Niles storyteller spins tales for all ages
Debi Gajewski tells a story. | Contributed photo
Updated: April 22, 2013 2:45AM
Storytelling has always been an important part of Debi Gajewski’s life, so becoming a professional storyteller who touches the lives of many people was a natural fit.
The longtime Niles resident tells stories about a variety of topics at senior centers, the Niles Teen Center, and many other places. Gajewski, who owns The Story Spinners with her husband, shares interesting stories ranging from ghost stories, to Civil War stories, to preschool stories, to tales of Mr. and Mrs. Claus. Gajewski also helps others become better storytellers through coaching.
Q: How did you become interested in storytelling?
A: I loved stories when I was a child. I was raised by my grandparents. It was something that we did in my era after supper. We’d go out in the front porch and that was my entertainment. They would tell me stories. I really got interested.
Q: Was there someone who inspired you to be a storyteller?
A: My grandparents really did. I’m writing a book called “Stories on My Grandparents’ Porch.” It takes me back to when I was a child in the ’50s and the ’60s.
Q: What’s the most rewarding part about storytelling?
A: The way that it touches people. It touches their hearts and minds, their emotions. I can see it when they laugh, when they smile and when tears come rolling down their face, especially with the elderly and those with Alzheimer’s. I know that for those moments, it touched them. I like to uncover the things that are sort of swept underneath the carpet. I just did a story for Martin Luther King Day. I wanted a story about how we would feel if this happened to us.
Q: How do you tell a story successfully?
A: Sometimes I use puppets when I do younger children. At least 80 percent of the time I have costumes. I have a vintage handkerchief program and I show up with at least 100 handkerchiefs. Sometimes I sing. I have comical routines that are more for adults. Laughter is good medicine. It really depends on what people want to do.
Q: What are some of your favorite kind of stories to tell?
A: I really enjoy anything that makes a person want to know more. History tends to come up a lot when I get hired for schools. I like to find the things that no one has ever heard of. Chicago history is a favorite of mine.
Q: What other hobbies or interests do you have?
A: I blog every day. Right now I’m doing a worldly word a day. At the end of the each month I’m going to take the words I use throughout the month and write a story. I paint for a living as well. I paint and sell at The Grove (in Glenview) at Christmas time. I’m a resident story teller at The Grove.
Q: Any other thoughts about storytelling?
A: We need to connect with children on another level. The families aren’t communicating and sharing stories and I think we need to bring that back. The biggest hill we have to climb over is that we have a hard time convincing the public that storytelling is an oral tradition and not a reading from a book.