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Greathall Productions, Inc. - Intelligent listening for the thinking family.

Wednesday April 3, 2013

Welcome to Our Monthly Greathall/Jim Weiss E-Magazine

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It's APRIL! Spring is sprouting everywhere you look even amidst some peculiarly-un-Spring weather! Still, sweaters are replacing coats, daffodils are sprouting in winter-dormant gardens, and that urge to clean out a closet or two seems to come out of nowhere. At Greathall, we are off to the first of the conferences that will take us through July. Life's cycles are ever present and for that we are ever grateful.   


 "National Poetry Month offers us a welcome opportunity to celebrate not only the unsurpassed body of literature produced by our poets in the past, but also the vitality and diversity of voices reflected in the works of today's American poetry….Their creativity and wealth of language enrich our culture and inspire a new generation of Americans to learn the power of reading and writing at its best."                                   -President Bill Clinton in a proclamation issued on April 1, 1996

* Online Storytime with Jim APRIL 9th at 8:00 PM

* From the Storyteller, Jim Weiss: "Explaining the Inexplicable"

* Reflections from Randy Weiss: "The Prince and the Pauper"

* Greathall Monthly Special: The Poet's Corner

* Digital Spotlight: Greek Myths

* National Poetry Month from

* Greathall Poetry Celebration


* A Letter from a Greathall Guest

* Ask Jim

* March Trivia Winner

*Jim's TRAVEL Calendar

* Like Jim Weiss on FACEBOOK

PHOTO: Daffodils, bunnies and duckiings=SPRING! Could this little duck be "Good Luck Duck?"

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Online StoryTime APRIL 9 at 8:00 PM with Jim Weiss

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Please join us on Tuesday, April 9, at 8 pm ET for the next live, online Storytime with Jim.


One of the stories Jim will tell will be "Perseus and Medusa" -- one of the greatest adventures of all time.  A story you can find on our Greek Myths recording (this month's Digital Download Spotlight).

Visit our YouTube Hall that evening to be part of the excitement!

PLEASE INVITE YOUR FRIENDS TO THIS EVENT!    This is a chance to introduce  others to Greek mythology which is one of the three primary sources of Western literature via a thrilling rendition of one of the greatest myths.

PHOTO: Modern technology at work as Jim Weiss presents to listeners near and far from his own studio in Charlottesville, Virginia

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From the Storyteller, Jim Weiss: "Explaining the Inexplicable"

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April is National Poetry Month. 

This is fitting, I think, since it is the birth  month of  the supreme poet of the English language, William Shakespeare, and also because April has inspired so many famous poems. 

To me, however, there is no month that is not “poetry month”.  Since I truly discovered poetry (sometime before high school,) I have both read and written it regularly.  My book shelves are as overcrowded with volumes of poetry as with history books, plays and novels.  I return regularly to the works of favorite poets for replenishment and expansion of mind and spirit. There are my favorite Americans: e.e. cummings, Carl Sandburg, Denise Levertov, Langston Hughes, and Mary Oliver (she is still writing, hurray!); Ireland’s powerful William Butler Yeats, who began great and somehow kept getting better; the Japanese haiku masters Basho (one of the dozen great voices in all poetry), Buson, Issa and Shiki; and voices from England and Scotland ranging from pre-Elizabethan times up to today. 

Of course, everyone gets to define what is/is not poetry for her/himself, if anyone is foolish enough to try.  Bob Dylan said with deceptive simplicity, “A song is anything that can walk by itself”.  The Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore lived to hear illiterate peasants in the farm fields singing his lyrics interspersed with age-old Indian folk songs.  Did Shakespeare live long enough to know that hundreds of his phrases had become part of everyday, conversational English?  His poetry flows in our collective bloodstream.  (Please don’t try to convince me that someone with his background “couldn’t” have written his sonnets and plays.  Genius makes its own rules.)

Children are naturals for loving and absorbing poetry. They love imagery and meter.  But never forget the joy in it.  One of my high school English teachers almost destroyed poetry for me by focusing so on the “how” of poetry -- simile, metaphor, internal rhyme, onomatopoeia, alliteration – that she forgot about why the poets wrote these poems.  I’m glad I learned about all those useful writing tools, but a great poet masters and then ignores these things at the moment of choosing the absolutely necessary word.  Later, a university professor hunted symbols and hidden meanings in every poem or story we studied together.  I resisted telling him Ernest Hemingway’s response when asked about Christian symbolism in his work: “The Old Man and the Sea is the story of an old guy and a really, really big fish.”

