Our Secret Territory: The Essence of Storytelling


Laura Simms is an acclaimed storyteller whom The New York Times has called a major force in the revival of storytelling in America. Laura's way of telling a story allows the mind of the listener to rest in a realm of imagination beyond thought, and stimulates its faculties of kindness and relationship. In this book she examines the spiritual and social aspects of storytelling, and its process of engagement.

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Laura Simms is an acclaimed storyteller whom The New York Times has called a major force in the revival of storytelling in America. Laura's way of telling a story allows the mind of the listener to rest in a realm of imagination beyond thought, and stimulates its faculties of kindness and relationship. In this book she examines the spiritual and social aspects of storytelling, and its process of engagement.

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Editorial Reviews

Andrea Miller
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.'
Messenger, January, 15, 2012 - Anita Burns
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.

Deena Metzger
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.
Stephen Levine
Laura Simms' generous voice leads us to our own compassionate presence. To read this book is to listen to the silence beyond words.
Dan Yashinsky
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.
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.
The New York Times
A major force in the revival of storytelling in America.
Kaye Lindauer
Laura Simms has the power to create images that become mirrors reflecting the soul of the listener.
Jerry Wennstrom
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.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781591811725
  • Publisher: Sentient Publications
  • Publication date: 7/16/2011
  • Pages: 186
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet 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.

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Table of Contents

Foreword ix

Introduction xiii

Crossing into the Invisible: How the Storyteller Guides Us into an Unseen Realm 1

What Storytelling Means to Me 11

Summoning the Realm of Dream 17

Seeing the Invisible 25

The Secret Practice 31

T'Boli Dreaming: Keeping the Channels of a Culture Open 41

Through the Story's Terror 51

The Lamplighter: The Storyteller in the Modern World 61

Evil in the World: A Discourse on a Hassidic Tale 71

Another Way of Knowing: The World of an Epic Singer 83

Misfortune's Fortune 95

A Language of No Words: Translation 103

Natural Interruptions 111

Journey to Jerusalem: City of Gold 117

Sudden Story 129

Deadly Play 141

Strong Medicine 149

Monkey Mind 157

On Listening 163

Afterword 175

Notes 180

Acknowledgments 182

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