The Ethnics of Storytelling – interview with Judith Black (10 December 2007)

Introduction

Again, Karen Chace was instrumental in putting me in touch with yet another storyteller. This time, I was fortunate enough to come into contact with Judith Black. As she has many stories to feature, I’ll not take up much more time and without further ado, I have great pleasure in introducing to you Judith Black…


Aneeta: Judith, thank you for agreeing to this interview.

Judith:  Storytelling is like ethnic restaurants, the more there are in a neighborhood, the more folks will be become aware of them.

Aneeta: Let’s start with a little about you. Where were you born and brought up? Where do you live now? What do you do for a living?

Judith: Born and bred Pittsburgh, PA, I now live in Marblehead, MA where I care for an organic garden, story tell full time, and participate in the life of this town.

Aneeta: From your website, http://www.storiesalive.com/index1.htm, you’ve clearly been in
this field for a long time. I must admit that I’m almost at a loss as to what to ask you! But, let’s start with your written work. Please share with us some of your books/publications. Which ones are your favourite and why?

Judith: Putting out a CD is like pregnancy and birthing, only protracted!  You love every one of your children, and though they came at different times in your life and represent different struggles and mixes of ‘genetic material.’ I would be hard put to favor one over the other.

If you are parenting small children:


Glad to be Who I am  celebrates and empowers young listeners through both traditional and original tales.  From a female version of Jack and the Beanstalk, known as Molly Whoppie, to a jazzy Three Billy Goats Gruff, and a heartfelt tale from the big brothers vantage point about his Dumb Baby, these tales speak to the heart and experience of young children. Ages 4 and up ($10)  “Stories heavily laced with ‘hip’…she  puts forward straight wonder.” Parents Choice Magazine -A Gold Medal Winner

Oops Ma!: Songs and Stories of Family Life  is a hilarious set of seven stories, with songs, by Victor Cockburn, reflecting the trials and tribulations of a family’s daily rituals. From those little footsteps approaching your bed before the sun has risen to the endless debates about how many bedtime books to read, these stories pull their issues from our daily lives, and their resolutions from the best that our imaginations and humor can conjure.

Ages 4 and up (CD$15)

If you are looking for material that nurtures and educates school aged children:

Blooming: Stories For Girls to Grow Onis a joyous compilation of five folk, original, and historic tales created to inspire all the bloomin’ possibilities in a growing girl.  From the childhood of Woman’s Rights advocate Lucy Stone, to the court of an ancient mandarin, these tales offer models of how to walk towards the many aspirations that young women hold in their hearts.

Ages 7-14 (Cassette $10  CD $15)

Hell for a Picnic, commissioned by the USS Constitution Museum,  introduces you to a young powder monkey who enlists aboard Old Ironsides to search  for the father he barely remembers.   This exciting action tale, which takes place on the high seas in the midst of the war of 1812, provides accurate historical information within an exciting, emotional context.

Ages 8 through adult (CD$15)

The story above and the following offer a look at American history through non-traditional portholes, filling in gaps too often left in history books:

The Home Front are stories about the women who during WWII armed America’s vital third front.   “Rosie the Riveter,” commissioned by National Public Radio,  creates a folk heroine out of Rosie while exploring the issues women faced when entering the industrial work place.

From Her Arms to His,” commissioned by the US Department of the Interior, is the story of one young woman who goes to work at the Springfield Armory.  We experience her life, and America, through the letters she writes to her husband on the Italian front.

Ages 12 and up (90 minutes $10)

A study guide for middle and high school students is available for an additional $5.

From Her Arms To His

Ages 10 and up (1 hour CD $20)

Meet Lucy Stone
Meet the public and private Lucy Stone (1818-1893) and enter her world as she yearns for an education deemed unacceptable for girls, obstinately rejects the idea of marriage and over comes every obstacle to become the ‘shining star’ of the antislavery and woman’s rights movements.  She will make you privy to her crisis when wooed and pursued by Henry Blackwell, and live through her angst of choosing between two life long commitments when the 15 Amendment causes a split in the ranks of the woman’s movement.

ages 11 and up (CD $15)

Stories about our adult lives, comedies that reflect our struggles foibles, and hopes:

Banned in the Western Suburbs Stories about adult passions, choices and relationships  are for the big people.  These are tales about the projections, insecurities, fantasies, and realities that well up when one is attempting to attract and negotiate relationships with the opposite sex.  Included in this collections is The Window Washers, as performed at the National Storytelling Festival’s Midnight Cabaret. You’ll laugh till your weep.

