It was October, 2003. I stared around the huge white tent near the Mesa Amphitheater at what seemed to be thousands of squirming fourth graders. My white plastic folding chair creaked and one leg sank into the damp grass, throwing me off-balance.
What was I doing here? What was this “storytelling” thing I had decided to see? Or hear? I, who had showed up almost on a whim in response to being a frustrated novelist, wasn’t even sure what one did at an event like this. It certainly didn’t seem to be like any other concert I had ever attended.
Then a woman, an older woman with flowing hair appeared in front of the microphone: “Once upon a time, there was an ugly princess.” That was all she said but her soft unhurried voice, the twinkle in her eye, the joy in her face pulled me right in. I saw that princess! I wanted to know what happened to that princess. Did she have adventures? Did she win a prince?
Alas, my questions went unanswered. Elizabeth Ellis was merely doing a sound check.
David Novak told the first actual story I ever heard. It was “Jack and the Beanstalk,” totally unlike anything I had ever read. He was making the story come alive through string figures. Later on he told Little Red Riding Hood with a red bandana.
What was this storytelling? Beside magic? I forgot that I was armpit-deep in children. They forgot they were armpit-deep in each other. We all sat silent in what I came to know later as a storytelling trance. When I emerged from that trance I knew three things: I wanted to do what I had seen and heard. I could do what I had seen and heard. I was going to learn how to do what I had seen and heard.
This began my journey.