Sunday, December 31, 2006


"I bet you're going to write about this in your blog."
How to respond to this? On the one hand, it's a challenge. On the other, there's a temptation to rebel, to say, "No way! I'm not blogging about this!"

On with the show. It's hard to resist a challenge. I made syllabub for Christmas dessert. There was a recipe in the paper and it sounded just festive enough for Christmas dinner. I've known the word for years but had never been able to peg it to a real meaning. Syllabub? Priscillabub? The word is of unknown origin, though we had quite the discussion of Dr. Johnson's affinity for syllabub.

Here's what it is: whipped cream with liquor. Sometimes it's a drink, sometimes a dessert eaten with a spoon. I tried for the latter, though the bottom of the bowl was pretty soupy. I found other recipes which include gelatin, eggs, and a variety of liquors. I used kirschwasser, augmented by rum.

The result? Tasty. It was also nice in dollops on my mother's fruit cake bonbons. All the same, it doesn't displace a good fruit pie in my book.

I had no pie on this trip to Maine to visit my parents, but I had a delicious blueberry crisp. Almost as good as pie. I wonder how it would have been with a spoonful of syllabub on top.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Nasruddin Hodja

I finally did it. I gave an entire evening of stories of the Turkish trickster, Nasruddin Hodja (well, I did include a couple of other stories that weren't strictly Hodja tales, but they could have been). Over the years I've collected lots of these stories, some of which I've translated from Bulgarian, Russian, French and a few other languages. I began the quest when I discovered stories in which the Turkish trickster runs into the Bulgarian trickster, Clever Peter (Khitur Petur). Because the Ottoman Empire ruled in Bulgaria for 500 years, the Bulgarian trickster always wins out in those encounters.

The stories of Nasruddin Hodja traveled all over the Ottoman empire. They melded with other stories, with other cultures. There are collections from Central Europe and North Africa, in Bulgaria and in Iran. He's a cultural hero in Turkey, where he actually lived (1208-1284) in Aksehir. His stories are used as Sufi teaching tales and serve as the basis for many expressions in the Turkish language.

The Hodja--the word means teacher or master--is a classic wise fool. In one well-known story, he goes to a party wearing tattered clothes and is seated well away from the action, given no attention and little food. He goes home, changes into his best clothes and returns to the party. He is then seated next to the host and given the choicest food from the platters. He takes this food and applies it to his robe, saying, "eat, eat." When the host asks why, he says, "When I came here earlier, the only difference was what I was wearing. Clearly the honor given is due to my clothes, not to me. "

The Hodja is an expert at delivering this kind of critique to those who act badly in one way or another. At the same time, he also is a perfect fool. In another story, he has a terrible time counting the donkeys he's taking to market. When he's riding on one, he only counts four, and when he gets off that one, he counts five. In the version I tell, he runs into Clever Peter, who says, "Hodja, I count six, but one has only two legs."

Hodja stories are generally short, more of an anecdote than a story. In the performance on Tuesday, I told about 15 of them. I was worried about the pacing of the show, with all these choppy bits mushed together. Many of the stories seem to beg for a drumroll at the end, like a late-night talk show joke.

I'm still thinking about this, wondering if it worked. The audience at this bookstore performance was small, only nine listeners (not including the owner, out of sight at the cash register). My next idea is to do it again but with more publicity. This show was part of a folk series and I didn't advertise what I was planning to do, other than a brief mention in my newsletter of upcoming events. Next time maybe I'll let the folks at the Islamic center on campus know, as well the Slavic department. It would be really interesting to have a time at the end for other people to tell their Hodja stories.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Driving, driving, driving...

I've been in the car a lot lately. In the shower this morning I figured out that I've driven about 35 hours in the last week.

It began last Tuesday when I drove in to Wonderscope Children's Museum in Shawnee, KS. It's not that far, but as long as I'm counting, I'll add it in. By the way, I've been loving these regular gigs at Wonderscope. I'm there on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month, at 9:30 a.m. Most of my audiences have been tinies, so we've done a lot of fingerplays, songs and puppets.

On Wednesday, I didn't drive much, due to freezing rain. Good day to stay inside by the woodstove. I have a garage so I didn't have to chip the ice off my car on Thursday (before this house, I never had a garage). After the rain we had snow, and the streets here were slick. Thursday morning, I drove carefully out to the interstate under gray skies. The storm hadn't hit the whole state--by the time I was an hour from home, the roads were completely clear and there was no longer snow in the fields. I continued on to Quinter, about four hours from home, where the sky was clear and the sun was shining.

In Quinter, I performed at the newly-renovated Jay Johnson Public Library. Beautiful and welcoming! If you're ever going past, do stop (Sharon, the librarian, mentioned that lots of folks driving through stop to use the library). It was part of their Holiday Celebration. I always think I don't have Christmas stories, but it turns out I do, just a few of them. The audience was a mix of kids and adults. Even the older kids joined in on the little-kid stories. Very fun. That baby puppet was once again a hit.

When I was done, I got back in the car and drove home. The predicted snow here didn't happen, though thirty miles to the east they got eight inches.

The next day, after erranding around for a while, my sister and I took off for Iowa and Wisconsin. No, not a work trip for once! We stopped to visit my nephew at college in Iowa (very fun to see him!), and then the next day continued on to Madison, WI for a sister retreat. All four of us were there for a couple of days. Ostensibly we were there for a workshop on Yamuna Body Rolling, but really we just wanted to hang around with each other. We talked, ate, read, shopped, and of course went to the workshop, which was wonderful (I wonder if anybody else is still sore). I love spending time with my family!

It was a short visit. On Monday, we drove back home. I've got to go to the grocery store today, but I'm avoiding getting in the car until I really have to.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The baby puppet again

What a hit! This baby is fabulous. She could pop her binky out of her mouth for a full 45-minute show and get a laugh every time. I go back and forth on whether to do a pop or a kind of raspberry. Kids have been showing a preference for the bilabial pop, but it's very close. The baby's voice has softened, thank goodness, because the George Burns rasp was hurting my throat. She has a ridiculous little laugh after the pacifier ejection, and she has taken to telling the audience that Trixie sat on her head. I've got to discuss babysitting techniques with Trix. As the baby says, "Ow. Squish."

Tomorrow I'm going to a school but not as a performer. Molly, who gave me the baby puppet, invited me to "Grandparents and Special Friends Day" at her school. She doesn't have any grandparents nearby. Though she didn't say it, I know she's hoping I'll bring Trixie and the baby. Of course I will. Hope the baby doesn't want to eat the turkey and mashed potatoes. No regular school cafeteria fare for grandparents and special friends--we'll not be having chicken fingers and tater tots.

