Aneeta: Katy, thank you for writing to me to request an interview.
Katy: I’m the one to thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my life experiences that drew me into the wonderful world of storytelling.
Aneeta: You’re most welcome. Let’s start with a little about you. Please tell me where you were born, where did you grow up, what do you do for a living and where do you live now?
Katy: I was born in Ypsilanti, Michigan (United States) and was raised in the countryside outside of Washington, Pennsylvania. My bicycle was my best friend because that was my transportation to visiting friends – riding up and down those rolling hills! After graduating from high school I went to college for a year and also studied Fortran (I’m giving away my age). In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, my husband and children travelled around the world doing research for the Smithsonian Tropical Institute. It was during this time that my life was touched by people of many cultures and adventures that would eventually be my treasure box of memories for storytelling.
In 1983 I moved to Colorado and began working at Colorado State University. In 1985 I enrolled at CSU with a major in Anthropology. When I graduated in 1989 I moved up into the mountains and began working at the Estes Park Area Historical Museum. That is where I discovered the joy of storytelling and the importance of not only TELLING stories but helping others to share their stories too.
In 1992 I created my business KATY’S TALES and began to travel with my stories. I call myself a Story Teller, Story Teacher, Story Collector and a Story Time Radio host.
Aneeta: On your website, http://www.katystales.com, there is a statement: Katy Little takes you to a place in time … will spark a memory to help people share their own story. I am curious about this: can you describe how you will help them spark a memory. And why are their memories so important in storytelling?
Katy: I discovered that when I told my own stories of childhood experiences with my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins the audience would be nodding their heads in acknowledgement of understanding. They would even shed some tears of feelings that were brought to their minds they had not thought of for many years. My stories of living in the country, learning to entertain myself, having tea time and playing in a button box, lessons learned from bad choices, lessons learned from good choices, Friday nights at the roller rink, etc., helped to “spark” some memory in their life. After I tell my stories is when I am honoured with their stories. Their voices are heard and their stories are shared.
So many times we are in too much of a hurry to listen to our parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters when they tell us a story. That is why I feel that I am privileged to listen to their stories. It is important for all of us to have the opportunity to share our stories with others. I’ve told a story about my grandma Erma and me dancing around the table to the music on the radio of Don McNeill and the Breakfast Club. When I finished the story a gentlemen in the audience said, “I can sing the song for you if you would like.” That is why “sparking a memory” in others is important. Their memories give them the opportunity to share their story with others.
Aneeta: For the benefit of my readers, can you please explain some of the methods and techniques you use for storytelling.
Katy: When I teach a workshop or class I talk a lot about the importance of connecting with your audience. The importance of using eye contact, facial expressions that are correct with the emotion of the words you are saying, the importance of the silent pause, the raised eyebrow, the step forward or backward. Those are some of the outward techniques that I feel are important for storytellers – to find their comfort zone of stage presence.
The most important thing for me is to find the stories you love to tell so that each time you tell them they are told with the same passion as the time told! I never tell a story the same way but I always tell the story with the same passion and emotion. I tell people the importance of looking at Fables to tell. They help me to write and tell a personal story from the lessons learned from the Fables.
I love telling Native American tales and multicultural myths and legends. Many of my stories are stories collected while I was travelling around the world. One thing that I feel is very important when telling Native American tales is the importance of getting permission and to understand the importance of when to tell certain stories and to understand and respect the telling of the tale.
One other point I like to pass on is: Practice! Practice! Practice! Why? Because when you step up in front of your audience you can take a breath, set your feet, look out into the audience and begin your story with confidence and passion. And, of course, HAVE FUN!
Aneeta: You clearly have lots of programs worked out to help storytellers. Can you please explain them here?
Katy: My “Westward Ho!” program was designed from a time when I helped to design and develop a History Camp for youth in Estes Park, Colorado. We wanted the “history keeper’s” to experience life in the late 1800’s on a working ranch in Estes Park. The stories we told were about the people who came to the EstesValley and started a life in the Rocky Mountains and the Indians in the area. That is how I put together this Colorado history program for schools but now tell them to groups of all ages. I use it for workshops at storytelling conferences, educational conferences and for business organizations to tell stories of fortitude and accepting challenges in life.
Another program “Nostalgic Stories to Touch the Senses” was designed for Life Long Learning classes I taught at Aims Community College and Colorado State University. These are a collection of my own personal stories of how people touched my life in many ways. This was a way to talk about gratitude. What began as classes and workshops for the older student has become a wonderful program for younger students. Once again, I always leave time at the end of my show for the audience to share their stories. If I am in a classroom I have the student come to the front of the room and tell their story. For younger people I set down in a chair beside them. For an older audience I go out to stand or be next to them (I usually take a microphone with me) as they share their stories.
