Stories from the (S)Ages

Brian Sturm gave the closing keynote address at the national meeting of the Association of Bookmobile and Outreach Services, drawing wisdom from a variety of folktales from around the world to shed light on outreach services and their impact on communities. He shared the tale of Nasruddin Hodja who forgets to count the donkey he is riding when tallying his herd, a reminder to value yourself and what you offer; he shared the tale of The Stonecutter with the moral that you are strongest when you are yourself, not trying to be something else; and he told the tale of the Best Cookies in the World which foregrounds how easily we make assumptions of other people’s behavior, often to our embarrassment and regret.

Front Porch Stories in Bynum

Story Squad members Areej Hussein, Amy Sayle, and Brian Sturm joined Sarah Beth Nelson and her young daughter in an evening of folktales and personal stories at the Bynum Front Porch. This event occurs the second Saturday of every month with a rotating band of storytellers. It’s a delightful venue, open to the public, and since Amy shared a star story, many folks went out afterwards onto the Bynum Bridge for an impromptu star-gazing.

Storytelling to Bring “Hidden Voices” to Life

Brian Sturm gave a pre-conference workshop for the National Storytelling Summit in Kansas City on the ways in which stories can bring hidden voices to life.  He discussed folktales as vehicles for resistance to hegemonic forces and dominant voices; he explored the role storytelling can play in business branding and marketing and the voices and faces that are not included in those stories; and he explained how students in his first-year seminar at UNC built on these concepts to develop personal stories of resistance, struggle, and triumph over the forces of repression, racism, and bigotry that exist in modern American society.  The attendees came from all over the world and brought their own stories of how they use storytelling to reveal and heal social injustice and inequity.  What an experience!  The conversation was amazing; the caring was inclusive and expansive; and the feedback was wonderful: “This was truly one of the highlights for me of this years’ conference” and “I, too, had a moving experience in the gathering with Brian and all of you.  From my perspective there was much wisdom in the room, and I appreciated how Brian set the tone for us to share our specific gifts & abilities.  It’s one of the best conference experiences I have had in a long time.”

Fundraiser for Prevent Child Abuse NC

Story Squad and other storytellers in the Triangle area are teaming up to raise money for Prevent Child Abuse NC (PCANC).  We are holding a storytelling event on the theme of “Parenting is Hard: Stories from the Trenches!” at King’s in Raleigh (14 W. Martin Street).  Here are the details:

What: Storytelling (personal stories and folktales)

Where: Kings, Ralgeigh  (14 W. Martin Street)

Date: TUESDAY, JUNE 12th, 2018

Time: 7:00pm

Tickets: $40.  Advance tickets can be purchased here.

Here’s a map to the site.

Stories should be appropriate for older kids, but there may be some swearing, so please plan accordingly.

Please come out and support this wonderful organization!

Sharing Stories at Local Elementary School Reading Fair

Story Squad director, Brian Sturm, shared folktales with 2nd graders at Northside Elementary school in Chapel Hill yesterday as part of their annual Readathon. Brian brought his guitar and shared African stories of Anansi (the original spiderman) and Abiyoyo the giant, in keeping with the celebration of February as black history month.

Story Squad Receives $31,000 Gift from the Heineman Foundation

Story Squad has received another gift from the Heineman Foundation for $31,000 to continue to explore the value of video storytelling for children.  We are immensely grateful for the continued support of the Foundation, as we work to enhance the content and create the design of our Folktale Storytelling Digital Library (FSDL) project. We have a vision for bringing folktale storytelling back to communities and schools and libraries across the nation to help motivate young children to pick up books and read, and this support will enable us to hire more student storytellers to create the video content, and an information science student to help us design the webpage and searchable web database that will be the backbone of FSDL. We are also creating a curriculum guide to help teachers understand the roles folktales can play in youth education and meeting the various curriculum standards within which teachers work.

Some of the students we have hired to join this project are in the picture on the right.  These students will bring a wonderful energy and an international perspective to the FSDL that should help young children “see themselves” in both the stories and the storytellers.  We are looking forward to a semester of productive (and FUN) work on this project.


25th Winter Stories a Success!

