Fireside Storytelling

“Narrative is the binding thread of human experience, and stories are a medium that we use to know one another and ourselves.” –Leanne Prain, Strange Material: Storytelling Through Textiles

Storytelling is everywhere! We constantly speak in stories—from telling a potential employer about why we’re perfect for the job to a photo snapshot of a loved-one’s milestone. We talk about ourselves, about others, and about our experiences.

And we have stories we tell ourselves, quietly, about the way we look at the world and how the world looks at us.

Yet while this skill is often considered essential for those writing a book, or for actors on a stage, do we consider how to develop our own skill in telling our own stories? Everyone is captivated by a good story and a good story can come from anywhere. Everyone has at least one story to tell.

Storytelling comes in a variety of forms, so let’s take a look at some different ways to express the stories we live. Do you have ideas about what stories you can tell? Are you a visual or a verbal storyteller? No matter how you express them, the stories you have can only be told by you!

By Margot Leitman

Long Story Short was my initial plunge into the art of storytelling, a book picked out due to boredom several years ago that turned out to have far more impact than I could imagine. Margot Leitman is a long-time storytelling teacher and award-winning storyteller champion (yes, that’s a thing) who paces the reader through examples and exercises with humor and spunk. Consider this a fantastic catch-all primer for the practical application of storytelling to your everyday life. 


By Felix Scheinberger

Perhaps watercolor is not the first thing to come to mind when thinking about storytelling, but Felix Scheinberger does a fantastic job with teaching technique with a purpose. Storytelling with watercolor, he argues, requires balance. “The secret to using watercolor to create pictures lies in striking a balance between control and letting go. Pictures are often only ‘really good’ when they surprise us.” 


By Phillip Pullman
Edited by Simon Mason

Daemon Voices is a collection of 32 essays written by Philip Pullman over a variety of subjects, spanning a 17-year time period, and representing several perspectives and contexts considered by the acclaimed author. With a unique “topic finder” guide at the front of the book, the reader can turn directly to whatever interests them or read the whole collection front to back. And the one theme tying everything together? Storytelling. Daemon Voices is a fantastic glimpse at how any experience can become a story worth telling. 


By Leanne Prain

Author and artist Leanne Prain provides a compelling and thought-provoking argument for ways to weave (heh) life experiences into the physical and often underappreciated medium of textiles. Personal anecdotes and interviews with textile artists are punctuated with project ideas you can do at home. Strange Material looks at everything from story quilts to comedic embroidery and how to turn your own crafts into tangible stories.



With the library closed and more of us using electronic resources for reading, here’s some tips for limiting searches on Libby. These filters are especially helpful if you are browsing a subject or one of the many lists that Utah’s Online Library has available. The photos are from an Android device, but these options should be the same on an iOS device as well. 

Today I want to show you three of Libby’s search filter options.  Preferences, Refine, and more.

Libby Screenshot 1


Anything changed under Preferences will save and apply to all future searches as well, until changed again.  This is great if you only want Audiobooks, for example.

Libby Screenshot 2a


Something to keep in mind with Preferences however is that changes made here will apply to all future searches. So, if you change Availability to Available Now and get reading a series, if any of the books in that series has a waitlist then you won’t find that book in any of your searches until you change Availability back to Everything. I may or may not be speaking with the voice of experience there.

Filters added under Refine will only apply to the current search. This is great for narrowing down your search results, especially when those results include thousands of books, all without changing what shows in future searches.

Libby Screenshot 3


The Search Within Results is an especially great feature because you can do a search within a search! If you have already put a few filters on your search but still not finding what you want, you can add another search term here without losing your previous filters. 

Above Preferences and Refine, each search will have a list of genres that appear in the search result. It will list a handful, ending with “and more.” Selecting “and more” shows all of the genres that appear in the search results. This is great if you want a book that falls under two or more genres, such as Mystery and Historical Fiction.

Libby Screenshot 4


It also tells you how many books fall under both categories, listed from most to least. In this example of looking at Mystery as the main genre, you can see there are 1,458 books that are also tagged Historical Fiction. Further down the list than what is shown here, you’d see Western with 38 books that fall under both Mystery and Western. 

Browsing Libby is different than browsing a physical collection of books, but by using the above search filters makes browsing for a good read easier and quicker than trying to browse through all of Libby. Play around with it and see what you can find!



‘Tis the season for truly bewitching stories. Here are our picks for new graphic novels filled with witches, magic, curses, and more! 

10.12 The WitchesTHE WITCHES
By Roald Dahl
Illustrated by Penelope Bagieu

Real witches are all around us. You might never know it, though, because they’re in disguise. They wear gloves to hide their crooked fingers, wigs to cover their scaly bald heads, and perfume to cover the stench of the thing they hate most – children! In this full-color graphic novel adaptation of Roald Dahl’s darkly humorous classic, an eight-year-old boy travels to a seaside resort with this grandmama where he encounters all of the witches in England and goes head-to-head with the Grand High Witch. Eisner-winning artist Penelope Bagieu brings a quirky sense of child-like fun to a classic spooky story. 


