Story Snippets…with Clever Octopus

Our Story Snippets series delves into moments that have brought delight to us with Story Crossroads.  This is a first of several to come on this blog.

For our 4th Annual Story Crossroads Festival on May 15, 2019, we wanted more hands-on story opportunities for people.  This meant materials.  This meant materials we did not have yet.  Thankfully, we received some materials needing a purpose through a Mini-Grant from Clever Octopus, a nonprofit creative reuse center.

We gathered boxes of wood blocks from Clever Octopus that Kurt Munson sawed and sanded so that small to large hands could handle them with care.  Then,  Spencer Thompson cut pieces of felt to glue on the blocks so that these turned into mini flannel boards.

We were thrilled when Clever Octopus also had tons of scrapbook felt embellishments in the form of frogs, lizards, fish, whales, starfish, seahorses, snakes, planes, and basketballs.  Each family that came by could take 3-4 blocks so that these characters (4 in a package) could roam on these blocks, interact with each other, and create stories for all to celebrate.  Extra bits of felt could be used to decorate the story blocks to add to the scenery.  The day of the Festival was super windy so we had to hang onto the felt.  Thank goodness that wooden blocks have some weight to them!

After the Festival, there were leftover felt characters so we transformed them into another story project at our 4th Annual Youth Teller Reunion on July 13, 2019.

Every year we have about 30 youth tellers and we have had 99 youth tellers on stage so far.  We gather for our Youth Teller Reunion at Boondocks in Draper, Utah.  Once youth tell at our event, they are always part of the Story Crossroads Family.  We had a youth teller attend the 2019 Reunion that told at our Inaugural event in 2016.  Some youth tellers are now in college.

We kick-off with a storytelling performance by the Executive Director, Rachel Hedman.  She never tells during the Festival itself as she has too much to oversee and do.  Though, she looks forward to telling stories for the youth.  She started storytelling as a sophomore in high school and celebrated 25 years in the art exactly this month and year.

Finally, story games are played and we work on a story project or craft.

We had the youth tellers and families take some blue cardstock (one paper per person). They chose where to place three long cuts.  This time, the embellished felt characters  were stuck onto Popsicle sticks so that they could move within the cut slots or jump to another slot.  The cardstock itself was decorated as a scene for the story.

We had preschool-aged kids to college-aged kids engaged with these cardstock story scenes.  Although people had many of the same characters, the adventures were varied from plane crashes to basketball champions to hungry snakes and on and on.  Combine these together…and the story possibilities were endless.  Still are to this day.

Could you tell a story…or a story snippet from the pictures?

Check out our previous post of thankfulness to Clever Octopus by clicking here.

Cap’s Off to You!–The Story Mine / David Bullock & Cathy Barker – and Celebrating Story

The Story Mine collage - David Bullock and Cathy BarkerFeaturing:  The Story Mine / David Bullock & Cathy Barker

7-Year Radio Show with 344 Episodes

The Story Mine radio show on KPCW brought storytelling to people who needed to discover the art.  David Bullock and Cathy Barker volunteered their time to make sure each 30-minute episode was compiled, edited, and ready to air every Sunday morning at 8:30am for seven years. They had no paid staff.  They had no funds from KPCW to gather in the material.  They invited Utah storytellers to record for free in their studio. This dedication from David and Cathy shone as bright as gold on the radio waves and into the homes of people in Park City, in Utah, and around the world.  Storytellers known locally and internationally were featured with the hard-to-believe-but-true commentary from David and Cathy. These people, amazing storytellers in their own right, gave their all to others.  The Story Mine will forever be treasured.

David Bullock and Cathy Barker are a husband and wife team like no other.  They decided to live in a cabin among the mountains and be surrounded by story full-time.  Not that anyone else could have adventures, but how many people come upon moose and bear on a regular basis?  And of the two, moose are certainly more dangerous.  David can attest to it–and share on stage–but that is another story.

