Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Santa and Me - Part 2

                                                             © 2010 Linda Goodman

                                       (This is part 2 of my story. Part 1 posted on December 8.)

            What could I do but play along?  And I must admit that when I awakened on the Christmas day that Morgan was three years old, the first year she was aware of all the hoopla, I was thrilled to hear her sit up and bed and loudly call out, “Did he come?”
            Then I watched in awe as she walked downstairs and entered the wonderland of toys that her pawpaw and her daddy had assembled for her.  She went from one to the other, hugging her new doll, playing her new keyboard, unpacking her tea set….. Finally laughing in delight as she spotted the empty plate and glass that had held cookies and milk for Santa.
            She was in awe when she found the letter that Santa had left for her. She was smiling and crying at the same time as her mother read the letter to her. I must admit that I shed a few tears of my own as I watched her big blue eyes widen with wonder.
And now this same child was asking me, “Mawmaw, is Santa Claus pretend?”

I decided to answer her question with a question.  “Why do you ask?”
“Well,” she replied, “a boy in my class is telling everybody that Santa Claus is pretend.”
I asked another question. “What do you think?”
She thought for a moment.  “Well, Mawmaw, he is awful fat.  How can somebody that fat fit down a chimbley?”
This was going to be tough, but I was up for it.  “Morgan, remember when we found that mouse in my house, and you asked me how it got in?  Remember I told you that mice could collapse their bodies to a quarter of an inch and slip in through a heating grate?”
She nodded.
I continued.  “Well, Santa is magic!  Just like a mouse, he can collapse his body so that it’s small enough to slide down any chimney.”
“But, Mawmaw, sometimes I’m at my house on Christmas, and sometimes I’m at your house, and sometimes I’m at Granny Annie’s.  How does Santa always know where to bring my toys?”
“I write him a letter every November to let him know where you will be.”
“But your fireplace has glass in the front of it.  How does Santa get through that without breaking it or cutting himself?”
“Your Pawpaw is very handy.  He takes the glass out of the fireplace after you go to bed, and he puts it back after Santa leaves.”
“How does Santa get into houses that don’t have chimbleys?
“For those houses, Santa has a magic key that opens any door.”
Now she really looked confused.  “If Santa has a key that opens any door, why does he bother with chimbleys at all?”
I was running out of answers.  “Have you asked your mom about this?”
She looked up at me with trusting blue eyes. “Yes, I did ask Mommy, but I know that you will tell me the truth.”

I was in a quandary.  I did not want to be the one to tell her that Santa Claus was not real; yet, if I withheld the truth now, she might never trust me again.  How could I extricate myself from this dilemma?
Suddenly, out of nowhere, an image of an 8 x 10 black and white photo, lying underneath a row of hanging file folders in a drawer of the cabinet in my office, filled my head.
“Just a minute, honey,” I told her as I ran from the room.  “I’ll be right back!”
I hurried to the filing cabinet in my office and searched as fast as my fingers would sift. In the third drawer down, I found what I wanted, just as my unexpected image had shown me.
Quickly I ran back to Morgan. “Here!” I gushed as I handed her the photo.  “This is a picture signed by the man himself!”
She stared at the black and white photo.  “What did he sign his name Sergeant Santa?”
“Uhm….that’s what the elves call him,” I improvised.  “It’s like a boot camp in the North Pole around Christmas time!”
She traced his beard with her index finger.  She ran her fingers across his signature.  “I knew he was real,” she whispered.
The following Monday, Morgan took that photo to school with her and showed it to all her friends who had been told that Santa was just pretend.  Together they confronted the bully who had tried to shake their faith, showing him proof that Santa was real.  My daughter told me that Morgan became a heroine to her classmates.

A few years later, my daughter called to tell me that Morgan had found out that Santa was a myth.
“Who told her?”  I asked.
“Nobody told her,” I was informed.  “Her class was studying aerodynamics and she figured it out all by herself.”
I asked to speak to Morgan.  When she came to the phone, I asked her if she was okay.
“Sure, Mawmaw,” she replied.  “It’s just Santa.  It’s not like it was God or anything.  But, you know, it was fun to believe for a while.  I think I will probably pretend that I still believe.  You know, for my baby sister.”  She paused before adding, “It’s like that storytelling thing you always say – Just because it can’t happen doesn’t mean it isn’t real.”

Morgan still has the picture I gave her, and I’m sure that Sergeant Santa would be happy to know that one of his autographed black and white photos is tacked to the bulletin board in the room of a fourteen year old girl in Fort Mill, South Carolina.
As for myself, I still have mixed feelings about Santa Claus.  I still cringe when I see parents spend enough money to buy a full month’s food supply on toys that lose their luster after a few weeks, while so many others struggle just to put food on the table and a roof over their heads.  There is something tragically wrong with that scenario.

And yet, I cannot help but fondly remember the thrill of that magic Christmas long ago, when I heard a three-year-old girl calling, “Did he come?”

Monday, December 8, 2014

Santa and Me - Part 1

© 2010 Linda Goodman

(This is part 1 of my story. Part 2 will be posted next week.)

