PORT ANGELES — The first Story Swap of the new season is a mashup: part campfire tales and songs, part open mic. All of the above is free to the public starting at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
The place, as always for the swaps, is the Raymond Carver Room inside the Port Angeles Library, 2210 S. Peabody St.
Alice Susong, a well-traveled veteran of America’s national parks, and her husband, Dunbar, will knit their words together: hers in stories and his in song. The longtime Sequim residents are the featured performers at the Story Swap, so they will step up during the first half.
Then comes a snack break and, in the second half, the open mic section, when anyone is welcome to share a short story. The evening wraps by 9 p.m.
The open mic tellers — who may also be singers and music players — can plan on abundant inspiration from the Susongs. While Dunbar was a Yellowstone National Park ranger a couple of decades ago, Alice began telling stories to their own kids around the fire.
Many years later, the Susongs took a “Prairie Home Companion” cruise to Alaska with radio host Garrison Keillor himself. Alice tried out for the onboard talent show and found herself among the 12 chosen performers.
She told a time-burnished tale about camping at Yellowstone Lake, where an encounter with a bear made things especially vivid. A surprised Alice won second place in the talent contest and took home a $200 prize.
For close to 20 years now, Alice has also shared her stories with local children in Sequim and Port Angeles schools, at the Northwest Folklife Festival in Seattle and in national park programs from Olympic to Grand Teton.
At the Tuesday swap, she’ll venture down south with a story about Sir Ernest Shackleton’s journey to Antarctica. An excerpt from “Moby Dick” is also part of her set.
“I’m just going to tell the final part; I’m not going to do the whole thing. I don’t have time,” Alice quipped. “Dunbar will have some of his whaling songs to go with it, as ‘he has a nice voice,’ ” she said, adding that her husband has a way of taking a well-known tune and switching the lyrics up to fit the setting.
The nonprofit Story People of Clallam County host free Story Swaps the third Tuesday of each month through fall, winter and spring. There’s one exception: next month, when the swap is skipped in favor of the Forest Storytelling Festival, the Oct. 20-22 affair at Peninsula College.
For more about the swaps and the festival, visit www.clallamstorypeople.org or call 360-460-6594.
Diane Urbani de la Paz, a former features editor for the Peninsula Daily News, is a freelance writer living in Port Angeles.