So the New York Public Library put together this great list of 30 of their favorite LGBTQ+ books for kids, one for each day of June. They also have 30 picks for adults and 30 picks for teens, too. But as excited as I was to see the lists, and as much as I love many of the books on each of them, I was deeply disappointed in the format. Really, NYPL? You put the time in to create three great lists like this and left them in this terrible format? I find it especially tragic for the kids list, because the parents and kids looking for picture books are not the same parents and kids looking for chapter books (most of the time), and how many will take the time to click-through on all thirty books just to find the two or three they might be interested in?
My storytelling journey started this year with the March on Washington on January 21, 2017. I wanted to tell a story of being there, that day, but I’d already had plans to tell an entertaining historical story from the archives of history. Something quirky, I’d hoped, that very few people knew about.
Someone that January mentioned the historic march for women’s suffrage more than a hundred years ago, also near a presidential inauguration. Turns out it was the day before. And who was the orchestrator of that march, but Alice Paul.
I started reading about Alice Paul, and her need to agitate President Woodrow Wilson in Doris Stephen’s account called Jailed for Freedom. With this passage I was hooked:
Later chapters told of Alice Paul’s hunger strikes, and of the horrible injustices done to her and the other women of the National Women’s Party for doing what we now take for granted: peaceful protest.
I started asking around. “Have you heard of Alice Paul?” “What do you know about the women’s suffrage movement?” Not many knew. What little I’d learned I passed on.
I told the story to my friend Amy, and her and I came up with a plan almost in tandem. We’d do a “Drunk History” episode, but about Alice Paul. We set a date and time. Two weeks later, steeped in the ins and outs of Alice Paul, we recorded six hours of raw footage with both of us a bit tipsy.
With the help of a few more of my friends I was able to tell the story of Alice Paul and the fight for women’s suffrage in an engaging, not preachy at all way:
So, now that my story of Alice Paul is complete I think again to the march in Washington this January.
Like a hundred years ago, women were angry and they marched about it. Unlike a hundred years ago the police kept the peace and women spoke their peace without interference. Alice Paul, and many of her contemporaries fought for our right to march this January. I, for one, am thankful for that privilege.
I tell stories almost everyday. If I hadn’t told a story that day, I probably spent too much time reading, although most of those days I can’t wait to tell someone what I’ve read and why I liked (or disliked) it so much.
Like Matthew Dicks, I try to find stories in my everyday life, although I haven’t gotten to the point of saving them in a daily spreadsheet.
When people find out I’m from Alaska, they often ask me about the famous syntax salad Hockey mom that can see Russia from her front door. But I know nothing of her, so I steer the conversations to my adventures in ice fog (moose head in my windshield). Or the time I was in the car when we hit a moose (used a paperback book to protect myself). Or of my last ever fishing trip pulling a pre-historic burbot out of a creek, the horror. Or of my long wet, cold days tied to a tree to keep me from falling into the deadly glacier-fed water while my father dip netted to help us survive the Alaskan winters with full bellies.
I also collect amazing stories from my travels. Last spring, I went on an 18 day cruise with my grandparents from Florida to Southampton, UK. When I start telling the “Four
Stories” as I call them, I like to tease the audience with the hook, “they all involve beer, but one has hookers.” The last one, of course, has the hookers.
I have to admit, my stories can be a little on PG side, and I struggle sometimes to come up with all ages stories when the opportunity presents itself.
We have some kids in the library that help with doing library stuff because:
a. They have free time
b. They need volunteer hours for National Honors Society
c. Library stuff is fun
When we are doing backroom stuff (library secrets of weeding books… if you don’t know, you don’t need to know), they have asked me to tell them stories about my high school days. I keep it 100% G rated, but I can still conjure up some interesting stories from 25 years ago. Like the time the entire senior class held a sit-in for a most loved, administratively wronged teacher and we all got a fun saturday suspension. Or the time my theatre teacher put me in charge of dropping snow on the holiday choir and we threw down three bags of plastic snow, choking the poor singers. Look, she didn’t give me any instructions just the bags.
While I love to write, I’d rather be writing fiction and telling real stories, so if you see me sometime, let’s have a beer (or coffee) and catch up. I’ll tell you a few stories, definitely that one with the hookers, it’s a doozy.
I spent last weekend, like millions of other people, marching for Women’s Rights. With my Storytelling class in mind I wanted to record all of the chants and placards I saw, but holding my own sign up was a struggle in itself, so I missed a lot of the amazing recordable moments.
A group of marchers behind me were not just chanting, but breaking out in song. I heard, and sung along to as best I could to: “This Land Your Land”, “God Bless America”, Madonna’s “Express Yourself” and even Venessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles.”
Because we had made our way downtown. We were making our way through the crowd. We were homebound, but not until we got some business done.
In the aftermath, many people posted their signs and a message of their most pressing concern in the storm of uncertainty. For me, I wished to keep moving forward with equal rights for women.
“No advantage and no success is ever permanent. The winners are those that keep moving.” ~ Michael Dell (Matthews, 2005)
I know I stand on the shoulders of other people, other women, that questioned the norm and fought for our rights. So when I saw my friend Maureen Milliken’s post on Facebook of her father’s letter to a nun about being denied the right to work on patrol duty in grammar school because she was a girl, I asked her if I could read it for my Storytelling class (personal communication, January 24, 2017).