It's easy -- I don't keep anything useful in my head. I walk into a room in my house and think, now what did I come in here for? I go to the grocery store and leave without the two main things I went in to buy. If it weren't for sticky notes and bits of scrap paper taped to the refrigerator, I'd be lost. Without all that information about day-to-day tasks in it, my brain has plenty of room for the words to stories!
What do you charge for a story program?
It depends on the sponsoring organization, the occasion, the size of the group, the length of the program, the distance traveled to get there and back, and many other factors. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-951-7757, and let's talk.
If the program is for a non-profit organization in the state of Alabama, the Alabama Humanities Foundation may be able to provide one of my story programs to your group at minimal charge. Please visit the AHF programs page of this website for more information about this terrific resource.
Do you tell stories for children?
My storytelling is primarily for grown-up audiences, rather than audiences made up mostly of children -- I sometimes say my stories are "for grown-ups of all ages." It's not that my stories have "R-rated" material in them -- it's just that my story style and story lengths are targeted for grown-ups -- most of my stories last around 30 minutes and the emphasis is on the meaning of the words and the relationships described, rather than on rhyming patterns, audience participation, or other devices that are frequently used to engage children in a story. Also, my story subject matter generally appeals more to someone with a bit of life experience (stories about friendships, hard times, first loves, computer mix-ups, mother / daughter relationships, etc. etc.).
My work is more "audio" than "video," with themes that require some emotional and intellectual investment on the part of the audience. I describe my performances as "not recommended for children" because if I say they ARE recommended for children, many people interpret that to mean that the stories are primarily targeted for children, and that's not the case.
All of which is to say: You know your child / children, and whether they will enjoy this kind of storytelling or not. The many story samples included on this website can give you an idea of my storytelling style so that you can decide how your child might respond to it.
You're not originally from Alabama. How did you end up living in Birmingham?
I was born in Reading, Pennsylvania, home of the Reading Railroad and Luden's cough drops. (My first real paying job, at age 16, was putting eyes on chocolate bunnies on the assembly line at the Luden's candy factory. See a video excerpt from that story on the home page.) I did debate, original oratory, and drama in high school, then, after dabbling as a drama major in college, decided to get my degree in American Studies, with a concentration in American Folklore.
As part of that, I devised an independent study project that involved studying the folklore of an Alabama mountain community on Chandler Mountain in St. Clair County. I was there for four months, collecting family histories, quilt patterns, superstitions, folk remedies … that sort of thing. (The story of that effort turned into a story I now tell called “Footprint on the Sky.”) When that study project was completed and I graduated, I moved to Birmingham, since I'd met some people here as a result of the project, and I had to start my adult life somewhere. I didn't want to stay in New Haven, CT (where I was in school), I didn't want to go back to Reading, PA (where I grew up), and so I thought I'd come to Birmingham for a year or two. Then life happened, and – lucky for me! – I've been here ever since.
How did you get into storytelling?
In my hometown of Reading, Pennsylvania, I won a local storytelling contest at age 5 with the folk tale "Clever Gretel." (I was the only contestant in my age group, so it was easy to win!) The blue ribbon with real gold letters convinced me there must be a fortune in the performing arts, and got me on the road to loving the power of words and the magic of sharing them at a “live” event.
I always loved acting and performing, but didn't believe it was possible to make a living doing that. So in the 1980s, I was working for IBM, selling giant computers that were the size of a living room and had the computing capability of a pocket calculator. My itch to perform needed to be scratched, so I volunteered to tell stories once a month at a local retirement community. (Twenty-seven years later, I still go there once a month.) Some people who were in those audiences belonged to various literary and garden clubs, and started inviting me to come tell a story to their group, and then people in those groups invited me to come to other groups, and then... and then... and the opportunities to tell stories blossomed.