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!        

Front Porch Entertainment ... Revisited

 Last Friday, July 27, we enjoyed an evening of “hand-clapping music and side-splitting stories” in Preston County at the Preston Community Arts Center, a space complete with stage, good lighting, and clean restrooms. With no porch in the area large enough to accommodate a crowd, we tried to re-create the relaxed, flexible schedule of the old- fashioned front porch evening, so common in the past in our Appalachian region.

The evening was a success, by everyone’s standards. Our membership chair offered information on the guild and even supplied membership forms. We added to that table several $1 items for sale: homemade cookies and fudge, and bottled water. Guild members wore name badges (all ten of them!), so the public could speak to members.

The music was provided by the New Diesel Trio, a band based in Marion County (next door to Preston) which features American folk/bluesy numbers and encourages singalongs. The stories came from two distinguished liars, James Froemel—a Vandalia Big Liar from Morgantown, and Kate McConnell—a Three Rivers Storytelling Festival Liar from Pittsburgh. Both are WVSG members. Fifteen-minute sets kept the performances fresh and fun, as we alternated music and story throughout the night. We ended with a door prize of boxed stories!

Froemel Headshot.JPG

James Froemel

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Kate McConnell

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The New Diesel Trio

We sold 90 tickets for the event, each at $10/seat for adults and $5 for kids; we also raised more than $100 from the guild table, despite the fact that the audience could buy specialty drinks in an eatery that joined the Center and shared bathrooms.

The response to the evening was overwhelmingly positive. Some folks came for the blend of music and story; some came primarily to hear the tellers. The journalist came back (we gave her two complimentary tickets) and is writing a new piece which will be published this week. Our tellers both said they enjoyed the evening. One said, “Lots of fun performing for such a full and welcoming audience” and the other wrote, “Your audience was wonderful—attentive and in enjoying the program.” I saw it as a win-win all the way around! The guild was recognized, we were able to promote storytelling through a formal concert, and we even raised some money for the guild!

Because this single event was successful, I thought some pointers might be helpful to others considering a similar event in a different area of the state.

  1. TO BEGIN, CHOOSE A VENUE THAT IS RECOGNIZABLE AS A PERFORMANCE SPACE. Although the Center required a rental fee, we had an anonymous sponsor pay for it. Area residents in a 4-county area are accustomed to attending shows in this space.

  1. DETERMINE THE PROGRAM AND THE PERFORMERS TO MATCH. In our case, we opted for a really good small band that agreed to a percentage of the gate and two stellar storytellers who would share the same type of story but have different styles. Kate’s dog story and Kennywood story proved a perfect counterpoint to James’ tales of his youth.

  1. DECIDE ON ADVERTISING. BE PERSISTENT AND PERSONAL. I designed a poster with the help of Vistaprint and ordered 4 large posters, suitable for big window display. We also created an 8x11 for posting on bulletin boards, in windows and at the post offices. We also got a free lance writer for the biggest local paper on board, and she gave us good coverage in that paper. I wrote up a promo for 3 other county papers, including Garrett County (MD), all because I learned that folks from Deep Creek sometimes came down for musical events. I wrote personal notes to all papers, asking for publicity.

  1. CHOOSE KEY PEOPLE TO HELP SPREAD THE WORD. Because I was working in my own area, I selected people who would enjoy coming to a program such as this and asked them to sell tickets for me. Each received a packet of 10 tickets. This worked well, because some folks wanted their tickets in hand when they arrived. The seats were comfortable folding chairs, so when the doors opened 15 minutes before the start, folks could choose their seats. Only a few seats were reserved (our oldest guild member who attended is 90 and needed to be close to the front!). We sold 55 tickets before that evening, and we had another 16 reserved at the door, guaranteeing us a fair gate to be divided among the performers. (I could then take a sigh of relief!). We sold another 24 tickets at the door.

