Message from the SAM board president - September 2017

Hello SAM Members and Stakeholders,

I hope you had a terrific summer and took the time to take in some of the excellent storytelling during the Fringe or at other venues. We finished up our Listening sessions in June and they generated a lot of great ideas. The top ideas include hosting social events which allow the membership opportunities to meet and get to know each other. Another suggestion that surfaced again and again was to beef up our website by adding more content, and by making it more user friendly for both SAM members and the public.

As we head into the Fall, the board will be focusing on making your top priorities in the listening sessions a reality for SAM, but we are a membership run organization, and really need your help.  

How Can You Help?

1. Member Bios on the website: Regarding the website, we're already working on  expanding the directory of storytellers (the "Hire a Storyteller" page) and making the calendar a comprehensive guide to upcoming storytelling programs, classes, workshops, and more. Please submit content for profiles and/or calendar entries directly to Sue Searing ( or Taylor Dobson ( or use the form on the website (

2. A new Website and Social Media Committee is being formed to run down the list of recommendations from the membership and implement them. If you have some skills with social media or websites we can use you. The commitment can vary depending upon your interests and availability.  

3. Social Events Committee

Do you enjoy organizing social events? Have a great place for people to gather? We would like to hold 4 social events for SAM members to meet and greet and draw support from one another.  

If you are interested in helping with either of these two committees, please contact Pam Schweitzer at 

The board has set a goal of having 50% of non board members help make SAM run and operate.  Many of the ideas that came out of the listening sessions were outstanding and with your energy and skills we will be able to make many of them happen.  

Yours in Story,

Pam Schweitzer
SAM President

Story Arts Remembers Michael Cotter


Michael Cotter died on July 31 at his home in Austin, Minnesota. He was 86.  Michael was a third-generation Minnesotan farmer who wrote and told stories from his own life, and who helped others discover the healing power of storytelling.

Story Arts board member Loren Niemi shared these thoughts on Michael's passing :

Today is Michael Cotter's funeral. I've known him the entire length of his performing career from his first story in a Goia Tinmpanelli workshop at the 1979 Mythos conference to his first time going to the Mineral Point Festival before it was the Northlands Conference. I drove with him for his first time at the Jonesborough Festival and heard him the first time he told at that festival soon after. 

There is a story about the second time I drove to Jonesborough with Michael with Carol McCormick and Maren Hinderlie, as well. It was the year of the "Bessie Hyde" story - a story in which a new bride has a bad feeling about a journey and a husband who will not listen resulting in their death. I don't remember who told it. What I do remember is that on the way back from the Festival we got into a conversation about the story and its "feminist" interpretations. Maren was at the wheel. Michael was sitting in the back seat, his eyes getting steadily bigger as a silent Maren drove faster - 70, 75, 80 miles an hour - as each comment was made, until finally Michael said as politely as a panicked man could, "Maren, say something or stop the car..."

At every turn his style remained an easy almost offhanded telling of stories where the introduction was often longer than the story but always lead directly to the tale. The content was his life and farming as it was and as it changed over the years. The story of the Killdeer, the trading of horses, or the wanting to be a hero with a front end loader.

He did Two Chairs Telling four times (twice at the jungle Theater, once at Open Eye, once at Bryant Lake Bowl) including a pairing with Colleen Kruse when she made her first appearance. I remeber that he was so in awe of her, so flirtatious and yet so protective all at the same time. Always charming, always willing to laugh at himself, he enjoyed telling and the audience he was telling to.

The last time he did Two Chairs Telling we were talking before the show and he offhandedly began a anecdote about a mistake he made harvesting corn while driving in a computer controlled cab. Ed Jones, who would be in the other chair said, you should tell that when we're on stage. And sure enough, Michael did tell the story again, polishing and tweaking it as he went to make it both funnier and more human in the telling.

His passing at 86 is a real loss. In an era of genuflection at the altar of the Slam, we don't make storytellers like Michael Cotter anymore.

