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Our Secret Territory: The Essence of Storytelling (Culture Tools) Paperback – August 16, 2011


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Product Details

  • Series: Culture Tools
  • Paperback: 186 pages
  • Publisher: Sentient Publications (August 16, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591811724
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591811725
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #260,793 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Storytelling, says Laura Simms, provides us with immediate relief from stress and self-preoccupation; urges us into wisdom; and ultimately connects us to our buddhanature. Part lyrical treatise on the power of storytelling, part memoir, Our Secret Territory is woven through with quotes, poems, and tales. Simms is the adoptive mother of ex-child soldier Ishmael Beah, author of the bestseller A Long Way Gone, and some of the most moving parts of her book deal with their relationship. When Beah first came to the U.S., Simms thought that he'd just stay with her for the summer, then in the fall she'd find a 'real' family for him to live with. He was silent when she told him this plan. Finally, he said: 'I thought you were going to be my mother.' Simms suddenly felt every cell in her body adjust to a binding decision. 'You are right,' she said. 'I am your mother.' And that was that, she writes, 'as fast and decisive as an event in a fairytale, and as true as the best stories.' (Andrea Miller)

I am rarely at a loss for words, but this book, about storytelling no less, left me speechless. It is profound, beautiful, and deeply disturbing for some reason. Perhaps 'disturbing'" isn't the right word. I found it stirring and sometimes intense. For me, both are positive things. I think we need to have our brain cells shaken up a bit sometimes. In my never-too-humble opinion, there is a lot of crap being published right now. It was refreshing to see something new and exciting. This book is also uplifting, enlightening, and filled with heart. Storytelling is an ancient art and we are still moved by stories, from books, from films, theater, and in our very lives. Stories are how we learn about the part of life that cannot be touched but must be experienced. (Anita Burns Messenger, January, 15, 2012)

Story is a medicine. Laura Simms is a great medicine woman and Our Secret Territory is the means through which she works her magic for each of us and on behalf of the future. (Deena Metzger, author of Writing for Your Life)

Laura Simms' generous voice leads us to our own compassionate presence. To read this book is to listen to the silence beyond words. (Stephen Levine)

Laura Simms has given the world a rare gift. Our Secret Territory takes us deep into the mysterious heart of storytelling, and brings us back with new understanding about why and how stories frame and enrich our lives. Laura Simms is uniquely qualified to be the guide on this journey. From her own experience of tragedy, to her heart-opening experiences with child soldiers, indigenous people in many parts of the world, and an astonishing array of listeners and mentors, she has distilled a wisdom that, although difficult to attain, proves to be a simple and deeply satisfying gift for us to receive. (Dan Yashinsky)

This woman knows exactly what she is doing. She possesses a unique sense of self that beautifully couples with her exquisite ability to tell a tale. (Culturevulture.Net)

A major force in the revival of storytelling in America. (The New York Times)

Laura Simms has the power to create images that become mirrors reflecting the soul of the listener. (Kaye Lindauer, storyteller)

Laura Simms is not the teller of stories. She IS, as the space she holds, The Robe of Love. Laura can fly and take you with her. She can, with flagrant confidence, take a risk, a holy act of sacrifice, leaving you suspended and waiting, while she reaches down to tie her shoe. Then, with an outrageous laugh she can return, delivering the story and your own soul with it. A soul you had not realized was in flight all along. (Jerry Wennstrom)

About the Author

Laura Simms is an award-winning storyteller, recording artist, teacher, writer and humanitarian based in New York City. The New York Times has called her “a major force in the revival of storytelling in America.” Remarkable performances of traditional stories interwoven with personal narrative have earned her worldwide recognition and honors since 1968. Laura has created an irresistible cutting-edge performance style that bridges ancient oral tradition and performance art. Her storytelling is meaningful and uncannily entertaining for her international audiences. Her warmth, depth of understanding, profound effect on listeners, diverse material, humor, gorgeous voice, and range of characterizations are her trademarks. Her most recent one-woman show, Mercy into the World, premiered in 2008 at the Barbican Theater in London, University of Oslo, and Frontier Theater in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She has performed at venues worldwide, including the Khan Theater in Jerusalem, Royal Festival Hall in London, The Central Theater of Manila, and Victory Theater and Town Hall in New York City. Laura works with international organizations to train teachers and humanitarian workers. She received the Brimstone Award for Engaged Storytelling and is co-faculty with Terry Tempest Williams New Generation Environmental Project. She is the mother of Ishmael Beah, bestselling author of A Long Way Gone. Under a grant from Mercy Corps, Laura twice took her storytelling work to New Orleans for teachers and children in post-Katrina New Orleans. Most recently she began a storytelling project with International Medical Corps in Haiti. Her website is www.laurasimms.com.

