We Have an Incredible Story to Tell

November 18th, 2015

by Ellen Munds
Executive Director

Three co-founders: Nancy Barton, Bob Sander and Ellen Munds

Three co-founders: Nancy Barton, Bob Sander and Ellen Munds

We have an incredible story to tell. It begins, as all good stories do, with a dream.

28 years ago, three people wanted to give Hoosiers the gift of stories. And those three people formed a movement that brought together countless individuals who donated their time, talent and resources. Because they believed in our dream, we now hold 150 programs and events every year that entertain, educate, and inspire thousands.

With each new program, sponsor, donor and volunteer, the story grows and grows. Here are some of the highlights from our tale: In 1988, we had just one event: The Hoosier Storytelling Festival. Now we offer programming every month of the year. Some favorites:

1. Helping families at a local children’s hospital take their mind off the pain with storytelling every week.

2. Creating a space for elders to share their wisdom with the As I Recall Storytelling Guild at the Glendale and the Hancock County Public Library .

3. Encouraging kids of all ages to tell whoppers at the Annual Liar’s Contest on opening night of the Indiana State Fair.

During the course of our history, we have hired 147 different storytellers. 92 of the storytellers reside outside of the state and many of them have been featured at the National Storytelling Festival. We have commissioned Hoosier storytellers to develop 23 original stories of Indiana history and six stories on iconic buildings. We have also awarded 25 Frank Basile Emerging Stories Fellowships to Indiana storytellers.

We treasure our partnerships with other local not-for-profits. Together, our stories are richer and more vibrant. Our special partner is the Indiana Historical Society, which is now home to our office and hosts our entire season. Other valued partners include:

1. Indiana Landmarks / If These Walls Could Tell

2. Crown Hill Heritage Foundation / Ghost Stories

3. Indy Fringe / Jabberwocky

Individuals play an enormous role in our success. Without ever being asked, Paul Madar gave us a gift to start an endowment in 1993. Today, that endowment includes 11 planned gifts and exceeds $100,000.

There’s always more to say, but we’ll pause our story here for the day. Help us keep telling it. We need help from people like you. Make your online donation today

Many thanks,

Matlack Storytelling

October 5th, 2015

By David Matlack

Matlack 2014I discovered storytelling by pure serendipity. I was planning an autumn family vacation in the Smokies, and saw a blurb in Southern Living about something called the National Storytelling Festival. I had never heard of storytelling, but it got rave reviews and I thought the kids might enjoy it.

As it turned out, the kids were maybe a little too young to fully appreciate it, but I was enthralled… and hooked! I will never forget my first experience with professional storytelling was standing outside of a packed tent listening to Jay O’Callahan tell The Herring Shed. I decided then and there that I had to be a part of this.

I learned from both of my parents – both teachers – that the key to success in both vocation and avocation was education. I launched in to attending every workshop and festival I possibly could. Very slowly, I began incorporating storytelling into my pet care presentations on school visits, and then volunteering at churches, summer camps and schools.

I think the greatest things I’ve learned from storytelling are to honor tradition and respect the elders. My closest mentors have been Annette Bruce, Jay O’Callahan and Connie Regan-Blake. I am just now returning to storytelling after a long hiatus, and it feels like a comfortable, old, worn sweater. It has been an incredible journey and a very important part of my life.

How I Got Started in Storytelling

September 18th, 2015

By Ginny Richey

I open my mouth to tell a familiar story, maybe “The Talking Pot” or “Mr. Fox”, and I realize that the children who first listened to me tell that story are grandparents now. It wasn’t so long ago, was it: 1969 in Louisville, Kentucky, when I was a fresh young college graduate with hair longer than my skirts?

Mrs. Miller - Ginny RicheyBarbara Miller, the legendary “Story Lady” of the Louisville Free Public Library, hired me as a storyteller/librarian – when I had no idea of what storytelling was or what storytellers did and had never even been to a storyhour. Mrs. Miller began to educate me.

I can still hear her quiet comments on the first story I ever told (It was “Caps for Sale” and she didn’t warn me that every child who came to the library already knew that story.) Her style was elegant and dignified, her gestures understated, her voice warm and expressive. I watched her hold groups spellbound and silent with her stories, while my groups wiggled and squirmed and spoke out. I began to see that when the story worked it became a shared experience between the teller and the listener. I told my stories over and over, 5 or 6 times a day as school groups and daycares came to tour the library and the art center, and watched each story evolve as children responded to them. Oh, this was something, this storytelling! I was hooked.

