Welcome to the National Storytelling Blog! Within our membership, we have people with expertise in all facets of storytelling. Here we offer their insights and highlight their stories for you to enjoy, learn, and connect.
told by Joanna Demarest
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About the Story
Love of family, country, and the men who fight to preserve our freedom are the central themes of Unexpected Guests, a true-life tale of a 16 year old girl and her encounter with 8 Marines on a Florida beach. This humorous tale tells how, from that chance meeting, a family tradition was started of sharing Thanksgiving with men in uniform as a “home away from home”.
“One of the greatest joys of telling this story is that I have, on numerous occasions, had men come up to me afterward and say, thank you, I was one of those men that served that a family shared their holidays with or will reminisce about their time spent on the bases around Pensacola,” says Joanna. “It truly brings joy to my heart knowing that I have made a connection with those who have or are serving!”
From fairies to ghosts to historical women, Joanna Demarest will take you on an adventure as she spins tales old and new. She has been telling stories to children and adults for over 20 years. It all started when after reading every book on her daughter’s bookshelf she wanted something new, so she started creating fresh stories of her own. This passion for sharing her stories has been fueled by her nineteen moves within the US and overseas. Joanna specializes in American, Historical, Traditional and Southern Tales, Ghost Stories, Storytelling Workshops, and her own unique Ladybug Stories©.
told by Sheila Arnold
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About the Story
“Simon and Susannah” was my signature story when I was a Storyteller at Colonial Williamsburg (VA). When I first read the story, there was no “attachment” to Virginia, so I added the part about the Blue Ridge Mountains. When I started telling full time, I was telling “Simon and Susannah” at almost every show, often times on request from those who saw me previously. This is the story that reminds me that people love to hear a good story over and over and over again. If you hone a story, let it grow inside you, and share, share, share, you’ll have a story that feels like Home. I was invited to National Storytelling Festival’s Exchange Place for 2013 and I struggled about what to tell, until I was reminded, do what is your best and what you love; for me that was “Simon and Susannah”. I hope you enjoy this story, it’s a good friend, and hope will become your friend as well. You can find this story in Julius Lester’s book, “The Last Tales of Uncle Remus”.
Sheila Arnold provides Storytelling Programs, Historic Character Presentations, Professional Development Training for Educators, Christian Monologues and Inspirational/Motivational Speaking for schools, churches, museums and organizations throughout the US. She has been a full time Teller since 2013 and tells a variety of stories. She has two CD’s, “Mini, Many, Minnie Tales” and “Hands Wide Open” both available on website. Sheila will be Telling at 1st Annual Culpeper Storytelling Festival (VA) and works with Darci Tucker in hosting the TuckerArnold Storytelling Concert and Weekend Retreat, Williamsburg, VA.
Told by Linda Goodman
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Children have a tendency to be selfish, and I was no exception. As long as I got what I wanted, I did not care about anything else.
My baby sister Evelyn, on the other hand, always put the interests of others above her own. Like the character of Melanie in Gone With the Wind, Evelyn was almost too sweet to be true. She taught me more about kindness than anyone else I have ever known.
In this story, I am the trickster. In spite of my devious machinations, however, my sister’s innocence holds the power in this tale. I am delighted to see such innocence rewarded, even if the reward comes at my own expense.
Author/Storyteller/Playwright Linda Goodman performs nationwide and has been published in numerous anthologies. Her one-woman show and book, Daughters of the Appalachians, has also been performed as a play by theaters around the country. Her CDs include Jessie and Other Stories and Bobby Pins (Winner of 3 Storytelling World Winner Awards).
“More than just a writer and teller of tales, Goodman has the uncanny ability to become her characters. A vengeful girl, a bigoted father, a store owner who nightly gave milk to a haint (ghost) — Goodman showed us all these people by changing her voice and body language.”
–Beth Surdut, The Harvard Spirit
© 2013 Laura Simms
On the third day of a project, students , ages 9-15, in a school in Newark, NJ appeared restless. The program entered its third hour. The teachers, vigilant, as if their job was to wait in ambush for someone to do something wrong, resorted to filling out forms. Children had gathered threads of individual stories and wove them into a single tale. My attempts afterwards at a physical exercise failed.
“I think we need a story,” said a ten-year-old boy.
