Tell me if you have a topic you'd like to see. (Contact: LoiS-sez@LoiS-sez.com .)
Please also let others know about this site.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Keithahn - Boy Who Ate Too Much - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

Do you know what is the third most used language in the U.S.?  (No fair peeking!)  Oh the answers I get when I ask kids that question!

It's American Sign Language.  Such a useful, beautiful language and fun to use with storytelling.  I often start a program with a story told in voice and sign as it's a great way to get an audience of all ages participating.  Yes, for ASL purists, telling in voice and sign tends toward the Pidgin English part of the signing continuum because English word order is used.  It's also a great way to expose people to sign language.

I often find people interested in learning more about signing, whether for Baby Sign which fosters language and communication waaaay earlier than waiting for oral communication, or to help communicate with the hearing impaired. 
As a result I offer everything from one-time programs up through a series such as I've been doing for two years now at the Warren Civic Center Library.  This past week I ended our session with today's fun tall tale that is Public Domain in a different way.

Usually I feature stories dating before 1923, but this comes from a different category.  I like to point out the U.S.Government Printing Office is paid for by our taxes.  Edward L. Keithahn was the curator and librarian for the Alaska Historical Museum and Library who collected these stories from the Shishmaref school children for the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs.  His volume, Igloo Tales, was dedicated as "a slight remembrance of the happy years spent among them."  As might be expected there is a lot of "porquoi" stories telling how things came to be, but my favorites are the ones closer to their roots on the playground, today's story and another called "The Story of a Head."  Definitely tall tales.

The book includes many illustrations by Shishmaref native artist, George Aden Ahgupuk, whose own story of how he became an artist is in the book, too, and quite interesting.  Here's the story with illustration and then I'll say a bit more following it.


I've been telling this story in voice and sign for so long I also ought to credit its shaping to two other storytellers whose books I own and enjoy.  In her wonderful book for audience participation, Twenty Tellable Tales, Margaret Read MacDonald titles the story "A Whale of a Tale" and credits several sources including Keithahn and also the version by Jean Cothran in The Magic Calabash: Folk Tales from America's Islands and Alaska.  She also mentions another version by Maggie Lind of Bethel, Alaska that I've not heard nor use, along with Lind's statement that "the tale is widely known."

So as you do your taxes, maybe the USGPO  will make you a bit happier when it offers stories.  Storyteller Donald Davis as a young man earning his first paycheck was told to choose something he wanted to think about his taxes going towards and supporting.  He chose the National Parks and visits them as he travels with storytelling.  If you're not ready to go to any of Alaska's many national parks, monuments, or historic sites -- even though Denali is currently warmer than here in southeast Michigan -- then travel in a story.
****************
This is part of a series of postings of stories under the category, "Keeping the Public in Public Domain."  The idea behind Public Domain was to preserve our cultural heritage after the authors and their immediate heirs were compensated.  I feel strongly current copyright law delays this intent on works of the 20th century.  My own library of folklore includes so many books within the Public Domain I decided to share stories from them.  I hope you enjoy discovering new stories. 

At the same time, my own involvement in storytelling regularly creates projects requiring research as part of my sharing stories with an audience.  Whenever that research needs to be shown here, the publishing of Public Domain stories will not occur that week.  This is a return to my normal monthly posting of a research project here.  Response has convinced me that "Keeping the Public in Public Domain" should continue along with my monthly postings as often as I can manage it.    



There are many online resources for Public Domain stories, none for folklore is as ambitious as fellow storyteller, Yoel Perez's database, Yashpeh, the International Folktales Collection.  I recommended it earlier and want to continue to do so.  Have fun discovering even more stories!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Ransome - Little Daughter of the Snow - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

Have been saying "at least our weather isn't Boston!" a lot.  Sometimes it helps to remind yourself things could be worse.  As I write this it's Thursday at mid-day and our temperature has finally bounced up to zero with plenty of wind gusts on our "bunny slope of a hill" to create sub-zero wind chills.  Unfortunately places even less prepared for this weather are shivering, too.  I'm a fan of Weather Underground or Wunderground.com for long-range forecasts, not only here, but around the world. 

