Rachel’s Re-Awakenings & Reflections-inspired by National Storytelling Network’s CONNECTED Virtual Conference & Festival, Part 3 of 9

This is the third of nine parts to focus on each of the nine days of the National Storytelling Network’s CONNECTED Virtual Conference & Festival that occurred May 30-June 7, 2020. Enjoy biggest moments and action items as a result of the experience for Story Crossroads and on the storytelling world in general.

9-Parts for the 9 Days:

  • Part 1 – May 30, 2020 – Pre-Conferences/Preparations – REVEALED
  • Part 2 – May 31, 2020 – Official Day 1 – REVEALED
  • Part 3 – June 1, 2020 – Official Day 2 – TODAY
  • Part 4 – June 2, 2020 – Official Day 3
  • Part 5 – June 3, 2020 – Official Day 4
  • Part 6 – June 4, 2020 – Official Day 5
  • Part 7 – June 5, 2020 – Official Day 6
  • Part 8 – June 6, 2020 – Official Day 7
  • Part 9 – June 7, 2020 – Official Day 8

We continued to travel the world from our own homes with performances from India to the South Central Region of the United States

I was amazed at how intimate and intense these storytelling concerts were through the screen. The storytellers from Scotland were impressive the other day, and the storytellers from India continued to keep the bar up high in the ability to connect to my emotions and excitement.

I did have a shift at the library (as my particular library opened up on May 18, 2020 to the public) and I was sad to miss two workshops. I intend to go back and delve once the Digital Library is open through the National Storytelling Network.

So onward to those invaluable moments.

Events of June 1 and Reflections–

8:00 – 9:30 am CDT Breakfast/Coffee Social Time

I am not a morning person. I can eventually sing in the morning and have the appearance of it being “my time,” though I am active and productive at night. This was at 8:00am CDT and meant it was 7:00am for me. My three kids used to wake up towards 6:00am on their own. As they have gotten older, I delight “sleeping in” to 7:30am. Yet, I had to get up. Yes, this was not a forced meeting. BUT…I am a hallways kind-of conference goer. This would be the closest to that experience through the virtual means.

I was not on time. Throughout this virtual conference, I averaged at least 30 minutes “late” to this breakfast/social time. However, a solid 30 minutes or more of “talking story” was ever delightful. Jennifer Pahl Otto from the NSN Board led the group. Most of the time, we were “loose” and focused on a theme to kick-off storytelling. Only once was it more of a morning story swap. I preferred the conversations. I noticed that people were “shy” to use the chat box in the beginning though people were more smart in how they used the chat later on–like recommending certain storytelling books and related materials and placing direct links–as we went along.

While not a workshop or a concert, this social time opened my mind to what we could do for Story Crossroads. We already know that 2021 will likely be another year that schools will be nervous or will simply ban in-person field trips. We can offer virtual field trips again. Though, for the general pubic/adults who wish to mingle, we need a virtual social space. Maybe I could even convince Jennifer to assist. Story Crossroads is an organization member of NSN….

10:00 am CDT: Folktales of India with C. Mangalam Senthil, Deeptha Vivekanand, Jeeva Raghunath, Lopa Mudra Mohanty, Usha Venkatraman, and Vikram Sridhar, India with its numerous states and varied cultures, has folktales beyond imagination Kathai Kalatta promotes and nurtures Indian culture and heritage through stories. We will be presenting Indian folktales to give a glimpse of Mother India.

I was in the parking lot, ready to go into the building to start my shift at the library. I was able to have the Zoom app on my phone and could let it play while driving with two hands on the steering wheel. As the library did not open to the public until 10:00am MDT, I was allowed to play it from my phone as I took care of the “hold alert” for patrons. I am grateful to an understanding branch manager.

My full attention (as I will need to catch up with the whole concert later) was for “Checkmate #I am Savitri” told by Lopa Mudra Mohanty and “The Mysterious Oils” from Bengal told by Usha Venkatraman.

