OOPS! Mt. Vernon, OH, Apr. 30-May 2, 2010

Story Musings

OOPS! Mt. Vernon, OH, Apr. 30-May 2, 2010




“Once upon a time, in the land of” . . . Ohio, O.O.P.S! invited storytellers to a wonderful conference!  (beginning stolen from Cathy Jo Smith’s Adventures of Seamus McSeamus, an Irish Rover)


Wonderful sharing of stories and ideas — such a warm and friendly group, delicious catering, comfortable and friendly lodging at the Holiday Inn.

. . . wonderfulness marred only by the absence of Kim Weitkamp — feel better, Kim!


In “The Finish Of Patsy Barnes” Paul Laurence Dunbar wrote, “A man goes where he is appreciated . . .” — as do women, and if so, Ohio is a great place to go!!


I had a great day telling at Pleasant Elementary Friday with Joyce and Julie — lovely, lively, intelligent children!! By the end of the day, they were greeting us in the hallway as good friends and welcome guests.  I tried to vary the stories so children in one class would have something to share with those in other classes, but that Wide-Mouth Frog came out twice (and would also have appeared, by advance request, if I’d been picked for the evening swap . . . ah well, next time perhaps).  The librarian, Marilyn, was such a wonderful hostess, taking us out for delicious Chinese food and helping me find my way from room to room.  I left copies of my CDs for them.  I gave one to the manager at the motel (her daughter’s school wasn’t getting a storyteller this time) and a few to travel-stressed families at rest areas also. (My room in the Mt. Vernon, Ohio, Holiday Inn was #314 — the pi room!)


Many interesting questions and discussions came up throughout the weekend, including the “home for the holidays” phenomenon of tellers’ paths crisscrossing the country, to become “out-of-town” talent . . . sorry eco-tellers . . .  but it was worth it for this wonderful conference!


Dovie Thomason shared stories and wisdom.  She is more than willing to return to St. Louis — recovered from that fall on the courthouse steps and speaks fondly of how well Bette Ramirez cared for her afterward!

If you want to see Dovie (and Bil Lepp), I found this  (hope it’s “legal”)



Dovie’s stories (some of my notes don’t make complete sense to me anymore, being there in the moment made more sense)

— First man and woman, resolving their differences (still working on that?)

Liminal — Between Sky & Land — bats

Sleep is a gift

“Pretty girl” story of rabbit girl, too focused on “pretty” to be useful, turning down all suitors.  She could have had a happier life if she’d been less vain, but she did at least invent embroidery with porcupine quills — we all have gifts . . .    When Dovie finished that story, we noticed an Easter rabbit in a fancy dress — it had been behind her on the stage all along . . . coincidence?


Four brothers, thunder  —  divided.

Whirlwind mars spirit . . . the attraction to the lively, dangerous, exciting . . .


Dovie began her workshop by declaring she would no longer define her sessions as “workshops”  (too structured) but rather as conversations, since she is always influenced on the spot by the spoken and unspoken interests of attendees.  She did touch on promised topics: landscape* changing the story and authentic voice as promised in the description, but added so very much more!

*Rain — delights the desert dweller!  (On Sunday’s drive home, the sun was wearing sunglasses so I didn’t have to).


Where have the tellers of traditional tales gone?  With the shift to personal tales and humor are we losing the more serious stories?  (Coincidentally, this topic came up on Storytell this week also, with a discussion of the “arc” of a program, and Elizabeth Ellis’s “Haha, ahah, aaah, amen” concept of balance.  Building programs exclusively with “crowd pleasers” and just humor might be a bit like eating only desserts, fun, but no nutirition, nothing to build on).


Dealing with technology addiction — go out in nature and listen quietly.  In true contradictory storyteller fashion,  on Friday night I looked at Facebook and responded to an old message of Dovie’s “Define your storytelling in five words . . . ‘Why would I want to?’”  The next day, in her workshop, Dovie remarked on it, so we both were still connected through our electronic servers, while existing under the same roof . . . (Once home, another FB post from Dovie about the friendly folks in Ohio, a sentiment I agree with 100%!  😉


Serve the event — stretch a bit beyond comfort.  Not a “cafeteria teacher” (filling trays like an assembly line), more of a “buffet” — offering choices to whet the appetite.


