Sheep in strange places and other adventures: the reflections of a girl reporter
First a clarification – this “girl reporter” thing is more than half a joke. There was a time, long ago, when I was a reporter, though one a bit older than a “girl.” I covered County Council, School Board, and Department of Public Utilities Board meetings for a weekly paper. When Sean Buvala asked me to share my observations at the recent National Storytelling Network Conference on the Storyteller.net Amphitheater I happily returned to my roots, bought a reporting notebook, and got myself to Kansas City.
Covering the NSN Conference was vastly more educational, inspiring, and entertaining than covering any kind of board meeting. Now that I am back in the “normal” world, I’m posting a few written reflections about my experience, to supplement, not replace what you hear on the Amphitheater.
Storytellers, as Donna Washington pointed out during her keynote address, often work by themselves. When they get together, they get a little crazy. The audience participation in her “scarry story” (tell a brief story about one of your scars to as many people as possible in a very short time) echoed through the ballroom like a cocktail party on steroids.
There are storytellers who express their joy in life by ululating. Kind of like this but a whole lot louder! (I wish I could do that.) They are given to spontaneous singing and dancing. And they tell each other stories! Walking into the hallway outside the ballroom in the Marriott Hotel was like walking into a wall of sound – excited voices exchanging memories, ideas, plans, dreams.
And those dreams – each workshop I attended pointed a way to a dream. Kevin Cordi shared ways to craft story by being brave enough to tell an oral rough draft to what he called a “deep listener,” one who helps the teller unfold the images. I, who don’t like to even talk about a story that is under construction until I have gone as far with it as I can inside my head, was challenged by this process to work in an entirely different way. It’s called playing out loud!
The workshop Children at the Well woke me up in a different way. Paula Weiss and Ben Russell not only talked about their ten years of interfaith intercultural youth telling, they invited their listeners to explore the same path. I brought a tiny idea of something I hope to pursue into this workshop and walked out with ideas and access to tools I can use to make it real.
There was, of course, so much more during the weekend. The comments during the Oracle Awards made it clear that the weekend was a family reunion, with gifts and thank-yous, old jokes and stories that only need to be half-told because everybody already knows the story.
As for those sheep? I found them in front of an historic high-rise condo building called the Ponce de Leon, just down the street from the Marriott. Why sheep, why there? We all get to create our own story about that one!
Harriet has told stories at the Phoenix Fringe and at the Gila Bend Shrimp Festivals. She’s taken part in the AZStorytellers Project and in StoryRise events. As an instructor at the South Mountain Community College Storytelling Institute, she has performed in many events including the La Lloronathon and a number of Myth Informed concerts.