            On August 21, 2010, Dalton Duling died.  Duling’s alter ego, Sergeant Santa, was a legend in the greater Richmond area.  A former police sergeant, he spent the last thirty-seven years of his life bringing Christmas to children who would not otherwise have had much to celebrate. 
            As I read his obituary, I remembered that my husband, Phil, had once worked with Duling’s wife, Dale.   She had given Phil an 8 by 10 autographed glossy black and white photo of Sergeant Santa for our granddaughter Morgan. Phil asked me to put the photo in a safe place until we saw Morgan again.  I put it in a place that was so safe, I forgot where it was.
            During a visit when Morgan was five years old, she asked me, “Mawmaw, is Santa Claus pretend?”
            I was not quite sure how to answer that question.  I myself had a checkered past with Santa. In the mountains, where I was born, Santa did not come to our small, one-room house. Daddy said that our roof would not support a sleigh with eight reindeer, no matter how tiny they were. 
Santa did, however, come through the area on a train, which stopped at various stations along its route so that presents could be dropped off for children in the region.  Several books have been written about the Santa Train.  Most of these books tell joy-filled stories.  Daddy did not allow me or my siblings to go to the Santa Train.  That would have been accepting charity, which my father frowned upon.  We did, however, hear the stories told by friends who had gone to meet the train.  Many of those stories were completely devoid of joy. A small child could get a decent present only if he was accompanied by an older sibling.  Otherwise, the big kids overran the smaller ones in a winner take all scenario. Most of the stories that I heard were heartbreaking.
Santa did come to our house once we moved to the city (for some reason, it was not charity if Santa came to our apartment).  For Christmas in the city, I usually got an orange, a couple of walnuts, and some paper dolls that looked like something my father would have made.  Meanwhile, the rich kids (to me, a rich kid was any kid who lived in a home that wasn’t missing shingles) got Betsy Wetsy dolls and cap guns.  Clearly, Santa liked rich kids better. 
            My best friend, Carole Ann, spent one Christmas with a foster family. She told me that the real kids got great gifts.  The boy got a set of GI Joe figurines, and the girl got a Candy Fashion doll with three evening gowns (not dresses – evening gowns!).  Carole Ann said all she got was some underwear and a knock-off Barbie doll whose clothes fell apart when she changed them.  I was incensed!  How could Santa show such favoritism when rich and poor were in the same house?  He was downright mean!
            When I found out that Santa was not real, I was relieved.  I found it comforting to know that there was no cosmic master of the toy universe who denied poor kids their due at Christmas time.
            When I had a child of my own, I decided that she would not be tortured, as I had been, by the Santa myth.  As soon as Melanie was old enough to speak, I taught her to say “No Santa!”  The first time she saw Santa at a shopping mall, though, she pointed at him and insisted, “See, Mommy, he is real!”
            I told her to go ahead and sit on his lap, but to be sure to feel the backs of his ears for the hooks that held his beard in place.  She did just that, later admitting, somewhat reluctantly,” It’s true, Mommy.  He’s not real.”
            “That right,” I affirmed. “There is no man in a red suit flying through the air in a sleigh pulled by eight tiny reindeer.  Your single mother buys what she can afford for your Christmas.  That’s what all parents do.”

            Of course, the next school day she told all her classmates that Santa was a fake.  Her shocked and disapproving teacher gave her detention for the next three days, leaving her traumatized for some time to come.  In fact, eighteen years later, when I walked into her hospital room, my arms reaching for my new granddaughter, Morgan, Melanie held her baby close and growled, “This child will believe in Santa Claus!”

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Speak Up Spoken Word for the Arts Comes to Union County, NC

Speak Up Spoken Word Open Mike for the Arts is coming to Union County. It will be hosted by Faye Fulton and Linda Goodman, both of whom are professional storytellers. Beginning January 8, 2015, the event will be held on the second Thursday of each month in the community room at the UCCAC building, 120 N. Main Street in historic downtown Monroe. We will start at 7:00 PM and go until 9:00 PM. Each person who wants to speak will get 10 minutes (max). Faye and Linda will use the sound of a whistle to signal the end of your 10 minute time limit.

Storytellers, poets, comedians, singers, writers, and musicians are all welcome. Each week we will have a Featured Performer who goes on at 8:30 PM for half an hour. Our first three speakers will be musician and storyteller Ken Halstead, of Waxhaw, NC (January 8), storyteller Martha Reed  Johnson, of Florence SC (February 12), and Lona Bartlett, of Charlotte, NC (March 12). A hat will be passed to get gas money so the feature can get home.

Speak Up is the brain child of Tony Toledo, a professional storyteller who resides in Beverly, Massachusetts. Tony has been successfully hosting Speak Up Spoken Word Open Mic in Lynn, MA for almost a decade. Although the Lynn, MA group started small, in 2010 they had to move to a larger venue due to its popularity. We expect Union County to have the same success. Linda sought Tony’s permission to use the Speak Up name in Union County, and he said, “Go for it!”

Faye Fulton and Linda Goodman are both on UCCAC’s Artist Directory. They both share a love for storytelling and the spoken word, and they are excited about bringing Speak Up Spoken Word to Union County.

Anyone seeking more information, or would like to be considered as a future feature, should call Faye Fulton at 704-421-3220 or email her at

See you at Speak Up Union County!

Monday, November 24, 2014


by Linda Goodman    
©Linda Goodman 1996

            When my family lived in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia, the food that we ate at our Thanksgiving Day meal was the same as what we ate on any other day: soup beans and cornbread.  Occasionally, there would be meat, if Daddy had been out hunting. 

            What made the meal different was a ritual that my Daddy insisted upon observing on Thanksgiving.  Before eating, each of us sitting around the table would, one by one, give thanks for that for which he or she was most grateful.  Not having much in the way of material possessions, our thanks usually were given for treasured relationships.  One year, after I had recovered from a severe bout with pneumonia, I was surprised to hear my brothers give thanks for my survival.  It changed the way I felt about them, and their constant teasing was easier to take after that.  I gave thanks for my new baby sister.  Mama was thankful for well-behaved children, and Daddy was thankful that he had been blessed with children who were thinkers.  If you use your head, you will come out ahead, he always said.

            When we moved to the city, Thanksgiving remained the same.  My parents refused to assimilate into the city culture, and so our meals and rituals never changed.  We children eventually adopted city ways, but Mama and Daddy held to the old ways until their deaths. 

            The Thanksgiving after they passed away, my sister and her family came to spend the holiday with me in Connecticut.  I fixed a traditional meal of turkey, dressing, and various side dishes.  Before eating, my sister and I decided to reinstate the old ritual that we had taken part in so often.  One by one our children gave thanks.  My daughter was thankful for the new dress she had gotten for the Christmas dance at school.  My nephew was thankful for his Nintendo.  My niece was glad that her allowance had been increased.  No one mentioned family or friends.

