Jeff Gere Yakkity Yak- Talkin’ ‘Bout Tellin’

With: Jeff Gere 

Jeff Gere is a storytelling tempest, a griot, a squall and a bolt of creating who shocks and delights. That’s a good thing for all of us. To truly understand how Jeff relates to story and storytelling, you need to sit out in front of his house in Hawaii, on the carport, while Jeff, as loudly as if he were on stage, sings/tells a story. As I sat there, I noticed that not one neighbor looks out the window. Not one neighbor called the cops on this noisy man who is proclaiming myth and legend on his lawn. They are used to this wild, gifted and talented storyteller just bursting into story at any point. Loudly. How good it would be for any of us to be so well known by our own neighborhoods.

On stage, Jeff is a master of the moment, fully engaging his audience, using that rubber face of his and his even more elastic voice to create dark moments, fun moments and surprise moments when you think , ‘Wow! What was that?’ And then, as quickly as that moment fades, another sound and another look from Jeff leads you to a kairos of storytelling excellence.

As a storytelling producer for the Talk-Story Festival in Honolulu, Jeff seeks out all types of storytellers, divergent in their differences of technique, aura, story choices, ages and experience. Everyone who has the chops has been welcome to his stages over the last 19 years. Many mainland storytelling producers should come sit at the foot of his TalkStory festival stage and see an inclusive vision come to life of what storytelling in a community truly should entail.”
Sean Buvala, Executive Director for

In our latest Amphitheater at, the stage is lit, bare save for the teller and musicians. Reflecting on storytelling itself, storyteller Jeff Gere, from Hawaii, takes you on a journey of life and legends, filling the stage with people and places not yet seen. Jeff masters the depths of his voice in dialect and energy. creating some of these stories in the moment. Be ready: listening to Jeff is a whole-mind experience, one you might find hard to do “in the background.”

Jeff is assisted in these stories by: Les Adam on piano, Vince Esquire on guitar, Alana Cini on didgeridoo and Sandra Lee Akaka on percussion.

Use the links below to listen with streaming WindowMedia:

Part One: How I Became a Professional Storyteller
Part Two: The Storytelling Suite
Part Three: Bike Story
Part Four: The Storyteller
Part Five: Embarrassed Daughters
Part Six: Time

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Podcast Interview with Laura Simms

Laura Simms Interview*
With: Laura Simms

Our 1999 interview with Laura Simms. This interview is one of the oldest pieces of content on It’s currently only available in WindowsMedia, or the .wma, format. Most computers should play these fine, but on some systems you may have some issues.

Laura on “defining storytelling:”
I don’t know if I’m defining it and I don’t know if I’m seeing storytelling change. Maybe I’m seeing that the word storytelling encompasses almost everything in our world, any kind of communication or any kind of description within it. On one hand it encompasses everything because the only way that things work for us, in terms of perception or how it arises and we perceive it, is by constructing meanings so that there is always the kind of evolution of story as an art form.

There is a quality of recreation and performance, on the spot, spontaneous relationship to whatever audience there happens to be in the living arena. So I don’t consider sharing stories on internet as storytelling. I think that it’s sharing story text on the net.

But I think it’s the art form as a particularly living art form that occurs in the present, always has a quality of mutual responsiveness. And it has lot more to do with the presence and the kind of invisible qualities of it. In many ways it has to do with an outer performance than a memorized text. . .

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Joseph Jacobs: Writer of Children’s Literature

By: Mabel Kaplan

a distinguished Jewish historian, a noted student of classics, linguistics and mathematics.
Joseph Jacobs (1854-1916)”
– a boy from Oz – one of Australia’s forgotten sons.

In secular circles Joseph Jacobs is probably best remembered for his contribution to children’s literature and as an English folklorist.

He gave the world versions of its best known and most representative folktales in a form suited to children.

Thanks to Joseph Jacobs, over the years tales like ‘Goldilocks’, ‘The Three Little Pigs’, ‘Tom Tit Tot’, ‘Henny Penny’, Jack and the Beanstalk’ and numerous others have delighted young listeners.

During his life Joseph Jacobs left an indelible mark on the academic world of the three continents in which he lived – Australia, England and Unites States of America.

