Oops, I did it again!
A few posts back, I was pondering what my role in the world of storytelling has become, one of not a teller performing, but someone working to promote storytelling. A storytelling madam, you might say, although I don't think what I'm pushing is illegal and I know it's something of worth.
I did it again. I can add to my list of "behind the scenes in service to storytelling" once more. It started innocently enough. These things usually do. I was checking out information to relocate a contact number for a trip to the National Storytelling Festival this fall. I knew I'd seen this posted on some storytelling website. As I worked my way through my bookmarks, I noticed as I scrolled down the site for the National Storytelling Network that an effort was underway to get state contacts for the National Youth Storytelling Showcase. Wisconsin was not represented yet. I wrote an email and.....yup, Ms. Rose wrote back and thanked me for my willingness and said she would be in touch soon.
What in the world am I doing, volunteering to do something like this? Truth be told, it's probably less nutty than my summer trips as a delegation leader with People to People, in which I travel with about 30 teenagers through some foreign venue. This task is something I can do at some level of my own pace and convenience. More importantly, it's something I can do to carry on with my own personal quest to help kids turn off electronic entertainment and turn on interaction. Too often in my daily work as a teacher, I discover that kids from all backgrounds have far too little experience with sharing and hearing stories, and they hunger for it. I've coached middle school and elementary school storytelling troupes, and I've seen the magic unfold as these kids engage with story. I've enjoyed watching the reaction of many when they are in the presence of such enthusiasm. One of my proudest moments as a storyteller has nothing to do with my own performance, but one by a student teller of mine, Ashley. I brought four 8th grade storytellers with me to present a workshop on youth storytelling at the Northlands Storytelling Network conference in 2000. The kids were invited to tell stories at the opening olio, and tell they did. In attendence at that olio was Elizabeth Ellis. As Ashley told her version of a classic tale, "The Stonecutter," with contemporary teenage attitude, she mentioned one character as being "the Big Kahuna." Ms. Ellis was sitting by herself, enjoying the kids, and when Ashley put that spin on it, no one was laughing harder or slapping her knees more than Elizabeth.
Elizabeth Ellis was the first "real" storyteller I'd ever heard, long ago at the Great RiverFolk Festival. I was mesmerized and wanted to do what she'd done. I have since had the great privilege of sharing both a stage and housing for a weekend with Elizabeth at the Riverbend Storytelling Festival in West Bend Wisconsin, and I was proud to share all this with her one to one. Elizabeth has developed her own little "stump speech" about the necessity of storytelling to help create morality and ethics in our society, and what better legacy can I return than to help continue such work among kids?
If you live in Wisconsin, work with talented kids who can tell quite a story and would like to see them go places with those stories, you know where to find me! I'd be honored to help your young friend!