Tell a bit about you. Vocation, hobby, family.
My vocation is kids -- bringing kids together with books; exciting kids about language and reading and writing; motivating kids to learn. My hobby...hmmm...staying healthy. Working out, eating right, getting enough rest. Sounds boring, and it's not so much a hobby as a life choice -- one that allows me to do all of the things I love. My family: Bobby, one of the best storytellers in the nation and the number one Best Husband in the World! In addition to Bobby's son, our daughter-in-law and our granddaughter Mikki, my family consists of my twin brother who is Chair of the Music Department at Virginia Commonwealth University, his wife, and his twin sons Josh and Seth. Small family but one that I'm very proud of!!
What is your interest in storytelling? How did it begin?
I began working with children as a Children’s Librarian with Miami-Dade (FL) Public Library in 1979,
using storytelling to motivate kids to read and use the library. It worked! Storytelling soon became such a popular service to the schools that I became Youth Outreach Coordinator, telling in all of 365 elementary schools, 100 middle schools and 75 high schools in the county and conducting professional development workshops. I continued storytelling performances and teacher workshops when I became Youth Services Coordinator of the DeKalb County (GA) Public Library in 1988.
In 1996, I left the library to become a fulltime storyteller. During a six-week residency in Alaska in late 1996, I discovered a passion for using storytelling to teach curriculum, and by 1998 I was on the teaching artist rosters in Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Kentucky and Tennessee, as well as Young Audiences of Atlanta and Young Audiences of St. Louis. I’ve led residencies and professional development workshops across the United States and Southeast Asia.
As passionate as I am about working with children, I am equally so about helping teachers discover the power of story. To that end, I’ve co-authored Storytelling Strategies for Reaching and Teaching Children with Special Needs (Libraries Unlimited, forthcoming 2017), Science with Story (McFarland, 2016), Literacy Development in the Storytelling Classroom (Libraries Unlimited, 2009), The Storytelling Classroom: Applications Across the Curriculum (Libraries Unlimited, 2006), and Social Studies in the Storytelling Classroom (Parkhurst Brothers Publishing, 2012). As a Kennedy Center Teaching Artist as well as a Wolf Trap Teaching Artist, I have the opportunity to introduce teachers to the transformative power of storytelling in their classrooms.
Why did you decide it was important to be a member of Missouri Storytelling? How can Mo-Tell improve?
The newsletter is fantastic -- really keeps us informed about the depth and breadth of storytelling across Missouri! That in itself is a real value, as the work being done inspires and informs others.
And the work in the state parks is a win-win -- great for the tellers and the park visitors alike! I wonder if Mo-Tell can find a way to bring us all together face-to-face? We congregate in KC and STL, but maybe a one-day "conference" in Columbia would allow us to gather and celebrate Missouri tellers and their accomplishments (maybe even some Mo-Tell awards along the lines of the Oracles?).
What tellers have been influential in your life?
Well, Bobby, obviously -- his willingness to give full energy to the smallest audiences as well as the huge ones; to do the deep research that informs his historical work and his support for all I do. Lyn Ford and Jane Stensen continually raise the bar on teaching artistry. Milbre Burch and Charlotte Blake-Alston set the standard for professionalism and artistic integrity. Carmen Deedy provides a source of constant moral support, inspiration, and generosity. And I can't leave out Jackie Torrence and The Folktellers. The list could go on and on...I've been privileged to sit at the feet of the Masters.
What is a favorite story, movie, song?
One of my favorite stories to tell is "How Possums Got Naked Tails" -- perfect for character voices and sound effects. Also, I love stories for little ones that allow them to participate through chants, rhythms, etc.
One of my favorite stories to listen to is Bobby's version of "Barney McCabe." I love folktales from around the world!Favorite songs -- basically anything by Jimmy Buffett will fill that bill. His songs usually tell
stories, you know!
We rarely go on vacation -- our work keeps us on the road and in the sky so often that we are always grateful to have some time together at home. But a few years ago we went to Universal Studios in Orlando to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and we intend to return this December. We love anything HP!