Joseph’s father, John Jacobs was a Londoner by birth and came to New South Wales, Australia about 1837 where he met and married Sarah Myers. Joseph was born in Sydney on the 29 August, 1854, the fourth son – after Sydney, Edwin, Louis. In the Great Synagogue Burial Register, John Jacobs’ death certificate lists a further five male children as deceased). A younger sibling – Frances – is also recorded.

From an early age the young Joseph exhibited all the signs of a child prodigy: voracious reader, insatiable curiosity in all things. “He had a remarkable memory for the things he had once read or heard and would delight his friends” by reeling off “anecdotes and stories without end.” (Editorial, 1916)

At the age of six, according to Professor Graham Seal (1986), Director Australian Folklore Research Unit at Curtin University, WA, Jacobs was told the tales of ‘Henny Penny’ and ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ on a visit to the Cornish Community in South Australia. That ‘Henny Penny is No. 20 in Jacobs first anthology of English Fairy Tales (London, 1890) bears testament, not only to the impression this early telling had but also, to the prodigious memory of Joseph, the child. The original text is reproduced in Seal’s article.

Of Joseph’s early formal schooling little is known, but given his father’s close association as a seatholder at the York Street Synagogue from 1842, it is likely that he was taught privately at the Jewish day school then in existence.

In 1863, by the time Joseph was nine, his father was licensee of the Post Office Hotel on the west side of York Street, between King and Barrack Streets (Benjamin, 1949, p.73). This position John Jacobs retained until 1874 when he went into business first in Elizabeth Street and later in Redfern.

It is known that the young Joseph entered Sydney Grammar School, as did many Jewish boys of the period, – a non-denominational selective school for gifted boys – in the April of 1867 at the age of twelve years, eight months. A.B. Weigall, who was to become one of Sydney Grammar’s most noted academics, had taken up the position of headmaster in January of the same year.

From the very beginning, Joseph proved himself an exceptional scholar. In his first year he won his form prize for mathematics. The following year he won a prize for English, while in 1869 he topped his form in mathematics, English and the physical sciences. At the end of 1870, when he was just over sixteen, he won the Knox Prize for the highest aggregate of marks in the upper school competing against others a year older. In his final year (1871) , he won the Senior Knox Prize, as well as the coveted title of Captain of the School, given not to outstanding footballers, but to the Dux in languages. (Interestingly, by the end of his life Jacobs reputably knew forty different languages).

In addition to his academic pursuits during 1871-2, Jacobs was an honorary teacher of the Sydney Jewish Sabbath School. This interest in Jewish faith, culture and history developed into a major thrust of much of his later writings.

Jacobs won a valuable Scholarship to Sydney University having taken honors for general proficiency, English, mathematics and classics. In March, 1872 Jacobs entered the Faculty of Arts of Sydney University where again he had a most successful year, winning his class prizes in classics, mathematics, chemistry and experimental physics. By this time, at the age of eighteen the width of his reading was amazing. He owned an extensive library of classics, and both English and European History.

The Australian Israelite (1873, 6) reports: “Mr Joseph Jacobs, son of Mr John Jacobs of York street has been announced as “first” amongst the first year University students in classics, mathematics, and physics, in the examinations just concluded at our local Alma Mater. This gentleman gives great promise of future distinction in his educational career, and is about proceeding to the mother country to enter the lists at Cambridge.”

Instead of completing his degree at Sydney University, Jacobs’ father and elder brothers, who by now were well established in business, sent him to St John’s College, Cambridge University in time for the opening of the academic year in October, 1873. Although, Jacobs never returned to Australia (Bergman, 1978, 41), according to his daughter, May Bradshaw Hays, Jacobs fully intended to study law and return here to practice when he left Australia. (Hays, 1952, 386)

In Cambridge Jacobs resumed his run of academic success, including the Freshman’s Award in his first year and in his final year, the Wright Prize – a highly valued distinction among Moralists – and the College prize for an English essay. This interest in literature and anthropology continued to shape his future. Upon receiving his B.A. (Hons. First Class) in 1876 Jacobs went to London to become a writer.

For Jacobs, life as a student and academic was accompanied by the problems that plagued many a student – not the least of those being financial. For someone who was to become such an eminent writer in so many fields it is amusing to note that his first published book, was one he wrote as a ghost writer for a dentist: Dental Bridges and Crowns. (Hays, 1952, 386).

George Eliot’s controversial Daniel Deronda (telecast on ABC 2003) – a book that foreshadowed the movement for a Jewish Palestine – made a deep impact on Jacobs. His first published article, “Mordecai” in MacMillan’s Magazine (June, 1877) attacked the criticisms of the book and led Jacobs to devote most of his life from that point to Jewish studies.

