Giving the Games Away

by Pat Nease

neaseI spent a year in Vietnam (Aug. ’66-Aug.’67) working with the Red Cross SRAO Program.  Our job with the military was to build morale and be a touch of home, but as you can imagine we needed to interact with the troops in some sort of structured environment.  So we created portable programs of activities and games. Every day we hopped a chopper and, in pairs, flew out to remote fire bases. We’d arrive with our satchel of tricks, the guys would gather in a tent and then we’d launch our activity (how to read your palms, hand writing analysis, etc.) or play a game.  A game usually meant dividing the men into two groups (all the games were designed for large groups. In a tent. With little space for movement.) and might be based on TV shows such as Jeopardy or What’s My Line? or be a huge board game of Concentration (the one with Playboy Bunnies was very popular) or whatever we devised. We were always either learning a game or making one up.  We played games about everything: sports, geography, trivia, movies, movie stars, fish, cars, food, animals, songs, music, musicians, TV shows, history, advertisements, and fairy tales.

For just a little while we were somewhere else, involved in something besides bullets, bandages, and jungle rot.  It gave the guys something to look forward to the following week – if we could get to them.

I wish I’d been a storyteller then.  I think we’d of done a good bit of sharing and swapping.

Returning home, I spent 36 years as an educator.  I wanted to always give the students a good reason to get up in the morning and come to school.  I used games again.  Rather than rote memorization of states and capitals, get a giant outline map and make it a game.  Challenge the class across the hall.  Play multiplication baseball, applaud at the homonym bell game.  Celebrate Crazy Hat Day.  Play What’s My Question? Present The Weekly Reader News (complete with advertising and weather.). Guess the idiom. Post the weekly riddle-rhyme challenge for Hinky-Pinky.  Hey!  Who wants to find out what it’s like to eat a worm?  List three possible uses for this object. Guess what’s in the bag.

Learning, cleverly camouflaged as games, is a win-win because we learn by doing, by applying, by figuring out, jumping in and taking part.  We’re often surprised by ideas and stories triggered by our participation in something out of the ordinary.

Now days games have pretty much left the classroom. There’s no time. Everyone is on a lock-step curriculum so that no matter where you move in the USA, you can join a new class and be exactly where you were in your old class.  And free play?  No.  Kids cannot be left to their own devices. Someone might get hurt. We’ll be sued. Structured play. That’s what we need.  Line up here.  Play this.  Play it this way.


I don’t believe we ever outgrow our love of games.  Those included in this workshop were gleaned from talented tellers and story coaches including Olga Loya, Mary Hamilton, Doug Lipman, Len Cabral, Anndrena Belcher (who introduced me to my first storytelling activity) and others. They were found in books, played during workshops, adapted from commercial games, and learned at conferences.

I invite everyone to come; play again. Stretch a little, have some fun, and leave with something new to try at home.

About Pat

Pat is a three-time winner of Florida’s Liars’ Contests.  Or at least that’s what she says.  Who can believe such a liar?  In addition to her wide array of folk, family, original, and bone-chilling tales she offers a variety of workshops including “What’s So Funny?”  “Creative Soup,” and “Building a Whopper.”  Information about these and other workshops are available on her website.

She currently serves as secretary of the Florida Storytelling Association and as the NSN Florida Liaison. She is the recipient of FSA’s Lifetime Achievement Award and NSN’s Oracle Award. Or so she says…

Contact Pat

Pat Nease
4435 Pratt Avenue
Panama City, FL 32404
Phone: (850) 871-0165
Cell:  (850) 814-2616


Branding: It Doesn’t Have to Hurt!

by Simon Brooks and Karen Chace

“A brand name is more than a word. It is the beginning of a conversation.”  ~ Lexicon

For some, the concept of branding is synonymous with marketing. Yet, what many fail to realize is that branding comes before marketing. Branding is a separate piece and it should be the first piece.

Despite what many believe, a brand isn’t just about your logo, tagline and glossy brochure, but rather integrates these numerous components, including customer contact, your business philosophy and marketing details. Branding tells us, and our clients, who we are as a business or organization. It’s about our image, what we do, our ethics, and how we present ourselves to the world. Whether you are running a company with multiple employees or the CEO of your own storytelling business, you need to think about your brand.

