Occasional adventures I've had provide some unique stories. A favorite story collected in what is now the Georgian Republic is "The Earth Demands Its Own." Gela Charkviani told me this folktale in 1989, while I was in the capital city of Tbilisi. (Gela later served as a diplomat in the Georgian government, after the fall of the Soviet Union.) I was encouraged to photograph an illustration for this story of a youth and a stag (see accompanying picture). It's by Elgudia Berdzinishvili, a Georgian artist.
The many trips to Scotland my husband and I have made, provided me with delightful and challenging Celtic folktales as well as the stories of Scottish history. In 2007, I was privileged to visit with Mollie Hunter, a highly-regarded author of historical fiction and Celtic fantasy, ostensibly for children but a good read for all ages. She lives in Inverness and, at the time of my interview with her, was in her late 80s.
Another trip that same year was to Bolivia, to visit two girls my husband and I sponsor through PLAN INTERNATIONAL. While no story as such has emerged from that experience, I gained understanding into the lives of these two young girls. And I found some wonderful southern Bolivian red wine which isn't imported to the States.
My latest adventure started in 2006, when I read "Dreams from my Father" and "The Audacity of Hope" by then-senator Barack Obama. What he wrote, the eloquence with which he wrote, and the poignancy of his story drew me in. The man is a born storyteller! As a storyteller, I have to admire that! So when he became a presidential candidate, my adventure continued whenever I shared some of his story with my audiences. These tellings culminated in....
....ISLAND CHILD...my first ever trade book for publication. This is a story that truly "tapped me on the shoulder". It's a children's biography of Barack Obama's childhood, and it grew out of volunteer storytelling I did on January 20, 2009---Presidential Inauguration Day---at Baker Elementary School in Canadian Texas, as well as the Comancheria Chapter of the D.A.R.
The whole program included anecdotes from various Inauguration Day foibles and tragedies over the years, and concluded with a recollection from Obama's book "The Audacity of Hope" (pub. 2006). He describes his feelings as a new senator as he stood one evening at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC, and gazed out over the Reflecting Pool, thinking of so many events that have taken place on that very spot.
When I detected the mixture of curiosity and misunderstanding by both students and teachers of the biography of our 44th president, I realized that a story of this man's early life was needed. So in ISLAND CHILD I tell that story through his 10th year.
Here is the Dedication Page from ISLAND CHILD. Perhaps this will help the reader understand what I hope to accomplish in this story.
ISLAND CHILD is dedicated to my husband Ed (Edwin), who has loved and supported me, and has frequently been surprised by me since we married in 1967. A big surprise happened in 1977, when I announced on day, "I'm going to be a storyteller." And I did. Then he surprised me not quite ten years later, when he entered Columbia Theological Seminary to become a Presbyterian minister. And HE did.
Here is my newest surprise. (A small volume of essays, A WORD FITLY SPOKEN, published in 2002 for the Gray County, Texas centennial, was my first publication.)
This surprise grew out of an experience on Inauguration Day, Tuesday, January 20, 2009, when, as my contribution for the National Day of Service, in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., Day, I took my storytelling to Baker School in Canadian Texas to tell "Stories of Presidential Inauguration Days." The result was a sense of call to create this book.
So ISLAND CHILD also is dedicated to those third-through-fifth grade students, as well as the teachers and staff, especially school librarian Mary Jo Leonard, who agreed to let me share Inauguration Day history during her library periods. It was their enthusiasm, good questions and curiosity about the presidency, the events of previous inaugurations, and the story of our forty-fourth president, Barack Hussein Obama, Jr.---the skinny fellow with the funny name, as he's described himself---which sparked the idea for ISLAND CHILD.
Finally, I dedicate this biography to President Barack Obama, called "Barry" as a child, and to his wife Michelle and daughters Malia and Sasha. This is his story through his tenth year, set on the island chains of Hawai`i and Indonesia. The islands' influence on him was emphasized by Michelle Obama to her husband's biographer, David Mendall, when she told him "You can't really understand Barack until you understand Hawai`i."
END OF DEDICATION
Remember, Barry, born in Honolulu in 1961, is only two when his father leaves Hawai`i for graduate school at Harvard, and then returns to Kenya without Ann or Barry. Barry has no memories of his father until his 10th Christmas, when his father comes from Kenya for a month. Barry's mother is also there, returning from Indonesia to visit her parents and Barry. Her second husband, Lolo Soetoro, Barry's step-father, remained behind with their toddler daughter, Mia.
ISLAND CHILD is about Barry's growing-up years between the time his father left and when he returned for Barry's 10th Christmas. So there's quite a bit more to this story.
A NOTE about the National Storytelling Network (NSN) --- originally, the National Association for the Preservation & Perpetuation of Storytelling (NAPPS). This is the organization which co-sponsored the National Storytelling Festival the first weekend of October in Jonesborough Tennessee from 1973 through 2010, and coordinates the annual National Storytelling Conference every summer. In 2013, the conference will be in Richmond, Virginia. Dates are August 1-4. Check with NSN (www.storynet.org) for more information.
Here is a quote that has meant a great deal to me, because it speaks to the essential nature of STORY. *Augusta Baker wrote in Storytelling Art & Technique:
"Storytelling brings to the listener a heightened awareness--a sense of wonder, of mystery, of reverence for life. This nurturing of the spirit-self [comes first] and all other uses and effects are secondary."
[*Augusta Baker,the late venerable storyteller in New York City and Columbia South Carolina, co-authored this book with Ellin Greene in 1977.]
Another story by Loralee Cooley is an "original folk tale," QUEEN TAMAR AND THE ICE DEVI. It's set in the 12th-century Kingdom of Georgia, and comes from a story improvisation by Loralee Cooley before her visit to the Georgian Republic in 1989, when she learned the story THE EARTH DEMANDS ITS OWN (see illustration of stag and youth).
FOR INFO ON ISLAND CHILD or STORYSPINNING CONTACT:
LORALEE COOLEY, firstname.lastname@example.org
Enter"Island Child by Loralee Cooley." The cover should pop right up.
Check out the illustrations by Jillian Gilliland! They are beautifully done!