Ages 16 and up (2 CD set $20)

Adult Children of…Parents: is a comedic saga about the coming of middle age, and dysfunctional (is there any other kind)families.  Can one woman raise her child, make peace with her parents, and grow in a way that is not a warped extension of her own childhood?  The issues of this tale touch all of us who are trying to grow out of where we came from and into who we could be.

Ages 14 and up  (Audio Cassette $10  CD $15)

Retiring The Champ: Coaching Life’s Last Big Bout
End of life care can be a great black hole or the beginning of new understandings and relationships within a family. When Michael, who always referred to his mother as “the little Pitt Bull,” discovers he is the only one available to guide her through the maze of Alzheimer’s and into death, he feels the same thrill you and I might at the prospect of going for a root canal.  You are hereby invited to take this journey;  the physical one from downsizing and dealing with the medical and elder care establishment, the social one involving the delicate weave of family relationships and the spiritual one that takes this son from angry boy to soulful adult.

Ages 14 and up (double CD  $20)

Esau My Son is a funny, touching, and poignantly honest story about one parent and educators learning curve raising a ‘difficult’child, and the ultimate lesson that not everything of value can be guaged by a cognitive profile.

Ages 11- Adult (CD $15)

Finally, stories that have emerged from my own ethno-religious background, and share new understands of Judaism:

Waiting for Elijah  This collection of traditional, literary, midrashic and original stories  will introduce and deepen your understanding of Jewish holidays and traditions.  From young Sarah’s anticipation of Aunt Tillie’s Fatal Pinch, to Miriam’s account of the Exodus, these stories bring you into the contemporary experience and ancient wisdom that is Judaism. 

Ages 6 through adult ($10)
“Stirs us into warm holiday anticipation”  Lilith Magazine

Looking For G-d’s Doorbell is a tragicomedy about the American bar mitzvah experience.  When your child asks for the hundredth time “Why are we doing this,” a parent is obliged to find an authentic answer.  This is the story of that journey. 

Ages 11- Adult (Audio Cassette $10  CD $15)

Aneeta: I understand you also run some workshops. What do you choose to focus on in these workshops?

Judith: I have taught for Lesley University for over 20 years. Having a degree in Early Childhood Development from Wheelock College has been a great boon throughout my life. In these college classes I offer teachers techniques for using storytelling to extend cognitive, curricululrar, and social/emotional objectives in their classrooms.

I teach an annual class in home: www.tellingstoriestochildren.com

It is always the last week in June as school gets out, and it is one of the great blessings in my life.  People come from around the country to dedicate 4 full days of their lives to exploring their own passions and skills as tellers.  Teachers, actors, ministers, rabbis, librarian, web site developers, folks in mid-life transitions, and storytellers have all joined in my living room, and together, we fire up their dreams, skills, and possibilities.

When I am hired to teach, the most important thing is determining what will most benefit the group proffering the invitation.  Folks who have been telling for long periods are often most interested in a ‘Masters Class,’ where they will exercise and get input on their telling ‘chops.’  Educators want to know how to utilize this work in their classroom.  Parents want to know how to share their lives with their children and ignite the child’s imagination.  The choices of workshop topics are numerous, but the most important thing is matching the teaching to the needs of those you are working for.

Aneeta: As you know, this website caters for storytellers. What advice would you give to people who would like to venture into storytelling?

Judith: Tell Tell Tell. Tell to folks sitting next to you on the bus.  Tell to your family around the meal table.  Tell at you local church or synagogue.  Tell at you ashram or mosque.

Listen Listen Listen. Listen to others tell.  Listen to how your story wraps around the listeners before you.  Listen to how your voice (metaphorical voice that is) resonates in your world.

Aneeta: Judith, this is all I have to ask. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Judith: Our world governments are not in the best of hands these days.  It feels as if money and evangelical belief systems are the only common denominators for decision making.  I believe, that as small as the effort seems in this great shadow, that storytelling can open people people’s hearts and imaginations to kinder ways of being.

Aneeta: Thank you, Judith.

Judith: Thank-you for this opportunity.


This piece may NOT be freely reprinted. Please contact editor @ howtotellagreatstory.com for reprint rights.

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