Looking around the world I see:

Miami on Thursday has a low of 38 and even Havana went to 50,
while Anchorage goes to up to 35 and down to 21 (and will even reach the 40s this weekend),
looking for Siberian weather, Vorkuta, Russia has both 15 high and 15 low, feeling like 14 with snow showers.

By the way, the Weather Underground has a page on "Global Warming Causes and Climate Change Facts" tucked away on its site.  

Earlier this month I posted a Cuban story to warm up reading here.  Siberia generally is noted for its brutal weather, so that was the type of weather Arthur Ransome was describing in a story posted here almost a year ago, Frost, and a "killing cold" it was, too.  (That post also tells more about Ransome.)  Today's story is worth enjoying over hot chocolate after making a snowman or girl.

Today's story opens with the "frame" of Old Peter telling to little Vanya and Maroosia, giving hints of ways to tailor it to your listeners.  Watch for Frost to put in a cameo appearance near the end.



































It's worth noting not every Public Domain book is available online or even by interlibrary loan.  On the back cover I saw advertised A Book of Teddy Bears; Brown Bears, White Bears, Gruff Bears, Kind Bears, He-Bears, She-Bears & Very Little Furry Bears edited by Elizabeth Teague.  The description sounds charming, but the only way to find it is to buy it from a bookseller, online or otherwise.  Hmmmm.

Guess there's plenty of reason to keep posting . . . so stay warm and stay reading.

*****************
This is part of a series of postings of stories under the category, "Keeping the Public in Public Domain."  The idea behind Public Domain was to preserve our cultural heritage after the authors and their immediate heirs were compensated.  I feel strongly current copyright law delays this intent on works of the 20th century.  My own library of folklore includes so many books within the Public Domain I decided to share stories from them.  I hope you enjoy discovering new stories. 

At the same time, my own involvement in storytelling regularly creates projects requiring research as part of my sharing stories with an audience.  Whenever that research needs to be shown here, the publishing of Public Domain stories will not occur that week.  This is a return to my normal monthly posting of a research project here.  Response has convinced me that "Keeping the Public in Public Domain" should continue along with my monthly postings as often as I can manage it.    



There are many online resources for Public Domain stories, none for folklore is as ambitious as fellow storyteller, Yoel Perez's database, Yashpeh, the International Folktales Collection.  I recommended it earlier and want to continue to do so.  Have fun discovering even more stories!


Saturday, February 14, 2015

Love Your Craft

I've waited a whole year to post this Valentine.

Love Your Craft

Love that rush you feel when you kick off a new project.  That tingle down your spine.  That glint in your eye.

Love when you push yourself further, faster - not because you have to, but because you want to find those edges and stretch  the boundaries of what is possible.

Love learning new things about your work and this world and yourself.

Love serving others and sharing your gift, your passion, your expertise.

Love bringing your ideas to life.

Love making it happen and getting things done.

Love that exact moment when that thing that only existed inside your mind and heart finally manifests in the outside world for everyone else to experience.

Love finishing and then diving back in again.

Love that sense of satisfaction when your head hits the pillow after a long, hard day.

Love that smile on your face when you're purposely on purpose.

You are living the dream.  You are doing what you were born to do.  That is love.

I saw that last year on the local Motor City Connect website of networking in metro Detroit.  It's by 
Charlie Wollberg who calls himself "founding partner and chief troublemaker"at Curve Detroit.  I've never had the pleasure of meeting Charlie, but applaud this Valentine to all of us dedicated to our calling in life, be it storytelling, librarianship, teaching, history, WHATEVER!

