The Storyteller's Cottage offers guided story hikes
Gnarled trees, mossy stumps, and raised roots become objects of magical, mystical happenings. Simsbury resident Lisa Natcharian, owner of The Storyteller’s Cottage, incorporates these and other sources of nature to make her stories come alive in her e-books geared toward children, but enjoyable for any age.
Available to download from the website (StorytellersCottage.Podia.com) are Great Pond State Forest: Fairy Finding Adventure and Belden Forest: Barbarian Tracking Adventure. Readers go on-location to these Simsbury Land Trust designations to enjoy their “storywalk.”
Natcharian founded the Cottage in 2017 because “I wanted to create something that incorporated all of the things I enjoy,” she said and noted the variety of jobs she’s held: “gifted ed teacher, a computer science teacher, a freelance writer, a magazine publisher, a public relations director, and a few other things as well.”
The Cottage’s mission? “Where Literature Comes to Life.” By “creating activities from stories,” Natcharian said that programs included mysteries and Harry Potter experiences where “guests interact with actors,” she said. “It’s so much more fun to become part of the story, rather than just read.”
The physical Simsbury location recently had to permanently close its doors due to COVID-related protocols of no large in-person gatherings. She said, “There is no end in sight to the limited capacity of indoor programs, and it seems unlikely that when capacity limits are lifted, the market for indoor events will still be strong enough to fill our activities. It’s really a mathematical calculation that indicates that this business model is no longer profitable, especially because our building is so small and we have no outdoor space.”
Fortunately, Natcharian’s and her staff’s creativity have moved to an online Academy. Options feature choices from downloadable videos and activity packages for fiction aficionados or those looking for instruction in writing and publishing or art and drawing. And of course, the storywalks.
This description of Great Pond State Park: Fairy Finding Adventure can be found on the website: “Once upon a time, this forest was the home to five tribes of fairies: the Dryads, Naiads, Nymphs, Pixies and Sprites. One day, a mischievous Pixie decided to play a trick on the Dryads. Walk through the Fairy Realm to see what happened next!” At 1.8 miles, the journey takes about 40 minutes.
The author and this LIFE reporter attempted to storywalk Great Pond and follow along with the e-book. Upon arrival, there was a clear indication that wouldn’t happen: A large orange sign with a leftward pointing arrow blocked the main entrance – a possible warning that the path may be littered with fallen trees from recent violent storms. (Or it could’ve been the handiwork of some impish fairies or a “thwartful” troll...) Indeed, Natcharian added a note on her website warning of tree-blocked trails, but to keep checking her site for updates.
The alternative route would suffice, so it was off to Belden Forest to enjoy the guided hike. On the website, Natcharian provided the premise of Belden Forest: Barbarian Tracking Adventure: “Did you know that two different tribes of barbarians live in the Belden Forest? And one night a rare Storm Giant appeared in their territory ... was he there to steal their treasure, or warn them of danger? Find out as you hike!” At 1.2 miles, the trip takes about 35 minutes.
While the Fairy Finding Adventure is geared toward the female persuasion, Natcharian said, “I wanted to do something clearly not for little girls. I have three boys.” She admitted it was easy to come up with the barbarian story inspired by her 21-year-old and two mid-teenaged sons’ love for Dungeons & Dragons.
She explained that the two bands of barbarians don’t fight each other, but “push each other around.” In the story, “They have to work together because they have a common enemy.” Would it be the Storm Giant or the flying dragon called a Wyvern?
The stories could be sub-themed “The COVID Project” because Natcharian and her sons did a lot of hiking during the lockdown. “We were hiking this area, and there were so many adorable landmarks,” she said. “It sparked my imagination. I thought, Put this in an e-book, and have people follow along, and encourage people to make up some of their own story, as well.” She provides prompts in the books asking readers to decide what they think of the circumstances presented to them. Her sons liked the idea, and after completing the hike with the e-book, her oldest declared, “That was good, Mom!”
Upon entering Belden Forest for the storywalk, certain trees are marked with dabs of paint, or blazes, representing which trail to follow. But for Natcharian, the blue and yellow blazes represent territory markers for each tribe, Night Runner Tribe and Golden Eagle Clan.
Suddenly, a treetop began to groan (for real!) and Natcharian, posited, “Is it a barbarian?” (Maybe...?)
From her iPhone she narrated her delightful story, stopping at each of the landmarks she had photographed herself for the e-book and gave an account of its history. Natcharian regularly tours her story forests for new landmarks or changes in existing ones, and revises her story accordingly.
One tree stump used to have a very small stem of leaves growing in front of it, but now the stem is bare. The ancient stump was sprouting a tiny new tree at the time of the original story, which indicated the result of “magical energy.” But now with its bare stem, will the author feel the need to revise?
In Natcharian’s story, each landmark guides you to the next – along with a little bit of her directing – so that you stick to the trail in her book. There’s the Storm Giant’s abandoned studded club, sword-trimmed trees, The Betrayal Tree, The Spriggan’s Hoard, petrified snakes, the giant’s two massive arrowheads, The Twister Tree, Hidden Fairy Realm’s camouflaged stovepipe, Sacred Sulis Tree, and The Victory Tree. To discover the victory, read the story!
Images of mythical characters are added in some of the book’s scenes.
As the barbarians seek out the purpose of the Storm Giant’s actions, they come to a realization that something more sinister may be lurking about... The journey to find the answer continues to the end!
Natcharian’s next work in progress, coming soon, is Westledge Trail: Crumbling Castle of the Elfin Kingdom. The website promises, “Deep in the forest, a mysterious ruin lies quietly beside a burbling stream. Unlock the secrets of the Elfin Kingdom that once ruled these woods. This hike includes two long stone staircases.” At 1 mile, the storywalk takes about 30 minutes.
Currently reviewing all of the Simsbury Land Trust trails, Natcharian will have countless adventures ahead. VL
For more information about The Storyteller’s Cottage, visit StorytellersCottage.Podia.com.
Great Pond State Park: Fairy Finding Adventure and Belden Forest: Barbarian Tracking Adventure are downloadable on iPhone or Android for $4.99 each.