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A Story's Journey, by Guest Columnist Amy Friedman

I enjoy behind-the-scenes stories. Here's one from Amy Friedman, who emailed me a while back about a new audiobook. She sent me the CD, which showcases Friedman's folktale adaptations and features lively performances by a roster of actors. The 70-minute disk would make a nice accompaniment to the drive to Grandma's this holiday season. I'll let Amy take it from here:

"Tell Me A Story: Timeless Folktales from Around the World," the audiobook I produced this year with my husband, Dennis Danziger, and my colleague and friend, Lori Ada Jaroslow, feels like one stop in a long journey, the sort people in folktales are forever taking.

Sometimes I think it all started when I was a kid and my dad endlessly listened to radio and read newspapers—and taught me to love both.  Back in the 1980s I was a a newspaper columnist, working with Neil Reynolds, a groundbreaking editor at the Kingston, Ontario, Whig-Standard newspaper, and I asked him why we didn't publish any material for kids; he sent me off to figure out something we could add. Not long after that I wrote for that little Canadian newspaper the first adaptations of folktales, fairytales, myths, and legends from around the world, and three weeks later, 10 Canadian papers picked up the feature. They too had felt that hunger. Or maybe the journey began, truly, on a primitive farm in South Africa where Jillian Gilliland, the illustrator of our column, first began to draw. There's the thread that brought Dan Dalton, salesman and artist extraordinaire working for Universal Press Syndicate into the Whig-Standard offices where he tapped me on the shoulder, wanting to discuss what was then called "The Bedtime Story" and has since become "Tell Me a Story," a newspaper feature Jillian and I continue to create that runs in hundreds of newspapers all over the world, in places as different and faraway from each other as Shanghai, China, and Canton, Ohio.

Maybe the journey would have ended with the newspaper column and the two books we've published from that column, but my journey took a turn when my younger daughter, Cassandra, struggling with dyslexia, learned the joy and wonder of reading only after she discovered audiobooks, and I remembered again my love of radio. Cass may have been the ultimate catalyst that led me last year, having published nearly 800 stories and counting for our feature (, to stop waiting around for some audio publisher to walk in and tap me on the shoulder, offering a contract.

Cass and my beloved mother-in-law who passed away and left us a small inheritance she wished us to use for something wonderful.

One day not long after Sarah passed away I attended a spoken word event back in LA where by then I had moved to marry Dennis (after nearly 20 years in Ontario). There I was listening to Kathleen Wilhoite reading a story she'd written, and I suddenly heard one of my favorite folktale characters come to life. The next day in a writing class I teach, as Lauren Tom was reading one of her stories, I heard another character, and by the end of that week I'd decided how to best use Sarah's gift.

Soon after that magic stepped when Lori--another fine actress and one of the readers on the CD as well as its director—introduced me to Laura Hall. I recognized Laura as the pianist on one of my favorite tv shows—the improv hit "Whose Line Is It Anyway?"—but even more amazing, I recognized her as the composer of the music I'd recently heard and loved on a film by another student of mine. Obviously Laura and I were supposed to meet. One of those fateful moments, and the magic of her studio, her children—Ruthie and Eva who selected the final 8 stories—and her marvelously talented husband Rick Hall (one of the actors on the CD) assured me I had taken the right turn in the road.

The journey went on, but perhaps most important is this: I've always loved the stories I've written, but every person who became involved with this project—from the actors who read to the musicians who play to the man who mixed and mastered it to the gent who designed it, to friends who have helped to promote it, has added another element of magic. For me the work is something almost mystical, a creation I'm not responsible for but, rather, have had the opportunity to enjoy.

Whenever I watch the faces of children as they listen to our CD, and when I watch their faces in classrooms I visit as a storyteller I see the delight and understanding and joy that magic creates. And then I understand again that radio (and by extension records and CDS) truly is the theater of the mind, and despite the endless work and the fear of squandering money I don't have to squander, in those moments I know there is magic in listening to stories.

That's why we're already selecting stories for the next CD, and why as of January we'll begin recording. (You can hear a taste of the CD at and you can read more about the whole history of its creation on our website at


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Thanks, Amy!

You have the coolest guest columns. Thanks, Amy and Susan!

Great column and also a CD wellllll worth checking out, imo.

Pooja and Greg, glad y'all stopped by. I enjoyed listening to Tell Me a Story!

Say Amy,

First of all, always good to know the art of storytelling is alive and well.

In your 1999 "Tell me a Story" compilation, you included an African Folk Tale called "Kintu's Law of Love." As a child, this was my all-time favorite story. I remember reading it in 5th grade (1975) out of a reading textbook under the title "Kintu and the Law of Love". Could you tell me other sources that may have this tale in print?

Damon Fordham

Hi Damon,
Thanks for writing--so glad you love that story; it's one of my favorites(though sadly not yet in any of our books or on the CD...but maybe down the road). Speaking of roads. I'm on the road right now, moving back to LA from Cleveland where I spent several months. When I return I'll look into the references for you, okay? Maybe you could send me a reminder email ([email protected]) on Wednesday the 17th when I'm back home with my sources and stuff. May take some digging to find, but I promise to do my best. And thanks for reminding me of that wonderful story.

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