Molly is in 4th grade. When she was quite little, she met my puppet Trixie and they formed a special bond. One day after a performance Molly invited Trixie over for a sleepover. When Trixie demurred, Molly suggested a play date instead. I wasn't included in the invitation. I've been telling this story for years, and Molly tells it on herself as well. Tomorrow should be fun.

Friday, October 20, 2006

New puppets!

I didn't mean to do it. I didn't mean to buy that ballerina puppet last week. Really. I thought I might look at the baby puppet at the toy store again, and possibly, just possibly buy it. Not the ballerina.

But she leapt onto my hand and that was it. I didn't know what her voice was until I was driving home. We had quite a chat in the car. Her name is Pirouette, and she is French and Senegalese. I've never had a hand and rod puppet before, so I'm learning just how flexible she is, in her little toe shoes and tutu. Like so many of my puppets, she has a giant ego and isn't afraid to flaunt it.

Then on Saturday, my friend Stacey's daughter Molly had a present for me. Molly is 9 and has been a groupie for years (Stacey says "stalker" is more appropriate). The present was the very baby puppet I had considered in the toy store! In the store, she didn't fit me right, but as a present from Molly, she's perfect. Molly bought this puppet with her own money because she likes my puppets, but then she realized that in the end, it was still her own hand (only slight pun intended). It wasn't satisfying.

Puppets are funny. I don't plan what they say or how they say it. I don't know how to describe what happens--they just take on lives of their own. This baby, for example, is a tough cookie. I'm hoping she'll stop sounding quite so much like George Burns. She already looks like him. The other day I was showing her to a friend, and somehow the baby got hold of a pretzel stick (the fat kind) and then she really looked like George Burns chomping a cigar. Weird.

My sister Mary has promised me another new puppet, a black crow made by Folkmanis. I've tried one of these out before and they're lovely. She got him on a trip and mailed him home with some other stuff. I'm looking forward to meeting him and finding out what his character is.

One of the issues I have with puppets is keeping the voices distinct. Mavis the monkey sounds too much like Stephanie, so I try not to have them both in the same program. Confusing. The ballerina is a bit like my dragon puppet Belle, but Pirouette's French accent is a little slower, a little deeper. I don't expect them to attend the same events.

A couple of weeks ago I saw a puppeteer who used his own voice for all his characters. He also didn't understand that the puppet needs to make eye contact with the audience when it's speaking. It was terrible. Who was talking?

Saturday, October 07, 2006

The new DVD and CD

The Bully Billy Goat and Other Stories DVD and The Best (and Worst) of Beasts CD are here! Over the top of my laptop I can see the boxes holding 1000+ CDs, most of which will join the DVDs in the storage area, as soon as I get the stepladder in off the porch.

I've been slow getting the word out about these recordings. Today I'll write a press release for the paper and I'll start to e-mail the libraries and individuals who have bought my earlier recordings, just to let them know. I'll also send them out for review. will have them up on the site probably within the next few days, and CDBaby is on the verge of having the CD ready (I just emailed them to ask if they'll carry the DVD). If you're interested in ordering, you can e-mail me directly or check the above sites.

In preparing to send out info about the new recordings, I finally realized it's time to get more organized about PR. When I have performances coming up for the public, I send out e-mails to people on my mailing list, when I remember. I always feel vaguely guilty about this, worried that people might not want these notices--even though I always say in the e-mail that I'll remove addresses from the list. Also, my ISP thinks I might just be a spammer for sending messages to more than 25 people. With all this in mind, I just started a yahoo group newsletter, PriscillaHoweUpdate. I'll try to be good about sending notices of upcoming events, with maybe a few storytelling tips and other miscellany.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Miscellaneous thoughts

It's a beautiful day today, so I spent some time bringing my plants indoors. Every fall, my house gets a little smaller, despite the extreme haircuts the plants get. I've got thirteen plants in my office, soon to be fourteen when I find the courage and strength to bring the China Doll in off the screened porch. I was given this plant in a three-inch pot in 1995 or so. It's now over six feet tall--it would have been taller, but I snapped off the top as I wrestled it in the porch door. A few years ago, I thought it was dead, so I whacked it way down. I figured I'd use the pot for something else. Ha! It flourished!

I couldn't bring this tree into the office yet earlier this afternoon, because of the 1000+ DVDs in front of my desk. I got out the stepladder and put 900 of these in the storage space above the puppet closet (yes, the puppets have their own habitat). That's all well and good, but tomorrow 1000 CDs will be delivered from OasisCD, and I'll have to figure out where to put them. I've still got some kitchen cabinets available.

In heaving the DVDs up into the storage space, I had to take stock of what was there. Do people still listen to cassettes? I sold a few at libraries this summer, to my surprise. I've got plenty left, but not so many that it feels oppressive.

Work has started up again. Yesterday I told stories at Cornstock, the Anderson County Corn festival in Garnett, KS. Though it was windy and cold in the morning, windy and sunny in the afternoon, the audiences were great. They sat on the tennis court and listened to my stories and to Alan Cunningham's music. It was fun to perform with Alan, who does some wonderful original songs.

Tuesday will be my first performance of a series at Wonderscope Children's Museum. This is an experiment: I'll be performing on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month at 9:30 a.m. through May (with a couple of breaks in December and February). I'm looking forward to having a regular gig!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Advance notice of CD and DVD

Last week I finally sent off all the info and discs for my new CD and DVD to Oasis CD Manufacturing. Whew! It has been a long process, starting in April with the live recording at Sunset Hill Elementary School. I also did bonus tracks at the Lawrence Arts Center and at the Fort Scott Public Library. I'm completely thrilled with the graphic design by Annie Tichenor, who pulled everything together wonderfully. This is the third time I've worked with the folks at Oasis--they're really easy to work with.

The next step in the process is to okay the proofs when they come in. In a couple more weeks, 1000 CDs and 1000 DVDs will be delivered on my porch. Storage? Some of you have seen my very tall kitchen cabinets, all the way to the 12' ceiling. Now you know what goes in the top cupboards. And yes, I do have to stand on the counter or a stepladder to reach them.

The CD is called The Best (And Worst) of Beasts. The DVD is The Bully Billy Goat And Other Stories. Some of the same stories are on both, but there are differences. The DVD has intermediary stuff with my puppet Trixie and a bonus track of The Ghost with the One Black Eye. The CD has some stories not on the DVD, and a bonus track of The Kansas Three Little Pigs.