            I abandoned the ritual after that.  It just was not the same with its new emphasis on material possessions.  On Thanksgiving day, we have a bountiful meal and good companionship.  Everyone seems happy.  But I always make sure to take a few minutes alone to give thanks for the wonderful man who taught me that it is not who you are, but how you live, that matters most; and that anyone who has a loving family is rich indeed.

In This Time of Goodness and Light....

I am approaching the holiday with a great deal of sadness. During the past week, 5 of my friends have lost loved ones; 2 of those 5 friends lost children (as a parent, I do not see how anything could be worse than that). During this same week, 3 of my friends have lost jobs, and another was told that her job is on the line. In all 3 cases, those losing their jobs are the family breadwinners. 2 are the sole source of income for their families. Others I know have been unemployed for months or years. Some of them are starting to lose hope in this "strong" economy. I find it hard to rejoice or be thankful when those I care about are suffering. It reminds me of my own dark journeys; times when my own holiday spirit was compromised by fear, anxiety, and dread. Somehow, I was lead to the light at the end of the tunnel, even though I could not see it. I did not have the confidence needed to make it there on my own. I believe that God took my hand and guided me there when I was "blind." 

Today, I have an abundance of blessings. Knowing that I do not deserve them makes me wonder why I have been so blessed. 

I pray that my friends in need (indeed, all those in need), will get the same guidance that I got as they travel through what is supposed to be the most joyous season of the year. May they all end up with an embarrassment of riches.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Daughters of the Appalachians on NSN Autumn Auction List

Please consider bidding on my donation to the National Storytelling Network's Autumn Auction:

Author/Storyteller/Playwright Linda Goodman's one-woman show Daughters of the Appalachians introduces six unique women, each of whom offers a rare glimpse of a culture that is fast fading away. Meet Harlene, whose dog is both her anchor and her best friend; Boojie, whose star-crossed lover changed her life; Nellveda Hawkins, who may or may not be the devil incarnate; Sara Jane, a woman who understands true beauty; Jessie, who should have been more careful with her wishes; and Martha Potter, an elder who understands simple truths. As you share their joys and sorrows, these women will touch your soul and live in your heart.

"So far the show has been a perfect storm: a worthy original production, based on character studies of people who often get overlooked by mainstream America, produced at a time when they have been thrust front and center on the national stage."
-J.C. Lockwood,Newburyport Current, Jan. 13, 2006

90 minute performance with one intermission, valued at $750. Starting bid: $250

Linda Goodman will donate up to 2 hours travel by car. Purchaser must pay for travel more than 2 hours away. 

Overnight lodging must be provided if an evening show is desired.

To bid on this item, go to

All proceeds of this auction will go towards NSN Member Grants.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

One Eye Open

© Linda Goodman, October 2014

            In January 7, 1978, two days after my daughter’s sixth birthday, I invited my parents to dinner for a late birthday celebration. I took them to my father’s favorite place to eat, the York Steak House at Tower Mall in Portsmouth, Virginia.
            A good meal and a good time were had by all… until the waiter brought the check. The amount was about what I had figured it would be. What I had not taken into account (because I did not know) was that the York Steak House did not accept credit cards, and I had no cash on my person.
            My father said it was no big deal. He would take care of the check. My mother, however, felt differently. She was angry and accused me of purposely not bringing any money with me. I could see that she was on the verge of creating a scene, so I stepped outside to wait, as my parents and my daughter stayed inside until the check was paid.
            As I waited, I noticed a man approaching me. I guessed he was in his mid thirties. His black hair was plastered back on his head with Brill Cream. He was of medium height and weight, and he was wearing a thin, tan jacket and khaki pants. His right arm was in a sling.
            “Hi,” he greeted me, “I’m wondering if you can give me a hand? I have some packages I am trying to get into my van, and this bum arm is giving me a problem. Will you please come out to the parking lot with me and give me some help.”
            Normally, I would not have hesitated to help this man, but two things occurred to me: he spoke in a monotone, with no inflection at all in his voice; and why hadn’t he asked the man standing across from me for help? That man was certainly much bigger and stronger than me.
            Then I looked into the man’s eyes and my blood ran cold. His pupils were dilated to the point that his eyes looked black. No emotion, good or bad, shone through them; only a dead, remote stare. My instincts told me to beware.
            But what if my instincts were wrong? I did not know how he had hurt his arm. What if he had hit his head at the same time? Could that be the reason behind the emotionless voice and the dazed stare?            
            I found the perfect compromise between my alert instincts and my soft-hearted compassion. “My father is inside the restaurant paying our bill,” I told the man. “Wait here with me for a few minutes, and we will both help you.”
            The man who had been standing across from me had walked away by this time. The man with the sling took another step toward me, but stopped suddenly, turned, and walked quickly away as he saw my father coming out of the restaurant door.
            “Who was that?” my father asked me.
            “I don’t know,” I answered, “but you can be sure that he was up to no good.”

            I shared this story with people as the years passed. I saw it as a cautionary tale and used it to warn naive, unsuspecting girls (like myself) to pay attention to their instincts; to keep one eye open for suspicious signs, while pondering compassion for a stranger.
black-and-white photo of a man with piercing eyes            In 2006 a friend gave me a copy of Ann Rule’s book The Stranger Beside Me. The book was about serial killer Ted Bundy. I read with interest that was spiced with terror as Rule painted a picture of a man who was a master at finding clever ways to lure women into his death traps. One thing that worked time and time again was to put his arm in a sling and ask for help.  His prey of choice was young women with long, dark hair parted down the middle.
            I remembered that evening as I stood outside the York Steak House, my long, dark hair parted down the middle. I remembered the brooding man with his arm in a sling. He could not have been Ted Bundy, I told myself. Bundy was incarcerated in Utah in 1975.
            But as I read on, though, I discovered that Bundy had escaped from prison twice. The second time was on December 30, 1977. By January 2, 1978, he was in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Five days later he stole a car and drove it to Atlanta, where he boarded a bus and arrived in Tallahassee, Florida on January 8.
            Bundy could very well have come through Virginia as he drove from Michigan to Atlanta. Could he have been the man who approached me on the evening of January 7, 1978? I turned to the headshot of Bundy at the back of the book. The photo was black and white, and thirty-eight years had passed. He looked like the man, but I could not be sure. One thing I do know: the black, dead, remote eyes were identical. Could two men have had those same eyes? I do not know; but I have learned to always follow my instincts, which tend towards the paranoid these days. On January 7, 1978, I believe, those instincts saved my life.  

