Friday, December 21, 2018

The Online Story Swap

Every year it seems there are more opportunities to connect with storytellers around the world and it doesn't always mean jumping on a plane and traveling thousands of miles.

The Federation of Asian Story Tellers is hosting regular online story swaps. These story swaps are FREE and you can either tell a story or tune in and listen.

I joined the November Story Swap and had a great time.

It's easy to participate. Once you've registered you're sent a link that asks you to download the ZOOM software which is simple to install and use. While being very enthusiastic about technology, I can be a bit phobic, so simple is good.

Roger Jenkins and Sheila Wee host the Story Swap from Singapore and you can see people popping up on the screen from around the world. Apart from the storyteller and Roger, participants are muted but they can still chat. I took a screen shot of Meenu Sivaramakrishnan in action. (Thank  you to Meenu for allowing me to use this image). This will give you a bit of an idea. You can see the dialogue box in the corner. The chat has options so you can share your comments publicly or message the tellers privately.

Its all excellent fun I have to say.

This is a You tube video of the first Swap held in September. Roger's introduction is enthusiastic and no wonder, over 50 people checked in! Have a look. Sometimes the audio struggles to stay in sync but if you move the cursor along, you'll get a good feel for what it's all about and the variety of stories and storytellers.

For more information visit FEAST's website. And maybe at the next Swap, I'll see you there.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Music, stories, art, movement and nature

Taking music and stories into 4 year old kindergarten with Sarah Depasquale. These children are part of the Bush Kinder program run by Hobsons Bay’s conservation rangers. Already switched onto the natural world, the children were engrossed by the story of our migratory shore birds. And how I wish the naysayers could see the response children have to Sarah’s playing. Music in schools ... pleeeease!!!!

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Sharing the space: artists and scientists

I've just returned from Hobart where I had the opportunity to present and tell a story at the Australasian Shorebird Conference: Losing their habitats - conservation and management strategies for migratory and resident shorebirds - University of Tasmania Sandy Bay campus.

This was my first venture into the science space and when I tossed my hat into the ring and was accepted, I suffered a bout of imposter syndrome. However that was fleeting as I couldn't have been made to feel more welcome and relevant.

The conference was preceded with the opening of the Overwintering Project Exhibition at the Moonah Arts Centre (Tasmania). The Overwintering Project is an environmental art project designed to bring visibility to Australia's most endangered group of birds - migratory shorebirds.

The project is the brainchild of print maker and curator and now friend, Kate Gorringe-Smith.

These are some examples of Kate's beautiful work.

It was pure joy telling the story of the migration of the Red-necked stint at the opening to a room of birdos. Very vocal reactions from the crowd!

Kate also had a presentation accepted and the two of us were programmed on the first day. I was disappointed that Sarah couldn't make it to the conference as she is part of the team but she was with me in spirit.
 Kate and I felt well pleased with ourselves and our contribution. We learned a LOT and met extraordinary people and heard many inspiring stories. The overall impressions I was left with was the ability of scientists and citizen scientists to work together in a space of mutual respect and the role artists can play to support the environmental message.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Melton Botanic Gardens Celebrates 15 years

I have friends who tell me that they would rather chew off and eat their own leg than tell stories in environments where the setting and elements are out of their control. I might have thought the same once but over the years, I've embraced the challenge of taking work out side of performance venues and into all kinds of spaces. I think I've become hooked on the challenge.
The Melton Botanic Gardens is the perfect fit for our stories; it is a place that celebrates and provides habitat for birds, including the migratory Latham's snipe as well as many spectacular plants and remnant bush.

The big flowering West Australian eucalyptus flower this time of year and if you missed me and Sarah, you can still see these wondrous plants blooming.

Once the environment is embraced, the relationship between listeners is re-calibrated as well. We love the informality and fun we have with the people who come to hear our stories. 

 Thank you Melton for inviting us to part of your celebrations. We had a top time!

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Tamar Valley Writers Festival, Tasmania

While I could hardly be called a prolific writer of children's books, I'm passionate and particularly interested in non-fiction picture books for upper primary.

My two titles were published a while ago and are still in print and I meet readers, and convert new ones, wherever I go.

I was fortunate to be invited to the Tamar Valley Writers Festival as part of the schools program. Thanks to Paul Collins and the Creative Net Speakers' Agency for tossing my hat into the ring.