“Weaving Stories from Around the World” are stories of my travels around the world about the people, places and experiences I had as a mother, wife, field assistant, travel planner and explorer. This is a very hands on type of storytelling program that I bring artifacts, cloth, jewelry, pottery, linen and carvings that relate to the stories of how I brought these items into my life and how the people of many cultures taught me the beautiful truth that mostly, we are all alike and want the same things in life – to be able to respect our differences and learn from one another. This is a program that I tell to preschooler’s as well as adults. Of course, the program for preschooler’s is only about 25 minutes long but they sure love the musical instruments and the stories of monkeys’ and lizards!
All my programs are designed in chapters. I do this so that if I am asked to tell to a group for 20 minutes I can pick something appropriate for that time frame as well as story theme. I feel that making sure that I time my stories before I appear for a program is most important. I always keep an eye on my audience and try to have stories that might be more appropriate if I’ve been misguided about the type of audience in attendance.
Aneeta: I have asked some of my previous storytellers to share one of their stories with my readers and most of them have been more than happy to do so. I would like to ask the same of you: would you care to share one of your stories here?
Katy: I’d like to share my “signature story” – A Day in the Life With Grandma Erma”.
A Day in the Life With Grandma Erma
The sun’s rays flashed across Kathleen’s face. As she lay in bed, her eyes began to open. She stretched from her four-years-old head to her four-years-old toes. Then she did what she did every time she woke up – she brought one of her long blond hair ringlets up under her nose, secured it by wrapping her index finger over her nose and stuck her thumb into her mouth to suck.
She heard sounds from downstairs, the sounds of Grandma Erma and Papa Roy. Kathleen rolled out of bed, gathered her “blankie” into her arm, and walked out of the bedroom, down the carpeted steps, through the carpeted living room and through the carpeted dining room.
Kathleen came to the large kitchen door. She gently pushed the large, swinging door open into the kitchen. There at the kitchen sink stood Grandma Erma. Papa Roy sat at the kitchen table eating his breakfast. On the floor beside Papa Roy was his dog, Duchess.
“Good Morning, Kathleen” they both said to her. She climbed up onto a chair next to Papa Roy. Grandma Erma brought over toast with butter and strawberry jam. Papa placed an empty bowl in front of her. She watched as he picked up the box of Rice Crispies and poured the cereal into her bowl. Then he picked up a pitcher of cold, fresh milk. Together, they leaned their ears close to the bowl as he poured the milk into the bowl of cereal. Suddenly, they smiled as they heard SNAP! CRACKLE!POP! They both laughed at the wonderful sound of the “talking cereal”.
Papa Roy finished his breakfast and said he had to go to work. He gave his dog, Duchess, a pat on her head. He gave Kathleen a pat on her head. He gave Grandma Erma a kiss on her cheek and told her he would see all of them in the evening and left for work.
Then, Grandma Erma did what she did every morning – she stood at the sink, took out her false teeth, put them in a cup, filled the cup with water and placed the cup on the window sill. That is where her teeth stayed for the day, unless company came knocking on the door or she went to the store.
Grandma Erma walked to the table and sat down with Kathleen. They talked about the chores they would have to do before they could play. They had beds to make, dirty clothes to gather up and throw down the laundry shoot, the sweeping of the carpets and the washing of the breakfast dishes!
When the chores were finished, Kathleen said, “Whew! That is a lot of work for a little girl.” Grandma smiled and said, “You’re right! Let’s go out to the chicken coop and feed and talk to the chickens.” Kathleen loved to feed and talk to the chickens so she took hold of Grandma Erma’s hand and they walked out the back door of the house, down the cement steps and out through the backyard to the chicken pen. The chickens scurried out of the hen house when they heard Grandma Erma call, “Pucka! Lucka! Tucka! Tooey!” Grandma Erma always had funny sayings that put warm feelings in Kathleen’s heart and a smile on her face.
Grandma led the ay into the chicken coop. Two rows of hen boxes where the chickens roosted and laid their eggs lined both sides of the walls. Kathleen waited for Grandma Erma to raise the chicken out of the nest and then she reached into the nest and carefully pulled out the eggs. She placed them into the basket that Grandma Erma had in her hand.
Kathleen looked at Grandma Erma and said, “Boy! This sure is a messy job.”
“I know it is” grandma said, “but the eggs will sure taste good for breakfast in the morning!” They both smiled and left the chicken coop and went back to the house. When they got to the kitchen, they washed off the eggs and put them into the grey egg crock and Grandma Erma put the filled crock into the ice box.
Kathleen loved to help Grandma Erma but she did not like to clean up the mess.
