Friday, February 8, 2013

Remembering Diane Wolkstein (1942–2013)

One of the highlights of my eight years of working for the Great Books Foundation was this past June, when I arranged for author and storyteller Diane Wolkstein to visit our office.

Diane's work is a perennial favorite at the Foundation, with three of her stories appearing in Junior Great Books anthologies: "Mother of the Waters" (Junior Great Books Read-Aloud, Pegasus Series), "The Banza" (Junior Great Books Series 3, Book One), and "White Wave" (Junior Great Books Series 3, Book Two).

Her visit came about as a result of a phone call some months earlier, in which I was requesting permission from Diane to reprint a story of hers yet again in one of our upcoming projects. As we spoke about the terms of the agreement, we got to talking about storytelling, about how wonderful it can be for children to hear a story told well, how it will stay with them all their lives. Diane sent me a link to her website, where I learned that I was speaking with the woman who had at one time been given the title of New York City's Official Storyteller! I called her back and asked her how it was that we'd never had her record her stories for the audio CD that accompanies our anthologies. I could almost picture her smile as she told me that she didn't know why, but that she'd be delighted to visit us sometime and record them.

It was an absolute privilege to have Diane visit us. Over lunch, we had a wonderful time listening to her anecdotes, stories, and adventures from around the world. She gave an amazing rendition of both "The Banza" and "Mother of the Waters" in our recording studio, as well as a fascinating interview on the nature of storytelling for our website. 

We at the Great Books Foundation were deeply saddened to hear of her death last week and are honored to have had the chance to collaborate with her.

Patrick Hurley is Production and Permissions Coordinator for the Great Books Foundation. He also writes speculative fiction, and his work can be found in the magazine Big Pulp as well as in various e-zines and podcasts. When not training for marathons, he is at work on his first novel.

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