Monday, November 30, 2009

A fave story - but where did I find the orginal???

Any one know where this tale comes from?
MAY '06 Money or Wealth?
retold by Norah Dooley © 2006

An old widow woman lived by herself on the side of a mountain. She collected and sold herbs and plants for healing of body and soul. Often she traveled far from her home, collecting rare flowers and roots. Sometimes she was lost but never for too long.

One day, while she was traveling deep in the forest below the mountain she stopped to rest and she dangled her tired toes in a small stream. She saw in the water a bright and surely precious stone. She plunged her hand into the cold water and pulled the stone to her. She held it in the light and enjoyed it’s color and brilliance. She looked at it for quite a while, and then put it in her food bag where she forgot about it completely.

The next day, as she traveled deeper into the forest, the old woman met a traveler. He was young, lost and more than a little hungry. They spoke of their ventures and then the old woman opened her bag to share her food. The hungry traveler saw the precious stone. He said in a harsh voice-- “Leave off the food woman, will you not give me the stone?”.

The woman looked up in surprise but immediately handed the stone to the man.
“Gladly I will, “ she said, “It is no more mine than yours and I have enjoyed its beauty already.” The man grasped it and turned to leave,
“Would not like some tea or to eat?” she called after him.

The traveler did not answer, just waved the woman off but he was smiling and marveling at his good fortune. He thought the stone was worth enough to give him security for a lifetime. Inside his head he heard a small far away voice question taking such wealth from such a shabby old woman. This voice he waved away also. With his stone clutched in his hand he headed straight away for the capital.

After a few bitterly disappointing days in the city where he was almost swindled, was in fact arrested for the theft of his own stone and then released and nearly killed by robbers, he found himself retracing his steps. At last he found the cottage of the old woman.

Her home was very small and had one or at most two of everything -- cups, plates, chairs. Though neat and clean, all was worn and threadbare save for the abundant flowers and plants that grew inside and out.
“ That seals it!” he said out loud but as if to himself.
“Ah, you have come back for some tea?” said the old woman and she stopped sorting dried flower heads and ladled water from an earthen ware jar.

The man reached inside his shirt and took a bag from round his neck.
"I've been thinking," he said to the woman,
"I know now exactly how valuable that stone is.”
“Really?” said the woman putting the kettle on the hearth for tea.
“Really. “ And he told of his misadventures in the city while she clucked and nodded appreciatively.

“I'll give this gem back to you in the hope that you can give me something even more precious.” he looked hopeful as he finally sat down as he had been asked.
“Dear me,” said the woman , sitting across from him in a rickety straight backed chair. “ That stone and I, we were but a happenstance. You see -- here, all my worldly goods in one glance -- ah, do take me in also, my cloak and dress and shoes. What you see is all that there is”
“Yes,” said the man. “I can clearly see that. But I also see your wealth. That is what I want .”
“Really?” she said , looking puzzled.
“If I give you this stone, can you give me what you have that allowed you to give me the stone."
“Oh!, “ she exclaimed. This made her laugh out loud - a loud and throaty laugh.
“Oh, do sit down.” she ordered. Seeing her mirth caused the man distress she stopped laughing at once. “Sit and have some tea and we will talk.”
The traveler pulled the stone from the bag.
“Oh no," said the woman. " Do not give me that troublesome pebble! I have everything I need, all the joys and all the sorrows.” said the woman.

The man still looked puzzled.

“I gave it to you.” said the widow, in a matter of fact tone. “When you are finished --pass it along. Then you will have everything you need. Really, it is that simple.”


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Who do we think we are?

I posted this at the storyteller's listserv - a question From Slash Coleman's blog:

"Oftentimes, others can pinpoint the theme of your work much easier than you can. This week, I suggest you interview others to begin to narrow your brand. What are you trying to say with your artwork? You may not know. So, this week, bite the bullet and ask 3-5 friends what they think the underlying theme is in your art form. You may be surprised at their feedback. "

A few responses below:

"Ten or fifteen years ago I was informed by different trusted friends on several different occasions that the basic theme of the stories I wrote & told was “dealing with loss.” Hearing this was a disappointment to me. “Loss” is not a particularly funny topic and I had designed my stories to be funny. They made people laugh. Therefore, I had assumed that I was a humorist. These stories were more complicated in their construction than, say, a long joke. I knew that they’d bomb at a comedy club (in fact I’m pretty sure they did once.) But given the right listening venues, people laughed in recognition of seeing themselves in my stories, so how was it possible that at the center of my material was the sad little core of loss?