Monday, October 6, 2014

2014 National Storytelling Festival Redux

I had a great time at the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, TN this past weekend (10/3-5). I carpooled with Martha Reed Johnson and Faye Fulton. We arrived late on Friday, due to an accident that turned I 40 into a parking lot for 1 1/2 hours, but the company and the festival made up for that. 

            It was lovely to experience performances by Tim Tingle and Kevin Kling with my minister, Steve Rembert, and his wife Betsy. Tim shared Crossing Bok Chitto: A Choctaw Tale of Friendship & Freedom, a favorite of all Tingle fans. Kevin shared a personal story about a school snow day gone bad. Suffice it to say that it was not a pleasant experience, but Kevin made it darned funny, in spite of that.

            I was late making it to the Exchange Place, so I did not get to see Linda Gorham and Pete Griffin perform, but I heard that they were both wonderful. Cathy Jo McMaken did a great job updating an old folktale about how easily men can be fooled by the wives they love. I loved Catherine Conant’s personal story about auto accidents and changing relationships. John Thomas Fowler’s story of his Appalachian grandmother and her marriages was both entertaining and enlightening. Will Hornyak had the audience in stitches. He certainly knows how to command the stage, as well as tell darn good story.

            The Friday night ghost stories were chilling, but so was the night air. I was never quite sure from which source my shivers were coming. I do know that Leeny Del Seamonds’ telling of  The Jersey Devil is the stuff that nightmares are made of. Connie Regan Blake began the night with some much appreciated comic relief from a story that did not end as expected. International New Voice Daniel Morden’s rendition of Mr. Fox was enthralling.

            On Saturday, I got to hear Susan O’Halloran for the first time, and what a treat that was! Pot of Gold: Irish Stories and Songs allowed listeners to get to know Susan, her family, and Ireland itself; with laughter, wonder, and tears along the way.

            Carol Birch told two chapters from Grapes of Wrath. Her telling of this John Steinbeck classic resonated with me in a way that I cannot describe in words. It opened up a Pandora ’s Box of emotions for me. Two days later I am still thinking about the kind waitress, the starving children, and the compassionate truckers to whom Carol introduced us. Even if it had been the only story I had heard all weekend, it would have made the travel glitches, the expense, and the time from home worthwhile. Since I began telling stories in 1987, there have been four stories that have haunted me, that I have thought about every day. Now there are five.

            Regi Carpenter’s Snap, the story of a teen’s descent into madness and her subsequent recovery, was ELECTRIC!!  The standing ovation she was given was well deserved. Tim Lowry also received a standing ovation for his performance of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, which was pitch perfect, train and all.

            New Voice Kate Campbell said that there were “three things about the South: place, religion, and race,” and then proceeded to sing about those very things in a voice so sweet and clear that I entered a state of tranquility that I did not want to leave behind. I especially enjoyed the song she wrote as a tribute to To Kill a Mockingbird. Favorite Kate Campbell quote: “It’s not who you know, it’s who you know that knows somebody.”

            Other than a tiny bit of gray in his hair, New Voice Tom Lee seemed not to have aged at all in the 20 years since I last saw him. He still moves gracefully and easily on the stage, and he still has that deep, rich voice I remember so well.

            Tickets to Megan Wells’ performance of Bram Stokers’ Dracula sold out before I could buy one. My bad. Everyone that I know who saw it said that it was phenomenal. I did not go to either of the midnight cabarets, as I did not bring clothes that would keep me warm in 37 degree weather. Again, my bad. Martha and Faye said that Antonio Sacre’s The Next Best Thing was “amazing.”

            Sunday morning found me at Jonesborough United Methodist Church listening to a powerful story sermon delivered by Geraldine Buckley. Boyd introduced Geraldine, saying that she was “cute as a puppy dog, but twice as lovable.” Favorite quotes from Geraldine: “If you want to hear God’s laugh, tell him your plans;” (when explaining to her Catholic mother why she wanted to be a Pentecostal minister) “I was called to preach, and I can’t afford a sex change.” Vintage Geraldine.

            I heard a second story sermon, delivered by Tim Lowry, at the Sacred Story olio. His story The Manger Scene took listeners on a hilarious trip down memory lane that demonstrated just what the faith of a child, and some small sacrifices, can do. I can still see the image in my head when Tim realized that the Christ child slept where the rats had eaten. Chilling.

            After that, I started running into friends, some of whom I have not seen since I left New England in 1998. I also ran into several of my Virginia friends. I had such a good time catching up that I did not attend performances again until the latter part of the final showcase olios. I found a seat just in time to see Donald Davis take the stage and transform himself into a young boy who falls into mischief. He does this so well that I honestly saw a young boy, not a man from my own generation, on the stage. I have been listening to Donald tell stories since 1989, and his stories are just as fresh now as they were then.

            I wish I could have heard more of Megan Wells. I loved her story about a family trip with a father who “went out of his way to go out of his way.”

            There were some tellers I did not get to see and hear, so I cannot write about them. Maybe next time.

            One final thing about the festival: for the first time is my life, I ate a piece of funnel cake, then another, and another. I ate seven pieces of funnel cake. It was so good I almost bought a whole funnel cake. I have been thinking about funnel cake ever since.

            We left the festival at 5:30 and ran into heavy traffic on I 26 East. I did not arrive at my house until 1:00 a.m. Was the festival worth that aggravation? YES!!!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

NSN Announces Fall Auction to Raise Funds for Member Grants

Are you ready to join in the fun of the National Storytelling Network's (NSN) Autumn Online Auction?  Interested in shopping for unique gifts from the comfort of your own computer? Now’s your chance!

