One of the new featured tellers at the festival is Simon Brooks. He is here to help us celebrate our 30th anniversary and we’ve asked him to tell us a little about himself.
“I was born in Tuffley, Gloucestershire, England, but spent most of my growing up in Worcester, near the Malvern Hills and the Welsh border. From Worcester we would make forays into Wales to see the castles, and travel visiting standing stones burial grounds, battle sights and other story places. I moved to the United States in 1994 to marry an American girl I had met in Eastbourne, England where I had been working and telling tales! Fast forward 25 years. We now live in New London, New Hampshire, New England, New World, and have a son and daughter, and cat and dog. If you follow me on Instagram (SimonMBrooks), you will see the hashtag – #inthewoodswithmoe which shows the hikes I take with my dog. You will also see where I have been telling my tales when you use #ontheroadstorytelling.
The tales I tell are the Ancient Tales – myths, legends, folk and fairy tales. I rarely tell personal stories, although sometimes use personal narrative as a segue in or out of a tale. I feel the old stories are powerful, and filled with wisdom and wonder, whereas my life is well, my life and therefore lacking mermaids, giants, and the wee folk I love so much! I tell these tales to adults as well as children, and absolutely love my job.
I have five CDs out, Second-hand Tales (2006); More Second-hand Tales (2008), which won a Silver Honors from Parent’s Choice; and A Tangle of Tales (2011), which won a Gold Award from people’s Choice. In 2015 I hurriedly released Moonlit Stories for a theatre show – Revels North which features Tam Lim. This went from inception to release in under two months! Never again. I released The Epic of Gilgamesh, a retelling in 2017, and in 2018 it won a Gold Award from Parent’s Choice. This is an authentic retelling of the epic, and accessible to anyone, with the goal of being appropriate for middle school children. I felt the versions I saw used in schools I visited were not authentic, or were boring. I have a lot of very happy Gilgamesh fans out there of all ages!
My first book, Under the Oaken Bough, a collection of 17 folk and fairy tales, was released in 2018 to great reception. It is a handy little book with a section on tips for telling, an author’s Q & A (did you know that most authors write their own Qs to A?), a resource list/bibliography, and a lexicon, or vocab list with all the “big words” so I wouldn’t have to take them out of the book! It is published by Parkhurst Brothers and is available most places – order it from your local brick and mortar book shop or snag your copy at Timpanogos! Although you can order it on-line!
If you have never heard my work before, or want to hear even more of my work, my CDs can be found for sale at my distributor, CDBaby: https://store.cdbaby.com/artist/simonbrooksstoryteller
and here: https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/simonbrooks5
I also have a number of other places you can find my work. On SoundCloud (https://soundcloud.com/smbrooks) I rotate work in and out, put new work up, some of which might make future albums. My YouTube Channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQmugRW-V4nqesolERq-0QA) features a number of videos of me performing, and some other storytellers who were filmed by me. You can find my work for free on my website SimonBrooksStoryteller.com (which points to https://www.diamondscree.com/ ) > Videos, Audio and Free Stuff page (https://www.diamondscree.com/freestuff). If you are interested in listening to interviews of the elders in my community who tell, or told folk and fairy tales, myths and legends – such as Elizabeth Ellis, Laura Simms, Michael Parent, Jay O’Callahan and others – please visit my podcast: https://smbrooks.podbean.com/ which comes out once a month. You can get early access and other goodies if you sign up on my Patreon page: https://www.patreon.com/simonbrooks which helps keep the podcast running! You can also hear me on Rachel Ann Harding’s podcast, StoryStoryPodcast where I occasionally host and also tell stories! http://storystorypodcast.com/
If you have any questions please feel to reach out to me and I will do my best to answer them. You can use the from on my website or shoot me an email: simon at diamondscree dot com. The form sends me an email, so it’s kind of the same thing! I will do my best to get back to you as soon as I can. Sometimes I am on the road travelling and telling stories!
We’re so glad to have you join us this year, Simon. To hear his stories as well as others, please join us at the 30th anniversary of the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival, September 5-7 at Thanksgiving Point in Lehi, Utah. Tickets can be purchased online.
We asked Bil Lepp to share some of his memories of the festival as well his thoughts on storytelling in general. As usual, he tells it like it is.
Q- As you know, this is our 30th anniversary and we’re so happy you will be celebrating this milestone with us. As a veteran of the festival would you please share some of your memories of the festival?
A- Timp is one of my favorite festivals! I don’t always answer my phone if I don’t recognize the number, but if the area code is 801, I pick up on the first ring.
