Monday, December 31, 2007

Frequently Asked Questions

Here is a list of frequently asked questions and my answers culled from various posts:

1) Why was "Alkelda the Gleeful" your blog name and what is "The House of Glee"?

My blog name comes from the apocryphal saint whose commemoration day is my birthday (March 28). A few years ago, I was a guest-player in one of my husband's role-playing games. I chose "Alkelda" for the name of my character. I only played that game once, as I am not a gamer by nature (and I think it important that my husband and I have separate interests as well as ones that overlap). I held onto the name, however, and use it regularly in online profiles.

“The Gleeful” refers to my tendency to play harmless tricks with the sole intent to make the recipients laugh. A common typo of the name is to leave out the first L and write "Akelda" which is why people are welcome to call me Al. "The House of Glee" is comprised primarily of Bede (my husband), Lucia (my daughter) and myself. Adjunct members are Ulric (my brother, who used to live with us), Uncle Phil (Lucia's godfather) and Brad the Gorilla. November 27, 2008 update: Here's why I stopped using "Alkelda" as a username.

2) Where did you get the name "Saints and Spinners" for your blog?

Saints and Spinners” (not “Sinners” as is the common typo, though it's probably just as accurate!) comes from a conversation I had with a parent after a storytelling gig. I’d mentioned something about how many stories there were that involved sewing, spinning, and weaving. Somehow, we ended up talking about the lives of the saints and the interesting stories that arose from their traditions. I said, “I should do a program that’s entirely sewing stories and saint stories. I could call it 'Saints and Spinners.'" (In hindsight, I could have also called the blog Demi-Gods and Weavers, because I am a Greek myth geek too. )

3) How did you get into storytelling?

In fourth grade, I attended school assembly that featured traveling minstrels. They told stories and used their instruments for sound effects and mood control. At one point, they asked for a volunteer from the audience to tell a story. I volunteered. I was pretty shy as a rule, but I thought that storytelling was one of the few things I could do. I opened my mouth to begin, and nothing came out. I tried again. My mind was blank. I felt wretched, and I wanted to sit back down. Really, I wanted to run away.

One of the musicians said, “Why don’t you ask a friend to help you?” My friend Jenny stood up and said that we could tell Jackie Torrence's ghost-story called “Lavender.” (If you can find an out-of-print audio-cassette copy, the story is on Torrence’s album called “Jump Tales.”) As Jenny began the story of the mysterious woman who appeared on the road to ask for a lift from a driver, my memory returned, and I was able to continue the story. Still, the experience was humiliating to me. I decided that I couldn’t tell stories. Despite a few feeble attempts in college, I decided I just didn't have the knack.

Then, in library school, I took a storytelling course by Anne Sheldon. Our one required textbook was Margaret Read MacDonald’s Twenty Tellable Tales, but Anne gave us many resources to look for stories we’d like to tell. Our first story was “The Little Rooster and the Diamond Button.” Anne told it to us once, and then had us go around the room telling different parts of the story. It didn't matter that we stumbled and fumbled, forgot and embellished. We got over our initial fears in a safe setting. Anne told us that most people could become good storytellers and a few people could become great storytellers. What was important was finding stories we loved to tell, learning them, telling them, and telling them again.

4) What made you decide to take up guitar and use it in your storytelling programs?

In June 2005, I took my daughter to see Nancy Stewart play at our local library.My daughter was so delighted with Nancy and the guitar that I thought, "I'll make sure she has guitar lessons when she's older." Then it occurred to me that I myself had always wanted to learn to play guitar, but had held back because I thought I would fail at it as I'd flubbed so many other things I'd attempted. However, attempting something at age 33 is a bit different from trying to learn something as a teen-- there's more perspective, for one thing.

In October 2005, I took Nancy's Mother Goose Guitar classes. A year later, I attended the birthday party of one of my daughter's friends where a performer played guitar and read stories to the children. I thought, "I can do that! And I can do it in my own way." The songs I perform are simple 2 and 3 chord folk-songs that invite audience participation. The more complicated songs I save for the comfort and privacy of my living room!

5) Should I give in to the urge to learn to play an instrument or tell stories even if I never become a professional performer?

Yes. Definitely.

Jules and Eisha interviewed me for their blog called Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. You can read that interview here.


Lone Star Ma said...


Philip said...

I like this insight into you, thanks for posting it.