WINDHAM – Susan Dries knows stories.
Ghost stories, fun stories, magic stories and folk stories. She’s read them all, told them all, loved them all, and on Sunday, Oct. 23, at the Little Meetinghouse in Windham, she’s inviting the public to hear them all, well a few of them anyway.
“It’s that time of year for ghost stories,” said Dries, a longtime Windham resident. “It’s for all ages so it won’t be too scary, but there will be a lot of suspense.”
Dries never intended to make storytelling her career. She landed in it by sheer luck and a friend’s necessity. About 30 years ago, a friend was working at the Portland Observatory and when the featured storyteller for her friend’s event canceled, she called Dries who was working part time at the Windham Public Library and asked if she knew of any suitable replacements.
“She was panicked and asked me if I knew any storytellers, which I didn’t,” said Dries with a chuckle. “I mistakenly told her if she couldn’t find anyone she could call me back and I would do it, and that’s what happened.”
Dries, nervous and with no stories of her own, took out all the books in the library containing ghost stories and read them to her then 6- and 7-year-old sons. The ones the boys liked were the ones she told at the observatory. The audience was enthralled and Dries was happy to have helped and didn’t think much about making it a career until the calls started flowing in.
“The next day people were calling and asking how much I charged and if I could read at their event,” said Dries. “I’ve been doing it ever since.”
Dries has been telling stories to residents across Maine, and although it used to be a full-time career, she now considers it more of a hobby.
“It used to be my profession, but I do it for fun now,” said Dries. “I do it because I love the power of the spoken word. I love the power of making the audience so quiet you can hear a pin drop, and I love the power of creating strong images for people.”
Dries creates images so real that she has had audience members ask her how she made their face wet when describing a foggy night, or how they knew the color of a certain house when she never mentioned the color in the description.
“That’s something they brought to the story I was telling,” said Dries. “It’s amazing what people’s imaginations can create. It’s just so much fun.”
Dries tells family-friendly stories and encourages all ages from 7-99 to join the fun on Sunday in her hometown of Windham.
“Most people think storytelling is for children,” said Dries. “That’s not necessarily true. If you get a good story, it’s good for everyone.”
The tale spinning begins at 7 p.m. at the Little Meetinghouse on Route 302, and although the event is free, donations of $3 per child, $5 per adult and $10 per family are appreciated. Dries will be accompanied on stage by Peaks Island resident, Bill Hinderer, who is known for his fascinating and poignant stories of Vietnam and life in the military. For the Windham event, he will step out for some fun, bringing great imagery and humor to the evening.
Both Dries and Hinderer are members of M.O.O.S.E. (Maine Organization of Storytelling Enthusiasts), and L.A.N.E.S. (The League for the Advancement of New England Storytellers).