He became secretary of the Society of Hebrew Literature, strengthening his knowledge of folk-lore and racial history. During this time Jacobs met and married Georgina Horne. They had three children – a daughter, May who married David Hays, and sons, Sydney and Phillip.

In 1888 he edited The Earliest English Version of the Fables of Bidpai followed by articles on the migration of Jewish Folktales. He next edited The Fables of Aesop 1889. Jacobs joined the Folk-Lore Society and from 1889-1900 edited the Society’s Journal Folk-Lore.
Jacob’s daughter, May Bradshaw Hays, in ‘Memories of My Father Joseph Jacobs’ in Horn Book 28, 385 (1952), shares these insights into his continuing passion for children’s literature: “Until I was nearly eight, I thought all fathers wrote fairytales to earn a living for their families. As a matter of course every morning I would watch my father, Joseph Jacobs, take his bowler hat from the hallstand, place the crook of his umbrella over his left arm, and start out for the British Museum “to find more stories to put in fairy books”.
May describes his nightly homecoming as a child’s delight – surprises in his pockets, stories on his tongue. She also paints a delightful picture of his returning on a cold London evening having bought two hot baked potatoes from the old man on the corner by the museum and using them to warm his hands in his pockets on the way home … where they shared the eating of them. (Hays, 1952, 386)
The children were his test cases; on them, he tried out the tales he would publish in his fairy tale collections. In writing for children, Jacobs rarely failed to consider his audience. According to his daughter, he trusted their responses absolutely. … The centrality of these children to the shaping of the fairy tale volumes is reflected in the tenderly worded dedications of three of the works to his three children. (in Hays, 1952)

Jacobs series of collections of fairytales make him one of the most popular writers of fairytales for English speaking children.
Jacobs went on to compile European folktales and stories, as well as editing scholarly editions of The Thousand and One Nights (six volumes, 1896)

That Jacobs placed tales like ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ and ‘Dick Whittington’, ‘The Pied Piper’, ‘Jack, the Giant Killer’ and the ‘Three Little Pigs’ in a fairytale collection may come as a surprise. But to Jacobs, the fairy world was simply a world where the extraordinary can, and usually did happen. Thus, the giant and ‘wee’ folk equally belonged therein. Originally fairy folk could even be human size. They might be ugly hags or amoral tricksters like Puck or Robin Goodfellow, or even thieves blamed for losses around the house or farm.
Jacobs looked on the fairy world as a world of enchantment.

In all his writings for children, Jacobs preserved the ‘oral voice’ – the way the stories should actually be told to children. In maintaining this approach, Jacobs gave the world versions of its best known and most representative folk stories in a form suited to children while remaining true to the essential core of the original versions. In many respects his work provides a worthy successor to that of the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen – in preserving traditional tales in a manner that secured their place for enjoyment by many generations of children.

According to Eloise Ramsey (1952), Jacobs rescued the fast-disappearing English tales from a threatened oblivion and rekindled interest in them by rewriting them in a style he himself once described “as good as an old nurse will speak”. Professor Stewig (1987, 128) credits Jacobs at the age of thirty-six years with being “the person most responsible for preserving the body of British folk tales”. The collection’s greatest significance is that it recorded old tales at a critical time when they were in danger of being lost.

Despite Jacobs’ deep involvement in the study of folklore and the activities of the Society throughout the 1880’s and 1890’s and his voluminous output of writings – articles, reviews, lectures, literature studies and his numerous compilations of fairy/folk tales for children – his interest in Jewish History never waned. In 1900, he went to the United States to become the revising editor of The Jewish Encyclopedia. He was also appointed a Professor of English at the Theological Seminary in New York and for a time edited the British journal “Folklore”.

An older Joseph Jacobs writing from America pens this letter – later published in the school’s magazine (Sydneian, 1910, 15-16) – to his former headmaster, Mr Weigall, still at Sydney Grammar – to congratulate him on being named in the King’s Honours List underlines the significance of Joseph’s Grammar School days:

Dear Mr Weigall: Permit me to congratulate you most heartily on the distinction conferred upon you by His Majesty, of which I have just heard from my brother Sydney. As one of the oldest of your ‘Old Boys’ I feel that I have a small share in the joy it must have given you. I always look back to my School days under your charge as the happiest times of my life, and perhaps the most successful in intellectual acquirement. Whatever I have of scholarly tendency and method, I owe to your influence and training.

