Cap’s Off To You!-Dianne de Las Casas (Posthumously) and Celebrating Story


Featuring:  Dianne de Las Casas (Posthumously)

Dazzle & Sparkle Queen, Storyteller & Writer Extraordinaire, Champion Promoter and Advocate for All Arts

Dianne de Las Casas brightened any room, actual or virtual.  She invited challenges, encouraged tenacity in herself and others, and did this all with sparkle.  She embraced fears and taught others how “the scary” was more of a friend than a foe.  Whether at conferences or book signings or performances, she treated everyone as if the friendship was a forever one.  She continues to inspire today.

Dianne was 47 when a tragic house fire claimed her life.  The news shocked the storytelling world and beyond, especially when earlier that same day she shared posts on the beauty of the solar eclipse.

My connection with Dianne was more virtual than in-the-same-room.  About eight years ago, I noticed that Dianne had a “green light” next to her name on Facebook.  I took a chance and said hello, not really expecting a response as it was towards 2 am.  We chatted back and forth on our upcoming projects and dreams.  We admitted to each other that we either had insomnia or our brains just would not turn off when we had ideas jumping around.  This meant we were most productive in these wee hours.  We both typically stayed up to 2 or 3am, had about four hours of sleep regularly, and then continued on with the next day.  Yet, we laughed how our bodies still were rested enough so far and it was best to take advantage of this now before our bodies decided something else as we got older.  On this particular day, Dianne was in a time zone ahead of me.  The online chatting back and forth then turned into a late night/early morning phone call.

We discovered that we had similar paths to the storytelling world, both as youth tellers.  We were barely less than 10 years apart in age.  We shared many of the same views of how the storytelling world could be more inclusive instead of feeling contained and constrained.  The idea of Story Crossroads was there at the time with connecting to many cultures, languages, and styles.  Story Crossroads was not even called Story Crossroads at that time.  It was simply “The Dream.”  We both loved storytelling and marketing equally, and how it was not so strange to apply a performance audience with a target audience.  We laughed that more storytellers would love marketing and not hate it if only they made that audience connection.

We then went back to chatting online.  Dianne had her own big ideas that she was excited and anxious about.  When we finally decided to end the night, I wrote this to Dianne, “You will reach your dreams for you are a dreamer of dreams and a doer of dreams. Things naturally happen for those who “do”.  ‘Ladies and Gentlemen. . .it is Dianne de Las Casas. . .the name you all know!'”

This was near the emergence of the Professional Storyteller Ning site, an online community that still connects others today.  Dianne envisioned storytellers from around the world connecting at all times of the day–not just at 2 or 3am–and being stronger tellers and people as a result.

I could list a whole bunch of accomplishments of Dianne.  She supported her two daughters in their own dreams.  Dianne is the reason that Picture Book Month exists every November.  Dianne was a prolific writer who used her Cajun background to breathe new life into old tales.  She wrote the Bible on storytelling marketing with “The Story Biz Handbook” that first was self-published and then became updated and even more amazing when Libraries Unlimited picked it up.

Yet, in order to have these events or accomplishments, Dianne had to be a doer.  She had to be a dreamer and a doer.

When I heard of Dianne’s passing, I scrounged through my pictures and hoped to find at least one or more pictures of when we met at the National Storytelling Conferences.  Surely, I had one of her wearing a tiara.  Nothing.  Yet, the picture in my head of her openness and sparkle is so clear that it is enough to inspire me forever.

Death is not the end.  We miss her here, though Death is the beginning of her new adventure.  I know she is a dreamer and doer there, too.  I look forward to when we all see each other again.

I appreciate Dianne for the influence of yesterday, today, and forever in storytelling and in human decency and generosity.

Dianne still has a story.  You have a story.  We all have stories.

Cap’s Off To You-Utah Humanities and Celebrating Story

Utah Humanities collage - cap's off to youUtah Humanities has made it possible for more people to enjoy Story Crossroads through Spanish, ASL, and Audio Descriptions interpretations.  In 2017, Story Crossroads launched “The Language of Story” Academic Series that delved into visual languages and.  This partnership with Utah Humanities as well as the Utah Valley University and the South Jordan Arts Council made it possible to film and create a professional piece to share for the general public.  Then the people in attendance and beyond can enjoy the insights through the roughly 1-hour presentation featuring Dr. Dale H. Boam.  We are also thrilled whenever Jodi Graham, the Grants and Outreach Coordinator, makes an appearance.

