Thursday, November 27, 2008


There's so much to be thankful for in this life. I wrote a list last year. Ditto this year. Add my thanks for new friends, for the trip to Brazil, for the replaced sewer line (necessary!), for the newer car, for satellite radio as I log the miles on said car, for a new political administration on its way, and for so much more. I'm glad to be alive.

I'm sitting at home after a fantastic Thanksgiving meal with friends and family at my sister's, working (or stalling, as the case may be) on my nanowrimo novel, music in the background (Norah Jones is the current CD), next to the woodstove. In an hour or so, I might be hungry enough to make a turkey sandwich. Or maybe I'll only manage some carrot sticks.

Here are my friends examining the turkey before carving:

And the aftermath:

Back to storytelling blog posts soon, I promise. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Two new Grimm programs

On Monday, I stopped for fast food in Webb City, Missouri, on my way home from Joplin. One of the cashiers said to the other, "Hey, guess what I did before I came to work? I went to hear a lady telling fairy tales to kids!" 

I couldn't help myself. "Did you like it?" 

She barely looked at me, but answered. "Yeah, she was really good." 

I smiled, picked up my food and headed for the door. Suddenly she turned back to me. "Hey, she's the one! You told those stories!" She went on to tell the other cashier about the performance, "She had all these facial expressions and her hand gestures..." 

I laughed about that in the car for the next five minutes. 

Last spring, I had a call from Missouri Southern State University Institute of International Studies. Would I be interested in telling Grimm tales for two programs for MSSU's Germany Semester? I considered the request. There were a few stories collected by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm that I had been telling for years, but I didn't have a full program, let alone two. I don't take every job I'm asked to do, but if it will expand me creatively, I often say yes.

As you can see from the program, I named one show "Grimm for Grownups," and the other "Cheerfully Grimm." The first included some of the more sophisticated (and gory) stories. The second was suitable for kids. There are many nontraditional students at MSSU who have children, and they were welcome at the evening show. 

I began right away, reading through the collections on my shelf, and reading a biography of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm.

In the end, I used two books as my main sources.  This one was translated anonymously in 1869 and contains a lot of the lesser-known stories, such as The Feather Bird (a Bluebeard variant) and The Six Swans

I took this paperback with me to Brazil and worked on the stories there. Normally I travel with fluff to read, but because I knew these programs were coming up, I only took this book. I read the tales in my hotel room and at breakfast, and I subjected Cris and Pati to my first attempts at telling them.

I also used this edition at home. It's absolutely beautiful, annotated tales with illustrations from many of the classic collections (Arthur Rackham, Kay Nielson, Warwick Goble, etc.).
Another great source for insight on these folktales is the Sur La Lune Fairy Tale site, especially the forum. 

What did I tell? In the first show, I told The Feather Bird, Maid Maleen (also called Jungfrau Maleen), Rapunzel, The Twelve Dancing Princesses and The Nix in the Mill. I didn't have time to tell The Six Swans, The Goose Girl or The Juniper Tree. In the evening show, I told The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids, Rapunzel, Rumpelstiltskin, The Fisherman and His Wife, The Frog Prince, The Shoemaker and the Elves, and The Cat and the Mouse and the Butter. I had also considered telling Little Red Riding Hood (there are two stories about her, believe it or not). 

I had a great time telling these stories. I was right--they did stretch me creatively. I'll add them to the list of programs I offer to schools and festivals.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Sundays for the past couple of months

Often Sunday afternoon has a touch of melancholy to it. Is that cultural or is it just me?

Today I was thinking about the past Sundays since September. Not much time for sweet sadness.

Nov. 9 (today)
I went with my sister Mary to hear the Soweto Gospel Choir. I can't even begin to describe how wonderful it was. Here, listen:

Nov. 2
I worked on my Nanowrimo novel and on other projects. Just a bit melancholy.

October 26
Came home from Brazil. Real sadness at leaving so soon, combined with exhaustion from the 26-hour trip.

October 19
Walked in the park with Pati, found kittens! In case you missed that post, here's the picture of Charlie and his sister:

October 12
I went to a concert in Sao Paulo, heard Thomas Rohrer (Swiss but he lives in Brazil), Chris Stout (Scottish) and two Brazilian musicians--dang, can't remember their names. Afterwards, we went to eat lunch and then went to a park that overlooks the city. Here's a picture of Pati, Carlos (Chris' brother-in-law), Chris and Sarah (Chris' sister):

October 5
I rode the bus from Rio to Sao Paulo.

September 28
Went to the Botanical Gardens in Rio with Pati. Here's a waterfall in the Gardens:

September 21
Worked on the dragonfly program and anticipated an amazing trip to Brazil.

The next time I have a melancholy Sunday, maybe I'll look back at this post.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

More on dragonflies

Remember the residency I began in September, the one about lifecycles, butterflies, dragonflies, wetlands and puppets (whew!)? To refresh your memories, here's a picture of the fingerpuppets I designed for the 2nd graders (7 year olds) to make:

While I was in Brazil last month, these children went on field trips to the Baker Wetlands.

Yesterday and today, I met with them again. We talked about what we'd done on the first visit and what they remembered from the field trip. They were full of information and even a little bit of misinformation, as 7-year-olds so often are.

We practiced our zipping, zooming and hovering with the fingerpuppets and then we made up a couple of stories about dragonflies. From there, we shifted over to more about puppets, and how they often have exaggerated actions of the creatures they imitate. Trixie denied this, then sneezed her hat off her head dramatically. The baby puppet popped her binky out of her mouth ten times. We sang Poor little bug on the wall again, to reinforce the idea. At the end, we had questions about butterflies, dragonflies, wetlands and puppets. I reminded them of the question words, to forestall the kind of "my grandmother has a dog" statement.

Also this week, I began the shortened version of the residency with the 2nd graders who didn't get to go to the wetlands. They get one session with me. I have eight more schools to visit. Then all the students will go to a big puppet performance at the Lied Center at the end of the month. I'm planning to go, too.