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Review: The Cedar River Storytelling Festival, or Small Is Just Dandy by Me
By: Staff at

(Author: Harlynne Geisler )

Iowa Joke:
Q: Why did the chicken cross the road?
A: To prove to the raccoon that it could be done.

Find more resources in the Storytelling Products Amazon Store. I have walked the new path in Waverly where there used to be a dinner train. I have eaten greasy pork while inhaling cigarette smoke at the Bosnian restaurant in Waterloo. I have admired the Canadian geese by the Cedar River and pitied the dead raccoons that litter Highway 218. I have done the strip in Horton (where there are 2 restaurants side by side and nothing else).

Oh yes, and I have told and taught stories, which was my reason for coming to Iowa.

There were 21 librarians and one freelance teller at the Waverly Public Library to attend my 6 hour workshop on Delicous Shivers: Telling Spooky Stories. I had been a little nervous about the 100 people expected since Pat Coffie, the library director, had told me there would be a teleconference portion to the workshop. I wasnít sorry to find out that the teleconference had been postponed to another year. I relaxed and took the participants from spooky action rhymes for preschoolers through participation stories for primary grades to gross and gory tales for the older kids to hauntingly true ghost narratives for adults.

The next day only four children and one parent showed up for my concert at 2:00. I took them into the conference room at the library and sat on a low stool while they gathered on the floor. Sue, the childrenís librarian, put her arms around the two preschoolers while the mother held the toddler on her lap. The seven-year-old boy lay nearby.

After a few string figures and stories, I asked what they wanted to hear. "Three Little Pigs," demanded the wiggly three-year-old.

I had never told this well-worn classic before. I proceeded to play with the story and the children. The seven of us had a marvelous time putting the tale together. I handed imaginary money to pay for the hay (thatís what the oldest child said it was) to the preschooler. We all clicked the switch to put on the burglar alarm in the brick home and blew until our cheeks were tired to knock down the houses.

At 4:00 one older woman came for my adult concert. We had run into her at dinner in Horton, and Pat had invited her.

I put the 12 chairs back that I had lined up for my concert, and she, Pat, and I sat at a table. When she commented that the room was cold, I got her a jacket to put around her shoulders. We chatted for awhile. Then I told a ghost story from North Dakota; Pat told a personal tale, and the patron remembered a funeral she went to as a young girl.

Now I know that some tellers only feel theyíve reached the pinnacle of success when they stand before thousands at the National Storytelling Festival. Iíve never heard any of those tellers say that they had an enjoyable time.

I had a grand time experiencing Iowa. I felt a real glow from making my two tiny audiences comfortable enough to go into the land of story with me.

And no one had told me that Pat Coffie, who was kind enough to invite me and let me stay at her nice new home, was a ripsnorting personal experience teller in her own right and willing to share riveting tales morning, noon, and night.

All in all, it was a spiffy weekend that I hope to be asked to repeat some day.

C. 1999 Harlynne Geisler is the author of Storytelling Professionally and editor of Story Bag; A National Storytelling Newsletter. She lives in San Diego, CA. For a list of her public shows and a new story every month, check out her website at

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