I did the Exchange Place at the National Festival in 2000. That was really my first introduction into full fledged storytelling. Shortly after that I got a phone call from Janet Low. She asked if I would be a New Voice and said something like, “We can offer you (…) hundred.” Up to that point I had never made more than $100 for telling stories. And I said, “(…) hundred what?” She laughed and said, “Dollars.” I was blown away.
Timpanogos was the first festival I was invited to as a full fledged teller, even if I was just a New Voice. I was going to be on stage with the big names! The festival was then still at The Homestead and I performed with, I think, Syd Lieberman, Carmen Deedy, Bill Harley, David Holt, Waddie Mitchell, and others. To be honest, I was so new I didn’t even know who most of those people were. I did know Harley was a big shot and a great teller. On Friday night at the SCERA Shell I was telling the Buckdog story and Bill & Syd were in the front row. They were laughing very hard and nudging each other. I’m sure now that they were laughing at how awful I was, and nudging each other as if to say, “Who is this yokel?” But I like to think they were impressed with my telling, and that has always been a very proud moment for me.
I miss the SCERA Shell. That was a great venue. I think it is still the largest single audience I have ever performed for, and the roar of that crowd on a breezy summer night was confirmation that my hours spent telling in sweaty school gyms and church basements to 300 kindergartners or 8 retired ladies were worth the while.
Of course the new venue at Thanksgiving Point is wonderful as well. I’ve only been there once, but I am certainly looking forward to being back this year. I’m sure I’ll come to love it as much as the Homestead, and Timpanogos park.
And the people that run the festival, from the staff to the lowliest volunteer, are some of the best folks in the storytelling community. I don’t want to name names because I don’t want to leave anybody out, but I have to mention that Stephanie A. was my first van driver at Timp, and it has been fun to grow as a teller at Timp while the festival has grown and people like Stephanie have grown in responsibility. Also, I can’t forget Dale, the intrepid and unflappable sign language interpreter.
Q- What is one piece of advice you could give our young tellers or anyone who would like to share their stories?
A- A storyteller isn’t presenting a story to an audience. The teller and audience are working together to get the story told. You’ve got to pay attention to the audience and respond to how they are hearing the story. All good storytelling is a conversation, an extension of the supper table or the front porch. When you are telling a story to your friends or family, other people are asking questions, interrupting, interjecting, contradicting and having various emotional reactions. A good teller responds to the input of the listeners. When you are on stage hopefully people aren’t vocally interjecting or worse, contradicting, but you have to be aware that the audience is an active participant in the story. Also, you gotta listen to what the other tellers tell. If you’re anything but first in the line-up, you are continuing a conversation, not starting a new one.
Finally, know you’re story and be confident. You can be nervous, but if you’re ill at ease your audience will be too. You want your audience cheering for you, not worrying about you.
Q- Our theme this year is Timeless Tales. In what way do you think storytelling is timeless or timely?
A- Whether you are telling ancient stories, traditional stories, serious stories, true stories or tall-tales, you are talking to people of all ages. When you get everybody from the grandchild to the grandparent laughing, or otherwise engaged in your tale, you are spanning generations and and uniting the feelings and memories of everyone involved. In that way, you are spanning time. If you have a 9 year old, a 45 year old, and a 95 year old simultaneously remembering when they were each 7 years old you have breached the space time continuum: you have three people- or 3000 people- actively reliving and reveling in separate events that happened decades apart but are happening all over again in the present moment. That’s pretty timeless. As for timely, if stories didn’t teach timely and timeless values they wouldn’t still be being told 1000s of years after they were created. If you see trouble, and you know it’s trouble, don’t pick it up! is a message as timely now as it was then.
Anne Rutherford is another new featured teller at this year’s Timpanogos Storytelling Festival. We’ve asked her three questions to help us get to know her and her alter-ego, the wild-west adventurer Clementine Ryder.
Q- This is our 30th anniversary and we’re so happy you will be celebrating this milestone with us. As a first time teller at the festival, what would you like our audience to know about you?
A- “My mother grew up in Denver Colorado, met and married my father who was from a little town in the Susquehanna River Valley in Pennsylvania, where I grew up. My mother was determined to show my Dad there was a lot of country west of Ohio, so we went on looooong family driving trips…including one through Utah where I remember floating in the Great Salt Lake! I am so happy to be coming back to your part of the country as an adult, to participate in this wonderful festival. My husband Norm Brecke (also a storyteller) is coming with me and we are staying after the Festival to do some hiking and exploring.
I’ve been in the Pacific Northwest (Portland area specifically) since 1983. I came out for a ONE-YEAR volunteer service program, fell in love with the natural beauty of the Northwest and the congeniality of its people and never left. And, when people ask me “Is the TV Series “Portlandia” exaggerated? “ I say, “No, if anything it is understated!”
