Thursday, July 31, 2008

Office "work"?

Hmm, I seem to have gotten sidetracked.

funny pictures
moar funny pictures

This site is addictive. Here's where you can see my other lolz. The name? Ah, that's the one I use on my free e-mail account, in order to receive less spam. Joe Fish doesn't mind.

Summer Teacher's Workshop

Yesterday I took part in the first of the Lied Center's Summer Teacher's Workshops. Over 60 teachers gave up one of their few remaining vacation days to take workshops on integrating the arts into their classrooms. It was a great group to work with! I gave two half-hour sessions for small groups on using puppets in the classroom. It was tricky to compress my two-hour workshop--all we could really do was go over basic puppet technique, with some reflections by the participants.

In the afternoon, I attended a workshop given by Kimberli Boyd, whom I first met in the spring when she came out to train artists to teach. She's a Kennedy Center Master Teaching Artist, and it shows. Her workshop on using movement and dance to teach about the rainforest was a great example of how to introduce topics succinctly and build knowledge incrementally. Even though I've been giving workshops for almost 20 years, since taking the Kennedy Center training in the spring, I've been rethinking the structure, content and pacing of my workshops.

It was an excellent day, though exhausting. After the wine and cheese reception, I came home and lay on the sofa for a while. Good thing I don't have any performances today. It's nice to spend the day working slowly and steadily in the office.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Getting ready for Brazil

If you look at my calendar on my website, you'll notice that from September 26 to October 25 I'll be in Brazil. I'm filling in the visa forms today. I got the passport renewed in January, so I'm set.

I'll be telling stories to kids in English, with the help of puppets, harmonica and all the gathered improv and storytelling skills I can muster. I've been borrowing books and CDs on Brazilian Portuguese for a few months now, so I'll be at least a little prepared for the time outside the shows.

I was reassured this past week to read Megan Hicks' blog about her recent tour of Peru and Chile, through the same company. I'll probably write more about this when I've talked to Megan by phone.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Doing my best even in tough circumstances

Yesterday I had my sixty-first show of the summer. I still have two more performances and two short workshops next week. So much for my promise to myself that I'd do a maximum of 55 shows this summer. How did that happen?!

Out of all the shows, only a couple were a disappointment to me. No, I won't tell you which ones. One had to do with the venue, which was less than optimal (and moldy to boot), and another was a problem of a too-small audience in two senses: there weren't many kids, and some of them were too small to know that the performance was for them.

When the percentage of kids who are too small is larger than the percentage who are the appropriate age, the older kids lose out. If there are fewer of the tinies, it can still be a good show. It's also more of a problem when the show is made up of specific stories, without much leeway, such as Creepy Crawlies this summer. If I'm doing my Storyteller's Choice program, I can switch over to fingerplays and rhymes, as I often do at Wonderscope.

There wasn't anything I could do in these two cases this summer, other than do my best and hope that some of the listeners enjoyed themselves.

Now, before almost every show, I make a silent wish to have a good time. If I'm having a good time, and if I'm paying the right attention to how the audience is reacting, most likely they're having fun as well.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Peaches from Ponca City

Ponca City, Oklahoma has a great public library. If you go, be sure to tour the Matzene collection of western and Oriental art displayed throughout the library. I learned this a few years ago and was reminded of it on Friday. The library is across from the city hall, a huge and ornate building.

I drove away from my gig in Ponca City OK with a bag of peaches, a generous present from Janel, the children's librarian. She also gave me a wonderfully sturdy canvas library bag. She received the peaches from a patron as I was packing up and she gave me most of them. I ate one on the way from Ponca City to my next show in Arkansas City (pronounce all letters in Arkansas as written) and two on the way from Ark City to Lawrence.

That was the end of a short long trip. Short because it was only three days. Long because I drove over 1000 miles. Here's where I was: Salina, Long Island (north and west of Manhattan...KS), Norton, Quinter, Winfield, Ponca City and Arkansas City.

I thought I'd sleep well, but I had insomnia. On Saturday morning at 2:00, I got up and made a pie crust in the food processor. I put the dough in the refrigerator to chill. Then back to bed until 7:30, when I got up for the day. Before breakfast I made a peach pie for a potluck I was invited to that night. It's well and truly summer here in Kansas, so all baking happens early or late, in order not to heat up the kitchen.

