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 SpeakeasyDC (4)


Drunk Nuns and other Adventures

What a delicious  story-filled long weekend!

A few months ago friend and Storyteller Andy Offutt Irwin told me that he would be in town doing a house concert at Laura Hagmann’s house in Silver Spring, Maryland (one of my favourite storytelling venues) and a set with the two-time Grammy award winning musical duo Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer at the Washington Folk Festival. 

He asked if I would arrange a couple of events that we could do together to round out his stay. 

Some years ago I was an events director for Jackie Cooper PR - at the time the largest independent PR agency in London – and I was delighted to put my old skills to use.

I swung into action.

The result was two wonderfully fun evenings. 

On Thursday May 31st Andy and I did a storytelling workshop entitled “Humor and the Narrative Arc” for Speakeasy DC held at the Hamiltonian Art Gallery on trendy U street in Washington DC.  What a delightful quirky space!  That night it was packed with talented participants – all eager to learn- who ended up telling their own amazing stories.  The room reverberated with wild tales, excitement and laughter.  SpeakeasyDC’s executive director, Amy Saidman, wrote that she was really pleased with the result and declared the evening to be a success. Yea!

The second event was an anthology storytelling show “Drunk Nuns, Sober Spirits and other Storytelling Misadventures held on Saturday June 2nd at the Frederick Cultural Arts Center. 

The show got excellent pre-publicity from the Frederick News Post and the Gazette and we had a lovely, enthusiastic crowd including one woman, Meredith Miller, new to storytelling, who later wrote:

 “I absolutely LOVED the show tonight! It was amazing - captivating - hysterical - and tender. I think I experienced every range of emotion possible in those few hours.  I was so swept away with the canvas portrait of stories that were shared ... you literally *took* me there with you to those points in time. What an incredible, joyous ride. Thank you SO much for inviting me.

Cannot wait until the next time!”

Another person hooked on storytelling. 


 One of the delights in this storytelling journey is the people you meet along the way – and I had a wonderful time getting to know Cathy Fink over three days as we spend time together at the workshop, the excellent house concert the following day (where I met Marcy – albeit briefly -  for the first time) and at the Drunk Nuns show.  Cathy and Marcy are virtually neighbors and so I look forward to sharing more laughter with them in the days ahead.

On Sunday I performed at the 32nd annual Washington Folk Festival at Glen Echo Park on the Storytelling Stage.  My eccentric great aunt, princesses bruised by hidden peas and ferocious tigers eventually tamed, all lived - and were received with great enthusiasm by the audience!

I finished the day off with a carousel ride.  Built in 1921, the award winning Glen Echo Carousel is a work of art.  The galloping horses and jungle animals, the beautifully painted pastoral scenes and the Wurlitzer organ were a perfect backdrop to mull over the storytelling excitement of the previous few days.

The horse looked a little wild eyed by the time I disembarked - but I was ecstatic!


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!



Blue Sky Puppet Theatre

Last week I stepped into a living fairytale.

Or that’s what it felt like when I went to a house in University Park, Maryland that resembled an illustration for a children’s story.

In my mind this is how the tale started.

"Once upon a time there was a cottage on the edge of a big city that was made out of decorated gingerbread.  It belonged to a puppet maker and his wife.  Ten years before, the puppet maker discovered he was a wonderful painter and his vibrant artwork was now displayed throughout the house. 

People were amazed when they saw the paintings because they were so beautiful!

The puppet maker had a mobile puppet theater and he went round to schools and libraries, churches and country clubs putting on shows.  His theater became so successful that he hired other people and formed teams so that he could reach more children.  He loved his job because he really enjoyed making children happy. 

In his spare time the puppet maker created a giant xylophone made out of recycled materials that sat in his garden so that the neighborhood kids could come and make music. He and his wife loved to hear the children laughing and creating new songs right outside their kitchen window…."

 Do you see what I mean?  It sounds like the beginning of fairytale – but it happens to be true.

