“STORYSPINNING” — what Loralee Cooley calls what she’s done since 1977 — came from a mash-up of the words STORYtelling and yarnSPINNING. She began in Arizona, then to Virginia, then to Atlanta (Lilburn), where she was the primary founder of Southern Order of Storytellers in 1983. She served as festival director of the original “Olde Christmas Storytelling Festival” held for years at Callanwolde Fine Arts Center, from its inception in 1983 until she and her late husband, Ed, moved to Anderson South Carolina in 1988.
During her time in South Carolina and later Texas, she was selected for those states’ “Touring Artist Roster,” and conducted residencies throughout each state.
While living in Oklahoma, her work took a detour from storytelling from an experience that drew from her storytelling work. She began to research the events of the childhood of Barack Obama–called “Barry” as a child–about the time he was first elected president in 2008. This project culminated in her short bio, “Island Child,” published in 2011, telling of Barry’s growing up in Hawai`i and Indonesia during the mid-1960s through his fourth grade, and ending around his 10th birthday in 1971. A pen-and-ink illustration by artist Jillian Gilliland from the book is included below. [The book is available through Amazon.com, for around $5.50.]
After her husband’s death in 2014, she moved to Spanish Cove Retirement Center in Yukon OK, but never got all those boxes sorted through, and never entirely reconstituted her storytelling studio. Then in April 2018, she jumped ship and moved again: Albuquerque New Mexico, this time. And those boxes are methodically getting emptied and books organized….sort of.
She’s made contact with the Storytellers of New Mexico, but has yet to become active with the group. But there’s hope! And she is re-assessing her role in the storytelling profession in order to see what will happen next.
Above: Example of artwork by Jillian Gilliland of Kingston, Ontario for Loralee’s book Island Child.
Albuquerque NM 87120