Cap’s Off to You!-Diane Wolkstein (Posthumously) and Celebrating Story

Featuring:  Diane Wolkstein

Revivalist, Story-Gatherer, & Storyteller

Diane Wolkstein jumped into storytelling as early as the 1960s…and even then I would believe her upbringing and background could put her much earlier in the art. She was a professional storyteller before the National Storytelling Festival existed and was key in collecting stories and creating the foundation of the American Storytelling Movement itself as well as throughout the world. While I never got to meet her in-person or been in an audience, I am grateful to the many articles and videos to understand and celebrate what she has done for the art to this day.

Writing this piece allows me to reminisce as if I had met her. I notice how young she was when she delved into the art. I have seen that passion before. Though, more and more, I realize that this particular passion from Diane was enough to have small and simple things become great.

Luckily, anyone can get an idea of what Diane was like due to the documentary created called “Diane Wolkstein: A Storyteller’s Story” that came out in 2007 (she passed on in 2013).

From 1968-1971, Diane Wolkstein was New York City’s official storyteller. Yet, with or without that title, she constantly worked on building storytelling organizations and projects including the Storytelling Center of New York City. She established the tradition of Saturday morning storytelling at the foot of the Hans Christian Andersen in Central Park. She would be pleased that this continued even during 2020 and 2021 with virtual performances instead of pausing when in-person events were more possible. For over 60 years, this Hans Christian Andersen event has taken place.

She traveled the world. How can I even list them all? Everywhere she went, stories were gathered.  China, Africa, and Haiti – and the list seems endless.

She published many books, of which you can find them by clicking here.

My favorite of her books, and considered a classic throughout the storytelling world, is “The Magic Orange Tree, and other Haitian folktales.”

During one of the Story Crossroads Discord chats, we honored different tradition bearers. Diane Wolkstein name was one of the first mentioned with more than one person sharing moments with her. I admit…I was a little jealous for these people to have such interactions. Though, I look forward to chatting with Diane after my time on earth is done and my next adventures starts.

Marc Young shared that during the last 5-6 years of her life, Diane focused on researching “The Monkey King.” He was delighted and giddy “as if talking with the Queen of England” when she asked him to perform at the Hans Christian Andersen statue. Though, it ended up that someone else had to tell and she promised him they would tell again. That was in September 2012. When she traveled to Taiwan to study “The Monkey King” in December 2012. Then word spread around the world that she has passed on there in 2013. That performance with Diane will need to be much later than planned…in the heavens.

Here are some sites, videos, or articles featuring Diane Wolkstein:

Diane performing “The Magic Orange Tree”- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-YfZg6Tgpr8

Library of Congress – Diane Wolkstein Collection- https://catalog.loc.gov/vwebv/holdingsInfo?&bibId=19275563&searchId=23256&recPointer=15&recCount=25

New York Times article when Diane Wolkstein passed-https://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/04/nyregion/diane-wolkstein-author-who-sparked-a-storytelling-revival-dies-at-70.html

Diane Wolkstein and Stories From Many Lands, published by NYPR Archives & Preservation- https://www.wnyc.org/story/diane-wolkstein-and-stories-many-lands/

“The Storytelling Magazine” published by the National Storytelling Network honored her when she passed – June/July 2013

Do you know a Story Artist who has passed on and want others to remember them? Memories? Pictures? You can submit names and memories of Story Artists who have passed on through our online form. 

I appreciate Diane Wolkstein for her constant researcher and always wanting to go to the direct source for stories around the world. I have read so many of her books and still need to discover more of her adventures and learn from them.

Diane still has a story.  You have a story.  We all have stories.

Cap’s Off to You!-Ray Hicks (Posthumously) and Celebrating Story

Featuring:  Ray Hicks

Traditional Teller, Gentle Giant, Storyteller

Ray Hicks is unforgettable. Back in 2000, I got to hear him tell at the National Storytelling Festival. The tent was full so the front rows could not be taken. I could stand back and watch him and the rest of the audience. I had read so much about him, and I was witnessing a great heritage-keeper. He loomed over the stage, and even curved over a bit towards the audience – never seeming to stand straight up. His eyes gleamed as if to acknowledge the audience before him while simultaneously having a slight far-off look into that Appalachian Jack Tale world. As he spoke, his accent made it difficult to distinguish certain words. The more he spoke, the more I got used to his rhythm and speech patterns. In a couple minutes, I understood what he was saying and could follow along for the rest of the concert.