One of the things I like the best is the shots of the kids on the DVD. These younger elementary school children react as most do, with enthusiasm and attention.

I expect to sell these at my library and festival performances, on and on In case you're wondering, the DVD will be the same price as all my CDs. I like to keep things simple.

On November 12, I've scheduled a release performance at The Raven bookstore in Lawrence, KS. Stop by for a few stories--and if you're too far away, you'll be able to listen to at least one story from the new releases on my website,

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Juvenile Detention writing again

I thought that I'd be writing blog entries all the time, once most of my performances and workshops were done for the summer. Huh.

Just after the last post, I gave a four-day writing workshop under the aegis of the public library at the Juvenile Detention Center, the second I've done. The first was in March 2005. Once again, it was intense. This time, instead of having one small group meet for two hours a day, I had two big groups for not quite an hour each day. In these workshops, I read poetry aloud, and we wrote and read our writing aloud. I also told a couple of stories.

Once again I was reminded about the energy of space. I met with the boys in the Commons area, where we all felt exposed. The boys sat at tables which had the seats attached, so they couldn't all face me comfortably. I did my best, but we didn't get to the place where most of them felt safe enough to write what they really felt. Another reason for this was that there wasn't a good ringleader to show that this was a "cool" activity. There was one boy who just wasn't interested, and his attitude shifted some of the boys who started out well. Another challenge with the boys was that the group changed slightly each day.

The energy of the girls' sessions was very different. They were in a classroom, which, though crowded (some days there were 19 girls), felt protected. Most of the girls were there for all four days. The first girl to read aloud set the tone by writing something incredibly honest and wonderful. All four days, the girls wrote courageously.

We used some of Natalie Goldberg's rules for writing practice, from the book Wild Mind:
Keep your hand moving.
Don't think.
Be specific.
You're free to write the worst junk in America.

On the first day, one girl said, "If I was a adult, I wouldn't go into no Juvenile Detention. I'd be afraid to." I said to her, "Hmm, should I be afraid?" She just laughed, because I was so clearly not afraid. Later in the workshop, I asked the kids to write on the topic of "I remember/I don't remember". The kids' writing on this topic was strong, both girls and boys. Because of that girl's comment, I wrote about the first time I went to the JDC. I was apprehensive. Would the kids be disrespectful? Would they like what I was doing? Would they care? I found that the kids just looked like any other kids, that they had just made bad choices or they'd been in bad situations, or both.

We wrote on topics that were neutral, like candy, or topics that were more charged, like the letter of advice I asked them to write. Some of the guards even wrote and read aloud. I'm hoping that some of the kids' writing (with permission and without last names, of course) will be published in the Johnson County Library Teen Journal, Elementia

I like hanging out with these young adults and hearing what they have to say. My guess is that most of them are in the JDC because they either used their imaginations too much, or not enough. It was good to give them an alternate outlet for their creativity.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Post-Fringe post

I slept late today, until 8 a.m., resting up after the Kansas City Fringe Festival.

Whew! It went well, I think. I had three performances of Blood, Guts, Spies and Fat Naked Ladies, with modest audiences. Fringe artists need to hawk their wares, work the street and the press to get people to come to the shows, but with my busy summer schedule, it was all I could do to send out e-mails and make up handbills to pass around on the days of the performances. Next time maybe I'll be able to do better. Still, the title brought in a few curious listeners.

The venue was an old garage, with minimal lighting--the owner locked up some of the circuit boxes so we couldn't use them. No problem, there were spotlights for the stage area and a few house lights. Brian Eby was an excellent sound tech for all the shows in this venue. There was a huge (fringe) benefit in this space: it was air conditioned! On this weekend the heat index hit 104 degrees fahrenheit (40 celsius) and not all venues had A/C. I saw fans being carted around to other spaces, as well as coolers of water and ice.

The performance on Friday night might have been the best, with the most advantageous time-slot (8 p.m.), the largest audience, and my strongest rendition of the show. That's also the performance that I forgot to record. I had my new mini-disc recorder all set up, just forgot to press the buttons. Dang.

Saturday's 5 p.m show was tricky. I woke up with a weird little stomach bug, so spent most of the day lying low, hoping the fever and headache would subside (I'll spare you other details). The good thing is that when I'm performing, I'm not aware of most physical ailments.

I had a reasonably strong show, despite the distractions of the volunteer in the back of the house--he opened the door a number of times, rattled bottles, answered his phone, talked with folks coming in, and most offensive of all, used the bathroom that was just to the side of the stage area while I was performing. I understand he's also a performer, so he should have known better.

One of the audience members told me afterwards that his wife was annoyed by the distractions, but that he was so engaged he blocked all intrusions out. He had an interesting comment: "Your story was really compact, like an English novel." It's true that this piece is dense, requiring the audience to listen carefully. There are discrete parts to it, so missing a little piece doesn't mean the listener misses the whole show.

I woke on Sunday feeling much better, though still weedy. By the time I drove in to KC, I was ready for the performance. It went well. Small but appreciative audience at this 2 p.m. show on another oven-hot day. I was able to talk with the new volunteers about keeping distractions to a minimum, and they did, up until the very end, when there was some coming and going--not as bad as the day before, though.

I didn't see as many of the other shows as I would have liked. I'm glad I got to see Joyce Slater's funny (and instructive?) piece, Pissing in Rome, a scatalogical look at European travel, which was quite fun, and I caught Dan Bernitt's show, Thanks for the Scabies, Jerkface! Nice fluidity of style and use of language. Dan has been on the Fringe circuit this summer, so this was his 25th performance of this show.

I remembered to record Saturday and Sunday. At some point I'll listen, but today I need to get ready for the four-day writing workshop at the Juvenile Detention Center that starts tomorrow.

P.S. Tim E., I'm sorry I never sent you my publicity for this Fringe--as you can see, I didn't get everything together until after the NSN conference.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Traveling, traveling

Oh, right, I do have a blog! Sorry to be so delinquent.

It's a good time to write, if I can pull myself away from the Seinfeld reruns and other late afternoon TV in this motel room. At home, I don't have cable and watching TV means pulling the set out of the closet, so when I'm on the road, I do watch. It's weirder than ever, isn't it? Shopping shows, reality TV, non-news programs. Hmm.

At any rate, I've been traveling and performing a lot. I drove across Kansas to Colorado this past weekend. It was a long trip, twelve hours on the hottest days of the year. Thank goodness my car air conditioning works. It was stunningly beautiful in southern Colorado, coming through the La Veta Pass in the Sangre de Cristo mountains. I got a little alarmed when my car started to lose power, but then realized that nothing was wrong--the car was just doing her valiant best to go up, up, up. Made it, too.