The English writer A.E. Housman put it this way: “Even when poetry has a meaning, as it usually has, it may be inadvisable to draw it out... Perfect understanding will sometimes almost extinguish pleasure.”  This equates to my frequent advice that if your child is simply transported at the end of a story, this is not the timefor philosophical analysis of the lesson of the tale or the author’s methods.  Let the child float off in that bubble which the artist labored to help us to create.  As e.e. Cummings pointed out, “If a poet is anybody, he is somebody to whom things made matter very little -- somebody who is obsessed by Making.” 

Art is important because it touches on the deepest levels on which humans are able to operate.  Plato, that sensible, serious Greek, acknowledged that “poetry is nearer to vital truth than is history.”  Closer to our own time, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet (and Lincoln biographer) Carl Sandburg joyously, wryly surrendered at the impossibility of explaining that inexplicable something we call “poetry”.  In the preface to his Collected Poems, Sandburg asserts that “each authentic poet makes a style of his own.  (E)ach…is allowed the stride that will get him where he wants to go if, G-d help him, he can hit that stride and keep it.”  Sandburg’s entire, wonderful preface is about reveling in the wondrous and unexplainable in art, and in life.  And of course, this is exactly why poetry, and all art, matters: a great piece of art, literary or otherwise, reminds us of the deep meaning that lies inside and all around us, in our lives and in ourselves.  It is why a poem, a painting, a dance, a statue, a song or one of God’s own sunsets* can stop us in our headlong rush and make us say, “Wow!  I never thought of it that way” even when we’ve seen a thousand sunsets and heard a million songs.

Like Sandburg, I surrender to the impossibility of defining how it works.  So I’ll let e.e. cummings express the lesson that my high school teacher had forgotten, and to which I have always clung in my own work and in my life:

“I'd rather learn from one bird how to sing
than teach ten thousand stars how not to dance.”

PHOTO: This is one such *sunset I saw on a recent trip to Dubai.

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Reflections from Randy Weiss: "The Prince and the Pauper"

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When I was 10 years old I had my first hospital experience. I had an extra bone on the arch of each foot and it required a hospital stay of about one week. It’s odd to look back at that time and even imagine such a long hospitalization (today, I’d most likely be home the next day or sooner). My memories of the experience are filled with vague images and foggy memories of how I filled my time, other than with fear and lonliness.

However, I do have one wonderful, vivid memory of my grandfather arriving to my bedside with a big smile and a great gift. His present was a shiny covered “Whitman” edition of The Prince and the PauperAfter Grandad's visit, I delved into this appealing and engaging book and was completely mesmerized by the idea of a prince and a pauper exchanging clothing and life circumstances. Today, 51 years later, when I think about my foot surgery, the association of this book completes the mental picture and adds a soft, loving, pleasurable edge to an unpleasant situation.

Books are a powerful tool in moulding a child's mind and thought process. While it's true one cannot judge the content of a book by its cover, the front of the book to a child is certainly an enticing lead-in to initial enthusiasm. It's amazing that so many years later, I still marvel at the visual appeal of that partiular version of The Prince and the Pauper. It's shiny cover was a tactile treat and the picture of the two identical young boys, one poor and one rich, respectively dressed,  against a rich burgundy background, conveyed a story before ever opening the book.

Once I opened the book, Mark Twain's genius leapt off the pages. Who has not at least once thought about what it would be like to be somebody else? The "reality" of having the opportunity to actually do it and then to make this exchange wih someone who is not related but miraculously is your identical twin-now that is a story and an intriguing predicament! Even for a realist, this scenario is so thought-provoking that his/her imagination has got to run wild with possibilities and additional roadblocks.

The adventures and interactions of these two vulnerable children both apart and together, touch on a child's essential issues of security, fear, responsibility and place in the world. The final conclusion that the grass on the other side of the fence is not as green as projected, accompanied by a happy ending, reassured my 10 year old heart and spirit that my life was something to be treasured regardless of situation and circumstance. Obtaining this assurance independently from a book, alone in a hospital room (could have been a bedroom or a library) gave me time to reflect deep into my imagination and I believe this experience contributed to my lifelong love of reading and respect for the written word.

Our Greathall collection now has 46 single recordings. The "birthing" process of each one has been purposeful, loving, reflective and somewhat organic in allowing the story to unfold. Sometimes when a recording leaves our office or conference table I feel like I a sending a new pup out into the world and hope it will be well received, cherished and make even a small difference in the listener's life.  Admittedly, I feel especially so with our version of The Prince and the Pauper.



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Greathall Monthly Special: From the Poet's Corner

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Poetry can come in many forms and be enjoyed in many ways. We have searched our Storytelling collections to bring you a wonderful April special titled "From the Poet's Corner."