Many people have similar memories of Ray Hicks.

Ray Hicks was born Lenard Ray Hicks…but “Ray” came more natural so say. He lived on Beech Mountain in North Carolina. He was discovered as this amazing traditional teller and told at the first National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee. Working with a microphone was quite foreign compared to telling tales on the front porch. Yet, by the next festival – as he told at every National Storytelling Festival until he passed on – he had a handle of that microphone.

By 1983, Ray Hicks received National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. As you can guess, that is the highest honor for traditional arts in the United States.

Ray wasn’t the only storyteller in his family. In fact, he was the eighth generation storyteller. Being that he was the fourth of 11 children, can you imagine the tale swapping between all of them?

From 1951 to 2003, Ray lived upon the earth and gathered up Jack tales and hunting stories passed on from person to person. While working the land as a farmer or a mechanic, Ray got by though nothing gave him more pleasure than telling those Southern Jack tales. It felt like Ray had met this Jack at one time.

Others have many more memories of actually traveling to his homestead in the mountains.

Sadly, a fire took that home and the surrounding outbuildings on May 25, 2021. Click here to see that article.

Do you have memories of him? Need to get to know him?

Here are some sites, videos, or articles featuring Ray Hicks:

http://www.rayhicks.com – a most amazing tribute to Ray Hicks complete with videos, audio, and memories (and you can still submit memories)

New York Times article when Ray Hicks passed – https://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/27/nyregion/ray-hicks-who-told-yarns-older-than-america-dies-at-80.html

Essay – Ray Hicks: The Mysterious Healer – https://muse.jhu.edu/article/434565/pdf

Los Angeles Times article when Ray Hicks passed – https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2003-apr-27-me-hicks27-story.html

Ray Hicks, from Local Storyteller to Cultural Icon: A Bibliography – https://www.jstor.org/stable/40934979?seq=1

The Giant Storyteller: Ray Hicks Tales Bore the Unmistakable Twang and Sensibilities of Early Appalachia –https://wncmagazine.com/feature/giant_storyteller

Do you know a Story Artist who has passed on and want others to remember them? Memories? Pictures? You can submit names and memories of Story Artists who have passed on through our online form. 

I appreciate Ray Hicks for his opening of his home, porch, kitchen table, all the way to the stage to hear those fantastic Jack tales and family stories of from Appalachia. Thank you, Ray.

Ray still has a story.  You have a story.  We all have stories.

Cap’s Off to You!-Kevin Brooks (Posthumously) and Celebrating Story

Featuring:  Kevin Brooks

Giver of Time, Tech Guru, Storyteller

Kevin Brooks helped anyone who needed it. He was one of the “sons” of Brother Blue – the same who would yell from the audience, “That’s my son!” As Kevin did not have a father growing up, Brother Blue filled in that spot. I had known the name “Kevin Brooks” but wished for my family to understand Kevin better. When both Kevin Brooks and Brother Blue were to be honored as part of the Sacred Storytelling put on by the Artists Standing Strong Together, I hooked up the laptop to the TV screen so that my kids could watch with me. When “Tomato Paste” was shared, my six-year-old daughter threw back her head with the most lovely laugh. She kept laughing throughout the whole piece. This pure delight was already a gift that Kevin Brooks gave my family.

Kevin knew how to tell stories to entertain and then have that deeper message. A moving piece is “Clearing the Pool” about how some black people could not swim and many drownings caused Kevin’s mom to insist on her family taking a swimsuit everywhere. Though, something else happened as a result. In the Playlist on YouTube featuring Kevin, you can find out the rest. Powerful…and under five minutes long.

Five minutes. Ten minutes. Thirty minutes. Besides the stories he told, he dedicated much time to people. Forget five minutes. Often, Kevin gave his whole day to people. As Kevin was known as a tech guru, he introduced many storytellers to how to use emails or websites or the importance of videotaping stories. Tony Toledo shared that one day his ex-wife, who was Deaf, needed help in filming. Kevin stayed all morning and would not accept payment. When Tony and his ex-wife insisted, he would only take a breakfast.

Joey Talbert, a great fiend of Kevin, had long conversations and heard some of those “nuggets” of his stories – like “Tomato Paste” – and hear them developed into signature pieces. The two of them did adaptive and personal storytelling with City Rain Player that still is talked about to this day.