In fact, when I approached David about doing this piece, he said, “We have had so many near Deer misses in the past few weeks. Oh the stories I could tell.  It’s been way below 0 degrees for several nights. Our water lines froze but we took care of it and haven’t had problems since. We really do enjoy our life up here. Who gets to Snowmobile to get to or away from their home?”

I reminded David that on Facebook he said that it got to -9 degrees.  He then responded, “It’s wonderful up here.  I could dazzle you with stories about my encounters with Sasquatch but you’d think I was telling a Tall Tale. I love stories.”

Rather than focusing on himself, David made sure the credit was given where it was due and declared, “Cathy is the best Program Manager and Producer at the Station.”  David added, “While other Radio Storytelling programs have a full staff to produce a show, the Story Mine had [us], Volunteers at KPCW.” Before The Story Mine became The Story Mine, David had already been sharing 3-minute stories on KPCW “Tales From The Wasatch Back” in 2011 and 2012.

Here are more moments shared in David’s words:

In the Summer of 2012, Cathy and [I] approached the Management of KPCW about airing a Storytelling Radio Broadcast Program, which would feature stories told by Storytellers from all around the World. [We] were asked to Produce a “Pilot” show to demonstrate what [we] had to offer. Three separate Pilots were produced by [us] and submitted to the Board of Directors. [The] proposal was heartily accepted and the first Story Mine program was Aired/Streamed across the globe on October 7, 2012 featuring Author Stacy Dymalski, a Humorist Amy Tisovic, and Beloved Local Storyteller, Karl Behling.

Name a well known Storyteller and that teller has probably shared their tales with The Story Mine. Local Storytellers were also invited to come into the Mine and record their Stories so they could be shared with the world. 

The Story Mine was a labor of Love. Cathy and I found a way to gain free access to a Multi Million dollar Recording Studio, (KPCW Park City, Utah) one of the most awarded and successful NPR affiliates in the United States, to share our love of Story and help Foster this wonderful performance art.

I asked David about favorite moments or shows, and he responded:

It’s hard to pick a favorite show, we loved producing and listening to them all. One of our favorite shows was when Cathy and I did a dramatic reading of Mark Twain’s Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, it was just like the real characters were  here. Another was our 2012 Christmas show when Santa Visited the Story Mine and got Mud all over the floor of the Mine Tunnel. That one was an impromptu performance starring Cathy, [me] and Santa Himself. It was so rewarding to play back the recording and listen to what we spontaneously came up with. Having fun like that made us want to put a recording studio in our basement -so we did. We had a little company called Barking Dog Productions. 

As for what David and Cathy see as the greatest impact in their own lives, David shared:

I guess the best reward we got out of volunteering all of our time and energies to our Weekly Sunday Morning Radio Show, was the meeting and associating with so many wonderful people who shared common interests. 

Then I remembered when David Bullock announced the final episode for The Story Mine.  July 8, 2019 was the farewell performance.  My own world was on pause–it seemed unreal.  Though, I breathed again, the world continued forward, and I reflected on how much fun I had in listening to that show.

David explained:

The Station had plans to change their Weekend Morning programming to an NPR format, and rather than going to a different time slot, Cathy and [I] chose to go out and again, find and tell [our] own Stories.

I could practically see the sparkle and gleam in David’s eyes when he said, “Boy, do we have stories to tell.”

So toss, tip, or take off your cap to The Story Mine / David Bullock & Cathy Barker!

We also have year-round events such as the monthly house concerts and the 5th Annual Story Crossroads Festival that will be on May 13, 2020.

Timpanogos Storytelling vs. FanX – Part 5 of 5…the Final Verdict

This is Part 5 of 5 with Timpanogos Storytelling vs. FanX.  Find Part 1 by clicking here.  Find Part 2 by clicking here.  Find Part 3 by clicking hereFind Part 4 by clicking here.

For the ultimate verdict of Timpanogos Storytelling Festival versus FanX, I pondered on what messages they each taught me by attending.  Yes, I had to split myself during the weekend of September 5-7, 2019, though it was enough to see clear themes emerging. Obviously, this whole series is subjective and what I hear are not what everyone else would hear.

