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You are all storytellers

Library workshop shows oral tradition is very much alive here in Lake Oswego
by: VERN UYETAKE Good storytelling requires plenty of physical animation, as displayed by Terry Jordan. This first-time event at the Lake Oswego Public Library proved to be a great success.

Terry Jordan and Anne Rutherford were not exactly sure what would happen when they recently hosted the first storytelling workshop in Lake Oswego.

They got the idea they were on to something when they had to jump around and wave their arms to get the audience's attention and get participants to stop telling their stories.

With minimal prompting, audience members had taken their stories and ran with them.

'You are all storytellers,' Jordan told the group of about 50 people. 'Congratulations.'

She later added: 'This workshop has come alive. Until you came it was just an idea.'

Certainly, it was a good idea. In a conversation with Cindy Glazer, director of Friends of the Lake Oswego Library, Jordan got the inside information that Glazer reads stories to her grandchildren but she does not tell them stories.

Jordan, a member of the Portland Storytellers Guild, set Glazer straight.

'Reading stories is not like telling stories,' Jordan said. 'What is special about telling stories is that you listen with your heart.'

That was all the motivation Glazer needed to create 'Tell Me a Story,' the first such event for the Lake Oswego Public Library. The nearly weeklong festival ended Saturday. It was chock-full of special features and marvelous storytellers like Leslie Slape, Alton Chung and Will Hornyak.

But the Oct. 25 workshop was unique because it turned the audience into the storytellers.

Those attending the workshop were not quite sure what to expect, and neither were Rutherford or Jordan, but all they needed was a prompt - picturing the kitchen table of their childhood - and the library story corner was soon filled with the din of people telling stories to each other.

'This kind of thing just blossoms,' Rutherford said. 'What could be a simpler setting than a kitchen table?'

The table was set, so to speak, for stories about the endless number of things that can happen around a kitchen table, funny, sad and everything in between.

Those attending were also enthralled by Rutherford's own story, 'A Plate Full of Stars,' which she told with much physical verve and great detail, and which easily illustrated what this new wave of storytellers should shoot for. Her story elements: Her grandmother, an apple and a plate.

This is a way-out concept for the plugged-in generation of today, but Jordan and Rutherford are reaching out to more and more people.

Jordan, a resident of Lake Oswego, says she makes her children unplug everything before dinnertime.

'We tell stories every single night,' she said. 'We go around the table three times.'

After the workshop, Jordan added more storytelling disciples.

One workshop member raved: 'I wish I could hear every story being told here.'

The storytelling festival was held in conjunction with the beginning of the library's oral history project.

'The oral history project and the story festival are a perfect combination,' reference librarian Alicia Yokoyama said.