Adventures in Storytelling

The adventures of The Patchwork Players, Patti Christensen and James Nelson-Lucas, as they travel the dimensions of time and space, telling their tales

Sunday, August 24, 2008

August 2008

August has been quite an interesting month thus far. On a personal level, it has been a sad time as we have both lost close family members: Patti, her father-in-law, and James, a cousin- in-law. There has been much mourning. But the services were beautiful.

Professionally James has had an eventful time. He wrote an article for the International Brotherhood of Magicians; the worlds largest organization for the magical arts. It was an article aimed at teaching magicians more about the art of storytelling and how to use it. This month, the first half of the article was published in The Linking Ring. This is the official magazine of the Brotherhood. We will post the article in its entirety next month, after both halves have been published.

James also traveled to Denver to be a part of the annual World Science Fiction Convention: Denvention 3. It was a gathering of about 5000 lovers and readers of science fiction fans from all over the world. James was there, not only as a fan, but also in the official capacity as a professional storyteller. As such he participated in two panels. The first panel was titled “Classic Movies We'd Like to See Remade”. All the panelists agreed that “The Day the Earth Stood Still” should not be remade and are not looking forward to Keanu Reeves upcoming release of same. James chose for remake the Twilight Zone episode “To Serve Man”. James loves this story and has written a script based on the original “To Serve Man” story called “The Translator” that he and Patti tell as a tandem tale. His other choice was the classic, schlock film, “The Monolith Monsters”. If you thought a slow-shambling Mummy was scary...just try a giant growing rock. He would love to see action director Michael Bay tackle that one. The second panel was “Storytelling: The Oral Tradition”. The panelists were James, Uncle River, Patrick Rothfuss, Washington DC area Master Storyteller Bill Mayhew, and Rev. Randy Smith. The first question from the audience was if we would each tell a tale. Bill and Rev. Randy both told story length jokes, James told his classic “The Story of Sally”. Uncle River and Patrick are not storytellers per se, so they related personal stories about storytellers they knew. The discussion was lively. It ranged from the use of stories as a tool of cultural inculcation; to how stories help children in the areas of language acquisition, math, music and the sciences; and to where tellers find their tales. After the panel, James was approached by another producer and asked to bring his storytelling to a San Diego convention. More on that later.

Meanwhile Patti has been on a cross-country odyssey. She flew to Ohio to be together with her husband’s family around her father-in-law’s surgery. It was very powerful experience to be together with friends and family of this extraordinary man. He decided to go through with a surgery at age 95 saying that either he would get well and go back to work or else it had been a great 95 years. We lost him several days post-surgery, but it was all very beautiful as he lived strongly and in service to the very end.

After all the things that needed to happen following the death, Patti and her husband Dick were ready for some travels back across the country heading for home. They decided to take ten days to drive, visiting friends along the way as well as having the chance to see some amazing sites. They visited many ancient Native American sites including The Coronado State Monument in Albuquerque with ancient kivas and murals; The Taos Pueblo where Indian people have lived continuously for over a thousand years; Mesa Verde National Park, and site that the Ancestral Puebleans (the new preferred name for the Anansasi people); Aztec Ruins National Monument, incorrectly named, but an ancient site in NM where they have rebuilt a great kiva so the public might experience this amazing spiritual space; The Navajo National Monument, AZ more astounding ancient pueblos from 900 years ago; and then had a quick stop at

The North Rim of the Grand Canyon. AND, Patti got to achieve a lifetime dream of standing at Four Corners, where four states come cool is that? And during their travels, all the time, looking for and listening to stories. Stories were very important to the Pueblo people. They also saw many different version of the Pueblo Storyteller pottery sculptures; relatively modern versions of human figures, that have been created since 1964 in honor of the traditions of storytelling. All in all, a very full time, and rich with food for thought that will grow into stories down the road

James has one more trip in the works up to Washington State, and then fall will be upon us. But it was a special and interesting summer.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Summers End

Comi-Con 2008

So after and between all of the storytelling, what do Stortellers do? Well last week, James and Patti joined 125,000 other people at Comi-Con, the world's largest Science Fiction Convention, held every year in San Diego. (James in his favorite kilt)

What is Comi-Con? It is everything from teenagers to grandparents, people dressed up like Storm Troopers and fans of Hello Kitty. It is intellectuals and nerds and librarians and scientists and movie buffs. Throw in some movie stars and directors and comic book artists and you are starting to get the picture. Across the street this year form the convention center, there was a display of the Terra Cotta soldiers from China which are featured in the next Mummy movie.

