Sunday, May 29, 2011

Queen of Stories

Now I know I'm on me holliers and promised faithfully not to text, email or Facebook for the week. But I didn't rule out blogging. Did I? Did I?

Well, to hell with that - blogging is how I work things out. How I pull sense from the babble of noise that is modern life. Plus it's Writers Week in the lovel Listowel so I need to be practising like, practising all things writerly - reading, writing and possibly drinking the odd sip of nectar. I'm heading there with all my boys on Wednesday. Isn't it great when your family can enjoy some part of that most solitary of pursuits, writing.

Anyway I set out to blog about stories - and their importance in all our lives. People keep saying the novel is dead. The novel will never die, it will exist in some form always. What are movies, TV soaps, songs, plays bu the same thing as the novel - stories I'll do a couple of blogs when I'm down in the Kingdom of Kerry but my internet connection isn't a given where I'm staying so ye may have to wait to hear all about this year's festival of writing, reading, music, poetry, drama and whatever other cerebral pursuit you can think of. We won't mention the prodigious amounts of alcohol consumed. Alcohol may stifle creativity (actually, it does) but it can be a lovely lubricant so you can steel up your nerves and approach that writer/poet to tell them how much they mean to you. I think all of us have one book or poem or song that 'gets' us. We all read or hear something somebody wrote, one other person, who totally totally understands what it is to be our very own self and that person wrote it down - our stories our lives - so therefore we love that writer who empathised so thoroughly with us. Actually, as Listowel is a tiny town and the great and good mix with us 'pretend' writers lubrication is quite probably needed by self same authors to put up with the fawning of their 'No. 1 fans'!!

Back to the substance of this post. I am developing a 'character', a person who tells stories, either reads them or makes them up as she goes along. I started batting this idea about with the Senior Librarian in Fingal County Council and I eventually suggested a Queen, a Story Queen who will arrive at children's local library and read them a story - discuss stories with them and generally just have fun. I have the costume - its gorgeous, ridiculous but gorgeous, I have my crown, my story bag and my cloak and all I needed were children to practise on. So off I set to Skerries in North County Dublin where there was a street festival to celebrate the ending of the RAS - don't ask me, it's a bike race thingy. The lovely Mary of Magic Carpet Theatre Company was face painting and I sat along with her in all my regalia and read stories to some beautiful children. The location wasn't ideal but the kids LOVED the Queen of Stories. I asked them would they come to their local library to hear me reading and I got a huge affirmative YES. We decided a PJ evening might be nice as opposed to the original idea of a Saturday morning. So I already have groupies in Skerries who will all come to see me when I visit.

But lads. I has such fun! Whatever fun those children had (real smallies, the under sevens) I had it in hundreds. And on the way home I thought about it. There I was - an overweight plain middle aged suburban woman in a ridiculous costume and a plastic crown - glorying in it!! No, actually that's the wrong word. I was absorbed. Totally, utterly absorbed in the task in hand, the fact that I was the Queen of Stories, the fact that I had absolutely THE best stories to tell and above all the fact that those kids were as absorbed as I was. That's what made it. That absorption, a connection. I wondered on the way home why doing something like reading stories to children made me so happy. Most people would die rather than be seen in public in such a get-up, let alone reading aloud. A lot of people can only bear their own children, a lot of people even find their own children too much.

I think what it is is when I read - particularly the classic fairy tales, Hans Christian Andersen and the Grimm brothers - I conjure up my beloved long gone mother. I conjure that complete and utter security. That feeling of loving and being loved. That knowing that no matter what my parents loved me and would always love me. Mam read to us every night when we were small, it was a very important part of our day - the full stop if you like- and it was the nicest part of every day too, she 'did' the voices, she cried, she laughed. She lived those stories and with her we lived them too. I can still hear her gulping to hold back the tears as the little Match Girl slowly fades away.

And now I feel really privileged that - at a stage in my life when my own kids don't even want to be related to me, let alone have me read to them - and at a stage when grandchildren are a dim and hopefully not too distant nebulous idea, I have been handed this gift. A gift that, once a week, perhaps more, I can dress up as the Queen of Stories and share my love of the written word with the wee ones, the ones who will quite probably end up being my carers in my dotage.

So if you hear of the Queen of Stories visiting your local library over the next year or so borrow an under seven and come along. Who knows, it might remind you of those utterly secure, utterly content childhood days - and even in the worst of childhoods there were these days, days of hope and happiness. Even if it doesn't it will be creating a memory for the child you bring along! And best of all, it's a free memory! Always the best ones.


  1. All hail the Queen! ;) Good luck with it all.

    I had rather too much alcohol when I approached Colum McCann to tell him I was a fan. The less said the better...

  2. great Ev, glad you enjoying the festival.