In Alamosa, I had an excellent chile relleno. The last two I'd had in Kansas and Missouri were awful (where was the pepper?!), so this one washed that flavor out of my mouth. Tonight I'm going on the hunt for another. No pie on this trip so far, but that's okay. Maybe I've got an additional quest?

I spent Sunday night and Monday in Center, CO. I had a great time! I got to meet another Priscilla--a three year old princess--and a dog named Gorilla (reminded me of the story that when I was born, my brother went running down to my uncle's to announce, "Uncle George, I have a little sister and her name is Gorilla!). Two of the librarians had been to a workshop I gave last fall, so they were the force behind my trip to Center. All of school/public librarians were extremely welcoming and friendly, and the kids in the sumer school (most of the audience) seemed to have a pretty good time.

Then I drove from Center to Greeley, about 250 miles, loving the rugged Colorado landscape at every turn. Greeley is in the Front Range, the flatter part of the state, where it looks a lot like western Kansas, but the mountains are visible to the west.

My performances here in Greeley are also a result of a workshop I gave last fall, one of three in Colorado. Today was just as fun, also with a great welcome from the librarians. That makes a big difference! This morning I was in Frederick, this afternoon in downtown Greeley. More in Greeley tomorrow, then Hudson on Thursday, and then I drive home, about 10 hours or so.

That chile relleno is calling my name. More soon, I promise!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Kansas towns

Yes, indeedy, it's a busy summer. Since May 31, I've had 34 performances, mostly in Kansas but also in Ponca City, OK and Columbia, MO. It has been big fun, but I'm happy to have a few days off after my performance in Osage City, KS tomorrow.

Two brochures ago I wrote a poem to Kansas, using the names of towns where I've performed. Here's the update, best read aloud:

Atchison, Topeka, Chetopa, Onaga, Olathe, Sabetha, Wathena, WaKeeney, Chanute,
Clearwater, Shallow Water, Waterville, Jetmore, Baxter Springs, Bonner Springs, Overbrook,
Salina, Ashland, Carbondale, Clay Center, Gypsum, Garnett,
Delphos, Ulysses, Seneca, Syracuse, Troy,
Columbus, Montezuma, De Soto,
Hope, Mount Hope,
Everest, Spring Hill, Hill City, Mound City, Fairway, Downs, Andale,
Bucklin, Elkhart, Deerfield, Winchester,
Elwood, Ellinwood, Linwood, Leawood,
Lenexa, Tonganoxie, Paxico, Oskaloosa, Wichita,
Horton, Holton, Newton, Norton,
Gridley, Greeley, Powhattan, Manhattan, Shawnee,
Pittsburg, Burlington, Scranton, Washington,
Lyndon, Johnson,
Pauline, Russell, Iola, Stanley, Augusta, Girard, LeRoy, Scott City,
Kansas City, Arkansas City, Garden City, Dodge City, Ness City,
and many more.

Soon this will be a sound file on the website. I've been working on this today instead of office work. Much more engrossing.

Friday, June 16, 2006

The Smoky Hill River Festival last week

I can hardly believe a week has gone by since the first day of the 30th annual Smoky Hill River Festival. I've been a bit busy, to say the least.

I love this festival. I even love it when it's 100 degrees fahrenheit, when nobody has energy, when I can't remember any stories in my repertoire, when my hands are melting inside the puppets, when I'm drinkng fifteen bottles of water just to keep minimally hydrated. That's how Friday and Saturday were. Sunday was cooler, audiences and performers were more lively, and it was generally an easier day.

Here's what I love about the festival:

The crowds are friendly and the general atmosphere is relaxed. Everybody expects to have a good time, so they do. There's a strong sense of tradition--people come back year after year.

It's big fun to perform on the Storytelling Stage, a separate venue from the Children's Stage. Over in this shady tent, I often get groupies, kids and adults who have seen me at the festival in the past or in other venues. I'm happy to fill requests and to tell stories they might not have heard before. Newcomers to storytelling also come to the tent to see what it's all about. It's especially nice when families come to the stage and sit for hours listening to one storyteller after another.

The other performers are always high-caliber, and great fun to hang out with in between sets and afterwards. This builds the appreciation for storytelling in Kansas. This year, the National Storytelling Network is giving Sharon Benson of the Salina Arts and Humanities Commission a regional award for bringing so much storytelling to Kansas, both for the festival and for the Arts Infusion program in the schools. This year Sharon brought in Eth-noh-tec, Ricardo Provencio, Joyce Slater and me.

Because I rove around the festival grounds with a puppet, I get to make people laugh while enjoying the music from both stages (Trixie and Mavis both love to dance), the arts, the crafts, the children's activities and the food.

Did I mention the food? Yum. I don't go in for the seafood quesadillas (in Kansas in the summer? Yikes!) or the giant turkey legs, but my favorites are the Indian tacos, Italian sausage, homemade vanilla ice cream and fresh squeezed lemonade.

On top of all this, the festival staff and volunteers take great care of the performers. They understand the limitations of an outdoor festival (heat, humidity, etc.) and make a real effort to help us out so we can perform at our best.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Quick update

Yikes! It's already June and I'm about to leap into the fray. I finally got my calendar up on, so check it out if you're wondering where I'll be this summer.

Here are a few things that have been going on in my life lately:

Tonight I made the dog puppet for "The Dog Prince," the puppet show I'm doing in July for the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library. As I may have mentioned before, I don't often do puppet shows with a stage, but TSCPL asks me every year and every year I say yes. I'm still working on the story line of this skewed version of "The Frog Prince." It's quite a relief to have all the main characters made. I also don't often sew, except for truly bizarre-looking puppets.

The DVD and CD projects are coming along. The DVD started as a demo only, but I've decided to make it into a commercial piece as well. It's now 36 minutes long, but on Monday I'll do a bonus track of The ghost with the one black eye. The CD will be longer, but will have the same stories as on the DVD (except The ghost).

I had a great time with houseguests last week from Vermont and Washington DC. We were quite busy: went on a drive through the Flint Hills, visited the Baker Wetlands, went to Kansas City and ate barbecue at Arthur Bryant's (read Calvin Trillin on this KC institution). We wandered around downtown Lawrence and walked around in the country. We played games (Ruckus, dice, Scrabble) and Helen made a gooseberry-strawberry-apple pie. She also did a lot of gardening for me! I still have lots of weeds to contend with in the back garden. Both Kristen and Helen gave the cat a huge amount of attention, which he loved.