Mrs. Miller sent me on to one of her mentors, Margaret Sheviak, another notable storyteller and a professor at Indiana University in Bloomington.

Miss Sheviak - CompressedPerhaps I wasn’t telling stories every day, but Miss Sheviak made sure I learned plenty about the art. She was in the process of creating an academic course in storytelling for the Graduate Library School and pressed me to read all the new material coming out as well as the tried and true classics in the field. She was an advocate for storytelling for all ages and often adults were surprised that she included stories in every course and in the conferences and workshops she led around the state. Under her influence I found myself telling stories that I thought were for kids to adult audiences. They applauded. They liked the stories! Point made, Miss Sheviak, stories are indeed for all ages.

Miss Sheviak was a Watanah, Indiana girl and I loved hearing her tell Indiana stories – stories told from a culture by someone who had the landscape and the people in her bones. She made me realize that my West Virginia and Kentucky background could be something I could bring to a story. I learned to respect the origins of a story and to research each tale thoroughly before beginning to retell it. And to project. “Open your pipes” she would admonish and demonstrate with a bellow that was famous at IU ball games.

There was a grand revival of interest in all manner of folkways all around when I graduated. There were festivals of folk crafts and festivals of folk music, and a brand new festival of folk tales. I listened excitedly to the tellers at the National Storytelling Festival and I wanted to be part of the movement. Alas, I found myself in a job which did not include storytelling. This is when the Bloomington Storytellers Guild began – I was keen to continue practicing this art I had begun to learn. The children’s librarian at MCPL, Laurel Goodgion, was interested, as were a few of the school librarians, and Miss Sheviak herself, and before you knew it we were getting together in each other’s houses sharing stories and ideas about storytelling along with homemade treats and cheap drinks. That was a looong time ago. Over the years there have been so many wonderful tellers who have told with the BSG – their voices and stories still echo in my mind. I love hearing the marvelous tellers who are part of the Guild now, some new and some who have been with the Guild for decades now. The group has waxed and waned and changed along with the times, but we have continued the tradition of an annual Festival of Ghost Stories since about 1976. This year you’ll find us at Bryan Park in Bloomington on Friday, October 30th trying our best to produce some shivers, some moans, and a few giggles.

Ginny RicheyI am now what you could kindly call “experienced.” Years and years of storytelling lie behind every tale I tell. Indeed there are tales I’ve told almost half a century – but there are also ones that I’ve just learned for a program last week. I began with folktales but over time have added personal narratives, literary and original works to my reperatoire – yet I do continue to return to the rich wellspring of folklore over and over again. When I develop a story, I am still influenced by the mentors who showed me that storytelling was an important art: worth doing to the best of one’s ability; worth the time put into research and practice; worth the listeners’ attention. Past and present merge in each story, voices from the past with current life changes. Every telling teaches me something new about storytelling, every story surprises me at it unfolds before a new audience. I am excited about the opportunity to tell as part of Storytelling Arts of Indiana’s Ghost Stories at Crown Hill Cemetery this year. May the kind spirits of storytellers past enjoy the evening as much as you and I will!.



February 26th, 2015

By Frank Basile

Basile SmallestEmployees learn more about a company and what it stands for from incidents that happen with the CEO and other executives than from company manuals. Manuals simply state how things should be or how the writer wants people to think they are. What people actually do is the way things are.

Management consultant, author and speaker Tom Peters says, “The best leaders, almost without exception and at every level, are master users of stories and symbols.”

A great believer in the value of stories within a business organization is Patrick Kelly, who founded the company Physician Sales and Service (PSS).

“Fast Company” Magazine carried an article about Kelly titled “Every leader tells a story.” “Forget bullet points and slide shows. The best leaders use stories to answer three simple questions: Who am I? Who are we? Where are we going?”

In this article, Elizabeth Weil writes, “In the new world of business, where it’s every executive’s job to make sense of a fast changing environment, storytelling is the ultimate leadership tool.”