James has been attending regularly since about 1978, while Patti is a recent convert. We both enjoy hearing what's coming next in the movies and on TV, the latests thoughts on using comics for literacy and helping kids to become lifelong readers, and chances to hear such great thinkers as Deepak Chopra. Not to mention just the people watching. You've never seen anything quite like it.

We also love the free giveaways and came home with bags filled with t-shirts, posters, strange offers for things we don't know about on-line. We also got the chance to get our photos taken in front of a green screen and printed with Family Guy and the cast from Bones. How cool is that?

Wanna go? Better buy your tickets early. This year they were sold out in advanced and had no tickets available at the door. Go to to learn more. See you next year at Comi-Con 2009

Now for your storytelling tip:

That is the BME: Beginning, Middle and End. It sounds so simple, but it can be difficult to execute. Especially when relating personal stories. The end is often forgotten. The beginning sets up the conflict or lesson to be learned. The middle is 'what happens next. The end is the resolution of the conflict and/or the lesson to be learned. Take for example Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Initial conflicts; the Bears are not ready to eat their breakfasts. Goldilocks seeks food and shelter. The middle; Goldilocks breaks into the Bears house, avails herself of food and rest. End; the Bears return and chase Goldilocks away. The lesson learned for Goldilocks is not to commit larceny. Beginning, Middle and End. Look to those tools in your storytelling and you will move a step forward.

Summer Reading

July 2008….Summer Reading and Stories to Travel With

For storytellers, Library Summer Reading time is often one of our busiest times of the year. Every year, state libraries have the chance to choose theme for libraries to use for the summer. This year the state of California chose "Catch the Reading Bug". Performers then pitch what they would do within that theme.

This summer we decided NOT to tell stories about bugs, but rather find stories about people who BUG US. We called this program "Don't Bug Me: Brothers, Sisters and Other Annoying Creatures." We have had this show on the road at libraries over the past five weeks going as far south as San Ysidro (from which we could see Mexico) and as far north as Palmdale (about 60 miles north of Los Angeles.) We also ran all around Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego Counties.

We have been in teeny tiny old libraries where they had to close down the computers and push the tables and shelves out of the way in order to create a performing space, to brand spanking new libraries with amazing beautiful community rooms and professional theatres inside. One of the most interesting places we visited was in Palmdale where they have a separate Youth library, one of only two in the state of California. The main library is a couple of blocks away, so this is a whole building and library devoted just to children. Very cool, and you can be really loud inside with no one complaining!

We also had the chance to tell some scary urban legends, and engage in some really interesting discussion with teenagers about the process by which urban legends get formed. Will Bill Gates really send you $100 for passing along this email? Can a cell phone really cause popcorn to pop? Find out the answer to these and more at

We especially want to give a shout out and thanks to all of the Friends of the Library groups who make so many of the special shows even possible in such difficult times. We always stop by their bookstores and the libraries. We sure HATE to have to haul more books home, but, sometimes you have to.

Besides all of the library shows, we also had the chance to be in support of some other activities and groups that we love. One is the American Cancer Society's Camp Reach fro the Sky, which is a day camp for kids with cancer. This was started over 20 years ago by a doctor who felt that these kids needed to have the chance to go to camp, too. We love being in support with all of the fabulous staff and volunteers that make this camp happen, and were happy to add in our stories to friends old and new.

We also spent an afternoon at the Ocean Festival in San Clemente. The San Clemente Ocean Festival is a non-profit volunteer organization dedicated to the promotion and support of ocean safety, the environment and the community by providing a quality athletic, cultural and enjoyable family event. They raise money for lots of cool local groups. We enjoyed telling stories to an enthusiastic audience. The kids really enjoyed the chance to be sneaky monkeys in the classic tale "Caps for Sale."

And we also got a chance to see and tell stories with some of our favorite local storytellers form The South Coast Storytellers Guild at Heritage Hill in Lake Forest California. What fun to hang out, listen and tell tales with Guild members. We especially always love the way that Linda King-Pruitt and Bob Pruitt combine music with storytelling fun! A great time was had by all, even WITH the order of horses wafting through the performance space. James also had fun playing MC-a role he always enjoys! Hey, come and join the Guild at a meeting in Costa Mesa some month on the Third Thursday. The meetings are open to the public and FREE.

All of the places that we have been have included one thing: children and adults who enjoy stories! We are always glad to hear the laughter and applause, but even happier when someone stays after a performance to tell us one of THEIR own stories that they go reminded of during the show. THAT is enough to help our summer move into "happily ever after."