Though Joel ben Izzy has been telling stories all his life, he began his professional career in 1983, after graduating from Stanford with a degree in English, Creative Writing and Storytelling. After a year performing in and around San Francisco, he set off to travel the world, gathering and telling stories.
His first job as a storyteller took him to a little village outside Rome, where he worked in a camp that turned out to be haunted. You can hear the story of his adventures on The Green Hand. Just as one story leads to another, so one trip led to another, as Joel found himself travelling, teaching and telling stories in England, Wales, Ireland, France, Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, Spain, Israel, Japan, Hong Kong and China. For a more thorough listing where Joel's been and what he's done, see his resume [pdf].
In 1991 Joel produced his first recording, Stories From Far Away, which went on to win a Parents' Choice Gold Award and was chosen as an ALA Notable Recording. He has produced six recordings since that time, all of which have won awards, including his most recent, Lights & Laughter—Joel ben Izzy Spins Hanukkah Tales, which received a Parents' Choice Gold Award, NAPPA Gold Award and received a starred review from Booklist Magazine. For a listing and description of all six titles, click here.
In addition to his geographical travels, his stories have carried him to many places rarely frequented by storytellers. His work as a story consultant has him coaching and teaching story skills to folks in fields ranging from film to high-tech, from banking to advertising, from medicine to law. For more information on his story consulting, click here.
Joel's own story took a sharp twist in the summer of 1997, when he was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Though usually a treatable form of the disease, in his case there was a strange complication; when he awoke from surgery he discovered that he could no longer speak. So Joel began an adventure as strange as any story Joel had ever told, which was to become the basis for his book. As he says in the prologue:
“Sit back and let me tell you my tale, of a journey that took me through dark times, yet gave me a gift that I treasure. That gift is this story, which I now pass on to you—a tale of lost horses and found wisdom, of buried treasures and wild strawberries, of the beggar king and the secret of happiness.”
Click here to read more...