I've begun swimming again. I'm going to try hard to keep it up all summer. I have lots of work again, though not as crazily wild as last year. I'll do a better job if I'm exercising regularly.

Next week I have my first library gig of the year, at the Overbrook Public Library. I was just there in March and had a grand time. Then on Thursday I head out to the Smoky Hill River Festival in Salina, KS. I love this festival! I haven't performed there for a few years, though I've been in the Salina schools, so kids will recognize me. The weather forecast for next week is for HOT, HOT, HOT. We'll see.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Home from Turkey and Bulgaria

Jet lag is starting to fade, as my regular life resumes. On Saturday morning, my two traveling companions and I got up at 3:00, Istanbul time, so we could catch the shuttle to the airport for a 6:10 flight. Just 24 hours later on the same day, we were on the last leg of the journey (and in case you're wondering, we're still friends).

It was a great trip! Though I made inquiries at several English-speaking schools, I had no paid work on the journey. I told a few stories to friends, in both English and Bulgarian, just for the heck of it. This was an actual vacation, a rare occurrence.

We went first to Istanbul for a few days. We easily could have spent weeks exploring this enormous and fascinating city. Of course we went to the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sofia, the Grand Bazaar, the Cisterns, Topkapi Gardens, and the Spice Bazaar. We also took a ferry to Asia for lunch (I love saying that!). Though it was not yet high season for tourists, we found ourselves constantly fending off offers to visit rug stores or eat in specific restaurants. We relaxed on the rooftop terrace of our guest house and watched dolphins in the Sea of Marmara from the breakfast room.

On Wednesday, we took a bus to Bulgaria. I had expected it to be awful: crowded, smoky, uncomfortable. It was the opposite. We each had our own pair of seats, there was a steward who brought us tea and a snack, there was no smoking on the bus (unlike the ride back, when the driver smoked).

First we went to Plovdiv. I hadn't been in Bulgaria since 1993, but I found that the language came back quickly. We visited the old city, where buildings are preserved or built in the style of the late 1800s. At the ethnographic museum my friend who is a blacksmith got to discuss her craft with a local artisanal blacksmith (many of those words weren't in my little dictionary). We drank espresso in plastic cups on the street, and tasted baklava, banitsa and gevretsi. Bulgaria is the land of street food.

From Plovdiv we took a bus to Sofia. In both towns, we stayed in comfortable apartments instead of hotels. The apartment in Sofia was not far from Sofia University, where I studied in 1983-84, and the National Library, where I did research in 1988. My neighborhood.

We toured around the city, but best of all, we visited my friends, who exhibited traditional Bulgarian hospitality. We enjoyed family dinners and were driven around the country to visit monasteries, museums, and other cultural monuments. If the weather forecast had been better, we would have gone hiking. We got to see real Thracian gold as well as archaelogical treasures from the 5th millennium BC. My American friends were as surprised to see the stunningly beautiful snow-capped mountains as they were to see the incredible busy-ness of Sofia (population has doubled to 2 million in the last 10 years). I was sad to see how poor the city looks, though I knew that behind the dilapidated external apartment walls, people take great pride in their homes.

I introduced my friends to my favorite Bulgarian foods: shopska salad (cucumbers, tomatoes, feta cheese), lukanka (a dried sausage), sheep yoghurt, kashkaval (a yellow cheese), sour cherry jam and so much more.

Normally when I travel, I look for collections of folktales. We didn't have enough time for me to browse at length in bookstores. Instead, I refreshed my own memories, so when I tell "Blood, guts, spies, and fat naked ladies" this July in the Kansas City Fringe Festival, my personal fiction will be fresher than it was last summer.

On the bus back to Istanbul, I thought about that story, about how it might be different from my telling last year at the National Storytelling Conference Lyceum. We'll see. I also thought about how I could get back to Bulgaria. I dream of going to the Festival of Humor and Satire, held only every few years in the town of Gabrovo. I'll let you know if I get there.

Friday, April 28, 2006

More busyness

This has been a great month so far. I know, it's the 28th, so there are only a couple of days left. I expect them to be great as well.

In the middle of the month, I had a couple of performances for kindergarten, first and second graders at Sunset Hill Elementary School here in Lawrence, recorded for posterity by Bad Haircut Productions. The goal was to make a demo DVD, but of course I start thinking bigger--can I get a DVD good enough to sell AND a CD out of the deal? I'll let you know. The guys at Bad Haircut (really, they're perfectly fine!) are mostly done, but I won't be able to look at the final product until mid-May.

What else has been happening? I've been to some excellent schools, including a full day in Chetopa, KS, where the kids were wonderfully ready to hear stories. Last week I was in Missouri, first doing a puppet workshop in Columbia, then at the Mid-Missouri Storytelling Festival. The main goal of that festival is to take storytelling out into Jefferson City and environs. I got to tell in Frankenstein, MO. It's probably good that I didn't do the Frankenstein song I know.

This week I went back to Sunset Hill for Asian Day preparation, telling stories to the entire school. Big group, but I think it worked. Then I was part of the Kansas City Storytelling Celebration, performing in a few venues around KC. That's still going on--if you're reading this before Saturday, April 29 and are within range, you might consider going to the big concert at Unity Temple on the Plaza in KC. I won't be there, but I'm sure it will be good.

Why won't I be there? Why won't I be able to see the demo until mid-May? Tomorrow I'm off on an adventure. I'm leaving for two weeks to Turkey and Bulgaria, with a couple of friends. It's not even a work trip, either. Not to say that there won't be any work, but it's not the purpose. We're just going to have a good time. I haven't been back in Bulgaria since 1993, and I've never been to Turkey. Can't wait!

Speaking of the trip, I'm not packed yet, so I'd better go do that. I might be able to send reports from the road, but no promises. It's all too possible I'll be busy drinking Turkish coffee and eating real yoghurt (among other things). One of my friends just sent me the schedule for the central puppet theater in Sofia. He knows one of the puppeteers. Hee hee!

Friday, April 07, 2006

Busy April

The month has begun well. This week I told stories at the Lawrence Community Nursery School (many small groupies there), at the library of the McConnell Air Force Base, at Oak Grove (MO) Elementary School, at the Village Presbyterian Church Child Care Center in KC and at two schools in Eudora, KS. Tomorrow I'll drive over to Columbia, MO for a performance at the public library, always a great venue.

I had a good time at all of these gigs. Some audiences were mostly little tinies, some were older kids.

