New CD Now Available!

I am pleased to announce the release of my latest CD, Idy Mae's Full Moon and Other Stories and Songs.

The CD has stories from my husband's childhood in a West Virginia coal camp along with tall tales and songs. It's guaranteed entertainment for the whole family.

You may buy directly from me, or wait a few days and it will also be available on CDBaby and Amazon. Price is $15.00 (with free shipping if you buy from me!) Just click on this link to my other blog, Granny Sue's News and Reviews, and click on the Buy Now button on the right, or email me at and I can send you particulars.

Another CD of ghost stories is in the works and should be ready for release in about 6 weeks, so stay tuned!

Appalachian Ohio Storytelling Workshop

Mix a quaint little community with a bunch of storytellers and what do you get? A fun, entertaining, and exciting opportunity to learn and meet others with like interests!

Register now for Saturday, April 7, for the Appalachian Ohio Storytelling Project's Storyteller's Workshop. I'll be there presenting a session called Developing Your Story for the Stage. 

If you have wondered what it takes to move confidently in front of an audience with a story you really want to share, this is for you.

If you've been telling a long time and feel the need to recharge, this is for you.

If you make presentations to groups, this is for you.

If you've never told a story, this is for you.

This full day includes a session with storyteller Ken Bowald, certified interpretative guide instructor and storyteller, who was also named as 2012 Ohio Outstanding Educator by the Project Learning Tree (PLT) International Conference. Ken does living history characters, environmental storytelling and will share his knowledge of interpretive storytelling with attendees.

Two meals are included in the registration fee.

Here is the schedule for the day:

08:30 - 09:00 Registration, Coffee and Cinnamon buns
09:00 - 10:15 Interpretive Methodology for the Storyteller
presenter - Ken Bowald
10:15 - 10:30 Break
10:30 - Noon Developing Your Story for Telling, and Taking It To
The Stage
presenter - Granny Sue Holstein
Noon - 01:00 Lunch - provided
01:00 - 02:00 Promoting Your Event - Round Table discussion
led by Thomas Burnett of The Applachian Ohio
Storrytelling Project
02:00 - 02:15 Break
02:15 - 05:00 Rehearsal, Critique and Individual Coaching
Ken and Granny Sue
05:00 Supper - provided
Registration cost - $25
07:00 - 09:00 Open Concert of Tellers - included for workshop
registrants - $5 for public, kids under 12 free

Contact information:
2754 Lottridge Rd, Guysville, OH 45735
Contact us at (740) 331-0432

Registration form:

Hope to see you there!

Celtic Stories: Coming Soon!

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Coming next week! 
Celtic legends and lore. Stories, songs, and folklore with me 

and fellow storyteller Judi Tarowsky. 

 Tales of ghosts,

Magical creatures,

selkies and sea people,

the folklore of stones,

tales of days of old,

 and more!

Many Appalachians trace their heritage back to England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. 

Come listen to the stories and sing along with the ancient ballads that traveled across the sea with our forebears. 

Meet the Mari Lwyd, and go back to the time of selkies, fairies, broonies and more. 

Tuesday, March 20th, 6:30pm Parkersburg Public Library,3100 Emerson Ave, Parkersburg, WV.

The Great Bend of the Ohio River: Fact and Folkloremap from city-data

According to local lore and the State of West Virginia historical marker on Route 2, there is a perfectly good reason for the Great Bend in the Ohio River. It seems that Paul Bunyan, when faced with West Virginia's hilly terrain, decided to just give it a miss and stepped over the whole state. But he misjudged the distance and put his heel down at the western edge of the river, causing the Great Bend to form. And you know it's true because it's carved in cast iron on that historical marker.

Map from

The Great Bend is not far from my home, about 10 miles, I'd guess, as the crow flies, and 16 miles by th shortest driveable route. There used to be a scenic overlook there but the undergrowth now blocks the view. I sure wish an Eagle Scout or civic group would take on the care of the site, because it really is a spectacular view.
George Washington camped just above the Great Bend at the present site of Ravenswood, and also a couple miles below the Bend, according to his journal. His description of this part of the river:
"29th.- The tedious ceremony, which the Indians observe in their counsellings and speeches, detained us till nine o’clock. Opposite to the creek, just below which we encamped, is a pretty long bottom, and I believe tolerably wide; but about eight or nine miles below the aforementioned creek, and just below a pavement of rocks on the west side, comes in a creek, with fallen timber at the mouth, on which the Indians say there are wide bottoms and good land. The river bottoms above, for some distance, are very good, and continue so for near half a mile below the creek. The pavement of rocks is only to be seen at low water. About a mile below the mouth of the creek there is another pavement of rocks on the east side, in a kind of sedgy ground. 
"On this creek are many buffaloes, according to the Indians’ account. Six miles below this comes in a small creek on the west side, at the end of a small, naked island, and just above another pavement of rocks. This creek comes through a bottom of fine land, and opposite to it, on the east side of the river, appears to be a large bottom of very fine land also. At this place begins what they call the Great Bend. 
"Two miles below, on the east side, comes in another creek, just below an island, on the upper point of which are some dead standing trees, and a parcel of white-bodied sycamores; in the mouth of this creek lies a sycamore blown down by the wind. From hence an east line may be run three or four miles; thence a north line till it strikes the river, which I apprehend would include about three or four thousand acres of valuable land. At the mouth of this creek is the warriors’ path to the Cherokee country. For two miles and a half below this the Ohio runs a north-east course, and finishes what they call the Great Bend. Two miles and a half below this we encamped."