“Leadership is about change,” says Noel M. Tichy, a professor at the University of Michigan Business School and the coauthor of The Leadership Engine (Harper Business, 1997). “It’s about taking people from where they are now to where they need to be. The best way to get people to venture into unknown terrain is to make it desirable by taking them there in their imaginations.” In other words, by telling them stories.

“Faster Company” (John Wiley & Sons, 1998) is an entertaining, instructive account of Physician Sales and Service’s 15-year rise to prominence and prosperity. CEO Pat Kelly hopes it sells lots of copies.

But that’s not why he wrote it. “Now I have something to put in the hands of all my employees and say, ‘This is the way we treat each other. This is the way we treat our customers. If you understand this, you’ll make it here, and we’ll all be extraordinarily successful. This is our story.’”

In May 1996 I wrote an article “How to write a book about your company.” That book has now materialized into Born to Build.

The feedback we have received from those who have read the book confirm our decision to use Gene Glick’s own anecdotes and stories to relate the history of our company rather than the conventional approach of a third party providing facts and dates. It has made the book much more interesting and insightful, which is what we wanted to accomplish.

Each new employee with our company receives a copy of the book because we agree with Pat Kelly’s comments about the value of relating the company’s values and culture through stories.

For those interested in writing a company history, I would be happy to provide them with a reprint of my earlier article or respond to questions on the telephone. Though it was frequently frustrating, took three and a half years and cost $115,000, it was well worth it.

To provide some specific background as to why our book was written and whether the time, money and effort was worth it, I will quote from Gene Glick’s preface to Born to Build.

“The irascible Samuel Johnson observed that “no man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money.” Since it’s immediately obvious that this book will never make The New York Times’ nonfiction best-seller list, Johnson’s view is not the underlying inspiration for it.

So why did I write it? One of my reasons is that it would inform, perhaps inspire, establish some history, and, I hope, entertain with some humor. I didn’t want to write the kind of book that once you put it down, you couldn’t bear to pick it up again!

We hope that laying out what amounts to a case history of what can be accomplished, starting from scratch, will not only be of interest to someone with an entrepreneurial bent, but might be an inspiration to anyone wishing to make the attempt to follow a dream. And from a purely academic point of view, I hope this book will be an explanation to the student of how an idea grew to become a major force in an entire industry.

It will inform our colleagues, present and future, on the basic tenet on which the organization was built and how it prospered: that dedicated service by people of excellence would be recognized in the marketplace. It should become obvious that teamwork of those sharing a mission is the basis of success of an organization formed of people with vision and integrity.

It has taken far more time than anticipated, more work than we thought possible, and has admittedly been a source of exasperation at times. So the question arises: would you start the effort again? And the answer is a resounding “Yes”! Memories were stirred, factors of success were revealed, and the underlying value of the project was very much reinforced.”

If you want to learn more about storytelling and perhaps use it more within your organization, attend the Story of Your Business and the Business of Your Story series, http://www.storytellingarts.org/134.html

Telling Jewish Stories in Antarctica

January 27th, 2015

Bob Zalkin


I am perhapsBob Zalkin the only professional storyteller in the world who has told on all 7 continents of the world: North America, South America, Europe, Asia. Africa, Australia and lately, Antarctica. This was achieved because I serve as Jewish clergyman on world class cruise ships. The foundation of my programs is my stories, personal, traditional and literary from the vast Jewish repertoire. I am particularly attracted to stories that open the emotions, and that have a spiritual emphasis. My overall story signature is Stories and Songs That Touch The Heart

Last week, I returned from a 24 day trip to Antarctica. That trip was a study in contrasts: the pristine nature of the area and its history of rape and pillage;  the stark magnificence of the landscape and the ultra-luxury of the cruise ship; the difficulties of getting to and traversing the land and the comfort and ease on board. It was all quite wonderful!

In the early days of Western activity in Antarctica, the harbors teemed with whales. Vast numbers of them were chopped up for their oil, and considerable fortunes were made, with no attention at all to the environmental price. Today, the opposite is true

Only ships with less than 500 passengers are permitted (Ours had 450).Then, only 100 people at a time are permitted to actually land. We were assigned a 2 hour period each day for land exploration. Since it never really gets dark in the Antarctic summer, on some days the land explorations started at 4 am! We dressed in layers, insulated underwear , several layers of shirts/blouses, water and wind proof pants, special boots, underparka and parka. All our outer clothing had been inspected and vacuumed to remove any possibility of an errant seed of an invasive species, and we stepped into a disinfectant to make sure our boot soles were pristine. We were strapped into life jackets for the trip to shore.

