Today we travel to San Francisco to chat with Kate Farrell about how using storytelling as a teaching tool, Scholastic, memoir anthologies, walking, meditating, the Mississippi Gulf Coast, motherhood, and telling stories from the heart come together as part of Kate’s current and past life.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I was a storyteller at an early age. By age ten, I’d tacked signs on telephone poles in my neighborhood, announcing my fairytale play. As a first year teacher, I stumbled on storytelling as the best way to teach literature to inner city kids. By 1970, I’d honed the skill as a new librarian, and in the 1980s, funded and trained teachers in a CA state-wide storytelling project—and published educational materials on the art with big name publishers, like Scholastic and Highlights for Children.
In the ever-evolving world of storytelling, I understood by 2005, that personal narrative was the new folklore—so, I wrote and edited memoir anthologies. My work is a bridge in storytelling: from traditional folklore to authentic, personal tales. I live in downtown San Francisco.
In which genre do you write?
Personal narrative, and how-to tell stories of personal narratives.
How many published books do you have?
What does your ideal writing space look like?
Small, but with a view of the sky and changing weather
Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?
The idea for Story Power came from a how-to book I published exactly 40 years ago.
What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?
Reading, walking, meditating, Zooming with family and friends
What’s the strangest thing you’ve done or experienced to help create a scene or plot or to help you remember something if writing a memoir?
Visited a small town along the Mississippi Gulf Coast that no longer exists, swept away by hurricanes Camille and Katrina. I directed my friend who had offered to take me there from New Orleans to drive around in circles until we found the one, single building that had survived: the county bank, a stone, two-story, antique building, possibly with a steel vault in the basement. Once I discovered that one remaining relic, I knew I was not insane: there had been a town here. We’d lived right across the street from that bank in the French colonial town of Pass Christian.
I grew up in the Jackson, Mississippi area, with many holidays spent on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. My maternal grandmother lived in Gulfport when I was very young. Found memories … thanks for stirring them up! – Camilla
What is the most amusing, crazy or inspiring thing that has ever happened to you?
Motherhood! I gave birth to a strapping baby boy when I was 40 years old and found myself with a handful: an active baby, precocious both mentally and physically. I had to watch him every minute or he’d climb out the window. He barely slept; was curious; loved books and storytelling. His dark brown, almost black eyes were filled with joy and enthusiasm for life. Such a miracle, strong and brilliant! He’s now on a motorcycle tour of the Ecuadorian Andes and will soon return. At home in the world, he has given me joy in his feats, and the courage to accomplish success on my own.
You are about to speak publicly to a group and read from your latest book. What do you do to prepare yourself?
Since I am a storyteller, I don’t read from my book, Story Power, I tell stories by heart. Lately I like to practice with Zoom, record, and playback. In that way, I can watch for gestures, eye contact, pacing, and when to pause.
How do you prepare yourself to discuss your book?
My book, Story Power, has nine themes, suggested types of personal stories that are often popular. I choose one or two themes, and prepare to tell a summarized version of a story and discuss its value. For general discussion and talking points, I will often record these on my phone and listen to them before the event.
What are you currently working on?
I’m writing my own full-length memoir, calling it ONCE: MEMOIR OF A STORYTELLER.
At this stage in your life, what advice would your young self give to your more mature self?
To believe that my ability and enjoyment of solitude is my greatest strength and solace, from childhood to old age.
It was wonderful learning more about you, Kate! And, a pleasure to have you on MTA. I plan on adding your book to my ‘to be read’ list. Wishing you all the best! – Camilla
Reconnect Through Stories. Stories are everywhere. The art of storytelling has been around as long as humans have. And in today’s noisy, techie, automated world, storytelling is not only prevalent—it’s vital. Whether you’re interested in enlivening conversation, building your business brand, sharing family wisdom, or performing on stage, Story Power will show you how to make use of a good story.
Connect with Kate:
I also present workshops and talks on the art of storytelling for a variety of groups, from the general public to writers, educators to business leaders.
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