A chilling lesson
The Arizona Republic
Mar. 24, 2006

Bilingual storyteller's ghost story meant to inspire 8th-graders to read, write own tales

Betty Reid
Joseph Torrez had heard the story of La Llorona, The Weeping Woman from his grandmother.

Grandmother's story failed to hold his attention as that of author and writer Joe Hayes who recently read, shared and offered tips about crafting a good story at the Roosevelt School District's Sierra Vista School.

Hayes, an award-winning, children's book author from Santa Fe, intrigued eighth-graders with his bilingual storytelling.

Torrez thought Hayes' storytelling style was compelling enough that it knocked him off his feet when the author, impersonating the ghostlike La Llorona, who searched endlessly for her kids that she'd thrown into the river in jealousy, sent a bone-chilling wail throughout the Sierra Vista library. That upstaged his grandmother's style of storytelling, the eighth-grader said.

"He startled me and he made me jump. I also think the story is told better because there's more English," said Torrez, who enjoyed the added theatrics. "My grandmother told me the weeping woman story in Spanish and I don't know many words in Spanish."

Getting authors whose material is familiar is a way to inspire students to read, write and speak, district educators said. Catalina Dietrich, campus parent program coordinator, said Hayes fit that bill and invited him to  Roosevelt, where most students are Hispanic.

Hayes also shared tips on how to craft a story using feedback that he got  from an audience after a reading of La Llorona. A teacher after one reading claimed a sighting of the weeping mother at a Phoenix canal, the author

" 'I saw her walking along a canal,' the teacher told me," Hayes said. "She  said, 'That's the end of the story.' "

Hayes, convinced there is more to the story, pried for details. He learned the teacher's family lived at the end of an irrigation ditch, where she and  her aunt saw the ghost follow them repeatedly wailing, "my children."

Hayes said that is a cliffhanger because the listener never finds out how  the story ends. He learned the teacher's aunt had a rosary that she shook at the ghost, causing her to vanish.

The author encouraged students to improve the story by writing their own  version with more details.

Hayes is author of 17 books, many published in Spanish and English. They  include Ghost Fever/ Mal de Fantasma and The Day It Snowed Tortillas.