Prior to a legendary college road trip with my then Sweet Boyfriend (who became Sweet Husband), I had never given much thought to audio books. During our drive from Kansas to California and back, we listened the last two books of The Lord of the Rings, as well as The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. (Which is now a family favorite for its witty, quotable lines.) I remember the stories almost as well as I remember the beautiful stream we stopped at in Colorado, the salt flats in Utah, the terrifying and gorgeous drive down the coastal highway....
Since then, I've made audio books a part of my reading repertoire. It's a nice alternative to the TV for us in the winter, and it's easier to knit while you're not trying to flip pages. Which is why I'm thrilled to introduce you all to Sparkle Stories!
Sparkle Stories are original, audio stories for children. With new stories available for download each week David and Lisabeth Sewell McCann, the creators of Sparkle Stories, have built a unique treasure-box for families who love a good tale. Although the stories are recommended for kids ages 3 and up--so I haven't necessarily played them for the Kiddo yet--even as a grown-up I found myself getting drawn in to the sample stories I've listened to. There's just something about a good storyteller, yes?
At any rate, enough from me. Lisabeth was nice enough to answer a few questions about Sparkle Stories, so without further ado....
Me: Storytelling as a craft is, in some ways, a dying art. How did you get started as professional storytellers?
Lisabeth: David has always been a storyteller. As a kid he was always involved in creating one theatrical event or another. In college, he first trained as a visual artist, but much of his work had a narrative quality, so he ended up taking his visual art and bringing it to life on the stage. Then he joined the independent film world, largely because he had a story that he really wanted to tell in the medium of film. In 2000 he trained as a Waldorf teacher -- because it melded his natural gift of storytelling with his desire to work with children. And of course, the best training ground for storytelling -- bedtimes in our own home! He's told a bedtime story almost every night for the last 8 years.
I've been a theater person all my life. I studied theater in college and went on to earn an MFA in Playwriting. David is really the storyteller in the family, but I consider myself the story-crafter, as my greatest gift is my ability to construct a tight little narrative. I act as editor for Sparkle's stories.
Me: What were some of your favorite stories as children? And now?
Lisabeth: David loved Winnie the Pooh. And when he was older it was The Little Prince and Alice in Wonderland. My favorites were the Narnia Chronicles and all of Madeleine L'Engle's books. But really -- my true favorites -- were the silly stories my Dad told my brother and me.
Now? With our kids we love to read "older" classics, as in those that were published awhile ago. We've enjoyed theSwallows and Amazons series and Little House on the Prairie series. When they were a bit younger, we loved the Uncle Wiggly series, as well as series like Milly Molly Mandy. I just started The Boxcar Children series with my youngest, and that's been fun so far. Give me Beatrix Potter over Harry Potter any day!
Me: How much of your storytelling is influenced by real life? Do you constantly observe the world and think, "Wow, that would make such a good story!" Or is it a more internal process?
Lisabeth: Almost all of the stories we produce are influenced by real life. David gets ideas from all sorts of places -- from the experiences our family has in the world, from emails we receive from subscribers, from conversations he has or people he meets. Most often, the most powerful stories come from what's going on in our own family. For instance, our dog dies, or our youngest is struggling with learning to read, or our oldest is speaking disrespectfully to us. He tells a story to meet the situation, and eventually it gets crafted into a story for the Sparkle series.
Me: You primarily offer Sparkle Stories as a subscription service. Tell us a bit about how that works.
Lisabeth: A subscription to Sparkle means you get new stories each week. Subscribers have their own unique Story Box, where they can login and download their stories. Families can choose to subscribe to one story, to all seven stories, or to any number in between. Subscriptions cost anywhere between $7/month and $29/month, which offers anywhere between 1.5 and 12 hours of audio each month (which ends up costing $4.67 and $2.14 per hour -- which is affordable compared to a $14 story CD).
Me: You recently launched a new website for Sparkle Stories. Care to show off some of the new bells and whistles?
Lisabeth: Oh yes! That website is a dream-come-true for us. The best part: the Story Box. You can download a story, or you can simply listen (or stream). It works from both computers and mobile devices. And you have access everything you've ever purchased -- at anytime. It's like a lovely little library of audio stories at your fingertips. Our long-time subscribers are loving it too!
Lisabeth and David have generously agreed to giveaway one month of any 4 of their subscription series. The winner can choose from any of their seven Subscription Series, and enjoy a season full of stories. (The best way to learn about the series is to listen to the samples on the Subscriptions page.) The winner will be chosen on Wednesday.
Additionally, as a treat for everyone, Lisabeth says, "Here's our trial subscription offer: the Sparkle Stories $1-for-the-first-month of subscription discount. Just pick from one of our three Subscription Packages, and enjoy stories for a whole month! If you love it, the subscription will be ongoing -- you don't have to do anything. If you want to change it, you can simply log in and try a different series, or cancel all-together."
Happy listening, everyone!