So, How Did You Do?

Did you try yesterday's quiz? How well did you do?

Here are the answers, according to the Handy Book:

1. As poor as....a churchmouse
2. As thin as....a rail
3. As brown as....a nut
4. As stiff as...a board
5. As busy as..a bee.
6. As ugly as...sin
7. As red as...a beet
8. As bitter as...gall
9. As flat as...a pancake
10. As neat as...a pin.

There are many other fun word games in this little book, along will all kinds of games. I can imagine a teacher keeping The Handy Book handy on her desk for rainy days or those days when something new is needed to keep children interested.

Winter's Quiet, and a Quiz

Winter is usually a quiet time for me. Storytelling comes to a stop, usually, for several months. I use the time to recharge, to plan programs for the coming year, to write and to read. Especially read. We have the fireplace in our log room burning most events, and it's the perfect place to read.

Recently I re-organized all of my books, an undertaking that took a few days--perfect for winter. My library might not be as large as most, with around 1000 volumes, but almost every one is a research tool for storytelling and writing.

Every now and again I go through the stacks and try to downsize, and indeed I did manage to pull about 40 books this last round, but it doesn't take long for the empty spaces to be re-occupied. I mean, who can resist a Civil War diary by a woman living in their home county, or a collection of Irish or Appalachian ghost stories or out-of-print, rare volumes or poems or I?

In the process of sorting my books, I realized that there are quite a few I have not read, as well as old favorites that need to be re-visited. So I pulled out a reading stack. I plan to continue pulling a new volumes as I finish one in the stack, and work my way through the bookshelves over the next year--or two or three or more, probably.

Currently I'm reading:

The Civil War Diary of Henrietta Fitzhugh Barr or Ravenswood, VA (now WV) (completed)
Winter Morning Walks by Ted Kooser (poetry)
Irish Ghost Stories by Jeremiah Curtin
The Apple That Astonished Paris by Billy Collins (completed)
Volume 24, WV Encyclopedia
Volume 25, WV Encyclopedia (completed)
Windfall by Maggie Anderson (poetry)
Mountain Trace

I'm also listening to music both for its soothing presence and to search for new songs to add to my repertoire, especially for this summer's library programs since the theme this year is music. So John Langstaff's Songs for Singing Children, and the Watersons and Cherish the Ladies are my companions right now.

I suppose if I was really driven (or hungry) I would be working on drumming up more work during these winter months, but the pleasures of home, books, and music while watching the snow fall are all I really want right now. Life will speed up soon enough.

One little volume I found on the shelf is a small ring binder with the title "Handy" and a copyright of 1927. Apparently it was bought as a series of booklets that were hole-punched for the binder and cost 25 cents each. Each booklet focuses on activities on a specific topic: mental games, quiet games, outdoor games, leadership, etc. In mental games I found a game that challenges the players to complete old sayings. Here are a ten from the list; how many can you complete?

1. As poor as....
2. As thin as....
3. As brown as....
4. As stiff as...
5. As busy as...
6. As ugly as...
7. As red as...
8. As bitter as...
9. As flat as...
10. As neat as...

So, how did you do? Answers tomorrow!

Holiday Traditions of Childhood

I was raised in a large family---a lot of love but not much money. Extravagant gifts were not an option. We had to find other ways to make our holidays merry and bright. Now I find that many of the things we did are right in vogue as people look for ways to consume less, enjoy more, and live more gently on this earth.

My mother, a British WW II war bride, brought many holiday traditions to the US with her. She started the day after Thanksgiving--that was Fruitcake Day. When the batter was ready, everyone stirred three times each and made a wish. This was the signal that the holiday season had officially begun.

Saint Nicholas Day was the next holiday event. On December 6th Mom would wrap small gifts for each of us--a pencil, eraser, handkerchief--nothing expensive, but the gift beside our plates at dinner was always exciting. She usually re-used wrapping paper from the year before for these tiny gifts.