From our inaugural year in 2016, Jodi attended our morning sessions and saw and heard the buzz from the students.  She was impressed enough to write us a letter of recommendation that included such lines as “The hard work and dedication of the planning team for the festival was evident, and the first festival was a definite success. I personally enjoyed the time I spent at the festival and left wanting to experience more.”  Jodi is such a delight to share more pictures and reports of what is happening with Story Crossroads in the community.

Utah Humanities is busy every year with their own projects.  Utah Humanities empowers groups and individuals to improve their communities through active engagement in the humanities.

This year is the 20th Anniversary of the Utah Humanities Book Festival.  Events connected with this Festival span the state and start September 8th to October 26th, 2017.

Utah Humanities had this to say about their Festival:

Over the past 20 years we’ve inspired Utah communities by offering the state’s largest annual book festival. Our inaugural festival, known then as The Great Salt Lake Book Festival, started in 1998 and was a one-day event featuring 30 authors at Westminster College. Twenty years later, our annual Utah Humanities Book Festival now spans two full months each September and October. We’ve grown to 122 events in 16 communities, and consistently feature over 100 authors. We’ve expanded our reach by partnering with libraries, community centers, cultural organizations, and more to serve upwards of 12,000 Utahns every fall.

Each year, we hear very personal stories about how an author or book has generated conversation, insight, and understanding. We hear about communities coming together and collectively immersing in books of all types – everything from historical fiction to comedy to poetry. We listen to individuals talk about how their personal or professional lives were affected in life-changing ways by talking with an author who inspired them. We hear about how we’ve helped to improve Utah communities through books, reading, and the resulting conversations . . . in short, through the humanities.

Besides this impressive and expansive Festival, the Utah Humanities takes part in a traveling exhibit in connection with the Smithsonian.  In 2014, the theme was “Journey Stories” that explored how migration and transportation built our nation, how it has
changed us, and how our mobile world looked to travelers along the way.  In 2017, the theme is “The Way We Work” that explores how work became such a central element in American culture by tracing the many changes that affected the workforce and work environments over the past 150 years.

Learn more about Utah Humanities and these and more projects here:

So toss, tip, or take off your cap to the Utah Humanities!

We also have year-round events such as the monthly house concerts and the 3rd Annual Story Crossroads Festival that will be on May 23, 2018.

Cap’s Off to You!-South Jordan Arts Council and Celebrating Story

South Jordan collageJim Luter said that he had an appointment with the South Jordan Arts Council and asked if I would come along.  We met at the Gale Center of History and Culture in South Jordan and gathered around the table with several from the Council.  They allowed us plenty of time to share about Story Crossroads, especially as they had questions and comments.  Then I asked, the big question, “Am I right that we can ask up to $1,000 for Story Crossroads.”  One of the Council Members said, “Well, you can’t get $5 if you ask for $1.”  I followed up with the group by asking, “Then can we apply for $5,000 instead of the $1,000?”  Everyone in the group nodded.

The next day the application was turned in and a few weeks later we learned that the South Jordan Arts Council did commit to the $5,000.  Katie Lindquist, the Arts and Volunteer Coordinator, mentioned that the South Jordan Arts Council was very interested in what Story Crossroads was doing and wished down the road for the event to be headquartered in South Jordan.

The South Jordan Arts Council, specifically Katie Lindquist, was pro-active in attending several events leading up to the Story Crossroads Festival including the Canyon School District Storytelling Festival.  She spoke with the Coordinator of that Festival, Rebecca Smith, on how the Arts Council could be more involved.  Everyone recognized that more schools from the district needed to be participate in this annual school district event.  Katie also represented the Council by coming to the Festival itself as well as a couple outreaches.

Of the experience, Katie Lindquist said:

I look forward to working with her more and seeing how the South Jordan Arts Council can help support and expand Storytelling in South Jordan City….I was impressed with the variety of outreaches that went on, leading up to the main Festival event. I am excited to see how this festival will grow.

Katie Lindquist provided the mission and some key events that the South Jordan Arts Council already supports:

Mission Statement
“Provide opportunities for individuals and families to experience the arts through education, participation, and performance.”