Tell stories from your roots, not diluted from elsewhere . . .


Don’t tell all you know, leave room for listeners to form own images.

Voices come, not planned  — become bear, fox, skunk,  — power in the stories real . . .


Be yourself — everyone else is taken (Oscar Wilde)

Why can male tellers wear jeans and female tellers must always be dressed up?  (I actually forgot to put on makeup Saturday, so did the a.m. olio, my workshop, and a whole day of listening and visiting “bare faced” — and no one seemed to mind too much).  I did remember my frog jewelry, though — earrings from Missouri Conservation and lovely wide-mouth frog that Jessica Carlton and her mother bought for me on the ETSU cruise where we met . . .


Always tell the truth — there will be someone in the room who will know if you are lying . . .


Someone welcomed back the “old tellers” — laughter — “I mean familiar.”  Dovie reminded us that in her culture, they love the “old people” and learn from them . . . so becoming one of them is a good thing . . .   “Them old people told me that” . . . “got that on my own”

** Coincidence!  a friend just sent this — and made me dance right out of my chair!


The morning olio allowed everyone to get a feel for who would be presenting, and most of us wished to split ourselves between several, because they sounded so good.  I got to tell my trio of school stories: Place, Time, and Love, which I don’t often get to tell.  (Friday night I shared “Real and Make-Believe”).


Evening concert and swap:  Fun!  (but few notes)  “born before the Dead Sea even got sick”

Adele — Hobiyah and little dog Turpie (so glad he could be put back together)

Julissa — charming tale of “The Tree that Didn’t Get Trimmed”

Greg and Natalie — tandem telling of “Old Woman and the Willy Nilly Man”


Frog Goes to High School Workshop — lively!   A very engaged and appreciative group! I was “preaching to the choir” a bit, but we all sometimes need reaffirmation to continue to bring storytelling where it’s needed.  We played with stories and the topics they could be used for, and discussed language skill development and the deadening effect of drilling constantly for the state tests — and that’s why we need to “shut the door and teach.”   Near the end of our time, a woman shared a true story of clever orangutans escaping their zoo enclosure using a piece of metal one of the older orangutans had hidden in his mouth to use as a lock pick . . .  which segued to my  story of trying to join the chimp show at zoo, ending us on a positive note.  (I’ve been told evaluations were good — it did feel good!)


Telling in Schools — Jim Flanagan

As a former administrator, Jim shared his wisdom on how to contact schools, get hired, be a good guest, and make a lasting impression on the students lucky enough to hear him!


I passed handouts along to those who couldn’t make the workshop, and picked one up from Donna Marie Kuczynski’s “Bridging the Gap” workshop. . . remembering the table at the MLA conference where all the presenters put their left-over handouts . . . giving people a second chance to get the info and lightening the load for the trip home (another kind of Wopila) . . .


Gifts —  Dovie’s “Wopila” CD inspired the wopila (give-away) of teaching materials and furniture when I retired from FHN.  Having a name for it made it more of a ceremony and gift.  We talked about the weight of possessions and the discontent created by “manufactured wants” that are not really needs.

I did manage to leave a few gifts —

apple hats: one for the raffle basket (much appreciated by the winner),  one for Bizzie for a new grandchild, and one for Dovie, not quite finished, all but the leaf, so I’ll mail it to her 😉

CD stand . . . The resource table was wonderful!  I bought some lovely tapes and CDs, and sold some too, even some of my daddy’s stories, which I had decided at the last minute to have more made (glad I did).  Oasis display stands are wonderful, and they send many, so I left that one with Cathy Jo (hard-working treasurer of O.O.P.S!)

I wished that I had thought to press one of the flowers on the tables as a memento — violas?  Maybe I’ll just have to visit a nursery in search of a plant.  Dovie talked about making candied violets with her daughter.


And a trade — Cathy Jo had actually driven away on Sunday, then retraced her route to return because we had forgotten to trade her books for my CDs.  I’m reading her Adventures of Seamus McSeamus, an Irish Rover and enjoying it immensely.


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