Each recording celebrates poetry in some form or fashion. Your child will be enraptured by the rhythmic stories as told by master storyteller Jim Weiss.

Then you can search for a National Poetry Month event near you, or online, to further enhance that love of the written word.

From now until April 30, enjoy our Special Offers on Famously Funny: A Collection of Beloved Stories and Poems; Best Loved Stories in Song and Dance; and A Collection of Just So Stories.

 Best Loved Stories in Song and Dance  A Collection of Just So Stories  Famously Funny: A Collection of Beloved Stories and Poems

You can purchase each one for $9.95, or collect all three for $24.95.

Simply input the code: "POET" in the Special Instructions Box during the checkout process.

PHOTO: William Butler Yeats is one of Jim Weiss' favorite poets

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Digital Download Spotlight: Greek Myths

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"A top notch introduction to Greek mythology" is how Family Fun Magazine described one of the original recordings that launched Greathall - Greek Myths.

Greek Myths


King Midas and the Golden Touch

Adventures of Hercules

Perseus and Medusa


Download Greek Myths today for only $10.95 and start your children on a path of discovery to some of the most fantastic stories ever told.

PHOTO: Why in the world would there be a photo of a spider web  while talking about Greek Myths? "Arachne" is a story of that tells where the word "arachnid" comes from. Greek mythology along with history provide the origins for may words in modern English. 

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National Poetry Month

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Maya Angelou, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, e.e. cummings - the list goes on of great poets from our past and present who have graced us with their thoughts, their words, their inspiration.

April is National Poetry Month. Because of that we wanted to bring information to our Greathall guests to further your enjoyment of poetry and inspire your children to showcase their talents and abilities. Who knows, perhaps the next great poet right now is among our guests, and they are calling you "Mommy."

* Poetry lesson plans: Engage your child with lesson plans centered on poetry and the poets.

* Poetry landmarks: Visit the homes of great poets (either in person or online)

* Participate in National Poetry Month with the Dear Poet Project in celebration of the role correspondence has played

* Great Poems to teach your child

* Poetry videos




And, if that is not enough, click on the map to search the National Poetry Calendar to find events near you!

PHOTO: Poetry sometimes begins with poetic places. Find one like this mysterious stairway and let the poem take shape in your mind and pen.

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Greathall Poetry Celebration

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We know that our Greathall community is highly intelligent, creative, thoughtful, and insightful. Now we invite you to display your talent and ability in our Facebook Hall this month.

With April serving as National Poetry Month, we thought it would be fun to have our eMag guests share their poems for all to admire.


Submit your poem in our Facebook Hall and we will draw three names at random to win a FREE JIM WEISS STORYTELLING RECORDING of your choice! We will also print all submitted poems in an upcoming eMag issue! Please try to keep your poem to about 14 lines.

Do hurry as the contest ends on April 26 at 5pm ET.

PHOTO: Greathall contests/drawings are always so much fun when the winners get to choose their prize! There are SO many wonderful recordings to choose from!

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And...If You Live in Virginia-Jim Performs IN PERSON

Hospice of the Piedmont invites you and your family to enjoy

Myths & Mysteries: Brought to Life

Literature comes alive as Master Storyteller Jim Weiss entertains you with some of the greatest MYTHS and MYSTERIES ever told.  Sit back (or on the edge of your seat!) as you’re introduced to SHERLOCK HOLMES, HERCULES, and other classic heroes.

Proceeds from the performance benefit Journeys – a program serving the community’s grieving children and families. Journeys services are available without charge to families throughout the Hospice of the Piedmont service area (Charlottesville and nine surrounding counties).                                                                                                       Saturday, April 20, 2013 at 4:00 p.m * Monticello High School Auditorium 

Tickets are $10/each.  Children (under age 2) in laps – Free

Tickets are available at the following locations (cash or check only):

Hospice of the Piedmont Offices                                                                                            Alakazam Toys & Gifts (Downtown Mall)                                                               Bounce-N-Play (Rt. 29)

Recordings will be offered at discounted pricing and a portion of all sales will be donated to Hospice of the Piedmont.

PHOTO: Jim's performances are engaging for young and old, adults and children. 