“Inspire life-long appreciation for the Arts.”

The South Jordan Arts Council consists of volunteer member residents who possess a desire to support and promote Arts in South Jordan City. The Arts Council serves as an advisory board to the City Council and meets monthly to evaluate artistic opportunities and needs in the community. Over the last several years, the Arts Council has been able to provide seed money to a variety of different Arts groups through their Grant program.

Some of the Arts Council’s major programs include the following:

Annual Art Show – residents may submit a max of two pieces of work (photography, 2-D, and 3-D). Over the last few years, the number of submissions have increased, especially in the 3-D category. We had a 10’ statue entered during the 2017 Art Show!

Annual Chalk Art Contest – The chalk art contest as always been a highlight, traditionally taking place during Farmers Market. All ages participate in teams or as an individual artist. We see a lot of variety and colors that brighten Towne Center Drive all week! This year, for 2017 – the Chalk Art Contest will be taking place in conjunction with Stage 4 of Tour of Utah in Heritage Park, first Thursday of August.

Quilt Show – Typically featured during Farmer’s Market in front of City Hall. All are welcome to step under the tent, admire the variety styles and designs, and vote on their favorite for a Publics Choice award. This year, for 2017 – the Quilt show will also include other Textile Arts.

Resident on Display – Resident on Display is a program that spotlights an artist or photographer from within South Jordan City. The Artist’s work is displayed at the Gale Center of History & Culture for one month along the back wall of the museum. Afterwards, the pieces are moved and displayed at City Hall for another month. We love showing off the amazing talent of the residents of South Jordan!

Arts at the Gale – Throughout the year, the Arts Council provides free evening workshops in different art disciplines, including: theater, writing, quilting, origami, etc. The Arts Council is always looking for new ideas to bring to the workshops.

Currently the Arts Council is working with the City to wrap utility boxes near City Park, with vinyl-wraps of artist’s work. These boxes are expected to be wrapped and displayed in time for Stage 4 of Tour of Utah.

So toss, tip, or take off your cap to the South Jordan Arts Council!

We also have year-round events such as the monthly house concerts and the 3rd Annual Story Crossroads Festival that will be on May 23, 2018.

Cap’s Off to You!–City of Murray and Celebrating Story

Murray CollageIf it was not for Holly Robison and Mary Ann Kirk, Story Crossroads may not have existed for another five or more years.  These two people worked together to develop and succeed with the Murray Storytelling Festival.  Storytelling still was available to community members (at least for youth) in the Salt Lake County area through the Jordan School District Storytelling Festival and the Canyons School District Storytelling Festival.  Though, Murray did things different by going beyond the Murray School District and holding residencies at the Murray Heritage Center for the seniors.

At the 2014 Mountain West Arts Conference, Mary Ann Kirk asked Rachel Hedman when there would be a first community planning meeting for a Salt Lake County storytelling event.  Mary Ann wanted another opportunity for the youth tellers with the Murray Storytelling Festival to share their stories.  Second graders to 12th graders shone on stage and needed to be heard by more people.  She heard from other storytellers that Rachel had an idea already worked out though needed a push to make it happen.

So by June 2014, Story Crossroads had its first of five Community Planning Meetings (June, July, August, September, and October of 2014) and transitioned to official monthly Board Meetings in November 2014.

The City of Murray and the Cultural Arts encouraged storytelling through its annual Cemetery Tours and Haunted Tales long before the Murray Storytelling Festival that recently celebrated its 4th annual event.

Murray is now our host for the 2nd Annual Story Crossroads Festival on May 24, 2017 at the Murray City Park (296 E. Murray Park Ave., Murray, UT).  They have several pavilions to give shade and shelter while being surrounded by lush trees and lakes.  These pavilions are no strangers to the arts as every summer there are programs such as Arts in the Park Lunch Concerts every Tuesday at Noon, the free Children’s Matinee series every Thursday at 2:00pm.  Beyond the park, there are once-a-month Family Night Concerts at the Heritage Senior Center.  When fall comes around, the Missoula Children’s Theater works with local youth to produce a musical in a week’s time.