Time passed. Things changed. I grew older and gained more life experience. I now understand that the basic theme of my stories is . . . loss. Yep, some things may change with time, but not the core of my stories. Perhaps I should gather 3–5 unbiased friends to ask again what THEY think is my main theme. Wouldn’t it be nice to hear something other than “dealing with loss.” I doubt that my friends will come up with something different. But I might as well ask. Hey, what have I got to lose?" from Pat Spaulding

And then this reply:
"The thing about our art is that it is not art unless we come from a specific vantage point/know why we we are sharing a story. This knowledge, though it helps us to shape a coherent piece often means zip to the listener, as you have no idea what is going on in their life, where they will attach to the tale, and what meaning they will draw from it. It's glorious. We must own it, then give it away." from Judith Black

And another from Marni Gillard:
Pat, your post made me smile. I too VERY often tell tales of loss. I had one huge loss and a whole lot of disappointment in my young childhood and without realizing it at first, I became a teller who both tells and elicits from others tales of loss. People carry such tales unconsciously (or consciously) and resonate with such tales when they hear them. Mine, at moments are also full of humor and with luck and some surrender on my part, I do bring us all home to a place of safety when I conclude them. Loss is big part of everyone’s life. Yet, we tend to AVOID it as a subject, so I feel that my stories (and my work helping others free their hidden tales) are helping the world go to that place where they want to go but also resist.

Having said that, I know that stories are heard and told on MANY levels. While being about loss my tales are also about courage, foolishness, stuborness, joy, yearning, and often about the error of inattention. Stories ultimately – in my thinking - are always about knowing ourselves and loving ourselves (whether foolish, jealous, greedy, inattentive or deeply sorrowful).

Good for you for gathering buddies or unbiased friends (is there such a thing?) to listen to your tales with the ears and eyes to reflect what they hear. For years I’ve gathered new and experienced tellers at my home to share tales. We support each other in awakening to what our stories are REALLY about and how to relax into those themes. I say BRAVO if you dare to tell tales of loss. The world needs them.

My repsonse:
Yes, and...very true and I think what you said is also true of paintings and plays and novels and poems - well, art itself, no? Another question is, on a more base and very practical level - How do we present what we each of us do as storytellers? When we speak of ourselves to prospective clients? Are we representing what we ACTUALLY seem to be doing most ( a la - Pat Spaulding? tx Pat )- or Are we representing best hopes and our intentions? Do we say in answer to the question, What is your "brand" a litany? I am your Italian- Irish-NYC born-American, tragi-comical personal tale teller,picture book writing, early 18th century female pirate, various historical character presenting, storyteller ?

Or will we,nay, should we say:

" I am an "artiste" dammit - what I do is, tell stories. Every kind, length, shape and size of story known to human kind. Deal, all you branders and marketers out there - I do not do 'niche'. Do not look for an exact 'fit', story fits everywhere" Both are typical responses from me to that Q. What does it matter? I can think of time when it will matter very much and other situations where a rat's behind is approx value I place on "who thinks what "

Interesting twist on this idea that Slash Coleman had was for us to ask other people what THEY think we are doing?

So, I am curious - what do people tell you? What would people tell me? tell me if you find this idea interesting or just annoying ?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

videos from story slam NOV 23

Thanks to Bill Thompson and the amazing Doria Hughes we have a whole set of videos at massmouth or

She wrote: "Between contestants at massmouth's second Story Slam, Norah Dooley - ably assisted by co-host Jess Sutich - slipped in this rather shocking short story of one d-eel-icious meel that she sadly missed out on."

Find more videos like this on MASSMOUTH The Power of Story

From Rick F. a long time friend and the man with all the good stories. The story above was his. I hope he will come one night and tell one. He delivers all the exquisite details and has a fine appreciation of irony and theater of the absurd.

