Life After The Slammer: A journey of inspiration, insight and oddity. 


For just over five years Geraldine was involved in bringing creativity, hope and inspiration into Maryland prisons and jails, first as a volunteer and then, for almost two and a half years as a chaplain at the Maryland Correctional Training Center – Maryland’s largest men’s prison.

Since then she has been catapulted into the world of professional storytelling and speaking, traveling throughout the US and as far away as New Zealand bringing programs that cause people to laugh and think. She has performed everywhere from people's living rooms to being a featured performer at the National Festival in Jonesborough, TN - the jewel in the crown of the storytelling world.

Join Geraldine as she writes about her life after hanging up her chaplain's hat and taking to the storytelling road.

Entries in Adam Booth (2)


A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Festival

Last Thursday, at midnight, I inadvertently found myself on a mist-covered, winding back-road in Ohio and felt I was in the prelude to one of the ghost stories I knew I’d be hearing at a concert the following night.

Near the end of a six and a half hour journey from my home in Frederick, Maryland to Chillicothe - home of the Southern Ohio Storytelling  Festival - I had somehow managed to leave the main highway and was approaching the city by a narrow country road.  By day this would have been the scenic route, but now, in the witching hour, it was covered by a thick layer of mist that reduced visibility dramatically and had me gripping the steering wheel, nose almost against the windscreen.

 I am a storyteller - stories are always floating through my mind - and driving on that country road I was reminded of another dark and misty night in 2007.

I had just conducted my first wedding, held in the evening at a vineyard in a remote part of the Maryland countryside, and on leaving I had accidentally turned the wrong way. 

Not knowing the area, I quickly became lost on back roads where visibility was less than a couple of yards. 

Suddenly an enormous truck appeared out of the gloom behind me and got so close it almost touched my bumper. 

The road curved frequently.  It was too narrow to pull over and there was nowhere to pull off.  I was going 25 miles an hour.  The truck increased its speed.  I got up to 40.  The truck was right there behind me.  I moved up to 55, still only able to see a short distance in front of me. 

I was hurtling around corners.

The truck went faster. 

My hands were in a death-grip on the wheel.  My prayer ability was reduced to a repeated:

“Jesus!  Help!”

I felt I was inside Stephen Speilberg’s first feature film, Duel, made in 1971, in which a demonic monster truck chases a car and seems determined to kill him.

My speed hit 70 miles an hour.  I was going too fast to turn into entrances and the narrow side roads were past before I could swerve into them.

I was terrified.

Finally I saw an extra-large forecourt and veered in almost crying with relief as that huge truck let out a billow of smoke and went hurtling past me into the mist-filled night.

Now, almost four years later, in the darkness of an Ohio night, I started to wonder where the truck had come from. 

At the time I had been in the first months of my job as chaplain in the largest men’s prison in Maryland.  I was in the Correctional Academy, training to be a correctional officer – a requirement for all staff who would have daily contact with inmates.

Earlier that night I had accidentally been locked in the pitch dark training annex of the prison, by myself, for what seemed like an eternity.

I didn’t think I was going to make it to the wedding. 

When I was released by someone coming to practice night shooting I was upset and discombobulated.

Then there was the truck.

There is a lot of spiritual darkness surrounding a prison.  Many of the men come with their share of demons. They meet the ones already embedded in the place.

My mind started to fantasize.

Was the speeding juggernaut a second warning of the day to keep away from the prison?

Was it a ghost truck?

Was it sent by hell to frighten me?

I was beginning to scare myself!

I don’t like ghost stories. I was only going to a concert filled with them the following night because friends would be telling including Kim Weitkamp - who has just brought out a beautifully designed spooky CD called “Head Bone Rattles.”  But driving in the mist on the outskirts of Chillicothe, minutes past midnight last Friday morning, in conditions that were bad, but far better than in my "Duel" encounter, I realized that I had just re-lived my own terror tale.

Shaking off the gloom and frissons of fear that were trying to snag me, I sang Jesus praise songs all the way to the hotel and thought about the delightful storytelling weekend ahead.


I will always have a soft spot for the Southern Ohio Storytelling Festival. 

I performed there last year – my first storytelling festival – and it was a joy to be back seeing friends such as Peggy Riggin, who keeps all the artists on track, Bill McKell the director of the festival and his wonderful mother, Mirielle McKell. 

This year I was going as a listener, staying with my friend Storyteller Suzi Whaples who was on the lineup of tellers, together with Andy Offutt Irwin, Adam Booth, Kim Weitkamp, Bill Mckell, Kevin Coleman and Elizabeth Ellis.

