Stories Matter

I grew up invisible – painfully shy, my family moving from state to state. My turning point didn’t come until, in a Masters program at Rhode Island School of Design, clearly selected by an inner self who knew this was the first of many cliffs I needed to jump off, I took a class in Creative Dramatics. There, I was exposed to the voiceless art form of mime, which I loved and went on to study further. I began to become visible through a silent medium of story.

I was also building small models of soft sculptures which I envisioned as giant public pieces to bring people together in play. With the scraps, I made puppets to sell at craft fairs – very boring. Why I chose to make puppets I really don’t know.

However, all this rolled together when I saw whole stories in the single image cartoons of Gahan Wilson and I built soft sculptured miming puppets to bring these to life.

My Mr. Grump made bad news phone calls until he received a happy mask!

Except then I had to face an audience – another cliff to jump off. Safely behind the scrim curtain, I did it, performing my original stories in small theaters and malls. When I began working in schools, to connect to curriculum areas, I drew on my copious reading background, and began to build folklore based shows.

I had no idea the puppets could actually support me, but the one thing I did have confidence in were my creative ideas, so I just kept building.

I did not feel prepared for any one particular job. I had received certification to teach art, but job openings were few. So I ended up building a life that valued time over money – which still suits me fine today.

I took a few year side track as a full time musician (a whole mountain range of cliffs there: adult bar audiences, the piano and fiddle to control, the male dominated musician world, etc., etc.) then the puppets called me back.

When the world wide family of puppeteers opened to me through a chance encounter, one step led to another, slowly but surely building up to taller cliffs, including the progression from terror to almost comfortable performing in Spanish. Italian was another story… As was Arabic. But that’s the thing about jumping off cliffs – it gets less scary, and yes, even fun.

The thread of writing ran through all these adventures, as I wrote all my scripts – either original stories, or creative adaptations of traditional tales – and wrote songs for the band, yet I never thought of myself as a writer. I did know that the writing was my favorite part of building a show and detested rehearsals as repetitive and boring (I did suffer through them).

Then the performance was the true test of the writing. Would the audience respond in the spaces I left for them, would they voice thoughtful responses when invited? And when they did, the circle was complete. The story itself was connecting imagination to imagination.

My education work began as school arts residencies generally tied to a curriculum area selected by a teacher.

I love the challenge and access to the imagination of children and look forward to creating classroom worlds where I am inspired by and learn alongside them.

I wrote The Sophisticated Sock: Project Based Learning through Puppetry because I simply had to share with teachers the projects I found to be so successful in engaging children to learn across the curriculum through the medium of story. Through classroom work, another path opened teaching teachers as well as presenting as an arts integration specialist at conferences.

And the education work has also taken me around the world as it is valued for English language teachers by the U.S. Embassy. Students of all ages have stories that must be told in one language or another!

So now, my writing path has led to the complex simplicity of the picture book. Inspired by children’s imagination, by cultures world wide, by literature and art of all kinds, by juxtaposition of fantasy and reality, and just a true love of playing with words.

Drop me a line, tell me a story! I’ll get back to you!