“You may be interested to know that about ten years ago I left England to carry through a big ’Jewish Encyclopedia,’ in twelve volumes, which I succeeded in doing in about five years which was regarded as a great triumph of constructive scholarship, as the materials for such a work had never been gathered together. In recognition the University of Pennsylvania conferred upon me (at the same time with the Emperor of Germany!) the degree of Doctor of Letters (Litt. D.), and I was thereupon appointed Professor of English and Rhetoric at the great Jewish Seminary here. This, with the Editorship of the American Hebrew, the chief Jewish weekly published in this country, occupies my time so fully that I am afraid I cannot look forward to much literary work for the rest of my life. … I thought you would be interested in these details of the fate of one of your oldest pupils, and with the kindest regards to yourself and any of my old fellow-students who may happen to remember me,” – Yours very sincerely, JOSEPH JACOBS.

It is difficult to offer much about the man, Joseph Jacobs as, apart from a short biography written by his daughter, May (Hays, 1952), it has been left to obituarists to speak of his wit, warmth, humility, gentleness, kindness.

Mathilde Schechter (1916, 354) recalls a conversation with a friend: “A Cambridge lady friend once said to me of Jacobs who was an Australian by birth: ‘You see, he is a Colonial, and a Colonial has all the nice English traits, but in addition he is more free and warmhearted.” Schechter (1916, 354)

Dr Donald McAlister (Schechter, 1916, 354) one time tutor at St John’s, Cambridge “spoke of Jacobs’ kindness” … “how he had tended a student through a dangerous infectious illness and insisted on doing any number of kind little things for him.”

Jacobs cheerfulness, wit, and lively intellect won him many friends in many countries – many of whom worked with him closely on various projects and had known him almost thirty years. Throughout his life, he retained his passions and his warm personality. He died at his home in Yonkers, New York State on 3 February, 1916 at aged 61.

As his daughter records (Hays, 1952, 392): “People age in different ways – the lucky ones age only on the surface and keep the sensitive core of childhood within. After his death, the editorial the family treasured most was one that read:

1 Anne Jarvis (Feb.March, 2003) Assistant Archivist, Sydney Grammar School, NSW for her patience and help in getting me started in the search for information about Joseph Jacobs early years
Helen Bersten, Honorary Archivist, Sydney Jewish Historical Society and Tinny Lenthen, Librarian at the Sydney Jewish Museum for providing resources rich in relevant information.

Benjamin, David (1949), “Joseph Jacobs” in The Journal of the Australian Jewish Historical Society, Vol.111, Part 11, December 1949, pp.72-91)

Bergman, Dr G.F.J (1978), “Australia’s Forgotten Jewish Historian” in Australian Jewish Times, September 28, 1978, p.41.

Brasch, R. (1955), The Star of David, Angus and Robertson, Sydney pp. 267-269

Editorial (1916), “Death of Joseph Jacobs” in The American Hebrew, February 4, 1916, Vol. 98, No. 13, p. 352)

Hays, May Bradshaw. “Memories of My Father, Joseph Jacobs” in Horn Book 28: 385-392 (1952)).

Marx, Alexander (1947), “The Jewish Scholarship of Joseph Jacobs” in Alexander Marx (ed), (1947), Essays in Jewish Biography,

Philadelphia, Jewish Publication Society of America.

Ramsey, Eloise (1952), Folklore for Children and Young People, American Folklore Society, Philadelphia

Schechter, Mathilde (1916) “Salute from Mrs Solomon Schechter” in The American Hebrew, February 4, 1916, Vol. 98, No. 13, p.354

Seal, Graham (1986) “Joseph Jacobs and ‘English’ fairy tales in Australia 1860” in The Australian Children’s Folklore Newsletter, No.10,
May, 1986)

Shaner, Mary E.(1987), ’Joseph Jacobs’, in Jane Bingham (ed.),(1987), Writers for Children: Critical Studies of Major Authors Since the Seventeenth Century, New York, Charles Scribner’s Sons, pp. 309-316

Stewig, John Warren (1987) ‘Joseph Jacobs’ English Fairy Tales: A Legacy for Today’ in Perry Nodelman (ed), Touchstones Reflections on the Best in Children’s Literature: Fairy Tales, Fables, Myths, Legends and Poetry, Vol. 2, pp. 128-139

Sydneian, March, 1910, 15-16

(Published 2003. Updated 2009)

The contents expressed in any article on are solely the opinion of author.

