Friday, August 29, 2008

How does my icebox know?

We'll get back to storytelling and puppets very soon. I promise.

I grew up saying icebox, not refrigerator. I still call it that mostly, just as I still say tomahto. More on inherited word choice, accents and speech patterns in another post.

At any rate, my friend Granny Sue put her results to this personality test on her blog; I'm merely reacting to peer pressure. Note that this test is not completely accurate--the first half of the last statement is false, the second is true. Some of the rest of it is true.

What Your Fridge Says About You

You like to be surrounded by things you love. You aren't exactly greedy, but you can be materialistic at times.

You tend to be a fairly thrifty person. You splurge occasionally, but you're mostly a saver.

You are a very adventurous person. You love to try new things, and you get bored very easily.

You are responsible, together, and mature. You act like an adult, even when you don't feel like it.

You are likely to be married - and very busy.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Back to work, everybody. Vacation is well and truly over. I'm in the process of figuring out how to make dragonfly fingerpuppets for a residency with second-graders. I find myself engaging in lots of research and development. This afternoon I spent a little time at the craft store, then stopped at the Baker Wetlands. This residency is in conjunction with a visit to the wetlands. These pictures were on the walkway.

Here's one:

Same one, close up:

And another:

Oops! It's gone!

One more:

When I've figured out the fingerpuppets, I'll post pictures. Back to the lab.

Emerald Isle

One more view from vacation. I spent a lot of time looking for shells. We put them on display on the railing.

Friday, August 22, 2008

On vacation

I'm looking out the window of a beach cottage in North Carolina. Waves are rough today, due to tropical storm Fay. Yesterday I went in the water and got thrown around for a bit. I love that. I was able to get a little farther out where I was lifted up by the waves instead of roiled around in them. Fabulous. I didn't stay in long. I must have had two pounds of sand in my suit.

Here's a view on a calmer day, taken from the porch of the cottage.
Have I mentioned here how much I love salt water? I even like the smell of low tide. I was born in Rhode Island, arriving early when the family was on vacation away from where we lived then in Pennsylvania. We moved to Providence when I was two and spent lots of time at the beach. I'm not a sailor, like some of my sibs, but I love salt water.

In a little bit we're going to get lunch, what my friends Joanna and David call "golden food." Fried. I'm definitely on vacation.

Monday, August 18, 2008

NSN Conference in brief

Sigh. I had good intentions of writing about the conference in detail, but it's not going to happen. Today I attended the first of a two-day workshop for teaching artists, led by a Kennedy Center master teaching artist, from 8:30 to 5:00. My brain is mostly fried.

Here are a few high points of this year's conference in Gatlinburg (I'm sure I'm leaving out about half):

  • Seeing the tribe. It's so fun to be with other storytellers. We never have to explain what storytelling is, we don't apologize for our artistic quirks, we just settle into conversation with everyone.
  • Meeting new storytellers or folks I just hadn't connected with before. It's a friendly group. I am hugely thankful to Faye Wooden, who gave me and Joyce Slater rides to and from the airport (about an hour away) and introduced us to her cats. Also, she gave me one of her new business cards. Yup, you guessed it: a wooden nickel!
  • Hanging out with Joyce. We get along well, as friends, as colleagues and as roommates at conferences and retreats. She's a gem.
  • Spending time in the swimming pool with my good friend Marni Gillard. We do this at as many conferences as possible. My motel had a pool, hers didn't. It was lovely, and well worth missing a session at the conference.
  • Attending (and helping out at) Olga Loya's intensive on Going Deep. First, she did a stellar job on the Aztec Creation myth. Then we did some of the exercises we've done at Going Deep (the long traditional story retreat). This gave the crowd of about 40 storytellers a real taste of the experience. It was thrilling to see how many people were drawn to the idea of a long traditional story retreat.
  • Telling in the regional concert. I wore my swishy new dress and a net shawl I bought at the conference store. The Portraits went smoothly--though I've told it for about 17 years, I made a couple of small tweaks to it that afternoon. I think they worked.
  • Brook trout at a restaurant after the regional concert with Marni, Olga, Joyce and Leeny. Great company, great food.
  • Listening to stories at the Saturday night concert. See my last post about Doc McConnell.
  • Singing (or accompanying the singing on my harmonica) in the lobby of the conference center, with about fifteen storytellers. Elizabeth Ellis lined out all the words to Amazing Grace. Beautiful. Dustin Loehr tapdanced along. Music is important to this conference.
  • Dancing in the closing ceremony. It's not a true conference without dancing.