If you already have a brand, has it changed through the years? Brands should evolve if our focus changes.  We might start out telling to young children but later, find our emphasis shifting to environmental stories. Change has to do with perception, fashion, management, needs, or personal choice. Although Starbucks has transformed its logo over the years, we still recognize it, from the brown, full bodied, twin-tailed siren, with the company name embedded into the logo, to the green, unembellished green version of her face and hair and no text. Even without the name emblazoned on the logo we still know the product is Starbucks. This strong, brand recognition didn’t happen overnight, it took time. The logo was the entry point to the brand, which was then marketed to the masses.

You see a photo of Jason Mraz and know him by his iconic pork pie hats.  We recognize Nike by the ‘swoosh’, and Coca-Cola by its swish!  You immediately identify the product and the company from their logo. However, be aware that ‘brand’ and ‘logo’ are two different things.  The brand is the overall image a business, product or person projects and the logo is part of that brand.  Other specifics make up a brand:

  • typeface/fonts
  • color schemes
  • design styles
  • taglines
  • mission statement

For example, in the taglines “Just Do It” or “I’m Lovin’ It,” all those things come together to make a ‘brand’.

Simon’s CD’s have their own separate ‘brand’ with the circle image and typeface along with their overall style and presentation. Originally, Simon’s letterhead was a cute watercolor picture he painted.  When he moved from performing primarily for children and families, to also working in colleges, with adult audiences and businesses, he changed the letterhead to reflect that additional focus. The watercolor was dropped and he adopted a more serious black panel with his name in white letters. Another part of his ‘brand’ is the apple crate he brings to his performances. Initially, it began as a simple way to carry his gear and have something to place his glasses and notes. His bodhrán and backdrop are also part of his ‘brand’!

Story-by-Story-BackdropKaren’s brand entry point is the ladybug. Her brochure, business card, website, and blog all use the same font, color scheme and graphic; even her gig bag is decorated with ladybugs. For performances, Karen uses a hand painted backdrop, which also has a ladybug incorporated into the picture. The ladybug, along with her tagline, “Catch the Storybug,” has become part of her brand.

Your brand is telling people the story of who you are, what you do, and sometimes, how you do it. Your brand is YOU!

Take a look at yourself and what you do. Look at what others think you do. Do you have a brand or identifier?

Need some help? The workshop we are presenting, ­Branding: It Doesn’t Have to Hurt, at the National Storytelling Conference in Arizona this July can help you sort it out. Come and get branded. Trust us, you won’t feel a thing!

About Simon and Karen

brooks-simonAward-winning, British storyteller Simon Brooks began storytelling to groups and family audiences in 1991 in England, becoming a professional teller in 2003 in American.  Born in England and making many trips in and out of Wales, Simon was raised on traditional tales.
Simon combines the intensity of a solo performance with the intimacy of a face-to-face conversation whether live or on his recordings. Simon’s love of his work is as inherent as his love of stories and this carries over into his workshops, teaching and sharing of skills with anyone wanting to learn the multiple facets of being a storyteller.

chaceKaren Chace’s introduction to storytelling in 1999 was pure serendipity! Since then she has been sharing stories professionally and in 2002 founded The Story Explorer’s, a student storytelling troupe, and has taught the art of storytelling to over 500 students. She is the 2009 recipient of the LANES Brother Blue-Ruth Hill Storytelling Award and the 2011 National Storytelling Network’s Oracle Service and Leadership Award/Northeast Region. Her book, Story by Story: Building a Student Storytelling Troupe, published by Parkhurst Brothers, will be available July 2014. Karen’s greatest joy is helping students succeed in ways they never imagined!

Contact Simon and Karen

Simon Brooks

Karen Chace


The Prism of Performance: A Storyteller Looks In

by Elaine Muray

murayAt the end of July, I will have the honor of providing a workshop at the 2014 NSN Conference entitled: The Prism of Performance: Bringing Light and Color to the Stage.  This workshop, designed for all levels of tellers, will help them to learn some staging techniques, tricks, and exercises used by by some of the best stage performers. Ever since I can remember, I have wanted to move…whether it be dancing, cheerleading as a teenager, or my love of performances which use the full scope of the body to communicate intention. My influences primarily come from the stage of physical theater, with my biggest influence coming from Eastern European theater, which use the full palette of tools in their work. Specifically, my biggest influence comes from the Caucuses and the work of Georgian performer/director Paata Tsikurishvili (artistic director of Washington, DC’s Synetic Theater), whom I’ve worked with for over 15 years. Paata’s collaborative approach and his insight into how and when to best incorporate physicality, has been one of the greatest gifts I have received as a performer.

