A Few Good Women

Elizabeth Ellis is an internationally celebrated award-winning storyteller, and the co-author of Inviting the Wolf In: Thinking About Difficult Stories.

Sometimes difficult stories are among those we most need to hear, yet are the least likely to be shared.  Mary Dessein and Gloria Two Feathers arranged for Elizabeth to come to Seattle to act as midwife, and help all our stories see the light of day.

Ten women, from beginning storytellers to polished professionals, gathered from near and far to work with Elizabeth.

I hosted because I knew it would be worthwhile, but the benefits extended beyond the crafting of stories.

 In between storytelling sessions, we broke bread together, with every meal a potluck.

I host lots of parties, but it was a revelation to watch the clearing, dishwashing, storage of leftovers happen as if the invisible hands from Beauty and The Beast’s castle had taken charge. It felt like magic in the air, for so many people to work in my small kitchen and get so much done so quickly, without bumping into each other.

Who needs magic when you have few good women?

When we resumed our storytelling, the dishwasher was always humming and the kitchen was clean.

Katherine learned it was Joy’s birthday: after tucking her baby in that night, she baked the best chocolate cake EVER. What a treat. She also took notes from the workshop and emailed them to us with her cake recipe!  What a kindness.

Trust and nurturing abounded, kindness and creativity flowed.  Sue told her story for the first time, about shooting a bear to feed her children.  Linda told a powerful story inspired by her work with Hospice, Gloria shared Coyote Wisdom, Mary a traditional tale about the balance of power between men and women, and Jennifer breathed life into an excerpt from The Odyssey.  Shirley told a satisfying story about her mother, Jill a work in progress about Eleanor of Aquitaine, and Joy a heartwarming story about a boy who finds friendship on the other end of a telephone line. Katherine told and sang beautifully about growing up with a vivid imagination, and I told about the death of an uncle in WWII, and the long reaching consequences of war.

What a range of stories, what talented tellers, what golden moments.  After each story was told, people shared their thoughts, reactions, suggestions.

We shall continue to help each other grow as storytellers.  Our first reunion is on the calendar–a PJ party and, of course, it’s BYOT (Bring your own tale).

A house concert by Elizabeth was the perfect conclusion to the weekend.

Elizabeth was riveting.

All good things must end.

But we hope to shelter once again beneath the Elizabeth Ellis Umbrella of All Good Things.

Thank you, Elizabeth!

And thank you, Mary, Gloria, Linda, Sue, Katherine, Shirley, Jennifer, Jill and Joy!

  All words and images c2015NaomiBaltuck

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Muse.



  1. Aren’t you clever? Love this idea. Wish I were there. More of the same in the future, right. ❤ ❤ ❤

    1. Hi Tess, It was a great idea, but Mary and Gloria were the one who thunkit. I was just happy to clean the bathroom and throw some clean sheets on the bed for Elizabeth. But it went so well that I’m trying to put one together for next October. Thanks for the visit!

      1. This new idea is going to go viral… you know that, right? 😀

      2. Hi Tess,
        It’s the equivalent of a writers group for storytellers, but there is such overlap between the two arts–both are forms of storytelling. You are certainly a fine storyteller–wish you lived closer! I’m already working to arrange the next workshop/house concert.

  2. Carol says:

    I would love to have been a mouse in the corner.

    1. Oh, Carol, I wish you could be here too, but if you were, you would have a front row seat!

      1. Carol says:

        A www, thank you, Naomi.

  3. dogear6 says:

    Wow, I can see by everyone’s faces that you had a good time. I’m glad you shared it with the rest of us!


    1. Dear Nancy,
      It was a surprising and fulfilling weekend–and an important reminder myself that I can throw a party even when the kids are gone.

      Thanks for stopping by–it’s always good to hear from you. I hope your summer is going well.


