NSN is proud to annually recognize individuals and organizations for their outstanding contributions to storytelling.
Select an award below to learn more about this year’s recipients
Presented to artists who are recognized nationally by their peers to be master storytellers who set the standards for excellence and have demonstrated, over a significant period of time, a commitment and dedication to the art of storytelling
Age-old stories are given new life through the fresh interpretations of Jeannine Pasini Beekman. Known for the wit, passion and integrity of her work, listeners of all ages are enthralled and delighted by her vivid characterizations and masterful use of language. As a nationally acclaimed storyteller, each tale in her cross-cultural repertoire becomes a polished gem through her artful use of voice, gesture and movement.
Jeannine has designed and implemented collaborative story arts projects for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Library Association, the Smithsonian and Opera America. She is the recipient of the John Henry Faulk Award for Outstanding Contributions to Storytelling, the National Storytelling Network Oracle Award for Leadership, and the Ann Martin Book Award for Outstanding Contributions to Literacy.
Her appearances include the National Storytelling Festival, the Washington Storytellers Theatre and The Disney Institute. The Houston Chronicle called her storytelling performance with the Houston Symphony “brilliant…scintillating through the emotions” and she was the first storyteller ever invited to appear at the Tennessee Williams / New Orleans Literary Festival. She consulted with Baylor College of Medicine on the Healing Arts Project to determine the change in brain function when severely traumatized children experience story.
An eighth generation resident of Louisiana, she currently serves as a Louisiana Humanities Scholar and PrimeTime Family Reading national trainer and was recognized as a Louisiana Humanities Hero in 2016.
Presented to individuals or organizations that have made a significant contribution to their local or regional storytelling community and/or have used storytelling to make a significant contribution to the larger community in which they live
Juba aka Sarah Addison is a motivational speaker, storyteller, and teaching artist. She was born in the Mississippi Delta, raised on a farm in Kansas, and is living her best life in New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment. Juba learned the art of storytelling from her grandmother Sarah Jane, a descendant of West African Griots. As a child, she loved listening to wonderful stories told by her grandmother, aunts, uncles, and village family members. Those stories entertained and educated her. Often story listeners become storytellers.
Following in the footsteps of her elders, Juba is dedicated to performing, preserving, and promoting traditional storytelling. Stories are for people of all ages and come from many cultures. It is often said that children and adults retain information better and longer when it is presented in story form versus lecturers.
Juba believes stories are more than entertainment, that they play an important part in social change. She encourages others to tell their story. History is “his story” not necessarily “your story.” Everyone has a story and by telling/ sharing your stories, you form a bridge for others to cross and get to know you, your culture, and most importantly “your history.” She uses stories as a way of examining themes like healing, racism, diversity, and inclusion in the workplace. Juba’s mission is to “Share what I know to help others grow.”
Lisa Overholser is a Field Specialist in Community Arts and St. Louis Storytelling Festival Director at the University of Missouri Extension. As part of the MU Extension Community Development Program, she curates the yearly Festival, working alongside a volunteer Advisory Council and community partners to host storytelling programs for all ages. When not working on the Festival, she works with her Extension colleagues to develop arts-based curriculum and programming for the St. Louis region. In 2020, she became Chair of the Producers and Organizers Guild of the National Storytelling Network.
She’s also a trained folklorist, receiving her PhD in Folklore and Ethnomusicology from Indiana University-Bloomington in 2010. She spent two years in Hungary, one of them on a Fulbright Fellowship, working with the Hungarian State Folk Ensemble to research their staging practices of traditional music and dance through a narrative framing. While completing her dissertation, she spent six years as Program Manager for the New York Folklore Society, supporting the folklore and folklife of New York State’s traditional artists through Mentoring and Professional Development Grant programs, organizing conferences, and curating varied folklife programs and exhibits.
Although Lisa’s background is in performance (music and dance), she much prefers to work behind the scenes supporting the “true artists”.