Big thanks to the NSN staff of two and the Board of Directors, who pulled this conference together despite giant obstacles. And a special thanks to Yvonne Healy for herding extra cats everywhere they needed herding.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Doc McConnell, RIP

(photo by Tom Raymond, Fresh Air Photographics)

Storyteller Doc McConnell died yesterday, August 16. He was one of the old guard, an Appalachian storyteller who was an integral part of the storytelling revival.

He performed last Saturday night at the National Storytelling Conference. This was the first time I ever witnessed a standing ovation before and after a performance. Doc had been sick, but he walked without assistance onto the stage and perched on a stool. His story was strong and funny, perfect in Doc's tongue-in-cheek style.

I think the first time I ever saw Doc was in Jonesborough in the early 90s, where he performed his old-time medicine show. His storytelling fame took him all over, from the National Storytelling Festival to the Tonight Show to Hee Haw (!). I didn't know Doc well, but often found myself in conversation with him at the conferences. He'll be missed.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Home from Gatlinburg

I arrived home from the NSN Conference in Gatlinburg, TN on Sunday evening, then yesterday afternoon (Monday) left home again for a storytelling work retreat. I only have a few minutes before we begin, just wanted to say I'm home--and to show a few pictures of the gaudiness that is Gatlinburg. I'll write more about the conference soon.

This giant marble is on water. Notice the kid pushing it--it rolls!

The streets were jam packed with people. There seem to be hundreds of tacky stores, pancake restaurants, "old timey" kitch emporia and hotels in about a square mile. Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum takes up a lot of real estate, too. I met three Russians working in the restaurants. Do they think the whole US is like this, I wonder?

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

National Storytelling Conference or bust

Shhh. Don't tell the cat. I'm getting ready to pack my bags. He has been known to disappear if he knows I'm leaving (and when he has to go to the vet). He may already know--he's taking a nap in a bookcase, behind a large pile of puppet paraphernalia. Camouflage?

I'll be flying to Tennessee for the conference tomorrow. I've been chosen to be in a regional concert on Friday night. I'll be telling The Portraits. I just put the photo album up in the sidebar so listeners can easily find the portrait of Sarah Visscher Schuyler Hoyle. I'm also going to be helping Olga Loya with her three-hour intensive about Going Deep, the long traditional story retreat. I spent time last night creating buttons to wear and give away.

I'm quite fond of the one at the top that says
Q. What's the opposite of an olio?
A. The Going Deep Long Trad Story Retreat

(An olio is a medley, and at storytelling festivals it means a program with several storytellers, each telling for a short period of time.)

I'm having a small amount of anxiety, not about the story, as I've been telling it for about 17 years, and not about helping Olga, but about what to wear at the concert. Clothes, definitely, but which?

Monday, August 04, 2008

Voice care

This week I'm going to the National Storytelling Conference, in Gatlinburg, TN this year. I always have a good time at the conference, even the three times when I had a cold and couldn't speak (what's up with THAT, a shrink might wonder). This year I'm taking a bottle of Clear Voice Vocal Spray. I feel fine right now, just want to be prepared if need be.

I learned about this last year in St. Louis, from storyteller Michael McCarty and a bunch of other people who said, "You lost your voice? Talk to Michael!" When I got home, I ordered a three-bottle supply. Truth to tell, I've only used it a couple of times, but I was thankful for it then. I'm definitely taking it to Brazil.

There are lots of ways to take care of your voice. Here are my favorites:
  • Drink lots of water before performances and during if necessary. If you feel a tickle in your throat, take a sip instead of clearing your throat.
  • Warm up before your performance. Sing along with the radio, make faces, stick out your tongue, relax your throat. Yawn. Hum until your lips buzz.
  • Use a sound system if you need it. Try not to put yourself in situations where you have to exert your voice.
  • Wash your hands frequently so you don't pick up germs in schools. Also, don't drink from the water fountains--kids often put their mouths right on these. Get water from a faucet instead. I look for a sink in the staff room or in a kitchen.
  • Mint dries out your throat. Go for lozenges without it, or with only a little. I like Ricola Elderberry lozenges.
  • Get plenty of rest. A tired voice can easily become a strained voice.
If you do lose your voice, don't whisper. That really strains the vocal chords. You might just have to stay silent for a while (scary thought for storytellers!).

If you feel a cold coming on, grate fresh ginger, add honey and lemon juice, and let this slide down your throat (thanks to Fran Stallings and Hiroko Fujita for this one). And/or use Clear Voice. Michael said that it saves his life every February, when he does dozens of shows for Black History Month.

I also use Zicam if I think I'm getting a cold, in hopes of staving it off.

Any other tips out there?