Message I Heard from Timpanogos Storytelling:  Discover the Extraordinary from the Ordinary

When an emcee introduces the professional storytellers onto the stage, we learn some fascinating details or at least feel excited to listen to some stories.  With the applause summoning the storytellers, we hear their voices either for the first time or as a beloved voice from past Timpanogos festivals.  No matter the garb the storyteller wears, we can picture ourselves in their stories and personally connect regardless of if the story is a folktale, tall tale, personal tale, or any other kind.  The story starts normal and then builds upon itself to something extraordinary.  Even a contemporary tale transports the listener to another place and new people or characters to meet.  In that moment, the ordinary becomes extraordinary.

Antonio Rocha took an ordinary Virtual Reality set and covered his eyes with it.  This was extraordinary already as an unspoken rule of storytelling is keeping eye contact.  Antonio completely took that away.  Yet, his story was of a simple moment of someone open to imagination and confusing with reality.  He had the chance to fly and did not feel ready despite having a Virtual Reality set on.  It was a pure suspension of disbelief of the most adorable level.  He opted for a plank that was high in the sky.  He crawled across the carpet as if he would fall to his death.  Antonio merged his miming with the narrative.  He took a risk telling that story without the assistance of his eyes…but it worked.

Message I Heard from FanX:  Discover the Ordinary from the Extraordinary

When you are in the Grand Ballroom with rock music blaring and the emcee reminds you that the special guest can hear you from behind the curtains, many people stand and shout out and await that first glimpse of a celebrity.  Oftentimes, the celebrity comes out in casual clothing.  One celebrity twirls her hair almost throughout the interview.  Another celebrity needs to scratch to be comfortable.  Even another celebrity tells “Dad jokes” as the person next door would.  In that moment, the extraordinary becomes ordinary.

Susan Egan, known for being Belle in “Beauty and the Beast” for Disney’s first of many musicals, commented on two young women dressed as Belle from the animation.  Susan loved how there was not any judgement passed of “who more Belle better.”  One had the commoner garb with the white and blue dress while the other had the bright yellow ballgown.  She had watched as they approached each other before the panel began so that they could get a picture together.  Susan loved that comic conventions could bring people together and be so complimentary.  She opened up about how she was known as “Calamity Belle” with breaking or spraining ligaments during Broadway shows.  She laughed at her adventures and brought us closer to her.  She was like any one of us.  I had the privilege of being on the front row of this panel (you can see me in the blue hair and gray cap in the picture above).  Susan was asked questions about voicing Megara on the animated Disney “Hercules.”  Well, the actual question was, “Can you sing ‘I won’t say I’m in love’?”  She still enjoys singing it.  She wanted us to be the muses.  She filmed it with her phone as we all helped in the tune.  Anytime people sing together, there is unity and connection.  Singing is an ordinary thing to do as human beings.  Again, we felt like she “got us” because she was one of us.

So who wins?  Timpanogos Storytelling?  FanX?

Here’s a review of the scores:

Timpanogos Earned 4 Points:  1 point for the humor category, 1 point for the multi-generational category, 1 point for miscellaneous (or opportunities beyond what is obvious to the event), and 1 point for message/theme/take-away

FanX Earned 4 Points:  1 point for spine tingling category, 1 point for mingling possibilities, 1 point for miscellaneous (or opportunities beyond what is obvious to the event), and 1 point for message/theme/take-away

My oldest son would never let me end this with a tie.  The tie-breaker is in the level of fulfillment once I am driving home and reflecting.  This is different than the message/theme/take-away as this is more realizations in the moment versus the impact after the experience.

And the winner is……brummmm, brummmm, brummmm


There were a couple times during FanX that I thought, “I wonder what I could be catching while at Timpanogos?”  I knew The Apple Seed Storytelling Radio Show through BYU Radio was live-streaming one of the tents.   I was tempted to watch some while at FanX.  Then, I had the reassurance that it would still be available after the livestream.  Whew!  Because there is no Wifi at the Salt Palace (not free anyways) and my cell phone battery would scream at me.  Or really go kaput and die.

