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Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Conference to Remember!

Fellow storytellers said they found my account of the 2012 National Storytelling Conference like being there with me.  Starting with the Pre-conference, looking at Cincinnati and the Kentucky elements, this may encourage you to find out more about some of the sessions and other experiences.  It may even encourage you to plan towards the August! 2013 conference in Richmond, VA.

Signed up for the National Storytelling Network conference waaay in advance, as the earliest of Early Bird registration saved money, also a year ago I promised YES! chair, Lyn Ford, I'd help with the Youth, Educators, Storytellers (YES!) Alliance pre-conference.  In the past, since the NSN conference always moves to various locations, I'd stayed offsite (a) at a relative's home; (b) with my husband in a tourist cabin near a commuting route; (c) at a "sleep cheap" with a roommate.  As a result of "c" I waited, expecting to find a MI or other roommate, but as the conference approached I began to panic.  MI residents either couldn't attend or weren't coming for my entire time.  (The pre-conference meant arriving Tuesday to help with set-up, NOT a popular option, but still within the range of any others attending the two pre-conferences which began early Wednesday.)  Cincinnati's nicknamed the Queen City and it began to look like it might require a queen's ransom.   This time the bulletin board for roommate and travel didn't help me because I wanted to stay in one place throughout.  The incredibly helpful Kit and Karin at the NSN office -- multiply me times similar members to show how spectacular these 2 are -- suggested hotels on the trolley line since the conference hotel was booked.  They also suggested parking garages, local members to answer questions, and taxi possibilities for when the trolley stopped at 10 or started late on the weekend. 

Couldn't micro-manage it from a distance.  Was incredibly lucky to find a roommate in Renee Englot from Canada.  She thought surely I'd found a roommate when she requested 1 on Storytell, the international email list for storytellers.  We took a chance on a downtown Cincy 3 star hotel w/o knowing what it was.  Reviews, factoring out snobs and the hard to please, still were worrisome -- that + trolley/parking difficulties.  Through it all Renee was a great mate in the week's constant activity.  (The hotel, the Milennium, also turned out fine.)

Not to worry.  It was easy circling downtown Cincy and KY areas to find the best parking choices.  The trolley  was fun, even when I accidentally caught the Newport trolley.  Got a story loving driver who gave a tour through Newport.  Passed Thompson House -- owned by the inventor of the Tommie Gun.  Go to Thompson House history to learn way more than just the marker mentions.  It has history in the War of 1812 -- see my 2 April posts about the War of 1812 and the River Raisin Massacre for a bit more on Kentucky in that war, was part of the Underground Railroad, and is said to be haunted.  Perfect material for storytellers.

Even my briefest of visiting revealed downtown Cincinnati was fun to walk, with the Cincinnati Library (had to visit it, of course!), interesting decorated pigs all over, the Underground Railroad Freedom Center,  the river -- I'm a born and bred St. Louisan so it felt like home, and lively nightly music in Fountain Square where I could pick up and return on the trolley.

Tuesday night we learned YES!'s 2d of our 2 afternoon pre-conference speakers flight was canceled.  We managed with our a.m. keynote from Susan O'Halloran and our other afternoon speaker, Karen Chace.  I was to introduce Karen and was confident, correctly so, as she talked about the many ways she handles youth storytelling clubs.  I've known her and her work from Storytell for a long time.  Fabulous job...of course.  Karen's website and blog has a great many of her ideas and handouts on storytelling clubs and much more. The evening ended with a lively performance by Filament Theatre inspired by folktales.
From the Circle, Filament Theatre Ensemble, Folktales, Sustainability, Chicago, Theatre, Music
From the Circle: Remembering the Earth Through Folktales

Thursday I walked to the library for a few questions and then spent the rest of the day at the Underground Railroad Freedom Center.  There's also a surprising amount of Native American information there and their research library gave leads on an UGRR conductor important to the woman, Liberetta Lerich Green, whom I portray.  (See past posts.) She grew up on a local UGRR station.  I'll check the Troy, MI location where Peter Jackson apparently lived in the 1850s, then more on his later family life in Canada's Essex County.

I read somebody's (?) post about storytelling friend, the late Mark Wilson, and continue to learn from him...I plan to set aside money all year long to decide if I can afford future conferences.  My Scottish ancestors might have fits at how I committed myself, then began to panic, but the conference was needed and useful.  Such conferences
  1. reconnect me with friends and colleagues; 
  2. provide new ideas and stories; 
  3. refresh my commitment to a career that often can feel as if I'm all alone.  My next post will hit the high points about the actual conference's value.  Not the same as attending, but still hope it may provide leads to you on those 3 conference benefits.
LoiS(orting through a PACKED week)
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