A Return to Oz

by Mary Margaret

marymargaretStories keep us alive, in more ways than one. They bring us back to ourselves, our desires, our needs and possibilities as humans living in this strange yet significant world.

As I continue the journey of self-discovery in 2015, I continue to ask questions about what it means to be a 20-something on this earth, here in the southeastern corner of the United States. And in all honesty, I am finding that it means something different for everyone, for each unique beating heart and thriving mind.

In the bottomless basement of my thoughts, I sense a fusion of culture, of beginnings and ends, of chaos and beauty. I sense a merging of stories.

I remember a conversation I had with my mother over a year ago when she stated how curious, hopeful, and imaginative I was during my college years. She mentioned it as a longing, as though she was secretly asking, Where did that person go?

I am fairly certain this exchange occurred when I was job-searching and becoming increasingly discouraged with the cards I had been dealt. The game of life was not working in my favor and I felt belittled and wronged because of it.

wizard-of-oz-picWhile I had not rejected my inner Dorothy entirely, adulthood had somewhat stained me. I was letting it rob me of my creativity and charm like the tornado that captured Dorothy on her way to Oz.

I do not know what it looks like, completely, for my stories to merge but I must ask, What if we, what if I took the time to settle into my own narrative without shame or abandon? What if I refused to be troubled by my asymmetric detours and simply sat and observed?

Our stories collide together like waves in the ocean. We must celebrate the chaos and turmoil of our stories. They do not always make sense but they always require our attention.

This year, in 2015, I commit to this collision. I commit to becoming an observer and learner of myself, a listener to my stories no matter what agenda or assumptions the world throws at me.

Let the waves speak.
Let the stories emerge.

About Mary Margaret

Mary Margaret is passionate about stories: story-telling, story-sharing, and story-collecting. She finds layers of narrative in everything- in the swirl of cream circling inside of her coffee, on her beloved and treasured yoga mat, and in the hilarity and simplicity of everyday life. NPR is her favorite friend and passenger as she does a great deal of driving and avoids traffic like the plague. During her college years, Mary Margaret founded the Black Warrior Storytelling Festival and brought storytellers together from all over the state of Alabama. She believes stories are the thread of life and create human connection like nothing else.

Currently residing in Nashville, Tennessee, Mary Margaret is pursuing a Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership and serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA Volunteer at the Tennessee Literacy Coalition. Some day she hopes to create an after-school program for youth that is focused on building creativity in the forms of Creative Writing, Dance, Drama, Music, and Art.

You can find more of her writing here: http://aheartthatsmiles.blogspot.com


What is Wikipedia saying about your Storytelling Festival? NOTHING! Unless YOU change that!

by Norah Dooley and Carolyn Stearns

Norah Dooley photo by Susan Wilson

Norah Dooley photo by Susan Wilson

This link to a Wikipedia description of storytelling festivals for those who don’t know about them and to create conversation about them: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Storytelling_festival

How can we have more storytelling festivals added to the Wikipedia listing? It is as easy as 1,2,3. Wikipedia is only as good as the people who contribute to it. An extraordinary resource and the source of free, widely consulted, constantly used information, Wikipedia also has worldwide reach. If the National Storytelling Network or any of the storytelling festivals who care to participate had to pay for this kind of publicity it would be very expensive.

Carolyn Stearns

Carolyn Stearns

What steps are needed to make better listings for storytelling a reality? We first imagined and then researched some steps to make Wikipedia listings for storytelling festivals robust and attractive. It did not take long:

Storytelling festival PR committees need to study how to add to a Wikipedia listing. This is in the help section at Wikipedia. I just spent one-hot-minute looking and found this link; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Help:Editing to the following information:

“Wikipedia is a wiki, meaning that anyone can edit any unprotected page and improve articles immediately for all readers. You do not need to register to do this. Anyone who has edited is known as a “Wikipedian” and, no matter how trivial the edit may seem, can be proud that he or she has helped make Wikipedia what it is. All of these edits add up! Wikipedia uses two methods of editing: the new VisualEditor (VE), and classic editing through wiki markup (wikitext). The explanations on this page deal with wikitext editing (the method most used). For instructions on using VisualEditor see the VisualEditor user guide.