The longest day was Tuesday. I left home at about 6:15 a.m. to drive to Wichita (around two and a half hours), did a 10:00 a.m. show at McConnell, then got in the car and drove to Oak Grove, MO for a 7:00 p.m. performance. I considered coming home in between, but I realized that I'd have only about an hour or two and I was unsure about rush hour traffic around Kansas City. I had a chunk of time anyway, even with having a nap in the car (yes, I do lock the doors, Mom), so I went to Cargo Largo. That's a gigantic odd-lots store, where you can find the weirdest stuff for low prices. Last year my friend Joyce and I found some Frankenstein boots with rubber spikes and two-inch platforms there. I still regret not buying them.

I had no such luck on this foray to Cargo Largo, though I did find Airborne for pretty cheap. I stocked up, as I'll be traveling a lot in the next few months.

Anyway, I went on from Cargo Largo in Independence, MO to Oak Grove, where I performed at a Family Reading Night. The gym was packed with kids and their parents, all lounging around on blankets and pillows. Very fun. It reminded me of how nice it is to let kids listen in whatever posture they find most comfortable, as long as they're not bugging anybody else. I do understand (and appreciate) teaching kids to be a good audience, but it's nice to let them relax sometimes.

They were all quite relaxed at the end, when I told The Gunniwolf--that story often calms listeners down after some of the wilder stories. I suspect many of the younger kids fell asleep in the car on the way home. I didn't, fortunately, though I had an hour and a half to drive home.

I was away from home for about 15 hours, so when I finally did get home, I fell right into bed. Zzzz.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Going Deep, first annual

We did it! From last Thursday to Sunday, about 20 storytellers were completely immersed in the world of long traditional stories, in the first ever Going Deep Festival, held at the Storyteller's Riverhouse in Bethlehem, Indiana.

For years, Liz Warren, Olga Loya and I had dreamed of having a festival where we could tell these epic stories and then have in-depth workshops about them. I told anybody who would listen about this idea. Last year, I mentioned it to Janice del Negro, who said, "Why don't you do it at Cynthia Changaris' bed and breakfast?" Brilliant! We knew--and this was confirmed in the doing of it--that Cynthia and Mary Hamilton of Scheherezade's Legacy would be fabulous at hosting the event.

Skipping over the details of how we got there, here are some reflections on how it all worked.

The first evening Liz Warren told us the story of the Grail. Aaah. We all basked in the warm, strong, evocative telling of a story that is so much a part of Western culture and yet felt new to us. Liz's performance set the tone for the festival--we knew we were in for a rich and satisfying experience.

After the performances each night, we went back to the bed and breakfast (in fact, people stayed in three houses, but the B and B was the hub) for cake and conversation. My dreams that night--and the subsequent nights as well--were full of images.

In the morning, Liz presented a meaty workshop about the story. Ideas pinged around the room as we talked and thought and learned. Some of the participants also tell long traditional stories, some are new to the long form, so we had a wide range in our discussion.

The afternoons were free for massages, palm readings (two massage therapists and a palm reader were there), collage, naps, reading, walks by the Ohio River or through the (O) little town of Bethlehem. Then dinner before...

...we went on to Olga Loya's splendid performance of the Aztec creation myth. Thank goodness she introduced the characters to us first. It was a joy to listen to a story so unfamiliar, so multilayered in a way different from Western tradition, and yet full of the common themes of humanity. We wailed like the Hungry Goddess, we snaked around the room in procession, we were IN the story for the whole time. Wonderful.

The morning workshop was yet another meaty experience, as we explored the intricacies of working with a challenging story from a culture most of us know little about, understanding the layers of the gods and goddesses, understanding our own layers.

More rest and relaxation in the afternoon (I had a continuation of my palm reading from the day before!), and then I told "Tristan and Iseult." I can tell of this only from the perspective of being on stage. It was incredibly cool to be able to perform this story that I love and have worked on for so long to a group of (mostly) storytellers. I felt great support from the audience.

An interesting thing happened after my performance. As on the other nights, we went back to the house. The cooks had kindly saved back my supper, so I sat with Liz, Olga and Rebecca (the palm reader) in the dining room. Little by little, many of the participants drifted into the living room. They had a long discussion about the story and about the process while we stayed in the dining room playing dice. It was at least an hour conversation. This hadn't happened in the same way the other nights, and I think that was because by this time in the festival, a strong community had formed. Also, the pattern of discussion in the earlier workshops facilitated the conversation. Margaret told me later that it was probably good that the performers weren't in the room, because they needed to explore the topics without the "authorities" (Margaret, did I get that right?).

We ranged around a little more in my morning workshop, from the story itself to specific techniques for working on these behemoth stories, to venues for the long-form story. We also had evaluations and a closing Grail blessing, before heading in to lunch. I was sorry that many folks had to leave before the end--and sorry they missed the most excellent jokes at lunch.

If you've read this far, you'll be interested to know that we have plans to do it again. As with everything else about this festival, our plans are a bit unorthodox. I'll keep you posted.

Huge thanks to Cynthia, Mary, the cooks, the massage therapists, Rebecca, and of course Olga and Cynthia, and everyone who made this festival happen.

I'd love to hear other participants' reflections on this festival!

Monday, March 13, 2006

Weird weather

Whew! Yesterday sure was strange. Thunder, lightning, wind and a bizarre-colored sky, before the tornado sirens went off. I called the cat, but he was outdoors, hunkered down somewhere. Time to find the radio and lantern, both of which are battery operated, and head down to the cellar. The power went out. I saw my neighbor across the street so I called her over to join me (she couldn't get to her own cellar). We sat on a couple of chairs in the dirt floor cellar until the sirens stopped and it was safe to come upstairs.

Lots of neighbors were out, looking up and down the street. The cat returned, completely dry (though there was a patch of what looked like motor oil on his leg). There were small branches down in my yard, but nothing serious, nothing like the tree on a pickup truck up the block. That was nothing--all over town huge trees were knocked over, power lines were down, fences and windows and other debris were tossed everywhere. Many traffic lights were out, and some were completely missing. Light poles had been flattened. No tornadoes, but a violent microburst had come out of nowhere, with 70 mph winds.

By early afternoon, the sun was out and it was warm. Clouds came back and I heard on the radio that the sirens weren't working properly. More thunder. An emergency vehicle drove up my street with the siren on, so back I went to the cellar with the lantern and the radio. This time I took a book and the cat, who is only rarely invited into the depths. After he was done exploring thoroughly, I heard on the radio that it was okay to come out.