  4. Mary Dessein says:

    Naomi! Lovely, lovely.
    The weekend and our time together is still resonating with me as well. Those powerful, bonding, fulfilling times are priceless. Thank you for everything.

    1. Dear Mary,
      Thank YOU! Without you and Gloria this would never have happened. How fortunate I am to have such a circle of good women!

  5. raptekar says:

    So important. So much joy in sharing. You nurture life itself with your story-telling gatherings.

    1. Thank you, Richard. As a storyteller too, you know how a shared story can give satisfaction and joy to both the listener and the teller. Thanks so much for the visit. It is always good to hear from you.

  6. Oh I can imagine what a wonderful rich time you all had. I liked the part about the kitchen fairies 🙂

    1. Hi Alison, thanks so much for the visit. The kitchen action was fascinating to watch and participate in. I am a little timid in other peoples’ kitchens, but these women were fearless!

  7. Meg says:

    Oh Goodness. I wish I had been there! Your photos are so evocative too! What a wonderful collaboration.

    1. Hi Meg, You would have loved it! But it sounds like you might be able to get something like that going in Brisbane. I think you would be a great facilitator.

  8. Yvonne Young says:

    What a lovely tribute to Elizabeth! It brings back memories of workshops I’ve been in with her at the conference, and the time she did a concert for us in Eugene last spring.
    Yvonne Young

    1. Hi Yvonne,
      I took a workshop by Elizabeth at the National Conference in 2008, but this was the first weekend workshop. She did a really lovely job creating a safety zone and we all stretched ourselves a little bit, because it did feel so safe. Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your story!

  9. Meg says:

    Reblogged this on Story Twigs the Imagination and commented:
    A workshop in Seattle at the weekend. Wouldn’t it be good to have one in Brisbane. Naomi writes a fabulous blog

  10. ShimonZ says:

    sounds like a perfect get together. The best sign is when people work together and don’t bump into each other… but it’s just a sign… What matters is an interchange of thoughts, visions, and stories.

    1. Dear Shimon,
      It was perfect! And perhaps that is why it was a pleasant surprise. And you’re right about the kitchen cleanup–it was so symbolic of the sharing and consideration that carried through from the table conversation to the kitchen cleanup, and right into the workshop interaction. It was incredibly positive, and constructive. I think everyone came out of it with what she needed to tell a fine story even better. Thanks so much for the visit, and for sharing your thoughts–they really helped me clarify what it was about the kitchen cleanup that I found SO amazing!

  11. Lucid Gypsy says:

    Naomi this is wonderful, I wish I could take part in a gathering like this. Storytelling is so important, what a lovely group of women.

    1. Dear Gilly, I wish you lived closer, because I know you would fit right in! One f the greatest gifts of blogging is that we are able to connect with friends all over the world–I so appreciate that, because it allows me to be able to count you among my circle of good women, to share your stories and thoughts and photographs. Sometimes I really do regard this as a miracle.

  12. scillagrace says:

    🙂 What a rewarding time, mutually beneficial. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you, Scilla. It was a privilege to be able to work and play with such a creative group. Can’t wait until next time! I hope you are staying well and keeping cool–here is Seattle we are wilting in an unprecedented heat wave.

      1. scillagrace says:

        …and here, it hasn’t topped 75 degrees for a week! Go figure….Global Weirding.

      2. Global Weirding! Love that expression–a perfect fit

      3. scillagrace says:

        I have to give credit to Dave Foreman for that one. (one of the original Monkey Wrench Gang and founder of the Rewilding Institute)

  13. Sounds like an amazing time, Naomi, and I loved virtually getting even this small glimpse of it.


    1. Thank you, Janet!

  14. Madhu says:

    ‘Bring Your Own Tale’…..what a wonderful idea! And what a lovely time you all seem to have had. Thank you for sharing Naomi.

    1. Thank you so much, Madhu.

  15. diannegray says:

    What a wonderful idea, Naomi. This was a very special day indeed (and what a beautiful home you have!)

