Welcome to Conversations With Storytellers.
This podcast is mostly field work, gathering conversations with some of the best tellers of traditional tales over the phone, and in person where possible.
Conversations with storytellers. Wisdom, folk and fairy tales from our elders.
A meeting with professional storytellers.
After the passing of some great storytellers, I decided I wanted to interview some of the elders in the community of traditional storytelling. I wanted to capture their thoughts, their ideas, and maybe ideals in their own voices. I didn’t want a traditional interview, but a conversation with these folks. I was not looking for deep personal secrets, but for insights on what make these legends in my world tick, what inspired them, what makes them do what they do, and how do they do it.
Some will tell us their favourite stories, others share their thoughts on our profession. Some will give us glimpses of their lives and the lives of those around them, who their mentors and inspiration were or are. All of them share gems of wisdom. Welcome to conversations with storytellers.
Welcome to Conversations With Storytellers, a story podcast, by Simon Brooks.
In this first episode, you will be introduced to the amazing Laura Simms. Laura has been telling stories for a long time, as most of our guests have. Laura tells from a place of deep compassion and grew up on the streets of New York. Well, not quite on the streets! Because of time constraints I have been gathering these interviews for a while. This was recorded in December of 2017. Enjoy.
Many people, when they first meet Elizabeth Ellis are at least a little in awe. She is a powerful and compassionate woman, with a soft voice. She kindly agreed to sit down with me at the 2016 National Storytelling Network Conference. The interview, the conversation began in the hall as we were heading to a quite room, before I got my gear set up. We sat down, Elizabeth got some water and we began to talk. The interview went well over two hours. I edited it down to keep it 'on topic.' We storytellers can meander along a winding path of conversation and take many side roads!
Elizabeth talks history, compassion, authenticity and story. She reminisces about driving 200 miles to see another storyteller - it was just what you did; how she worked with other storytellers, and the importance of story. Because of the length of the conversation, it is broken into two episodes. The first (this) episode is about 55 minutes and part two is around an hour!
Donna Washington was introduced to me by my friend Karen Chace at the NSN Conference a number of years ago and we hit it off really well. She is one of the most employed storytellers in the country and travels Everywhere! She is also a published writer, and this podcast is a must listen!
Jay O'Callahan, in my mind, is a modern day Hans Christian Andersen. He began telling stories he made up for his children. Jay began telling stories to the public years ago. He met Fred Rogers and appeared on Mr. Roger's Neighborhood. He has created some amazing work from stories of steel towns to NASA. Jay has numerous recordings and a few books. His workshops are a must for anyone interested in story and the process of creating work, and his passion for Emily Dickinson is great.
Papa Joe Gaudet vanished from the scene at around the time I was getting going as a professional storyteller, in 2004/5. I kept hearing: “Have you met Papa Joe?” but I had no idea who he was. I searched for him, but did not find him for about 10 years. Since our first meeting we became good friends, and Papa Joe became a mentor to me, like so many other tellers in New Hampshire. Papa Joe and I are now great friends and here is our conversation, which took place in my living room!
Loren Niemi is not your normal storyteller. He is an activist, a writer, teacher and coach, and poet. I met Loren a long time ago and over the years slowly got to know him. He has worked and written a book with Elizabeth Ellis - "Inviting the Wolf In," a book about and how to tell hard stories, as well as his own book "The New Book of Plots" and a couple of collections of poetry. Loren is smart and interesting. I hope you find him as interesting as I do.
You can find Loren here: https://www.lorenniemistories.com/
I have to admit when I first met Michael Parent I was intimidated by him. I couldn't figure him out - was he being serious, was he being funny? I couldn't tell. Over time I got to know him a little better and found him to be a very warm man indeed, sharp as a needle and quick witted.
He still is today, even though his challenge with Parkinson's disease sometimes slows his word choice down. This conversation, with Michael's permission, has been edited, cutting out some of the silences as he sought out the rights words. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with him and cannot wait to see him again and hang out.
Michael Parent talks about his family history in mills, how music was seen as something better than storytelling, but how Michael sees the two should go together. You will hear about his juggling skills, uke band, and sing-a-longs!
He mentions a song by Malvina Reynolds, and here is a version I heard as a kid by the Seekers, of that song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6YP7GCXqdqU
We had many laughs during the chat, and I hope you join in laughing, too.
Elisa Pearmain was one of the storytellers who created a storytelling community in New England, particularly in the Boston area. Throughout her career her work has been deeply steeped in healing, from dance to storytelling to therapy. Her work is included in a number of books and CDs and Elisa’s compassion and depth is remarkable, as is her story.
Heather Forest forged her own way into storytelling, coming from a folk music background. A highly intelligent, thoughtful, and warm human being, Heather was great to sit down with. This is the third in a series of three interviews I conducted in March, 2019 at Sharing the Fire, the North East Story Telling Conference. The other two are previous episodes of Elisa Pearmain, and Loren Niemi.
Heather mentions the first guitar she ever had and I found a photo of one just like it - Heather confirmed this!