Telling Tales Festival 2017

I wrote in my blog last week that I had submitted a micro fiction story to 50 Words Stories. Well guess what? I received word on Sunday that I was going to have my piece published on Monday! Yay! Click here to read my submission, which is called “Lost”. It’s been a while since I have been published, so this was certainly a confidence booster.
My next target is Commuter Lit. I am planning on revising and then submitting the story that I submitted to the WOW contest. For Commuter Lit’s submission guidelines, click here.
Now I know I wrote in my last blog post that this week’s subject would be books on creativity. However, I forgot that it was the Telling Tales Festival in Rockton last week, so I will push the books on creativity blog post to another week.

Melanie Fishbane introduces "Anne of Green Gables" and "Anne of Avonlea"

Melanie Fishbane introduces “Anne of Green Gables” and “Anne of Avonlea”

My daughter and I arrived just in time at the festival to hear Melanie Fishbane talk about her novel “Maud”. “Maud” is a historical fiction about writer L.M. Montgomery, who is most famous for her book “Anne of Green Gables”. “Anne of Green Gables” is one of my favourite books of all time, so I can’t wait to read this novel about Montgomery’s life, although it is to a certain extent fictionalized. However, Fishbane certainly did her homework when she researched Montgomery for the story. It took Fishbane 4.5 years to write the book, and she used many primary sources including Montgomery’s journals. I was surprised to hear that Montgomery was actually very funny and satirical. That was never my impression of her. Was it yours?

Elizabeth MacLeod

Elizabeth MacLeod

Next we listened to a talk by Elizabeth MacLeod, who wrote “Canada Year by Year” to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday. I was surprised at how much knowledge MacLeod imparts in her book. In her presentation, she talked about people from a wide range of history starting with Alexander Graham Bell and ending with Craig Kielburger. How was she able to research it all? MacLeod was very engaging and got the audience involved with her questions and props.

Melanie Florence

Melanie Florence

The final speaker was Melanie Florence. I loved Florence’s first picture book called “Missing Nimama”. At this talk, Florence was introducing her second picture book called “Stolen Words” . This story is based on a conversation she wished she could have had with her Cree grandfather. Her grandfather attended residential school and erased all records of his life before attending residential school. They don’t even know what his name used to be. Can you imagine? I admire Florence for her ability to make difficult topics accessible to younger readers. Both books are well worth a read. I look forward to reading her soon to be published third picture book called “My Blue Suitcase”, also about residential school.
What I most like about the Telling Tales Festival is that it is still small enough that many of the author talks feel like intimate gatherings. I really enjoyed my time there, and I am already looking forward to next year’s event.
Have you been to any recent book events? Are there any new books that you have read recently that you recommend? Leave me a comment below.

Bringing History to Life

On Sunday, I attended a fabulous talk by Mary-Eileen McClear, a storyteller for more than 30 years, called “Bringing History to Life”.

These are three of the many things that we talked about:

1. You have to know what your story is about. Try diluting it into six words.
I had heard about writing what your story is about in one sentence to maintain focus, but never in six words. This was a fun exercise, and one I will revisit. For some inspiration, go to the six word stories website.

You can also watch this video done by Larry Smith about how six words are often the way in.

2. Story ideas are everywhere.
To prove her point McClear randomly handed out articles she had saved. It was fascinating to hear what stories and connections people came up with based on the article they received. My subject was one that I am going to research more to see if I can turn her story into a children’s story.

That very day I started to read Jane Urquhart’s book called “A Number of Things: Stories About Canada Told Through 50 Objects”, in which she talks about Canada’s history as seen through 50 objects. The author suggests we find 50 different objects and make another version of Canada’s history. I think this is a valuable exercise. Perhaps you do not want to do it about a country’s history, but instead your local history or even your own family history. Who knows what stories there are just begging to be told? Perhaps it is an exercise that is valuable to revisit at the next PiBoMoId in January.

3. Find your way into a story by first discovering why you were intrigued.
You need to connect to your story first so that you will be able to help your reader connect to it. So what intrigued you about the story in the first place? And what emotions did the story bring up? Your readers also need some sort of emotion to connect with.

The afternoon was a fun filled one, and I definitely want to participate in future storytelling seminars.

For now though I have a lot of ideas to work with. One suggestion was to listen to storytellers like Syd Lieberman. Listen to the story called “The Johnstown Flood of 1889” for an exceptional example of making a story come alive through senses. Enjoy!

Latitudes Storytelling Festival: Part 2 with Guest Blogger Lori-Ann Livingston

In the previous guest blog of Latitudes Storytelling Festival founder Lori-Ann Livingston, Lori-Ann answered questions about the benefits of storytelling, why the festival was founded, and what she hoped to accomplish with the festival.

In today’s guest blog, we learn about the use of computer technology at the festival.


1. How do you incorporate computer technology with your festival?

This is something we’ve started exploring in the last couple of years, with our partnership with Dwight Storring, a digital storyteller and photographer. Dwight’s workshops help individuals craft their stories in such a way that the story is foremost. The story audio is recorded, matched with some personal images, edited on the computer, and somehow, miraculously, a story emerges with poignancy, advocacy, reflection and personal insight.