I delighted in Lopa’s mixture of mythology and modern ways of telling this story. I also recognized the story as I recently did a blog post through Story Crossroads about it for the 2020 A to Z Blog Challenge. Her use of hashtags of a repeating element of this story made me laugh every time. I was driving while laughing…maybe not the safest…but I was not on my phone. Only listening through my phone while both hands were on the steering wheel. I do love traditional storytelling though any time we can mix in the modern…I am a fan.

I was most moved by the story told by Usha Venkatraman of a tense relationship between a woman and her mother-in-law. She was to have oils to massage into her mother-in-law that would gradually “get rid of her.” Hmmm. This story reminds me of “The Tiger’s Whisker” or another version of “The Lion’s Whisker” or still another of “The Crescent Moon Bear.” Yet, of all those versions, THIS is my new ultimate favorite. Wow, so much wow. I also reminded myself on the symbolism of oil. A while back, I wrote a blog post on it…again, A to Z Blog Challenge but this time in 2017. Oil, with so many meanings, is mostly known for healing.

12:00 pm CDT: Workshop, One World of Stories: Celebrating Diversity and Commonality Through Folktales with Heather Forest, This storytelling workshop for beginning and burgeoning storytellers offers practical insights into researching and performing multicultural folktales. Participants will explore how to shape and share folktale repertoire that respectfully reflects both the uniqueness of cultural heritage and the universality of human experience.

Oh, it pained me to miss this workshop. I happened to be working at the library near the 398.2 section of the library where Heather Forest tends to find those exact folktales and fairy tales to then perform. I was in the place to pull out books she has authored in our library…but I could not attend virtually.

When it comes to Story Crossroads, we celebrate diversity through multicultural professional story artists. Our inaugural year, we had 14 different languages spoken from stage. Yes, they were mainly spoken by people who had ancestral backgrounds to those languages.

Telling stories from other cultures is important as long as it is not for entertainment purposes only. I have heard several storytellers say this, though cannot remember all of them who have at this time. Know that this is a prominent feeling in the storytelling community. There must be respect and reverence for any story shared, especially when outside of your culture.

Despite missing this workshop, the topic is enough to have me pause and make sure that I as an individual and as a story producer can inspire others to treat stories with respect.

3:00 pm CDT: Workshop, Welcoming the Other with Jim Brulé, This workshop manifests the theme of “engagement through empathy.” It starts with a highly interactive exercise designed to evoke a strong, empathic response to being “outside” – invoking motivation to action. It then provides storytellers with the specific tools and techniques they require to adapt this method to their own issues and communities. Dialogue and collaboration are used throughout.

The fact that this was led by Jim Brulé was enough for me to be disappointed to miss it. He is so open and kind-hearted, and I look foward to working with him more. For Story Crossroads, we commissioned him to create a 5-minute Zoom Basics video for virtual workshops as well as paid him to train our Story Crossroads Board on using Zoom.

He always delivers what he promises…and then gives a little more. I know this has nothing to do with his topic, but it also informs me that this was a workshop not to be missed–and I missed it! Though, I will definitely have this on my “must see” when the Digital Library is up for the National Storytelling Network. His workshop would go nicely with the Keynote from Ekansh Tambe from the first official day of this 9-day virtual event. Let us think of border, boundaries, walls. Do we build those around ourselves? Do others build them around themselves? What can break down those barriers? Ah, I will ponder this more soon.

5:00 pm CDT: National Spotlight: Asian American Storytelling Showcase, Experience the diverse faces and stories of the Asian American diaspora. Our stories will transport you across the continent of Asia and bring you back to America for an intimate view of the Asian experience through folk, personal, and historical tales. Presented by Asian Storytellers in Unity and hosted by Joel Ying, performers are Dr. Joel Ying, Karin Amano, Eleanor Clement Glass, Roopa Mohan, Alton Takiyama-Chung

Hurrah! My library shift was over. I do still love working there–but hard when an amazing 9-day virtual event is happening. Anyway, I was able to watch this in full.

