Tuesday, November 24, 2009


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 Momma 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.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Book Review


By Becky Mushko

Illustrated by Bruce Rae

$7.00 per copy
Available January 2010 from Cedar Creek Publishing.
Phone: 800-431-1579.
Email: cedarcreekbooks@aol.com
Becky Mushko’s website: www.beckymushko.com
Cedar Creek Author Page: www.cedarcreekauthors.com/Becky Mushko.html

Reviewed By Linda Goodman

         Becky Mushko wrote Ferradiddledumday in 1997 to showcase her friend Susan Alkhadra’s spinning abilities and to teach youngsters about the flora and fauna of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The story was originally written to be told,
but demand for copies lead to its publication in Blue Ridge Traditions magazine in 1998 and, ultimately, to this book.

      Ferradiddledumday is an Appalachian Version of Rumpelstiltskin. A need for money prompts the heroine, Gillie, a master spinner, to make a deal that appears to be a blessing, but turns out to actually be a curse. In the end, bald-faced
luck saves the day, and all live happily ever after. Those who have read Rumpelstiltskin will recognize the familiar motifs.

        The charm of Mushko’s tale lies in its Appalachian authenticity. Her words paint pictures of mountains brimming
with ticks, chiggers, rattlesnakes, and copperheads. When Gillie walks the mountains, she is loved by the pipsissewa,
the maidenhair ferns, and the dogtooth violets, all of which beg her to pick them. Superstition plays a part, too, as bad
omens appear in threes: Gillie spills salt; a bird flies through the cabin; and her father sees the moon over his left shoulder.

       Hence, the appearance of a strange little man who hears the trees whispering among themselves. Gillie’s misfortune could very well be his gain. His magic could very well be her salvation. As every lover of fairy tales knows,
 however, magic comes at a price, in this case a dear one.

       Bruce Rae’s sketches enhance the story without overwhelming it. His attention to minute detail gives the reader a sense of both the Appalachian environment and the culture. He was a good choice to illustrate this book.
This book includes a study guide that highlights the literature, history, geography, and science particular to the Appalachians. A lively and informative discussion should ensue.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Tribute to Brother Blue

    I first began hearing about Brother Blue in 1990. Everytime I told stories to an audience with college students, they would ask me if I knew Blue.  College kids loved his color and his wisdom. They admired his journey from the mean streets to his life's dream of trying to save the world, story by story.
    I fnally heard Blue tell stories at a church in Hartford, Connecticut in 1991.  Standing on the stage, a gaunt man in a colorful costume that brought to mind a court jester, he was dazzling. I was not impressed with his storytelling at first. He rambled and fidgeted.  He was hard to follow. Midway through his performance, however, he began his butterfly story, and suddenly I was riveted.  The story was sweet, beautiful, and, yes, brilliant.  I became a fan.  I began to follow his peformances, hoping to witness that brilliance again.  It was always worth the wait, however long.
    For years, Blue and his wife Ruth hosted a weekly open mike storytelling series at the Book Cellar Cafe in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  They made the venue a safe place for beginners to share the stories that had been laid on their hearts.  At the end of each performance, he would share appreciations. Then he would wave his arms accross the room as the audience joined him in his trademark "aaaaaaah!"  Even the most fragile tellers were welcomed and accepted.  Everyone who came to Blue's open mike storytelling became part of his family.  There were no outcasts in Blue's presence.  He was the essence of love.
    This if for you, Blue......aaaaaaaaaaah!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Yankee Doodle Streudel

     Mimi Rockwell is so well-known as a producer and promotor of storytelling events that few realize what a fine writer and storyteller she is.  Her CD would make a great Christmas Gift for the story lovers in your life.  Read my review of her CD below and decide for yourself.

Compact Disc Review

Yankee Doodle Streudel
German-American Family Stories

Available from Mimi Rockwell, 15301 Castle Yonder Lane, Bristol, VA 24202. Phone: 276-669-8358. Email: Bristolstory@aol.com. $12.00, plus $3.00 shipping and handling.