Though, let’s hear it from Mary Ann Kirk–

In 1992, the Murray City Cultural Arts program was created under the Parks and Recreation Department. Together, the Arts Advisory Board and the Cultural Programs Office have created year-round cultural activities including arts-in-education projects, workshops and camps, musicals, visual art exhibits and competitions.  A summer and winter season, created together with local performing arts organizations, have been successfully operating since 1990.  Murray Cultural Arts serves approximately 35,000 patrons each year.     

Murray started their own storytelling festival in 2012-2013, providing professional instruction to schools during and after school, the senior center, library, and Boys and Girls Club.  Finalists are selected from local workshops to participate in a city wide festival in the spring.  We felt this art form was unfamiliar to many and provided a new opportunity.  Arts leadership was thrilled when a county wide festival was established to give our storytellers an opportunity to strengthen and share their skills with the broader public.   And we are excited that the county festival will be held in our community this year!

So toss, tip, or take off your cap to the City of Murray and the Cultural Arts!

Cap’s Off to You! Billie Jones & Celebrating Story

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Featuring:  Billie Jones

Wife, Librarian Storyteller-in-Residence, DTM-Distinguished Toastmaster from UT

Billie makes a promise to do something and always goes beyond the expected.  She was one of the first storytelling faces that welcomed me with smiles when I first moved to Utah and attended my first Utah Storytelling Guild chapter meeting. Many years later and she initiated and strengthened the relationship between Story Crossroads and Toastmasters International.  She attended every chapter of Toastmasters in the Salt Lake County area and surrounding counties to share the purpose and needs of Story Crossroads over a couple months.  I do not even know where to begin in thanks to her for that part alone.  Then she scheduled and instructed the Toastmasters on emceeing and acting as hosts so that all felt welcomed to the event.  This is no surprise as Billie has always had everyone feel welcomed on a personal and a professional level.

So enjoy the past, present, and future influences of storytelling in the life of Billie Jones.

Rachel:  What drew you to storytelling? 

Billie:  I grew up with two Grandmothers telling stories to me and my siblings.  When we would visit them in Louisiana, the first thing we’d do is say, “Tell us stories about your growing up and about Daddy’s growing up.”  So I’ve always had stories.  We had stories all over the place.  The last week of June every year—in that week was my Grandmother’s birthday—the whole family would get together.  Sometimes we would have fish fries and sometimes we’d just be out in the backyard [making] homemade ice cream, which we loved.  All the time we were doing this, there were stories going on in the background—my Aunts and Uncles and my Grandmother.  So stories were in my blood from the time I was very little. 

Rachel:  What are some of your favorite memories with stories and storytelling? Why? 

Billie:  One of the memories is my Daddy’s Mother had a little bedroom and [my little sister and I would gather] and say, “Tell us stories about your growing up.”  And she would tell us stories about when my Dad was about three years old, their house burned and all that was left was a little leather shoe that one of [my Dad’s] Uncles had made.

Another memory is when I co-chaired a committee in the American Library Association.  I started a storytelling group, and we would have librarians and interested people come to our hotel room and we would just share stories.  Some people did personal stories.  Some people just told fairy tales or folktales.  All kinds of stories.  We did that for every library convention for a number of years.

Another special memory for me is every summer my husband and I would attend the family reunion for Mother’s siblings and children.  We would go down through Houston to Galveston, go across on the ferry to the Bolivar Peninsula and meet my family at my Uncle’s cabin that was on stilts because it was so close to the river.  And we would just tell stories and listen.  Most of the time we would just listen and I would jot down little things to help me remember some of the stories so I would not forget.  I learned about family growing up in Louisiana in the piney woods—lots of stories about that.  My Mother’s Mother was a great one for pulling tricks on people and telling scary stories to the kids.  So I guess part of those genes is in my blood, too, from my other Grandmother.  So we just picked it all up.  I just soaked it all in like a sponge.

Some other fun things, I did a storytelling workshop in a women’s prison one year.  It was magnificent to see these women who made wrong choices but they still had feelings and a lot of them talked about their toys that they had when they were growing up.  It changed the way I looked at people by hearing their stories.

The Traveling Tellers is another special memory that is in my little memory box.  I told stories all over the state of Utah with different storytellers that were in the Olympus [Chapter of the Utah Storytelling Guild] at the time. 