    1. Hi Dianne,
      Thanks so much–writers need this kind of support group, since so much of what we do is isolating. Heck, we ALL need this kind of support group, no matter who we are and what we do!

  16. Tom Siewert/深思 says:

    I’ve had the pleasure of hearing Elizabeth a number of times and doing a workshop with her at the national conference. She’s such a wonderful woman and you’re so blessed to have had a great group of people to share together with her. Thanks so much for including us in it!

    1. Dear Tom, she is a great workshop leader, isn’t she? I took her workshop on giving good workshops at the National Conference in 2008, and it was SO good. Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us–it is always good to hear from you.

  17. a wonderful muse indeed!! and all very inspiring!

    1. Thank you, Cybele!

  18. What a wonderful opportunity– and what fun parties too. Inspiring!

  19. Roy McCarthy says:

    What a great idea Naomi! You all went away with stories that you can, if you so wish, re-tell in your own way.

    I forget where I learnt it, but back in the day of the Irish High Kings, the story tellers would get together to do something similar. There were however many well-known stories. They would also re-tell these and, if one story teller had a different version he would agree to fall in line with the others. In this way the stories come down to us in one version.

    1. That’s really interesting, Roy. Many of the stories told at this workshop were personal stories from our own lives, and I don’t think anyone would want to tell someone else’s story. But people share traditional tales. Most of us, unlike the ancient Irish tellers, add their own voice, style, or twist to a tale, so there are many different versions of the traditional folk tales out there traveling the world, still moist with the breath of many tellers.

  20. Ahhhh – what a refreshing visit I had, reading of the time you spent with Elizabeth Ellis.

    1. Dear Cathryn,
      I wish you could have been there! Thanks for checking in, and sharing your thoughts.

    2. Thank you, Cathryn. I wish you could have come!

  21. Laurel Leigh says:

    Hi Naomi. I’ve never been to an organized storytelling group and appreciated this look at one. Do people tend to speak with/without notes, completely rehearsed or unrehearsed, or is there a range of manners in which stories were delivered? Were these all personal stories or was fiction encouraged? It sounds like an amazing experience.

    1. Dear Laurel,
      There were storytellers who told without notes, but there were also people who referred to notes or read their stories, and those who presented works in progress. I had to read mine, because it was so fresh and raw. Eventually I might tell it to an audience. If I do, it will be straight from the heart to an audience, told ‘from my mouth,’ as the kids used to say, although I will also be submitting it to various publications as a written story. So anything goes! We are having a potluck and storytelling gathering here in August, with visiting and storytelling. You would be most welcome to come and check it out. Email me for details.

      1. Laurel Leigh says:

        I would LOVE to come. I will email you to see if the date works. Thanks, Naomi!

  22. pattisj says:

    Beautiful story about stories. Sounds like a memorable time and friendships forged. And help in the kitchen. Perfection!

    1. Dear Patti,
      Thanks so much for the visit. Good company and good help–yep, sounds like a gathering of good women! I hope your summer has gone well. I can’t believe we are looking at autumn already.
      Best wishes,

      1. pattisj says:

        I know what you mean, the year is on fast-forward or something!

  23. A beautiful story and gathering that celebrates life and friendship…truly inspiring. Have a wonderful Summer and all the best to your family.

    1. Thank you so much for the visit, and for your wonderful wishes. It has been a beautiful summer filled with family and fun. I was just at your blog, and I can see your summer is just as I would have envisioned it–except even better. Family, sunshine, water, heaven on earth! You know how to do family right! Best wishes to you and your whole family for the autumn–at least here in Seattle, it’s right around the corner!

  24. Amy says:

    What a lovely time to spend together to enjoy and celebrate. Beautiful story!

    1. Hi Amy,
      Thank you for the visit, and for your very kind response. I hope your summer was a good one!

  25. wonderful i would love to go to one of these!

    1. I think you would fit right in!

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