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Getting to know Claire Miller

Get comfortable while we tell you the story of Claire Miller, professional storyteller. For more than two decades, she spun tales across the Maritimes, in schools and small towns. These days, Claire tells stories mostly to adult audiences, often with folk, jazz or choral musicians by her side. For her contribution as a pioneer in the art form and for her charitable work, Claire received an alumni award for distinguished community service from Saint Mary’s University recently. Saltscapes spoke with Claire about her storytelling roots, her favourite causes and happy endings.

Q What’s important about storytelling?
A We’ve told stories from the beginning of time. It helps bring us together as a family, a community, so we can each see the similarities in our experiences, but we can also appreciate the differences.

Q Did you grow up in a storytelling home?
A Both of my parents were family storytellers. I grew up in Ottawa, but they were Maritimers, always telling stories about their childhoods. My mother would often talk about her father, who had been a minister. He was a great storyteller from the pulpit.

Q What about your dad’s side?
A My dad was always telling stories about his childhood and his family. My father was born in Saint John the night the Titanic went down. He was the first of my grandparent’s eight children to be born in Canada.

Q Do you use any of those stories in your own work?
A I remember my father telling me about when my grandparents emigrated from Scotland. That’s a story I tell now about their decision to cross the ocean in search of a better life.

Q They were your main source of stories?
A I also grew up reading traditional stories. I still have my childhood collection of Grimm’s fairytales and Andersen’s fairytales. They were just such great stories and so different from real life in some ways, and in other ways not.

Q When did you first start telling stories?
A I began storytelling with my two sons at bedtime. They liked made-up stories so I would begin, “Once upon a time, there were two little boys.” I would make up stories about the great adventures they would have, which often featured playing with the NHL.

Q Do you still tell stories in your family?
A The kind of storytelling we do now is the kind most families do. What did you do today? It is different from how it was with my parents because there are more distractions now than when my parents were raising us.

Q Do you think there is less storytelling today?
A I don’t think there is as much. Maybe it’s taking a different form now. A lot of kids are getting their stories electronically on a screen.

Q You donate stories. What organizations have benefitted from your storytelling?
A I don’t think there is as much. Maybe it’s taking a different form now. A lot of kids are getting their stories electronically on a screen.

Q You believe stories can be useful to those in need?
A There are going to be people who help you along the way. That’s a recurring theme in stories. On your journey, there will always be somebody to help you out.

Q So, you think of yourself as an optimist?
A Yes. I am a believer in the happy ending. It might not seem like a happy ending at the time, but things do turn out for the best in the end. The stories will tell you that.

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