Friday, October 24, 2014

In the mountains

I am in the mountains today,  telling stories at an elementary school..  Tomorrow I'll be in Morgantown telling more stories,  for WVU Mountaineer Week. Tonight, though, is family time with my oldest son and his family. The sun is shining,  the trees are golden, the air is crisp and the time is perfect for traveling this beautiful Mountain State.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Grapevine Storytelling Series

I am so pleased to be part of an exciting new storytelling series happening in Takoma Park, Maryland. The Grapevine is organized and hosted by storytellers Noa Baum, Tim Livengood and Jane Dorfman, the series features a wide range of storytelling styles and presenters. 

If you live in the DC Metro area, get these dates on your calendar, and check out their Facebook page for continuing updates and news:

Here is our schedule for the rest of the Fall 2014 season: 

November 6: 

Denise Clegg Bennett 
Denise Clegg Bennett performs at the Grapevine on 6 November 2014. Denise Bennett tells stories with heart, humor and harp. Whether telling stories from her peripatetic youth as an Air Force brat, or her own version of a folk tale, or wisdom stories from many traditions, her performances always include music; sung in what a long-time listener calls her “angelic” voice or played on the celtic harp. Denise brings over a decade of experience as a chaplain in a retirement community to her leadership in workshops and retreats and as a storytelling coach; storytelling and story-listening go hand in hand in her work. And though one of the residents at the home used to wink and say, “storyteller, huh? … that’s what my mama called lying” Denise’s stories always ring true, whether she made them up or not!

Recent performance highlights include:
America’s Best Storytellers Festival in Richmond, VA
“The Heart’s True Scale” for the National Storytelling Network Fringe Festival
“The G-Word; Womens’ Stories about God...or Not” at Cross Roads Art Center
Secretly Y’all (like the Grapevine only in Richmond with more of a drawl….)
Master Storyteller and author Elizabeth Ellis says, “Denise Bennett is a storyteller and a musician of exceptional talent. Her work is timeless, and flawless. Her work reminds us of the love that dwells in the deep heart’s core.” Find out more at

Megan Hicks 
Megan Hicks performs at the Grapevine on 6 November 2014. Megan Hicks brings the spoken word to life with characters that live and breathe long after her stories end. Her credits include the National Storytelling Festival, regional festivals throughout the U.S., schools and libraries nationwide, and tours on three continents. Currently, she lives near Philadelphia with the love of her life. And four cats. and 

with host Tim Livengood 

December 4:

Renée Brachfeld & Mark Novak
Renée Brachfeld and Mark Novak perform at the Grapevine on 4 December 2014. Renée Brachfeld and Mark Novak are master storytellers. This husband-wife duo have been presented as Scholars/Artists in Residence for Shabbatonim and retreats at over 130 synagogues across the US and Canada, leading services, presenting workshops, and performing for both adult and family audiences. Their recording, King Solomon's Daughter, was awarded the Parents' Choice Gold Award. They have been featured presenters at LimmudFest in England, Limmud NY, Ruach HaAretz, Routes, and the Seattle International Storytelling Festival.

Mark is a community Rabbi (ALEPH 2012), hazzan, musician, and storyteller. He serves as spiritual guide of Minyan Oneg Shabbat, Washington DC's Renewal minyan. Mark has served as hazzan and rabbi at Congregation Adas Israel, as well as many other DC area congregations. He is also the leader of the eponymous Mark Novak Band, a popular choice for Jewish wedding celebrations throughout the DC area. Mark began his music career as a child, singing in a professional Jewish choir, and appearing on Broadway in the musical Oliver. From 1977-1986 he was the music director of Living Stage at Arena Stage in Washington, DC. His original theater pieces have been performed at Wolf Trap Center for the Performing Arts and The Smithsonian.

Renée has been a professional storyteller since 1986. In addition to performing, she teaches a variety of workshops, including family storytelling, integrating storytelling in the classroom, and building community through storytelling. Renée also leads High Holiday services for young families at Congregation B'nai Israel in Rockville, MD. Her work has been published in Penina Schram’s Chosen Tales, and in Goldie Milgram’s Mitzvah Stories.
More at

Granny Sue (Susanna Holstein) 
Granny Sue Holstein performs at the Grapevine on 4 December 2014. Susanna “Granny Sue” Holstein lives in rural Jackson County, WV where she gardens, writes, preserves food, and creates stories. A ballad singer with a deep interest in Appalachian culture and folklore, she has presented workshops for numerous conferences including the National Storytelling Conference and has been a featured performer at regional and national events. An award-winning writer published in several anthologies and journals, Holstein maintains three active blogs online. She has taught Appalachian Storytelling for the Augusta Heritage Series at Davis & Elkins College for the past three years, and is currently working on her fourth storytelling CD. Find out more,, andwww.twolanelivin.comwith host Noa Baum 

