May 20, 2012

 I’m off  to Australia  to do a  workshop and take part in a family storytelling concert at the Sydney International Storytelling Conference 2012. This will be a conference where the majority  of participants are storytellers; a great opportunity to exchange ideas  and learn form each other   I’m really looking forward to meeting up again with some of the  storytellers I met at the Perth Storytelling Confest way  back in  2005, and  making lots of new friends.

0

Storytelling Sessions for Families at the Asian Parents Forum: 27 May 2012

April 30, 2012

Join Sheila Wee for two lively sessions of storytelling for the whole family at the Asian Parents Forum on Sunday 27th May 2012. (Part of the Asian Festival of Children’s Content).

Session 1: Animal Antics

Session 2:  A Forest Full of Stories  

Ages 4 and up. (Children under 7 must be accompanied by an adult).

See  the e-flyer for the  Asian Parents Forum 2012

For more programme and ticketing details please see: singaporebookcouncil.eventbrite.com

See the e-flyer for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content 2012

0

A River of Stories: Tales and Poems from Across the Commonwealth

October 25, 2011

 I am happy to announce that my retelling of a story from the Malay Annals has just been published in an anthology to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the Commonwealth Institute. There is a story or poem from every Commonwealth country and my Raja Suran story represents Singapore. There is a foreword by Prince Charles and my favourite illustrator, Jan Pienkowski did the illustrations.

Click HERE to see part of my story with Jan Pienkowski’s illustration. It’s on page 4-5

0

BITESIZE WORKSHOP AT THE ESPLANADE

October 25, 2011

 

Click here for more details  and to book a place on this mini-workshop.

0

Spooky Stories at The Asian Civilisations Museum

October 14, 2011

STORYWISE is providing the storytelling component of the Asian Civilisations Museum’s Fright Night on the evening of Friday 29th October 2011, so do come down and be spooked by THE DARKER SIDE OF TWILIGHT a haunting performance of Asian Horror Tales by by Kamini Ramachandran & Verena Tay.

Watch the  ACM Fright night trailers.

Trailer 1

Trailer 2

Trailer 3

0

FREE STORYTELLING WORKSHOP FOR PARENTS AND CHILDREN

September 30, 2011

As part of the South West District Arts Festival, Sheila will be conducting a parent/child storytelling workshop at Jurong West Public Library on Saturday 15th October from 2pm to 3.30pm.  For enquiries call 6332 3255.

0

Article in The New Paper and the Sunday Times – September 2011

September 23, 2011

Click here to read the article Article_TNP & ST_Sept 2011

 

0

Malaysia International Storytelling Festival 2011

August 19, 2011

I am really looking forward to taking part in the Malaysia International Storytelling Festival which takes place  on 10th & 11th September. It will be a richly packed weekend, I will  doing 4 workshops.

Step Into Storytelling – A  workshop on basic storytelling  skills for beginners   (On both mornings)

Telling Together – Interactive Storytelling For Children With Special Needs (Sat’ afternoon)

The Story Basket – Simple yet effective storytelling techniques to use with children (Sun’ afternoon)

and taking part in a showcase performance on both Saturday and Sunday evenings.

The Power Of The Tale – The Storytellers’ Showcase Performance

0

Singapore International Storytelling Festival

August 19, 2011

September for me  means the Singapore International Storytelling Festival.  It’s the time I  get to  meet some of my storytelling friends from around the world and to make some new friends. There is  always lots of sharing of stories and ideas and always something interesting to learn.

This year I will  be opening the  second day of the  Asian Congress of Storytellers with a story, and then conducting a workshop on storytelling for children with intellectual disabilities in the afternoon.  Then that same evening I  will be performing in  Ramayana, The Asian Epic at the National Museum Gallery Theatre.

0

Stories Alive: Teacher Workshops in Hong Kong

April 17, 2011

In February and March 2011 I conducted a series of seven 2-day storytelling workshops for English teachers  in Hong Kong. These workshops were commissioned by the English Alliance (SCOLAR) which is part of the Hong Kong Bureau of Education.

I was fortunate to work with wonderful local partners on this project; Dr Vicki Ooi, Lynn Yau and their fantastic staff  from Shakespeare4All. It was obvious that they  are as passionate about drama education as I am about storytelling.

It was only my second trip to Hong Kong and though I  didn’t get time for much sightseeing, I felt that by working closely with so many teachers I got a real insight into at least one aspect of the country.

For many of the teachers it was their first experience of storytelling and it was wonderful  to watch them develop confidence in their telling abilities. Here  are some photos  of the workshops….