I suspect you will feel the same way, but also there will be times you need the reminder.  Thank you, Charlie!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Stoddard - Where the Sun and Moon Came From - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

Doesn't a trip to the Caribbean sound great in the midst of North America stuck in winter?  Maybe that's why the current news about negotiations between Cuba and the United States holds special attraction, even if the idea holds many problems.  At the same time measles is in the news and has a surprising connection.  I own Florence Jackson Stoddard's As Old as the Moon.  Its subtitle convinced me to buy it: Cuban Legends: Folklore of the Antillas.  It didn't hurt that the book was published in 1909. But the book has problems as old as the clash between Spaniards and the indigenous populations of the area.  This includes measles as one of many diseases that helped wipe out a population even Columbus described favorably:
They traded with us and gave us everything they had, with good will...they took great delight in pleasing us..They are very gentle and without knowledge of what is evil; nor do they murder or steal...Your highness may believe that in all the world there can be no better people...They love their neighbours as themselves, and they have the sweetest talk in the world, and are gentle and always laughing.
(quoted by Sale Kirkpatrick in The Conquest of Paradise on p. 100.)
There's a problem this hints at, but perhaps you want to hop into the warmth of the story dating back to the Great Flood first.
Illustrator unknown, frontispiece 
Cacique means Chieftan / Behique means Shaman, the wisest in the Taino tribe
I love to tell nature Pourquois tales about how things came to be, including astronomical stories about the sun and moon.  This story is followed by the book's title story, "Old as the Moon."  I prefer this story and will think about it with the current full moon, especially since the weather usually gets worse in the waning moon.

Travel the Caribbean region (wishful thinking in the depths of this winter) and you mainly will find stories newer than Stoddard presented.  I love the Dominican Republic and the wonderful people there, so I've asked especially there, but like Stoddard, the oldest stories come from only fragments by the original inhabitants.  Dominicans have a great fragment talking about the people whose feet were on backwards to lead pursuers astray. 

The best known of those native people were the Taino and, as usual, it's worth a quick read at Wikipedia to start knowing more.  Additionally Taino Symbology can be seen and the same gallery offers additional history for the people whose name means "Good and Noble."   A Smithsonian article and Caribbean blog, Repeating Islands, say recent DNA studies, starting with one in Puerto Rico in 2003 showed  that while Spanish weapons, enslavement, and especially disease reduced their numbers by 95% and extinction was widely believed, such things as intermarriage with the Spanish retained mixed DNA from the matrilineal line along with a surprising amount of cultural tradition.  The "Taino People were the predominant inhabitants of what are now Cuba, Hispaniola (Dominican Republic and Haiti), Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.  Some of the Arawak-speaking tribes of Florida could also have been related to the Taino." The danger is using, as Stoddard did, such fragments and thinking this qualifies as actual folklore.  Unfortunately this is the closest I've come, so far, to anything safely Public Domain for that region.  I'm uncertain about the copyright coverage of some of Harold Courlander's Haitian collections (a Library of Congress search seems to show some original copyrights were never renewed), but I would never present them in print as his name became known beyond the world of folklore for successfully suing Alex Hailey for copyright infringement when writing Roots.

While doing a bit of research on Courlander, I learned he made what doctoral candidate Daniya Dawe called an "eclectic definition of folklore as a treasury of social values and literary creations out of human experience (if not residue)."  Stoddard groups her stories chronologically by pre-Conquest, the Conquest Period (15th - 16th century), and Slave Myths of the Spanish Period (16th - 19th century).  My concern is with that subtitle, "Cuban Legends: Folklore of the Antillas." Is it folklore or her skillful embarking on crafting stories from the barest of fragments like those tales about the feet that faced backwards?

I'm not sure we can say such feet are part of human experience (possibly the wish to evade pursuers qualifies?), but more probably it fits Courlander's "treasury of social values and literary creations" from his A Treasury of African Folklore which Dawe says: extends beyond the 'verbal art' or 'oral literature' to include other cultural categories.

Wish I had some warm sand to take my own footprints right now.  Instead I must turn to Michigan's Anishinaabe explanation from Nanabashoo that without our winter's snow our trees, bushes and other plants would die.  From the snows of Petoskey, Odawa elder, Simon Otto, shared that explanation in his book, Grandmother Moon Speaks, and as he concludes all his stories: Walk in Peace.
*************************
This is part of a series of postings of stories under the category, "Keeping the Public in Public Domain."  The idea behind Public Domain was to preserve our cultural heritage after the authors and their immediate heirs were compensated.  I feel strongly current copyright law delays this intent on works of the 20th century.  My own library of folklore includes so many books within the Public Domain I decided to share stories from them.  I hope you enjoy discovering new stories. 