"Ah yes, I remember it well. So glad that it struck you and will now provide amusement for others. You may want to include the unpleasant moments that followed: each horrible "Oscar Mayer eel slice" was drizzled with a piquant sauce before being placed in front
of each diner. Then the hosts eagerly watched each of our faces, expecting smiles and sounds of lip-smacking relish.

Instead, they saw each of us turn green, gray, etc. as we shuddered, apologized, bowed, begging their understanding that we. just. couldn't. eat. it.

We then watched as their faces reddened and scowls appeared. They began to resemble the angry, demonic temple guardian statues we had seen everywhere. They grunted, hissed, exchanged knowing scowls at each other. "These thankless gaijin just didn't appreciate the honor of being served such a delicacy!"

This just in: Also from my dear friend Rick:
Did I tell you the other Japanese dining horror?

The restaurant where they set a heated, flat stone in front of you, along with a platter of sheep's ovaries and other assorted guts?

"You drop them on the hot stone, they sizzle, inflate and burst, then you dip the wretched things in shoyu and chow down (or in our group's case, DON'T chow down) and yes, followed by glaring demon faces and grunts from the Japanese hosts who belabor how expensive, how delicious the goodies you are leaving on your plate are. "

Mr. Sensei's eating habits are looking more and more conservative.

Enforced Day of Silence

I takes a lot to shut me up. But laryngitis hits me about once a year and it is usually severe enough to make silence a done deal. In fact, this is the exact year to date from the last time. I remember "talking" with the director of the school where I was incarcerat--- working last year,on the WED before T-Day. I was asking about room use and sounding, even to myself, quite outta-me-mind. I "explained" that I was just trying to vocalize thru the frozen chords but I bet this made me even scarier. *sigh* I did not get the room for which I was advocating and pleading. But that is a longer story.

Doctors say that complete aphonia—loss of the ability to speak—is extremely rare. When it does happen, it often is the result of emotional or psychological stress.
I am feeling pretty unstressed and in a weird way, thinking not speaking for a day will be restful and good for me. Especially if I can get all the voices in my head to take the day off too.

So, I am thinking of all things I am thankful for and, as I am sure my family would echo, if I spoke it, being thankful for this silence too.

A vow of silence

Key to bliss may be as simple as turning off your car radio

In a stressed-out world filled with 24/7 bad news, author Anne D. LeClaire has discovered the key to calm and bliss.

On the first and third Mondays of each month, she practices silence. No talking to her husband, her publisher or her two grown children, no chatting with the occasional houseguest, the repairman or neighbors. No one.

“On silent days, I try to have nothing on the calendar,” LeClaire explains from her home in Cape Cod, Mass. “Sometimes I’ll be traveling for a book tour, but the silence is still with me. I can’t be complaining and grumbling if a flight’s delayed, I don’t get involved in all the hassle.”

The result: “The days are peaceful, and I release all my stress.”

LeClaire began her silent Mondays 16 years ago after walking on the beach to contemplate her sadness about a friend’s mother dying. The former reporter and radio broadcaster wasn’t particularly religious and wasn’t the quiet type. But she heard the words, “Sit in silence” in her head. The decidedly unflaky LeClaire announced to her husband she’d spend the next day not talking.

Since then, she has eliminated e-mail, radio and television from her silent days, though she’ll sit at the computer and work on novels.

“My single determination when I began was to not speak,” says LeClaire, whose ninth book, “Listening Below the Noise” (Harper, $19.99), documents her experience with quiet. “But the more comfortable I became with silence, the more I thirsted for it, and the sounds I’d accepted unquestionably became noise.” Full article, click here.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Eating up the stories...NOV 23 slam

Last night at Kennedy's Midtown we had +50 people + 10 fabulous judged stories on dining disasters + 2 mini features by the judges Judith Black and Kevin Brooks + some improv games - "Two Truths and A Lie " and 1 minute stories on random food haiku. Jess Sutich was a great co-host, funny, great timing and she remembered all the details I forgot - which was, sadly, all the details. 