While driving home from FanX, my husband and I loved sharing moments together.  We laughed.  We discussed.  Though, by the next morning, I did not feel motivated to create more art from what I heard except being inspired to get a couple book proposals done.

While driving home from Timpanogos, my sons and I loved sharing moments together.  We laughed.  We discussed.  Then, the next morning, I was still reflecting on the many styles and types of storytelling.  I was motivated to organize my story room better, re-think some stories from decades ago, delve deeper into crafting and where I have strengths and what I am lazy at doing, and finally celebrating on the power of story and reiterating why I have continued this art–on stage and as a festival organizer–for 25 years and counting.  I am 40 years old.  More than half of my life has been storytelling.

Now…is that something extraordinary becoming ordinary or the ordinary becoming extraordinary?  Both.  And for this I am thankful.

Interested in Part 1?  That can be found here.  Interested in Part 2?  That can be found here.  Interested in Part 3?  That can be found hereInterested in Part 4?  That can be found here.

Until we tell again.

Photo credit:  Norm Berke – picture of Antonio Rocha with Virtual Reality set on

Photo credit:  FanX – picture of Panel Audience with Susan Egan (and with me in front row)

Timpanogos Storytelling vs. FanX – Part 4 of 5

This is Part 4 of 5 with Timpanogos Storytelling vs. FanX.  You can find Part 1 by clicking here.  You can find Part 2 by clicking here.  You can find Part 3 by clicking here.

I love the people of all types, reunions, and random adventures that can be had at both  the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival and FanX…and tortured me for being on the same weekend of September 5-7, 2019.  How do they compare in multi-generational approach, the mingling possibilities, and the miscellaneous (or opportunities beyond what is obvious to the event)?

Multi-Generational Approach:

Timpanogos Storytelling draws an older crowd than any other Utah storytelling festival.  Though, it is still a young crowd compared to storytelling festivals on a national or worldwide level. There is an intense need to do things as families so most activities here already keep that in mind.  Any age you can think of (up to 104) is likely represented at this Festival.

From the beginning, Timpanogos Storytelling Festival has had the Alpine School District participate in having their students develop stories.  These are polished youngsters…sometimes too polished or “frozen” which is probably because parents have them memorize rather than let them flow with the story, though impressive none the less.  Meanwhile, the National Youth Storytelling program, known by many names and having jumped from state to state, came to Timpanogos Storytelling as a permanent home.  All receive the title of “National Youth Teller” for any youth tellers who make it on the stage whether from Alpine School District, youth winners from Timpanogos-sponsored contests, out-of-state (with Texas and New York being most popular). When students see people their age tell on stage, they are even more drawn to the art of storytelling.

The Timpanogos Storytelling Festival recommends people aged 8+ to attend, though no one is turned away.  The Timpanogos people still prepare for what will encourage imaginations.  The “Bedtime Stories” concert has stories geared for more the preschool to elementary ages.  It can be a ruckus time with that many littles in one area, though adults and youth cheer when it comes time for the Krispy Kreme donuts as that coveted bedtime treat.

Timpanogos reinstated their “Family Tent” that have stories geared for people aged 12 or younger this year.  Many of the sessions involved puppetry despite a separate puppetry tent on the Ashton Gardens grounds in Lehi, Utah.

FanX has a KidCon…way far away in the deepest, darkest dungeons–err area–of the Salt Palace.  When I decided to attend a performance by Daniel Bishop, the Storyteller, I was late despite leaving 20 minutes to get there in time.  If I was counting steps that day for that journey alone, I am sure it would have been past 5,000 easily.

Once I got to the KidCon portion, I was delighted by some of the hands-on activities.  I do wish that the KidCon was closer to the other panels and sessions, though probably every room had to be used.  Maybe nothing can be helped to have KidCon be closer.  I was also surprised that it was practically one really opened-up room without any dedicated rooms where you could close the door and focus better on the presentation.

Between the distance (not to be helpful to anyone with strollers) and the awkward placement of booths and activities, I certainly hope FanX improves this portion of their event.