I couldn't speak highly enough of this festival, located this year at the Swiss themed resort, the Grindlewald, a few kilometres out of Launceston.

And while speaking highly and offering thanks, a HUGE ALMIGHTY thank you to Petrarch's Bookshop. Their pop-up shop at the festival was quite extraordinary and I, for one, found my wallet opening all by itself on numerous occasions.

My sessions were for middle and upper primary and years 8 - 12. I believe that what I have to share with students (my 'point of difference') is that I come to writing stories through telling stories. My mantra is: speak, write, read aloud.

It was great fun acting out stories with the young ones and introducing the older ones to stories told.

The Tamar Valley Writers Festival is every two years. Its a ripper!!!

CHENNAI: Under the Aalamaram International Storytelling Festival

What a treat to be invited along to tell stories as part of Under the Aalamaram International Storytelling Festival.

With Storyteller Craig Jenkins from the UK and Giorgiana Elena from Romania
The festival takes place across ten days, primarily in schools in Tamil Nadu, born of a dream of the organisers of Kathai Kallatta, a storytelling organisation founded to '...address the benefits of storytelling for children, adults, teachers and parents'.

From the 23rd August to the 2nd September it was nothing but stories, stories and more stories. The team was a mix of local tellers and guests from the US, UK, Australia, Indonesia, Singapore and Romania.

During this time, it was estimated that between us, we told stories to over 8,000 children from kindergarten to middle high school. In addition, we ran workshops for the older students and teachers, and there were two public storytelling showcases.

There were times when we told stories to small groups and on other days, we were greeted by a sea of students.
It took a pano shot capture the numbers of students in this session

So many highlights during the ten days, but if I boil it down, the essence for me was the hospitality of the festival, the schools and the local storytellers and the good will of the international storytellers who supported each other as we adapted to the heat and the traffic.

The public concerts were a huge success and it was wonderful to see storytellers from different countries telling stories from their place with such warmth, polish and passion
Craig Jenkins (UK), Jeeva Raghunath (Chennai), Diane Ferlatte (US), Giorgiana Elena (Romania), Ariyo Zidni (Indonesia), Jackie Kerin (Australia), Lindy Mitchell-Nilsson (Australia), Roger Jenkins (Singapore).
This is how storytellers are greeted in schools in Tamil Nadu.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Williamstown Literary Festival 2018

'In the cosy comfort of the library, while outside an icy wind blew, Jackie Kerin and Sarah Depasquale kept the audience spellbound with their carefully crafted blend of evocative music, storytelling and kamishibai. With impeccable timing, just as Dr Ward's amazing plant filled case was aboard a ship, Australia bound, a particularly wild and heavy squall of rain lashed the library windows and had us all feeling like we were in fact afloat on a turbulent sea! A lovely session!'

AKA (Australian Kamishibai Association)

Kamishibai (paper theater) is a Japanese way of telling stories. Once popular in the 1930s - 1940s, it was swept aside with the introduction of television.

But kamishibai is back and new stories are being published and there are festivals and gatherings of kamishibai storytellers popping up around the world.

Bernard Caleo
Bernard Caleo (comic book maker, actor, storyteller) and myself formed a Facebook Group a few years ago, and calling it the AKA (Australian Kamishiba Association), we hoped to gather kamishibai enthusiasts from around Australia to share ideas and grow skills.

Daniela with her kamishibai stage and stories
We now have members from Victoria, NSW, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia as well as a few overseas guests.

Tetsuta Watanabe's 1940s Japanese tale of 'Mr Carrot' was a favourite
With growing confidence, we decided to go public and so pitched ourselves to the Williamstown Literary Festival 2018 offering: a display, two shows, introductory session and workshop for children.
Anna telling a story to an enchanted crowd
The plan was hatched when Anna Manuel said, 'Let's do it!' Anna shouldered a huge amount of the planning and arrangements with the festival organisers: curated the showcase of Kamishibai Stories for Kids and facilitated the workshop. Together with her partner Anthony, she also designed our flyers and banner.

L-R: Alex Kharnam, Daniela Bücheler-Scott, Jackie Kerin, Matt McArthur,Tetsuta Watanabe, Anna Manuel

And I would like to express gratitude, on behalf of the team, to those members of Storytelling Victoria who so kindly gave up their time and helped us with the display table. We were overwhelmed by your willingness to down tools and lend us hand.