Reviewed By Linda Goodman

     Rarely does an audio recording produce pleasure that equals the delights of a live performance. Mimi Rockwell’s Yankee Doodle Streudel, however, does just that. Mimi’s stories take the listener on a nostalgic journey through a simpler time when family interaction taught life lessons leavened with a huge dose of love. The stories’ themes, though set in a German-American context, are universal. Everyone will identify with some aspect of the child portrayed.

     Queen Diva takes the listener on a circular journey that will strike a chord with anyone who has been dissatisfied with his or her given name. Amanda begins with the discovery of a photo in a hymnal and evolves into the most beautiful ghost story that I have ever heard. The vivid images in this story take the listener through a range of emotions: joy, love, grief, and, inevitably, hope.

     Uncle Herman begins with the heartbreak of an opportunity forsaken for the sake of family obligation, but then proceeds to embark upon a delightful journey that leads to true love. Apple Streudel addresses an awkward moment at a children’s birthday party.
     The Movie Camera brings the Great Depression to life in a trip to the movies that yields a treasure of family memories and stories for years to come. Grandpa Santa Claus centers around a grandfather who is asked to play Santa at an annual Christmas party. The events that follow leave one wondering at the irony of how a time-honored tradition, so often taken for granted, could go so wrong.

     Greenthumb, a story of Mimi’s mother’s love of plants, brings this lovely collection of tales to its end, with the perfect combination of wonder and hope.

     Well-written and filled with haunting images and lovely details, these stories do not end when the CD is finished. Mimi’s stories elicit sweet memories that help us forget life’s disappointments and tragedies, if only for a little while. Her stories create pictures and scenes that will infuse the listeners’ minds and hearts with peace and beauty. Isn’t that what storytelling is all about?

All stories written and performed by Mimi Rockwell

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Shadows in the Woods

Compact Disc Review
Shadows in the Woods
Spine-Tingling Tales

Reviewed By Linda Goodman
     Master Story Performer ™ Leeny Del Seamonds introduces her new CD of scary stories by chronicling her passion (nurtured by costume parties celebrating her October birthday) for telling them. Her vivid imagination and fear of the dark guided her down the path of telling the very tales that frightened her. After all, the teller controls both the tale and the audience, much more so than the ghosts and demons that inhabit the stories.

     Friday the Thirteenth revolves around an auto breakdown on the highway to New Jersey and a harrowing struggle to escape a strange entity after answering nature’s call. Was it real? That depends on your perspective, but you may want to stay away from the woods if you are stranded on a highway on Friday the Thirteenth in October, during a harvest moon.

     Old Lady Lincoln tells of a woman who dies with her “eyes wide open, staring at everything and seeing nothing.” Enter two silver coins and a greedy gravedigger and you get real horror, accentuated by a howling wind and ghostly voices. Never “steal from the dead,” the tale warns.
     Jersey Devil, one of Leeny’s signature stories from her native New Jersey, begins with a grieving, pregnant widow cursing her unborn child, who later escapes her useless restraints and terrorizes South Jersey. One family’s tragic encounter with this creature will keep you awake long after you should have fallen asleep, wondering about those strange hisses and howls that haunt the night.

     The Date is a story of a young couple, deeply in love and foolish enough to go parking in a desolate part of town, only to run out of gas on a night when a serial killer is on the loose. In the end, love triumphs, though not in the way that you would expect.

     The Feast is a delightful poem that is a cornucopia of ghastly voices and cackling laughter that includes a recipe for witch’s brew.

     All stories, poems, and songs on this CD were written by the multi-talented Del Seamonds, who now has another excellent recording to include in her award-winning collection of tales. Flawlessly produced and masterfully told, the tales will lure you into listening to them again and again. Just don’t listen when you are alone….at night.

Available from Leeny Del Seamonds, Two to Tango Productions, P.O. Box 1268, Westford, MA 01886-1433, Phone: 978-692-3961. Email: leeny@LeenyDelSeamonds.com. $17.00 (includes shipping & handling

I Have Arrived!

     At long last, I have a blog.  Friends having been nagging me to get one for years.  I thought it would be too "technical" for me, but I actually managed to get it up and running in less than one-half hour.

     Now I can share my thoughts and feelings and what little wisdom I have gained in my years on this earth.  I can share my reviews of books and CDs with a wider audience.  I can get the word out on things I care about.  I may even be able to make a difference.

I have arrived!