For general sessions, many special guests mention, “Oh, there are children in the room!” This could be another factor to why the language is cleaner at FanX than any other comic conventions.  Though, as I shared in Part 2 focusing on humor, I have a feeling the special guests are more respectful in language due to direct or indirect guidance from FanX administration.

Mingling Possibilities:

Timpanogos Storytelling lets the Utah Storytelling Guild hold a “Meet n’ Mingle” each year.  People trickle in to this Meet n’ Mingle.  What starts as 15 people at least doubles 10 minutes later.  Most people are from Utah and share what chapter they come from while a few people from out-of-state like Ron Chick (California-though a dues-paying USG member) or Karla Huntsman (Nevada-used to live in Utah and still pays dues) or Rachel Ann Harding (Colorado-has Story Story podcast).  Lately, Richard Thurman, the Founding Executive Director of the Utah Renaissance Faire, attends to get to know the storytellers and see who is willing and able to tell such period pieces.  He was pleased with the story fortune telling provided through Story Crossroads.

As people roam from tent to tent and session to session, there are reunions filled with hugs and laughter.  I look forward to all the connections.  Some people I got to see were Beth Ohlsson–ETSU classmate with the Masters in Storytelling who also told on the Timp stage, Jay McLaughlin-friend from Texas who I used to see all the time through National Storytelling Conferences and the Youth, Educators, and Storytellers Alliance (YES!), and Katie Ufford-Key person in organizing the Vernal Storytelling Festival.

However, despite all these happy reunions, there were not other Meet n’ Mingles set up except for the Utah Storytelling Guild.  Could there be some gatherings during the lunch hour for certain groups of people?  True, there are the Swappin’ Groups open mike for Adults and Youth.  I would love to see more than the listening.  What of discussions and conversations?

Then you have FanX with a long list of cosplay gatherings, Dungeons & Dragons gaming, and other panels that give the chance of having more lasting connections than a quick hug, shaking of hands, or a snap of the phone for a picture.

Here is an example of some of the gatherings or “worlds” or “fandoms” or “cosplay meet-ups,” as usually phrased:  Kick-Off for Cosplay (any kind); “Blast from the Past” Cosplay; The Boys of Summer, Sandlot; Fantasy, Fairies and LOTR (Lord of the Rings); Anne of Green Gables; Stars of the CW; Flash; RWBY; Kids of Cosplay; Families that Cosplay, etc.

Then you have the different types of Role Playing Groups where you can interact.  Here, too, there are so many themes depending on your mood.  The groups from this past FanX were: Battle of the Undead Monster; City’s Sewers Underhive; Evil Archmage’s Dungeon; Haunted Elvish Village; The Dragon’s Horde.

Evermore, an immersive role-playing theme park, had several actors in garb do a presentation.  Afterwards, many people stayed in the hallways to chat with these people in-character.  An impromptu sea shanty was sung by the Evermore pirate.  He taught us what we could sing.  More and more people gathered around.  Another person took a piece of luggage and transformed it into a drum.  It was a rousing and thrilling moment.

Miscellaneous (or opportunities beyond what is obvious to the event):

Timpanogos Storytelling celebrates many arts from pottery to puppetry to music.  Each of those arts has their own tent/area.

People have to arrive early at the pottery tent before all the slots are filled.  Anywhere from 3-7 potters assist mostly kids–and the occasional adult–on creating a goblet, bowl, a castle tower, or something experimental (as with my abstract tulip tower).  As I bring my sons to Timpanogos, this is one of their favorite activities.  There is also an area to simply work with clay and make as many clay snakes as you want…or something more complex.  You are only limited by your imagination.

The Puppetry Arts Guild of Utah have brought vintage and antique puppets behind glass cases as well as a huge ninja man.  Okay, so I don’t know the puppet’s name but that is what it reminds me of with all the kicks that kids make it do.  It is one large marionette encased by a wooden crate of some sort as the kids learn how to bring this ninja man to life. There has also been either a dragon or dinosaur head (dragons and dinosaurs are related, right?) that people can turn and move using super strong rods and pulleys.  Joe Flores, who heads the Puppetry Arts Guild, dedicates much time in sharing details when people listen.  Sometimes you can’t hear him.  That is when he does miming.  Though his stories speak volumes.

