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Don't Miss Stories at Fern in October.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

September Stories at Fern Review

Our warm host on Monday evening, September 19, 2011 was Anne Forester. Margo McLaughlin provided gentle music on her Hang drum between stories.

Jacquie Hunt led off with a Spanish story told in the first person so effectively that we felt transported to Madrid, where it took place, to witness, with her, the distress of the gentleman she observed daily with no overcoat in the cold of winter. Her concern for this man, a widower whose wife had taken his coat to the cleaners before she died, and the solution she found for him by raiding her own husband's closet, touched this listener's heart.

Anne Beatty titled her story "Changes and Beginnings - "The PalmTree" a Stuart McLean story about 'bonding' with an unlikely object, a palm tree found in a corner store that was not only instrumental in effecting the sale of a home in the nick of time to enable the purchase of the perfect new home that its owner had always dreamed of, but became deeply rooted in that owner's affection.

Lavana Kilborn took us on a timelss journey, the musings of an aging farmer as to whether events that befell his acquaintances were Good or Bad, depending on their timing, circumstance and eventual outcome. One of those well-travelled, borderless stories to be found world-wide.

"Just Deserts", (yes this spelling is correct) Andrea Samuels' story of a vengeful school principal who forced a young pupil to eat a whole chocolate cake in front of his peers as punishment for a minor misdeed had, I suspect, most of her listeners feeling uncomfortably full themselves ! Told with great humour, we cheered inwardly along with the schoolboys' who witnessed the happening and were glad of the pause before ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

Jennifer Ferris' hilarious telling of another cake story: "The Wedding Cake." A cautionary tale if ever there was one, with the moral that ordering a cake for a special event must always take place in person. Ordering over the phone can have dire consequences indeed!

After all that 'storycake', lo and behold, the teabreak was a veritable banquet, including Patricia's seasonal plumcake made from scratch which, together with Sandra's delicacies, kept us lingering, disobediently, in the kitchen after the call to return for more stories.

The first, related by Lee Porteous, once again had us spellbound, this time learning of the merits of the "Electricity Elixir," a cure for every ailment that could afflict the gullible folk in Chuck Larkin's story of that name. If, as is asserted, laughter is good medicine, then this story delivered us all a good dose!

A change of pace then with Catherine Sheehan's Korean Folk Tale of "The Story Spirits", another cautionary tale, this time telling us the terrors that can befall those who hoard stories instead of sending them out into the world for others to share.

Last,but by no means least, Mary Mahoney brought us "The Maiden Without Hands" collected by the Brothers Grimm in the days when reality, and stories of those times were indeed grim and often gruesome. Featured were all the ingredients of an old-fashioned fairy tale: the devil himself, the promise of gold in exchange for a poor miller's daughter, trust in the kindness of strangers, loss of limbs and their restoration. A theme with many variants brought into the present by no less a writer than Margaret Atwood according to our mutual friend Google !

submitted by Janna

Thursday, July 28, 2011

VSG ANNUAL SUMMER PICNIC Sunday August 7, 2011

The countdown is on towards the VSG annual summer picnic for Guild members and their guests.
WHERE? The home of Andrea and Richard, 3910 Finnerty Road (We’re about 150 yards from UVIC. (250 294 5790) WHEN? August 7, Sunday, from 3-7pm.
ROUGH PLAN: 3-4 PM: Relax and chat in the garden,
Walk through Haro Woods for the energetic or
Storytelling, DVD Clips from the Rootcellar on home cinema, check out stuff from the Guild archives..
4-5:30 PM: Stories 5:30-7 PM: Potluck picnic (timing is loose)
DIRECTIONS: Please look it up on a map. Give yourself extra time. Carpooling is sociable, sensible, and cheaper, too.
SPECIFIC TIPS: Park on Edgelow road if driveway is full.
BRING: A friend or partner
Sunscreen & sun hat,
Folding chair, if you have one,
Whatever you want to drink. I’ll supply lemonade.
A potluck dish: I have dishes and cutlery.Aaaaand STORIES!!!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

VSG Founder Barbara Hutcheson Passes Away

Storytelling in Victoria and the establishment of the Victoria Storytellers Guild began thanks to the work of Barbara Hutcheson and Margaret Toakley. They were senior in the Central Library's Children's Department. Twenty-two years ago they brought in tellers 'from away' for performances and workshops. The first to come were Nan Gregory and Melanie Ray. Those who participated were asked if they wanted to establish a storytelling group locally, et voilĂ , the VSG was born. The library gave us a free place to meet for the first year and remained supportive in lots of ways. Barbara led the first few gatherings and then cast us off to sail away on our own.
A graveside memorial service was held at Pender Island Cemetery on 3 July, 2011.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Storytellers Conference in Yellowknife, NWT

It was my great privilege to represent the Victoria Storytellers Guild (VSG) at the recent 19th Storytellers Conference in Yellowknife, NWT called Story North. Here are a few of the highlights.