“Remember Kathleen, Grandma Erma said, “When someone asks you to help clean up you should keep warm feelings in your heart and a smile on your face.”
“But grandma” said Kathleen, “that isn’t easy for a four year old!”
(Remember that I told you that Grandma Erma had taken out her false teeth and so whenever she said a word with a “p” in it, she sort of sputtered and spit. Kathleen thought all Grandmas’ talked that way!)
Grandma Erma chuckled and said: “HIP! HYPE! HOPE! GETA PIECE OF PIE! WHAT KIND OF PIE?
HUCKLEBERRY PIE! HIP! HYPE! HOPE!
That put a smile on Kathleen’s face and warm feelings in her heart! Grandma Erma walked over to the kitchen sink, picked up the cup that held her false teeth and placed the teeth into her mouth.
“Come on now, Kathleen, it’s time to get supper started for Papa Roy.
“HIP! HYPE! HOPE! GETA PIECE OF PIE! WHAT KIND OF PIE?
HUCKLEBERRY PIE! HIP! HYPE! HOPE!
Aneeta: Thank you very much for this. I know that you have a slot in a Radio show. Please explain to my readers what your show is about?
Katy: I’m so glad you asked about Story Time Radio. In 2003 I had submitted a proposal and an audition tape to KRFC, 88.9 FM for a storytelling program. I’ve always enjoyed listening to radio and have listened to Garrison Keeler for years. Once again, I thought that if I had a radio show I would have a “stage” to share my stories as well as bringing other storytellers to share their tales with the community.
Eventually, KRFC joined the global community and people from around the world can stream the WEB. Excuse me, I get ahead of myself!
In June of 2004 I hosted and produced the first Story Time Radio program. The show is airs weekly on Sunday at6:30 to 7:00 p.m.(Mountain Standard Time). I began with choosing themes for each week and telling stories myself. Then I began to ask for people to join me and they would share there stories. I tried to give them the opportunity to choose the theme and ask them to have about 18 minutes worth of stories to tell. The rest of the time was spent with conversation and tips on storytelling.
Eventually, I needed to ask another storyteller to host the program one week a month so I was able to travel with my storytelling programs and workshops. Bailey Phelps, a tribal member of the Cherokee Nation, is a master storyteller, musician and author engages his audiences with colourful images and old fashioned fun through his stories.
In September 2008, Story Time Radio started two new segments of storytelling programs. The 1st Sunday of each month is “Speaking of History” with me and Gail Khasawneh as hosts. Gail and I bring stories, historical phrases and songs together to share the folklore and life experiences of pioneers inColorado. We perform reader’s radio theatre with Primary Sources of those people who came before us. (We also perform these programs throughout the area.)
The 2nd Sunday of each month is “Sandbox Stories” with host Katie Cassis and her Sandbox Story Theatre Company. Sandbox Stories will air on the 2nd Sunday of each month at6:30 p.m. Katie invites children from the ages of 6 to 13 to submit their stories, poetry or thoughts. Then the theatre company members perform the chosen stories.
The 3rd Sunday of each month I alternate with Bailey Phelps with stories to delight children of all ages.
The 4th Sunday of each month Story Time Radio presents the syndicated program “Tell Us a Tale” with Peter Jones. Peter offers his storytelling program to community radio stations around the world. He and his storytelling troupe bring music and story together in such fine fashion.
Aneeta: Katy, as you know, this website caters for storytellers. What advice would you give those who wish to venture into storytelling?
Katy: I would suggest that a person wanting to venture into storytelling should attend as many storytelling events as possible. By listening to other storytellers it will help to find the storyteller inside you. Read books about the “business” of storytelling. Yes, it is a business. Form a business plan. Don’t hesitate to “test the waters” by volunteering your storytelling at schools and retirement residence. You will want to find the age of people that YOU are comfortable with. Find a storytelling guild in or near your community where you can discuss being a storyteller as well as practice telling your stories in a “safe” environment. Usually, these groups will give you feedback, if you ask for it, help you with techniques and talk about the importance of knowing how to find stories.
Aneeta: Katy, this is all I have to ask. Is there anything you’d like to add?
Katy: I would just like to add that I feel my mission as a storyteller is to assist other storytellers in finding stages to perform their programs. I would love to hear from other storytellers so we can discuss the opportunity of being on STORY TIME RADIO. Most of all I would like to begin a directory of storytellers who produce/host radio shows. There is so much we could learn and share from one another. To reach me, email email@example.com and check out www.katystales.com to see some of the ways I have collected stories to tell.
Aneeta: Katy, thank you.
Katy: Thank you Aneeta and I leave you with “Let your life take flight through story!”
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