When Kevin Brooks was with Laura Packer, they connected through Brother Blue and particularly the basement bookstore where Brother Blue held a safe space for people to tell stories. When it came Christmas time, a party was held and it was nicknamed “Kevin and the Jews” and “Diversity Challah” was served. Kevin and Laura would cut up and share the bread and Brother Blue gave the blessing. They invited everyone no matter if there was room in the intended space or not. Several times, the space had to be changed to accommodate the droves of people.

When Brother Blue passed on in November 2009, the Story Space that was held in-person and created by him, had to be continued. Kevin and Laura quickly volunteered to take it on before the Board for Story Space took it over from there.

And when things calmed down, Kevin was the kind of person who loved eating outside on hot summer days. He and Laura.

Then cancer came. Laura was by Kevin’s side. And then…sadness.

We can take comfort is so much that Kevin still has given us. Laura was kind enough to maintain Kevin’s blog to be active. Then MIT has a webpage for him.

Yet, what was obvious on Sunday, April 25, 2021 is that many people still honor this fantastic and inspiring person.

Do you have memories of him? Need to get to know him?

Laura Packer was kind to share pictures seen here as well as this ode to him:

Kevin Michael Brooks, Ph.D. passed away on March 28, 2014 in Kansas City Missouri, surrounded by friends and family.

Kevin came to storytelling almost 20 years ago. He became a member of Brother Blue’s storytelling circle and then incorporated storytelling into every facet of his life. This included his dissertation work at MIT and all of his subsequent employment.

He was a man who adored his children, Stephan, Cara, Kristoff and Vered Brooks. He was a dedicated partner, problem-solver, lover and supporter to his wife, Laura Packer. He was a son who made his mother, Carolyn Brooks, proud every day. He was a reliable and loving friend to many. He was a generous and creative co-worker at Hallmark Cards. And his stories made his audiences laugh, cry and rejoice in the world.

Kevin’s warm and welcoming storytelling performances chronicled the life of an African American boy as he grew to manhood and became a father, a swim teacher, a friend. His stories often featured his mother and his children. His work as a story coach helped many others deepen their own storytelling work.

Kevin will be deeply missed by all who knew him. His spirit lives on in all of us, every time we listen deeply, hug a friend, hold our spouse’s hand and look about ourselves with curiosity.

Here are some sites, videos, or writings of Kevin Brooks:

Dedication to him – https://makezine.com/2014/06/28/the-eternal-story-of-kevin-brooks-making-an-impact/

Another Dedication – https://kimpearson.net/kevin-michael-brooks-technology-storyteller/

His blog – http://wordsaboutwater.blogspot.com

His site saved by MIT – http://alumni.media.mit.edu/~brooks/ and from MIT Technology about him – https://www.technologyreview.com/2011/08/23/192163/the-storyteller/

Playlist on YouTube – 10 videos featuring Kevin Brooks – https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLcnH1tNxXZ4–LHox9ishDi_ZcHxNl2Lx

“Tomato Paste” told by Kevin Brooks – https://youtu.be/FoizIQaRiBA

Do you know a Story Artist who has passed on and want others to remember them? Memories? Pictures? You can submit names and memories of Story Artists who have passed on through our online form. 

I appreciate Kevin Brooks for his generosity and his ability to find the most meaningful insights from everyday life. Thank you, Kevin.

Kevin still has a story.  You have a story.  We all have stories.

Z is for Zipping-Around Zashiki-warashi – A to Z Blog Challenge

We are pleased to participate in the A to Z Blog Challenge (http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/). The Story Crossroads theme for this year is Beating the Odds…Lucky Folktales Around the World to Brighten Your Day. Each post highlights that the stars aligned and what would have normally been…bad…turned out after all. Considering what we – as humankind – have experienced the past year, how nice is it to remember that all of us can “beat the odds” to some level in our lives.

And we’ll admit now…some are actually myths, legends, or epics rather than only limited to folktales. So is that a type of “loading the dice”? Ah, but the stories were too wonderful to pass by.

ZASHIKI-WARASHI-

From Japan

Japanese ghosts stories are sometimes known as yūrei while “strange tales” are known as kaidan. Ghosts could have evil or benevolent intentions. Sometimes, by the time you find out which kind hovers near you, it is too late. Many of these stories were collected by Kizen Sasaki, a folklorist. Some people compare Kizen Sasaki as the Japanese version of the Brothers Grimm.

