Friday, February 3, 2012

A Story Within a Story

A story a story, let it come, let to begins my storytelling shows at schools and with adult groups.  A few weeks ago I had the privilege of sharing my stories with students at Lincoln and Faris Elementary in Hutchinson, KS.  It had been nearly two years since I'd "been on stage" telling stories and I was honestly quite nervous.  Since I'm no longer teaching full time I discovered the pleasure of practicing my stories without the pressure of still teaching.  My mind was clear to visualize the stories, to practice voice, to pretend, to pace, to play with dialogue, and of course, to pull out my frisky puppets and listen for their input.  

Once I began the journey back to storytelling my heart and soul were fluttering with excitement.  Over the last four decades I've learned and forgotten many many folktales, short stories, poems, and humorous dialogue with my puppets.  Now I could truly concentrate on a few stories that would be ideal for children in grades K-2, 3-4, and 5-6.  Somewhere in the timeline after my parents died in 1989 my stories began to develop a more personal approach, my mind would simply, on its on, float back to a childhood memory and a story just flowed  from my inner self.  I smiled and learned to let the stories come as they chose.  

Once upon a time...
Now my stories may include folktales from the Americas to Africa, from Japan around the globe to Russia, or from my own imagination and experience.  We once lived in a home on Ast.S.E. in Miami, Oklahoma that had been in a giant flood.  Oh, in my child's mind I could see the flood line and imagine what creatures still lurked in the walls.  My imagination was fueled by "a raw and bloody bones" painting in my attic closest, by the hobos who jumped from the nearby train tracks and begged at our kitchen door for food, and by a lady next door, who had died by hanging herself over the basement!  For one little second grader this was a gold mine of future stories.  Before long we moved to Hst. N.E. and new elements entered my life--a bully, and a neighborhood that encompassed blocks upon blocks of kids all nearly the same age, all playing outside in the evenings on those hot muggy summer nights.  We kicked that can, chased that ghost, and forced ourselves through strangle holds in Red Rover Red Rover.   I still have the scars on my knees and arms from falling hard on the asphalt streets, concrete, and gravel driveways!  Tar creek and spring floods also lurked in our lives along with the darkness of tornadoes.  The next thing I knew I was a grown up with a husband named Jack (right out of folktale, I tell you), children, travels, pets, and new memories.  Now they are all a part of everything I do in life.

Future writer and storyteller Jose Saul Torres.
It was some of those stories I shared with the children that day at Lincoln school.  As I peered out to the audience of 5th and 6th graders I took sheer delight in their facial responses to my stories that caused them to jump, scream, laugh, and groan.  Their attention was gift enough for me, but a few days later, I received a truly greater gift.  I was visiting Lincoln to sub for a friend, when another teacher explained that one of his students had something for me.  A sixth grader named, Jose Saul Torres j.r., presented me with a story that he had written.  He said it was gift and thank you for my storytelling.  I was speechless and humbled that a young boy thought enough of the art of storytelling to share his personal story with me.    His story begins, "This is me Jack and my dog named Major...we played tag, soccer, football, anything together...until Major got lost...days later a muddy scratched up dog found his way home...I gave him a nice bath.  He didn't like it because he was bleeding.  After a couple of days he'll be up in no time."  I must go back to Lincoln and have Jose Saul Torres autograph his story and take a picture of us.  I may have met a future Jack London, and all because of stories.  

A story a story, let it come, let it go, take some with you, bring some back.


  1. I wish I could sit in on your storytelling sessions! Do you remember going to our Library Science class in the evenings at LSU? (You WERE in that class with me weren't you?) We had that sweet teacher who actually READ children's books to us... oh, how I wish she had simply told us some stories...

  2. How true, but some people cannot tell a story. I feel fortunate that my father could tell a good story and gave me the spirit to continue.

  3. I found your writings tonight & have been reading. Must say I have so enjoyed! Don't quit writing....... let those memories & great stories continue to flow! jhw