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>> RENOWNED STORYTELLER KIM WEITKAMP COMES TO FREDERICKSBURG-AREA LIBRARIES NEXT WEEK SHE'S GOT SOME TALES TO TELL

February 26, 2009 12:35 am

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Kim Weitkamp was named National Youth Storytelling representative for Virginia. She visits Fredericksburg March 4.

BY SU CLAUSON-WICKER

FOR THE FREE LANCE-STAR

"I think I have a little addiction to performing," Kim Weitkamp confided to a friend in July, after giving up her day job to become a full-time, professional storyteller.

It's not surprising. For 15 years, the Christiansburg resident has used the art of applied storytelling as a youth advocate, working with at-risk children and teens.

On March 4, Weitkamp will share her stories at Fredericksburg's Central Rappahannock Regional Library headquarters and at Snow Library in Spotsylvania as part of the the Ardiena Ann Tromley Family Storytelling Series.

GOING PRO

At one point, Weitkamp didn't know there was such a thing as a professional storyteller. Yet after attending the granddaddy of festivals, the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesboro, Tenn., four years ago, she was hooked.

She started telling stories in schools, libraries--any stage she could find.

Her venues keep getting bigger--including the Timpanogos Festival in Utah, the Storytelling Festival of the Carolinas, the Smoky Mountains Festival and the Colonial Williamsburg Storytelling Festival.

Weitkamp's decision to join the tiny group of storytellers who go pro was soon validated: She was asked to perform as a regional teller in one of the main tents at the National Storytelling Festival.

And she did it in style, getting a standing ovation from 900 people.

"All those years I went to the festival as a listener, it nearly killed me not to be telling," she recalled. "It was so much of an honor to be onstage, a huge thrill, yet half of me cried: 'Twelve minutes? Give me six hours.'"

TALKERS, TAKE HEART

Growing up in Pennsylvania, Weitkamp was the kid who got in trouble for talking and clowning around. She claims she never sat down during school lunches, but went from table to table telling jokes and spinning tales.

"I had a shtick for every clique," she said.

But mostly she remembers being reprimanded for her mouth. She was told she had too much energy and her grades reflected a lack of focus.

"A lot of my personality was criticized rather than encouraged," she said.

Now, Weitkamp notes, it's OK to be herself, whirling thoughts and all.

"When I was 37 and discovered storytelling, I sort of came out. I realized my clowning, performing personality is a gift," she said.

Weitkamp bills herself as a humorist and storyteller; most of her stories are a lot of laughs, but watch out. There's often a deep twist at the end: joke, joke, joke--and then you're weeping.

"Laughter and tears are close relatives," she observed. "They both require trust and openness."

Weitkamp has a repertoire of tall tales, childhood stories, leadership stories and original songs. She also tells a story about her "gabbiness" gift.

The first time she told it, 40 children came up to tell her they had "the gift," too. They were ecstatic to be recognized.

"This was a great payoff for me," Weitkamp said. "To be accepted for who I am and to help others."

It has been a good year so far. She has been elected president of Virginia Storytelling Alliance, named National Youth Storytelling representative for Virginia--and founded the Wrinkles Project, a national campaign to help senior citizens tell their life stories.

Su Clauson-Wicker is a freelance writer living in Blacksburg.




What: Kim Weitkamp When: March 4, two separate shows Where: "Laugh Out Loud Stories," for school-age children and adults, at Central Rappahannock Regional Library headquarters, 1201 Caroline St., Fredericksburg, 4:30 p.m.

Info: 540/372-1144

Where: "Freckles, Fibs and Family," humorous stories on love and lessons learned from family. For teens and adults. Snow Library, 8740 Courthouse Road, Spotsylvania, 7:30 p.m. Info: 540/507-7565



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