I appreciated Dr. Joel Ying’s cultural identity story. I stepped back and thought about how I unintentionally ask questions about where people come from. It’s been a while since I have been guilty of such an offense and I cringe when I hear people ask that pointed question. “Where are you from? Where are you REALLY from?” Is the “from” as important as where someone is now? Who we are becoming? Ah, I like pondering these questions better.

All the storytellers were wonderful. I wish more Asian stories were told. In fact, I noticed the great lack of representation at Story Crossroads. That must change. I have not done this on purpose. Much of our selection process is through our online application and videos that story artists submit and then are reviewed by our Story Training and Telling Committee. We need more Asian tellers submitting. More everybody, really. We have had 90+ and we are five years old…but, yes, more. Here, this makes it easy.

7:00 pm CDT: South Central Regional Spotlight Concert with Lisa Overholser (host), Priscilla Howe, Jim Two Crows Wallen, Bobby Norfolk, David Titus, Donna Ingham, and Tim Tingle, The storytellers of the South Central Region represent the diversity of their origins and cultures with a range of stories from history to tall tale, from ancient folktale to personal saga. The South Central Region of NSN is comprised of Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas.

The line-up was already getting me excited. Plus, Tim Tingle has been to Utah to perform though it had been a while. I love how he likes to question the audience of how a Native American/Choctaw dresses. Most people think traditional garb, but he has this as a trick question. What about today? When people start saying “jeans” or “t-shirts,” we are finally on the right path.

I was not as familiar with Jim Two Crows Wallen. I know a couple Mountain Men Storytellers and have enjoyed the tall tales and the blatant lies these folks share. Have you ever pondered why we, as a society, love listening to lies? Why we love our leg being pulled? Now, think of when we want and desire the full and complete truth. Fascinating, right? Bil Lepp, if you are reading this, feel free to comment. Though, perhaps Donna Ingham will beat you to it. After all, she was one of the enthralling tellers for this concert.

As for Bobby Norfolk, I love how his energy is felt no matter if it is live or virtual. He feeds off the response of the audience so much that I worry about him–as I do for all storytellers–on how we are all mentally doing with this mindshift of doing things digitally. Meanwhile, I am grateful to all who attempt or completely master this way of performing.

Thank you for taking part in this re-awakening journey for me. Please post comments, and we can continue the discussion.

We did this 9-part Blog Series in anticipation of the Digital Library being put together by the National Storytelling Network. Whether or not you attended virtually, you can still access the recordings through pay-per-view options. More details to come soon and will be at http://www.storynet.org/virtual-conference/.

See our already-streamed/recorded The Big Why Panel: Historical Storytelling meets Humanities with three options to watch it featuring our panelists: Dr. Caroliese Frink Reed, Sheila Arnold, Darci Tucker, and Brian “Fox” Ellis. We are grateful to funding from Utah Humanities.

See our 5-video playlist from the Story Crossroads Spectacular by clicking here

Storytelling meets Humanities, Elements Within–Part 4 of 7 – countdown to The Big Why

This is the fourth of seven parts on disciplines/elements of Humanities that can be found in the Art of Storytelling. This is also a countdown to virtual “The Big Why Panel: Historical Storytelling meets Humanities” on Saturday, June 20, 2020 from 9:00am-10:30am MDT.

Storytelling meets Humanities, Elements Within:

  • Part 1 – Archaeology – REVEALED
  • Part 2 – Communication/Interpretation – REVEALED
  • Part 3 – Cultural Studies – REVEALED
  • Part 4 – Folklore/Folklife – TODAY
  • Part 5 – History
  • Part 6 – Languages/Linguistics
  • Part 7 – Philosophy/Ethics

Folklore is beliefs, customs, and stories of a community passed on orally from generation to generation. Folklife is the traditional patterns and behaviors for a particular community.