Storytelling_Past – Present – Future

By: Jim Woodard

Storytelling is as old as speech itself. As society developed, people wanted to keep a historical account of events that affected their people. Storytellers carried the key role in the preservation of historical information and communicating it to new generations. In some cases, stories featured animals to satirize tribal events. By using animals, storytellers could make fun of tribal leaders without fear of retribution. Thus, fables were born.

Basically, people felt a strong need to share emotions and experiences. And they often did so in very creative, imaginative ways. Indeed, all our classic literature developed from storytelling.

Storytelling has been on a wild roller coaster ride during the past 500 years. During the Middle Ages, it was riding high as one of the most admired and respected of all professions. Then, due to a particular invention, it almost dropped into total oblivion. Now it’s rising high again as the popularity of this age-old art form enjoys a revival in popularity.

Middle Age storytellers were busy, highly respected and often affluent. Also called troubadours or bards, these tellers of tales traveled from town to town, village to village, tribe to tribe, castle to castle — wherever a group could afford the services of a professional storyteller. They were in great demand for entertainment or educational events. In some cases, they provided a link to the history of local areas and peoples. They usually had busy schedules, presenting programs and constantly learning new stories. Storytellers of different tribes competed with one another to come up with the most creative and captivating stories. It became something of a status symbol for tribes.

Then something happened that had a major impact on the life and professional of the storyteller. In the early 1500s, the printing press was invented — that clunky old Gutenberg Press. It was the forerunner of many more constantly improved printing presses. And books and magazines were rolling off those presses. The need for an oral storyteller almost evaporated.

Then in the early 1900s, along came radio and movies — followed in the 40s and 50s with television and videos. The fate of the storyteller fell even further into the abyss of forgotten art forms.


Today, it seems nothing is impossible in the area of creating and distributing stories via high-tech electronics. Highly sophisticated story scenes are packaged into video taped presentations, beamed up to and bounced off satellites and sent directly into homes, TV stations and cable systems throughout the world. When a producer wants a unique special effect in a story scene, he just reaches into his bag of electronic goodies and gimmicks and comes up with anything he wants. There seems to be no limit to the magic of electronic image making.

But in spite of these great technological advancements, storytelling — the simple practice of an individual telling a story to a group of people — is experiencing a revival in popularity. Since the early 1970s, there has been a steady increase in the number of professional or semi-professional storytellers.

The number of storytelling associations or leagues has been increasing. The largest, the National Storytelling Association has increased its membership significantly every year since it was founded in 1975. This organization has grown to the point where its leaders feel it must be divided into two distinct sections. One will focus on continuing support of its growing membership. The other will develop and operate a National Storytelling Center where national and international outreach programs will be launched to make the public more aware of and appreciate the reviving storytelling art.

There is also an increasing number of storytelling festivals, and generally a growing demand for the services of oral storytellers. Maybe storytelling is enjoying a revival in spite of all the recent technological advancements, or maybe it’s because of it. I have a hunch the revival has been sparked by today’s high-tech world. People may be getting tired of looking at a flickering screen — big or small — and being spoon-fed images into their brains. They want to go back to the time when individuals produced and directed their own images in just the way they want it — following scenes described by a storyteller. We all, young and old, have that natural capability to create images in our minds. And we have an innate desire to exercise that capability. That’s my personal opinion.

Here’s another factor I believe contributes to the current revival. The public seems to have a growing realization that they need to keep their minds active with creative pursuits if they are to enjoy a good and healthy lifestyle. They’re resisting the tendency to develop lazy, sluggish minds while slipping into a TV watching, couch-potato mode.

Studies show that young persons who become addicted to TV programs and movies crammed with violent scenes (enhanced by computerized special effects) and degrading rap music lyrics, are most apt to develop violent behavior themselves. By listening to and telling positive stories, and pursuing other cultural activities, they stimulate their thinking processes and widen the horizons of special interests. Thus, a movement is underway by progressive people who want to break through the barrier of high-tech electronically packaged images to once again enjoy the stimulating experience of thinking and using their imaginations.