And please, if you would like to be part of the fun, don't hesitate to join our group and follow our Page.

Find us on our AKA PAGE HERE

Sunday, May 20, 2018

World Migratory Bird Day 2018

Sarah an I have become passionate supporters of any attempt to share information about the migratory shore birds that visit the wetlands in Hobsons Bay where we both live.

Several years ago we developed a show called Tales from the Flyway where we imagine what it would be like to visit some of the countries on the East Asian Australasian Flyway.

This is the fourth year we have celebrated World Migratory Bird Day, a global event with our local community and rangers.

And this year was especially wonderful as the Spotswood Primary School Choir joined voices with the Newport Community Choir in singing about the life of the Godwits, words by Barry Hill, music composed by Todd Mcneal.

Such a buzz to use the skills that we share to make a difference.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Amazing Case of Dr Ward and Other Stories

The Amazing Case of Dr Ward and Other Stories is a show developed by me and my wonderful collaborator, Sarah Depasquale.

Wandering through our local botanic gardens (the Williamstown Botanic Gardens), we asked ourselves the question, 'Where did all these exotic plants originally come from and how did they get to Australia?'

We discovered that part of the answer was 'the Wardian case', or as we like to say: 'The Amazing Case of Dr Ward!'

The problem of carrying botanical specimens on board ships had been ongoing for centuries. Then in 1833, Dr Ward (a plant enthusiast) experimented with sending some plants in a sealed glass and wooden case from London to Sydney and back again. The experiment was success and the transportation of plants was revolutionized (and the terrarium craze was also sparked).

Sarah and I have found our delight in this story to be infectious. Our local Men's Shed (Hobsons Bay Men's Shed) made us a couple of scaled down replica cases.
Neil Davidson, Mick Linsay, Philip Frisina Colin Dyall from Hobsons Bay Men's Shed

Jackie helping Loraine oil the cases at the Williamstown Botanic Gardens

Loraine Callow (who works part time at the Williamstown Botanic Gardens managed by the Hobsons Bay City Council) created a glorious set of illustrations for us to use in a Kamishibai (Japansese wooden storytelling box).

Dr Luke Keogh (environmental historian and curator with a special interest in the global movement of plants in the 19th and 20th century) offered advice and ecouragment and Nan McNab (editor and author) kept a close eye on us as we developed the story.

Sarah and I were invited to the 2018 Port Fairy Folk Festival and as part of a packed program of storytelling, we finally launched our new show into the universe.

I made a little video of Sarah and me at the Port Fairy Folk Festival. It will give you a glimpse into the kind of fun we have when out and about with stories.

The Amazing Case of Dr Ward and Other Stories
(suitable for an inter-generational audience and ideal for festivals)

When you bite into a mango and the juice dribbles down your chin, spread a picnic rug under a shady elm, or pop a fuschia bud, do you ever ask the question: how did these plants come to be in Australia? It is quite possible that the answer lies in a simple invention made of glass and wood. 

In London, in the early 1800s, a doctor and enthusiastic amateur naturalist, accidentally discovered a plant growing inside a glass container.  Aware of the difficulties of transporting live botanical specimens aboard ships, Dr Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward concluded that plants needed to be sealed in transparent cases, protected from salt spray, rats and clumsy sailors. The Wardian case (as it became known) revolutionized the transportation of plants and were in use up until 1962.

Sarah and I begin with the ripping tale of how Dr Ward developed his idea, and we follow with two stories dedicated to specific trees (the golden elm and the weeping rosebud cherry) and a story dedicated to the gardeners.

The Amazing Case of Dr Ward and Other Stories is inspired by the Williamstown Botanic Gardens, designed by Edward La Trobe Bateman and opened in 1860.

45 - 50 minutes

For audiences under 80 people:
  • 4 metre x 3 metre space – preferably raised if the seating is flat
  • no amplification required
For audiences over 80 people we need:
  • 4 metre x 3 metre space – preferably raised if the seating is flat
  • Digital projector for images
  • Radio mike for Jackie and a mike on a stand for Sarah
Cost available on enquiry
Visit Jackie's website HERE
0412 210 098
Sarah Depasquale and Jackie Kerin
Sarah Depasquale is a classically trained violinist, librarian, birdwatcher an gardener.
Jackie Kerin is a classically trained actress, storyteller in the oral tradition and author of several award-winning children's picture books, bird watcher and gardener.  Learn more here.

