Friday, May 27, 2005

Cat on lap

I'm kittied in at the moment. I have plans to work on the tower for the Rapunzel puppet show, but I can't move. Joe Fish is curled up comfortably on my lap. Yes, I could get up, but if I do, he'll take the chair and it will be difficult to get it back.

So maybe I need to do some other work here at the computer.

I could do my Quicken accounts, which I haven't looked at in far too long, but that requires getting up to get my checkbook and I don't really want to.

I could work on the pieces of "Blood, guts, spies and fat naked ladies" that need shaping. My friend Joyce Slater came over yesterday and helped me immensely on this piece. I'm at the top of the waiting list to tell it at the National Storytelling Concert in the Lyceum performance (why did they change that from "fringe"?). While I don't wish anybody ill, I hope the next person on the list decides not to come, or maybe decides they aren't ready to tell.

I could work on my novel, which has been undisturbed for months, until this morning when I wrote a little bit that might fit in. I remembered that I really like the characters in it. I cried when one of them died. Writing the first draft as part of nanowrimo was really fun, but now I'm at the point of editing and rewriting the next draft. It's teeeeeeeediiiiiioooooouuuuussssss.

I could write some e-mails, catching up on some old stuff. I could write a draft of a letter to a Bulgarian folklorist, in response to her letter of several months ago.

Or I could play another round of Spider solitaire, to which I am unfortunately addicted. Again.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

It's almost summer!

I love summer. This one is going to be great, with tons of work mostly in libraries around Kansas, a little in Missouri and two gigs in Oklahoma. Maybe I'll find some good pie.

I'm thinking of having my bathing suit in the car, so I can go to the city pools in the small towns, after my performances. It has been a few years since I did that, back when I had a car with no air conditioning (seven years in Kansas with no AC in the car!). I'd ask the kids at the performance who was going swimming after the performance. They'd tell me where the city pool was. After paying my dollar or two, I would jump in and cool off. The kids would show off their dives and dogpaddles, "Watch this! Watch this!" Then it would be time to dress, get back in the car and drive home or on to the next gig.

Library shows are usually big fun. You never know what will happen. A few weeks ago I had a performance where a young child (2? 3? girl? boy?) came up and stood right in front of me for most of a story, facing the audience. I'm not sure what that was about. Sometimes kids get so involved in a story they stand up without realizing it. Sometimes there's a low roar of babies and toddlers, and sometimes those babies and toddlers are completely quiet and listening.

I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, May 12, 2005


My oldest nephew graduates from high school on Sunday. How did this happen so soon?! When I moved here in 1993, Willie was in first grade. I moved here in part to see him grow up. I would test out new stories on him. "What about this one? Does this work?" I sometimes went into his elementary school classrooms to tell stories. The first performance of the beginning of "Tristan and Iseult" was in the fourth grade of Hillcrest Elementary School.

Once, when Willie was about six, I walked past him making faces in the bathroom mirror. I stopped and said, "Good job skill, Willie, good job skill." He has a great rubber face, a very useful attribute, and a well-developed sense of humor. He's a drummer, which only adds to his comic timing. He also has the family penchant for saying ridiculous things in weird accents.

In junior high school, I went to see him in countless plays. He was really good, and I'm not just being a proud aunt. Well, maybe I am, but it's true. A few years ago, when I was given an arts award in town, Willie made the presenting speech simply and clearly, with quiet confidence. That was as nice as the actual award.

I'll be in the audience on Sunday, with plenty of kleenexes handy.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Rereading old journals

It can be so embarrassing--and enlightening--to do what I've been doing today: rereading one of my old journals. This is one I began in 1983, when I was on my way to Bulgaria for the year. I was 22 and thought I was an adult.

In this journal, I see that I left the US (on a standby flight) with $980 for the year. The airplane tickets had to come out of that. I knew that I'd be receiving a stipend from the Bulgarian government, but I had no idea how much it would be. I wrote that my parents seemed worried about me, "and also a bit jealous." My 43-year-old self laughed out loud at this, but my 22-year-old-self was entirely serious. I was so earnest!

I was also often lonely. This isn't my main memory of that year, but it's a theme running through the journal. As I reread, I remember the feeling. It occurs to me that I've only read up to the beginning of January. I was just finding my way at that point. My friend Marie didn't turn up in Sofia until later in the month, and I made other friends more easily later in the year. (Marie, remember going to the country with Salvador and his friend?)

I'm reading the diary for a reason: I've been working on a set of personal fiction stories called "Blood, Guts, Spies and Fat Naked Ladies: The Bulgarian Cycle." It's in parts, some of which I've been telling in performance for years. Some I've just told in conversation. In performance, I try to remember to tell my listeners "all my stories start with a seed of truth."

Within my diary, I'm looking for a specific incident I remember imperfectly, an incident that may be the pivot point in the "Spies" section of the story. I haven't found it yet. We'll see if this seed grows from my memory or from what I wrote at the time.

I've put my name in to the lottery to be in the Lyceum performance at the National Storytelling Conference, and last I heard I was third on the waiting list. This is the first time they've done this fringe festival as part of the conference. Each performer will get 55 minutes. Not enough for me to tell "Tristan and Iseult," but enough for these Bulgaria-inspired stories. Even if three people don't drop out, I'm happy to be working on this cycle, and to be meeting my younger self.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Up to Downs and back again

I meant to follow last week's post immediately with one about the Kansas Storytelling Festival in Downs, but by the time I got to it, I was knee-deep in the Kansas City Storytelling Celebration. Now I have a moment to breathe.

The Kansas Storytelling Festival started in 1994. This date sticks in my mind, as it was one of the first festivals I was invited to since I became a full-time storyteller in 1993.

Downs is a pretty little town in north-central Kansas, between Osborne and Cawker City (home of the biggest ball of twine). It's not far from the geodetic center of the continental US. The Downs Art Council is active, hosting the storytelling festival, the festival of the trees, and an acoustic coffeehouse called "Downs Unplugged," among other events. They've got a great corps of volunteers who dive right in to the work of putting on a festival.

At the first KS Storytelling Festival, I had several performances. Most, if not all, were attended by a set of four blonde sisters, ranging in age from six months to six years (I think). The Koops girls were my first Downs groupies. Even the little one, Jenny, listened attentively. Now the oldest is on her way to college, and Jenny is 13.

This year was my fifth time at the festival. Lots of the locals know me and greet me by name when I arrive. This time, I got there at lunchtime, just pulling in at the same time as Jim "Two Crows" Wallen and his wife Deb.

We went down to the Railroad Inn for lunch, a tiny restaurant right next to the tracks. We peered around, trying to find an empty table, and I spied Terry Koops (the uncle of the blonde girls, I think--Koops is a common name in this Dutch-settled town), sitting with a friend. We pulled up chairs to his table and I began the introductions before we even ordered (incredible fried chicken, and if I'd had room, I would have had the strawberry shortcake). Terry is famous for having won the liar's contest at the festival many years in a row. In fact, they told him he couldn't enter anymore. The prize is, of course, a shovel of the kind often found in barnyards. No subtlety there, but it is a liar's contest...

Anyway, that was a good start to the festival. We were welcomed everywhere we went. I was put up in the home of the Bihlmaiers, a gracious couple who've moved into town from their farm (Margaret even gave me some of her chokecherry jelly to bring home). The stories flowed all weekend. The first year of the festival, it was mainly locals who came to listen. Now there are folks from all over--Oklahoma, Missouri, Colorado, other parts of Kansas, as well as the locals.

Hmm, I was going to write about the Kansas City Celebration here, but I'll save that for next time.