Then, specially trained (and strong!) crew members helped us from the boat onto the zodiacs (motorized rafts) that actually transported us to shore. On some days, instead of a land visit, we spent our time zooming into magnificent bays, watching the penguins and seals .One day, a penguin tried to leap into our zodiac. Not a good idea to have a penguin in your boat. If it is attempting escape from a leopard seal, you might find yourself with a vicious and hungry leopard seal in your lap, not a happy situation!

The landscape in Antarctica is so grand that the camera cannot capture it. Vast glacier covered mountains, fluorescent blue caves in mighty icebergs, penguins leaping onto floating ice islands. To top it off, we were blessed with almost perfect weather. The infamous Drake Passage rounding Cape Horn, home to some of the most tumultuous waters on the planet, a place where even hardened crew members get seasick, was for us an easy one day passage.

Here is my very favorite memory of my voyage to Antarctica. It is 8pm. I am sitting in the aft deck restaurant. The sun is still well above the horizon and the temperature is about 50(can you believe it?). There is no wind , and wind is the critical factor, which can turn 50 above into 30 below, in an instant. I am basking in a sunbeam and am surrounded 360 degrees by glacier covered mountains. In the distance is an incredibly beautiful and mystical mountain range that immediately brings to mind the entrance to that place of infinite peace and compassion, Shangrila, immortalized in the classic book by James Hilton, “Lost Horizon.” All the while, I am being served a gourmet dinner. As the saying goes, “it doesn’t get any better than this.”

I am truly blessed. One of my goals is to transmit ,with my stories, my sense of gratitude, excitement and delight in life.

I Call Home…My Mountains

November 18th, 2014

On_stage_with_banjo_1993Sheila Kay Adams

The moon is laying a silver shawl over the entire ridge and every where the snow still lingers it looks like a rainbow peeps out at you as you walk by. I’ve walked to the top of the ridge and back just marveling at the beauty of this place I call home… my mountains holding me close… Ahhhh this is where God lives. I can feel it in my very soul. I know where my mother, father, Jim and many aunts and uncles are tonight… somehow that’s a very peaceful feeling. There was a time when everyone I ever loved still lived – now they live on in sweet memories and fond reflection. Love going out to all y’all from an old soul who loves these mountains and all that lies beneath them. God’s blessing on each and every one of you. Drove back though Sodom and hold each voice and memory with loving hands. I am blessed.

” Just stood on the porch for a few minutes and my heart filled with such quiet joy and peace. Ain’t we a funny bunch, my dearest dears? Life is so precious and fleeting. All we have to do is ask and be still and we get it all. A world of wonder waits just outside our little selves. And I am so very thankful that sometimes, not all the time, but enough times I’m able to be still and know Something is there. The wind is still blowing and it is snowing and it is so beautiful. Love going out to all my dearest dears from a snow blanketed Eskey’s Ridge. Good night, loving hearts. Just watched ‘Pay It Forward’ and hope to keep doing just that. Take time to go out and give thanks for a night of wonder…. Wherever you are It is there! xoxo SK”

Kentucky Folktales by Mary Hamilton

September 29th, 2014

Mary Hamilton

Mary Hamilton ResizedHave you ever wondered how a storyteller decides what story to tell, when to tell it, or how to tell it? What you see on the stage is akin to the visible tip of an iceberg. If you are at all curious about the underlying portions of the storytelling art, have I written a book for you — Kentucky Folktales: Revealing Stories, Truths, and Outright Lies. From the title alone you wouldn’t know, but the book is more than a collection of stories. Yes, there are stories – twenty-six of them – written down as close to how I tell them as writing allows. Each story is also followed by a commentary that includes not only the source of the story but an essay that delves into the storytelling art. Here’s what others have said about this unusual folktale collection:

“This book functions on two levels…great stories which will be fun for the casual reader…along with in depth notes showing how a contemporary storyteller…Mary Hamilton…shapes a tale for telling. Lovers of story will find a lot to delight them in this book. And Kentucky story lovers will just want to grab it and take it home with them to keep!”
— Dr. Margaret Read MacDonald, author of Ten Traditional Tellers

“Mary Hamilton has given us not only a glorious collection of dazzling tales, spooky, tall, international, regional, historical, personal, and family, but also an inspiring model of how a truly professional storyteller works.”
— Jo Radner, “Book Notes” Storytelling Magazine, June/July 2012

Kentucky Folktales received an Anne Izard Storytellers’ Choice Award and was also named a Storytelling World Winner in the Storytelling Collections category.

