PROVO — Marianne Liu of Sandy loves to tell stories in front of a big audience.
She's undaunted by all the faces and the pressure.
Maybe that's because she's just 7 and the youngest in the cast of National Youth Torchbearers who'll share stories at the National Youth Storytelling Showcase concert in Provo this month. (The others are 10-17.)
Aleksa Poulter of Ogden is 14 this year, but she too started on the storytelling stage when she was still in the first grade.
That's when a librarian at school noticed her and encouraged her to read all kinds of stories and tell them to others.
Poulter entered a storytelling event without telling her parents about it until after she'd won.
"She's told stories ever since," said her mother, Carrie Poulter. "She participates every year in the Weber Storytelling Festival and even gets paid to be in the Farmington Storytelling Festival."
Poulter is a natural and can perform at a storytelling event at a moment's notice.
So can Liu, currently a second-grader at Peruvian Park Elementary School.
She's a busy, spirited young girl who plays piano, dances and was recently in the news for creating a new look for the Google web logo in the Doodle 4 2012 contest. She received the Curious Kid Award from Utah Gov. Gary Herbert.
At the showcase event, she'll tell “The Elephant’s Nose," a comic story about an elephant child’s maddening curiosity that, in the end, changes the elephant’s nose forever.
Poulter's story is a retelling of "Little Red Riding Hood" with her own adaptations and twists.
"It's going to be a fairy tale with a little bit of humor," Poulter said.
She's currently working on an original piece called "Stones and Bread" that she wrote with her father, one they're trying to get published.
Both young tellers are full of enthusiasm and courage. Neither admits to any stage nerves.
Liu tells her mom, Joanne Feng, that she simply loves to tell stories.
When pressed to say why she loves it, she says again. "Because I love it."
She's made up her own stories from the time she was small, said her mom. Judges who listened to her spin her first tale couldn't believe it was her first time.
Poulter said when she performs, she just takes a deep breath, walks up to the stage with confidence and always makes eye contact. Then she's fine.
That's good, because someday soon she plans to be a professional storyteller or maybe an actress.
The annual Timpanogos Story Works Conference draws people from across the nation.
This year, two free workshops are being offered as part of its conference lineup. Mike Hall, deputy chief genealogical officer with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Family History Department, will teach "I have names, dates, place, now what?" Charlotte Blake Alston will teach teachers about incorporating and encouraging storytelling in their classrooms.
Alston is a storyteller, narrator, instrumentalist and singer. She will host the showcase concert.
Other facets of the winter conference include a free Feb. 27 musical performance "Rejoice! Regardless!" and an evening concert featuring Bill Harley and Alston.
Detailed information is available at the institute website: http://www.timpfest.org/
If you go:
What: National Youth Storytelling Showcase Concert (part of the annual winter conference hosted by the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival)
When: Feb. 9, 3-4:30 p.m. (Festival workshops and events run from Feb. 7-9 with a public concert Feb. 8 featuring Bill Harley and Charlotte Blake Alston)
Where: BYU Conference Center, Room 2254, 770 E. University Parkway, Provo
Sharon Haddock is a professional writer with 35 years experience, 17 at the Deseret News. Her personal blog is at sharonhaddock.blogspot.com.