Some pages are protected from editing. These pages are denoted by a lock icon on the top right of the page and have a View source tab instead of an Edit tab. You can still edit these pages indirectly, by submitting an “edit request” – an editor with the ability to edit the protected page will respond to your request. You can submit a request by clicking on the View source tab on that page and using the “Submit an edit request” link at the bottom right.”

Here is a challenge! Make it happen sooner not later! Let’s aim for 12 festival listings in 12 weeks! Come on all you spring festivals, YOU need to be first! Then 50 festival in 50 weeks. Use keywords in the postings to help the page come up in searches, words like; kids, education, museum, performance, oral history, slam, festival etc.

The next really big part is getting the word out, so please share this NSN blog post. We will be watching for your updates to Wikipedia Storytelling Festivals!

Here is a link to help you get started editing on Wikipedia http://youtu.be/C7yXx3YbcNI

This link teaches you how to add photos to an article http://youtu.be/pAy_kBBqs0U

About Norah Dooley

Norah Dooley, storyteller, author, performer, and educator, is a co-founder of massmouth,inc.(NSN, Oracle Award 2012). As project director/ lead teacher of StoriesLive®, she’s introduced 6,000+ Greater Boston high school students to storytelling. Norah is adjunct faculty at Tufts and Lesley universities and has lectured throughout the US and in Japan.

Contact Norah:

Phone: 617.460.3544
Email: norah@massmouth.com
Website: www.norahdooley.com and www.massmouth.org

About Carolyn Stearns

Carolyn Stearns is a storyteller from Eastern Connecticut. She is storyteller in residence for an educational non-profit and books her own performances outside of that position. Carolyn serves on the board of directors for www.connstorycenter.org and is the producer of Campus Slammer for them. She has served on a committee for LANES and is the liaison to NSN from CT. She was the recipient of the 2014 Barbara Reed award at the CT. Storytelling Festival and the National Storytelling Network Oracle Award from the Northeast. Her CD “George Henry Story – The Man Who Painted Lincoln” recently garnered the Parents’ Choice Silver Award and the NAPPA Publishers Honors. Carolyn Stearns: makes a simple story, one you never forget”.

Contact Carolyn:

Website: www.carolynstearnsstoryteller.com
Phone: 860-690-4292


“The Cloud People Come to the Sonoran Desert” and “The Bobcat and the Saguaro.”

Told by Joyce Story

Click to listen

Joyce Story

joycestoryLike all the stories in Joyce’s book Tales of the Sonoran Desert, these two stories captivate the listener with the light they cast on the unique desert that lies in the southwestern US and in Mexico. Giving voice to the desert’s plants and animals, the stories intrigue audiences with their unforgettable characters, the unexpected twists of their narratives, and their blend of humor and wonder. With the introduction of venomous animals in the tale about the Cloud People, some listeners can be seen to visibly recoil, but by the end of the story, the western diamondback rattlesnake, the Gila monster, and the blonde tarantula have won even their smiles. Listeners nod with sympathy at the bobcat’s ill-fated love for the saguaro cactus and the difficulties caused by his unwanted affections, and they chuckle with approval when the situation is resolved. Along with the creative, fanciful journey they take into this land of marvels, audiences enjoy the subtle lessons and the factual information to be learned, and they praise Joyce’s stories for enhancing their understanding and respect for the flora and fauna of the Sonoran Desert.

About Joyce

Joyce has published two books, Tales of the Sonoran Desert and The Rhyme and Rhythm of Childhood, a collection of story-poems fashioned from childhood memories shared with her by family and friends in North Central Florida. As a storyteller, she is noted for sharing both these original stories and folk tales from various cultures. Joyce holds a Ph.D. degree, and as a public speaker, she frequently lectures on her experiences in the countries where she has visited and often lived and studied. CDs of her desert tales are currently in production. To preview a sample of her storytelling, please click here:  http://vimeo.com/100655502.

Contact Joyce

Website: http://joycestoryteller.com/
Email: jstory4@cox.net


I’m Not In Charge

told by Sandy Oglesby

click to listen

Sandy Oglesby

ogelsbyHave you ever heard your phone ring at 3:00am in the morning and hated to pick up the phone thinking something awful must have happened to someone you love? This is “that” story.

It was such a huge honor to tell at the NSN Conference. What I loved most about it was the tremendous support that I felt from the audience. There is nothing better than telling to your peers. Their openness and gracious spirits made me feel like I was telling to dozens of my “best friends”.