Our Made in Kitchener project, which Dwight also initiated, uses QR codes on stickers on the sidewalks — once the code is scanned, it takes you to a series of stories about several locations around downtown Kitchener; former factories, union halls, churches, etc.
We’ve also had bloggers and app developers and filmmakers on our stages to tell their stories, and the connections they make through stories. And for awhile, we had a story geocache, which is a bit like a treasure hunt using clues and a GPS to find the cache. In ours, people who found it could leave a story, or take one of ours. I think our cache is no longer around, though. It’s gone to find its own story . . .

I’d like to add, though, that technology takes a back seat to the story. It’s a means to an end.


2. Do you find the use of the latest technology to be controversial? Some people are very traditional; what would you say to them about that?

Yes, there are many storytellers in this area; they are traditional tellers with amazing repertoires and performance experience, and without them, there would be no storytelling in this area. Many are purists, who would feel the festival has got it kind of wrong. I sort of feel like I’m a bit of an upstart, though. I have no storytelling experience — I think of myself as a story writer — and yet, with the help of a lot of people, and the hard work of a few, we have this unusual storytelling festival that embraces technology and the arts as tools or means to tell stories. It doesn’t quite fit with tradition. I wouldn’t say it’s controversial, maybe; at least that’s not the sense I get. Traditional storytellers are artists, too; don’t get me wrong. Their craft requires the same creativity and discipline and joy that artists thrive upon. I guess I’m just looking at story a bit differently. It’s not better, it’s not worse, and there is a place for everyone around the storytelling circle, I think.


3. How can parents bring storytelling into their home?

Made in Kitchener

Latitudes and Longitudes Storytelling Project

(Click on “Garret’s trip to Ireland” for a good example of how children can become involved.)


Thank you to Lori-Ann Livingston for sharing her insights about Latitudes Storytelling Festival. This year’s festival is to be held on June 22-June 23. We hope to see you there.

Storytelling: Latitudes Storytelling Festival with Guest Blogger Lori-Ann Livingston

We sat there, enchanted, my daughter and I, for several hours. Around us were many other children and adults, some sprawled on the comfortable pillows, others leaning forward on the chairs, drawn into the storytellers’ weaving of their tales.

We were at Latitudes Storytelling Festival, an annual event, which is part of the Tapestry series. It is held in Victoria Park in Kitchener and surrounded by the sights and sounds of the Multicultural Festival. I always pick out my food at the Multicultural Festival, and then head on over to the storytelling tent, where I know I won’t be disappointed.

It’s not easy to be a storyteller. You need to be able to  connect with the audience, often only using your voice and your facial expressions. I often wonder how they can do it. A bit of research told me that because of the connection between the listener and teller, the social element of language is employed.

While I admire those who can captivate with an oral tale, I am a storyteller of a different nature, one who pens her stories. But I love listening to stories, just as much as I love reading them.

I admit that I spend my time in the children’s section, although there is a section for adults. Last year, one of the highlights was Rukhsana Khan telling her story, which is now an award winning book called “The Big Red Lollipop”.

Listening to stories used to hold a very important place in every culture, before stories were written down. Somewhere along the line, it took on less importance. But now many people, realizing the benefits of storytelling, are reviving it. The result of one study suggested that among other benefits children could recall more from listening to a storyteller than from reading a story. This is because storytellers tend to use more gestures, repetition, and sounds when telling a story.

So I wanted to hear from Lori-Ann Livingston, the founder of the festival, about why she founded the festival, what she hopes it brings, and her take on technology in today’s storytelling.

Lori-Ann has kindly done some guest blogging for me. Here today is the first of two parts.


1. What are the benefits of storytelling?

Storytelling explores community narrative. It teaches, passes on wisdom and humour and history. Those are benefits ancient civilizations have known for ages (literally!). Other benefits are that stories entertain. Hollywood knows that. I think storytelling helps cultures and communities understand each other. It’s hard to argue with someone when you know their story. You might not agree with their point of view, but you can’t dismiss it, either.

This community has stories of new Canadians, refugees, abuse, innovation, war, faith and so many other threads that make it up. I see the value in capturing some of those stories, whatever way we can, and also in sharing those with an audience, so that there is a legacy of story to pass on.


2. Why did you decide to found a storytelling festival?

I didn’t start out to create a storytelling festival. I started out inspired by a liberal arts festival in the UK called Greenbelt, which mixes the arts with religion and politics and storytelling in all sorts of ways. I wanted to re-create that open dialogue, open approach here when we moved back to Canada, but somehow it morphed into a storytelling festival. Not a bad thing at all. I still feel like the right thing happened at the right time, with the right people.

So, that kernel of a liberal arts festival that’s down to earth, creative, mindful of the environment, etc. — those are all things I aspire to for my festival, and maybe achieve some of the time. But it wasn’t until Trinity United Church, a downtown Kitchener congregation, wanted to celebrate one of their milestones that we saw how a storytelling festival would be a good fit. Indeed, that first festival in 2006 had a room dedicated to Trinity’s stories, and stories of faith. Which I think is an important part of my story, and many people’s stories.


3. What do you hope to accomplish with your storytelling festival?
I hope we have created something that appeals to all walks of people, because we use such a broad range of the arts and technology to tell stories on our stages. I hope people will think about story differently, in particular, their own narrative and how that intersects with the community. I’d like to think we’re a bit cutting-edge, as we make forays into digital storytelling, talk to app developers and bloggers and journalists about the power of story.

And I want people to get away from the notion or perception that stories are just for children.


For more information about Latitudes Storytelling Festival, go to their website.

Stay tuned for part two, where Lori-Ann blogs about using technology with storytelling.