How did you get started in storytelling?
In 1991 while working as a tour guide for Toronto’s Ecology House and Ecology Park, I found that telling stories with ecological themes were the best way to get across the values of conservation and caring for the environment I wanted to get across to the children. During this time, from 1991-1996 I was storyteller in residence for the Spiral Garden, an out doors inter-active arts program for children undergoing treatment at the Hugh MacMillan Rehabilitation centre in Toronto. The free form anarchy nature of the Spiral Garden meant that at any time I could be challenged to tell a story to an audience of one at the House of Legends, or make up a tale in the center of the the Labyrinth to all the children, using objects made by them as inspiration, to more formal sessions telling traditional folktales during lunch time.
Later I attended the Spiral Garden’s sister program, the Butterfly Peace Garden in Batticaloa, Sri Lanka.
What (or who) inspires the stories you create and tell?
The storytellers at Toronto’s 1001 Friday Nights have been a source of inspiration and stories for over 35 years, as one needs to be a story listener to be a storyteller. I love to find stories in booksand have a personal library of about 6,000 books of folktales, the Four Winds Storytellers Library which I make available to storytellers. Over the years I have composed and told my own stories, “How the Animals Got Their Voices” is a regular part of my performances. At the Spiral Garden, I developed the Story Stone, a story creation activity that uses small objects placed on a flat stone as inspiration for new stories. In the fall of 2013, I took the Story Stone to Scotland, England, Switzerland, Israel, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
What was your favourite story as a child? Why?
My favourite book was 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, by Jules Verne. I loved reading about the travels and adventures of Captain Nemo in the Nautilus and I am sure it inspired my love of travel to this day.
How can teachers use storytelling in the classroom?
Teachers can use storytelling, or more important, story listening, to promote literacy, social connections between student and curiosity about the world the listener lives in. Through story the listener travels around the world, exploring the cultures and countries from which they came, fostering better connections between cultures of the children living in Canada. Story can be used to teach about the environment we live in and the need to protect our world.
What are you looking forward to most during TD Canadian Children’s Book Week?
While I look forward to telling stories at all the venues, I am particularly excited to telling enviro mental stories on the Mohawk Kahnawake Territory to the children of Katari and Karonhianonhnha schools.