The third annual NSN Autumn Online Auction will take place November 1-12, 2014. This auction raises funds for the NSN Member Grants program, which distributes funding to worthy storytelling projects carried out by NSN members across the country. Please note that although you will need to be a current NSN member prior to October 31, 2014 in order to apply for a 2015 NSN member grant, you do not need to be an NSN member to participate in the fun of the NSN Autumn Online Auction.  
That’s right-- the NSN Autumn Online Auction is open to everyone!   
We are currently seeking donations through Wednesday October 1st. Make your donation commitments in preparation of the frenzied (but friendly!) bidding wars with fellow story lovers.  We are seeking items of $35 or higher bid value that storytellers or friends of storytellers would love to get their hands on for themselves or a one-of-a-kind holiday gift. 

Suggestions of the kind of auction items we are seeking include quilts and wall hangings, paintings, hand-crafted jewelry, wearable art, storytelling services of all types (marketing, recording, coaching, photography, videography, etc.), festival & conference or retreat registrations, autographed editions of books & CDs (bundled to meet $35 minimum bid), gift baskets, vacation home or timeshare getaways, and more. 
We would welcome any contribution to this cause that you can provide. Please help us seek donations outside of the storytelling community – it’s amazing how many people are willing to donate when asked, excited for the exposure to their business.   
If you have an item or service you would like to donate, please email no later than October 1st with the following information:
* your name and contact information (email and phone)
* description of item
* digital photo of the item
* approximate actual value of the item
* a suggested minimum bid amount  (requesting $35 + to be worth the cost of the administrative time to post)
* whether you would be willing to donate shipping or prefer buyer pay shipping (and insurance if required). 
Important:  Do not mail any items to the NSN office. At the end of the auction, there will be direct mailing from donor to auction winner.
The auction will run from November 1st-12th so we’ll ask you to spread the word far & wide as that date gets closer.  We look forward to a fun online event to support good work through storytelling, but we need your donations to make it happen!  Donation Notification Deadline:  October 1
Any questions? Please contact Karin Hensley in the NSN office at 800-525-4514 or email

Thanks everyone!

Jane Crouse
NSN Board Member

Friday, August 22, 2014

Linda Goodman’s Storytelling Live! Teller in Residence Programs

At the International Storytelling Center in Jonesborough, Tennessee

September  16-20, 2014; 2:00 pm daily

This information may be subject to change; Stories in parenthesis are alternates.

Tuesday: A Little Bit of Kindness….

The Olive Branch
The Bus Ride
Easter Dresses

Wednesday: Daughters of the Appalachians

Sara Jane

Thursday: Memories of a Former Kid

Tale of Two Teachers
Nickels For Dimes
Bobby Pins
(The Other Linda Goodman)

Friday: Rites of Passage

The Dismal Swamp
The March

Saturday: Scenes from the Dim Smokey Past

The Punishment
The Mustard Seed
The Marriage Contract
(Buyer Beware; No Elvis)

Now in its 13th season, Storytelling Live!—the International Storytelling Center’s renowned teller-in-residence (TIR) series—features a lineup of 26 nationally-known storytellers in Jonesborough, Tennessee. For a complete listing of tellers and their schedules, please go to:

Friday, August 8, 2014

On Fees for Professional Storytellers

(c) 2014 Linda Goodman

I was happy to see Katie Knutson's article A Handful of beans or One Gold Coin: How to Price Your Work in the August/September issue of Storytelling Magazine. Lots of good advice there.When I first started telling professionally in 1989, NAPPS (The National Association for the Perpetuation and Preservation of Storytellinghad had just released a survey that stated that good beginning storytellers averaged $100 for a one hour show. Based on that info, I began using that rate and it worked well for me in those days.

The first storyteller I ever heard was "G", and she was beyond wonderful. To this day she remains one of my favorite tellers. But G was one of the fortunate few who worked for an organization that paid her a yearly salary (with benefits) to go to schools and libraries to tell stories. She retired a few years after I first heard her, but she decided to continue telling stories on her own with a less  strenuous schedule.

One day I received a phone call from an elementary school that wanted me to tell stories to its students. When I quoted my fee (by this time, in 1999, $150), the woman gasped. "But G charges only $50.00!" After a short period of silence, she added, "But she LOVES what she does."

I explained to her that I also loved telling stories, but, unlike G, storytelling was my only source of income. G, on the other hand, had a pension and medical insurance, which she received whether she told stories or not. I also mentioned that I could not with good conscience undercut my fellow tellers.  The two of us began dickering and finally agreed that I would tell for G's fee, but for only 30 minutes, on the condition that if I was ever asked back to the school, I would get paid my full fee. I could live with that. It was like I was getting paid to audition.  I was actually asked back to that school numerous times before I left New England, and even afterwards.

When I move to different areas of the country (I have done this four times since 1989), I enjoy working locally. I usually ask some of my fellow tellers what the range of fees is for the region. I ask only because I do not want to undercut another teller's rates; and, I admit, it saves me a lot of time and research.  Usually, however, other tellers are understandably reluctant to share. The stock answer is, "It depends." And so I do all the work that Katie Knutson so kindly details in her article. In the process, I usually am given contact information for possible venues, which nearly always results in work that leads to more work.

Whenever a fellow storyteller contacts me about fees, I share freely. I consider that part of my contribution to the storytelling community. As far as I know, that has never worked against me.

Sunday, July 20, 2014


© Linda Goodman July 2014

When I was looking for accounting work a few years ago, many of my interviewers asked me what my greatest strength was. 
That got me started to thinking about reviews I had received on my previous jobs. My manager at the last corporation I had worked for said that my greatest strength was my dedication to my job. She never had to worry about whether or not I would get the job done.
My manager at a government agency that I had worked for claimed that my greatest strength was that I was aggressive. I had been hired to work on a computer system that dated back to the 1960s. Only one person in the department knew how to use the system, and he was under such a tight deadline that he did not have time to teach me. He did give me a name, though, of someone in the technology department who was an expert. I found that man and actually stalked him until he finally made time to give me the information I needed to do my job. My manager loved the way I handled the situation. “You know what you need, and you’re not afraid to do whatever is necessary to get it,” he proudly declared.
I disagreed with both assessments of my strength. My greatest strength, I believed, was patience.