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
5 star
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4 star
6%
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See all 16 customer reviews
His deep understanding of the short tale was quite humbling to me.
Linda Goodman
When told from within, stories become like breath, rising simply and inviting the listener to receive from it whatever is most needed.
E Shepherd
There is a brilliant weaving of thoughts and tales...both from the author and from folk lore, that provides a delightful journey.
Amazon Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By E Shepherd on December 7, 2011
Format: Paperback
Our Secret Territory brings us into the presence of a profound and gifted storyteller. Laura Simms writes with a depth of insight that is both moving and compelling. She invites the reader to drop all previously held concepts of story and approach it as a living entity, a waking dream. Stories hold messages that illuminate and heal. Stories have the power to change lives.

Stories within stories within stories are woven throughout this book in a manner that is heartfelt, courageous and genuine. Deeply poignant images point beyond words and inspire the reader to bring them inside. When told from within, stories become like breath, rising simply and inviting the listener to receive from it whatever is most needed.

Our Secret Territory is beautifully written and filled with heart essence. It is a book to savor and read again and again.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Ellen F on November 17, 2011
Format: Paperback
Our Secret Territory is a fascinating and unique narrative of a storyteller's experience with her craft. The author shows how the right story can heal and transform as she shares true accounts of the effect her tales have had on people around the world. She shares many of the stories she loves, along with rich descriptions of her adventures with people in the Philippines, Taiwan, Romania, Jerusalem, and New York's Chinatown. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in mythology, folklore, memoir, fairytales, healing, spirituality or culture.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By laura simms on December 2, 2011
Format: Paperback
from Stephane Bedart

Il était une fois...

This is an excellent book which illustrates with depth the power of story telling. Laura Simms makes us experience how to enlighten society by making people feel empowered to tell stories or to listen to them with their whole being. There is a lot of heart and many layers of meaning in Our Secret Territory.

C'est du grand art Madame Simms!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ramsay Wood on April 4, 2012
Format: Paperback
This is a sweetheart of a book written by one of world's greatest living storytellers working in English. There's quite a lot of wild anecdotal stuff that touches me deeply, especially Laura's adventures in the Philippines where I spent a couple of years as a boy between 7 and 9, also once visiting (like Laura) a mysterious green lake in a volcano for a tropical picnic and festival. This bit, and several others in this book, brought tears to my eyes.

But I don't understand the motive for this book. If I personally could tell stories like Laura has learned to do, why would I stop for an instant to sweat thousands of words about the "essence of storytelling"? Laura Simms on stage anywhere is HERSELF the Essence of Storytelling. She is the top-ranked US grandmaster who embodies the living, breathing, ancient no-nonsense oral tradition for our era. She is a very rare creature indeed, so what need has she of theorizing in an academic or anecdotally artistic manner about her magical skills? Who seduced her from stage to page, and why? Why didn't they just film Laura so more of us could experience something of her incredible skills? I guess I'm just a grumpy old idealistic storywriter who reckons his solitary profession is highly over-rated -- and that the glare of the limelight with razzmatazz in your ears MUST be so much more alluring.

Be that as it may, let me repeat loudly that Laura is a ******* SEVEN STAR wonder-teller! Beg, borrow or steal to go and see her perform as often as you can. For me, reading about her, even in her own words, gives you about as much inkling of her living impact as "sending a kiss by messenger.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Linda Goodman on February 25, 2013
Format: Paperback
"Let us now crawl under the canopy
Of the currant leaves,
and tell stories.
Let us inhabit the underworld.
Let us take possession of our secret territory."
Virginia Woolf, The Waves

Laura Simms chose the above quote to open her book, Our Secret Territory, a storytelling road map in which she shares with readers her unique understanding of the relationship between the storyteller, the story, and the listener.
I briefly met Laura at the VASA (Virginia Storytelling Alliance) Gathering at Virginia's Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen in 2001. In person, she was warm, articulate, and elegant. On the stage, however, she transformed into something else entirely: an otherworldly vessel, a cup made of the finest crystal, bearing wine so sweet that I wanted to drink it slowly because I did know when I might find such again.
I did not realize at the time that I was "dreaming wide awake." In this book, Simms introduces dreaming "not as the unconscious activity that occurs when we sleep, but as the natural process of being." Simms constantly listens to her listeners: "It's almost as if I think of something, they visualize it, and then I describe it."
I came to storytelling from the viewpoint of a writer, and I share stories that I have written. I have loved hearing the folktales, myths, legends, and fairy tales that I have heard others tell, but I myself have told such stories only sparingly. This book may change that.
Our Secret Territory uses exposition, short tales, and quoted words of wisdom to illustrate each chapter's theme. A longer tale, The Hen and the Rooster, is interspersed in segments throughout the book as the "route that takes us home.
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Our Secret Territory: The Essence of Storytelling (Culture Tools)
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