You bump into modern-day folklore all the time and can reflect on what that means for times past and for people around the world.

Consider these examples of folklore and folklife:

  • Poetry
  • Proverbs and Sayings
  • Songs and Music
  • Superstitions
  • Myths, Legends, and Epics
  • Folktales

Richard M. Dorson, author of Folklore and Folklife: An Introduction, taught that a folklorist needs to understand “literary uses of folklore,” explore “relationships of folklore to culture,” and finally delve into “historical validity of oral tradition.”

Many times, a storyteller could unintentionally place their modern-day meaning upon a story outside of their culture.

The Maori oral traditions have been analyzed by Western modes and contaminates the original intent for the past two decades. Joe Pere, a Tuhoe tribal scholar, said, “Our repositories are the people that we cling to; there is no deviation; whatever they’ve said, their word has been transmitted down to us.” He said that rather than specific techniques to drive the development of those repositories, they were a “sacred mission of transmitting information.” More of this can be explored in the book “Rethinking Oral History and Tradition” by Nepia Mahuika, published in 2019.

When not researched and developed in a proper manner, a storyteller is at risk of cultural misappropriation. The best blog series on this particular topic is by international storyteller Donna Washington with links to the following parts: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, and Part Five.

Now twist and turn some thinking to how that folklore can impact and influence the Western way of life. In “Africana Folklore: History and Challenges,” author Sw. Anand Prahlad said that “no other body of material has had more impact on the development of cultures in the western hemisphere than Africana folk traditions and, consequently, that this should lead to a highly developed field of study that complements other conventional academic areas.”

With “The Big Why Panel,” two of our panelists, Dr. Caroliese Frink Reed and Sheila Arnold, have degrees in African American studies and can confirm what Sw. Anand Prahlad stated.

So study what is “everyday” to you and the patterns that you hold important. Think of the stories that link to who you are as a person and how you heard those stories–from parents, grandparents, or even great-grandparents.

We will be doing this 7-part Blog Series on Storytelling and connections with the Humanities as a countdown to our next adventure--join us on Saturday, June 20, 2020 from 9:00am-10:30am MDT from your computer- The Big Why Panel: Historical Storytelling meets Humanities. Our panelists, as pictured above, are: Dr. Caroliese Frink Reed, Sheila Arnold, Darci Tucker, and Brian “Fox” Ellis. We are grateful to funding from Utah Humanities.

See our 5-video playlist from the Story Crossroads Spectacular by clicking here.

Why Story Crossroads Loves National Storytelling Network (You Could, too!)–Part 2 of 5

This is the second of five parts on benefits to take advantage of as a member of the National Storytelling Network. Story Crossroads is proud to be an organization member of NSN.

Awesomeness Revealed:

  • Part 1 – Borrow NSN’s nonprofit status for grants–as individual or organization – REVEALED
  • Part 2 – Research through Greenwood’s World Folklore and Folklife Database for free – TODAY
  • Part 3 – Delve into NSN’s Accreditation Program
  • Part 4 – Benefit from in-state tuition for Storytelling Masters (with virtual options)
  • Part 5 – Participate in special interest groups – education, organizations, healing, leadership/producing

You are hungry. You are hungry for stories. You are willing to research and understand them better…or discover them for the first time.

More assumptions. Whether or not they are all true, that is fine.

Now…did you know that you can explore one of the best databases on folktales when you are logged in as a dues-paying member of the National Storytelling Network?

Julie Dunbar, editor with Wold Folklore and Folklife, said, “Every group in every culture creates its own folklore traditions that provide an unparalleled approach to understanding their fears, hopes, loves, wants, taboos, and beliefs.”

This Greenwood database has the potential to unlock mysteries whether you develop personal tales OR folktales.