Michael's storytelling accomplishments are highlighted in his obituary in the Austin Daily Herald:

In the 1850s, his pipe-smoking great-grandmother brought her family to America from Ireland’s potato famine and, in 1875, his grandfather broke the Southern Minnesota prairie sod with a team of oxen.  Michael began sharing this legacy when, at 50 years of age, he was introduced to storytelling. His stories of the farm, his strict Irish Catholic upbringing, the hoboes who worked there during the Depression, the animals and their personalities, his Irish sense of humor, and his love and respect for the natural world carried him across the U.S. to festivals, schools, conventions, reunions, workshops, the Smithsonian Folk Festival, and the Jonesborough, Tennessee International Storytelling Festival.  For 22 years he served as artistic director of the Minnesota Storytelling Festival held annually in Austin; for 13 years he hosted “Remember When” on KAUS Austin radio, and for three years the Michael Cotter Show on WHO Des Moines. He is the recipient of the Circle of Excellence Storyteller award presented by the National Storytelling Network. His legacy and stories will continue on through his voice and words on cassette tapes and CDs and in his books.

The complete obituary is available at  Story Arts of Minnesota joins in celebrating Michael's contributions to the art of storytelling, as we mourn his passing.

Tellers Needed for P.J. Stories

P.J. Stories is a monthly, family friendly venue. Our goal is to promote storytelling for young audiences and to grow young storytelling audiences. Each month (the fourth Monday, 6:30-7:30pm) we feature a storyteller.

If you would like to tell stories at P.J. Stories, please contact Pam Schweitzer at

This is not a paid venue, but it is a great place to practice program material and get your name out there. Several tellers have been hired for other programs after performing at P.J. Stories.

Here's how we describe P.J. Stories on the SAM event calendar:

Appropriate for:  All stories are family friendly and aimed at a school-aged audience.

Tickets:  FREE.  Suggested $5 tip per family.

Location: Underground Music Café, 1579 Hamline Ave., St. Paul, MN 55108

What is P.J. Stories? Some people may confuse P.J. Stories with a peanut butter sandwich because even between stories we squish a lot of fun. Each month we invite a local storyteller to tell some of their favorite stories. We have been fortunate to hear stories from all over the world by storytellers with very different backgrounds and styles. Some tellers use props or even puppets. We even had Santa stop by a few times to tell us about his adventures at the North Pole. Storytellers change, stories change, and styles vary, but one thing always stays the same: P.J. Stories is always fun!

Invitation to SAM listening sessions - June 6 and 17

SAM is holding two listening sessions – please join us!

Tuesday, June 3, 2017
Quixotic Coffee
769 Cleveland Ave S, St. Paul, MN

Saturday, June 17, 2017
Common Roots Café
2558 Lyndale Ave S., Minneapolis, MN

SAM is an organization which is membership and volunteer driven.  We need to hear from everyone who is passionate about storytelling, so that we can better meet your needs as tellers and listeners of stories.  Please take the time to add your wisdom and energy! 

SAM at the Festival of Nations

Story Arts MN organized an entertaining program of multicultural storytelling over the four days of the 2017 Festival of Nations


African storyteller Danielle Daniel and musician Tony Paul

David Zander, Banlang Phommasouvant (Lao tales) and organizer/emcee Carol McCormick

Phuoc Tran, Vietnamese storyteller. Her book, Vietnamese Children's Favorite Stories,
won an Anne Izard Storytellers' Choice Award for 2015-2016.

Ghost Story Concert.  Sue Searing, Danielle Daniel, Richard Rousseau,
and organizer/emcee Carol McCormick.

African storyteller Danielle Daniel

Carol McCormick, organizer and emcee of the Storytellers Stage,
with Vietnamese storyteller Phuoc Tran

SAM display table

Storytellers at Festival of Nations 2017

May 4-7

Storytelling on Cultural Exhibits Area Stage

May 4

10:00-10:30 AM
Beverly Cottman
as Auntie Beverly delivers wisdom of the ages by telling stories, folktales, and fables rooted in African and African-American traditions. Her storytelling sessions pass on values, celebrate culture, and invite the listener to join in the telling.

11:00-11:30 AM
The Wonderweavers: Tina Rohde & Colleen Shaskin
 present stories from their French, Norwegian, Swedish and Scottish heritage. 

Their distant relatives told these stories.

1:30-2:00 PM
Phouc Thi Minh Tran, librarian, storyteller and award winning author brings alive her favorite stories and legends from Vietnam. In 2015 her Vietnamese Children’s Favorite Folktales won the Creative Child Magazine Book of the Year Award and the Moonbeam Children’s Gold Medal Book Award. 

May 5

10:00-10:30 AM
Nothando Zulu
shares stories of wit and wisdom that bring to life colorful folktale characters from the African Diaspora. Nothando has been sharing stories professionally since 1976.

