A chilling lesson
The Arizona Republic
Mar. 24, 2006
Bilingual storyteller's ghost story meant to inspire 8th-graders to read, write
Joseph Torrez had heard the story of La Llorona, The Weeping Woman from his
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.