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.
Lyn Ford, a featured storyteller on this year’s Timpanogos Storytelling Festival roster, was born into a storytelling family, but never expected storytelling to become her career. “Stories were part of any day—from personal stories, to teaching tales, to folktales, ghost stories, and literary works,” Ford says. “My dad and my maternal grandfather were the best storytellers I ever heard.”
She liked going places with her dad who would often get lost on the journey. He’d then tell her stories she later told her siblings—stories they had never heard. He was the best storyteller she knew in her life, she said, so she modeled her storytelling after him. “It started as a teaching tool for my preschool class of three-year-olds and my volunteer work in our children’s schools.”
Now in her 30th year of telling full-time, Lyn is returning to the Festival for the fourth time. “I’ve loved every festival,” Ford said. “I love seeing the ‘aha moments’ on the faces of listeners and hearing folks laugh. I love knowing we’ve connected and become a community through story sharing.”
Lyn’s mother says Ford started telling stories at the age of three. “But that means I’ve been telling stories for 67 years!” she said. “Oooh. That’s a long time!” She is known for what she has dubbed “Affrilachian” Tales: Folktales from the African-American Appalachian Tradition.
She received the 2013 Anne Izard Storytellers’ Choice and Storytelling World Awards for her book, Affrilachian Tales. Beyond the Briar Patch, referred to as “a cultural treasury” by the Midwest Book Review, was also an Anne Izard Storytellers’ Choice Award winner. Hot Wind Boiling Rain is now a 2017 Storytelling Resource Award-winner for the story, By Another Name.
Ford was the first storyteller in Ohio to be nominated for a Governor’s Award for the Arts. She refers to her mix of folktale adaptations, spooky tales, and original stories based on her multicultural storytelling traditions as “home-fried tales.” Her stories and programs are often enriched with rhythm and rhyme, humor, heart, and choral response.
Whether it’s funny or poignant, sad or joyful, a story has the power to connect people on a deeper level, says storyteller and first-class fiddler Josh Goforth. “I just love a good story,” Goforth says. “I learn so much from watching other tellers.”
Josh grew up in Madison County, North Carolina, surrounded by the music and stories of his ancestors. At the age of four, he was already playing the piano in church. “I grew up in the mountains of Western North Carolina. Folks loved a good tune and a good tale. Many times, I would go to someone’s house to learn a fiddle tune and walk out with a good story.”
A performance in the sixth grade “really lit the fuse” of his musical career. He later learned from local masters and musicians and toured extensively with a variety of ensembles including David Holt, Laura Boosinger, and several bluegrass bands like the Appalachian Trail, the Josh Goforth Trio, the Steep Canyon Rangers, and Open Road. “I had always told small stories in my solo concerts, but when I started working with David Holt 20 years ago, he told me, ‘You should elaborate on those stories and work up some of that material. You could definitely tell at storytelling festivals.’ I was able to get on at the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, TN, to tell a 12-minute story, and I’ve been doing it ever since!”
Josh has performed in all 50 states, in Europe, Asia, and Australia. He has been a featured performer at the Grand Ole Opry, the Lincoln Center, and Carnegie Hall. His fiddling was also featured in the movie, Songcatcher in 2000.
Josh plays bluegrass and country, and is on the faculty of the Academy for the Arts in Asheville. “I love the process of bringing to life these characters I grew up with for my audience. It’s so wonderful to know that they are still alive through stories. But honestly, I think the best part
about storytelling is listening. I learn so much from watching other tellers, I love a good story, and I love sharing stories. When someone shares a story, it might spark a memory in us. Hearing each other tell stories connects us in a powerful way. I always leave a festival knowing a little bit more about someone and a little bit more about myself.”
Josh has been to the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival before and calls it a festival where he feels like he’s with family. “Everyone is so kind, and what great listeners!” Josh’s telling and fiddling will be featured at the 33rd Annual Timpanogos Storytelling Festival at Thanksgiving Point, September 8-10, 2022.
Doug Elliott says he tells stories because he’s celebrating nature. Stories just evolve from that, he believes. His stories are organic and unique and are usually told (or sung) to the harmonica.
Originally from Maryland, Doug has made his living for years as a traveling herbalist—gathering and selling herbs, teas, and natural remedies. When he noticed bee hives all over Utah, he says it kind of inspired him to investigate and share stories of honeybees.
“I’ve been a naturalist since I was a little kid. I tell snake tales and fishing stories. I have a whole set about honeybees,” he said.
Doug likes Utah and its beauty, rugged landscapes, and rocks. “I’ve been to Utah two times. We’ve made a family trip of it,” he says.
He enjoys telling stories, especially during what many feel are difficult times. “I feel honored when people show up to listen to me,” he shares. “I feel like storytelling makes sense of our lives. We’re all in this together. We share this world. We’re unraveling the mysteries together.”
Elliott’s stories are family friendly—about catfish, possums, dandelions, wild snakes, and the ‘nature’ in human nature. He can wail out a jivey harmonica tune or take you on an unforgettable cultural tour of North America’s backcountry. He can perform a lively concert of tunes, spin tales, and share outrageous personal narratives flavored with regional dialects—with more than a few belly laughs. He has spent time with traditional country and indigenous people, learning their ways of relating to the natural world.
In recent years, Doug has performed at festivals, museums, botanical gardens, nature centers, and schools from Canada to the Caribbean and has been a featured storyteller at the National Storytelling Festival. He has lectured and conducted workshops at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, and the Smithsonian Institution. He has led ranger training sessions for the National Park Service and guided people on wilderness experiences from down-east Maine to the Florida Everglades. He was named harmonica champion at Fiddler’s Grove Festival in Union Grove, N.C.
The National Storytelling Network (the largest storytelling membership organization in the world) inducted him into their Circle of Excellence for “exceptional commitment and exemplary contribution to the art of storytelling.” The International Herb Association presented him with the Otto Richter Award honoring his work with herbs and useful wild plants. The National Association for Interpretation (the professional organization of park rangers, naturalists, museum curators, etc.) honored him with the Master Front Line Interpreter Award for his “mastery of interpretive techniques, program development, and design of creative projects” celebrating the natural world and our human connection to nature.
Doug is the author of five books and many articles in regional and national magazines, has recorded a number of award-winning story and song albums, and is occasionally seen on PBS-TV, and the History and National Geographic Channels.
Come enjoy Doug’s unique and entertaining storytelling as you experience nature’s beauty first-hand in the Ashton Gardens at Thanksgiving Point, September 8-10, 2022.