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Carol Esterreicher believes everything is a story, one way or another.
The Draper storyteller has received the prestigious Oracle Award for Service and Leadership for the western U.S. The award, presented by the National Storytelling Network at its annual conference in San Antonio, Texas, on July 9, recognized Esterreicher's work in promoting storytelling, including on NowPlayingUtah.com, an arts and entertainment website.
"It took me by surprise," said Esterreicher, a retired speech and language pathologist who has been entertaining audiences with her storytelling craft for 20 years. "The number of other people nominated was impressive."
Esterreicher said storytelling goes far beyond just reading story books to children and can involve everything from history to fiction to personal experience.
One story she cites as an example of personal experience is about celebrating Thanksgiving at her grandmother's when she was younger.
"It gives people a chance to reflect on their own histories of shared experience," she said."So much is universal. [Storytelling] is how we passed down our history and culture before we had the written word."
Her latest genre includes urban legends and tales of revenge she has gathered from around the world.
When telling tales, she often sprinkles them with Spoonerisms, named after W.A. Spooner, an Oxford English professor notorious for transposing letters in words. He is best known for beginning a toast to the queen of England once with "Quear deen," said Esterreicher.
She said children are especially fond of Spoonerisms, including her versions of "Rindercella" and "The Three Pittle Ligs."
She encourages people to overcome their stage fright to tell stories, recommending that speakers focus on audience members, who generally are sympathetic.
"It's getting over that 'it's all about me,' " she said.
Esterreicher is also teaching a class in storytelling this summer as part of the University of Utah's Lifelong Learning program, but has only three students. She hopes to grow that number and plans to change the class description.
"I think this year people thought the class was just about stories from picture books," she said.
Esterreicher said she plans to attend the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival in Orem from Sept. 1 to 3, the country's largest after the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tenn.
Estereicher's efforts to spread the art of storytelling earned high praise from the National Storytelling Network in Jonesborough.
"What she has done is exemplary," said the group's spokeswoman, Kate Dudding. She specifically noted Esterreicher's efforts in making storytelling a part of NowPlayingUtah.com.
"She helps storytellers maximize their most positive sensory recall of past experience and apply them to performance opportunities," said Dudding. "She has been instrumental in bringing storytellers together with other prominent art groups."
Karen Acerson, executive director of the Timpanogos festival, also has praise for Esterreicher and other storytellers.
"People love to hear stories that help teach through experience," she said. "There is such a variety of [stories] from folk tales to tall tales to history. It's impossible to sit down with someone and not tell stories."
email@example.com Storytelling in Utah
The Timpanogos Storytelling Festival is scheduled for Sept. 1-3 in Orem. For details visit timpfest.org.
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