How did you get started in storytelling?
As the oldest of six children, I was designated to help send my siblings to sleep. I think I probably fell asleep before they did but I got in a few tales and rhymes before we nodded off!
What (or who) inspires the stories you create and tell?
I am always keeping my ears open for the ordinary and rather extraordinary tales of my family and feel grateful for gifts of stories from those who tell me of historical characters. I am a Scandinavian Canadian through and through and seek connections to my past through the Sagas of the Vikings and the folklore of the common people.
What was your favourite story as a child? Why?
I loved so many tales but I was always seeking to know myself better through knowing my family. I remember asking my parents for tales of the olden days. They were ever so captivating as they offered tales of their most daring exploits. I loved hearing my mother (seventh child out of ten) tell of boldly robbing Magpie nests with her sister. My father recounted catching a glimpse of his mother’s blooming belly by the light of an evening lantern, and deduced all by himself that she was pregnant with his baby sister.
How can teachers use storytelling in the classroom?
I have worked with teachers in classrooms, helping them to expand their curriculum through storytelling for more than 20 years now. When stories are offered orally the children are able to use the art of listening to make their own connections and associations. Kindergarten children still hold the magical gift of the tongue since they are so close to their days of acquiring language through listening. All through the years of childhood and beyond people are captivated by the rhythm, the emotion and especially the love in the human voice. Most want to listen, many wish to try to find their own voice and make it heard.
A story offered in oral form can be negotiated, molded, reshaped, tested and expanded before any writing has taken place. Everyone needs to be exposed to storytelling!
What are you looking forward to most during TD Canadian Children’s Book Week?
I have done this tour once before — 13 years ago when I toured Newfoundland. It was a glorious journey of discovery where I made new friendships. I want to know secret corners of my country as yet unknown to me. I know that Ontario is a huge province with a fascinating history. My ancestors passed through Ontario on their way to Alberta from Iceland and Denmark on various journeys between 1874 and 1929. It was not a direct route for most of them. I am excited to visit family in Sudbury and to make new friends in so many other towns and cities of Ontario. There will be stories to tell and many more for me to learn. I can’t wait to begin.