To celebrate the range of creativity featured in Sisters Born, Sisters Found: A Diversity of Voices on Sisterhood, I’ll be posting weekly interviews with writers who have contributed to the anthology.
I’m thrilled the first interview is with Ruth Stotter, a master of live storytelling who founded the Dominican University Certificate-in-Storytelling program. Ruth is also a prolific writer, publisher and educator. She contributed the short story Dear Rachel to the anthology.
1. What do you think motivates you? Have you always been an on-the-go trailblazer, or did something along your life’s path light a fire under you? And what would you like to convey about your creative journey so far?
I am easily bored and enjoy challenges. I remember earning all of the Girl Scout badges by myself the summer I was about twelve years old. One was called something like “Theater” and the requirements were to cast and direct a play and have it performed before a live audience, including doing the publicity. So—I did it. My Girl Scout leader told me at the end of the summer that badge was intended for an entire troop to take on, not one solo scout. In my teens, I put on a fashion show which involved contacting stores for the clothing, choosing models, setting up a stage set, and writing the script.
I mention these, as it seems to me that I have in my DNA enjoyment in creating and constructing new avenues of activity. Pondering and producing products—such as a poem, a novel, a book, an origami figure—is, for me, energizing and psychologically satisfying.
2. When we met, you were directing the Certificate in Storytelling program at Dominican University in San Rafael, an endeavor that enriched countless lives, including mine. Since then, every time I check in with you you’re up to something brilliant and new. Leading a workshop at the National Storytelling Network conference this summer and publishing the mystery eBook, Murder on the Croquet Lawn are just two of your recent adventures. It seems you wrote and published that book as a lark, but the book has found an appreciative audience. What has the experience been like for you? Do you plan to write more eBooks?
When a friend told me about creating an eBook on bookbaby.com, I immediately thought, “I would like to do that!” I enjoy reading mystery novels, so I decided to use that genre with the plot focusing on the game of croquet—an activity my husband and I have been enjoying for nearly ten years. Bookbaby.com was the perfect venue for me, as they make book production affordable and offer many services such as cover design and editing. Included in their service contract is distributing your manuscript to eBook providers.
It is important to recognize that it is up to the author to do publicity. I mailed postcards ordered from Vistaprint to croquet clubs around the world and sent emails out to friends, family and colleagues. And, lo, people downloaded the book and wrote reviews. I suspect it helped that I made the price affordable: $2.99. I have more recently taken up playing bridge and learned that there have been actual murders at bridge tables. So, a book describing these events is percolating.
3. Dear Rachel, your contribution to the Sisters Born, Sisters Found: A Diversity of Voices on Sisterhood anthology, uses dark humor, in the form of a fictional letter, to explore competitive aspects of sisterhood. Do you often use dark humor in your live storytelling and writing? Please elaborate. Do you have any tips on how writers and storytellers can use dark humor effectively?
Humor is a mysterious commodity for me. I often get laughs when I least expect them and no laughter when I think something is hysterical. I remember being at a book club where I was the only person who thought Lolita was a humorous read. When I wrote the piece for Sisters Born, Sisters Found I wanted the letter writer to have total innocence about her horrific behavior, past and present. What made it especially fun to write is that there is truth in some of my supposed fictional descriptions.
4. Why did you submit your short fiction to the Sisters Born, Sisters Found anthology?
So much of the creative process is lonely—pondering the plot, rehearsing a talk, sitting at the computer re-working texts—so, in a hard to explain way, for me publication in fictional anthologies and scholarly books produces a sense of being part of, belonging to, a community. When I heard about this publication I thought long and seriously about my two sisters and our relationships. I also thought about sorority sisters in college, as well as women in my life that I consider “sisters.” Although family relationships are universal with much in common, each is unique. Exploring the mystifying theme of sisterhood through memoirs, poetry, essays and fiction sounded affirming, enlightening—and best of all—entertaining.
5. Where can people learn more about you?
Just ask! I am nothing, if not, loquacious! Also, there are interviews available online, and many of my publications are available on Amazon.com. If anyone would like to be alerted about performances and/or workshops, my email is [email protected].
Ruth Stotter studied Speech Pathology, Psychology and Folklore prior to creating the Dominican University Certificate-in-Storytelling program. She has performed and conducted storytelling workshops on five continents, authored and contributed to numerous books about storytelling and folklore, and for six years produced The Oral Tradition—a storytelling radio show on KUSF-FM. In 2011, Ruth received the Oracle Life Time Achievement Award from the National Storytelling Network. Her training as an outdoor educator led to her authoring Little Acorns: An Introduction to Marin County Plant-Lore. Ruth is currently a competitive croquet player and kayaker. She is the youngest of three sisters.
Sisters Born, Sisters Found: A Diversity of Voices on Sisterhood is slated for publication in November 2014. You can receive both ebook and print versions of the anthology, along with a host of other rewards, by participating in the crowdfunding campaign at http://sisters.pubslush.com. Go ahead, join the fun!