I enjoyed and still have good memories of the children’s programs at the public libraries where I worked most of my career.  I did it at the city libraries and also at the county when I went to work for the county. 

I have given workshops for Toastmasters International in Utah, California, Idaho, Washington, and even in Canada.  Toastmasters, in general, want to be storytellers—many of them.  From working with Toastmasters, I have learned that stories can be used in businesses, in places that you wouldn’t think—stories need to be everywhere.

Rachel:  How have you seen the influence of stories and storytelling in what you do now (if at all)? 

Billie:  Stories and storytelling has always been in my life.  I have a current job at a private school that I got because of my storytelling experience.  And every speech I have given in Toastmasters has contained some kind of story—either personal story or a story that helps the people—the audience—understand what I am trying to get across.

Rachel:  What are your plans for storytelling and using stories in the future?

Billie:  I really would like to continue to work on my personal stories and share them with others.  I have been in the process of recording some of my stories.  I am also working on a story for the school talent show that is coming up.  It’s exciting for me because I have the guitar teacher who is willing to help me—accompany me—and that will be fun.  The teacher is new and just came this year.  I am also updating and preparing a workshop for children.  I have done a lot for adults.   

Rachel:  Anything you would like to add about the importance of storytelling?

Billie:  Our stories help us connect with people.  Stories are everywhere.  Stories are very valuable to get a point across. 

My younger brother is a storyteller and he remembers things about Louisiana that I didn’t remember and you’d think it was the same place, we were there, but different people pull different things out of the same experience.  It just depends on your perspective.

Thank you to the permissions of Billie Jones to do this interview as well as the use of her picture.

We appreciate Billie sharing her experiences and influence with storytelling.  You have those moments, too.

Here is why:

Billie has a story.  You have a story.  We all have stories.

Aquí lo tiene.


Con:  Bille Jones

Esposa, Bibliotecario Narrador-en-Residencia, DTM-Distinguido Toastmaster de UT

Billie hace una promesa de hacer algo y siempre va más allá de lo esperado. Ella fue una de las primeras caras que me dieron la bienvenida con sonrisas cuando me mudé a Utah y asistí a mi primera reunión del capitulo del Cuento de Utah. Muchos años después, ella inició y fortaleció la relación entre Story Crossroads y Toastmasters International. Asistió a todos los capítulos de Toastmasters en el área del Condado de Salt Lake y condados circundantes para compartir el propósito y las necesidades de Story Crossroads durante un par de meses. Ni siquiera sé por dónde empezar gracias a ella por esa parte sola. Entonces ella programó e instruyó a los Toastmasters sobre emceeing y actuando como anfitriones para que todos se sintieran bienvenidos al evento. Esto no es ninguna sorpresa ya que Billie siempre ha tenido a todos se sienten bienvenidos en un nivel personal y profesional.

Así que disfruta de las influencias pasadas, presentes y futuras de la narración en la vida de Billie Jones.

Rachel: ¿Qué te llevó a contar historias?

Billie: Crecí con dos abuelas contando historias a mí ya mis hermanos. Cuando los visitáramos en Louisiana, lo primero que haríamos es decir: “Cuéntanos historias sobre tu crecimiento y sobre cómo papá está creciendo”. Así que siempre he tenido historias. Teníamos historias en todo el lugar. La última semana de junio de cada año -en esa semana era el cumpleaños de mi abuela- toda la familia se reunía. A veces teníamos papas fritas de pescado ya veces nos gustaría estar en el patio trasero [hacer] helado casero, que nos encantó. Todo el tiempo que estábamos haciendo esto, había historias en el fondo-mis tías y tíos y mi abuela. Así que las historias estaban en mi sangre desde que era muy pequeña.

Rachel: ¿Cuáles son tus recuerdos preferidos con cuentos y cuentos? ¿Por qué?

Billie: Uno de los recuerdos es que la mamá de mi papá tenía un pequeño dormitorio y [mi hermana menor y yo nos reuníamos] y decíamos: “Cuéntanos historias sobre tu crecimiento”. Y nos contaría historias sobre cuando mi papá tenía unos tres años Su casa quemada y todo lo que quedaba era un pequeño zapato de cuero que uno de los tíos [de mi papá] había hecho.