Essay topics addressed in the commentaries include:
• how audience responses shape tellings
• how and why telling a personal experience story to strangers requires a different telling from sharing the same experience with friends or family
• what a teller learns when the teller does not approach stories as words to be memorized
• how the writing of a tale differs from telling it
• what sort of research a teller might conduct to retell a folktale
• what makes a story a Kentucky folktale, or an Indiana folktale, or a folktale from any other place or people

Within the commentaries on five of the twenty-six stories, you’ll find archival texts so you can compare the story as I first encountered it with the story as I retell it. You may end up agreeing or disagreeing with my artistic decisions.

Following “The Gingerbread Boy” a creepy scary tale (not the “Run, run fast as you can…” tale you may recall from childhood, although running is not a bad idea for the main character), you’ll find a draft of a retelling by Chicago area storyteller Linda Gorham, who was inspired to retell it her way after encountering my retelling. Through this, you’ll have a peek into how folktales spread among contemporary storytellers.

Leonard Roberts, a Kentucky folklorist, collected several versions of two of the tales, so I created charts to show you the differences between ten versions of “Little Ripen Pear” and eight versions of “The Enormous Bear” from the Leonard Roberts Collection, Southern Appalachian Archives, Berea College.

A memory — I remember that when I was in first grade, an older girl named Anna Jo Hinton taught me how to run into the jump rope — became the story “Jump Rope Kingdom.” Find out how memory became story in the book. To hear that story now, visit: http://www.youtube.com/user/MaryHamiltonStory

In addition to “Jump Rope Kingdom” the book includes four more Hamilton family stories. Yes, family tales are indeed a form of folklore. Your family no doubt has tales too. You’ll also find seven haunting tales arranged from slightly spooky to truly terrifying with a bit of comic relief in the final selection. The outright lies mentioned in the title applies, mainly, to the tall tale section of six stories including “Some Dog” – an epic tall tale featuring my brothers, our family farm, and one truly amazing dog. A section titled “More Kentucky Folktales” includes a formula tale, a catch tale, a couple of realistic stories, and a fairy tale. In “Beyond Kentucky Folktales” you’ll find three tales not yet collected in Kentucky by any story collector, and yet, if I keep on telling them and my listeners retell them, someday a collector of oral tales may indeed encounter them.

My book is available from the publisher, University Press of Kentucky, in hardcover and electronic versions http://www.kentuckypress.com/live/title_detail.php?titleid=2627. Hardcover only is available through my website www.maryhamilton.info. An audio version is available from the Kentucky Talking Book Library accessible to all who use the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped http://nlscatalog.loc.gov/.

A Practical Craft, a Convenient Art

August 26th, 2014

Charlie Chin

Charlie ChinIn my family, my father and uncles were the gatekeepers of the immense treasure trove of stories, tales, and legends that had been passed down for generations for over the last four thousand years in China. As a child in the early nineteen fifties, I respectfully sat with the other children after dinner and listened as we were instructed in the behavior of the wise and warned of the pitfalls that attended the foolish. Years passed and at age eighteen, when I move out on my own, I put away the stories and proverbs. They were quaint and seem to serve no purpose in the Sixties, an age of psychoanalytical buzz words, and “hippies.”

But in 1970, the call went out for volunteers to collect and record the stories and artifacts of Chinatown, and strangely I knew I had to participate. So forty four years ago, I found myself working in a small museum and artifact collection called The Chinatown History Project in the heart of New York City’s Chinatown. Back then, New York City’s Chinatown was a stable community of roughly 20,000 people whose history in the United States reached back to 1700’s.