Toni Simmons is an engaging storyteller and author who brings new life to her stories with songs, rhythms, chants and audience participation. Toni is a former librarian and drama teacher who has presented her multicultural tales throughout the U.S. and internationally. She has captivated audiences at many festivals including the National Storytelling Festival Exchange Place, the National Black Storytelling Festival, and the Texas Storytelling Festival. Toni is listed on the Texas Commission on the Arts Touring Artist Roster and was designated as an American Masterpiece by the National Endowment for the Arts.
Toni is the cofounder and weekly coach of the Zula B. Wylie Library Youth Tellers who were honored as finalist for the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award. Her involvement in the storytelling community includes serving as Artistic Director for the Texas Storytelling Festival, Lifetime member of the National Association of Black Storytellers, past chair of the Texas Library Association’s Storytelling Roundtable and grant panelist for the Texas Commission on the Arts. She is also the recipient of the Tejas Storytelling Association’s John Henry Faulk Award. Toni continues to mentor, support and promote storytellers.
Cynthia has been an active art’s advocate for 30 plus years, whether working on the board of art’s councils, organizing art camps, training teachers with The California Arts Project or providing quality arts/storytelling experiences at schools, libraries, festivals and other community events.
Starting in theatre in the 1980’s, she moved onto the storytelling landscape when her own children were born in 1993 and hasn’t looked back. As well as continuing her solo freelance career, she worked as a tandem storyteller with the Storyquilters from 1995-2009. She has produced two award-winning CDs: “Storyquilters” and “Blackberry Love.” Her first book “Hanging On” was recognized by the California Library Association as noteworthy children’s literature. Cynthia facilitates story gathering and recording for people who experienced the Great Depression, California wildfires and drought, Black Lives Matter protests, immigration and supports individuals who want to leave a legacy of stories to their families. For the past 15 years she has been a resident storyteller telling and teaching storytelling each week to classes at Aspire Public Schools in Stockton, California and is currently finishing up her Masters in storytelling at ETSU.
Recognizes the creativity, professional integrity, and artistic contributions of tellers who have greatly enriched the storytelling culture of their region
Binnie Tate Wilkin, residing in Las Vegas, Nevada, is a professional storyteller. Throughout her multi-faceted career, storytelling has been her forte. In December of 2020, she completed a project for the Neon Museum of Las Vegas. Videos of Ms. Wilkin presenting stories were produced, for elementary school children, accompanied by a brochure with booklists and suggestions for teachers.
During and after a long career in public libraries, she taught storytelling at major university Library Schools, including Columbia University, and the University of California at Berkeley and Los Angeles. As Children’s Specialist for the Los Angeles City Library, she was applauded for creative story programs and recognized for use of movement and dance with stories. Yearly, she teaches a course in storytelling for the University of Nevada Las Vegas’ Office of Lifelong Learning.
Recent activities include volunteer storytelling in schools, workshops on storytelling for the National Conference of African American Librarians and yearly Juneteenth programs for the Los Angeles County Library. On the roster of artists for the Nevada Arts Council, Ms. Wilkin has received grants for senior and teacher storytelling workshops. She is a member of the Nevada Storytelling Guild and has authored articles promoting storytelling including an online article, in 2020, for Humanities Heart to Heart titled, In the Land of NEEN. Her book on storytelling A Life in Storytelling: Anecdotes, Stories to Tell, Stories with Movement and Dance, Suggestions for Educators was published by Rowman and Littlefield in 2014.
Presented to those individuals, members or groups who contribute their time and energy in an exemplary manner on the national level to forward the work of the National Storytelling Network. This award was presented as a joint achievement of Sheila Arnold and Donna Washington for their ongoing work with Artists Standing Strong Together (ASST).
Sheila Arnold (www.mssheila.org) has been performing since age eight. She presents Storytelling Programs, Historic Character Presentations, Christian Monologues, Professional Development for Educators and Inspirational/Motivational Speaking for schools, churches and organizations throughout the US. She also manages and contracts new business for History’s Alive!, which mentors and provides opportunities and guidance to performers.