This demonstrates that you don't have to be good at drawing to tell a drawing story.

Many discoveries can come from the sharing of ideas.

0

Bonding Through Storytelling: A Workshop for Parents of Greenridge Primary School, Singapore

April 16, 2011

Sheila and English HOD Mdm Shanthi Devi demonstrate how you can use questions to plunge into your imagination and create details for your story.

0

Storywise at the Ramayana Revisited Exhibition: Jan 2010 to Feb 2011 – Peranakan Museum Singapore

April 16, 2011

Image courtesy of Peranakan Museum, Singapore.

Sheila telling an episode from the Ramayana at the RAMAYANA REVISITED exhibition at the Peranakan Museum, Singapore.

Storywise  was commissioned by the museum to develop a storytelling programme  in which a team of six storytellers told consecutive episodes from the Ramayana in the exhibition space.  This  programme which  was very well received by museum patrons of all ages and nationalities,  ran over a series of the museum’s  Open House events  in 2010 and 2011.

The Ramayana Revisited Team of Tellers

From left to right: Dolly Leow, Sheila Wee, Juriah Atan, Helen Tan, Kamini Ramachandran, Jessie Goh and Nancy Leppard.

0

My Keynote at the Penang State Library for PINKS 2010 (10min.14sec)

December 9, 2010

This is my part of the innovative 4-person keynote at the conference at the Penang State Library in Butterworth, Malaysia. My fellow keynote presenters were, Margaret Read MacDonald, Wajuppa Tossa and Jeeva Raghunath.

0

Article on PINKS Festival 2010 in the Penang Economic Monthly

December 9, 2010

This September I was invited to Penang, Malaysia, to tell stories and conduct workshops at their first international storytelling fesival.

Click on the link below to find out more about the Penang International Kids Storytelling Festival:

Article on PINKS Festival 2010 in the Penang Economic Monthly

0

Sheila at Penang International Kids Storytelling Festival

September 30, 2010

Sheila at PINKs_STAR NEWSPAPER

0

Videos of the Art of Storytelling

March 20, 2010

Click here to take a look at my videos on the art of storytelling made by Bananamana.com.

0

The Old Man in the Corner

September 26, 2009
Audio: The Old Man in the Corner

An Adaptation of a Nepali Folktale

Told by Sheila Wee

The old man lay in the corner and remembered.

Remembered a time when he was young and strong.

When he ran through the valleys tending his father’s goats.

But now he is here, old and weak, lying in a corner.

No more running – just a few stumbling steps.

Trembling hands, and a mind that remembers the past, better than it understands the present.

Yes, once he was young and strong and now he is old and weak.

But he has a family.

A son, son’s wife and a grandson – the light of his life.

The boy plays on the floor beside him.

Feeds him patiently with a spoon.

Makes him want to live.

Yes, once he was young and strong, able to dig and plant, to weed and harvest.

Able to take care of his family.

Life was good then and food was plentiful.

It is not so now.

Old and weak he lies on his bed and sees the weariness in his son’s eyes; working so hard for so little.

He sees despair in the eyes of the young woman, his son’s wife, as she tries to make the food feed all four of them.

He sees his grandson grow thinner, not taller.

The young wife looks at the old man lying in the corner – near the end of his life.

The old man who is eating the food that would help her son grow tall and strong.

She thinks of the lifting and carrying of that old body and how it takes her time and strength.

Time that could be spent helping her husband in the fields, growing the crops that could lift them out of poverty.

Late in the night the old man lies in the corner and listens.

Listens to fierce whispers, to tears and sighs between husband and wife.

He hears his name, then the word “temple” and he understands.

Morning comes. The old man lies in the corner and remembers. Remembers how he had placed the stones and shaped

the mud to build this house – this home. This home, which he must now leave.

His grandson laughs and chatters by his side. A sound he will hear no more.

And now comes his son carrying a basket.

The basket that his own dear wife had woven for him, years before. She had woven it strong, strong enough to carry

the heaviest of burdens, wood, rice, or even an old man.

Then came two arms gently lifting. Two eyes downcast, not meeting his. A mouth too ashamed to speak.

And he was now a burden, carried in a basket. A collection of old bones to be taken away.

But then came a voice, young and pure.

“What are you doing father?  Where are you taking grandfather?”

“To the temple my son, they will look after him there.”

“Is that a good place father?”

“Yes, my son.”

“Then bring back the basket, don’t forget. For one day I will need it to carry you to the temple too.”

A moment passed.

A glance went between husband and wife.

Then two arms again were  gently lifting and the basket was empty and the old man was once more in his rightful place.