This month the stories were deliciously good! Easily, many prize winning stories in the set. Thanks to all who came out, supported, organized and made the magic happen.

Thanks to the Judges who had a really hard job - so many good stories. In random order? Well, they did it! We thank them from the bottom of our hearts. Our judges for NOV 23rd were: Bambi Good ( who organized and trained the 3 teams)and is volunteering as Chief Justice of the Slam Court - 
Judith Black(feature )
Kevin Brooks (feature), 
Jo Radner 
Bruce Marcus (OCT slam 2nd place)
, Paul Hlebovitsch (OCT slam 1st place), 
Alicia Quintano, 
D. Adriane Spunt
, and Bonnie Greenburg

We thank all the brave souls who threw their names and stories into the hat.NOV 23rd tellers:
 Sally Rae Rodgers, Michael Anderson, James McCoy, Maggie Birch, Danielle Shulman, Libby Franck, Susan Lenoe, and Doria Hughes

And our two winners: Lani Peterson 1st place and Nicolette Heavy 2nd place. Both won with stories of holiday meals gone wrong. See you all next month...DEC 14th - "it's my job"

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Acting - completely different or, is it?

Acting - completely different from storytelling - or, is it? Storytellers have no fourth wall. We do not create illusion, we create images together WITH the aduience, not FOR the audience. we can connect directly with audience as ourselves and can go in and out of character - if we have the skill - without ruining the performance. With this as my background I was excited to take an acting course. I fell into storytelling nearly 20 years ago, when the acting course I wanted was closed and the only course available as a possible elective, was Storytelling. I was in my mid thirties and wanted to study acting - I had been way too shy when I was in high school to do anything like perform in front of people. Art school (where I completed undergraduate work as a painter ) had no acting except for the extensive posturing of "artistes" but that is another story...

So Robert and I took an amazing acting course this fall - It was called - Fun With Shakespeare. It was many things but "fun"? Seems so trite. It was challenging, provocative, stimulating and supportive. It was also fun, but that was secondary. First of all we each learned two monologues and one scene. The language was dense and we had only 8 weeks - 2.5 hours a week of class time to do all this work. Luckily we had an amazing class - every student was serious and committed yet, none were annoyingly dour or critical. We all worked really hard.

Our instructor, director D.Adriane Spunt, was a fearless leader. She kept standards high while keeping anxiety low - this is a masterful skill for a director. Some of us had acted, some had just a wee bit of experience and long ago and others had never done anything like acting, ever. Adriane made us all at home in our experience and we worked together very well. My experience as a story teller probably helped me some, but I am very new to acting classes. When telling a story, I usually imagine myself to be the person of every voice I speak - BUT memorizing other people's words? Eeeek. I eventually got the hang of Portia's speech and decided I really liked having someone to talk to while I ranted and raved. And the beauty of the words was a treat.

The scene from Richard the III was challenging. I could not make head nor tails of Lady Anne at first. It made perfect sense that she would attack, even if it seemed suicidal, the creep who killed her husband. In her belief system, she could not escape her situation through direct suicide, so perhaps she was provoking Richard III to kill her? Yet, a few pages later, she takes his ring and we learn that she marries him. The story was really getting in my way of saying the words as written.

Having eyes outside of me and someone direct me and another actor to work with on all this was extremely enjoyable. As a storyteller, I tend to go into a story trance and allow the story to come through me.I do not think about or analyze much of what I do. Instead I perform by speaking the voices in my head and then checking in with the same voices about what I am doing. Kinda lonely. Kinda too mentally ill.

While acting, I felt more conscious and aware of the process and actually made choices about how I moved or spoke. It is a different process but one that would help me with my work. A story buddy ? *sigh* I have long hoped for one.

BTW - Here is Robert in Henry V...

Wonderful class !

Sunday, November 15, 2009

True or False, what's the dif ?

Why do people like reality TV, memoirs and personal narrative? My thought? Because they are real. And people yearn for real connection through story. Why do people feel ripped off by fiction or fictionalization in this area? Because it is lying. And when we discover that the connection we developed with the teller while listening is based on a false pretext, we feel violated in some way. Yet, good stories need some added imagination to become stories, don't they? Hellz yah!

