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 Donald Davis (4)


A New Storytelling Endeavor 

Such fabulous news!  For years people have been talking about starting an annual storytelling festival within the Washington DC metro area - but despite brave, indeed brilliant, attempts it has never happened - until now!  I am thrilled to announce the First Annual Capitol Area Storytelling Festival that will be held November 13th and 14th 2015, at Washington ArtWorks in Rockville, MD

The tellers are Donald Davis - the first time he has performed in the DC area for several years.  Thank goodness we have wooed him back!; Geraldine Buckley ​(me!); Sheila Arnold Jones​ - fresh from being a New Voice Featured Teller at the National Storytelling Festival; Dr. Mike Lockett​ - straight off the plane from what is sure to be yet another highly acclaimed storytelling trip through Taiwan and China; and Anne Thomas​ - winner of the second Jonesborough Story Slam competition, and heard on The Moth and other storytelling podcasts.

There will be stories for children; stories for adults; true tales; folk tales; tall tales; tales with music; tales with singing; hilarious tales; thoughtful tales; life-changing stories.  As well as all that there will be Anne's one woman show; and a late night story slam with lucrative cash prizes. 

I am so excited!

Let me tell you how it came about.  Washington ArtWorks is a fabulously creative nonprofit organization that houses 56 visual artists, and the Washington School of Photography.  After I talked with them, they agreed that adding a storytelling component would be a perfect fit as it will harness a third type of image: pictures that are heard.  So they asked me to organize an annual festival; and an ongoing storytelling school that will come under my new company Story Speak.  Be still my beating heart!

I used to be an events director at the largest PR agency in London, England.  I am a storyteller and communicator who loves to perform, but who also genuinely loves to teach others. I am beyond delighted that these different streams of my life are flowing together in a new way.

There are dreams to have a regular storytelling show highlighting local storytellers as well as concerts and workshops with nationally known names.  There are dreams to give pro bono workshops for groups who are marginalized, but whose stories need to be heard; and to use stories to help prevent young people being incarcerated.  (My prison chaplain's hat is never far from my head.)  These are dreams for the future.  Hopefully the not too far distant future.

For the moment there are definite plans to have story workshops for beginners; a series of classes for those who want a deeper knowledge of storytelling including creating and polishing stories; and workshops aimed at harnessing the power of storytelling for nonprofits and businesses.  I am talking to several excellent teachers who are excited to be part of this endeavor.

Our first classes start this September.  I will be posting more information in the next few days.  But for now, bookmark November 13th and 14th; plan to be at the festival; and then rejoice with me!


Looking Back

Before the old year slips away to the strains of Auld Lang Syne and a burst of fireworks let me mull on the memories of the last few months.

This Summer I did much work creating and polishing stories for my new CD, “Devils on Horseback and Other Odd Journeys,” with it's tag line "Hilarious, True, Inadvertent Adventures,"which was recorded in two performances at The Frederick Cultural Arts Center in Frederick, Maryland.  (Available from the store section of this web site.  Click here.)

Of course besides the stories, a CD project comes with a myriad of decisions about art, design, packaging…  So I was thrilled when finally box upon box of the finished product were delivered by a lovely young UPS man with bright red hair.  He told me that he lives with his mother and has a Doberman Pinscher mix who loves English accents.  Apparently when he and his Mum are out of the house the dog listens to the audio books of the Harry Potter adventures – otherwise he gets too lonely. 

I am delighted to tell you that the very first copy of my new CD went to a literary loving dog so that he can learn English accent diversity!

I am also delighted to tell you that the dog has perfect manners.  I received this email from the puppy, whose name is Doszer.

“I asked my Mom to type this for me as paws and keyboards do not mix well.  I wanted to say thank you for the CD!  I love it!  I am not sure how Daddy talked you into giving a CD to a dog, but I greatly appreciate it! 

I get nervous when Mom and Dad go out. So it is nice having someone tell me stories.  Mom likes to listen to books on CD while she does stuff around the house and discovered that I enjoy them too.  Her story friends keep me company when she and Dad cannot be home with me.  Thank you for becoming my new friend!  …Oh and thank you for being nice to your UPS man.  You made his day and mine too!

Thank you again!

Puppy Kisses,

Doszer Ziliox"

Be still my beating heart!  I am thrilled to have such a polite, canine fan.  Woof!

In September I was invited back to tell at the Southern Ohio Festival in Chillicothe, Ohio – one of my favorite festivals.  Donald Davis, Carmen Deedy, Bil Lepp, Sheila Arnold, Octavia Sexton and Kevin Coleman were also on the lineup.  It was a glorious mix of tellers who melded together perfectly. The weekend was memorable for deep conversations, shared ideas, friendship and laugher.  And the stories were superb - the late summer Ohio air was alive with the magic of words.