In the corner of the house, but at the centre of the family.

© Sheila Wee 2007

Please feel free to tell this story, but if you want to publish it in any way please contact me for permission at admin@storywise.com.sg

5

Later

October 20, 2009

Later

An original story by Julie Wee

In a quiet village, surrounded by mountains, cut off from the rest of the world deep in a landlocked state, an age away from the ocean, lived Kashia.

Kashia had never left her little village. She helped her mother in and around the house, played in and around the village but dreamed over, up and beyond her everyday small town life.

There were few visitors to her village; it was a long hard climb up, with little reward upon arrival, nor promise of anything but cold hard mountain past it. But when Kashia was eight years old, a travelling storyteller, through bad luck, bad weather and a bad case of being lost, found himself in her village. He was a man who was as tall as he was thin, with well-worn clothes, kind eyes and a healthy appetite.

Every evening for a week, he would tell stories by the fire, in exchange for food and a bed for the night. On the first evening, Kashia sat spellbound in the light of the fire and for the rest of the week she spent the daytimes in a haze and the evenings awestruck by the side of the storyteller who weaved mesmerizing tales of the Rajas of India, the desert tribes of Africa and the great ocean adventures of nomadic traders.

For years after the storyteller had come and gone, Kashia would dream of these strange lands. But most of all she dreamed of the mysterious and vast ocean that he had told of. She imagined what waves might look like, rocking and tossing a ship at will. She imagined the colours she would see, the feeling of sand in between her toes. She imagined the sound of the waves ebbing and flowing, and the seagulls cawing high up in the sky.

Kashia made up her own stories of lonely lighthouse keepers, strong sailors and terrifying shipwrecks. Her fantasies swept from the wild excitement of pirate adventures to the quiet tranquillity of stretching out over the sand on a sunny day. But all these pictures were invented in her mind, never had she ever smelt a whiff of the salty sea breeze.

As a child, she would lead the others in violent games of ‘Shipwreck Island’, and as an adult, she spent the time meant to be working, staring off into the distance, her mind stretching over the mountainous expanse towards the ocean. But the ocean was far far away, too far away for even dreams. Getting to the ocean was too far, too treacherous, too ambitions, too frivolous.

“Get back to work!” her mother would yell. She was getting a reputation as an absent-minded young lady. “You’ll never get married, never amount to anything.”

If you hear something said often enough, it starts to take effect. So Kashia pushed her dream aside and concentrated on useful and worthwhile pursuits like shaping herself into a suitable potential wife and perfecting her domestic abilities. She stayed in her village where she belonged, and kept her dreams to herself.

Now Kashia was in her twenties, and about to get married. Her secret ocean fantasies remained secret. She thought about her dream less and less, especially now she was preparing for her wedding to a handsome and good-natured man from a neighbouring village.

The night before her wedding day, she lay alone on her single bed for the last time. Her mind started wandering back to the night the storyteller had arrived. She recalled the fire in her belly when he had spoken about the ocean and her yearning resurfaced. But she quashed the desire, reproaching herself for thinking such silly thoughts on such an important night. As she drifted into slumber, a little voice inside her whispered, “Another time, I’ll see the ocean another time.”

Now Kashia was a mother of two grown children; two boys who were about to leave home in search of work. Kashia was sad to see them go, she would miss them very much. She was also glad that they would have the chance to leave their little village and seek their fortune.

As the boys were saying their goodbyes, her eldest son declared that he would go to the city and become a carpenter. The youngest son had also made his decision. “I’m going to make my way to the ocean and become a sailor.”

Kashia felt a strange trembling in her stomach. “The ocean….” She was now middle aged, it had been a long time since she had thought earnestly about her dream. Without giving her feelings away, Kashia kissed her boys farewell and waved them off as they walked down the path and disappeared into the distance. “It’s only a daydream,” Kashia thought to herself, “ My place is here.” And she pushed all thoughts of sand and sea out of her mind.

Kashia was now a frail old lady, with a waking stick and a hunch. She had a lot to be proud of. She had a lived a happy life with a loving husband and had raised two delightful boys. Nearing the end of her life, she had many hours to sit and ponder, and many more hours to daydream. Naturally her mind would bring her to the ocean, but she knew her place, she was an old woman, too old to go chasing dreams.

Kashia’s husband fell ill and lying on his deathbed, he spoke of his love for her and how he could not have led a happier life. If he had one regret, a regret that he had kept a secret, it would have been to have to made the long journey to see the ocean.

Kashia froze. “The ocean? You dreamed of seeing the ocean?”