For over two hundred years, driven by war, poverty, and disasters, Cantonese and Fujian Chinese had been dispersed around the world, even to the distant shores of America. Though there were Chinatowns in New York City and San Francisco, the many laws restricting Chinese immigration such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, and the Restricted Quota of 105 people a year in 1943, the Chinese American population had always been small. Politics played its role as well. When the People’s Republic of China was founded in 1949, since it was a Communist government, the United States refused to acknowledge its existence and so there was no immigration.

But in 1979, after 30 years, with the realization that it could no longer deny the existence of one quarter of the world’s population, the United States normalized its relationship with the People’ Republic of China and the quota for Chinese was made the same number given to other groups. By the 1980’s Chinatowns across the United States suddenly became bustling arrival points for several thousand new immigrants a year. And many were not the poor farmer and fishermen who had fled the wars and famine of two hundred years before. These twentieth century immigrants were coming with professional education, and often moving to the suburbs at once, completely circumventing the Chinatown experience.

The nineteen eighties was a time when local elementary schools in downtown Manhattan began frantically calling community organizations in Chinatown as they discovered that as much as fifty percent of the incoming student body were ethic Chinese and they knew nothing about them. Libraries, schools, and community facilities were dealing with a large arriving Chinese population and they had no programs to deal with this demographic. As one elementary school teacher confessed to me at the time, “Every year our school does the play, “Snow White,” but I don’t think we can do that anymore.”

Older Chinese American families like mine, who had been here for three, four, and in some cases five generations, quickly became the minority in our own community and today we represent only about 8 per cent of the population of Chinese in America. The other 92 percent has arrived in the last 35 years. The history, culture, and stories of the old timers, tales of the villages, the “Talk Story” of the Hand Laundries, restaurants, and field workers, are as foreign to them as to anybody else.

Storytelling was one of the most requested programs, and my office mates usually “volunteered” me anytime a call came in. The problem was I had a great number of stories but no actual skill or training in an ancient craft considered a respected profession for thousands of years. They say that when the student is ready, the teacher magically appears. I discovered a traditional Chinese Storyteller, Master Leong Chi Ming, of Toisan, China, plying his trade in the busy streets of Manhattan Chinatown and at once begged to become his student. His English was poor and my Cantonese was worse but we were able to converse and for the next year and half, he instructed me in his style. He called it, “A Practical craft, a Convenience Art,” because without “props,” or a stage, one could do a complete theater with many characters, and make the past glories of China come alive. I treasured every session we had.

Today, the men of my father generation are long gone, and even in my age group, there are more empty chairs every year. The stories of coming to the “Land of the Ghosts,” surviving the discrimination and unfair laws, eking out a living with hard work and frugal choices, are the cobwebs of an old attic. At age 70, I work as an historian in the Chinese Historical Society of America, in San Francisco. Most of my work and lectures have to do with Asian American history, and that suits the needs of most school and college audiences. But a couple of times a year, I’m asked to visit someplace outside the Bay Area and tell some of the old tales. It always pleases me to do.

Understanding The Heroic Journey — A Powerful Tool for Literacy.

May 9th, 2014

Jim MayJim May

I hope to present students with as many enjoyable and interesting storytelling moments as possible. I believe that if students are going to love to read and write, they will be at an advantage if they have a positive relationship with oral language stories, both in the telling and listening. I believe that the mythological principles below can become a foundation for a lifetime of writing and reading.

The Heroic Journey: This is the map of most good stories. It represents a take off point for the imagination. It reflects the fact that we all are on a journey through life (each one of us as heroic as Ulysses), and gives students a story structure. Some major elements of the Heroic Journey are below:

Problem, Wound, or Call: This element initiates the journey. This changes the hero/heroine’s life dramatically. He/she must take up the journey to change/respond to the situation: Cinderella’s intolerable home life, Luke Sky Walker’s enslaved home planet, the death of Harry Potter’s parents.  On the other hand, some heroic characters merely take up a quest to seek adventure – they are “called,” or “chosen” or respond to some inner destiny.

Mentor(s): The principle helper/guide/teacher. The fairy godmother is Cinderella’s. Luke has Yoda. Harry has Dumbledore. The mentor will help the heroine/hero solve problems, overcome obstacles, and defeat demons. Mentors are usually both kind and challenging (tough love)… The mentor role reminds us that we are not alone and should look for help and allies in real life.