Donald Davis, when developing stories, focuses on a year. He then gathers as much information about that year–current events, what games and such were popular at the time, etc. So if you lean towards personal stories, then have comfort and confidence in the usage of the database.

Csenge Zalka, famous for her uncanny and meticulous research ability with folktales, easily convinced 60+ people to sign up for her virtual 90-minute workshop through Story Crossroads. She is now offering more of those workshops in Hungarian and back to English again. She listed many resources though also praised this Greenwood database. So if you lean towards folktales, then have comfort and confidence in the usage of the database.

If you lean towards both personal tales and folktales, then you have ultimate comfort and confidence. Congrats…and get to work.

And…how do you access it? On the National Storytelling Network website in the upper right corner is the “Members Only” page. I recommend already being logged in, which is possible on the right side of any page you explore on the National Storytelling Network page.

Once on that page, there are two codes you need at the bottom.

Only when you are logged in will the magic appear to open a world of research much like the wardrobe that leads to Narnia.

Search for any of the following subjects (as listed on the NSN site):

  • Celebrations and Rituals
  • Food and Drink
  • Holidays and Festivals
  • Music and Dance
  • Religion and Belief
  • Tales, Myths, and Urban Legends
  • Traditional Arts and Crafts

Intrigued? Glad you are already a member of the National Storytelling Network? Wishing you were a member of the National Storytelling Network?

Today is that time. Go here for the opportunity to be connected and be part of the National Storytelling Network.

Want to discover more beyond this 5-part Blog Series? Check out the the next Story Crossroads adventure on Saturday, June 20, 2020 from 9:00am-10:30am MDT from your computer- The Big Why Panel: Historical Storytelling meets Humanities.

Reflections—A to Z Blog Challenge (Story Crossroads-Nominee for 2020 Vision)

We were surprised and thrilled that our blog was nominated by the A to Z Blog Challenge team for having “2020 Vision.” We did enjoy our self-made theme of Hope & Healing…folktales around the world that beat back viruses. We participated a sixth year in a row in the A to Z Blog Challenge (http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/).


We decided on the theme with ease considering the situation around the world. While we have optimistic views that this COVID-19 is temporary, we wished to give a cure from the sad news in the world for news on folktales that preceded our time that gave strength to our souls for the present and future.

We delved into stories around the world though so many came from Europe, specifically Norway. We also featured many from China—partly from the lovely stories found and to combat the ugly racial slurs and insults towards people of Chinese—and oftentimes Asian—descent. We love all cultures, ethnicities, and languages. We do our best to honor all people. Sometimes, certain cultural groups are targeted and it is our duty to defend and buoy our fellow human beings.

We had a hard time finding stories of healing from Africa and South America though had a handful. We squeezed in a story from Australia. We at least had each of the six major continents represented and wished it could have been more even. We know more stories of hope and healing are out there. Feel free to share your findings with us.

Some stories had potential to be healing folktales and then, at the last minute, turned too violent. We still had death and murders in our selected stories, but we wanted any killing to not come from the supposed healer. Though, death and Death (personages) were often dealt or met within the stories. This is unsurprising as sickness can lead to death. We loved that Death could be the reason for life.

We appreciated the kind words from those who read our comments. A favorite comment was by Shari Elder who said about “J is for Joyful Journeys,” “Beautiful blog post, beautiful theme for the challenge. Wonderful. Thank you. This was my pick me up for the day.” That was our goal. Giving delight to one person is all we wish. Any more than one is as thrilling as the first.

Adding the connections to medical history became more infused than planned. When we introduced the theme, someone asked if this would be throughout. “Occasionally” was the thought. Yet, there were too many fascinating details and history to ignore. Thus, each post had two stories as well as at least two medical connections.

Thank you for taking this journey with us. We will participate in this challenge in 2021 for our seventh year…so until we tell again.

