The Art of Storytelling

Not too long ago I edited a children’s story called Tallulah’s Flying Adventure, written by Gloria Two-Feathers. I was impressed enough that I asked if I could interview her. I have no doubt that this story will be published and will be the beginning of great things for this author. She says below that she has no musical ability. I don’t believe her. I could hear the singing and the drumming as I read the story.

And after reading her answers below, I do believe she must be a kindred spirit of one of my sisters. Please read the interview and make Gloria welcome in our writing world.

1. Can you give me the background how you came to write Tallulah’s Flying Adventure?

About twenty-five years ago I was visiting a friend in Oregon. She lived in a rural area outside of a small town. I was setting on her front porch steps that faced an open meadow. I noticed several very small spider webs floating on the air. Each one had a little spider clinging to it. As each floating web would twist and turn in the sunlight it would become visible then invisible. As I watched this amazing sight I realized there were hundreds of these tiny webs traveling across this large open meadow. It looked like each little spider was navigating its web.

I remember thinking, “That’s how spiders travel great distances. They don’t crawl they fly!” My second thought was, “that would make a great story book.”

It took me a few years but at last, Tallulah’s Flying Adventure came to life.

2. How did you choose to write children’s stories?

I actually was interested in being a better storyteller. I had the opportunity to study with Nancy Mellon in CA. Nancy is not only a master storyteller she also instructs teachers at the Waldorf School the craft of storytelling, which is a part of the school’s curriculum. Several Waldorf kindergarten teachers were taking this course also. There was always a lot of conversations and study around children’s stories. For our final project of this yearlong course we had to write a story. I remembered all those little spiders floating across the meadow and Tallulah’s Flying Adventure was created.

3. When did you realize you were a storyteller?

I came from a family of story-tellers, who used analogies, oral history and jokes to teach me and my six siblings. From hunting, to canning, to the history of our family’s South Dakota homestead, each topic came alive in the telling. We lived in the Black Hills which is rich in Native American culture, Western history and stories – lots of stories. The beauty of living in such a special place is, I could read a story and actually drive to the area they were telling about. Such as the book Black Elk Speaks, a reference to Harney Peak, and of course Deadwood and the gold mine. Having a huge impact on my life path, Lakota Elder Buck Ghost Horse instructed me over a 20-year period about spirituality, ritual, ceremony, and culture — eventually giving me my name. This connection to Native American culture resonated strongly with me, reinforcing my sense that everything is alive. I try to bring this sensibility to the stories that to flow through me.

Not South Dakota but in the neighborhood.

Not South Dakota but in the neighborhood.

4. Your stories are very lyrical and beg to be read out loud, or even sung. Do you have music in your mind as you write?

I wish I could say yes. But no I don’t. Actually I’m not very musical. It’s just the way the story flows through me.

5. What brings joy for you?

I’m a fairly simple person and I love nature. I receive a lot of joy watching a beautiful sunrise or sunset. The smell of fresh air, and I need a lot of quiet. I live out where I’m surrounded by trees and watching the path the wind takes as it blows through the trees. How it shapes the way trees grow. I receive a lot of pleasure observing the hidden communication of all living things.

My husband Jim is my life long friend. Our dogs Charlie and Isabella are my constant companions and bring me a lot of joy and happiness and just make life more interesting.

Tree growing with granite

Tree growing with granite

6. What brings sadness?

Cruelty in the world, especially to the helpless beings. Such as, I have observed many people killing helpless spiders just because they are a spider. Not because of anything the spider is doing or has harmed them. There are other choices to make, they could put it outside or just leave it alone. I see this kind of senseless cruelty being done to many living creatures, plants, trees, human beings and the Earth herself; it always bring sorrow to my heart.

Tallulah?

Tallulah?

7. What story do you remember from your own childhood?

The first story I can remember has always enchanted me. When I was about three years old my father brought home a book with a story of a Persian Prince who was sent on a quest so he could win the Princess’s hand in marriage. His companion was a magnificent horse that had magical powers: he could talk and fly. To be able to marry the Princess the Prince had to return with a feather taken from the Phoenix, a fire bird that was the color of flames. The pictures in the book were black and white. But the description bought the color alive and real in my mind. I was always asking someone to read that story to me over and over. I must have heard it a hundred times.

8. Why do you think that story has stayed with you all these years?

As a child I believed in a world where we have animal companions who have magical powers and could communicate with us. And they would help us accomplish what seems like impossible tasks. All Native American stories and beliefs are based on everything the Creator created is related. Which means everything is in communication. In Shamanic Journey work this world is referred to as non-ordinary reality.

