Storytelling. I spent a good chunk of yesterday afternoon at my third grader’s school, as it hosted a ‘book building’ event in support of the Horizons program. Naturally, the children were excited to see and hear, Jarrett Krosoczka, a very popular author of children’s books, talk about how he became an author and illustrator. His story of frequent rejection before he had his first book published was riveting and made more so by the way he told the story, stretching out the drama with the hope–often dashed–that someone would say yes. Soon, we were all enthralled. He walked around near a stage and skirted the feet of children pressing closer to get more from his talk.
After he had his hour of free speech, the children went to the cafeteria and tried to work on writing and drawing based on some brief story lines. One boy was stuck on how his story could develop and I gave him a suggestion. Another girl was playing with ideas and bouncing them off her mother’s brain. The professional author circulated and gave children ideas and tips. He also heard stories, some of which were new to him, some were old–because they were told by people who knew him or of him and wanted to share that. I went home and gave a short summary to my child of how the event had gone; she’d decided to spend some time with her mother.
I’m writing and listening to the radio. The stories flow. Protestors confronting police. Footballers assaulting a young girl at a party. Snowfall causing minor havoc in nearby areas. Voter registration and identity confusion in Arizona. “May I photocopy your birth certificate?…Prove your citizenship…” I heard.
My little one is reading about three different adventure novels. Dragons. Manticores. Wizards. Talking trees. She ran to the car last night before she went to bed. “Ohhhhh….Where is my book?” I heard the car door slam shut and her feet pounding up the stairs. Then quietness. I guess she’d found the book and that it had served its purpose. Had she read to herself? Had her mother read to her? Had they played with their voices? How did they use their hands?
Last week, we went to see the new film ‘Oz: The Great and Powerful’, taking its theme from the famous story ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’. I spoke to my first-born over the weekend about the new film. “Why did they want to mess with a perfectly good story?” She asked. She was a little outraged by what she perceived to have happened: a story about a girl who is the hero and finds ways to help others and ‘save’ people had morphed into a story where the hero is now a man who seems to be given the chance to do something similar, but also gets ‘involved’ with some ‘attractive’ witches. We did not get into the debate. We acted like Munchkins and tucked into our hearty diner breakfasts. She told me about one of her friends who was having ‘issues’ with her job. Stay or leave the post? Leave and face risks of damaging career? Stay and face risks of months of unhappiness? All possibilities, full of drama. We looked over at a couple updating their Facebook pages, while they sat eating their breakfasts. We were a story. They were a story. The people waiting in line to find a seat in the packed restaurant; they too were stories. All going on around us.
The sound of the radio came back to me. “Afghanistan…International aid…Women benefiting from projects…US Army women under fire…Suicide bombers…Flak jackets…Listening to the voice of his dead daughter…” I heard. “Mark Stanford…Appalachian Trail…Voters…Ask your God for forgiveness…Chance…Little boys’ system…Winning voters one diner at a time…” I heard the reporter’s voice telling me.
Our cat had asked to go outside a while ago. Some snowflakes were coming down and I could see no other animals outside. I just called for her to come back in. No response. What was her story? Probably, I would never know unless she came back with some signs that I could understand: a satisfied smile; a coat dampened by snow; a few feathers by her mouth.
My eye passed to the newspapers. Pope. NCAA brackets. The comics. Storylines. Storyboards. “Journalists bringing their own stories to the Internet…” I heard the NPR reporter saying. “The wild fires being human in origin…” another reporter’s voice continued.
A golfer wins for the first time in 153 tries. What a story! Behind him were others who had never won. Behind him, a 19 year old who was taking his chance to turn pro…and succeeding. Elsewhere, a female golfer looked at possible defeat because her caddie broke a rule, but managed to overcome the bigger deficit and won and is now the world’s number 1 player. Oh, the pain! Oh, the joy! What drama! What stories!
Miami Heat 22 game win streak. Long live the king! Wow! What a story!
No need for dragons, or fantastic flights of mind. We should all contribute to StoryCorps.