tomorrow is the first of four presentations.

So, the theme of this missive seems to be a combined ‘mea culpa’ and ‘the future looks bright.” ‘Forgive me,’ I have not been in better touch, but I hope this finds you all doing well.

With a smile and a wink,

Blogboy Mike

Diversity in Appalachia: Frostburg's Appalachian Festival By Katie Ross

Recently Kara Rogers-Thomas, the organizer of Frostburg State University’s Appalachian Festival, told me that the theme for the 2018 festival was Diversity in Appalachia.  I scratched my head in disbelief. I had never thought of this region of the country being particularly diverse. Then I thought, “Wait, I am part of that diversity. I grew up in Southern California which many people around here consider to be a foreign country. And now I live in West Virginia.  So maybe there really is something to the idea of diversity in Appalachia.“

Not long after that I talked to my 89-year-old friend John Johnson who spent his formative years in a coal mining community. He said to me one day, “Katie, my first job was working in the coal company store. Many of the people who came in to buy things did not speak English. Somehow, though, we learned a lot from each other.” Of course I had to ask him what nationalities he remembered meeting. He mentioned many Polish people, but he added that there were Italian, Irishmen, Austrians and so forth.

After that, I decided that I had to do some research on the topic. I turned to two sources: the Internet and the book by Ruth Ann Musick, Green Hills of Magic, West Virginia Folktales from Europe.   These sources opened my eyes and caused me to see Appalachia in a different light. I found out that during the time when the coal industry was really booming, people from all over the world came to the region seeking a better life.

According to one Internet article, A Whitewashing Reality: Diversity in Appalachia By AV's Intern Team/February 7, 2014, “As the demand for miners increased, coal operators began to look outside the region for more workers; they particularly targeted eastern and southern European immigrants. Between 1820 and 1920, more than 60,000 Italians, Hungarians, Austrians, Russians, Poles and other immigrant workers had settled in the Appalachian coalfields, constituting as much as 40 percent of the workforce. African Americans from further south were also drawn to the mines and surrounding timber camps, creating a melting pot of diversity in central Appalachia.”

Many of the people who immigrated to the region were unable to bring much in the way of material goods, but they could bring their stories, and bring them they did. Ruth Ann Musick, a professor from Fairmont State University, collected as many of the stories from the early 1900’s as she possibly could. She then published the book I mentioned earlier, The Green Hills of Magic, West Virginia Folktales from Europe.

I found an Italian story that I particularly liked in Musick’s collection. Its title is The King’s Son and the Poor Man’s Daughter. In keeping with the diversity in Appalachia theme I will tell this Italian story, and my husband Otto will play an Italian song on the guitar. Jo Ann Dadisman will share a story that relates the struggles of an immigrant family from Poland in a West Virginia coal camp

Immigrant population has continued to rise in recent times. Again quoting from the Internet article, “The past three decades, however, diversity has been increasing throughout the region, particularly in urban areas and university towns. In the 1990s, racial and ethnic minorities accounted for nearly half the region’s population growth, while the Latino population increased by nearly 240 percent. West Virginia alone welcomed new residents from 31 different countries during that time period.”  So to give tribute to the Latinos that are part of Appalachia, Mikalena Zuckett will be telling a Mexican tale called El Señor Coyote y la Borreguita or Mr. Coyote and Miss Lamb. Two more West Virginia storytellers, Adam Booth and Rich Knoblich will be sharing tales along this theme as well.

After doing this research on diversity in Appalachia, I look at the place where I live with a new sense of appreciation and awareness. And now I am looking forward to hearing the other storytellers share their stories at the Appalachian Festival with their take on this topic.


These five West Virginia storytellers will be telling stories in the Cook Chapel on Frostburg State University‘s campus in Frostburg, MD on Saturday, September 15 from 12:30 until 3:00:

Katie and Otto Ross (12:30)

Jo Ann Dadisman (1:00)

Adam Booth (1:30)

Rich Knoblich (2:00)

Mikalena Zuckett (2:30)

The Festival as well as the storytelling are offered free of charge. The Festival celebrates diversity in Appalachia with music, crafts, and of course storytelling. For more information, contact Katie Ross at or 304-738-2338 or go the Appalachian Festival website:

Mike Perry, blogboy ...

Hello one and all.

Mike Perry here, your newly designated blog-boy. Web-servant?  (Webmaster sounds so condescending,) Adam recently asked me to take charge of our blog and post any and all info and articles submitted by you, my well-storied friends. I only agreed IF he would not ever use the term ‘intuitive’ as he listed how ‘easy’ it is to manage the site.  And so, practicing on JoAnn’s creation first, I attempted to test both her patience and Adam’s veracity.

Here is what I learned:

It will become easier as you send me info and pictures to post. Practice makes permanent and the more I post the better I will become at being familiar with the numerous tools and options available. These include video and audio as well as photos and text. I prefer not to edit your work, though I will bring a discerning eye to the copy in an attempt to find grammar and punctuation in need of polish.

I’m guessing that we have a Facebook presence? If so, remind me to post there as well so we are out in ‘the real world’ (a cyber joke?) and available to others. As your personal blog-boy, web-servant, you may have to remind me from time to time to ‘show up for work’… since like you I’m probably doing something else besides reading one of my many email addresses.  This summer, that included storytelling/comedy gigs, the lead as Otto Frank in ’The Diary of Anne Frank’ and, more recently co-teaching ‘The Art of Story Presentation’ with Mary Jo Sonntag, at The University of Pittsburgh as a continuing education class through the OSHER program.

So, hi ho…. hi ho… it’s off to work we go!

When you would like post on the blog site send it me at :  MikePerry.Storyteller@

And as your humble West Virginia-storytelling- web-blog-servant-boy, I look forward to keeping us spreading the word about storytelling, whether in print or word of mouth.

With a smile and a wink,

Mike Perry

What would the world be without stories? No telling!