In a report from the National Storytelling Association (NSA), the current revival was described this way:

“In recent times, the age-old art of storytelling was almost drowned out by the clamorous din of contemporary culture until the human yearning for genuine one-on-one communication sparked a revival of the art. Today, a renaissance of storytelling is cascading across the country — a renaissance heard in the strong voices of teachers, librarians, corporate executives, therapists, ministers, parents and others who make storytelling a vibrant part of their everyday lives and work.”

To individualize and humanize the storytelling revival, NSA lists these examples:

· In New York, a counselor uses storytelling to help patients overcome grief.

· The public speaking organization Toastmasters International added storytelling as an advanced program so its members can learn how to enliven their speeches by incorporating a well-told tale.

· At the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, a special program provides a storyteller to accompany children on a tour of artwork.

· In classrooms across the country, educators are turning to storytelling as a way to teach language skills, combat illiteracy, allow history to come alive, and bridge cultural differences.

Storyteller David Novak offered an interesting perspective on storytelling at this point in its continuing evolution.

“We’re now at a crossroads in the storytelling revival,” he said. “When presenting or listening to stories, we’re thinking of the present and future, but are very aware of the past. We’re experiencing something of an identity crisis. We need to clearly establish where we are, and where we’re going. That’s the role of the storyteller in today’s society.”


As technology continues to advance in the new millenium, we will see the storytelling revival continue to grow. That’s good news for all of us who enjoy a good story related by an oral storyteller. It’s particularly good news for youngsters, because selective storytelling enhances their academic capabilities substantially. Thus, it helps push school grades up, and prepares them for more advanced academic pursuits and successful careers.

Jim Woodard started storytelling when working as a counselor at Boys Town, NE. He has presented hundreds of programs in California in recent years – for youth and adult audiences — and is the resident storyteller at the Reagan Presidential Library. His e-mail address: , Web site: By Jim Woodard

Norman Rockwell, more than any other American artist-illustrator, effectively captured drama in the lifestyle of common people doing common, ordinary things. Sometimes his illustrations made people laugh, sometimes cry, but viewing those creative images made people feel good about life in this country. He described himself as a visual storyteller.

I never realized the strong impact of Rockwell’s artistry until I studied his life and started a series of storytelling programs at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on that very special life. The series of programs, currently scheduled every Saturday, ties in with an exhibition of Norman Rockwell works at the Library.

Responses from the full-theater audiences and comments from individuals following the presentations made me realize what a great influence this man and his talents had on the people of this nation over the past seven decades. He acquired this power with the creative use of paint brushes and charcoals. And his heroes, championed in about 4,000 illustrations, were common people.

Several aspects of his life really seemed to surprise my audiences. For example, when Rockwell was a boy he was constantly recognized for his outstanding ability at drawing pictures, but that’s not what he wanted most at that point in his life. His greatest desire was to be a good athlete. He particularly wanted to excel in baseball, because the most successful and popular boys in his school and neighborhood were good at baseball.

His body, however, was not athletically suited by any stretch of the imagination. He was tall and skinny, had very narrow shoulders and a disproportionately long neck with a protruding adams apple. He was awkward, poorly coordinated and pigeoned-toed. He had to wear corrective shoes by age 10, glasses by 12.

After a gallant effort to excel in sports, he finally realized he was just not suited for sports activities and decided to concentrate on becoming an accomplished artist.

At age 22, while creating illustrations for Boys Life magazine, he decided to raise his sights and try for assignments to create illustrations for the biggest, most popular magazine in the country at that time – the Saturday Evening Post. When he received a letter from the Post agreeing to interview him, he was really excited. He didn’t have any idea how to prepare for such a high-level interview, but he just knew he wanted to impress that Post art director in any way he could.

He thought if he had a large, important looking art portfolio case it might be impressive. So he asked a friend — a fledgling carpenter — to make a special wooden portfolio case for him. When it was completed it was impressive all right. It was much larger than it needed to be. It looked more like a small coffin than an art portfolio case.

But he put his best sample sketches into that huge case and carried it to his appointment with the Post art director. As he walked into his office, the art director stared at that big case for a moment, then looked up at Rockwell and said, “Young man, I hope you don’t have a body in that coffin your bringing in here.”

Rockwell was embarrassed, of course – but not for long. As he started pulling his sketches out of that case, the art director was very impressed with what he saw. So much so that before Rockwell left that office he had an assignment to create several illustrations for the Saturday Evening Post.