The sky cleared again, and I picked up the sticks in the yard. I opened the windows in the house, puttered, called friends to find out how they were doing. Then the sky darkened again and we got a short downpour. Later it was clear. There were stars last night. Today the temperature was 30 degrees colder.

I'm incredibly thankful that my big trees stayed upright, and that on this cool evening, I have a good fire in the woodstove. I think there will be plenty of firewood next year.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Read across America

Every March 2 for the last few years, libraries and schools around the US have celebrated Dr. Seuss' birthday, in Read Across America, sponsored by the National Education Association. Some extend the celebration of books and reading for a full week. As a former librarian, I adore this!

I don't tell Dr. Seuss stories (copyright issues), but my puppet Trixie quoted a little from "Green eggs and ham" in our performances last week. I told Robert Munsch stories (I have his permission) and a few other book-based stories in three schools in Topeka. Big fun!

At two schools I was in the gym and at one in the library. When possible, that's my first choice of venue in a school, comfortably surrounded by books and not so echo-filled. At each of the three schools, I felt completely welcome. The teachers at the second school even invited me to a big lunch held in their library. The students at all three schools were attentive the whole time, even though I had a wide range of ages. It's a hoot when kids actually cheer after a particularly satisfying story--in the past, I've occasionally heard kids yell, "Bravo!" as if they were at the opera.

It has been a quiet winter. I'm so glad to be working more now. Did I mention how much I love telling stories?

Friday, February 17, 2006

The old question: what to call it

The love story concert brings up the old question: if I called my performances for adults something other than storytelling, would people actually come? The term "storytelling" makes the general public assume it will be a) boring or b) for children or c) not a sophisticated artform and therefore kind of embarrassing to watch or d) too homespun--maybe they think it will be somebody in a gingham dress sitting on a rocking chair, talking in a vaguely hillbilly style. In case you wondered, I don't even vaguely resemble this last one.

I'm happy that I had an audience. There were even some folks I didn't know. Around 35 people showed up on a weeknight in a town where there's often too much going on. Still, there was a great piece in the newspaper on Sunday, I was listed in calendars in other papers, I sent e-mails to my mailing list, I put signs up all over town, and I asked my friends to tell their friends. It seemed as if I'd have a bigger crowd. The people who came were very positive about the experience, so I don't think it's a matter of my delivery. The term "storytelling" just doesn't sound very compelling.

This morning I was talking with a friend about this. She was at the performance and has heard me in many venues over the years. She's a great supporter. We decided that if I called it something else, maybe people would attend. Monologist? Gack! Even though my second cousin Helen Howe called herself this, I can't stomach it. Public speaker? Even worse, sounds like I'm giving a lecture on some embarrassing physical problem. Spoken word artist? Nah. Performance artist? I don't think so.

I think I'll try doing my show Blood, guts, spies and fat naked ladies in the fall, and I'll bill it as a one-woman show.

I'll let you know how it works.

The love story concert

I'm just emerging from the fog of telling love stories on Valentine's Day. It was a friendly crowd (how could it not be?), with a mix of familiar and unfamiliar faces in the audience. The hall I rented is a former train depot, and the trains still pass by quite frequently--reports from the listeners were that my sound system was good enough to overcome the rumble and roar.

It was fun to tell this particular mix of stories: a personal piece about some bad blind dates, another based loosely on a former Bulgarian folk dancer I met in 1993, three literary stories (oh, how I love Cynthia Rylant's and Richard Kennedy's writing), the folktales Wali Dad the kindhearted, the French version of Mr. Fox, and The wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnell. When I realized that Aucassin and Nicolette would be too long, I replaced it with Rapunzel.

Normally, nobody knows exactly what I plan to tell, but this time I printed up a program. I resist this, because I like the freedom of changing the set list at the last minute, as I look at the audience. I've decided I can let go of that resistance, because having a program gives the listeners another way to remember the stories later. I'll do one for Tristan and Iseult in March, to give some background on the story.

The performance was about an hour and a half. As always, I had plenty of energy while performing. Afterwards, I was tired from having worked so hard on so many new stories at once, and for all the other prep work involved in a self-produced concert. I was thankful that my friends and family folded up the chairs, cleared up the hall and helped load my car. I went straight home and almost immediately to bed.

Here's a strange thing that happens after some performances: as I lie in bed trying to sleep, my head is full of images. You'd think the images would be from the stories, but they are just as likely to be unrelated, little flashes of color and shape, some recognizable and some not. It takes a while for my brain to calm down and let go of all the activity. I slept late the next day.

Monday, February 06, 2006

New stories

I've set myself a bit of a task.

Next week I'm telling love stories for grownups. I rented the hall back in December, when it looked like a simple thing to do. Then last month I looked at my list of stories. Did I really have enough love stories for adults? I looked around at possibilities and now I have a new set list. It looks pretty good, about 75 minutes of stories ranging from folktales to stories from books to my own quirky pieces.

So what's the problem? Of the stories I'm planning to tell, only "Sir Gawain and the Dame Ragnell" and "Mr. Fox" (who said the stories had to be happy?!) are truly seasoned from years of telling. "Checkouts" by Cynthia Rylant is one I used to tell (with permission), but it has been many years since I've looked at it. The last time I told "Aucassin et Nicolette," a year and a half ago, the audience couldn't stand the main character and therefore the story--I'm working on a way to make him more sympathetic and still retain the integrity of the tale. "The gifts of Wali Dad" is the story I told at the wedding last fall, and though I love it, I know it needs more work. Then there are two stories by Richard Kennedy I've never told (he also gave me permission to tell his stories). Is that all? No. There are two original stories on the list, one I wrote years ago and haven't told in at least six years and another that is just taking shape now.

What was I thinking?! Now all that comes to mind is "which story should I focus on right now?" In the swimming pool, I lose track of my laps as I run through "The porcelain man." As I walk downtown, I think about the new story about blind dates. Before I go to sleep, I read through "Checkouts" slowly, seeing the pictures in my head. I mention to friends and family what I'm working on, in more boring detail than they want to hear. Hmm, the lines between working, contemplating working, and procrastination get blurred, don't they?

Enough dilly-dallying, back to work!

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Why did they call the movie "Tristan and Isolde"?

I went to see the movie "Tristan and Isolde" yesterday and I'm trying to figure out why they called it that. They could have called it "Thomas and Ivy," or any other two names, for all the resemblance it had to the traditonal tale. I know, I know, stories have many versions, but when there are this many changes, it becomes a different story. The filmmakers took a wonderful, rich, enduring story and completely eviscerated it. They took out all the good parts, added in quite a bit of gratuitous violence and some trite plot points, and now they're trying to pass it off as the classic story. Hmmph.