“Yes, but I had responsibilities. I had to stay here where I belonged.”

Silent, Kashia leaned over and kissed him.

Their sons were called back home to bid farewell to their dying father. After the quiet funeral, Kashia called her youngest son aside and asked of him the one thing she wanted most, but had never dared to ask anybody. He protested, but she protested harder. She was strong enough to make the journey, and what did it matter if she wasn’t, she felt more alive now than she had all her life. She had made the decision. She had conquered her fear of judgement, and she had no responsibilities left to worry about. She would go now or never.

Seeing the passion in his mother’s eyes surprised her son and he agreed. The next morning, after packing a small travelling bag, they began their long and arduous journey.

They began slowly, on foot, making their way down the mountainside. When they arrived at the village at the base of the mountain, they bartered Kashia’s delicious cakes for a ride through the valley. As they passed the point that would lead Kashia further than she’d ever been before, a flutter of butterflies bubbled up in her stomach. She was like a little child again, looking around in fascination with the unsuppressed desire to shout “Are we there yet?”

The whole journey took them over a week, and as they were passing the final threshold past the hills that separated them from the view of the ocean, Kashia’s son wrapped his arm around his mother’s shoulders and shared her joy as the trembling Kashia breathed deeply the salty tangy air.

The cart went over the final hill revealing the open ocean beyond. The sea was rough and violent, reflecting the clear blue and white of the sunny sky above. Waves were crashing loudly against rock and there was a ship bobbing its way out to sea. The open sky and the endless ocean stretching towards the flat line of the horizon were so new yet so familiar to Kashia. Kashia and her son sat together on the grassy hill in silent awe. Kashia in fulfilling the simple yet what had almost been an unattainable dream of a lifetime, and her son soaking in his mother’s pleasure.

After a long while, Kashia slowly stood up and made her way down the slope and onto the beach. Barefoot and loving it, Kashia wriggled her toes and dug her feet into the sand. Kashia stood just at the point where the waves recede back into the mass of water and took her first step into the cool salty ocean, then walked fully clothed into the water. She’d done it. She had seen, touched and experienced her dream. In her next life, she would not wait so long.

6

Bananamana.com : Singapore’s Living Directory

September 25, 2009

Picture 2Check out Sheila’s bananamana.com listing.

Bananamana.com is a new comprehensive directory for :

  • things TO DO
  • things TO EAT or DRINK
  • things TO BUY
  • SERVICES
  • and CHARITIES in Singapore.

To start browsing, go to bananamana.com

0

Mentoring the Storytelling Revival

September 25, 2009

Storytelling in Singapore:

Mentoring the Storytelling Revival

By Sheila Wee

This article was commissioned for the January/February 2008 edition of Storytelling Magazine. http://www.storynet.org/about/magazine.html It can also be found along with other articles on mentoring from storyteller’s from around the world at Kevin Cordi’s website at http://kevincordi.com/mentors.html

Storytelling in Singapore is thriving.  We have just had our seventh Asian Congress of Storytellers and our second Singapore International Storytelling Festival.  Storytelling is taking root in schools, museums, parks, community centres, theatres and businesses. In fact, storytelling has become something of a buzzword.

But in 1998 storytelling was just a memory, a fading vision.  Back in the 1950s the last professional storyteller plied his trade on Read Bridge, beside the Singapore River.  In the 60s and early 70s people tuned into the radio by the thousands to hear Lee Dai Soh tell Chinese folktales and sword fighting epics.  But times changed, the pace of life quickened and no one had time for storytelling any more.

Various international storytellers did come through Singapore, and give workshops, but none had a really lasting impact. Then in 1999, Cathy Spagnoli arrived. Cathy who is based in both Vashon Island, near Seattle in the U.S. and Chennai in India, has a wealth of knowledge on Asian storytelling.

In late 1998, my friend Kiran Shah and I attended a three hour workshop given by Cathy and came out inspired. For me, it was a validation that the storytelling I had been doing informally since childhood was a legitimate form of expression and even a profession. For Kiran, a Singaporean whose family originally came from Western India, it was a wake up call.  How could this American woman know more about her culture than she did?

Cathy was our first mentor and perhaps in many ways the most important. For if she had not made the effort to give us encouragement, we would never have had the confidence to take our storytelling further. Being a mentor now myself, I am always surprised that it is sometimes the simplest word of encouragement, that makes the difference to people.