It was a good pie. No pictures. We ate it all.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Dusty Sailor

One of my favorite flowers is Dusty Sailor, otherwise known as chicory. It's a tough plant, often seen on the side of the road. It doesn't last when picked, as my mother just mentioned in her column, Grow it in Maine. This one was at a rest stop between Columbia, MO and Lawrence, KS.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Going Deep 2009 announcement

Depth. Substance. A rich storytelling experience. Aaah.

Mark your calendars for March 19-22, 2009 in Bethlehem, IN (not far from Louisville, KY). We're now finally ready to announce the lineup for Going Deep, the long traditional story retreat.

Hang on, hang on, what was that? Retreat? I thought it was a festival!

We've been calling it a festival since before the first one in 2006, but in truth, it's a retreat. Three days of intense stories, workshops, community, delicious food, laughter and relaxation in a beautiful setting? Optional activities like massages, palm reading, art projects, long walks and naps? Sounds like a retreat to me.

Here are the featured stories and storytellers:

The Grail, told by Liz Warren
The questions posed in The Grail are as relevant today as they were when it was written in the twelfth century. How do we cultivate open and compassionate hearts in a perilous world? What is the connection between human woundedness and the health of the earth? When should we speak and when should we be silent? The story is symbolically rich and complex, yet at the same time is simply about the wonder and grace of earning a second chance.

The Paths of Osun: The West African Yoruba Epic Journey of the Goddess in Heaven and on Earth, told by Marilyn Omifunke Torres
Marilyn Omifunke Torres takes listeners on a journey through the five stages of transformation from Divinity to Woman. The 3000-year-old myths of Osun as the goddess of fresh waters invite the listeners to explore the journey we must all undergo if we are to awaken to the path of love, creativity and sensuality in the power of the feminine within every human living on the planet.

Gilgamesh, told by David Novak
In a moving narrative of power and love, Gilgamesh the King searches for humanity and immortality. Novak uses expressive voice and staging to bring this ancient tale to contemporary audiences. Gilgamesh, the world's oldest piece of literature, resonates even after 5000 years.

Check out for full registration details.

Friday, July 11, 2008

This week at the Daniel Boone Regional Library

I'm home from three days in and around Columbia, MO. I always have a good time at the libraries in the Daniel Boone Regional Library system.
Sarah and Hilary hosted three of my shows at the Columbia Public Library. They're always a hoot to work with, and extremely hospitable.

Hilary took pictures of my first show at the main library.

I was performing in "the egg," the program room in the children's area. On the outside, it looks like a giant green egg. Inside it's green and orange-red. That sounds horrible, but is in fact quite pleasant. There are benches around the periphery, but as you can see in the picture, most kids and some adults sit on the floor.

Can you see the spider and fly in Kay's stomach? She's just beginning her feast (she's the old lady who swallowed a fly).

This picture was taken at the Ashland library, where the staff went wild with the bug theme. It was Miss Pam's birthday on Wednesday. She usually does storytime, but graciously introduced me and took pictures. Of course, we sang to her before the show. I did a show there on Tuesday night--a mother and son pair came to that show as well as to Wednesday morning.

In New Bloomfield, some of the school-aged kids remembered me from when I was there two years ago. They wanted me to tell The ghost with the one black eye, but I demurred. We paired my performance with a RIF book giveaway by the librarian--Jerilyn had a great selection picked out for the kids to take home.

In Harrisburg, I told stories at the preschool, where they also have big kids in the summer. For added excitement, one of these big kids pulled out TWO of his loose teeth during my show. Blood. Ick. The little kids didn't really notice him, thank goodness.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Crooked fingers

I've got them.

Some kids notice my crooked fingers when I'm telling stories. When I see them noticing, and if there's time and it's appropriate for the show, I tell "The Crooked Little Finger" by Philippa Pearce. At the end of the story, I say, "So just watch out..." and show my little finger. Sometimes I hear gasps. Then I explain, again, that the story is by Philippa Pearce, and that I was born like this. Occasionally there's a kid in the audience who also has crooked fingers.

I was born with crooked fingers on both hands, as were most of my siblings and my father. They don't hurt, they're not arthritic, they're just crooked. My brother Mark has them and is a fine organist. Faith's are even more crooked and they don't prevent her from playing viola. I quite like them.