His first Post cover illustration was carried on the issue of May, 1916. That was the first of over 300 covers illustrated by Rockwell, and started a 47 year working relationship. The Rockwell covers became so popular, sales of the magazine increased by about 250,000 copies every time one was featured.

Rockwell worked extensively with models when developing a new illustration. He would line up models, costumes and props, representing each segment of a new sketch – then have the scene photographed from several angles. He had a very special and effective way of working with models.

I learned about this immediately after completing my first Rockwell storytelling program at the Reagan Library. An attractive woman, appearing to be in her 60s, approach me, introducing herself as Joyce from Thousand Oaks. She said both she and her mother modeled for Rockwell many years ago and showed me a Rockwell illustration where both of them were featured. She was an 8-year-old girl at the time.

“When we went to the studio for our modeling assignment, Rockwell didn’t start working immediately,” Joyce said. “He just sat there visiting and telling us stories for quite a while. By the time we started modeling, we felt very comfortable, like we’d known Rockwell for many years. It was a very pleasant experience.”

Shortly before Rockwell died in 1978, he was visiting with a good friend. He said, “An artist like me gets out of his work exactly what he puts into it. If you’re really interested in the characters you’re drawing – if you truly understand and love them – then the people who look at your sketches will feel the same way about them.”


C. 199-2002. Jim Woodard is a storyteller-writer from Ventura. He is the featured storyteller at the Reagan Presidential Library and presents programs for a variety of audiences – adults and youths.

The contents expressed in any article on are solely the opinion of author.

Ant and Honey

By: Janaka Stagnaro

brown ant on a green leafThere once lived a little ant that was no one very special. It was just one of those worker types that would go out from the Nest with the rest and join in the stream of ants, the Way. Like every worker it would find some choice little bits of food and then struggle with its load to carry back to the Queen.
Everyday from dawn to dusk the same.

Then one day the ant noticed something strange. It seemed as though while many were leaving in search of food as usual, fewer appeared to be returning as the day progressed. It shrugged this observation away immediately and went out into the Way with its fellow workers.

As it scurried along with its antennae waving about, out of the corner of its eyes it saw a huge tunnel appear from out of the sky, touch the ground to its left where several other ants had been scurrying.

Then it disappeared, along with the other ants.

In a panic it stopped several of its mates and said:

‘Stop! There is something wrong here.’

Just as the others were about to ask what exactly it referred to, several ants came marching up with golden droplets in their pincers.

’Wrong!?’ said the leader of this group. ‘Only a fool would say there is something wrong here. Look at all this honey we have. We have hit the Mother Lode! The Queen will be so pleased.’

‘But I saw something come out of the sky and the next moment a bunch of us were gone,’ said the ant.

However, no one stayed to listen; off went its companions to get some of that honey, while the others raced back with their sweet prize.

‘Well, maybe I was just imagining it,’ the ant reasoned to itself.

And off it raced to reach the honey.

Yet no sooner had it began, again it saw the tunnel from the sky come down and its shadow fall over another group of ants. And then the tunnel and the ants were gone.

With great panic the ant tried to stop the others racing ahead. Yet now the Way flowed with excited ants that could think of nothing else but that honey. The ant desperately tried to slow the other workers in order to explain to them what it saw. None slowed. They crashed into the ant or just ran over it, ignoring its urgent pleas.

Finally, one of the soldier ants came up, twice as large as the little worker ant, with its huge mandibles.

The soldier will listen, the worker ant said to itself.

‘What are you doing blocking the way?’ said the soldier ant to the worker. ‘Out of the way, you fool, there is honey ahead.’

‘Wait! You don’t understand. Something terrible is happening. Honey is not ahead. It’s death! Death, I tell you! We must all go back!’

‘You are a mad ant. And madness has no place in the Nest. If you do not cease such nonsense and get back to work, it will indeed be death for you!’

The little worker continued along the Way, out of respect for those mandibles; yet it no longer looked straight ahead.

Constantly it gazed skyward. Searching.

Until the ant saw it come again.

However this time it saw not only the tunnel, but to where the tunnel lead. And indeed it lead to death; for the ant knew now what it was.

‘Go back! Go back! An anteater! Death is here! Go back!’ it yelled while moving out of the Way.

But the Way was racing as news had reached the Nest. There was only one thought of the Nest–the honey!

And the little worker watched them all disappear up the dark tunnel.

This story first appeared on in 2005.