What makes Zashiki-Warashi dangerous?

Zashiki-Warashi are house spirits that could…creep you out. You are minding your own business and–crash, slide, jangle–some random noise and you are on edge. Once you see the Zashiki-Warashi, then perhaps you will relax. Even good spirits can cause the heart to beat faster.

50-words-or-less summary:

Mother of Kizen Sasaki heard noise. Husband not home. Turned to door. Opened it to see if someone was there. No one. Continued with sewing. She remembered people telling her that Zashiki-Warashi resided there. Mother happy…as that was good luck and would bring prosperity.

That mother was lucky that the spirit was a Zashiki-Warashi so that no harm would come to her. Her son did collect a lot of amazing stories. Does that count as being prosperous with stories? What luck indeed!

People speculate that Zashiki-Warashi connects to infanticide but that has never been proven. Yet, the word “Warashi” does connect to child.

Finding the Story/Folklore:

https://www.jstor.org/stable/1178918?seq=1

More about yūrei

https://www.nippon.com/en/guide-to-japan/gu900101/traveling-in-tono-iwate-a-birthplace-of-japanese-legends.html

Please share in the comments…or anything on your mind. While you enjoy this blog, Story Crossroads has year-round offerings with virtual as well as proper-distanced/masked/outdoors.

We are excited for the monthly All Things Story virtual workshop series as well as the hybrid Story Crossroads Festival on May 10-13, 2021 (then viewing beyond the event to June 15, 2021). Interested in deeper articles and e-workbooks plus stories, activities, and recipes? Then pursue Story Crossroads Memberships.

As we are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, you can also support by donating today!

From the Story Crossroads Academy, enjoy the free “Storytelling Basics in 8 Hours” that includes American Sign Language.

Y is for Yammering Yetis – A to Z Blog Challenge

We are pleased to participate in the A to Z Blog Challenge (http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/). The Story Crossroads theme for this year is Beating the Odds…Lucky Folktales Around the World to Brighten Your Day. Each post highlights that the stars aligned and what would have normally been…bad…turned out after all. Considering what we – as humankind – have experienced the past year, how nice is it to remember that all of us can “beat the odds” to some level in our lives.

And we’ll admit now…some are actually myths, legends, or epics rather than only limited to folktales. So is that a type of “loading the dice”? Ah, but the stories were too wonderful to pass by.

YETIS-

From the Sherpa/Nepal

Yeti stories could be cautionary tales to teach morals from the Sherpa people. Being in the Himalayas Mountains, the weather is harsh and one must live with exactness to survive. While some cultures have the boogie man or other monsters to encourage children to be good, the yeti could be one of these creatures.

What makes Yetis dangerous?

Being 7-8 feet tall is not enough to be dangerous. Yet, this creature has teeth and the ability to interact with human beings. Some yeti stories focus on death while other yeti stories go so far as to rape people.

50-words-or-less summary:

Sherpa tell of tall and dangerous creatures. Explorers search after it. Some say it could be an ape. That kind of animals cannot survive Himalayas. Some say polar bear. Not right for the area. Closest could be brown bear. Yet, in 1951 and again in 1980, scientists claimed to see one. DNA may solve mythological beast to be “actual.”

Is it this time lucky we are the lucky ones? What would it mean if we had a clear picture of whether or not the yeti was real. The yeti is related but different than the bigfoot. Does the telling of these stories mean we are lucky to have scary stories rather than facing such a fear?

Finding the Story/Folklore:

http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20150630-is-there-such-a-thing-as-a-yeti

https://www.livescience.com/25072-yeti-abominable-snowman.html

Please share in the comments…or anything on your mind. While you enjoy this blog, Story Crossroads has year-round offerings with virtual as well as proper-distanced/masked/outdoors.

We are excited for the monthly All Things Story virtual workshop series as well as the hybrid Story Crossroads Festival on May 10-13, 2021 (then viewing beyond the event to June 15, 2021). Interested in deeper articles and e-workbooks plus stories, activities, and recipes? Then pursue Story Crossroads Memberships.

As we are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, you can also support by donating today!

From the Story Crossroads Academy, enjoy the free “Storytelling Basics in 8 Hours” that includes American Sign Language.