Find more music like this on MASSMOUTH The Power of Story

We listen to "living" stories with awe and wonder because the person telling it also lived it. Or so we think. When what we hear and see in the performance does not add up we are confused. When the equation does not balance, we ponder and wonder. We will adjust our understanding of human possibility based on what we hear. So if what we are told is a lie, we feel cheated. Even angry.

Look at the the flap caused a few years ago by James Frey's book, A Million Little Pieces,: Jocelyn Noveck Associated Press wrote: "Does the author of a memoir have an unspoken contract with readers to be true to the facts? Even if those facts are intensely personal? Many have been asking that question since James Frey was accused this week of embellishing important parts of his best-selling (and Oprah-endorsed) memoir, "A Million Little Pieces," a searing account of his battle with substance abuse." Others, Mark Hvidsten, took this stance "His [Frey's] greater truth can't be measured by facts."

Frey's bio from wikipedia has this take on the story:

"The Minneapolis Star Tribune had questioned Frey's claims as early as 2003. Frey responded by saying, "I've never denied I've altered small details." In a May 2003 interview, Frey claimed that his publisher had fact-checked his first book. He stated, "The only things I changed were aspects of people that might reveal their identity. Otherwise, it's all true."

On January 11, 2006, Frey appeared with his mother on Larry King Live on CNN. He defended his work while claiming that all memoirs alter minor details for literary effect. Frey consistently referred to the reality of his addiction, which he said was the principal point of his work. Oprah Winfrey called in at the end of the show defending the essence of Frey's book and the inspiration it provided to her viewers, but said she relied on the publisher to assess the book's authenticity. Winfrey removed the references to Frey's work on the main page of her website, but left references in the Oprah's Book Club section earlier in the week.

On January 13, 2006, it was reported that all subsequent printings of A Million Little Pieces would include an author's note addressing concerns about the content.

Live confrontation with Oprah

As more accusations against the book continued to surface, Winfrey invited Frey on her show. She wanted to hear from him directly whether he had lied to her (and viewers) or "simply" embellished minor details, as he had told Larry King. Frey admitted to several of the allegations against him. He acknowledged that The Smoking Gun had been accurate when the website reported that Frey had only spent a few hours in jail rather than the 87 days Frey claimed in his memoirs.

Winfrey then brought out Frey's publisher Nan Talese to defend her decision to classify the book as a memoir. Talese admitted that she had done nothing to check the book's veracity, despite the fact that her representatives had assured Winfrey's staff that the book was indeed non-fiction and described it as "brutally honest" in a press release.

The media feasted over the televised showdown....Maureen Dowd wrote, "It was a huge relief, see the Empress of Empathy icily hold someone accountable for lying," and the Washington Post's Richard Cohen was so impressed by the confrontation that he crowned Winfrey "Mensch of the Year."

On January 27, 2006, Random House issued a statement regarding the controversy. It noted that future editions of the book would contain notes from both the publisher and Frey on the text, as well as prominent notations on the cover and on their website about the additions. It also noted that future printings of the book would be delayed until these changes were made, and these additions were also being sent out promptly to booksellers for inclusion in previously shipped copies of the book."

from the May 9, 2008 edition of the Christian Science Monitor:
Memoirs: whose truth – and does it matter?
Two years after the James Frey scandal, a still-roiled genre thrives.
By Matthew Shaer and Teresa Méndez | Staff writers of The Christian Science Monitor

"When it hits bookshelves early next month, author David Sedaris's new book, "When You Are Engulfed in Flames" will carry a short preface, labeling the contents "real-ish."

Buoyed by the success of a few flagship titles – including "Eat, Pray, Love," by Elizabeth Gilbert, and "Beautiful Boy," by David Sheff – the memoir category continues to be a source of strength for a publishing industry that has watched sales of literary fiction slip in recent years.