About Sandy

Sandy Oglesby grew up in the Arizona desert, and is still enthralled with the plants, animals, and the diversity of people that live there. A graduate of the South Mountain Storytelling Institute, she has honed her storytelling craft as an Arizona tour guide, Elderhostel instructor, keynote speaker and early childhood educator. She conducts workshops and in-service seminars for museums, libraries, and schools, helping them “connect through story”. Sandy tells stories and has conducted workshops across the nation and throughout Europe, expounding the benefits oral literacy, self-esteem and cultural diversity.

Sandy’s first children’s book has just been published: You Are Special Just The Way You Are. It is available in soft cover, hard back, and Kindle through my website StorytellerSandy.com or at Amazon.

Contact Sandy

Website: www.sandytells.com
Email: Sandy@Sandytells.com


MythOff: A young event for ancient tales

by Csenge Zalka

zalkaWhat is a MythOff?

I’ll let the creator of the idea, Clare Muireann Murphy answer this one: “MythOff is an evening of mythology where the audience chooses the winners. It can pit Norse myth against the Irish, or Persian against Chinese. There are two or three rounds, and each round has a theme (Monsters/ Goddesses / Lost Love/ Bad Prophecy…the list goes on and on). Storytellers delve, audiences vote, and the prize for winning MythOff is usually something iconic and terribly cheap (like a plastic sword if you win the Best Dressed Warrior round).”

In short, MythOff is a story slam that features myths instead of personal stories. According to the mission statement, it “aims to revitalize mythology, bring new audiences and venues to storytelling, and promote international storytelling relations.” It also places the focus of the event on the stories, rather than the storytellers.

It is one of the core values of MythOff to tell the myths in their original form, without fracturing or parodying them. The audience is prompted by questions to make their decisions based on the story they heard, rather than the person that told it (“Which monster would you rather have guarding your house?”). These, and other guidelines together make sure that MythOff stays true to its original idea of education, entertainment, and the promoting of mythology told live.

Clare Murphy

Clare Murphy

MythOff was founded by Clare Muireann Murphy after the FEST (Federation for European Storytelling) conference of 2009. She developed her idea with the help of Love Ersare (Sweden) and Torgrim Mellum Stene (Norway). The worldwide premiere of MythOff happened in Stockholm in 2010, and featured four tellers with four mythologies.

Yours truly, excited and intrigued by the idea of bringing mythology to new audiences, joined the team as the MythOff USA representative in 2012. Since then we have had events on both sides of the Atlantic, from London to Johnson City, TN.

Excited yet? Good news! MythOff is a brand, much like The Moth. Events follow a set of rules and guidelines created by the founding team in order to stay true to MythOff’s original mission statement. Any storyteller who would like to organize a MythOff event can do so by following these few easy steps:

  1. Decide to have a MythOff!
  2. Check out the Introduction to MythOff document available on our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/notes/myth-off/introduction-to-mythoff/392455050810150). It will tell you the most important rules, the mission, and some basic information.
  3. Contact one of the curators (see contact information below). We will send you the extended rules and guidelines, tell you about our experiences and ideas, and work with you to make your even the greatest success possible!
  4. Organize your MythOff. Promote it. Live it. Have tons of fun.

Part of the MythOff experience is reporting on your epic adventures after every event. Sometimes it involves a video or sound recording, sometimes it features posts on the organizers’ blogs. All reports are also linked to the official MythOff Facebook page (www.facebook.com/mythoff) for your viewing pleasure.

WARNING! Side effects of MythOff include: “An increase in mythic curiosity, a community for isolated storytellers, a widening of the typical storytelling audience demographic and a deep sense of the epically playful in all of us.”

MythOff Europe is curated by Clare Muireann Murphy. MythOff America is curated by Csenge Zalka. Please contact either of us if you would like to host a MythOff event!

Contact Csenge or Clare

Clare Muireann Murphy
@storyclare (Twitter)

Csenge Virág Zalka
@TarkabarkaHolgy (Twitter)

About Csenge

Csenge is a professional storyteller and author from Hungary. A former Fulbright student with an MA in Archaeology and another one in Storytelling, she is currently pursuing her PhD at Bowling Green State University, OH. Her first book in English, Tales of Superhuman Powers, a collection of folktales featuring superpowers, was published in 2013.