Ms. Sheila, as she is fondly called, has been performing full-time since 2003, and travels nationally each year. One of Sheila’s greatest joys is being the co-founder and Artistic Director of Artists Standing Strong Together (ASST), which was begun during the 2020 COVID-19 crisis, and continues to be a source of inspiration, strength and action in the storytelling and artists world.
Sheila is also an Historical Consultant for museums, historical societies and organizations. She also has received the honor of being selected as a Mt. Vernon Research Fellow and a 2019 Hewnoaks Artist Colony summer residence Noted Artist. In the past she has worked as a Drama Ministry Director; Colonial Williamsburg employee; Substitute Teacher; and Social Worker for aggressive teens with emotional problems
Sheila lives in Hampton, VA, near her son, Krisstopher; her two grandsons, Brooklyn & KY, as well as, her father and stepmother, Wallace & Vera Arnold. She communicates often with her Atlanta-based sister, Stephanie.
Donna Washington is an internationally known master storyteller, artist educator, and published author who has been performing for audiences of all ages for over thirty-four years. She is renowned for her storytelling for both children & adults from poignant & funny fables about the human condition to racy relationships stories to spine tingling tales of terror. She has been featured at numerous festivals, schools & libraries theaters and other venues around the world including Canada, Peru, Argentina & Hong Kong. During the pandemic, she has presented over two hundred shows & workshops virtually online.
Donna’s eleven storytelling CDs have garnered thirty national awards. She has authored numerous articles about storytelling and education including her very popular blog Language, Literacy & Storytelling. She is also the author of four children’s books: Li’l Rabbit’s Kwanzaa, A Pride of African Tales, The Story of Kwanzaa, and A Big Spooky House. Her fifth, Boo Stew will be out in fall of 2021. She travels all over the world performing and giving workshops, but she lives with her husband and two cats in Durham, NC.
Presented to those members of our community who have made outstanding contributions to the literary body of storytelling as authors, editors or collectors.
Heather Forest is a modern-day bard. A pioneer in the American Storytelling Renaissance, her repertoire of world tales told in a fusion of poetry, prose, original folk music and the sung and spoken word has been featured in theatres, schools, conferences and major storytelling festivals throughout the United States and abroad. The comedy and pathos of point of view, the mysteries of womenfolk, the trickster, the fool, quests, and journeys are threads on this storyteller’s colorful loom. She is an author of seventeen award winning folktale books and storytelling recordings, numerous articles, and a popular educational website www.storyarts.org. She holds a PhD in Leadership and Change from Antioch University and is a recipient of NSN’s Circle of Excellence Award. She is Executive Director of Story Arts Inc., a Long Island, New York based not-for-profit organization dedicated to the art of storytelling and its educational applications.
“Highly original…wonderfully gifted…. She calls herself a storyteller, but obviously she is much more. She combines song, sound, and story, weaving a most remarkable spell…”
Robert Sherman – Woody’s Children, WQXR-FM Radio NY
“To say that Heather Forest has a way with words would be a ludicrous understatement. Rather, she has HER way with words, stringing them together so they ring with a rhythmic beauty and create a picture so real that it can be traced with the fingers… Forest has an incredible emotive voice…. mesmerizing, compelling, clear, and strong”
The Milwaukee Journal, Wisconsin
An Oklahoman by birth, Lynn Moroney is a member of the Chickasaw Nation and recipient of their Lifetime Achievement Award. Lynn has used her background and unique vantage point to research, shape, and craft stories of ancient sky lore. She took on the task of telling us the folklore and skylore of indigenous people. Through her work, Lynn has encouraged and inspired others to move from the ancient tales to learn about current space science and space exploration.
During her career as planetarium director, author and traditional storyteller, Lynn Moroney has motivated people to look above themselves and their world into the skies. Driven by curiosity and a sense of wonderment, she searched to find, retell, and publish sky stories from US tribal nations and indigenous cultures from around the world. Lynn has worked with NASA in order that their work would respect and reveal the reverence that early prescience people had for the stars and outer space.
