It’s no wonder British storyteller Simon Brooks has been telling stories since childhood—he was often taken to the places where those stories began: ancient hills, standing stones, and castles.
A master storyteller, Brooks tells folktales and historical tales along with personal stories and humorous tales. He has taught and performed at libraries, schools, colleges, festivals, camps, and museums. He has engaged and transfixed audiences with his powerful performances throughout the New England area, the United States, and Europe. With his Celtic bodhrán and unique tales, he combines the intensity of a solo performance with the intimacy of a face-to-face conversation—whether live or virtual.
“In my 20s I saw storytelling as a profession for me. I used to write stories and I ended up running a youth hostel where I would read stories to the kids there.”
He started his storytelling career by charging $25 an hour until a storytelling friend told him the going rate at the time was $200-$300 an hour. “It’s not about that,” he laughs. “It’s about caring for the world and connecting.”
As an acclaimed storyteller, Simon has also recorded several audio books and has four storytelling CDs: “Second-Hand Tales,” “More Second-Hand Tales,” “A Tangle of Tales,” and the recently released “Moonlit Tales.”
Both “A Tangle of Tales” and the story ‘Three Feathers’ have garnered honors from Storytelling World. In addition, Parent’s Choice recognized “More Second-Hand Tales” with Silver Honors and “A Tangle of Tales” with their Gold Award.
“There is a lot of power in stories. There are deep grains of truth in stories. Stories speak to us. They are a safe way to figure out problems.” Brooks figures he will tell stories “. . . until I drop dead on stage!”
Simon’s first performance at the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival was in 2019 and he loved it. “The setting is idyllic,” he said. “There are a lot of families, and the audience is very appreciative.” He enjoys an audience that laughs. “Laughing is what I’m all about.”
Enjoy a hearty laugh with Simon at this year’s 33rd annual Festival September 8-10, 2022, in Utah’s stunning Ashton Gardens at Thanksgiving Point or online.
Randy Evensen’s favorite storytelling audience is his grandchildren—especially when they’re around a campfire. And, since his retirement from teaching first and second grades, he’s been telling stories at local elementary schools every week. He loves that. “It’s just been fun. I love to come in and get a kid fix!” Evensen said.
Randy is 66 years old with eight children and 16 grandchildren, and has taught school for 35 years. This year will be Randy’s first time telling at the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival, though he told a story at the National Storytelling Festival’s Story Slam and has attended Timpanogos since its second year. Evensen believes in the uniting power of stories. “Anytime we can help people think of experiences and share their stories, that’s a good thing,” he said. “Most of my stories are personal family stories.”
Evensen idolizes Donald Davis and has been attending Donald’s storytelling workshop for years. “He (Davis) is the epitome of a storyteller,” Evensen said. “I love real stories with real consequences. I’ve been telling stories since I was kid, but I never wrote those stories down until I found Story Worth. It has been a wonderful, year-long project. Now all of my stories are in print.”
“Eighty-five percent of the stories I tell are about my childhood growing up in West Point, Utah,’’ Randy says. “In West Point during the 1950s, everyone knew everyone else. No one was afraid to pull you by the ear and drag you back home to your mom when you did something you shouldn’t have done. The other fifteen percent of my stories come from my ancestors, particularly my Grandma Emerald—my favorite person and closest companion in crime. I grew up in a family of ten. That was a huge blessing because my mom didn’t always know where I was or what I was up to. This led to some great stories.’’
When Evensen comes to an event, he takes time to visit with people before the storytelling begins. “I come to a storytelling event with something in mind, but I love to listen to the other tellers and talk to people before the event begins. I often choose stories that have been sparked by my conversation or stories I’ve heard prior to my set. It’s almost like a fun game I play before I stand up to tell. I think choosing the story is half the fun of telling. I’m always hoping my story will connect with the listener.”
Evensen says storytelling is reciprocal. “I give a story to the audience and they give back to me in the way they listen and respond. People who are engaged in stories are always changed—whether they are the teller or the listener. Stories are powerful. A story opens the door and invites us to come in. It welcomes us to make ourselves at home . . . and most of us do. We put ourselves in the story or a similar story that comes into our head. After experiencing someone else’s story, we are changed. As a teller, I feel that change in the listeners and we all come away changed.”
As for the types of stories most dear to Randy’s heart, he says, “I very seldom tell a scary story. The world needs to laugh. Anytime I can share a story that helps us forget our cares and burdens for just a few minutes, I’m all in. Let’s laugh every chance we get. I also like to stay true to the experience. The truth always gets the best laughs.”
Nestor Gomez has faced a variety of mighty challenges in his life—including having to deal with a stuttering problem. He used to be afraid to speak up in public. So, when people hear he has won 66 Moth SLAMS (a storytelling contest that requires quick thinking and fast talking), they are understandably surprised! Gomez says the SLAMS force him to come up with stories under pressure.
Gomez was born in Guatemala and lived in the United States undocumented for years before becoming a citizen, so his life has provided plenty of material to draw upon.
He told his first story at a Chicago Moth SLAM and won. SLAM stories must be based on personal, real-life experiences, are required to fit an assigned theme, and must be developed in a short time before being performed in front of an audience. Through his storytelling, Nestor has learned to draw on personal experiences and speak without the stutter he’s lived with since childhood.
Gomez is also the creator, producer, curator, and host of 80 Minutes Around the World, an immigration storytelling show that features the stories of immigrants and refugees, along with those of their descendants and allies.
In 2018 and 2019, Nestor was nominated by ALTA—The Alliance of Latinx Theater Artists of Chicago, for Outstanding Solo Performance and Storyteller of the Year.
He’s written a collection of heartwarming and hilarious stories about driving for rideshare companies in Chicago entitled, Your Driver Has Arrived. One dollar from every book sold is donated to RAICES—The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, or the Ascend Educational Fund, which enables students of exceptional promise to reach their full potential through higher education.
This is Nestor’s first visit to the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival and to Utah. Join us in welcoming him September 8-10, 2022, at Thanksgiving Point in Lehi.
Megan Wells has been telling stories for 40 years, since she was seven, and is described by her daughters as a storytelling jukebox. “Put a quarter in and pick your favorite!”
“I find joy in storytelling. I was in theater. I was a reader,” Wells said. “Then I saw a play and realized books could come alive.” She describes story like crayons. “It absolutely is magic. We create our best world in stories. Storytelling gives us courage. You’re less alone when you hear a story that resonates. A story can buffer and protect and comfort.”
Wells didn’t have storytellers in her life. Her father was a joke-teller, but it took a while for her family to come around to storytelling. Today, “Storytelling is my joy, launching listeners into galaxies of imagination,” she said. “In the outer space of the inner mind, human beings become wise. What I love is the introduction to the audience and to the story. I try to really get to know an audience. I reach into my big Mary Poppins bag of stories and pull something out they can relate to. It’s like meeting old friends for the first time every time I come to a festival.”
Wells began her career as an actress and director in Chicago. She also worked as a communications consultant to Fortune 500 companies. A lover of words, Wells helped executives craft presentations with great care using the structure, rhetoric, and dynamic of words.
After a workshop, a client said, “You should tell stories,” and suggested a trip to the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee. There, Wells discovered the art of storytelling. After sharing a personal story at the open mic, she was approached by emcee, Rafe Martin, who asked, “Are you a storyteller?” Wells replied, “I don’t even know what that is!” Rafe replied, “You are.”
At the end of the weekend, Wells asked, “What do I do to become a storyteller?” Rafe advised, “Find stories you love and tell them.” Wells has been following his sage advice ever since.