The music at Timpanogos ranges from the idyllic to the country and jazz to rousing tunes.  These are professional musicians who know how to tell a story through their instruments–whether that be vocal or otherwise.  Sometimes, we get to hear stories between sets.  Sam Payne was first a musician and then delved more into the world of storytelling due to Timpanogos.  Now he hosts The Apple Seed Storytelling Radio Show through BYU Radio.   With the 30th Anniversary of Timpanogos, almost all of Friday, September 6th was live-streamed.

Other opportunities are Swappin’ Grounds open mike for adults and youth, academic discussions on various storytelling topics, and exploring the 55-acres of Ashton Gardens.  There are 15 themed gardens with some being: a secret garden; an aromatic garden with plants that smell like chocolate, mint, and many kinds of fruit;  and “I Am the Light of the World” sculpture garden with many images of Christ’s life on earth.  My boys love walking behind the waterfall.  They laugh that the waterfall can be turned on and off though it is majestic despite knowing this detail.

FanX is massive as it takes over the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, Utah The Vendor Hall alone feels as expansive as the 55-acres of Ashton Gardens.  At least that is what my feet told me after a day at FanX.  The artist alley is inspiring to see so many styles to put ink, chalk, pencil, pen, or any other media to paper, wood, metal, and on and on.

The people from Utah Pirate/R.E.A.C.H. Utah are always there with two massive pirate ships that kids can climb up, slide on, and holler out things like, “Ahoy there!” and “Ye landlubber must walk the plank!”

Many photo ops are available from a replica for Doctor Who’s Tardis to Golem to a life-sized Batman.  As most people are dressed up in some way, people like to stop each other.  One lady dressed as April from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  She said that she was on the look-out for anyone else dressed from that Fandom.  Then, he came upon a little boy dressed as one the Turtles.  The mother was so touched when “April” wanted a picture with her son.  Later on, the mother wanted to discover who the person was that made her son feel comfortable and excited for going to FanX.  Someone recognized “April” on Facebook, the mother shared her thanks, and now they can celebrate this moment.

The KidCon has many STEM activities including two inflatable planetariums that could each hold about 25-30 people while someone pointed out the stars.  Maybe in the future there would be constellation stories told in there.  Okay, now I am distracted thinking of star stories across cultures…I’m back.

The panels on film and books are expected at FanX.  As Timpanogos has academic discussions on storytelling, so does FanX have more serious talks for budding authors.  I attended a panel called, “Ask a New York Times Bestselling Author Anything (About Writing).” I even dared to ask a question about book proposals and what their editor told them or what they suspected their editors thought.  Jennifer Nielsen said that there are books that sell and there are books that make lists.  Your aim is for a book to make lists, create a buzz, and have word-of-mouth be your friend.

I could go on and on much like I could go on and on about all the fun to be had at both Timpanogos Storytelling and FanX.

So you curious as to my scores?  Who wins?

Multi-Generational Approach:  Timpanogos Storytelling wins by HUGE margin, no close call here

Mingling Possibilities:   FanX wins by HUGE margin, also no close call here

Miscellaneous (or opportunities beyond what is obvious to the event):Tie for Timpanogos Storytelling and FanX

These scores added to the previous categories are as follows:

Timpanogos Storytelling: 1 point for the humor category, 1 point for the multi-generational category, 1 point for miscellaneous

Total for Timpanogos Storytelling = 3 points

FanX: 1 point for the spine tingling category, 1 point for mingling possibilities, 1 point for miscellaneous

Total  for FanX = 3 points

Part 5 will explore the most prevalent theme of the event and the ultimate score also known as “My Final Verdict.”

Interested in Part 1?  That can be found here.  Interested in Part 2?  That can be found here.  Interested in Part 3?  That can be found here.  Want the final verdict with Part 5?  Come back tomorrow.