As the Air Canada flight began it’s decent into Yellowknife one could see large snow covered areas and it was apparent we had arrived in “the north”. VSG President, Al Fowler, and I were joined by a group of Alberta tellers and we all boarded the waiting bus to take us to the registration desk at the Explorer Hotel. Excitement was in the air as we were given our bags of conference materials. I was then picked up by Velma who had graciously offered to billet Melanie Ray and myself. The three of us had dinner together that night and talked long into the night, which almost doesn’t happen when there are 20 hours of sunlight in each day. It felt strange to watch beautiful sunsets at 10 and 11 o’clock at night. Velma’s house overlooked a lake from which we could access a paved path that took us downtown in about a 25-minute walk.

Thursday morning 20 of us attended a day long workshop called “How to Shine the Light on Storytelling” by Inga Petri of Strategic Moves, an Ottawa company that teaches marketing skills. The workshop was intended to raise awareness of how to promote storytelling in the community and elsewhere. The material was given to us to share with our groups at home and I am happy to do so. Questions such as “who is the target audience”, the clarity of the message and it’s consistency were addressed.

Later that evening we had the official welcome and introduction to this year’s Story Save. Lorne Brown from Toronto had been chosen as this year’s teller. He not only tells stories he also sings ballads and songs. He has been part of the Toronto storytelling scene for decades. His CD’s are now available in our libray, The Root Cellar. Following the Story Save launch 4 tellers were chosen from the 4 directions of Canada and told stories that highlighted the culture of their communities.

Friday, May 25th. began with a wonderful welcome story called “The Breaking of Bread” by Dawn Lacey. She must have stayed up all night baking as she stood before a long table filled with freshly baked breads, muffins, home made jams and butter, which we all shared at the end. Dawn was dressed in bakers costume and told stories of her mother and grandmother’s love of baking and sharing bread, the ingredients used, and importance in the community. There was always extra bread baked for those in need. This was followed by workshops planned by Storytellers of Candada - Conteurs du Canada (Sc-CC). I attended ”Partnership and Audience Diversification” facilitated by Ruth Stewart Verger on how to promote storytelling and attract larger audiences. Judging from the comments, Victoria is doing very well by comparison in this area.

Following the fabulous lunch buffet there was a concert to promote “Next Gen” tellers in the high school auditorium, which tended to be more performance than telling.

On each of the three days there were concerts called “Caribou Dropping” featuring tellers from the three territories, the Yukon, NWT, and Nunavut. It was through their stories that we learned of the history of the people, their amazing survival skills and resilience. I will share briefly some of these at our September Stories at Fern.

Michael Kusugak draws his stories from deep within his Inuit cultural roots in Nunavut. His interest lies in the healing properties of stories and how stories are the key to building healthy individuals and communities.

Scott McQueen from the Deni Nation of the Northwest Territories shared family stories of heroic adventures living in the north with only dogs and canoes to acquire your sustenance.

Ivan Coyote from the Yukon told her stories at 2 of the concerts as well as giving a workshop titled “Accessing Your Greatest Resource.” I loved her workshop and learned so much from her. She told us how she had recently been the “distinguished speaker” and delivered the Carol Shields Memorial lecture at the University of Winnipeg after which she received a long standing ovation. She is truly the master of personal reflections of her own space and the world that surrounds her.

One thing that needs to be mentioned is the fabulous food, which was presented daily in buffet style at the Explorer Hotel. Even when we arrived at various storytelling venues there were platters of fruits, cheeses and drinks. I had not expected such a feast as we often hear that there is a shortage of fresh fruit and vegetables in the north. Apparently in Nunavut it is a different story however as the food subsidy originally given by the government of Canada has been rescinded and now a jug of milk costs $22.00.

The conference days flew by and it was soon time to say good-bye. During these days there were 43 storytellers from across Canada that met together and shared many stories, hopes and dreams. We gained a deeper understanding of what it means to live in “the north”. I certainly did not realize the impact mining has on the livelihood of the people. The gold mines in Yellowknife have closed and the diamond mines have taken their place. Interestingly, Australian companies, DeBeers and BHPBiliton, own them. Quite a change from the way our first nations people lived on the land for centuries.

I am very grateful that our guild gave me this opportunity to experience these tellers and a part of my country I did not really know. I hope I can be of some use in the future in passing on this awareness. Please do not ever hesitate to ask me questions you may have about “Story North” and my experience in Yellowknife.

Thank you so very much.

Patricia Houston

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

June Stories at Fern

Our host, Dianne Gilliland, who presided over a full house and a full slate of tellers, opened with a surprise poem setting a fine example of humour and good storytelling before introducing the first teller of the evening.

Lee Porteous’ Chinese tale, “The Living Queen,” showed virtue rewarded by the Goddess Kuan Yin and along the way turned a snake into a dragon, a mute girl into a wife and a seeker who had relinquished his right to 3 questions into a rich and happy man.

A youthful Stephen Yeager brought skill and poise to his story, ”The Great Delivery,” in which a pompous dentist receives 2 magic figs in payment for his services and “goes to the dogs” as a result.

Jan Hockin’s yarn, “The Muckle Muckle Stone," was muckle indeed. The Scottish tale moved from digging a simple well to the king’s entire court trying to unearth the precious stone against the warnings of their wise man that “it will destroy them” and being banished for his trouble – muckle trouble.

