MY BACKGROUND—storyteller, folklorist, scholar

As a storyteller

I am a storyteller for all moods. I delight in eccentrics, believe that humor and gravity are good bedfellows, and favor characters who shape admirable lives around unavoidable misfortunes.  I have performed and taught from Maine to Hawaii to Finland.  Although I tend to make stories about the people and history of northern New England, I also perform traditional folktales and my own modern tales and riffs on well-known classics.  My major stories include “Burnt into Memory,” a performance created from oral histories I gathered from survivors of the 1947 wildfire that destroyed the town of Brownfield, Maine, and “Braving the Middle Ground,” which juxtaposes Native American oral traditions and stories told by my own New England settler ancestors.

I teach storytelling to teachers in Lesley University's Creative Arts in Learning M.A. Program.  I also conduct workshops for adults on creative storytelling, finding and telling personal and family stories, creating stories from history, and (especially for caregivers) on helping others tell and value their own stories. For children, I offer storytelling performances (which can be linked to school curricula) as well as workshops and residencies on storytelling as a dynamic literacy tool.

My CD, Yankee Ingenuity: Stories of Headstrong and Resourceful People, received a 2013 Storytelling World Award.  In April 2013 I was given the Brother Blue and Ruth Hill Award from the League for the Advancement of New England Storytelling, “in recognition of extraordinary commitment, dedication and loving encouragement to the New England storytelling community.”  I am past president of the Washington (DC) Storytellers Theatre and the National Storytelling Network and I serve on Board of Directors of LANES, the League for the Advancement of New England Storytelling. 

As a folklorist and oral historian

I am committed to strengthening communities by helping them find, shape, and present their stories.  I conduct oral history projects for organizations, families, and individuals.  My workshops on the art of interviewing have served historical societies, libraries, hospice and home-care organizations, elementary and secondary schools, universities, and intergenerational and multicultural groups. I also collaborate with organizations and communities to create public presentations about their heritage.

I have taught, done field and library research, and published on diverse American and Irish cultural traditions; I have also served on the Board of Trustees of the American Folklife Center in the Library of Congress, and have been President of the American Folklore Society (1998-2000).

As a scholar and writer

I hold a BA, MA, and PhD from Harvard University. I have published books on early Irish history, contemporary Anglo-Irish drama, and women's folklore, and articles in scholarly journals on Celtic studies, literature, Irish and American folklore, women's studies, Deaf culture, and New England social history.

Currently I am writing a book titled "Performing the Paper: Rural Self-Improvement in Northern New England," about a 19th-century village tradition of creating and performing aloud handwritten literary newspapers.

After 30 years of teaching literature, American Studies, folklore, and storytelling as a professor at American University in Washington, DC, I moved to my family's home in western Maine to apply my teaching and performance skills in a career of freelance consulting.