Mr. Sheff's book, a tale of his son's addiction to methamphetamines, hit the top slot on The New York Times bestseller list two weeks ago, and a movie deal is reportedly in the works. (It has since dropped to No. 4, behind a memoir by Julie Andrews.) "Eat, Pray, Love" is listed as No. 2 on the paperback list; the quasimystical account of self-discovery became a favorite of Oprah Winfrey, who endorsed the book exuberantly.

But memoir has also suffered a string of high-profile scandals, beginning in 2006 when the website The Smoking Gun found "wholly fabricated or wildly embellished details" in James Frey's memoir, "A Million Little Pieces." This year, author Misha Defonseca admitted that her widely read "Misha: A Mémoire of the Holocaust Years," was a fake: Ms. Defonseca lived in Brussels during World War II, is not Jewish, and was not raised by wolves. Then in March, Margaret Seltzer said she had manufactured "Love and Consequences," a crit­ically acclaimed tale of gang life in South Central Los Angeles.

"Fiction has lost its allure because of this primitive belief that memoir is more worthy, more authentic," says Todd Gitlin, a professor of sociology and journalism at Columbia University, and author of the memoir "The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage." At the same time, he says, "The bubble of a wholly reliable reminiscence has burst."


"I thought, OK, that's a good word. It's 'real-ish,' " Mr. Sedaris explains. "I guess I've always thought that if 97 percent of the story is true, then that's an acceptable formula. Put it on a scale. Is it 97 percent pure?"

'GBH cancels Folk and Blues music?

Forwarded to my email [thanks Marcia!] -

I wanted to forward to you a recent email sent by Richard Walton, the 'face' and host of Stone Soup coffeehouse for 25 years. His email is in response to WGBH cancelling their folk radio show as of December.
Hi, I urge every member of the Stone Soup board to write to 'GBH protesting the ending of folk music. Folk music venues all over New England have depended on that program which has, for years, been the pre-eminent folk show on radio in all of New England. Its departure will hurt folk music in New England and thus in the entire U.S. because N.E. is the very heart of American folk music and no radio station in the region nourished folk music the way 'GBH did for decades. You can go to and go to Contact Us at the bottom of the home page. I've already done that and I hope many others will do the same. Thank you. Peace. Richard.

This is from WGBH:
WGBH is devoted to bringing you new experiences, taking you to new worlds, and giving you the very best in educational content. We’re here for you — and it all happens thanks to your interest and generous support!"
contact them here.

As many of you know, WGBH will cancel its Saturday afternoon program, "Folk On WGBH" on December 1. This ends a historic commitment to American folk music on WGBH, that goes back to to the early 1970s. I want to urge you to contact WGBH, spread the word at your venues about this decision, and urge your audiences to contact them, too. WGBH needs to hear how much non-profit venues like yours depend on Folk on WGBH; how important folk radio is to the cultural life of this area; and how much it has meant that WGBH has always supported folk music. People can contact Audience Services/ WGBH/ One Guest Street/ Boston, MA 02135, or e-mail WGBH through its website, This is a time to make our voices heard. Scott Alarik

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

More on Cooking up a Story...


We spend a lot of time helping students find rich details to add to their writing. Over and over we emphasize how the five sense can be used to draw the reader in to the world and experience of the writer or storyteller. Rarely does it happen that a young elementary student has too much detail. But it does occur in upper grades and in the story world too. In these cases an exercise that sought to encourage richness is embarrassed by gluttony. The "riches" of an overly detailed sensory experience can crush a plot and settings or characters too larded over in detail can cause the story to be lost.

When this happens I realize I need to mention that brainstorming and free writing in our journals are like shopping is to cooking. Not everything we bring home from the market or in from the garden will go into a meal. While the poisonous green leaves of a tomato are necessary to create a red luscious fruit, we will not add in any of the green plant of the tomato to our finished dish.

So it is with stories. There are many supporting details that connect and are essential to the best details for your story. As essential as these supporting details are, they must be left out for the story to be edible or listenable.

Somedays I fervently wish fellow storytellers would pay attention to this. Brevity is the soul of wit. And it takes time and attention. Or, as Blaise Pascal once said, "I have made this [letter] longer, because I have not had the time to make it shorter."
French mathematician, Blaise Pascal, "Lettres provinciales", 1657