Over 150 people joined in the annual Winter Stories tradition this year to enjoy storytelling of folktales from around the world, including Canada, Korea, Greece, Africa, and China.    Cliff Missen did a marvelous job playing the Hausa/Fulani cow horn xylophone, and the children were enthralled by the buzzy sound it created.  Cliff told us that the ends of the cow horns are cut off and covered with spider webs to create that unusual sound.  ALL of the hot chocolate disappeared over the course of the evening and most of the candy and treats.  We heard from one happy parent that his four-year-old daughter lent over in the middle of the storytelling and beamed, “I LOVE this time of year!”  That’s what it is all about!

Thanks to all who made this another delightful evening of stories and songs.

Time for the 25th annual “Winter Stories” on the UNC campus

Please join Story Squad for the 25th annual Winter Stories program, “Toasty Tales & Hot Cocoa” on Thursday, December 7, 2017 from 5:00pm – 6:30pm in Wilson Library’s Pleasants Room.  There will be hot chocolate and sweet treats at 5:00pm, Hausa cow horn xylophone music at 5:15pm, and the storytelling and singalong program begins at 5:30pm.  This is free and open to the public, so all are welcome, but please know that very young children (under 3 years old) may not be able to sit still for the storytelling program.

Story Squad on UNC radio – WXYC, 89.3FM

Story Squad Director, Brian W. Sturm, was interviewed for UNC Campus Radio, WXYC 89.3FM in November, talking about the power of storytelling, the mission of Story Squad, and the place of story in modern life.  The one-hour show included a storytelling performance by Tim Lowry and an interview with William R. Ferris, professor of history, and it can be heard here; the Story Squad piece of the show is at the beginning.

Record Attendance at the 8th Annual Storytelling Under the Stars

The annual collaboration between the storytellers at the School of Information and Library Science and the UNC Morehead Planetarium has taken a “giant step” forward.  Past attendance at the event has hovered around 85 people for the past several years, but this year we shattered that number with over 218 in attendance and more than 40 turned away at the door for fire safety reasons.  This event seems to have finally gained the traction we have been hoping for, whether due to extensive publicity, marvelous storytellers, or social media engagement, we are not sure, but we reveled in a capacity crowd for the first time, and we are now wondering whether next year will involve two shows instead of just one.  We’ll await the planning meetings for next year.

This year we had six storytellers from the INLS 558: Principles and Techniques of Storytelling class.  Jeremy Frye told the Greek story of the fall of the titans as Zeus overthrows Cronos, and the first constellation of the She-Goat Capricorn in commemoration of her nursing Zeus as an infant.  Amanda Girelli kept the Greek theme going with the beautiful story of Orpheus using his lyre to appeal to Hades for the return of his beloved Eurydice, and the ensuing sadness when he looks back too soon and loses his love (the constellation Lyra represents his musical instrument).  Brianna Davis, then told a Japanese story of the Weaver Girl and the Cowherd, who fall in love and neglect their heavenly duties, inciting the Lord of Heaven to destroy the celestial bridge that connects the two lovers on either side of the heavenly river (Milky Way).  Once each year, he forms a bridge of birds so they can be reunited.  Jim Curry continued the Greek theme with the story of the Queen’s Vanity, a story that explains many of the fall constellations (Cassiopeia, Perseus, Cepheus, Cetus, and Andromeda); the story, briefly, is that Cassiopeia bragged she was more beautiful than the gods, who punished her by demanding she sacrifice her daughter, Andromeda, to the sea monster Cetus. Perseus saves her with the head of the gorgon, Medusa, turning Cetus to stone.  The gods them place Cassiopeia in the heavens but in a throne that circles the north star, so she is sometimes upside down in a most undignified position.  Ellen Cline then told a Native American (Assiniboine) story about the seven brothers who want to remain together always, and who choose to be stars.  Jessica Kincaid finished the evening with a Hopi tale about the Boy Who Went to the Sun to find out who his father was, creating a path (Milky Way) of cornmeal and seashells to get there.  The Sun says the boy needs to learn more and sends him back to earth, where he pays attention to everything and learns patience. On his next visit (traveling partway by comet), his father, the Sun, welcomes him.

Thanks to Amy Sayle, educator at the Morehead Planetarium, for coordinating and championing the event, and to all the staff at the planetarium who made it such a rousing success.  We look forward to next year and continuing this marvelous community tradition.