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 Little Sylvia Seagull (1)

Tuesday
Dec072010

Remembering Chillicothe

Just before Thanksgiving I received a wonderful greeting from Mirielle McKell on Facebook wishing me joy and family delight during the upcoming festivities.

Mirielle is one of my many new storytelling blessings in this wonderful year that has been awash with stories.

She is the mother of Bill Mckell, the director of my first Storytelling Festival, the Southern Ohio Storytelling, Arts and Music Festival, held every year in Chillicothe the weekend after Labor Day.

After signing the contract in May to perform in Chillicothe September 9th -11th, I looked up the city on Mapquest and saw that it was fifteen and a half hours away. 

I’d need to get a flight.

Wonderfully organized Bill McKell sent a letter to the tellers saying that if we were flying, Columbus was the nearest airport, it was an hour away whereas the next closest was Cincinnati – two hours away.

The cheapest direct flight I could find was in to Cincinnati.  I booked my non-refundable ticket.

Then a friend phoned and asked if I was driving.  “No!”  I said.  “It is over fifteen hours away.”

“Never!” he said.

“It is!”  said I.

We both dove for our computers to get to Mapquest.

He was right.

I’d put in the wrong Chillicothe!  It turns out that there are five places called Chillicothe in the US.  The furthest away is in Texas and the closest is Ohio.  Clearly the Chillicothe I had originally looked up was in Indiana, which was indeed fifteen and a half hours away from Frederick, Maryland.  The Chillicothe in Ohio is just over six. 

Thank goodness my flight was landing near the festival!  I could have been in Texas!  Or Missouri! 

If I had known the correct distance I would have driven – but then I would have missed out on two delightful treats that happened on the way to and from the airport.

The first was meeting Bill’s sister, Nancy Mckell Gomez who picked me up from the airport. 

She has just published her first book – a sweet, inspirational story for children called Little Sylvia Seagull in which a seagull that is teased and bullied becomes a heroine when she leads her persecutors home through unexpected stormy weather.  For the whole two hours we talked publishing, books and shared our life stories.  It was instant connection – always a treat!

The meat in the sandwich was the festival itself.  Held under a tent in Yoctangee Park at the Pump House Art Gallery it was intimate, with an appreciative audience and a wonderful line up of tellers.  Knowing that it was my first storytelling festival, National Tellers Bil Lepp, Andy Offutt Irwin and Lyn Ford very graciously tucked me under their wise wings, showed me the ropes and poured out advice.  Together with fellow tellers Adele Brown and storyteller and musician Joseph Helfrich they wove powerful spells with words and music until the late summer air sizzled with creativity, inspiration and laughter.

And I was thrilled with Bill McKell’s statement about my performance:

“It was wonderful having Geraldine share her delightful tales at the Southern Ohio Storytelling Festival.  Her fascinating stories, British charm and animated wit had our audiences enthralled.  We eagerly look forward to her return.”

Is that sound I hear my head swelling?

On Sunday morning, on my way home, I was invited by Mirelle Mckell – Bill’s absolutely lovely mother - to visit her and her husband Tom's hundred and fifty year old home where she showed me their very own secret passage that has been built into the fabric of the house.  Be still my beating heart!  (One of the stories in my CD Destination?  Slammer! reveals my childhood love of secret passages…)

All the way to the airport I channeled Nancy Drew and pretended that I was tossing long titian hair,charging ahead in a blue sports car and reveling in another mystery solved!

Seeing Mirielle’s Thanksgiving greeting brought all the delicious memories back.

Happy Thanksgiving, Advent and Christmas dear Mirelle – and to all the Mckells.

It is people like you who help make the storytelling world magical.

Thank you!

 

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