They were all spectacular.

I was particularly pleased that Elizabeth Ellis – doyenne of storytelling and a Circle of Excellence Award winner - was a featured teller.

I had never heard her tell in person.

I was entranced. 

She wove a few myths and many personal stories into a world of enchantment. 

She made me think, laugh and cry.

She was generous with her time and the knowledge she had gleaned over a thirty-year storytelling career and I was thrilled to be included in a small unscheduled group that gathered after lunch one day where Elizabeth poured out wisdom mingled with earthy wit - sheer delight!

Following in the footsteps of the Jonesborough Festival, Southern Ohio gives out entry tickets that are swatches of quilt fabric. 

After a full day of listening and laughing on Friday I carefully tucked mine into a zippered pocket in my purse.  To my bewilderment I couldn’t find it the next day. 

The vibrant paisley swatch was camouflaged.

It was the exact match for the lining of my bag!

I settled in for another day of brilliant telling, happy that I had received a tiny hexagonal sign that I am exactly where I am meant to be on my storytelling journey.

Even on the occasions where the road seems dark and misty, I am enjoying the ride!

Thank you Lord!






Five Months - Five Stepping Stones

Five is the number of grace – and I have been encircled with grace this year since the last time I wrote this blog at the beginning of March.

Looking back from Spring to now, when the world here in Frederick, Maryland is transitioning away from Summer, I see five events in the last five months that stand out.  They are like stepping stones among the delicious swirl of storytelling happenings such as performances, festivals, swaps, school and library visits and teaching at an arts-integrated middle-school summer camp, that have swept me in a whirl of words to the brink of fall.

In March, while attending the Virginia Storytelling Alliance (VASA)’s conference - The Gathering - to do an evening concert with Michael Reno Harrell and Ralph Chatham – I was voted on to the VASA board.  I am delighted to have been asked to serve this wonderful grass-roots storytelling  organization that stretches from the mountains to the sea.  My first board meeting will be in October ‘11.  Wonderful times with like-minded story lovers lie ahead!

Below:  Michael Reno Harrell, Geraldine Buckley and Ralph Chatham
(Photograph Courtesy of Irma Rockwell)

In April I danced all around the kitchen in utter delight after I was asked by Susan O’Connor of the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough Tennessee to be an Exchange Place Teller – which is an incredible honor.  Six people are selected each year from the whole of the nation to tell a twelve minute tale in front of 1,500 story lovers during this most prestigious of all US festivals.  I will be joined by my friend Storyteller Adam Booth who tells a riveting tall tale!

In May I had the most delightful time in Dunbar, West Virginia, home of my good friend National Storyteller Suzi Whaples who absolutely spoiled me over my birthday weekend which culminated in the two of us doing a joint house concert for her story loving, highly appreciative friends.

Suzi is rightfully proud of her state, and her heritage as a child of the Appalachian Mountains and coal fields.  During my visit she gave me a crash course in understanding West Virginian ways and words while driving me through the “hollas” and passes of her beautiful state.  I always loved her stories, many of which are told through the eyes of her granny or her great aunt – but I had a new understanding of their depth after seeing the places on the land where Suzi's relatives lived and loved and survived. 

June’s stepping stone was the first annual Maryland Storytelling Summit spearheaded by Storyteller Ellie Shinham.  During this fabulous day - filled with fascinating workshops, round table dicussions, tales and laughter - different streams of storytelling, such as the Griots' Circle of Maryland and Arianna Ross’s innovative Story Tapestries,  came together to share ideas.  Many of the groups had not heard of each other before and new, strong bonds were formed.

I was delighted to have been selected to be one of the tellers for the evening concert together with Storytellers  Noa Baum, Bob Smith, Walter Jones and Jane Dorfman.  We were a diverse group of tellers and yet we were told we blended into a seamless whole.  Storytelling magic!

July brought the Capital Fringe Festival.  I performed my storytelling show “Destination?  Slammer!” at the prestigious Goethe Institut steps from China Town in Washington DC. A fringe audience is very different from a usual storytelling audience in that a fringe goer is often looking for theatre (not telling) that is edgy, avant-garde and risqué.   Nevertheless I received excellent reviews from the Washington City Paper, the DC Theatre Scene and the Maryland Theatre Guide – and many lovely conversations with appreciative audience members at the end of each show.  Bless them every one!

Five stepping stones in a five month period filled with grace and stories.

I love the life of an itinerant storyteller, speaker and teaching artist. 

Long may the grace continue!