I hadn’t met Carmen before and joined the long line of people who have fallen in love with her!  It was mutual.  We became instant friends!

I am so enjoying this storytelling journey - especially the fascinating, generous, big-hearted people I am meeting upon the way. 

In October I was thrilled to win the first Storytelling Slam competition at the 40th Anniversary of the National Storytelling Festival at Jonesborough, Tennessee.  The story was called “Hitchhiking” and it is a five minute extract from a longer story of the same name on my latest CD.

 Not long after my return I went to my brother’s house in Washington DC for a family celebration.  Damian, my brother, insisted I told the winning story.  When I finished he presented me with an award.  An eye!  (Perfect for the story.)  Apparently the saleslady told him it was soap – but he said that he was going to tell me it was a gobstopper (candy).  She said: ‘Surely you wouldn’t do that to your sister!”  He said: “Oh yes I would.”  And he did!  The rotter!

 Winning the slam had wonderful repercussions.   Liz Miller, librarian and storytelling impresario was in the audience, visiting from New Zealand.  She loved that story and the stories on my other two CD’s. 

The outcome? 

Liz invited me to tell stories, together with Storyteller and Musician Bill Harley (who has just been nominated for his third Grammy), at the Invercargill Arts Festival in New Zealand next May!  The ticket has already been bought and paid for thanks to a grant organized by Liz.  I have always wanted to visit New Zealand and I’m absolutely thrilled!  Other opportunities are popping up in that scenically-stunning nation and I will be telling and travelling for the whole month of May.  Hallelluia!

Lastly, I finally broke my prison fast.  I officially left the prison where I worked as Chaplain at the end of January 2010 but the last time I went in to a correctional facility was three years ago on the day before Christmas Eve. 

This Christmas Eve, exactly three years later, I went in to the Frederick County Detention Center to tell stories as part of the female inmate’s Christmas party.  I had the most wonderful time and I loved seeing all the girls laughing. I’ll be back.  The program director and the inmates want me to do a full storytelling concert – and I will be very happy to do so.

It has been a good year, and I have great excitement stirring in my spirit for all that lies ahead in the coming twelve months.

May it be a wonderful new season for everyone who is reading this post, full of grace, favor, wisdom, health, provision, love and abundant laughter. 

Go God!



Discovering Ocracoke

This August, I went on vacation to Hatteras Island in North Carolina with my cousin and her family and friends - and that is when I discovered Ocracoke, the 9.6 square mile remote Outer Banks island that can only be reached by public ferry, private boat or plane.

Let me more specific.

I didn’t just discover the island.  I fell irrevocably in love with Ocracoke.

It happened quickly.  Our group took the ferry to the island to go to the beach.  Ocracoke is known for its beaches.  I opted out and browsed around a wonderful bookstore, Books to be Red, nosed around the outside of the Deepwater Theater that hosts storytelling and music shows – and then was delighted that the white, weathered, Methodist Church was open.  I went in and sat down.  

And that’s when it happened.

It seemed as though the present disappeared and I heard the ancient rhythms of Ocracoke.  It was as though the tourists, the bustle, the rented golf carts that whizzed up and down the main street of the village didn’t exist. 

I felt the island’s heartbeat.

Connected with its heartbeat.

I must have entered a time warp.  Before I knew it an hour and a half had gone and I came out of that church in a daze knowing something of great personal importance had happened.

Now I have to tell you that I come from island stock.  I was born in England but the majority of my ancestors come from Ireland – both are islands of course – if large ones.   But there is a line of my predecessors that come from the Isle of Man, a small wind-blown island between the north west coast of England and Ireland about three times the size of Ocracoke but nowadays, as a tax haven, infinitely more crowded.

It was as though the genes of my forebears were rising up and thanking me for taking them back to a relatively isolated island.

I knew I would be returning to Ocrocoke many times.

I visited the island three times that week.  In between trips I did research.  I already knew it was the home of Donald Davis, America’s foremost storyteller - a genuinely lovely man - who lives there with his absolutely wonderful wife, Merle.  But I found out that Ocracoke has a music and storytelling festival, a vibrant arts community, and a week-long Ocracoke arts and traditions school that is held every fall. 

I inhaled everything I could about the history of the island, the local dialect - which was so reminiscent of the accent in the West of England where I went to university – the food lore (figs are abundant on the island and there is a local plant that can be made into tea.)  I was transfixed by incredible stories of shipwrecks, bravery, pirates, storms, wild ponies and a selfless, loving, generous people who have survived against all odds perched on a magical island thrust out into the sea off the shores of North Carolina.

