Why I Like Love Sharing the Fire
by Madelyn Folino
(Note from Deb: Madelyn sent this wonderful letter to NES President, Hope Lewis. We thought folks might enjoy seeing it as many in the community feel similarly. Madelyn has generously given us permission to share it.)
Soon Eileen and I will be on the road again to Sharing the Fire and I will try not to won’t think about work for three days. I have only a hazy idea of Massachusetts geography so maybe we should bring a map. We’re even going a day early to sightsee around Plymouth. Eileen’s a big history nerd buff and a re-enactor (who can speak with authority about her “fichu”) so she has high standards for “Plimoth.” Me, I’m more intrigued by the notion of “1620” and have visions of salt pork, hard tack and succotash on my mind. But, when you get right down to it, actual food is an incidental when compared to the bounty of brain food at STF. Here’s what I expect:
The Performances – These will be catnip with both well-known and new-to-us storytellers with tales to (maybe) fit the conference theme of Voices Across Borders, but who cares? We are storytellers and story listeners who (admit it) love any kind of story and come to be with others who feel the same and this is the heart of what we do. Spot on theme or not, it will be thrilling and filling from opening hubbub to pin drop quiet as we lean in to listen.
Swaps – The informality of after-hours swaps have a more intimate style and a welcoming feel as everyone gets their turn to tell a story, usually related to the stated theme, but sometimes veering far afield. Expect a full range of personal, family, folktale, humorous, poignant, polished and snippets of work-in-progress stories in this relaxed venue.
The Slam and Fringes – “Where is the fire in Sharing the Fire?” demanded a teller several years ago. I hope he’ll come back and check out the Crossing the Line Slam and the fringe sessions on offer this year. Will there be singed flesh? Unlikely, but the forecast is good for some smoke and verbal pyrotechnics from a whole crew of brave tellers with fire deep within.
Workshops – As a veteran workshop junkie, my expectations range from Low (I will learn one good thing to bring home and use) to Wow (so inspiring I want to levitate and try a tip, technique or idea immediately.) Chemistry, synergy and how much sleep we’ve all had are big players in how the workshops go. The one constant is how open, supportive and hopeful attendees are as they settle into their seats, ready to learn and engage. Be honest and kind in your evaluations.
Keynote – Insights and experience from a nationally-known storyteller to change perspectives, make us think and orient us to a bigger world. Keynoters are people, too, and an STF staple is being able to rub elbows with “big names.”
The Friendliest People You Will Ever Meet at a Conference – Worker bees like Deb, Hope, Jo, Joanne, Elisa will zero in, hunt down their quarries and get it done…Tony will hug me so hard my hearing aid will shriek and scare us both …Eileen will find Joe to talk to…Bruce will bend down to say hello…Andy will smile shyly… Lee-Ellen will send out serene vibes…John will have guitar in hand…Kate will be knitting something pretty…Judith will say something !@#% surprising…Jackson will be thinking deep thoughts…Leeny will be dressed to kill…that blur streaking by: Karen?… Loren will be pacing at the back of the room…the commotion over there will be Robin…Simon will fiddle with the mike and it will sound British…Arnie will ask a big question…Lynn will observe…Ralph’s Boston accent will baffle for a sec…Bob will be funny and wry…Ruth will speak as if we are in the middle of a long conversation and maybe we are. And you (Longtimer), we have exchanged greetings in elevators for years. Will this be the year we connect? And you (Newcomer), yes, it’s true – you have found your people. I’ll be the one with the cookies. See you soon, can’t wait.
Madelyn Folino is the director of the Florida Public Library in Orange County, NY. She and colleague Eileen Stelljes tell stories together as The Library Goddesses.