11:00-11:30 AM
Larry Johnson tells tales from Scandinavia, Germany, and the North Sea that separates them. Because the Nobel Peace Prize comes from Scandinavia, and since his people all come from the imaginative "make do on nothing" land of Smaland, Sweden, Larry also plays “Music for Weapons and Wasted Reduction” on items rescued from the landfills of the world.

1:30-2:00 PM
Nancy Donoval
 tells some of her favorite stories for older students and adults. Tales may come from the British Isles, Germany or Slovakia/Bohemia.

8:00-9:00 PM
Adult Storytelling Concert

Carol McCormick shares Irish, German and Czech tales to tickle your funny bone and warm your heart.

Nancy Donoval weaves a Celtic folk tale with a late night rerun of the Oprah show, and discovers new relevance in an ancient story.

David Zander will tell Swedish and Irish tales of the white horse including “Finn McCool in Search of His Youth.”

May 6

10:30-11:00 AM
Young Children & Family Concert

Carol McCormick shares Irish tales of enchantment and sings in the “Key of Free.”

Brother Timothy (Tim Frantzich) plays music and shares a story from Norse Mythology. These are wild tales full of red beards, arrows, golden apples, evil, mischief, protection and wooden ships.

Kevin Strauss an Award-Winning Author and Storyteller, tells “Saving the Moon and Other Silly Stories of Germany and Russia.” 

11:00 to Noon
Storytelling Workshop “A Crash Course in Storytelling” is a hands-on workshop for Adults and Children Grade 4 and older led by author and storyteller Kevin Strauss. It will help you discover easy ways to find, craft, and tell short folktales.

1:00-1:30 PM
Pam Schweitzer
shares traditional tales from her German heritage. Pam is a teacher who loves getting a daily dose of energy from her students. 

3:00 to 3:30 PM

Kevin Strauss an award-winning Author and Storyteller shares stories that make you smile, make you think. You can watch him tell stories at and visit his website at

Sue Searing shares a classic tale or two form Germany or England, almost certainly including “The Bremen Town Musicians.”

8:30-9:30 PM 
Ghost Story Concert

Danielle Daniel Whether you believe in ghosts or not you will love these haunting, spooky tales. Some are true creepy stories inspired by real life events. Others are pure fiction designed to send a shiver down your spine.   

Sue Searing tells the spooky-funny British story “The Ghost of Gruesome Gables” and a scary tale form the Brothers Grimm.

Richard Rousseau shares a ghost story told through the voice of the captain of the Titanic.

May 7

Noon-12:30 PM
Mrs. Banlang Phommasouvang
, a Lao instructor in the Minneapolis public schools for 29 years, shares Lao tales. Since she was a teenager in Laos she has told stories which she learned from her parents and other Lao elders.


1:00-1:30 PM
Danielle Daniel
tells some of her favorite African stories and folktales while moving to the beat of the African drum. You will laugh, sing along and leave inspired. 

5:00-5:30 PM
Margaret Meyers tells stories drawn from Norwegian folk tales and Norse mythology, honoring her Grandpa Gus, who was a Norwegian immigrant.

RISK! Live Show: Call for Submissions, Minneapolis

RISK! Is a live show and podcast “where people tell true stories they never thought they’d dare to share in public” hosted by Kevin Allison, of the legendary TV sketch comedy troupe The State. RISK! has featured people like Janeane Garofalo, Lisa Lampanelli, Kevin Nealon, Margaret Cho, Marc Maron, Sarah Silverman, and regular folks from around the world, dropping the act and showing a side of themselves we’ve never seen before. The RISK! podcast gets over 1.5 million downloads each month. called it “jaw-dropping, hysterically funny, and just plain touching.”

RISK! is not like other storytelling shows. It’s “where people tell true stories they never thought they’d dare to share in public.” We encourage our storytellers to step out on a limb, be brutally candid and emotionally raw. This is an uncensored show where taboos are tackled and people talk about things they ordinarily might not share in mixed company, but might save for their therapist.

To hear some of our stories, go to

The Minneapolis live show of RISK! will be held at 7:30pm on April 29th at Brave New Workshop. Deadline for submissions is April 1st. The theme for this show is 'knockout' but stories are not required to fit under this theme. It is just meant to serve as a jumping off point to help you brainstorm. For more information about what we look for in story pitches and how to submit, go to

Send pitches to