I began a Russian Fairytale. They settled down on either side of a wooden table covered with sketches of monsters, lined paper, and half eaten cookies. My instruction: You can make sounds, comment on the story, add your own ideas or talk to anyone in the story.
“A soldier guarded a stone tower. It was locked.
From sunset to sunrise he walked back and forth. He had no idea what was in the tower.
Then, one night he heard a voice.”
Shrieking and groaning, the kids accompaniment began. Caraid O’Brien recorded their voices. They said, “Kill. ” “Let me loose.” “I hate it here.” “I hate human beings.” “There are ten girls buried beneath this tower kidnapped from a disco.” More sounds. If someone walked into our room they might have seen this as the opposite of a ‘violence prevention and narrative program.” But if they noticed eyes and the visceral sense of sharing, they would feel the increasing peace of engagement.
“I have been captured in this prison for thirty years. Let me free.
If you do I will give you everything you want.”
The soldier opened the lock. A winged demon flew from the tower and vanished into the world. A tremendous swishing noise arose. The kids looked up waiting for the next installment.
“The soldier, coming to his senses, ran as quickly and as far as he could from the tower.
‘What have I done?” he cried out.
“Not only have I lost the only job I had, but I have let evil out into the world.”
The mention of evil incited more responses. Until,
The soldier said, “If I had only left the demon in the tower!”
The demon appeared, offered him a home and a job. If he kept his three daughters safe every night.
Scenarios about demons followed. Even the vigilant teacher respected the potency of continuous creativity.
The daughters turned into white birds. The soldier became a yellow bird. They flew to a meadow with a golden throne and awaited a Queen named Helen, The All Wise. The birds learned wisdom. The yellow bird fell in love.
The demon gave us a gift. Helen came to be known in our world. They told love stories. Then retold their monster transformation tales and ended in chorus,
“They lived happily ever after.”
Their afterward wishes: safety, wealth and food for everyone; clean neighborhoods; and three-year vacations for teachers. A girl, survivor of civil wars and the death of her mother, whispered, “I love today.”
About the Story
This rendering of what took place is a teaser/summary to say the least. The entire process took place over three hours. The product was a CD made by Caraid O’Brien, that we are not legally able yet to share. It was given to each student and to each staff member. A more entire rendition of what took place IS the first chapter in my new book IN PRAISE OF FEAR and Wonder: Telling ghost stories to promote nonviolence. We are including AN MP3 download of ghost tales with music, published as NIGHTWALKERS by NorthWord press (1996) and an MP3 of the accompanied story by the kids in the project. Publication date, March 1, 2014.
About Laura Simms
Internationally acclaimed storyteller, writer and humanitarian: performances, and trainings; initiatives for peace, health and transformation. Laura is a senior Shambhala Meditation teacher. She won the 2011 LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD, NSN’ Brimstone Award; 2012 ; NSN Members-TRANSFORMING LIVES: The Stories We Tell., and Sesame Street’s SUNSHINE AWARD for work with children worldwide. Senior Research Fellow at Rutgers University , Newark. Director: Center for Engaged Storytelling, NYC. (April 1, 2014) In Haiti since 2010 with GIRLS WRITE HAITI. Books include OUR SECRET TERRITORY: The Essence of Storytelling and NOURISHING THE HEARTS OF OUR CHILDREN (Wildmercywords). Laura is artistic-director of HCA Storytelling in NY.
told by Lynn Ruehlmann
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About the Story
It excites me when I find the perfect connection between a classic myth and contemporary life—the connection gives both stories such a potent new focus. So I’ve really enjoyed developing this coming-of-age story. It combines the story of getting my driver’s license with the story of watching my son get his with the myth of Daedalus and Icarus. It’s a great delight to let the audience in on the humor lurking in my life, even as it’s paired with the pathos of this myth. An equal delight comes after the telling when I’m talking to audience members, who always want to share their own learning-to- drive tales.
Lynn’s three CDs have won four national awards. Two are stories from history: “Spy! The Story of Civil War Spy Elizabeth Van Lew” and “It Happened in the White House.” The third, called “Mischief!,” is original stories from her life growing up in a family of musicians.
Lynn loves traveling, whether it’s for storytelling or story creating, so she’s performed from Alaska to Massachusetts, and she’s cavorted from Tasmania to Honduras. She’s chaffing for the next adventure!