  1. THIS PROGRAM GAVE US AN INVITATION TO HOLD ANOTHER CONCERT FREE OF CHARGE AT A SECOND LOCATION IN THE COUNTY. I challenged the audience to buy everything from the guild table if they wanted to see another show as a vote of confidence. They did so. The next program already has a location, so we have already fulfilled requirement #1 (see above), as we plan for a fall event near Halloween.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to send me a note. I am happy to share what I learned in more detail.  Email is

Looking Back on the Fifth Season of Speak Story Series

In December the Speak Story Series capped off its fifth season, which saw a number of changes to its operation. A community committee formed to guide the Series into future seasons and also worked to join the series into its new home at Shepherd University. With built-in seats, sloped floor, and raised stage, Reynolds Hall has proven to be a reliable new home (although we are still good friends with the Shepherdstown Community Club, our original home across the street). It was in Reynolds that we welcomed most of our tellers this season, including Antonio Rocha, Csenge Zalka, Jane Dorfman, Bill Harley, Janice Del Negro, Marc Harshman, and myself. We moved down the street for two shows, featuring Charlotte Blake Alston and the hoop dancing of Kevin Locke. With this lineup, Shepherdstown heard stories in four languages, folk tales from around the world, a presentation of some of the Arabian Nights, poetry from the State poet laureate, original and traditional music, and more. With our October show, we used the internet to bring Janice to our "big screen" from across the country. This was the second time we have used an internet video service to bring a storyteller to West Virginia, and her folktales and spooky stories were enhanced by the "drive-in" quality of the night. Speak is really on a roll and we are looking forward to kicking off our sixth season in March 2018.

A Fresh Twist on an Old Tale: The Greenbrier Ghost Revisited

by Jo Ann Dadisman

As storytellers, we are always looking for the next tale that chooses us. You read that right. Some folks might say we choose the stories we wish to share, but on occasion, we read a story that refuses to let us go. It lingers around the edges of our consciousness, even when we have moved on. For me, one such story is the West Virginia Shue Murder, or as it is more commonly known, the Greenbrier Ghost. From the first time I read it in Ruth Ann Musick’s volume of student-collected stories, Coffin Hollow (1977), I was hooked.

I have found the story retold in James Gay Jones’ Appalachian Ghost Stories (1975), Deitz’s The Greenbrier Ghost and Other Strange Stories (1997), Gavenda and Shoemaker’s A Guide to Haunted West Virginia (2001) and in the first edition of The West Virginia Encyclopedia (2006). Wikipedia’s more recent version provides photographs. Other sources are undoubtedly out there.

Many of the details in the various accounts vary slightly, but the storyline remains consistent: a young woman marries against her mother’s wishes and moves away with her new husband; within 2 months she is found dead and her body is returned to the family for burial; the grieving mother believes her son-in-law killed his new wife; she convinces several others to initiate an investigation; the husband is arrested and convicted of murdering his wife. He later dies in prison.

What makes this tale so compelling is the reason the mother gives for knowing the truth about Zona’s untimely death: her daughter has visited and spoken with her after she has been buried!! According to Deitz, this court testimony is the only example in American history of a ghost’s testimony convicting a defendant of murder!

So I fleshed out the story from the details I had, telling the story from the point of view of Mary Heaster, who “knew something was wrong with that man. She didn’t know what it was—for he was handsome enough with his dark curly hair and sparkling eyes. His quick smile smile brought one in return to women, young and old alike. And yet, Mary knew there was something wrong with his heart. She begged her daughter Zona not to marry….” The story carried itself and I always ended it with Edward Shue’s death in Moundsville eight years later. I always wondered if he died under mysterious circumstances or from another cause but never knew what his death certificate stated.

Imagine my thrill to learn that my favorite Appalachian novelist and author of the acclaimed ballad series (including The Ballad of Tom Dooley and The Ballad of Frankie Silver, both based on historical figures) has released The Unquiet Grave, a historical novel based on the  Shue story from our own Greenbrier County. 

Sharyn McCrumb is legendary in the crafting of tales set in our mountains, with characters that spring off the written page. This new novel does not disappoint, as she artfully weaves together two distinct stories. The first is set in 1896-97 in Greenbrier County and is told in first person from the perspective of Mary Heaster, the bride’s mother. The second occurs in 1930 in Lakin, West Virginia, and is a third-person account of Edward Shue’s defense lawyer, now a man who had been remanded to an insane asylum for attempting suicide. As second chair in the proceedings, James Gardner’s first case was the infamous Greenbrier Ghost case, and in the novel, his memories are relayed to a young psychiatrist whose job it is to determine if Gardner is well enough to be released. McCrumb flawlessly weaves the two stories together with facts borne of her research and her sharp sense of the Appalachian lifestyle, speech, and social mores of that time period.