10.12 Witches of BrooklynWITCHES OF BROOKLYN
By Sophie Escabasse

In the middle of the night, Effie, who has just lost her mother, is brought to live with her elderly aunts she’s never met. Her aunts, named Carlota and Selimene, run a holistic healing practice from their Brooklyn home, specializing in acupuncture, healing herbs, and more. Not long after Effie arrives, the aunts get another surprise visitor – Tilly Shoo, the biggest pop-star on the planet, who has been cursed with a bright-red face and needs their help. Luckily, Carlota and Selimene are more than just healers – they are witches, and it apparently runs in the family. A heartfelt series opener and a celebration of good witches everywhere. 


10.012 Beetle and the HollowbonesBEETLE & THE HOLLOWBONES
By Aliza Layne

Beetle is a 12-year-old goblin who has grown pretty tired of staying at home learning goblin magic with her grandma, the town witch. She longs to go to school to learn sorcery – like her old friend Kat Hollowbone, who has just returned from a prestigious boarding school. Beetle and Kat struggle to pick up where they left off, as new feelings seem to change the relationship between the two girls. This is only made more complicated by Kat’s aunt, Marla, an ambitious and powerful sorceress who longs to return their town to the way it was generations before – with a Hollowbone as town witch and the Hollowbone home on the site of the town mall. The mall to which Beetle’s best friend Blob Ghost is tied. For older middle grade readers, this is a colorful and unexpected coming of age story featuring a diversely witchy world. 


10.12 The Okay WitchTHE OKAY WITCH
By Emma Steinkellner

Moth is… a little obsessed with witches. So imagine her excitement when she discovers that witches are real, and she is one! In fact, Moth is descended from a long line of witches in her hometown of Founders Bluff, Mass. Her mother, a witch who gave up her own powers during the witch hunts in 1692, warns Moth never to use her powers. In an act of rebellion, Moth decides to teach herself magic by stealing her mom’s diary which inadvertently transports her to the magical realm of Hecate where their family’s coven escaped. Touching on serious topics like racism and misogyny, this middle grade graphic novel is as sophisticated as it is fun. Moth is a relatable and winning narrator and her familiar (a talking cat) adds comic relief throughout. 


10.12 Grimoire NoirGRIMOIRE NOIR
By Vera Greentea
Illustrated by Yana Bogatch

Blackwell was supposed to be a safe haven for witches. In Blackwell, women hold magical powers and their powers are protected by law, as long as they never leave Blackwell. Things seem idyllic. Then, fifteen-year-old Bucky Orson’s little sister Heidi goes missing. His dad, the town sheriff, can’t work around town politics to investigate the case and his mother becomes so bereaved that torrential downpours start to flood Blackwell – a side effect of powers. With the help of his estranged friend Chamomille, Bucky takes the investigation into his own hands and uncovers centuries of hidden secrets in the meantime. This is a spooky and atmospheric witch-read, well suited for fall. As the title suggests, the story takes on a Noir quality with artwork to match – mostly black and white with dabs of colors. Appropriate for middle school readers and older.



I’m not awesome at keeping a journal.  I kept a private blog when I was younger, but now I don’t worry about journaling so much.  There’s always something else I could be doing.  It was therefore very out of the ordinary for me the other day when I suddenly thought to myself, “I should write in my journal.”  It turned out I had a lot that I needed to say.

As I’ve thought about this, and as I’ve read some really interesting articles about this topic (like this one), I’ve realized how important it is for all of us to record what we’re going through right now.  It will help us process our emotions and make sense of the world around us.  And since this time is literally different from all other times that have come before, you never know how what you write down will help future generations.

If you’re reading this and thinking to yourself, “I have nothing to say,” or even, “Are you kidding me?  My life is crazy right now!  How am I supposed to add another thing to my To Do list?” Here are some suggestions of ways to ease into the process.

Focus on the Moment

One thing that keeps me from journaling is the thought that I have to summarize everything that’s happened since the last time I attempted to journal.  Don’t do that.  Instead, focus on just writing down what you’re thinking of in the moment.  Still don’t know what to say?  Try answering one of these questions, or check out a longer list here (

  1. What did you do today (or this week)? How was that different from what you would do on a “normal” day/week?
  2. What changes have you personally experienced (physically, mentally and/or emotionally) since this crisis began?
  3. What has been the most difficult thing for you personally about this crisis? Do you think there’s anything positive that may come from what’s happening?

Try a Different Journaling Method

Journals come in all shapes and forms.  If the task of writing out a traditional journal entry seems daunting, try a different format.  Some examples:

  1. Write down a quick thought somewhere that’s convenient for you. This could be in a notebook, on a computer, or even in the Notes app on your phone.
  2. Explore Bullet Journaling.
  3. Keep lists—this could be a list of what you’re grateful for, what songs you’re currently listening to, the top three things that happened today: anything.
  4. Make an audio or video recording, or post something on social media.
  5. Take pictures.
  6. Work on an art or craft project that expresses what you’re going through.
  7. The Provo Library has a Let’s Learn Guide that covers different ways to keep a journal.

One thing that helped inspire writing this blog post was finding out about the University of Utah’s COVID-19 Digital Project.  You can submit your photographs and experiences to this project.

While we don’t want to take away from the above project, the Provo Library would like to do something similar.  We want to record Provo’s experience of the COVID-19 pandemic.  If you are interested in submitting journal entries, photographs, or artwork that represent this time, please let us know! While it’s probably best that you keep your journals private, a summarized snapshot of your time in quarantine could be good for future generations to see.  When you look back on this year, what will you remember?

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