Port Fairy Folk Festival 2018

Every couple of years I get an invitation to be part of the spoken word  program at the Port Fairy Folk Festival. And in recent times I've had the fun of traveling with my musician colleague Sarah Depasquale.

Our program was packed with two shows: Tales from the Flyway (our piece that shines a light on migratory shore birds) and The Amazing Case of Dr Ward and other stories (a light-hearted look at how plants were transported around the world on board ships in the1800s), as well as a children's show, author presentation and judging the Pat Glover Storytelling Award!

We felt a bit daunted by the task, but Sarah and I ploughed through and enjoyed every moment.
The Children's Tent was huge and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little intimidated at the thought of all these energetic young ones. But it was a wonderful 45 mins of hilarity and the children were fantastic.

Port Fairy has a terrific bookshop Blarney Books and Art and offers a program throughout the festival. I was delighted to be asked to do an author talk. Always fun to switch from storyteller hat to author hat. And selling books and seeing children smile ... well nothing beats it really!

Huge thanks to Jim Haynes who manages the spoken word program and the Festival and township  that organises the  weekend. Its a privilege and joy to be invited to be part of the fun.

Saturday, January 13, 2018


The tangible and intangible
My storytelling tools are both intangible and tangible. The intangible are the tools that are inseparable from me: my body, voice, memory and my imagination. And the tangible are the tools I can hold and use when telling, like puppets and musical instruments. And of course, there are the books.

The intangible ‘me tools’ are getting on in years. I get tired more easily; I think more about how far I am prepared to travel and how many sessions I will do in a day. But there are countless good things about being older. My repertoire is vast and mature, I’m calm (the self doubt has faded), I relish dipping into deep experience and I have much to share and enjoy doing so. My voice is strong and can withstand hours of use (I sing in a choir to keep it in shape), my body still serves me well (I visit a gym) and I’m comfortable in my skin and no longer stare at the wardrobe and wonder who I am when I head off to tell stories. I know the value of what I do, and feel buoyed by life lived so far. My ability to quickly establish a relationship with my listeners is finely honed.

The tangible tools can be found on the book shelves, in my study and in a sturdy cane basket neatly packed with props. It was woven by a company that also makes ballooning baskets and is strong enough for me to sit on and flat enough to be a table. The lid has discreet leather straps with buckles, a deterrent when working with children who have not learned to respect boundaries. A foldable trolley leans against the basket, ready to wheel it out to the car. Stacked on top of the basket are two kamishibai stages and the stand. (I have three but the third is nearly always out on loan.)

Let’s begin with, the books …
Increasingly I use the Internet as my research tool but I still have a bookcase of anthologies and guides. If I could only keep three books, these are the ones I would choose:
·      Twenty Tellable Tales by Margaret Read MacDonald
·      Favourite Folktales from Around the World edited by Jane Yolen
·      The Kamishibai Classroom by Tara M. McGowan

Twenty Tellable Tales
What I appreciate in Margaret Read MacDonald’s collections are the detailed notes at the back, references and sources for the stories included. For those of us who like to dig a little deeper and research other versions of tales, think about who collected Indigenous stories and when, these notes are a beginning. I like to dig around a story before I commit to including it in my repertoire. Twenty Tellable Tales is also an example of stories written in oral language – language for telling. And of course, if you are not the inquisitive kind, you can simply tell the stories.

Favourite Folktales from Around the World
Jane Yolen begins Favorite Folktales from Around the World with an acknowledgement of the people who helped with the book. It’s worth researching these names, as many are fine folklorists. And from there, read the Introduction. I go back and reread this every few years. There is much food for thought in the way Jane Yolen writes of the oral, transcribed and literary tale.

The Kamishibai Classroom
I’m hooked on kamishibai storytelling and have successfully infected others with the passion. I find The Kamishibai Classroom by Tara M. McGowan to be a generous guide including history, the mechanics of making and doing, application in the classroom and so on. So far I know of no better book to get started.