From 2001 – 2008, I worked in the General Accounting Department of an international corporation. On my first day in this department, I was assigned the responsibility of completing and recording the daily Cash Journal, a document that compiled the miscellaneous receipts from more than 600 branch offices around the country. I was told that my predecessor took the better part of a day to complete the task. By automating manual functions that had been dinosaurs for years, I was able to reduce the time taken to do the entry to no more than an hour a day. My manager was so pleased that he told me to teach someone else to do the Cash Journal. He had other projects in store for me.
Around that same time, two young women, Donna and Betty (not their real names), were transferred into General Accounting from a department that had been closed. Neither of these young women were accountants, but there was lots of filing to be done and they did it. Donna confided in me that she was afraid that if she did not develop some computer skills, she would eventually lose her job. I did not say anything to her, but I believed that she was right.
I told my manager that I would like to teach Donna to do the Cash Journal. He shook his head and said, “Absolutely not. She isn’t capable. Teach Betty.”
I taught Betty, who learned the job quickly, but had difficulty finding the time to get it done. Donna, on the other hand, had a problem finding enough work to fill eight hours a day.
One day I asked Donna to go to lunch with me. I told her that if she was willing to do it on her own time, I would teach her to do the Cash Journal. She was ecstatic!
After that, we spent our lunch hour each day doing the Cash Journal at her desk. Others who worked in the department told me I was wasting my time. One of them had tried to teach Donna to do a simple journal entry, but without success. She and the others declared that Donna was unteachable.
My observations were that Donna was a smart girl who had no confidence. So many people had told her that she was “slow” that she believed it. I made up my mind that I would not give up on her.
We worked together for weeks. At first, she was so scared of the computer that her hands shook as soon as they neared the keys. I reminded her that I was right beside and that there was nothing she could do that could not be fixed. I don’t think she believed me, but she made enough mistakes that I was able to prove it to her. Once that happened, the mistakes stopped. Finally, one morning I told her I was going to stay at my desk while she did the Cash Journal. She panicked. I assured her that all she had to do was dial my extension when she needed help, and I would come to her desk right away.
For the next few weeks, I got multiple calls every day. My own work began to get behind, and I came close to losing my patience a time or two, but I am awfully glad that I stayed the course. All Donna’s hard-earned confidence would have disappeared in an instant if I had lost my temper.
Eventually the frantic phone calls stopped. I checked her Cash Journals every day. I never found even one mistake. That could not be said about others who had once been assigned this journal; including me.
I showed Donna’s work to my manager and asked if the responsibility for the Cash Journal could be assigned to her. He was amazed, and a strong enough man to admit that he had misjudged Donna! Donna got the job.
Donna went on to take computer classes at a local technical school. She became a great asset to the department. My patience was eventually rewarded with a nice raise.
Patience made it possible for someone who was perceived as unteachable to learn new skills that benefited both her and the company. Betty was able to stop working overtime once Donna was given the Cash Journal responsibility. Donna was commended for her continually excellent work and was assigned more responsibility; enough to be given the title of Accounting Clerk. The company saved money as the department’s work was done more efficiently and at a lower pay grade.

When I told one of my interviewers that I thought patience was my biggest strength, he said that he perceived patience as a weakness. After I shared Donna’s story with him, he admitted that he had never thought of patience as an asset on the job. I did not get the job with this interviewer’s company, but I had given him something to think about. Patience is, indeed, a virtue.

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Dr. Pepper - Part 3

by Linda Goodman

(c)Linda Goodman 2000

The next Saturday morning, Glenn Allen and his friend Roy Allen were sitting on the steps in front of my building with me and my baby sister Evelyn.  It had rained the night before and we were surrounded by a gigantic mud puddle. 

“Williams Court is sure one ugly place!” I exclaimed.  “There’s not a blade of grass to be seen.”

“And look at that baby puke green building yonder, the one with the missing shingles.  That black tar paper looks like evil eyes staring at us,” Roy Allen added.

:”Well, we might have to live here, but that don’t mean we can’t go somewhere else and admire some beauty,” I suggested.  “Why don’t we take a hike over to Afton Parkway and look at something pretty?”

Normally, Glenn Allen and Roy Allen would not have been interested in accompanying me and my baby sister on such an excursion, but both of them had missed the early morning bus that took the rest of the boys in the neighborhood to the track and field meet across town that day.  So they agreed my idea was a good one.

We took off down Shiloh Place, hung a left on Garrett Street, and continued on about a mile until we reached George Washington Highway.  Once we crossed the highway, we were on Afton Parkway, in the heart of the Cradock community.  Down the street we walked, admiring the well-manicured lawns and the artistically maintained and colorful flower beds.  The houses were huge and painted lovely colors:  rose, pale yellow, slate blue, oyster shell.  We could not even imagine what it would be like to live in one of them. 

At the end of Afton Parkway, we came to a house that had an arched trellis covered with yellow roses at the entrance to the walkway.  We were gathered around it oohing and aahing, when a man opened the front door and came outside to smoke a cigarette.  When he saw us he hollered, “What are you young'uns doing out here walking around on a hot day like this?  Don’t you know it’s one hundred and five degrees out here today?”

Until he said that, we had not realized how hot it was.  Once he brought it to our attention, we started to feel the sweat flowing down our necks.  We could feel the stifling heat envelop us in its stranglehold.  Not long after that, we started to get thirsty.

I am pretty sure that if we had knocked on a door and asked someone for water, we would have gotten it.  Back in those days, not many people would have refused such a simple request from a child. But we were too shy to ask.  Instead, we decided to start for home.

We hung a right on Prospect Parkway and crossed the James Hurst Elementary School playground to Gillis Road.  After a few minutes, I remarked, “I’m so thirsty, my throat feels like sand paper.”

“I’m so thirsty, I can’t even work up any spit to swallow,” said Roy Allen.

“If we don’t get some water soon,” moaned Glenn Allen, “we’re gonna end up being buzzard food here on Gillis Road.”