Here are pictures of the plaster cast I did of my hand in nursery school:
That's a long name for a four-year-old to fit on the plaster.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Story Night in the backyard...or not

I had Story Night here on Thursday. These are informal affairs, spread mostly by word of mouth. I provide stories for an hour, bug spray and a few places to sit. It's free. Sometimes there are fireflies.

I've always said that I'd do Story Night only in the backyard, not in the house. I don't want to spend time and energy making sure the house is clean enough. When I'm really busy, vacuuming isn't a priority.

On Thursday the sky clouded over in the afternoon. I'd planned three Story Nights this summer and the first was cancelled due to inclement weather. The second was lightly attended. Should I cancel this last one? When Janelle called from Kansas City to find out if it was happening, it was beginning to rain and I knew the seats and lawn would be wet. I decided to move it indoors.

I'm glad I did. There were 22 people here, one of the biggest Story Nights in the five or so years I've been doing this. It was a great group, too. We crowded into the living room. I stood in the doorway to the kitchen. Almost all the kids had heard me before, so I had requests: The ghost with the one black eye, Unanana, The goat in the chili patch, Drakestail. I also told Brainbox by Philippa Pearce, in an attempt to tell something Finn and Nora hadn't heard (they remembered it from a Story Night two years ago!). Trixie, the baby puppet, Grackle (the crow) and Bill (the white duck) made appearances. During all of this, Joe Fish slept in the office. Afterwards, he got pats from various children.

Now I'm thinking of doing a few more later this year. I'd do it again indoors, unless it gets too big. We could fit another ten or so listeners, if they were small.

P.S. I just took that picture of the backyard seating--can you spot the tipoff that it isn't in the evening?

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Storytelling Bootcamp in August

Hey, remember when I wrote about Sean Buvala's Outside-In Storytelling Bootcamp? He's doing it again, and I'm helping him again, all things being equal. This camp is about how to do the business of storytelling, how to think like a CEO, how to work from a model that considers what your customers need first.

Camp? Sort of. It's not in the woods. It's in a hotel in Phoenix, and it's run the way other corporate events are, designed to give you a huge amount of useful information. Phoenix in August? Think air-conditioning. You might even want to bring a sweater.

There's still time to register for the August event. If you follow the links on the site, you'll even get a discount code for 20% off.

Arte y Pico Award

First of all, I'd like to thank my mother, my siblings, Joe Fish, Granny Sue...Oh, wait. I guess I don't need to do an acceptance speech. My friend Granny Sue (of Granny Sue's News and Reviews) just gave me the Arte y Pico award. Thanks, Granny Sue!

This award was created by an Uruguayan doll maker who wanted to honor artistic blogs.

The rules of the award are that the winner pass the honor on to five more blogs I deem to be artistic. "Artistic" is a broad term; some are more so than others. I'm not going to admit to the number of blogs in my Google Reader, as you would then all understand why I'm not more productive. We'll just say I had no shortage of choices. Here are five blogs I read consistently:

Practice Notes I had a hard time deciding whether my sister Mary's yoga blog or her Wonky Wheel blog would be the winner. I decided on the yoga blog. Artistic? Yup, not just the art of movement but the art of expressing ways to think about that movement.

Taking Place
Deborah and Toby are both licensed landscape architects. I always enjoy reading their well-written "observations on place, cause and effect."

Life, the Universe and Everything
Mianne mixes posts of interviews with reproductions of paintings with ideas on life with...

With Vanilla and Honey
I love seeing Erin's amazing photographs of food--much of which she has prepared herself. I try not to drool on my keyboard when reading her blog.

Le Pen Now and Then This used to be Le Pen Quotidien, and though the change means that I have to wait longer between Bambi's drawings, the pleasure in seeing them is just as great. I think my favorite series might have been the 12 days of Christmas. Brilliant!

Here are the rules for the prize:
1. Pick 5 blogs that you consider deserve this award through creativity, design, interesting material and that contribute to the blogger community.

2. Each award should have the name of the author with a link to their blog.

3. Award winners have to post the award with the name and link to the blog of the person who gave them the award.

4.Please include a link to the Arte y pico blog so that everyone will know where the award came from.

5. Show these rules.