Q & A with Storyteller Simon Brooks
CLiF couldn’t do what we do without the 64 amazing NH and VT authors, illustrators, and storytellers we work with. These talented folks travel all over NH and VT visiting kids at schools, libraries, summer camps and rec programs, after school programs, affordable housing units, and other places children spend time.
One of our most popular presenters is storyteller Simon Brooks (pictured above telling stories in Nashua, NH). He told stories at more than 43 programs this summer alone, and is always a big hit with kids and adults alike. Simon has been telling folk and fairy tales – with his own twists – for many years. His collection of folk tales and his tips for telling them, Under the Oaken Bow, was published earlier this year. He also recently recorded his telling of The Epic of Gilgamesh, which you can purchase on CD. He’s currently working on a podcast of interviews with storytellers. You can learn more about Simon here.
We asked Simon about what inspires him and why he loves this work.
Q. What got you into storytelling and what do you love most about it?
A. I used to tell my own stories but then saw a storyteller called Eric Maddern. Once I saw him, I dropped my own stories and went to folk and fairy tales. I knew they were better, and there was a magic to them that other tales rarely have. What I love most is reconnecting older people (from their 30’s up) to these old stories and showing how important they are still. AND making kids smile. When CLiF sends me into a challenged school district and I make kids smile or laugh, I know from teachers that this is a rare thing – to see the student smile or laugh. This is The Absolute Best for me. And it might open a door to a bit more joy through reading and finding cool stories and authors.
Q. Was there anything surprising that you learned while publishing your first book? What challenges did you come up against?
A. The process is SLOW. Really slow. My book [Under the Oaken Bow] supposed to originally come out at the beginning of last summer. It came out in April this year, and I was told that was not too bad! The editing is never done. They say never to read your book once published, but one has to at book readings! Then you find a sentence you are not thrilled with, a missed, often repeated word, you suddenly realize that yes, you could have written it better! The challenges for my own book, a retelling of traditional folk and fairy tales, was to find a way to write them in my own style of telling and making it engaging and readable! Transcribing what I perform would not translate well to the page. I think this was the greatest challenge. But once I figured it out, it got easier. And being in a writing group helped enormously. Getting other people’s HONEST feedback could only make my book and writing better. You need to have no ego! Or not bruise easily!
Q. What do you like about working with CLiF?
A. Mainly getting to give books to the kids and tell them stories. Seeing their faces glow and shine and laugh and then helping them find books for themselves is a treat. It is sad, and yet for me wonderful, to be able to give a child their first ever book to keep. I am still saddened that there are kids who have no books at home. To be the one who presents them with their first book is brilliant! And meeting all the people who looked after these kids, the teachers, the paras, the care-providers and librarians. And the staff at CLiF make it all so easy.
Q. Do you have any favorite memories from events this summer?
A. Yes! I was at Bethlehem Public Library and this tiny little kid walked in. He was tiny. The door almost swung behind him, but someone caught it. It would have knocked him clean across the floor. He was wearing sunglasses and, I think, a fedora. He sat in a chair facing me, folded his arms and stared at me, as if to say – this better be good! We ended up becoming buddies for the afternoon and I ended up reading one of the books he picked to all the kids.
Q. What have you learned interviewing other authors and storytellers for your podcast?
A. Wow. Most storytellers and writers supplement their income from diversifying – so doing voice-over, historical storytelling and creating podcasts! There is a calling to storytelling, as with writing. You just have to do it. Lords knows, few of us are doing it for big money. We all do it because of our love and passion of words and story – our need to do it.
Q. What are you working on now?
A. The podcast mainly. And putting together packages for schools. [The Epic of] Gilgamesh is one for sixth and/or seventh grade students, fractured folk and fairy tales is for 3rd and 4th grade students. Gilgamesh will also be something I take to colleges. I am also going to be working on a new album. I would say CD but I think it will be a limited CD release with most of it being digital sales and download cards. This will be for younger families like my first two CDs, bright, fun and silly in places. I also just wrote a short story. It began as a ramble with words and morphed into a sort of ghost story. You can read it here.
Here are just a few of the many enthusiastic thank you notes from students who enjoyed Simon’s storytelling this summer!