Otro recuerdo es cuando copresidí un comité en la American Library Association. Empecé un grupo de cuentos, y tendríamos bibliotecarios y gente interesada en nuestra habitación de hotel y simplemente compartiríamos historias. Algunas personas hicieron historias personales. Alguna gente acaba de contar cuentos de hadas o cuentos de hadas. Todo tipo de historias. Hemos hecho eso por cada convención de la biblioteca por un número de años.

Otro recuerdo especial para mí es cada verano mi marido y yo asistiría a la reunión familiar para los hermanos de la madre y los niños. Nos gustaría ir a través de Houston a Galveston, cruzar en el ferry a la Península de Bolívar y conocer a mi familia en la cabaña de mi tío que estaba en zancos porque estaba tan cerca del río. Y solo contamos historias y escuchamos. La mayoría de las veces sólo escuchábamos y anotaría pequeñas cosas para ayudarme a recordar algunas de las historias, así que no lo olvidaría. Aprendí acerca de la familia que crecía en Louisiana en los bosques de pinos-muchas historias sobre eso. La madre de mi madre era una gran para tirar de trucos en la gente y de contar historias asustadizas a los cabritos. Así que supongo que parte de esos genes está en mi sangre, también, de mi otra abuela. Así que lo recogimos todo. Lo empapé todo como una esponja.

Otras cosas divertidas, hice un taller de narración en una prisión para mujeres un año. Fue magnífico ver a estas mujeres que tomaron decisiones equivocadas, pero todavía tenían sentimientos y muchos de ellos hablaban de sus juguetes que tenían cuando estaban creciendo. Cambió la manera en que miré a la gente escuchando sus historias.

The Traveling Tellers es otra memoria especial que está en mi pequeña caja de memoria. Conté historias en todo el estado de Utah con diferentes narradores que estaban en el Olimpo [Capítulo de la Guild Storytelling de Utah] en ese momento.

Disfruté y todavía tengo buenos recuerdos de los programas infantiles en las bibliotecas públicas donde trabajé la mayor parte de mi carrera. Lo hice en las bibliotecas de la ciudad y también en el condado cuando fui a trabajar para el condado.

He dado talleres para Toastmasters International en Utah, California, Idaho, Washington, e incluso en Canadá. Toastmasters, en general, quieren ser narradores de cuentos, muchos de ellos. De trabajar con Toastmasters, he aprendido que las historias pueden ser usadas en negocios, en lugares que no piensas, las historias deben estar en todas partes.

Rachel: ¿Cómo has visto la influencia de historias y narraciones en lo que haces ahora (si es que lo haces)?

Billie: Historias y cuentos siempre han estado en mi vida. Tengo un trabajo actual en una escuela privada que recibí debido a mi experiencia de contar historias. Y cada discurso que he dado en Toastmasters ha contenido algún tipo de historia, ya sea una historia personal o una historia que ayude a la gente, la audiencia, a comprender lo que estoy tratando de transmitir.

Rachel: ¿Cuáles son tus planes para contar historias y usar historias en el futuro?

Billie: Realmente me gustaría seguir trabajando en mis historias personales y compartirlas con otras personas. He estado en el proceso de registrar algunas de mis historias. También estoy trabajando en una historia para el show de talentos de la escuela que está por venir. Es emocionante para mí porque tengo el profesor de guitarra que está dispuesto a ayudarme, acompañarme, y eso será divertido. El maestro es nuevo y acaba de llegar este año. También estoy actualizando y preparando un taller para niños. He hecho mucho por los adultos.

Rachel: ¿Quieres añadir algo sobre la importancia de contar historias?

Billie: Nuestras historias nos ayudan a conectarnos con la gente. Las historias están por todas partes. Las historias son muy valiosas para conseguir un punto a través.

Mi hermano menor es un cuentacuentos y recuerda cosas sobre Luisiana que no recuerdo y que pensaría que era el mismo lugar, estábamos allí, pero diferentes personas sacar cosas diferentes de la misma experiencia. Sólo depende de su perspectiva.

Gracias a los permisos de Billie Jones para hacer esta entrevista, así como el uso de su foto.

Apreciamos a Billie compartir sus experiencias e influencia con la narración de cuentos. Tienes esos momentos también.

He aquí por qué:

Billie tiene una historia. Tienes una historia. Todos tenemos historias.