A picture book entitled, “Sylvester and the Magic Donkey,” was Victoria Cownden’s source and she brought along the pretty red stone that created the magic that granted wishes if only you held it in your hand – or at least touched it closely.

Recently returned from the Yellowknife Storytellers’ Conference, Patricia Houston waxed eloquent about the special feelings evoked by stories told by First Nations and Inuit tellers. Patricia shareed several small vignettes including the poignant scene of an old man turning to meet a large bear to kiss it goodbye before leaving the village for a care home.

“That’s the way it was meant to be!” was Shirley Rutliffe’s comment looking back to her days with the Saint John’s Ambulance service when an unwanted shift in her service station produced a very personal meeting with Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip.

“A Patchwork Quilt” was the title Al Fowler gave to his reminiscences of his days as a young pastor in New Brunswick. Describing both land and people with loving detail, his description of quilt making was itself a patchwork quilt of the old days.

Using “The Other Way to Listen” by Byrd Taylor and Peter Parnall as a source, and her own melodious voice, Michelle Hibbins invited her listeners to move beyond what everyone hears and tune into the trees and flowers to hear their songs. Michelle added that as she was singing to the hills, the hills were singing to her. Michelle plans to share this story again at the Theartre SKAM Bike Ride along the Galloping Goose Trail on Saturday July 16 from 3:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Prepared by Anne Forester
Photo of Diane Gilliland by Penny Tennenhouse

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Kim Weitkamp featured in Monday Magazine

Check out the good news about Kim Weitkamp's concert Penny Candy Love on Saturday June 4 featured in Monday Magazine. A big enthusiastic crowd enjoyed the show. Kim was amazing!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

May Stories at Fern

Molly Raher Newman as Emily Carr

Sandra was our lively host while Margo once again provided brief, gentle interludes of music on her Hang (a Swiss instrument, pronounced “Hung”) for an evening that included visiting tellers who surprised and delighted us. The first was no less a personage of renown than Emily Carr in her 'second life', portrayed by Molly Raher Newman. Molly, as an EDUTAINER, provided us with lesser known insights into Emily's life and had us all singing along with her, accompanied by her mandolin.

Sarah Vincent, one of four talented youngsters 'scouted' by Lee at the Festival of the Arts, personified The Killer Cat in "The Diary of the Killer Cat and Trip to the Vet", referred to by the veterinary staff as a "furry psychopath." Hilarious!

Jaya Scott then told the Japanese tale, "The Man Who Bought a Dream,”about a poor farmer who, against his wife's wishes, took what little money they had to follow a dream in search of hidden treasure, only to find it gone. The disappointed farmer, afraid to return home empty handed, found his wife jubilant as golden coins poured from their attic. The gift-giver was a golden bee who valued the distribution of wealth to the less fortunate.

Mary Vincent's story, "The Brave 7th Grade Viking Warrior," by Taylor Mali touched all our hearts. The Viking Warrior was a boy who, when he lost his hair to chemotherapy, found that his classmates had joined his hairless predicament by having their heads shaved, too. The history teacher's class project, to create a miniature Viking ship from popsicle sticks and balsa wood, became an unforgettable lesson when they burned their Viking ship, according to ancient custom, to carry their young Viking Warrior's soul to heaven.

Meghan Scott brought us "the Boy and the Devil,' a convoluted tale of transformation and trickery from which the Devil, used to having the upper hand in encounters with humans, learned to be very wary of boys who can read.

Shoshana shared the oral version of her story "Frida's Flute," which was published recently in an anthology of Canadian Folklore by the Edmonton School Board. Shoshana told us how the story got started in Poland in the 1700's and then evolved into a more modern version after the fall of the Soviet Union. Then she launched into her tale of Frida, a talented young musician who saved the world with music and learned how to read in the process.

Shirley once again wove the gift of homemade merriment into a story of her family's delight as they surprised their Dad on a special birthday. Remember her "Hide and Seek" story from January when her Dad hid under a big hat, among a group of picnickers in the park? This time, total strangers waiting in the arrivals area of an airport became the world’s first “Flash Mob” as they sang “Hello Wally” to the tune of “Hello Dolly” while sporting "Welcome Home Wally" buttons. Shirley’s shy brother, faced with the barrage of unknown welcomers, was now the one who wished he could vanish into thin air.

Jan, with the Cowboy Poem "the Whole Load," took us into a new-to-some-of-us genre: the world of Waddie Mitchell from Nevada, a "...renowned cowboy storyteller and buchaneer poet," according to Wikipeida where you can go to find out more about the 'homespun' philosophy of his poetry.

Anne's musings on the horizontal vs. vertical cutting of a very fine muffin led to her mother's tale of a couple married for half a century. Blessed with the delivery of a freshly baked breakfast roll each day, their tradition of each asking the other which half they preferred continued for 50 years before their true preferences were revealed.

The timid among us were advised to cover our ears to avoid hearing the gory details in Jennifer's story, a tale of a husbandless grandmother who became a professional assassin but, by a twist of fate in court, convinced the Judge that her despatch of a terrible monster was true.

Submitted by Janna