If you are looking for new ways to approach your work, the workshop will cover areas not often covered in the storytelling art form. We will cover space, timing, texture, rhythm,  prop management, and much more. This is not a mime workshop, but rather an opportunity to discover how to use your body and the stage in the most efficient way, so as to best move your story forward.  The workshop is designed to work with all levels of physicality as well as experience in storytelling. Time permitting, participants will be able to share snippets from their work, and receive input from the collective experience of some of the best.

I am looking forward to sharing the gifts I have received in my own development as a storyteller. Won’t you join me on stage?

About Elaine

Elaine Muray integrates movement and narration to deliver tales from around the world as well as personal stories.  She has performed at the Australian Storytelling Festival, the Northlands Storytelling Conference and the Jemez Storytelling Festival. In 2008 was chosen by her then Pacific peers to perform at the NSN All Regions Concert, representing the 5-state Pacific Region. Elaine has been directed by some of the best in physical theater, including Tony Montanaro and James Donlon.  The majority of her work is a result of over 15 years directing by the director of Washington, DC’s Synetic Theater, Paata Tsikurishvili, who hails from the country of Georgia, and whose “mark” can be seen in most of her pieces.

Contact Elaine



How I Became a Storyteller

by Terry Foxx

foxxgdaughterMy 9 year old granddaughter is traveling the world with her parents for two years.  The other day on Skype she asked me the question “How did you become a storyteller.”  So I wrote her this blog letter:

To my precious granddaughter, Sydney:

foxxYou asked me a question: How did you become a storyteller? I have pondered your question because I think it is an important one.

The other day I attended a program for teens. They asked “Why is it teens are lonely? Why is it they are distressed?” They have 100s of Facebook friends.  They even sit right next to each other and text.

But dear Sydney, texting is not talking. Texting is not listening, empathizing, caring, hugging, and crying together.  The words may be there but the human contact is missing. We need to hear and tell our stories. If we don’t tell stories, we begin not to care and are mean to each other.

It is only recently I have thought of myself as a storyteller. As a college professor, I always liked to illustrate my lectures with stories of science, of challenges, of epiphanies. But I never thought of them as stories. I called myself a scientist, a researcher but not a storyteller.

Everything changed in the year 2000. As a scientist I had studied fire ecology and the influence of fire on the ecosystem for many years. That year the Cerro Grande fire raged across our mountain. Twenty thousand people were evacuated. Cell phones were a rarity. We did not know where our friends and sometimes our family members were. Were they in a shelter? Were they with a kind soul who took them in? Were they in a motel? Many lost their homes but everyone was grieving.  Everywhere we went we heard the stories of kindness of neighbors and strangers, of loss, and of gratitude.

When we were allowed to return back to Los Alamos, everyone had a story. Everywhere we went, to lunch, in church, in the hallways, stories were told. That is when I realized the importance to storytelling. Children in one school made a quilt and on that quilt were stories of their loss, their anguish, and their realization about life. One child said “I learned it was O.K. to cry.”

My talks changed from pure science to science and story. I realized grief extended beyond the loss of property but also it was about loss of a beloved landscape covered by trees. I began to take people out to see how nature heals, to tell nature’s story. How nature gives us hope.  I went to other communities to tell our stories of loss, of grief, of hope.

I changed my view of myself. I realized the only way a scientist truly can express their science to the non-scientist is through story. I began to say “I am a storyteller but I am also a scientist.” Science is about the head and story is about the heart.

Today when I give a talk, I no longer just look at only the science, the head part, but try to incorporate our human understanding and give heart to the subject through storytelling.  I recently gave a PBS Science Café talk on ravens. The combination of the science of these funny, intelligent creatures and their perception by humans today and in the past gave them more interest and depth. One small boy went away telling his grandmother, “I thought they were just birds.”

Today people introduce me as a storyteller, a scientist, an artist, and a writer. I no longer feel uncomfortable when they call me a storyteller. I know where true healing comes from.  As a scientist, I know we can solve problems and give answers to many things, but science does not often change the heart—that comes from storytelling. Listening and caring for each other.  Experiencing another’s pain, successes, joys, and sorrows these are all universal human experiences.

