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.