January 8: 
Noa Baum
Noa Baum is an award-winning storyteller, educator and public speaker performing internationally with diverse audiences ranging from the World Bank, prestigious universities, and congregations, to inner city schools and detention centers. Born and raised in Israel, she was an actress at Jerusalem Khan Theater, studied with Uta Hagen in NYC and holds an M.A. from NYU. Chosen by Washington Jewish Week as one of 10 most interesting local Jews of the year, Noa offers a unique combination of performance art and practical workshops that focus on the power of narrative to heal across the divides of identity. She is proud to be living in Silver Spring on the edge of Takoma

Regi Carpenter I was born by a river….
Regi Carpenter is the youngest daughter in a family that pulsates with contradictions-religious, raucous, tender, terrible, crazy and caring.. Growing up in the same small town on the Saint Lawrence River as her father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, Regi’s stories speak to generations of a hard knock life lived gloriously. With a voice that dances, Regi’s stories are as swift, unexpected, and powerful as the river itself.

A storyteller since 1996, Regi has performed at the National Storytelling Festival as well as many other national storytelling venues. She has been a storyteller in resident at the International Storytelling Center in Jonesborough, Tennessee. Equally adept at children’s programs and adult performances and workshops, Regi’s work is a “big hearted embrace of the world.” Loren Niemi, Executive Director, Heart of the Beast Theater. 

Regi is a professor of storytelling at Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York as well as a teaching artist for students ages 4-22. “Regi has the heart and soul of a great teaching artist. She is able to pull the best from each child.” Third grade teacher.

She is also a recipient of the JJ Reneaux Emerging Artist Award, a Leonard Bernstein Teaching Fellowship Award, the Parent’s Choice Gold award, the Parents’ Guide to Children’s Media Award and the Storytelling World Award. Her piece Snap! won the 2012 Boston StorySlam.

with host Tim Livengood

The events take place 7:30–8:30PM at the Takoma Park Community Center, 7500 Maple Ave., Takoma Park, MD 20912.

Hope to see you there!

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Meeting the Devil and Those Mixed-Up Girls: Two Stories

A woman we met at a restaurant in town told us this story. She was having dinner with her parents and had overheard us telling a friend that we were going to Matewan and Mingo county the next day.

"I'm sorry," she said. "I don't mean to interrupt you, but we're from Mingo county!"

The world throws strange coincidences our way, doesn't it? We stayed and talked with these nice people for probably half an hour. West Virginians are like that--we talk to strangers and end up being friends by the end of the conversation. And we hear some good stories in the process, like this one.

The mother at the table said that her grandfather (or maybe it was great-grandfather) had a store at the top of Ben's Creek Mountain in Mingo county. The mountain is known for its foggy conditions, and one night as her grandfather was riding home on horseback he found himself enveloped in a thick, almost impenetrable fog. He's been out late and he'd had a bit too much to drink, so between the fog and his foggy brain it was a difficult ride.

from Microsoft Clipart
He was making his way his way slowly along the narrow track, his horse suddenly stopped. A quick look revealed the reason: the Devil Himself was holding the horse's bridle.

The horse stomped and tried to rear, laying back its ears and rolling its eyes in fright. "Turn loose of my horse!" grandfather shouted. He was scared too, but drink can make a man braver than he might normally be in such a situation.

The Devil replied, "You keep drinking like that and you'll be mine in the end. You better stop your drinking, old man."

And then the Devil disappeared. The old man, probably feeling even older after that encounter, continued on to his home.

"So," I asked, "did your grandfather stop drinking?"

"No," the lady who told the story replied, "he said he just quit riding over Ben's Creek Mountain in the dark!"

While we were in Matewan, the man we met in the restaurant there told us this story:

photo from History of Colorado
There was an elderly man who lived somewhere close to Matewan (he named the man's name, but I cannot remember it now) who had six daughters and one son. The old man had always lived a simple life, cooking with wood or coal, and an outside privy for a bathroom.

The girls grew up and moved away to Cincinnati, Cleveland and other places where they all prospered and had good lives. They decided that it was time for life to be a little easier for their father too, so they devised a plan to go home and fix up the house for the old man.

They did it up right--all modern conveniences in the kitchen, and a bathroom complete with shower, sink and toilet. When the work was finished, the sisters threw a party--an outdoor cookout. They bought a grill, picnic table, steaks, the works. While they were eating, their father spoke up.

"You girls have got it all mixed up! What are they a-teachin' you in those cities? You've got it all backwards!"

"What do you mean, Dad?" The women were surprised and confused by his comments.

"You're eating outside and going to the bathroom in the house! That's not how it's supposed to be! You're supposed to eat in the house and use the bathroom outside. You've got it all backwards!"

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.
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