In ordinary reality I also grew up in a time of Roy Rogers, his horse Trigger and his dog Bullet, The Lone Ranger and his horse Silver, Lassie and Rin Tin Tin. And Strong Heart who was not just an animal movie star but a decorated war hero. Watching these shows had a great influence on me. I decided if they could do it, I could do it and I developed my own animal communication skills. Once you enter that world all of nature is ready to communicate, trees, plants, wind, water, moon, sun and stars the Earth herself. There are no limits only the ones you put on yourself.

Today this is a part of every day life. We have police, military and rescue dogs, service animals of all kinds, as well as horses who are used in therapeutic health care. All of whom have extraordinary powers and high levels of communication. The animals do this because they love us and they remember we are all related.

The internet and television are full of videos of people capturing inner species communication and friendships. The ancient ones always knew this and left the message in stories. As man advanced he forgot and thought it was just myth. But the animals always remembered and waited for human beings to raise their consciousness to a level of awareness of what our ancestors knew. Now I find myself living in a world that I always believed was real when I was a child.

Puppy communication

Puppy communication

9. Can you share something about your daily life, who you are outside of writing?

I enjoy working with women who wants to develop their Spirituality. Those who are asking the archetypal question, “Is this all there is to life? What is this calling and stirring inside of me”? I do this by teaching Energy Healing as well as personal transformation and development programs. I teach these programs in small schools, colleges and at my home.

10. What would you want readers to know about you?

I love to laugh. I have friends and family members that are so humorous we keep each other laughing all the time. I mean that full belly laugh that brings tears to your eyes and takes your breath away. I believe we are supposed to experience that sweet indulgence as often as we possibly can.

Fear

I’ve been thinking about fear for a scary story. Thinking about what scares me and why, what scares people I know, and why. For instance, a sister and a friend are afraid of spiders. Personally, when I find a spider I put it outside. Why are spiders frightening? Is it the way they run so fast, the fact that they have so many legs? But why are those things scary? When people talk about spiders they use words like ‘scuttle’ and ‘dart’. I think it’s the unpredictability, the feeling of being not in control. Well, my sister says spiders have hairy legs but then so does her husband and he doesn’t scare her.

The same friend (I’ll let her identify herself in comments if she wishes) told me she’d be uncomfortable house sitting for us because she’d be afraid to go outside. I assume it’s the lack of any light, the surrounding woods, the wild animals. Those things that I rarely give consideration to. But this is the same friend who managed to walk a lonely road through the woods late at night with no flashlight, because she had no choice. So she has the courage to function in spite of fear. I still wonder though, what is at the root of that fear of the dark. The unknown? The unseen?

This same friend lives in the city and thinks nothing of standing at a bus stop late at night. Now that would scare me. Why? Strangers, noise, crowds. And what is the root of that? Unpredictability, lack of control.

Thinking more about this I realize we also fool ourselves into thinking we are safe. Like the following scenario, which happened to me.

You’re in a tent on a camping trip with your husband and small child. It’s late in the season, few campers, cold at night. Your food is stored in iron ‘bear boxes’ with padlocks to keep the bears out of your food. It’s late, pitch black. You’re cozy in the tent, snug in your sleeping bag, safe. Until you hear the clanging of something banging on the bear box. And hear loud snuffling. And see the wall of the tent bulge inward. At that moment you realize that the safe ‘home’ is simply canvas material, easily ripped. And your snug sleeping bag is simply a trap you cannot get out of fast enough. Finally, you realize that by locking all your food in a bear box, the hungry bear must look elsewhere. And now you’re terrified.

In our case all worked out well, of course. But what was terrifying? Again, at the very root, vulnerability, lack of control. And for me, the sudden terror that I might not be able to keep my child safe. Which could be interpreted yet again as lack of control.

So in this story I’m working on, it doesn’t seem to matter what the character is afraid of so much as why they are afraid. If I figure out the why, then maybe the reader will feel that same fear.

So what are you afraid of, and have you ever wondered why?

The photo below is a bronze maple leaf that hangs in a yew tree. My son says it’s creepy because the eyes ‘follow’ him when he walks by. A fear of something inanimate acting like something animate? Who knows.

And okay, I added a spider for my friend. Couldn’t resist.

Do the eyes follow you?

Do the eyes follow you?

Peppermint - looking spider on a peony.

Peppermint – looking spider on a peony.