The Christmas Parade: We never missed it! The parade, held at night, passed the corner of our street. We'd bundle up and wave to the floats and to Santa at the end, then rush home for hot chocolate. Sometimes we'd go caroling in the neighborhood, stopping in at different houses to visit briefly and enjoy cookies and maybe some hot chocolate.

The Manger: Mom set up her nativity scene at the beginning of Advent, but the manger would remain empty until midnight on Christmas Eve. The Wise Men were also not present---they began their journey on the other side of the living room, moving a little each day until they finally arrived on January 5th, Epiphany.

The empty cradle was a challenge. In order for the baby Jesus to have a soft bed, we had to do good deeds, each one rewarded with a straw for the cradle. Some years I'm afraid His bed was a little hard! We stayed mindful of that cradle all month, and tried to do things that would earn a straw to add to the pile.

The Christmas Elf: this little fellow also moved about the house, watching children and reporting on behavior to Santa. We didn't want to be caught being naughty if the Elf was watching.

Cleaning: "You can't decorate dirt," Mom would say. So we'd polish the old house until everything shone--silver, wood, brass, mirrors. The house would be fragrant with the smell of floor wax and lemon oil. Then it was time to put up the tree and decorations.

The kissing ball: Mom re-decorated the ball each year with ribbons and greenery, and hung a sprig of mistletoe in the center. When we got older, we were allowed to help. She used scraps from sewing, ribbons from packages, any little bits and pieces she could find to make it glittering and pretty. It was usually hung in the dining room door and I can remember Dad catching her under it many times. We all loved to see them kiss.

The tree: Always a live one that we cut on a friend's farm, it was always lopsided and oddly shaped, and always decorated by Santa after midnight Mass. The tree would be put up a few days before Christmas, and the lights strung. The living room ceiling was twelve feet high, and the trees usually had to be trimmed to fit under them.

Decorations: lopped-off branches from the Christmas tree, holly, and a vine we called running pine were the main ingredients for our decorations. Greens were piled atop the mantles, around the front door, and twined down the stairs. Red ribbons and gold beads were added as we vied with each other for the best trimmings, re-used year after year and carefully stored away.

Yule log: made from a piece of the trunk of a former Christmas tree, Dad drilled small holes in it that we filled with greenery and Christmas bits of glittery stuff. Three larger holes held candles. The Yule log was always on the mantle in the living room, and the candles were lit on Christmas Eve to light in the Christ Child. A candle was placed in the window for the same purpose.

Christmas Day: On Christmas morning, we could see the tree through the crack between the big sliding wooden doors of the living room. It was shining and glimmering in the dusky light of dawn, and when the doors were finally opened--only after every single person in the house was present--it was a wondrous sight to behold. My parents collected Christmas balls, adding a few each year, making some, getting some for gifts. My last year at home, over 1000 balls hung on the green branches.

Gifts: with thirteen children to buy for, money didn't go far. We liked to buy for each other too but our money was practically non-existent. We learned to be happy with small gifts. Stockings were stuffed with apples, oranges, and nuts. We'd buy a pack of pencils and wrap one for each sibling, or penny candy, and wrap the gifts as carefully as if they had great value. They did--our hearts were in them. It didn't matter that the gifts under the tree were small--there were plenty of them and the joy when they were unwrapped was genuine. We’d have to hurry to get ready for early Mass at 7:30am.

Open House: Homemade eggnog, the fruitcake, and many other homemade goodies graced the table on Christmas night as friends and family came to visit. What happy times those were for a kid--lots of good things to eat, lots of noise, people singing carols, laughter. We baked for days before Christmas to prepare, always the same traditional fare--sausage rolls, mincemeat pies, wedding cookies, stollen (a sweet bread flavored with almond and laced with candied cherries), date bars, decorated sugar cookies, and so on.

Boxing day: this was the day after Christmas when we went visiting, usually wearing some of our gifts (mittens or toboggan hats knit by Mom, or new socks or a hanky from Granny).

New Year's Eve: even the littlest ones were allowed to stay up and see the New Year in, although they seldom stayed awake until midnight. Unspiked eggnog for the children and perhaps something a little stouter for the parents! Leftover goodies from Christmas, along with ham and rolls, were placed on the table once again for a repeat of the holiday feast.

Epiphany, January 5th: On this day our Wise Men finally made it to the crèche, and since they gave gifts to the Child, we also received small gifts at our places at dinner. This ended the 12 days of Christmas for us, although the tree remained decorated in all its glory until January 11th, my parents' anniversary and the occasion for more merrymaking.

And then the holidays were officially over, the decorations were regretfully taken down, and we looked ahead to the start of the next season--and by then it was only 10 and a half months away!