At the same time, my own involvement in storytelling regularly creates projects requiring research as part of my sharing stories with an audience.  Whenever that research needs to be shown here, the publishing of Public Domain stories will not occur that week.  This is a return to my normal monthly posting of a research project here.  Response has convinced me that "Keeping the Public in Public Domain" should continue along with my monthly postings as often as I can manage it.    



There are many online resources for Public Domain stories, none for folklore is as ambitious as fellow storyteller, Yoel Perez's database, Yashpeh, the International Folktales Collection.  I recommended it earlier and want to continue to do so.  Have fun discovering even more stories!

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Bailey - Why the Bear Sleeps All Winter - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

There is still another two or three months of winter left in North America and I'm sure many of us would love to run away to someplace warm or, failing that, hibernate.  Carolyn Feller Bauer's background as a teacher, principal, and life-long writer resulted in her dependably telling stories in a way that works with an audience.  Her version of "Why the Bear Sleeps All Winter" in Firelight Stories published in 1907 is no exception.  (By the way, the publisher was Milton Bradley who now is known for board games.)  By that time she had already published four books including the first of her For the Children's Hour books.

While older anthologies don't document sources the way most do today, in her Introduction she groups the story with some other tales "The southern negroes have given us the stories...still told in Georgia and the Carolinas."  At the same time she omits the difficult dialect that almost becomes a foreign language so commonly used then in such tales.  The hero of the story is "little Brother Rabbit" oppressed by an "old Bear."  All the other animals are called Brother.  The name Br'er is a contraction of Brother and tales of Br'er Rabbit by Joel Chandler Harris don't include this story.  It would be fun to assign the animal parts to audience members to mime while the story is told. 








































While it's not hibernation, curling up with a good book is always welcome.  Ms. Bauer has many books online:




******************
This is part of a series of postings of stories under the category, "Keeping the Public in Public Domain."  The idea behind Public Domain was to preserve our cultural heritage after the authors and their immediate heirs were compensated.  I feel strongly current copyright law delays this intent on works of the 20th century.  My own library of folklore includes so many books within the Public Domain I decided to share stories from them.  I hope you enjoy discovering new stories. 

At the same time, my own involvement in storytelling regularly creates projects requiring research as part of my sharing stories with an audience.  Whenever that research needs to be shown here, the publishing of Public Domain stories will not occur that week.  This is a return to my normal monthly posting of a research project here.  Response has convinced me that "Keeping the Public in Public Domain" should continue along with my monthly postings as often as I can manage it.    



There are many online resources for Public Domain stories, none for folklore is as ambitious as fellow storyteller, Yoel Perez's database, Yashpeh, the International Folktales Collection.  I recommended it earlier and want to continue to do so.  Have fun discovering even more stories!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Story Starters Continued

Last week I gave a peek at Story Starters, promising more today.  Even religious literature has a tradition that sparks story creation.  Midrash is a term starting with Jewish stories explaining something left unsaid in a Biblical tale.  Some enjoyable modern versions are by Rabbi Marc Gellman in
and his other  book. 
















If those books don't get you realizing how many questions about familiar stories you might use, consider the start of this poem by Howard Thurman.

The Work of Christmas

When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with the flocks,
then the work of Christmas begins . . .

If you want the rest of the poem, click the title as it's in many places on the internet and deserves reading, BUT the story it starts for me is those Wise Men, who are possibly rulers, returning to their lands.  What will it be like to try and regain their old positions?  (I doubt the shepherds found life with their flocks different, although Jay T. Stocking, in a 1937 book possibly still in copyright, has the story of "The Shepherd Who Did Not Go" in his book, Stocking Tales.  It's a lovely story of a boy who stayed behind to guard the sheep and had quite an adventure which even let him hold the Baby the others went to see.)