For me, it was her research that I found to be most compelling. When we begin to flesh out the bones of a story, we spend time with the people, the places, and the events. Sometimes we travel to where the story took place, visit the graveyard, or seek out information pertinent to the time period. McCrumb’s story is compelling because she provides new information about the story’s characters based on historical records, and she also offers an alternative to the “ghost” character. It is her chapter endnotes and author’s notes that I found incredibly helpful. In her own words, McCrumb writes, “When I first requested information on the Greenbrier Ghost, I was referred to a book of regional folktales, in which Zona’s story took up a page and a half. Two years later, with the help of a number of generous and scholarly people, I had amassed a pile of documents six inches thick—census records, birth and death certificates, property records, maps, and photographs—a weath of evidence to bring the folktale back into the real world.”

When we are busy with our storywork lives, we have choices to make. We can tell original stories from our own imaginations or urban legends that are common and lovely to tell. Unique among the many stories are those that are historical, and we owe them our very best. Kudos to McCrumb for giving our state tellers so much new information on the Greenbrier Ghost. I know Zona Heaster Shue is pleased. And for the alternative explanation for the ghost—I’ll let you find out for yourselves. Enjoy a good read!


Bringing Historical Figures To Life

by Ilene Evans

First person historical narrative is a way of telling stories from a person’s life as they might tell them themselves. It is a special style of storytelling. This style of storytelling combines the arts of storytelling, acting, improvisation, characterization, imagination, creative writing, biography, historical research, directing, and then stepping into the role of the historical figure.  It is a wonderful form of re-“membering” our his-story (and her-story) which can enrich both you and your repertoire. By re-“membering” I mean that we can literally put something back together that has been torn asunder. Many families have experienced a kind of loss that remembering through storytelling can help heal. Reconnecting through storytelling can mend our memory and sense of identity. Telling stories through character is a teaching tradition found in many cultures. This is particularly true of African and African American culture, its folk life and traditions. 

Historical stories, especially first person historical narrative, engages the teller in a spiritual sensitivity and a technical skill set. Combining all these skills is a challenge to any storyteller. A storytelling artist must integrate the skills of research, writing, performing and educating, respect, humility, and gratitude. Listening to their original words, working with their writings in diary, articles, poetry photographs, songs and compositions connects you to their artistic spirit and humanity. In reaching back to render historical figures, it is helpful to look for an affinity with that figure. Storytelling goes far beyond fact and dates and numbers. The goal is to express the heart and soul of the character. 

Creating an historically plausible framework is essential to the effectiveness of this style of telling. Having a deep understanding of that ancestor’s life and times adds a sense of authenticity to the presentations. Understanding the era in which the person lived helps the teller to keep the person’s voice alive and bring the conflicts and pressures of the past into clear focus in the present.

This style of storytelling does not attempt to impersonate.  Nor should this style of telling be thought of as a reenactment. I prefer to use the word portrayal. The portrayal is based on the teller’s immersion into the research of their life, getting as close to the person as possible. One does not need to look like the person so much as to bring their stories, ideas, and essence to the listeners.  As much as possible we use the persons own words to shape the stories we share.

First person historical narratives help us understand the people who have shaped our lives and influenced out opinions and opportunities, our choices and options. today. Their victories and their challenges reveal the consequences of choices made. When we look at the turning points, the crossroads of their lives, it gives us a chance to rethink what they were thinking when they did the things they did. As my Grandmother Odessa used to say, we must walk a mile in someone else’s footsteps to understand them.  When we “walk a mile in their moccasins” we learn empathy at a cellular level.  We can see the world from their vantage point. 

The direct impact of first person historical narration is very effective in connecting the past to the present and strengthening the moral fiber of our culture. I found that many of the lessons that teachers were struggling to get across out of a text book leapt to instant clarity and full comprehension with first person historical narrative, in a way that just telling them about the story did not. It is a short term -  high impact teaching tool.