Please share in the comments…or anything on your mind.While you enjoy this blog, Story Crossroads has year-round offerings in process of being adapted due to COVID-19.Our 2020 Festival has been transformed into Story Crossroads Spectacular, a virtual experience. See here: http://www.storycrossroads.org/spectacular on May 13, 2020 starting at 9am MDT with events all day.

We thank our funders such as National Endowment for the Arts, Utah Division of Arts and Museums, Western States Arts Federation, Utah Humanities, Zoo, Arts & the Parks of Salt Lake County (ZAP), City of Murray, Salt Lake City Arts Council, and many other businesses and individuals. Join us in the support by donating today!

Z is for Zealously Zen—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 Hope & Healing…folktales around the world that beat back viruses. Each post highlights one or more balms to soothe and cure our struggles of today with oral tradition and lore of the past. At times, a post will make a connection to history. You can guess what inspired this theme. Yes, the COVID-19. What better time to delve into tales where things can and do turn out “happily ever after”?

Zealously Zen-

From China-

Brocades are woven with fine details and embossed cloth. The skill to make a brocade has always been highly prized as it is by the fairies in this story. The loss of one’s work brought sickness near death for a woman and the son is willing to find it. That is zealous action, and yet it is a type of zen he needed for his mother.

50-word-or-less summary:

Mother lost favorite brocade to wind/fairies. Sick/dying! Son/Chen sought zealously to bring peace to mother. Fairies attempted to copy mother’s work. Li-en and Chen shared glances. Wove herself in brocade. Chen returned brocade, healed mother. Brocade enlarged as castle, Chen and mother entered. Mother taught fairies. Chen married Li-en.

Finding the Story: http://www.aaronshep.com/stories/056.html

Compare to History:

In October 2013, David Wilson with the South China Morning Post reported the increase of mental illness diagnoses and that critics accused psychiatrists of inflating the numbers. Labels such as “disruptive mood disregulation disorder” and “social anxiety disorder” could simply mean common temper tantrums and shyness. Was the mother exaggerating her condition so much that her body responded physically? Did the son truly need to go on a quest or discover another to bring her peace. Though, Chen would never have found Li-en without that adventure.

More on the History: https://www.scmp.com/lifestyle/health/article/1339739/how-zealous-psychiatrists-are-diagnosing-quirks-mental-illnesses

From Zen Buddhist-

Buddha is reborn as many animals and learns lessons with each birth. This time, Buddha becomes a Banyan deer. He leads other deer and makes a choice that affected a king.

50-word-or-less summary:

King obsessed with hunting. Ruined fields. People upset. Trapped deer herd, king could hunt without hurting land. Buddha/Banyan deer witnessed deer injured in stockade. Decided by lottery one deer offered to save others. Finally doe willing to die once fawn born. Buddha took her place. King moved, gave up hunting.

Finding the Story: https://www.learningtogive.org/resources/banyan-deer

Compare to History:

The Zen Caregiving Project began in 1986 through the San Francisco Zen Center. Martha deBarros sought a Zen Hospice where patients without social or financial support could be eased from their pain or transition peacefully. Run by volunteers, they used to use a Victorian guest house until October 2018. They persevered and received help and a home through Laguna Honda Hospital. Their good work continues to this day.

More on the History: https://zencaregiving.org/our-history/

Please share in the comments…or anything on your mind.While you enjoy this blog, Story Crossroads has year-round offerings in process of being adapted due to COVID-19.Our 2020 Festival has been transformed into Story Crossroads Spectacular, a virtual experience. See here: http://www.storycrossroads.org/spectacular on May 13, 2020 starting at 9am MDT with events all day.

We thank our funders such as National Endowment for the Arts, Utah Division of Arts and Museums, Western States Arts Federation, Utah Humanities, Zoo, Arts & the Parks of Salt Lake County (ZAP), City of Murray, Salt Lake City Arts Council, and many other businesses and individuals. Join us in the support by donating today!