The other day, you asked your parents the question,  “Why people are so mean to each other?”

Sydney, because I see people mean to each other, that is why I am a storyteller. You are traveling the world.  Because of your travels, you will have many stories you can tell.  Experiences that are now stored in your little heart.  Hopefully, when you and I tell stories, we can help people learn not be mean to each other.

Grandma. (aka: Terry Foxx)

About Terry

Terry is an ecologist, writer, artist, and storyteller.   Stories written and told orally are means for Terry to express the sense of awe and wonder that she finds in nature and the world around us.  Don’t miss Terry’s workshop at the 2014 National Storytelling Conference, July 24-27 in Phoenix/Mesa, AZ:  “Touched by Fire: Igniting the Flames of Healing.”  This workshop will showcase how storytelling helped people heal from evacuation and loss after a wildfire, which can translate to the healing process after any disaster.

Contact Terry



Bringing Storytelling to Campus

by Adah Hetko, guest editor for New Voices (Katie Knutson)

The “Bayit,” the home of Jewish Life at Vassar College, sits right outside Vassar’s gate. On an evening in November, we set the Bayit’s parlor with a circle of chairs ready to welcome students, administrators, members of the surrounding community… and their stories.

Vassar College students and members of the Dutchess County Interfaith Story Circle share stories based around the theme of "travel". Photo by Muriel Horowitz

Vassar College students and members of the Dutchess County Interfaith Story Circle share stories based around the theme of “travel”. Photo by Muriel Horowitz

The event was an interfaith story circle: a collaboration between Vassar’s Office of Religious and Spiritual Life and the Dutchess County Interfaith Story Circle. The November story circle was one of several storytelling events that I have had the opportunity to facilitate at Vassar during the past few months. As a teenager I trained with Children at the Well-Youth Storytellers for Peace & Understanding (jump-started by NSN’s 2006 Brimstone Award for Applied Storytelling). In college, I continued telling stories and engaged in interfaith organizing, but never combined the two. When I graduated from Oberlin College, and was hired as the Tanenbaum Inter-religious Fellow at Vassar, I was curious to see how I could use storytelling in my work to build community on campus and support students’ exploration of identity. Six months into this experiment, here are my thoughts.

Let’s return to the Bayit’s parlor. A change from the often tightly structured and hierarchical classroom environment, the circle of chairs was both welcoming and challenging. As the students and community members found seats, there was an initial discomfort. Then, they began to look into one another’s faces and smile. Once the storytelling began, full attention was given to each teller in turn. This intense focus generated a shared creative current with the energy flowing around the circle rather than from one speaker.

From this centrifuge, the stories flowed. The theme of the evening, “travel,” carried us from international flights and death-defying escapes to family road trips and summertime journeys. The first student to share a story later told me that she wasn’t sure how her story would be received. In the process of describing her transitions between home and college that included her religious practice, she became aware of the particularity of her experience, and adjusted her story to make it more accessible to the diverse audience. I thought that it took great courage for her to acknowledge the differences in the room, and make her story so accessible. Later, she told me that the process of sharing her story had actually given her courage. She had also gained a greater appreciation for the community surrounding Vassar. With this ethos of discovery, it’s no surprise that the evening was filled with laughter, an expression of both relief and delight.

So far, storytelling has burst the “bubble” of a tight-knit campus. Telling and listening to stories has helped Vassar students to reframe their experiences and absorb an enriched sense of what is relevant to their lives. Storytelling has empowered them to appreciate the present moment as well as one another, and the larger community. What more could you want from an education?

Following the story circle, a storytelling workshop, and a storytelling-infused Shabbat service, students were abuzz with ideas for using storytelling elsewhere on campus: to build community in residence halls, to personalize coursework in International Relations, and to help survivors of violence articulate their experiences. While I don’t know how many of these ideas will come to fruition, I’m glad to have planted the seed of story.

About Adah:

Adah Hetko, a founding member of Children at the Well Youth Storytellers for Peace and Understanding, has performed and facilitated storytelling in a variety of settings. Adah graduated from Oberlin College in 2013, and currently works as the Inter-religious Fellow with Vassar College Religious and Spiritual Life.