I love working as a main stage storyteller, and also as a teaching artist in the schools. I do a residency helping students feel more comfortable and confident with public speaking through storytelling — and also a writing residency where they create an original character using a process I’ve developed and write a story featuring that character. I use my own original character, Clementine Ryder (more about her next question!) and I love it. My “sweet spot” is 3rd-5th grade, but I’ve worked with K on up through High School. I’ve been a teaching artist with Young Audiences of Oregon/SW WA since 2001, it’s one of my favorite aspects of being a storyteller.”
Q- Our theme this year is Timeless Tales. Would you consider your stories to be more timeless (traditional stories) or timely (personal narrative)?
A- “I’ll do a mix — I’ve got some lively trickster tales and some tall tales —I’ll be telling some stories as my alter-ego, the wild-west adventurer Clementine Ryder; her stories are legendary — literally. I thought the experiences she described were legends (hidden treasure, frozen rattlesnakes) but turns out they really happened to Clementine. She is about as timeless as they come. As Anne, I’ve just won 1st place in the NW Folklife Festival’s Liar’s Contest for the 5th time, with a tale of childhood adventure that is mostly true; I’ll be bringing that as well as some of my other award-winning lies to tell! stretching the truth in an entertaining fashion is a timeless art!
I’ll also do some fun personal stories, lots from my childhood in a little town in the Susquehanna River Valley of Pennsylvania where I was born and raised, in a house with a graveyard on one side and a cow pasture on the other. In my personal stories I focus on the universal, the timeless experiences we have in common that my audience can relate to. Sometimes truth is indeed stranger (and as entertaining) as fiction!”
Q- How can a new fan hear more from you after the festival? Do you have any published work, a website or other social media sites?
A- “I’ve got six CDs including two hot off the press this summer just in time for the Festival.! Fans can connect with me and get a sample of my work in audio & video format on my website www.annerutherford.com. I also am active on Facebook and welcome new friend requests from people who’ve heard my stories, at annerutherfordstoryteller or anne.rutherford.37”
Welcome to the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival family Anne! Be sure to get your tickets to the 30th annual Timpanogos Storytelling Festival on September 5-7 at the Gardens at Thanksgiving Point in Lehi, Utah. Get your tickets at timpfest.org.
Sheila Stark Phillips, storyteller, author, musician, Texan and former zoo keeper has returned this year to help us celebrate our 30th Anniversary. Here she shares with us some of her memories of the festival, gives advice to new storytellers and shares her thoughts on the timelessness of storytelling.
“When I had the privilege of telling at the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival a few years back, it was only my second visit to Utah. I had also been a participant at that year’s Timpanogos Conference. I was thrilled to be there and initially struck by the beauty of the area. The friendliness of everyone I encountered was beyond welcoming and I have many times praised the organizers and worker bees because never have I been better cared for. The facilities were outstanding, and everything progressed like clockwork. From start to finish it was first-class. I was particularly impressed that each teller had their own cubby where they could relax and even take a nap when not performing.
My one piece of advice to any young or new teller is to be yourself. Don’t try to imitate someone you admire. Develop your own style, practice and go for it.
Storytelling is timeless. Going back to the earliest man who came back to his cave from hunting and with grunts and drawing pictures with a piece of charcoal taken from the fire pit told others of his adventure. Our daily lives are filled with stories. And, most importantly, stories are meant to be shared.”
What are your memories of the festival? Share with us in the comments below and be sure to come and celebrate with us at the 30th annual Timpanogos Storytelling Festival September 5-7 at The Gardens at Thanksgiving Point in Lehi.
The Timpanogos Storytelling Festival is celebrating its 30th Anniversary this year and we’ve asked some of our returning tellers to share some of their memories of the festival, give some advice to our up-and-coming tellers, and tell us about the timelessness of tales. One teller that has been with us from the beginning is Donald Davis and here he shares a bit of his unique perspective on the festival and how he was first introduced to it.
“My best memory is of being at the Jonesborough Festival and meeting these three ladies from Utah. Their “leader,” (Karen) told me they were going to have a festival the next year and asked me if I could come out there Labor Day weekend.
I checked my calendar and it was filled. Karen then asked if I could come the next year. We wrote it on the calendar and it was done.
Later I learned that no one back in Utah was aware that she had decided to start a festival, but she was already booking tellers for the first two years. This told me more about her determination and leadership than I could have learned any other way.
My advice to beginning tellers: tell stories anywhere you can. You don’t invite yourself to someone else’s party, but if you keep on and do a good job, you will get invited when the time is right.
Storytelling is timeless because it preserves our deepest identity. Who we are is revealed in and preserved by our stories.”
Thank you, Donald, for helping us to grow the festival from it’s humble beginnings, just a kernal of an idea really, into what it is today. We couldn’t have done it without you.