We soon discovered that mentors don’t necessarily have to be there in the flesh.  Another important mentor to us in the early days of our storytelling was the Storytell Listserve.  The tellers on the list, made us feel very welcome and the on-line discussions jump-started our storytelling education.  What was most important though, was the fact that we were no longer alone; we had found a community, a very generous community. We could go on-line and ask any question and we would get both answers and encouragement. At times we felt overwhelmed by the generosity of these people, who lived halfway across the world, but would take the time out of their day to help us.

I try to remember that experience when I get emails or phone calls from people who are interested in starting out in storytelling.  One such moment sticks in my mind.  I received a phone call from a young teacher, just two months out of teacher’s training college. She was in quite a panic, as her principal had just told her that she must start a storytelling club in the school.  She had no experience at all of storytelling and the principal was expecting her students to enter, and to win, a nationwide storytelling competition, that would be held at the end of that term.   I remember I was very busy that day and I really didn’t want to talk on the phone for 30 minutes, still less have this young woman over to my house that evening to look at my resources and discuss ideas.  But the note of desperation in her voice and the fact that she had the gumption to track me down persuaded me to make the effort. I am so glad I did, for she went on to become a champion of storytelling in the school system and since leaving full time teaching, has become one of our most trusted freelance storytelling trainers.

The Storytell Listserve brought us another important mentor, Margaret Read MacDonald. Margaret, in turn put us in touch with Anne Pellowski.  These two remarkable women have visited Singapore many times, often at their own expense and have provided us with training, encouragement and inspiration.  Their passion ignited ours.

In 1999, Kiran and I founded a storytellers circle. There were only four of us at the first meeting and two of those admitted to being only there for the food. But gradually membership increased. The food remained important; we still have a potluck dinner before every meeting.  This time for sharing and eating before the meeting helped us to create the warm supportive atmosphere that helped to nurture and mentor beginning tellers.

By 2001, Kiran and I had formed a storytelling company and had gone professional. But, even as we were building our own storytelling careers, we always tried to keep a greater goal in mind – reviving the art of storytelling in Singapore and in particular repopularising Asian folktales. We couldn’t do this alone, so mentoring other storytellers became a priority.

Although we were only a couple of steps ahead of them in experience, through the Storytellers Circle we now had a growing band of beginning tellers to mentor.  One of the ways we tried to do this by creating the opportunities for them to tell.  At first, this was at small community based events. Later as their skills developed, we sent them out into schools to do both performances and training.

Looking back, I am slightly aghast at how early in our careers we started teaching storytelling skills.  This was not by choice, there was really no one else more experienced to do it. Overseas tellers came though and helped, but Kiran and I were the only ones there all year round.  Running courses for both teachers and the general public helped us discover more people with the interest in storytelling and expand the number of active storytellers.   Once we had a critical mass of active storytellers, the mentoring load was shared. People began to mentor each other. Tellers would rehearse together before a performance and give each other encouragement during crises of confidence.

We also started networking like crazy, because only if storytelling was known, would there be opportunities for us and our mentees to tell.  While we had to put our storytelling business first, we tried to work on the premise of expanding the “storytelling work pie” rather than cutting it. This strategy worked and by 2004 we had a team of freelance tellers doing training and performances in schools and community performances for children and families.

Other opportunities were created when the Substation Arts Centre asked us to do a series of adult storytelling performances. At that stage we had only limited experience of telling to adults, but we jumped at the chance and pulled in about eight people we had previously trained.  Working on these storytelling evenings, planning and rehearsing brought us much closer together. We learned what each needed to bring out the best in their performance.  We supported each other when things went wrong and cheered each other on in our moments of triumph. We were able to be mentors for each other.

Looking back over the last seven years, two things stand out as being important in advancing the storytelling revival in Singapore.  Firstly, the fact that the early leaders of the revival were natural mentors. I think this was partly due to our personalities, but also perhaps due to our backgrounds in social work (Kiran) and early childhood education (both of us).  Secondly, we were also natural networkers. These two attributes, combined with the fact that Singapore is a very small, very highly connected nation, magnified our efforts to restore storytelling to its rightful place in the lives of Singaporeans.

I see mentoring in the same way I see stories. You send a story out into the world to do its work.  You never know who will take your story to heart; who will remember it and send it out into the world again.  You just keep on telling the stories, knowing that some will hit home and some will not, but also knowing that if you don’t tell them, then nothing happens at all.

In the same way, mentoring is a hit and miss affair, sometimes you may spend a lot of effort mentoring someone and very little comes of it. Then sometimes, you will be rewarded. You will see your mentees grow in skills and confidence and make a real impact on their society. That makes all the effort more than worthwhile.

© Sheila Wee, 2008

3