Not limited to Native American stories, Lynn’s publications include an Estonian folktale, Elinda, who Danced in the Skies and Moontellers: Myths of the Moon from around the World. Given to her to retell by acclaimed Chickasaw storyteller, Te Ata, her well-received book, Baby Rattlesnake, has also been published in Spanish and in DVD format. Lynn also published The Boy who Loved Bears: A Traditional Pawnee Tale. With Lynn’s assistance, tribes such as the Blackfeet and Crow developed science teaching projects in conjunction with the Lunar and Planetary Institute. These books for children, Crow Astronomy and Blackfeet Astronomy, offer links from traditional tribal stories to today’s study of astronomy.
Recognizes the exemplary work, dedication and spirit of those individuals or groups that promote the art of storytelling in their own country or promote the building of bridges between their country and other countries through the use of storytelling and/or storytelling events.
Artem is a Russia-based storyteller and founder of Academy Historia, story-based training and consulting company. As trainers Artem and his team conduct storytelling workshops for people working in business – mainly leaders, HR, trainers and salespeople. And as consultants they use the power of story to solve various tasks – discover company’s purpose, work out authentic brand message, transform corporate values from written words into real actions, strengthen teamwork, help communicate change and much more.
Artem is doing extensive work to popularize storytelling in Russia – he has hosted 60+ interviews with international storytelling experts and has hosted two online conferences on business storytelling with 2500 participants in total and 60+ guest speakers including Shawn Callahan, Mary Alice Arthur, David Hutchens, Paul Smith, Doug Lipman, Karen Dietz, Terrence Gargiulo and more!
But the story of business really began with love and inspiration. Back in 2016 Artem began his career at AON Hewitt regional office and learned a lot about engaging leadership by conducting engagement surveys and engaging leadership training. At that time Artem’s wife Anne was discovering narrative psychotherapy and starting her own practice. Anne told Artem lots of stories about the light and transformation stories can bring people and her stories were filled with true belief in the best in people. Her inspiration guided Artem to discover storytelling and later combine it with his expertise in business. The rest is a story 🙂
Since their inception in 1995, the ORACLE Awards have been presented by the National Storytelling Network to those who have excelled in their art, or made significant contributions to storytelling, NSN or its members.
The ORACLE can be an award given for:
in the Storytelling Community
Nomination submissions are no longer being accepted. Stay connected with us for the next available nomination date.
Lifetime Achievement Award – is presented to individuals in the storytelling community who have dedicated their lives to the art form of storytelling and who have demonstrated meritorious service to the National Storytelling Network, as well as to the community of storytellers at large. The individuals who are awarded are those who have expanded public awareness of the art of storytelling by virtue of their preservation of traditional art forms or the significant originality of their body of work.
Circle of Excellence Award – is presented to artists who are recognized nationally by their peers to be master storytellers who set the standards for excellence and have demonstrated, over a significant period of time, a commitment and dedication to the art of storytelling.
Regional Excellence – recognizes the creativity, professional integrity, and artistic contributions of tellers who have greatly enriched the storytelling culture of their region.
Distinguished National Service Award – is presented to those individuals, members or groups who contribute their time and energy in an exemplary manner on the national level to forward the work of the National Storytelling Network.
Talking Leaves – is presented to those members of our community who have made outstanding contributions to the literary body of storytelling as authors, editors or collectors.
International StoryBridge Award – recognizes the exemplary work, dedication and spirit of those individuals or groups that promote the art of storytelling in their own country or promote the building of bridges between their country and other countries through the use of storytelling and/or storytelling events.
Regional Award Recipients
Regional Service and Leadership Awards are presented to individuals or organizations that have made a significant contribution to their local or regional storytelling community and/or have used storytelling to make a significant contribution to the larger community in which they live.
Southeast Region – Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky
South Central Region – Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana
North Central Region – North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio
Northeast Region – Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Upstate New York
Mid-Atlantic Region – Metro NYC, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, West Virginia, Virginia, District of Columbia
Pacific Region – Washington, Oregon, California, Alaska, Hawaii
Western Region – Idaho, Utah, Montana, Colorado, Nevada, Arizona. New Mexico, Wyoming
ORACLE Award Submission Form
Deadline: Midnight Central time, May 10, 2021
This is the digital nomination form. If you are looking for the printable form you will find it HERE. The printable nomination form can be filled in using Adobe Acrobat. Be sure to save the file when complete.
