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 National Storytelling Festival (4)


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!



Catch Up

Where has the time gone to?

So may wonderful things have been happening over the last few months and I haven’t been recording them here – so before clear memories disappear like morning fog let me give a scanty review of some of the highlights since I last wrote.

The jewel in last year’s crown was being one of the six tellers from around the nation who were selected to perform on the Exchange place stage at the National Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee.  I was thrilled to participate with Storytellers, Adam Booth, Pippa White, Diane Edgecomb, Gwen Rainer, and Kirk Waller on that coveted stage and was delighted when Lauren LaRocca of The Frederick News Post wrote an excellent article as a result of the news.  Lauren LaRocca is now the Features Editor at the paper.  Yea! Congratulations Lauren!

While still in Jonesborough I really enjoyed doing a house concert with my friend, Speaker and Storyteller Bob Tryanski at the home of John and Joyce Johnson as a fund raiser for Ivory Park in South Africa – a project run by Bob and his wife Hannah.  The concert benefited two causes close to my heart, feeding children through actual food as well as literature. The event was on the front of the Greensville Sun the next morning written by a journalist called Kristen Buckles - it was easy to remember her name! 

 Then it was off to the other side of the country to perform at the Fredonia Opera House in Fredonia, NY – which was built in 1891.  I thoroughly enjoyed working with the Executive Director Rick Davis who said about me in a follow up letter “..I am hearing nothing but glowing reviews from patrons.  People not only found your tales funny, but enlightening as well… after all who else can offer such insight into life “in the slammer?”

It always amazes me how my years behind the razor wire have come in so useful after my “release!”

In November I had a wonderful time being one of the featured tellers at the Lower Brandywine Storytelling Festival headed up by the incredible Michael Wright.  The lineup included Bil Lepp, Andy Offutt Irwin, Bill Harley, Willie Claflin, and  Kim Weitkamp.  And it was a special joy to preach at the first morning service at the beautiful Lower Brandywine church the next day.  That festival and church hold a special place in my heart.

Adam Booth and I were bookends on the Exchange Place Stage - he went first I went last - and we were reunited - and kept that order - when we did a house concert together in January at Laura Hagmann's home in Silver Spring, Maryland - one of my favorite venues for storytelling. 

I am a huge fan of the Washington DC based true storytelling phenomenon SpeakeasyDC and In February I had great fun being part of the SpeakeasyDC “Sucker For Love” show directed by the enormously talented Stephanie Garibaldi and Meredith Maslich.  And I was doubly delighted that National Storyteller Michael Parent whose work I admire was in the audience on a trip away from his home in Maine to visit his DC Metro area based adult children.  He told me how much he liked my stories and that I was a storyteller “extraordinaire!”  What a kind man he is and so wonderfully generous with his praise – now I have to try and shrink my head back to its normal size!

I met him again, and many other fine tellers, when I was teaching a workshop and performing in the evening Olio at the LANES (League for Advancement of North Eastern Storytelling) Sharing the Fire Conference in Albany in March.  I was Facebook friends with many people there – but was meeting them in the flesh for the first time at the conference.  It is always an odd feeling to already know so much about people’s lives at the first real hello!

Spring brought a delightful honor.  My CD “Destination? Slammer!” was awarded a Storytelling World Gold award for best CD recording (category six in this link.) I felt like I had won an Oscar for best movie I was so thrilled!  The whipped cream and cherry on that already fabulous brownie was the invitation to write a 3000 word article on The Power of Story (focusing on my use of storytelling as a bridge within the prison system) which appeared in the April/May edition of the Storytelling Magazine.

Around the same time I travelled to Laurinburg, S. Carolina for the Southern Carolina Storytelling Festival.  Oh what a delight!  Southern hospitality at its finest mixed in with incredible stories.  Donald Davis, Gene Tagaban, Doug Elliott and Robert Kikuchi-Yngojo of Eth-noh-Tech were the fabulous feature tellers and Sheila Arnold and I were the Regional tellers – and what a fine teller my new friend Sheila is.  Following in the footseps of the late Jackie Torrence Sheila wooed and won the audience.  It really was a memorable weekend.

In April, together with Storyteller Anthony Burcher, I was a Regional Teller at a lovely festival - Storyteller Alan Hoal's Sounds of the Mountains Festival held at Camp Bethel in  Fincastle, Virginia.  National Public Radio station WVTF did a preview of the event - and they used my voice (extracted from my website) as the top and tail of the piece for their Evening Edition program.  Listeners had a British storytelling sandwich for supper that night!  As soon as I walked in the door at Camp Bethel I discovered that I had been selected to be a featured teller at next years festival.  I was thrilled!

May has brought the OOOPs Storytelling Festival (Ohio Order for the Preservation of Storytelling) in Mont Vernon Ohio featuring the grande dame of storytelling, Elizabeth Ellis,  where I was invited to debut my new workshop “Rocking the Flock with Story” which leans heavily on lessons I learned about telling stories behind the razor wire in a prison church setting – I was delighted that it got excellent reviews. 

Then it was on to perform stories for a ballroom filled with British born women and anglophiles at the Daughters of the British Empire (DEB) conference in Annapolis, Maryland.  Now that was a real thrill!  When I mentioned loving the author Enid Blyton as a child the room cheered!  She had clearly also been on all of their childhood reading lists!

Thank you to all the audiences, tellers and new friends I have met over the last few months.  It is because of you that I am having such a wonderful time along the storytelling road.

Abundant blessings to you all!



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!


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.