Until we tell again.

Timpanogos Storytelling vs. FanX – Part 3 of 5


This is Part 3 of 5 with Timpanogos Storytelling vs. FanX.  You can find Part 1 by clicking here.  You can find Part 2 by clicking here.

I have shivers of excitement when the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival and FanX come around.  Then they killed some of my joy when they landed on the same weekend of September 5-7, 2019.  What about the spine tingling offerings found at each of these events? 

The Timpanogos Storytelling Festival has a “Shivers in the Night,” which is the late evening concert on Friday night.  This tradition has happened for quite a few years now.  Timpanogos usually warns people that these stories are best suited for those who are aged 12 and up.  That said, I have two boys and have brought them as soon as they turned 8.  So far, I have not experienced any storytelling that made me think, “Huh, I better leave my sons at home.”

I have had a ghoulish fun time for the “Shivers in the Night.”  The best sets were when Timpanogos was still located at the Mt. Timpanogos Park in Orem, Utah.  Why, dare you ask? This was when half of the storytelling was done by people out-of-state and half was done by local tellers who won with “The Hauntings” Contest put on by Timpanogos. The amazing April Johnson leads and guides that contest and was able to convince the Timpanogos Board to feature winners with the Festival. The stories were heard before the Shivers concert as the Hauntings contest is held every October.

Now, Timpanogos is in the Ashton Gardens/Electric Park in Lehi, Utah.  Ever since that move, it felt like something scary happened to “Shivers in the Night”…as in not enough scary for the audience.  Timpanogos stopped choosing a winner (or two or three) from “The Hauntings.” I usually go and get a rated G/PG with ghost stories and not a more PG/PG-13.  I am assuming that 2019 improved its fear factor due to Simon Brooks, Motoko, Antonio Rocha, and Tim Lowry being part of the line-up.  I would love to hear from anyone who attended (or told) at the 2019 Shivers to share your thoughts.  Or thoughts from anyone? Although I cannot attest to the storytelling at the “Shivers in the Night” for 2019 as I was at FanX, I do have years and years of this concert series and still feel qualified to touch on trends there…for good or ill.  So I will go on from past years and not of this year.

There was one year of “Shivers in the Night” when it felt like any other storytelling session.  Yes, the storytelling itself was wonderful and of high-quality and worth listening to, though I am concerned when it is advertised as “Shivers” and does not deliver on its promise.  During this particular year, there was a father and son sitting one row ahead of me.  After four stories told and not even a whisper or mention of ghosts or monsters or any such beasts, one of the storytellers shared a folktale that was a little darker.  The son turned to his dad, “We’re FINALLY getting something scary.”  The dad nodded his head, “Yes, finally.”  In my mind, I was nodding along.  I still enjoyed the concert.  Though relieved that we had something scary for our efforts of preparing our minds for something to haunt us on the drive home.

Many times, Timpanogos spotlights the out-of-state tellers rather than the local tellers.  This is not uncommon for many events.  There is excitement (and getting your money’s worth) of having those out-of-state tellers tell.  But, not all storytellers have scary repertoire.  Let me repeat that.  Not. All. Storytellers. Have Scary. Repertoire.

That is fine.  We need storytellers of many skill sets.  The storytellers need to tell what is their specialty.  Please, do not take a story and force it to be a scary story when it is not.  Be more mindful to your hosts/audiences and tell them the real reasons you were chosen to tell at the event.

Perhaps this is something many of our out-of-state storytellers do not realize.  Utah, being predominately members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, LOVE ghost stories.  We believe in spirits–good and bad.  We also believe that Satan is real and that he leads a 1/3 of the host of heavens to tempt and try us.  The Bible talks about people possessed by demons.  We believe what the Bible says.  That also makes us intrigued by the forces of good and evil.  That is probably why there is a huge percentage of Church of Jesus Christ members (LDS) who love Star Wars with the light and dark sides…but I digress.