Paper forms can be filled in by typewriter or pen. Please use black or blue ink and print clearly.
Narrative and Letters of Support: 8 ½” x 11”, with 1-inch margins and type font no smaller than 11pt. Please note the maximum number of pages is five (5) for the narrative and two (2) for each letter. For the Regional Excellence Awards only, please also include a link to a video showing a Storytelling performance of the nominee (YouTube, website, etc.) If you mail your submission do not send photos, CDs, or DVDs. They will not be forwarded to evaluators.
Directions for Narrative Addressing Qualifications of the Nominee
When writing the narrative, please refer to the description of the specific award:
- Lifetime Achievement Award – is presented to individuals in the Storytelling community who have dedicated their lives to the art form of Storytelling and who have demonstrated meritorious service to the National Storytelling Network, as well as to the community of Storytellers at large. The individuals who are awarded are those who have expanded public awareness of the art of Storytelling by virtue of their preservation of traditional art forms or the significant originality of their body of work.
- Circle of Excellence Award – is presented to artists who are recognized nationally by their peers to be master Storytellers who set the standards for excellence and have demonstrated, over a significant period of time, a commitment and dedication to the art of Storytelling.
- Regional Excellence Award – recognizes the creativity, professional integrity, and artistic contributions of tellers who have greatly enriched the Storytelling culture of their region. Note: video required with this nomination since the evaluation committee may be unfamiliar with the nominee’s Storytelling work.
- Distinguished National Service Award – is presented to those individuals, members, or groups who contribute their time and energy in an exemplary manner on the national level to forward the work of the National Storytelling Network.
- Talking Leaves – is presented to those members of our community who have made outstanding contributions to the literary body of Storytelling as authors, editors, or collectors.
- International StoryBridge Award – recognizes the exemplary work, dedication, and spirit of those individuals or groups that promote the building of bridges between their country and other countries through the use of Storytelling and/or Storytelling events.
- Regional Service & Leadership Awards – presented to individuals or organizations that have made a significant contribution to their local or regional Storytelling community and/or have used Storytelling to make a significant contribution to the larger community in which they live.
Here are some topics you may want to cover. Please focus on topics relevant to the specific award you are submitting a nomination for. The ORACLE committee can’t judge a nominee’s excellence if the Narrative and Letters of Support concentrate on their service and leadership; they can’t give Talking Leaves (publications) if they hear mostly about the nominee’s excellent performances, etc.
- Description of how the nominee’s work has expanded public awareness of storytelling.
- Description of the nominee’s contribution to NSN (especially important for Distinguished National Service, International Story Bridge, and Regional Service & Leadership Awards).
- Description of the nominee’s contribution to the storytelling community (especially important for Distinguished National Service, International Story Bridge, and Regional Service & Leadership Awards).
- Description of the nominee’s contribution to the community in which they live (especially important for Distinguished National Service, International Story Bridge, and Regional Service & Leadership Awards).
NOTE: No more than five (5) pages of narrative will be accepted.
Please note: Letters or excerpts in support of a winning nomination may be posted on the NSN website.
Submitting the nomination
- Online Form: Click here to go to the online submission form.
- E-mail: Send e-mail submissions with Attn: Awards Committee in the subject line to firstname.lastname@example.org by midnight Central time Monday, May 10, 2021.
- Postal Mail: Send a single copy (the original will be scanned and sent to evaluators) postmarked by May 1, 2021 to:
National Storytelling Network
Attention: ORACLE Awards Committee
P.O. Box 413014
Kansas City, MO 64141
Questions regarding submissions can be directed to the NSN staff at email@example.com or 1-800-525-4514.
All original copies will be kept on file by NSN. If the nominee is not selected in the year nominated, the nominee’s paperwork will be kept on file and automatically reconsidered in the following year.