And now a peek inside the basket …
When I started telling stories I was certain that props were unnecessary and that all a storyteller needed was good a repertoire and communication skills.  But when I found myself in kindergartens with children speaking English for the first time, I began to rethink. Years later, I worked in a specialist school, in a language enrichment program, telling stories with children who were learning to cope with a range of learning and behavioral problems caused by trauma, abuse, alcohol fetal syndrome, Asperger’s … In these environments, I’ve found that puppets and felts work magic. Props can underscore meaning and give a focus away from the storyteller. I’ve observed many times that some children are sometimes more able to connect with stories via a puppet or some other object.

I think of myself as an artist; my practice enhanced by hand-crafted props. Most I have made myself, some I have commissioned or been given, and a few have been bought. I’m fortunate to have a partner, John Kean, who is a skilled painter.

I could write at length about the props I use when working with young children but I think it best if I direct you to my DIY video where you can see me working with small children and using props. 

The following are some of my favorites
·      Bollard puppets
·      Felts
·      Australian hand and finger puppets

The Bollard puppets are cylindrical figures: the ‘Old Woman who swallowed a Fly’ and the ‘Old Sailor who swallowed a Krill’. (The story for Old Sailor is by author friend Claire Saxby). I started with a shop-bought Old Woman, she was like a small rag doll. One day I was working at a kindergarten and a boy with Cerebral Palsy wanted to have a go at putting the animals into her mouth but his compromised fine motor skills frustrated his attempts. When I came home, I put her away. I decide to make my own Old Woman with a big mouth and then I sourced big animals that were easy to hold. The Old Woman and Old Sailor are made from large postal cylinders, paper mache, cardboard (hats) and tennis balls (feet). They were inspired by the Geelong bollard people. Geelong is a seaside city to the west of Melbourne (Australia). Many years ago, artist Jan Mitchell created these wonderful characters that are dotted throughout the municipality. I dedicate my bollard people to Harry who I never met again, but I learned from him. 

 Felts: I’ve made my own felts to illustrate the stories of my choosing. The board is a piece of light plywood covered in polyfleece. I use my fish felts to set the theme for fishy stories. I have several boxes of felts that I carry in my story basket. Depending on the children, I may or may not use them. Felts are so simple, but they never fail to delight; they have a permanent place in the toolkit.

Australian hand and finger puppets: these are bought of course. It never ceases to amaze me that children born in Australia are commonly unable to identify our unique animals. Newly arrived children are generally experts. I feel deeply about the importance of connecting children to nature and much of my repertoire reflects this. I have acquired these puppets opportunistically at airports, conferences and toy suppliers. I’m fussy and look for puppets that are realistic as possible. I don’t have a taste for cute.

And Kamishibai …
Kamishibai (kami – paper, shibai – theatre) is a Japanese mode of storytelling. It employs a small narrow stage with an opening on one side so viewers can see a succession of cards revealed as the story is narrated. I won’t say more about the history of kamishibai as a quick search on the Internet will lead you to detailed sites with all you need to know. Kamishibai is the only prop I use when telling stories to adults audiences.

I have three Kamishibai stages.

K1 is made by a skilled carpenter friend, Ted Smith, from recycled Eucalyptus. Beautifully crafted, it’s the one I use the most. I am indebted to my storytelling, camera operator, props maker friend Alex Kharnam, for a stand adapted from a heavy-duty camera tripod that can be raised and lowered and packed away in a suitcases for easy travel.

K2 was bought online from Germany, KreaShibai, and has an echidna painted on it. You buy them plain. This one I lend to friends. 


K3 was made by me from cardboard. This one I can strap to my bike and literally pedal/peddle stories. You will find instructions on my website so you can build your own if you wish. 

Having a stage is only part way to getting up and running with kamishibai. The acquisition of stories that you want to tell is a whole other thing. Stories can be bought on line, but I like to make my own and trade with other makers. Currently I only tell one ‘off the shelf story’; the majority I tell, have been painstakingly drawn, painted or cut from colored paper by me. I’m not an artist and it takes weeks to make a story and my illustrations are not brilliant however it’s important to me that I am the maker. 

 I could share more photos and write more about my toolkit but this would turn into a very long article. For now this is glimpse. I haven’t mentioned the ukulele, nesting dolls, shells, pad of coloured paper for folding and tearing, spindle and bells. Another time …


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