This Month Featuring: A STORY THAT BEGAN A DECADE AGO
This month's column is very personal. Like Bilbo Baggins, his heir Frodo, and many other fine characters in literature, journeys are begun that lead to places wholly unexpected, teach singular lessons that might not have encountered otherwise, and leave the traveler looking back in amazement with the life-defining clarity of hindsight. That's certainly the story of Seanchai Library, celebrating its ten years of live story presentation this month. Not surprisingly, it is also my journey.
Sometime in July of 2008 my corporeal self had a nasty bout of food poisoning. Having slept too much, she was trying to keep awake so her circadian rhythms would stop doing the mambo. She decided to keep her mind focused by creating a new avatar account, and named her after a music track that was popular that summer, recorded by the group Celtic Thunder. Yes, Caledonia Skytower began life as an alt created out of sick boredom, and named after a guy group hit.
Having already visited the West of Ireland on an exploration jag that involved dropping names of countries we always wanted to visit into Search, (Boy! Was THAT dangerous!) we had been to WOI and had noticed how friendly the people were, and how much fun they were having. On that hot, miserable day the destiny of Caledonia was to be a social presence in the West of Ireland, and have some fun. A not-so-noob account opened, a strafing run on a favorite mega-freebie store, and then heading to a remote corner of WOI to unpack. Well, it seemed remote enough at the time.
Hardly had the shoes been sorted when the IM box lit up and a Shandon Loring welcomed Caledonia to the West of Ireland and said he was with "the Library." They read stories every night at 7pm, and would Cale like to come sometime? This sounded interesting enough, and not nearly as threatening as some of virtual experiences had been, so we said we'd check it out. Shandon turned out to be a green tortoise with a snap brim hat, who'd spotted Cale and her boxes from a hill up behind the supposedly remote stretch of shore where we'd retreated. So the next night Caledonia went to the West of Ireland Library and CulturalCenter and that, as they say, was that.
Ten years later is hard to imagine that time when it was all so new, before stories truly became the focus of my life through Seanchai Library. I had always been involved in storytelling, after a fashion, but in Second Life I first experienced losing myself in a tale as I was telling it. The logistics of presenting stories and literature in voice require that a good presenter must listen, listen, listen to do justice to the language and the literature. When its good, it is a transportive experience for audience and storyteller. Imagine that? Transporting yourself and others who aren't even in the same town you are in, sometimes not on the same continent much less the same room, all with the power of your voice.
I marvel at the thousands of hours of programming Seanchai has made available over the last decade, the authors I most likely never would have encountered directly otherwise: Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, Kate DiCamillo, and so many more. I cannot help but appreciate the deeper relationship I now have with the works of Nathaniel Hawthorne, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert Louis Stevenson, and of course J.R.R.Tolkien. Just the tip of the iceberg. It does not even begin to articulate the effects that a near daily immersion in literature have on a life, or the subsequent stories authored as a result of bathing one's being in language.
At the end of 2012, Seanchai founder Derry McMahon retired from guiding the library. I took over as Lead Staff and have continued to steward Seanchai Library on whatever path it is destined to follow, along with Shandon who has taken on so many different shapes over the years that I cannot even begin to count them. We've built new relationships, maintained some fine old ones, succeeded, failed, and tripped over our own good intentions as many times as we emerged triumphant. We've never done it alone. There has always been an enthusiastic cadre of volunteer staff, various affiliates, and loyal community that made all the time it takes to plan and maintain Seanchai Library worth it.
Seanchai is celebrating - right now. It began on the 15th and will continue through the 25th. As I look back and contemplate that journey, I remember the many people who are celebrating as well: the families who have listen to stories through computer speakers, the mother and daughter on different continents who spend time together by logging in and coming to listen, the young differently-abled man who finds comfort and acceptance through our stories, the now-married couple who met and connected as regulars through our sessions, and many more for whom Seanchai Library has been focus point, and a familiar place to gather, regardless of what was going on in other realms of their lives. And the friends ... so many, and so dear. Some have stayed for the entire journey, some come and go, and some we will sadly never see again on this side.
In the end, the Library is not about me, or about any of them, or about books. Seanchai Library is about a community connected by the singular and ancient act of stories shared aloud, for a remarkable ten years in virtual worlds.
Seanchai Library, and I, invite you to join us for some memorable events during the Volume 10 celebration - music, a light-hearted quest and, of course, stories.
Saturday, March 17th ~ 11:30 am: Corwyn Allen & Wald Schridde Play Celtic Music, Live! at Ceiliúradh Glen on Holly Kai (in homage to Glens na hEirean in the old West of Ireland Estate)
Followed at 1pm by . . .
The Storyteller's Path with Caledonia Skytower at Ceiliúradh Glen broadcast on Fantasy Faire Radio
Sunday, March 18th
~12:30 pm: Prelude to A Bagpipe Challenge with Caledonia Skytower at Ceiliúradh Glen
Followed from 1-4pm by . . .
BEYOND LOUD: A Bagpipe Challenge - music with Elrik Merlin, Gabrielle Riel, and Ktahdn Vesivino at Ceiliúradh Glen broadcast on Radio Riel Main Stream
Monday, March 19th
@7 pm: Sci-Fi By Command with Gyro Muggins - A Science Fiction Encore selected by the Seanchai Library Community at our home Library on Holly Kai.
Tuesday, March 20th
@7 pm: Stories Go Round - A buffet of short stories and poems shared by the Seanchai Staff at our home Library on Holly Kai.
Wednesday, March 21st
@6:30 pm: Dracula! - An encore presentation of a classic from our past. Arrive at the Library on Holly Kai early to teleport to the special setting for the event!
Thursday, March 22nd
@7pm: The Architect of Newgrange - Part 2 with Shandon Loring. Arrive at the Library on Holly Kai early to teleport to the special setting for the event!
Saturday, March 24th
@ 2pm: War of the Worlds at Holly Kai Park's Art Hill.
Sunday, March 25th
@1pm: The Storyteller's Sandbox hosted by Dubhna Rhiadra with Seanchai Library Friends from around the Spoken Word Community at Ceiliúradh Glen on Holly Kai.
This same information and even more, plus the teleport links to the various venues can be found at http://irelandslstory.blogspot.com/p/volume.html
Know of a cool spoken word venue or project? Send me a notecard (Caledonia Skytower) with the basics and a landmark, and I will be happy to check them out as a possible feature.
This Month's Quote: "If you're going to have a story, have a big story, or none at all." ~ Joseph Campbell