Basically, give us scary stories.  Not the gore.  Just the suspense and anticipation.  The beauty of a scary story is that after hearing a scary story, you feel like anything you come upon in life is possible to get through.  There are studies about the positive outcomes of hearing scary stories. We want to experience those benefits.

As for FanX, there has been ghost storytelling ever since its second event. 

Last spring, I headed to one of these ghost storytelling concerts performed by Daniel Bishop, the Storyteller.  I got there on time, but there was a line of 15 people because all the seats were filled.  We could only get in if someone walked out.  Well, 15 minutes passed and everyone was so engaged that no one walked out.  By this time, the rest of the line left so they could see if another panel or session was available.  I, being committed to story and having enjoyed Daniel’s performances in the past, waited.

One of the volunteers, who would peek out every so often, noticed that I was still around.  She offered her chair–reserved for her as a volunteer–to me.  I told her I couldn’t do that to her but would take the chance and see if another opening came about.  She insisted and said she had been sitting too much anyways.  I then took that gift of a chair and enjoyed the rest of the hour with Daniel Bishop.  The lights were down low and Daniel had a campfire, only it couldn’t be or it would have been a fire hazard.  I found out later that Daniel had created part of it and then had another friend assist in sewing some stones and such.  It gave the perfect ambiance for the chilling tales he told.

Daniel Bishop, the Storyteller, has a following at FanX.  It seems no matter what room they put him in, it gets filled.  Room for 100?  Full.  Room for 200?  Full.  Room for 300?  Full.  Although FanX has a KidCon (more about that in the upcoming Part 4), the FanX people never asked Daniel to tell for that part…until 2019.  Funny enough, he had about 30 people which is small compared to his usual adult crowds.  We had a good chuckle about it.  Who said storytelling is only for kids?  The adults clearly want to absorb any and all ghost stories.

After his adult ghost story sessions, people flocked around him like vultures.  The volunteers had to ask people to exit the room to allow time for the next session to get ready.  So here was a gathering of people still talking with Daniel in the hallways.  I stood back, letting my friend enjoy this moment.  I eventually got to talk to him–after at least waiting 20 minutes.

Here are Daniel’s reflections and experiences with FanX:

I joined a number of presenters from the paranormal community where talked on panels about cryptozoology and other similar thing. But it was my storytelling presentation panels that caught on the most. Every con since, I have told ghost stories. One of the most popular stories was my version of The Hanging Boyfriend which I call Urban Legend (that is also one of the stories I used to win the Timpanogos Hauntings Contest). This last FanX, I got a great reaction from telling some of my personal ghost stories and my tribute to the famous book, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. It feels good when I see lots of people who have followed me, and do their best to come to each and every one of my storytelling panels. I will say, sometimes it is interesting to tell ghost stories to folks who are dressed in cosplay that is scarier than the stories I’m telling. That just proves the passion my audience has for a good ghost story.
Imagine: a couple a hundred people gathered in a conference room, jittery with excitement and anticipation. An electric fire is burning on the floor and the lights are dimmed. Their energy and passion combine and give power to the words now flowing from the mouth of the storyteller before them. They have all come to get a scare, to get their hearts and minds racing. They leave with smiles and talk of stories of their own. It is a great time. FanX is a great place for storytelling.

For this round of spine-tingling offerings, the winner is FanX as it is more consistent in having actual “shiver” tales.  Timpanogos is a hit or miss on getting what it claims to have for its audience. 

I know this score would increase dramatically if they used local winners of “The Hauntings” contest in combination of perhaps 1-3 out-of-state tellers who truly have good with that kind of repertoire.

So the scores so far are as follows:

Timpanogos Storytelling: 1 point for the humor category

FanX: 1 point for the spine tingling category

Part 4 will delve into the multi-generational approach, the mingling possibilities, and the miscellaneous (or opportunities beyond what is obvious to the event). Each of those three categories is worth one point.

Interested in Part 1?  That can be found here.  Interested in Part 2?  That can be found here.  Want the next installments of 4, or 5 on Timpanogos vs. FanX?  My final verdict with Part 5?  Come back tomorrow. And the next day after that.

Until we tell again.