I met Michael Cotter, puppet maker and owner of Blue Sky Puppet Theater and his wife Judith at SpeakeasyDC, the storytelling club that I love in Washington DC. 

He very kindly offered to pass on his knowledge of the business side of an arts venture both to me and to author and fellow storyteller Julie Kraut , who is also a SpeakeasyDC regular.

I had seen one of Michael’s productions on a hot July day under a tent at the back of Strathmore Mansion.  It was the “Barker of Seville”, and I had been entranced by the creativity of the show and the enchantment on the face of the children in the audience. 

So I was delighted to take up his offer of an intense learning experience at his University Park home. Over the almost three hour seminar Michael poured out the lessons and secrets he had gleaned from twenty five years of running his puppet business that has been successful enough to provide a comfortable living for his family and to put three children through college.

In a nutshell the information mirrored the story of the rich Greek farmer who on his death bed passed on the secret of his great success to his sons.  “Every day you must walk over the land because the owner’s eyes must see everything.” 

For a puppet master, and a storyteller, that translates to - balance the creative side with the business side.  If one is to thrive they both must thrive.

By the end of the session I was enormously impressed with the professionalism, precision and creativity that Michael uses in running his puppet empire.  All the shows are primarily excellent entertainment as well as being a first class educational tool. 

And  they are fun!

The company travels regularly to a two hour circumference around University Park (which is near Washington DC) and goes further on request.  So if you need a fabulous puppet show, contact Blue Sky Puppet Theater.

 I left with facts, figures and strategies swirling around my head and encouragement warming my heart. 

What a gift!

Thank you Michael for so generously passing on your knowledge!

I was proud of myself when leaving the house for two reasons.

  • I successfully resisted the urge to bang on the outdoor xylophone.
  • I didn’t break off a gingerbread shingle and nibble on it all the way back to Frederick.

 I’m saving both those pleasures for my next visit!






Awash With Words

The last ten days – all oppressively hot - swirled past me crackling with creativity.

A SpeakeasyDC open mike; as many Capital Fringe shows as I could stuff into my schedule; rehearsing my upcoming show “Destination? Slammer!” and discussing plans for another show, a possible collaboration with Storyteller Ellouise Schoettler, have kept me deliciously immersed in the creative process.

Followers of this blog will know that I am a sold out fan of the Washington DC biographical storytelling organization, SpeakeasyDC – so it was a joy to be part of the lineup for their monthly gathering on July 13th

The theme was “Lonely Planet: Stories About Road Trips, Travel And Being Away From Home” and the tales were gripping – each one a gem. 

Top notch storytellers told tales that ranged from reaching international accord on the ice flows of the Artic, discovering a true calling while at a Grateful Dead concert and a malaria-induced change of philosophy. 

I shared about going away from home at eleven to attend a convent boarding school, longing to have a midnight feast and the subsequent ensuing adventures.

The audience loved it and I had such fun in the telling! 

Part of SpeakeasyDC’s success is having Education Director, Stephanie Garibaldi, give each participant a compulsory one hour telephone coaching session before taking the stage. As always the finished result was an excellent evening.

The Capital Fringe ends on July 25th and I managed to see six shows (next year I’ll plan to attend many more.)  One of those I saw twice and three were packed into the same day! 

Besides Ellouise Schoettler’s “Pushing Boundaries” I particularly enjoyed Slash Coleman’s thoughtful one man show ‘Chaidentity” where Slash, a Holocaust survivor’s son, learns to embrace his religious and creative heritage.  (His maternal grandfather, originally a performer at the Moulin Rouge in Paris, became a Resistance fighter after Hitler banned Jews from participating in any creative activity.)

On the opposite end of the seriousness scale was the sold out show “Logic, Luck or Love,” where two men and two women explore the thrills and heartbreak they encounter along the road to find true love.  It received a standing ovation on its opening night and garnered a fabulous review – all well deserved.

So now I am awash with glorious words! 

And I’m loving every syllable!