A storyteller using the first person brings the audience into direct contact with those critical moments of decision. It allows the audience to interact directly with their history. It can be used to open dialogue, civil discourse, conversation and discussion to build unity in the community. For example, instead of telling someone about the parade, you become a person at the parade, watching it and feeling it with an immediacy of delight, joy, dread, fear, terror, whimsy, transcendence, victory….

Where can someone find this kind of storytelling? Humanities councils around the country have benefited from promoting this kind of storytelling.  An historical portrayal may be accompanied by contextual seminars and symposiums to help bring dry boring history lessons to life. Museums are using it to enliven the experience of their visitors to give context to artifacts and items no longer commonly used. National Parks service employees are finding that telling stories in first person helps increase the personal connection to the value of the natural environment. Classroom teachers are using this form of storytelling along with creative dramatics to help students understand conflicts and time periods far removed from our daily life.  Welcome to my world! 

Happy Telling, Ilene

Reflections from the Kansas City Storytelling Festival

by Adam Booth

The Kansas City Storytelling Festival is an event I had heard about from several friends on the storytelling circuit. It was always described with superlatives: "sweet" "just the right size" "a teller's dream job." Now that I have told there, I can say that my friends didn't lie!

The November festival places tellers into local public and private venues during the day, such as schools and public service programs, and offers workshops and concerts in the evenings. I had the opportunity to share tales at elementary and middle schools around the metropolitan area, give a workshop at the Midwest Genealogy Center on cultural influence on personal tales, and join fellow featured tellers Sheila Arnold Jones, Scott Whitehair, and Geraldine Buckley in evening shows. This was my first time working with Scott, who quickly won over the crowd with his sensitive, truthful stories of human conditions. 

The regional storytellers are the true gems at this festival. I met and worked with a few dozen volunteer tellers and librarians who had great stories to share and a real love for storytelling. This is a group of story lovers who I would love to get to know more. Missouri is fertile with tellers and telling organizations! Check out for a glimpse of the strength of a local Guild. And did I mention the BBQ we had between shows? KC is hard to beat!

Another highlight of the festival was the evening of ghost stories, which really was an evening of spooky tales. And we were spooked! Images of Sheila's raven are still with me. 

Kudos to founding director Joyce Slater and all of the great librarians, tellers, and support team that help to make this "sweet" festival such a great event.

Story Swap #2 !

by Jo Ann Dadisman

WVSG’s Story Swap #2: Feasting Time

On November 4 Story Swapping participants drove into rural West Virginia on a sunny morning, shared introductions, slurped freshly ground and roasted coffee that Dave and Candy brought, and nibbled June’s sweet rolls. Are you hungry yet?

The day stretched ahead of us, filled with promise. We found time to uncover new possibilities for personal stories, talk about the hurdles we face in choosing stories and telling them to different audiences, and share bits of advice or pose questions for the novice and experienced tellers.

After a lunch of Barbara’s delicious spinach salad, Diane’s shrimp dip with crackers, and homemade vegetable soup and cornbread, our stomachs were full, but the feasting had just begun! We then sunk our teeth into sharing stories: tales about floating school houses, boyhood and surprises on the Chicago streets, girl power, the life of an Italian immigrant, growing up in the 1950s era of polio, a coal camp widow, boyhood and families on the city streets, and much more. Some came to listen while others came to simply tell a story for the pure experience of sharing. Some came for help with voice, framing, or feedback while some came for suggestions on the best delivery method for a special story. We even found time for apple crisp and pumpkin pie, thanks to Jane and the Brauers. Was the day over? Reluctant to leave, we began another round of telling. These stories were a bit different: bubbles as a counterpoint to demonstrations on overseas streets, a brother coaxing an egg from a tired chicken, life on the Erie Canal, Ricky the wayward yet inventive raccoon, gold nuggets and dilapidated houses. The stories continued. Only a football weekend and the hectic traffic patterns it creates and additional obligations kept us from gathering around the campfire for yet another round of stories!

Our day was done. The need for food had been met—both physically and emotionally. The greatest benefit of story swapping is the comraderie that comes from taking time to laugh, to listen, to talk. The stories settled down over us, our own and the ones we heard, much like a favorite meal from our childhood. We were filled with contentment, but ready for the next time. And that’s real feasting!