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A Letter from a Greathall Guest

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Dear Mr. Weiss,

My husband and I wanted to attend your performance at the Monterey Public Library last night, but by the time we got there, there were only a few tickets left and there were children behind us, so we opted out. Even though we didn't get to see you, I wanted to let you know how thrilled I was when I saw in the paper that you were going to be performing in Monterey!! My children are now ages 20, 18 and 14, but your recordings were a HUGE part of our early life as a family. So many car trips spent listing to stories about King Arthur, Greek Gods or anything else we could find. My personal favorite might have been the Good Night tape. Finding your tapes then led us to the entire storytelling genre at the public library. To this day my children love long car trips, and I wonder if those stories on tape set the tone. Anyway, if I had gotten in to see you, I would have told you this in person, but I wanted to let you know how excited I was to find out you were performing in Monterey. I hope you'll come back before too long.                                                                                                                               Sincerely, Hope T. from California

Dear Hope, Thank you * Thank you * Thankyou

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Ask Jim: The Process of Creativity


QUESTION:  How long does it take you to develop and write the stories you record and what is the process you go through to create the stories? -- Jill C., Minnesota

ANSWER:Great question, Jill!  Here's the process I follow.  First Randy and I choose what I'm going to record.  For a full-length book, such as a G.A. Henty novel or Carry On, Mr. Bowditch,  I then read the book and make notes about specific lines ("read this loudly" or "shyly") and I also create voices for different characters.  Once I actually enter the studio, it may take a month for a book project, a few weeks for a shorter book, or as little as a week or two for single CD projects.  Reading aloud is the quick, easy part for me, and my voice actually gets stronger over the day.  When I hear myself tiring, I move to editing what I've recorded, removing the sounds of pages turning, little mouth noises or the occasional alternate reading of a line.  I also tinker with the volume in sort of a pre-master.  Once I've recorded and edited the whole project, I spend another day making volume levels more uniform.   

For single CDs, the preparation stage may take longer: for a history recording, I may consult a whole shelf of books, plus web site materials.  For fiction, I research the author or origin of the stories so I can offer a preface.  I identify where the actual story is in all this material I've accumulated, write a script, and then re-write it.  Sometimes I write just a few versions, but for one project there were twenty versions.  Once I've read, edited and mastered, I burn a CD and ask Randy, or our daughter Danna, to listen to it for any last minute changes.  Finally we bless the completed master and send it out into the world to be replicated.  (By the way, even when I use a script in the studio, for my "live" shows I don't follow a script word for word, but just tell the story, so every performance is a little different.)  We spend all this time, energy and thought on each recording in an effort to make it sound as if I were in the room spontaneously spinning a tale for you and your family.

PHOTO: Jim in his studio, recording, mastering and editing until he reaches perfection.

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March Trivia Winner

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Last month we gave you hints that these tales might not be "giant" but nevertheless are "tall" stories that will have you "laughing out loud and pondering."

Thank you to all of the entrants who correctly chose

American Tall Tales as the answer.

American Tall Tales

Alas, though, there can be only one name chosen to win the recording, and that name is LAURA S.

Congratulations to Laura!!!!

Look for the next "Do You Know Greathall?" in an upcoming edition of our eMagazine.

PHOTO: Could the opposite of TRIVIA be CLARITY? Here is an example of clarity when a boxed lunch had what was clearly a pickle, labeled, "PICKLE"!

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Jim's TRAVEL Calendar

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Here is a current update of Jim's on-the-road presentations that are open to the public. Our website is updated as new events are booked.  If you or your organization are interested in a Jim Weiss Performance/Workshop, please contact us for a FREE PERFORMANCE PACKET and/or additional information.

April 4-6 Cincinnati Homeschool Convention Jim offers numerous presentations.

April 11-13 Greater Saint Louis Area Homeschool Convention Jim offers numerous presentations.

April 20 Hospice of the Piedmont, Charlottesville, VA

April 29 Fairbanks Public Library, Fairbanks, Alaska Jim Weiss Family Storytelling Evening Noel Fairbanks Public Library

May 10-11 Hearth and Home Homeschool Book Fair Arlington, Texas Jim offers numerous presentations.

May 23-25 North Carolina Homeschool Educators Convention Winston-Salem, North Carolina Jim offers numerous presentations.

May 29-31 Latter-Day Saints Home Education Conference Central Virginia Jim offers numerous presentations.

June 14-15 Washington Homeschool Organization Conference Pullyap, Washington Jim offers numerous presentations.

We are now booking Jim Weiss events from June, 2013-June, 2014. Please email for a            


PHOTO: Jim meets long-time Greathall fans, the Hendricks Family last month, at the Southeast Homeschool Conference in Greenville, South Carolina 

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The Jim Weiss/Greathall FACEBOOK is a remarkable community of intelligent, funny and introspective people. It's not like most FACEBOOK pages as it's more about reflection and discourse than selling product. Please visit our FACEBOOK HALL and invite your friends to come along as well.

PHOTO: Jim and Randy Weiss, founders of Greathall Productions

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* Visit our web site for more information about Greathall storytelling audio recordings and performances by Jim Weiss.

* View back-issues of our newsletter in the Greathall archives.