Whether it's the Bible, Shakespeare, or some other well-known story, look at characters who are possibly not the main focus or what happened to them after the well-known story ends.  A cartoon (again copyrighted and no permission given to reprint here) showed a princess and a frog skipping together along with a "prescription side effects warning" for Frog Kissing.  Hmmmmm.  Think of the old claim of warts coming from holding frogs.  What about Rapunzel's mother and her love of rapunzel (some versions call the plant rampion) next door in the witch's garden?  Similarly might a shampoo or other hair product carry a warning about letting your hair grow too long?  Sleeping Beauty's parents certainly should have checked the census records or at least etiquette books before holding their baby shower.  You get the idea.

All this came from my mind meandering after breaking my wrist.  It's not horribly far-fetched like when I have workshop attendees look at a simple incident and stretch it further and further in a tall tale such as items grown in the garden of a musician which might start out normally enough, but produce instruments and other musical fruit.

While waiting to see my own doctor, after the urgent care x-rays showed a broken wrist and put on a horrible splint, I went online tapping out in a sinister manner.  (Sinister originally meant left-handed.)  Tried to find suggestions for one-handed life since I expected 6-8 weeks of this.  Fortunately my doctor thinks 4-6 weeks!  Along the way I found a story starter worthy of a novel.  A stay-at-home mom had both wrists in casts along with two-year-old twins not yet toilet trained.  It sounded as if her husband was unable to take time off from work.  Did either his or her mother come to help, and, if so, how did that go?  Were they able to find a local helper?  Did she divorce him for his lack of support?  Oh the possibilities are endless, including a murder plot!

So it's time for me to stop and let you start.  Happy story starting!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Story Starters

Thank heavens for computer keyboards.  With a little bit of persistence I can tap out messages even with a cast on my dominant hand.  How did that happen everybody asks.  Years ago I chopped off the tip of my other hand -- the same hand which had earlier been in a cast for a broken wrist.  Fortunately there was just enough to reattach the thumb tip, but again everybody asked "How did that happen?"  Friends suggested all manner of answers.  This time my Ob/Gyn doctor gave a doozie of a story.

Dr. Zaidan said I should say I was at Target when a terrorist tried to take over.  I sized up the situation and did a Tom Cruise, Mission Impossible-style somersault, ending in a kick to the terrorist, knocking him senseless and tossing the gun out of his hand.  Police arrived and were stunned to learn I'd ended the hostage situation and only had a broken wrist for damages.  Thank you, Dr. Z!

I'd been saying I did a Triple Klutz . . . which I could have expanded into a late in life attempt to join the U.S. Olympic skating team.  Yeahrightsure.

What really happened was fairly boring.  Missed the step coming down off a ladder and had a limited space to land.

What really worried me was what would I do if I am still in a cast when my next Liberetta Lerich Green program is scheduled?  Liberetta grew up on an Underground Railroad Station here in Michigan (as well as having brothers in the Fighting Fifth Infantry during the Civil War), so February is often a month when I tell about the Underground Railroad from the stationmaster's point of view.  Asked my doctor what casts looked like 100 years ago since that's usually the timeframe in which I present her.  By that time she was the widow of Addison Green, who raised horses.  It would be easy to make a papier mache "cast" to fit over my more modern cast and say I was kicked by a horse.  Did it happen?  Not that I know, but it is true to her life and lets me get back to telling history as she viewed it.

All this got me thinking about the times when I offer workshops on story creation.  I'm not a big fan of personal stories.  I prefer either historical material or traditional folklore that has stood the test of time.  Is that all I tell?  Dunberidiculous!  I love to say I tell lies for fun and profit.  Part of that includes Tall Tales.  It's great to take a story and start out believably, gradually stretching it into wilder and wilder extremes.  Dr. Z. is a natural. 

Story starters are how I like to get a workshop thinking in stories.  Right now I'm exhausted trying to type all of this, so I'll use a favorite technique of storytellers . . . Suspense!  For some story starting ideas for you without even attending a workshop, look next week as I have a few that should really get you telling.

While prowling images of Tom Cruise I found a great image of him in Total Recall where his picture is dissolving.  The picture is copy protected, but what was really great and leads into next week is the question it asked . . .