I left for home and planned my return.

The following week Hurricane Irene hit.

I sat glued to my computer reading weather websites, local blogs and watching webcams as Irene lashed the Island.  I prayed deeply and fervently for protection for all those who lived there and for their property.

I thank the Almighty that my newly discovered Shangri-La did not become Atlantis.

Ocracoke survived - as it had over the centuries. - this time with minimal damage and flooding.  (Although Highway 12 that goes from Ocracoke's free ferry across and off  Hatteras Island was severed in five places leaving Ocracoke even more isolated than usual, albeit - most probably - temporarily.)


When I think about my instant attachment to Ocacoke Island I am reminded of the book The Polar Express.

In that story, the first gift of Christmas was a bell from the harness of one of Santa’s reindeer.

Adults couldn’t hear it.

You could only hear it if you truly believed.

I feel as though I heard the bell ringing on Ocracoke. 

I felt the stories and the magic.

And I believe.


Jonesborough! The National Storytelling Festival

This has been a season of firsts! 

In the past months I have experienced many storytelling firsts – but the most thrilling of the lineup was going to the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough Tennessee.  

This festival began in 1973 when 60 people sat on hay bales to hear Appalachian tales told from the back of a hay wagon parked beside the town courthouse. 

It was so successful it became a yearly event - and grew!

Now about 10,000 people pour into Jonesborough for three days over the first weekend of October every year to hear the best storytellers from America and around the globe tell riveting tales under huge tents that are dotted throughout this lovely town – the oldest in Tennessee.

 I first heard about the festival ten years ago. 

After completing a week long residential storytelling course in England I went to the Greenbelt Arts Festival with my friend, storyteller and cinematographer Shan Stevens. We met some tellers  from the storytelling graduate program at East Tennessee State University at Jonesborough who told us about the National Festival. 

I started salivating – I wanted to go. 

But it has taken a decade for that sown seed to sprout.

This year was harvest time – not only was I going but I knew several of the featured storytellers – which made everything even more exciting – if that were possible! 

Friends Kim Weitkamp and Suzi Whaples were featured “New Voices” – and they both did superbly. 

Each received well-deserved standing ovations at the end of their main one hour sets. I thought my heart would burst with pride on their behalf!

Friends Bil Lepp and Andy Offut Irwin also were telling – and they were as wonderful as usual. 

In his main one hour set, Bil took a break from his normal tall tales style – he is a Champion Liar – a five time winner of the West Virginia Liar's Contest – as well as an ordained Methodist Minister.  He told a true World War ll story, "The GOYA’s, 551st Infantry Parachute Division," in the voice of Suzi Whaples' father whom he had interviewed some years before. 

Bil was utterly believable and so, in spirit, we followed the 18 year old West Virginia serviceman through boot camp, invasion of France, Battle of the Bulge and post war occupation in a tale that was humorous and harrowing and made history live. 

It was an amazing, moving, tour de force. 

Then there were more glorious, glorious words and images from superb storytellers such as 92 year old Kathryn Windham, Donald Davis, Carmen Deedy, Kevin Kling, Eth-Noh-Tech and a host of others.  On Saturday there was a fabulous midnight cabaret with Bill Harley and a group of his musician friends.  (All were new to me except for Donald Davis whom I had seen perform in Williamsburg two weeks previously.  I snagged a seat on the front row.  I was close enough to see his nose hairs!  Glory!)

The only difficulty was deciding what to see because going to hear one teller meant missing someone else.  Decisions!  Decisions!  I was in the tents first thing in the morning and had to be outed with a crowbar as the last word of the night was greeted by applause.  Oh such delicious hours!

Jonesborough is a word lover's paradise - and I am in love with words and stories!

On late Sunday afternoon, after it was all over, a friend of a friend, Sarah Keplinger Hughes, who I had met once before ten years ago, whisked me away for a delicious steak dinner (thank you Sarah!)  I ended the evening in Storyteller Connie Gill’s magnificent saltwater pool and freshwater Jacuzzi, reliving  my recent firsts and reminiscing about the weekend.

Of all the jewel like moments strung together to make a glorious storytelling necklace – one particular event stands out.

The day before the festival started I had gone to get my patch of material that serves as ticket.  When the volunteer with the kind eyes heard it was my first Jonesborough festival he said:

“Welcome Home!” 

Then he got out his wallet, took out three dollars and bought me a lanyard with a clear pouch hanging from it so that I could wear my entry patch with ease. 

It was an unforgettable gesture!

I felt I had indeed come home. 

I had found my tribe.

And when that happens, you know you’ll be back.