Here are a few elements the filmmakers removed:
  • Tristan's mother dying when he was born,
  • His squire Gorvenal, who is a major figure throughout the story,
  • Tristan being kidnapped by pirates,
  • Tristan finding himself in Cornwall, not knowing that King Mark of Cornwall was his uncle, his mother's brother (why did the moviemakers write it as "Marke"? Maybe because it was in Olde Englande.),
  • The giant, Morholt was Iseult's uncle, not her suitor,
  • A piece of Tristan's sword breaking off in Morholt's skull, killing him,
  • Iseult's fury at Morholt's death and her oath to kill any man from Cornwall, especially Tristan,
  • Tristan killing the dragon, thereby gaining Iseult as King Mark's wife,
  • The LOVE POTION!!!
I have to stop here before the grinding of my teeth gets worse--this is only the first part of the story, and they left out all that. There's much more they left out. I'm especially annoyed that they got rid of the love potion, because that is the pivot on which the rest of the story turns. Don't even ask me about the ending, which was a total cop-out.

There was lots of blood, lots of swordplay and arrows being shot at people. The actors were very pretty, as they should be, but they were completely uninspired. I wanted to tell Tristan to stand up straight--stop slumping, lad! The filmmakers added some stock characters (the rival nephew, the leader of another clan who was bent on betrayal) and made the story revolve around the evil King of Ireland. Huh? It's true, in the traditional versions, the Irish King levied a tax on Cornwall, but he was in favor Iseult marrying King Mark so the lands would have peace.

This could have been a wonderful movie. What a missed chance.

In response, I'll be telling the story three times in March: at the Lawrence Visitor's Center/Union Depot on March 3 (7:30 p.m., if you're in the area), at a nearby Juvenile Detention Center, and at Going Deep: the Long Traditional Story Festival in Bethlehem IN. I'll tell it and tell it and tell it. So there.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Fun in New Jersey

Last week was a hoot! The best day was Monday, when I told stories at Cliffwood Elementary School, in Cliffwood NJ (I don't know how long the pictures will be on the website, but check out the photo gallery on the site).

How did I get to New Jersey, other than by plane? Through a series of fortunate events, the fabulous school librarian has had my recordings for a couple of years and has played them for her students. Susan and I had begun a correspondence about storytelling by e-mail. In one e-mail, she wondered if I would ever be near enough to come to her school. When I realized that I would be in Philadelphia for the International Performing Arts for Youth Showcase, I e-mailed her and suggested we try to set up a day of storytelling. It worked!

I stayed with Susan, her daughter, two dogs and a cat not far from Cliffwood. Monday morning we leapt into the car and went to school, talking the whole way. A big sign inside the front door welcomed me to the school, as did every staff member I met. The library was festooned with pictures from the stories the kids had listened to in anticipation of my visit. The Gunniwolf and the little girl decorated one wall, cat and mouse sat at the ends of the bookstacks, the ghost with the one black eye was right behind me, a washing machine and dryer adorned another wall. The week before, Susan had brought my website up on the big screen television so the kids could listen to stories not on the cds and they could see my pictures.

It's great fun to tell stories to kids who are already on my side. When they came in, I asked which stories were their favorites, promised to tell at least one of these, and warned that I would also be telling some stories they'd never heard. They were all excellent listeners, even the preschoolers who had not heard me before.

This was one of those good schools where the principal came to listen periodically during the day--I do understand that principals are busy, but sometimes they don't even come out of their offices to see what the children are doing. Fortunately, I find that engaged and interested principals like Kelly Bera at Cliffwood are getting to be the norm.

When I'm at a school all day, I like to eat with the kids. I'll even eat school lunch. Cliffwood has a special "teacher soup," so I had that, beef with barley. Yum. I table hopped, eating my own lunch, talking to the kids about what stories they liked, about their favorite school lunch, about their pets and siblings. Even the third graders who hadn't heard me yet wanted to talk to me. Later the teacher said that when it was time for them to come to the storytelling, they got right up and in line.

I did four sessions, with a little extra for the afternoon preschoolers. Normally I'm tired after a full day, but I still had some energy, so after work Susan and I took her dogs out to the beach, for a walk for us and a run for them. As a native Rhode Islander I'm always happy to be near salt water. Then home to a delicious supper and a PBS special on TV. What a day. Ahhh.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Good press

What's this? Two blog posts in the same day? And you thought I'd forgotten I even had a blog!

Last week I had some wonderful press: an article on the front page of the Kansas City Star by Malcolm Garcia. I've had various articles about me over the years, but never one that really focused on the storytelling I do for adults. Malcolm came to a performance in a bookstore, then came back a few days later for a full-length interview. He captured what I do fairly well, from my path to storytelling, to the way I practice (walking, sometimes bouncing a rubber ball for timing, gesturing, mumbling to myself), to the feel of a performance.

I don't know how long the article will be on the website--even if it's gone by the time you read this, you'll probably find something interesting in Malcolm's Heartland Journal.

Happy 2006!

So far, so good for 2006. Two days in and all is well. As an eternal Pollyanna, I expect that this will continue.

Here are a few things I'm looking forward to in 2006:

Going to New Jersey next week to tell stories, then continuing on to Philadelphia to the International Performing Arts for Youth showcase. I'll have an exhibit booth there. My button-machine is still smoking from production of story buttons (the most popular at the last booking conference I went to was my tagline, "All my stories start with a seed of truth").

Telling love stories for adults on Valentine's Day at the Union Depot in Lawrence, and probably telling Tristan and Iseult a few weeks later. I wonder what the new movie of this epic story will be like!

Going Deep: the Long Traditional Story Festival in Bethlehem IN March 16-19. This is part of a long-time dream. I think there's still space in this festival, so contact me if you're interested in a really intense and wonderful story experience.

The Mid-Missouri Storytelling Festival in April. Every time I've been to Central Missouri, I've had a great time.

Traveling to Turkey and Bulgaria with friends in May. It has been 13 years since I was in Bulgaria and I can't wait to go back! I've never been to Turkey, so that will be a great adventure. Maybe I'll even get to tell stories on this trip.

Returning to the Smoky Hill River Festival in Salina KS, June 9-11. Whooeee! I love this festival! Not only is it a wonderful all-around festival, with music, arts, crafts, children's activities and a specific storytelling stage away from the children's stage, but lots of the kids in Salina know me from storytelling residencies I've done in the schools throughout the years.

Stories, stories, stories. I'll keep you posted as the year goes along.

May you all have a fabulous 2006!