All of a sudden, my frightened baby sister started crying.  That was more that I could handle.  I stopped in my tracks and announced, “That’s it!  Everybody stop! I’m gonna get us some water.”

“How are you going to do that?” asked Roy Allen.

“I’m gonna pray for it,” I answered.

“Well," groused Glenn Allen, “If you’re gonna go to all the trouble of praying, don’t ask for water.  Ask for something good, like Dr. Pepper.”

I paid no attention to him.  I got down on my knobby knees on Gillis Road and prayed, “Heavenly Father, You are a wonderful God and we thank you for all the blessings that you have bestowed upon us.  But our parents would never get over it if we ended up buzzard food here on Gillis Road.  So if it’s not too much to ask, would you please quench our thirst?  In Jesus name I pray.  Amen.”

I stood up and said, “Come on,” and we continued our walk home. 

“What do you think is going to happen, Linda?” asked Roy Allen.  “Do you think that God is going to send a cloud over our heads and rain water right into our mouths?”

“Oh, no!” teased Glenn Allen, “Linda’s gonna to strike a rock like Moses, and water is going to pour out of it.  Like as not, it’ll flood the whole city of Portsmouth.” (This remark made me realize that Glenn knew more about The Bible than he let on.)

I ignored them and just kept walking. There was no doubt in my mind that God would answer my prayer. When we came to George Washington Highway, we turned left, and there, standing in front of a mom and pop grocery store called the Turn Table, stood a pretty dark-haired woman in a crisp white apron.  In front of her was a card table covered with three ounce Dixie Cups filled with a brown liquid. 

“Well, hello, children,“ she called to us.  “Y’all look so hot!  Why don’t you come on over here and sample some of my Dr. Pepper?”

That evening, Glenn Allen came over and sat on my front steps with me.  “How did you know that God was gonna answer your prayer like that?” he asked.

“It’s like I told you, Glenn Allen, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead,” I said. “If he can do that, I reckon he can do anything.”

When I walked into my Sunday School class the next morning, I was surprised to see Glenn Allen among the children sitting there.  He came to Sunday School every week after that.  He also attended both the Sunday morning and Sunday evening worship services, the Wednesday prayer meetings, and the Thursday Junior Choir rehearsals.  On the first Sunday evening of each month, he and I would fight over who would get to be the first in line at the covered dish supper. 

When we were in high school, Glenn Allen was elected president of Asbury’s Methodist Youth Fellowship.  After receiving his college degree in Accounting, he became the church treasurer.  And, just as I helped bring Glenn Allen into the family of believers when we were children, he helped bring me back when I had my own crisis of faith in my mid twenties. 

In 1983, I decided to get married and move to Michigan with my new husband. The Saturday before my wedding, Glenn Allen and I met for lunch.  Inevitably, our conversation came back to that hot August Saturday in 1960 when I had prayed the Dr. Pepper Prayer. 

“You know,” Glenn Allen told me, “there I was, just one little fish swimming around in this big sea of humanity, and I had no intention of God ever catching me.  Then again, I didn’t know he was going to be using Dr. Pepper for bait.  I guess I’m the only Christian I know who owes his salvation to a soft drink.”

“I like I always said, Glenn Allen,” I responded, “If Jesus could raise Lazarus from the dead, He can do anything.”

“Raising people from the dead is no big thing,” he said seriously.  “Why, I saw three people raised from the dead in church last week.”

“What are you talking about?” I questioned.  “I was at that church service. I don’t recall anyone being raised from the dead...”

He shook his head.  “Don’t you remember, Linda, that when the alter call was given at the end of the service, three people went forward to give their lives to the Lord?  And don’t you know that whenever that happens, a dead person has been given life?”

Then he laughed, and I laughed with him.  It was laughter filled with joy, wonder, and awe that we had been embraced by a church whose members considered themselves to be ambassadors for Christ; Christian disciples who had the patience, faith, and love to nurture throw-away children into becoming witnesses for Jesus.  That, my friends, is the best investment any church can make.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Dr. Pepper - Part 2

By Linda Goodman
© 2000

Being a part of Asbury Methodist Church was like having dozens of parents and hundreds of brothers and sisters.  I was a straight A student in school, but my parents never made a big deal out of that, probably because they did not want my C-student siblings to feel inferior.  When I showed my report card to Mrs. Hilton, however, she was so excited that she told everyone she saw, “Guess what!  Linda got straight A’s on her report card!”  She even put an announcement about it on the church bulletin board. 

            I was by no means the only child so honored.  The bulletin board was filled with announcements by proud Sunday School teachers:  Joe Sam hit a homerun at Saturday’s ball game!  Ann Marie is playing an angel in the school Christmas Play!  Gillian has a baby brother!  Good news, Mr. Wade explained to me, was meant to be shared. 

            The Wades, in fact, treated me as though I belonged to their own family. I was included in picnics and movie outings.  I was given an open invitation to breakfast, lunch, and dinner at their home. Lori Ann was a best friend who was more like a sister.

            I must admit, though, that I was upset when I passed to the second grade at school.  That meant that I would be promoted out of Mrs. Hilton’s Sunday School class.  My disappointment disappeared, however, once I found out that Mrs. Sawyer was the best second grade Sunday School teacher in the whole wide world.

            My favorite Sunday school teacher ever, though, was my third grade Sunday School teacher, Mrs. Gilliam.  I liked Mrs. Gilliam best because she was from the mountains, like me, and talked just like I did.  Also, Mrs. Gilliam was a storyteller.  She didn’t just teach a lesson, she told the lesson as a story, like she was right there watching the whole thing as it took place. I can still recall the day that she told us the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. 

            “Now, boys and girls, Jesus loved his friend Lazarus more than a chicken loves a June bug, so you know he was mighty upset when he got a message that Lazarus was ‘like unto death.’  Yet Jesus didn’t go see Lazarus right away. His disciples didn’t want him to go at all.  It was dangerous for Jesus to go to Jerusalem at that time, with all those Pharisees and Sadducees after him.