Test(s): This is where we build the character of the hero/heroine. Does she/he show qualities of compassion, bravery, and intelligence under pressure/duress? And yet, paradoxically, the most interesting heroes/heroines are imperfect.

Reward, New Learning, Magic: If the hero/heroine passes the test(s) she/he is rewarded with something: magic, information, power, new insight…that brings to solution the problems set out earlier in the story:.

Problem Solved, (Climax): This is the moment of transformation where the character uses her or his new found power to achieves his/her goals, escapes danger and death, and wins in the end, solving the problems laid out earlier in the story. Cinderella gets the prince. Harry Potter becomes a powerful wizard. Luke destroys the death star.

*Paradox: This is a fascinating and intriguing contradiction in the story that is surprising, confusing but functions to take the reader or listener deeper into the meaning of the story and also into the meaning of life.

Dressed in cinders and rags Cinderella is the most beautiful sister, because she has the most beautiful heart.

The young Luke saves his home planet because the “force” is more powerful in him.

Even though the orphan Harry Potter doesn’t know it yet, he is predestined to grow up to be a most powerful wizard.

• Beauty falls for the Beast.
• The fool is smarter than the king.
• The youngest/smallest prince is the best warrior.
• The baby girl is stronger and less afraid than the big boys.

The element of paradox helps us all enjoy the mystery and surprise of the story and of life, and helps us learn not to judge others or ourselves too quickly, too harshly, or by our appearance and status in the world. The concept and playing out of paradox in the story defeats stereotypes.

*Accepting the paradox that every human being, including ourselves, is imperfect can be a wedge against bullying and oppression of all kinds.

I tell stories to children because I learned many years ago that nothing in my ten years of experience as a classroom teacher held my elementary student’s attention like a story.For some twenty-three years now, I have made my living as a professional, full time storyteller. That storytelling produces a singular, intensely vital experience in my listener’s imagination continues to be reinforced nearly every day of my professional storytelling life.

I remember a particular occasion telling stories to an auditorium full of primary-aged students (grades k-2). After the program was finished, the students filed past the front of the stage where I was standing and greeting a few as they passed. One second grade boy walking by, looked at me over his should and shouted in mid step: “Thanks for the movies!”

I am reasonably sure that he was responding very literally, simply and profoundly to the mechanism in the brain (the cortex where complex thought functions) that produces images in response to oral language. Joseph Chilton Pierce and others have theorized that the brain is activated by oral language in a manner that causes neural brain cells and neural pathways to be stimulated (and even to grow, creating new, neural pathways, etc) in a way that is not possible when image and language are artificially coupled as in television, dvds, computer screens, in which case the most creative part of the brain shuts down because the image is ready made, not personal, original or connected to the viewer’s personal, internal, neural life.

During This Trip, Each of My Parents Agreed to Let Me Videotape Them

March 18th, 2014

Ellen H. Munds
Executive Director
Storytelling Arts of Indiana

Fred and Midge MundsIn 2009, I drove my parents to Wilmington, North Carolina knowing that this would be my father’s last visit to his family’s ancestral home. We visited the homestead, the Episcopal church where the Munds’ attended for three generations, and the family cemetery plot where all of my father’s relatives are buried dating back to the 1800s. During this trip, each of my parents agreed to let me videotape them as they recalled their family stories.

Once home, I got busy and didn’t do anything with the recordings. They both died in 2011. It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I pulled the recordings out to watch. It was such a gift to see and listen to my parent’s sharing their stories. I felt like they were sitting in the room with me again. I immediately made copies for my brothers to share with their children. I feel good because I now know that for generations to come, the Munds family will be able to share and listen to my parents stories.

Why am I telling you this? Because it only occurred to me to record my parents because of my involvement with Storytelling Arts of Indiana. Stories have value, and unless they are told and retold from generation to generation, they can be lost forever.

Storytelling Arts of Indiana strives to demonstrate the importance of stories whether from a stage or sitting around a kitchen table through such programs as: The Life Stories Project, As I Recall Storytelling guilds, Summer Performances in the city parks, Ghost Stories at Crown Hill Cemetery, Jabberwocky, Weekly storytelling at a local hospital, Storytelling performances from the stage and family storytelling performances.

If you believe in the importance of stories, please help Storytelling Arts of Indiana sustain itself by making a contribution.