            But Jesus told them he was going anyway, because God, his father, was going to use Lazarus to show His power.  But Jesus waited a while.  And by the time he got to Lazarus’ house, Lazarus was already dead!

            Lazarus’ sister Mary was just a crying.  ‘Lord,’ she said, ‘if you’da come sooner, Lazarus would still be alive.  You coulda saved him.’

            And Jesus was so moved by the grief he witnessed in Mary and her sister Martha, and all their friends and loved ones, that he just cried!  It says so right in the Bible, boys and girls.  Jesus wept!

            Then Jesus told Mary to take him to Lazarus’ tomb, which was really just a cave, and when they got there, he told her to have her friends move the stone away from the entrance. 

            Now I can just see Mary shaking her head and saying, ‘Are you sure you want me to do that, Lord?  I mean, he’s been dead for four days.  He’s liable to stink to high heaven!’

            But Jesus commanded that it be done and it was done.  And I suspect, boys and girls, that once that stone was rolled away a powerful, powerful stink came out of that tomb, because you know that people who have been dead for four days don’t smell pretty. And I can see Mary and the rest of them holding their noses and hanging back.  But not Jesus!

Jesus walked right up to the entrance to that tomb and called, ‘Lazarus, you come out of there!’

All those people thought Jesus was crazy….until Lazarus did come out of that cave, STILL DRESSED IN HIS BURIAL CLOTHES!!!  He’d come back from the land of the dead!

And do you think that for one minute that the folks who saw that could keep quiet about it?  Of course they couldn’t!  They shouted it from the roof tops.  They became witnesses for Jesus!

And that’s what you need to do, boys and girls. Become witnesses for Jesus!  Tell about all the good things he has done in your life.  Tell your families, your neighbors, your classmates! Tell everybody you see!”

That story amazed me.  Just a few weeks earlier, I had gone to the funeral of my uncle Dennis.  While we were waiting for that funeral to begin, I walked up to the casket and I reached out and touched Uncle Dennis’ face.  But I pulled my hand back real quick because his skin felt hard and cold.  That’s when I realized that my Uncle Dennis was gone.  What lay in that casket was just a cold, empty shell.

And yet Jesus and taken a cold, empty shell just like the one I had witnessed, and brought it back to life – made it a living, breathing human being once more!

“Is it true?” I asked Mrs. Gilliam after class.  “Did Jesus really bring a dead man back to life?”

“Well, of course it’s true, Linda,” she replied, “cause it’s in the Bible.  And if the Good Book says it’s so, then, it’s so.”

“But if Jesus could do that,” I responded, “he could do anything!”

“That right,” Mrs. Gilliam agreed.  “But don’t tell me.  I already know.  Go tell people who don’t know.  Be a witness for Jesus!”

I did exactly what she told me to do.  I told my parents, who claimed that they already knew that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead (they had learned about it at the Stone Mountain Primitive Baptist Church).  I told all my neighbors, most of whom thought that they had already heard something about it.  On Monday, I told everybody I saw at school, students and teachers alike.  By Friday, kids weren’t making fun of the way that I talked anymore.  Instead, when they saw me they ran as fast as they could in the other direction.

After hearing more than he cared to listen to, my friend Glenn Allen snarled, “Why don’t you just shut up about all this God stuff?  Don’t nobody want to hear that!”

“But Glenn Allen,” I protested, “What I’m telling you is true.  Maybe I just ain’t telling it right.  You should come to Sunday School with me and hear Mrs. Gilliam tell about it.”

“I ain’t going to no church!” he shouted.  “My daddy says churches ain’t interested in nothing but your money anyways.”

“That’s not true,” I corrected him.  “Why, I don’t have hardly any money, but the folks at Asbury Methodist Church love me.”

“Oh, sure,” he taunted.  “they act like they like you to your face.  But behind your back they’re probably calling you names like tightwad and cheapskate.”

He made me so mad that I did some very unchristian things.  First, I called Glenn Allen a name:  “Glenn Allen, you’re a dirty, rotten Liar!”

Then I insulted his sister: “And your sister has boogers in her nose!”

Later that evening, though, I realized that Glenn Allen had gotten to me.  I started thinking about the money that others put into the plate on Sunday.  Mr. Wade usually put in a whole $5.00 bill.  Lori Ann put in at least a quarter.  My allowance was only a nickel a week.  That wasn’t enough to pay for anything that the church needed. 

By the following Sunday, I was so distraught that I asked Mr. Wade if I could talk to him after church.  He took me into the preacher’s study and closed the door.  “What’s on your mind, Linda?” he asked.

“Well….” I stammered, “I just want to know if folks here at Asbury are calling me a cheapskate and a tightwad.”

“Linda!” he was shocked.  “Why would you even ask that?”

“Well, because my friend Glenn Allen told me that churches ain’t interested in nothing but money, and I don’t got hardly any of that,” I explained.

He shook his head.  “Linda, I can’t speak for other churches, but here at Asbury, we are more interested in you than we are in your money.  Why, we believe that you, and children like you, are the most important investment we have.”

“What’s an investment?” I wanted to know.

“An investment, Linda, is something that grows,” he told me.

“Well, I did grow a whole dress size last year,” I replied.

“Not that kind of growth,” he chuckled.  “Children have an innocent faith that shines through them so clearly that others can’t help but notice it.  When they see what you have, they can’t help but want it, too.  Some of them might even give their hearts to Jesus, even join a church.  Maybe some of them will even join Asbury.  Our church will grow because of your lovely, innocent faith.

And as far as money goes, just remember the story of the widow’s mite.  Do you remember that from last week’s sermon?”

I remembered it all right.  That widow gave hardly anything at all, just like me, but Jesus blessed her anyway.  He even put her story right in the Bible, so that everyone would know that what was in your heart was more important than what was in your pocketbook.

I felt a lot better after talking to Mr. Wade.  But I was confused, too.  I lived in the ugliest apartment building in the ugliest block of the ugliest project in Portsmouth.  My family had no car and no telephone.  I could not see how anyone would want what I had.
To be continued…….