#AtoZchallenge Spotlight on Storyteller Csenge

#AtoZChallenge 2020 badge

The team decided our theme for this month’s posts here would be a take “2020 visions of blogging.” This set of weekday posts focuses on:

A 2020 Look at the A to Z Team

#AtoZChallenge 2020 Blogging from A to Z Challenge letter S

1- 1- “What’s in a name?
That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”
Zalka Csenge Virág, A Tarkabarka Hölgy, Dr. Zalka …
How do you prefer to be addressed?

Zalka is my family name, so as much as I’d love to be addressed as “The Amazing Dr. Z” most people call me Csenge. 😀

2- Does Virág mean flower?

Yes, it means flower in Hungarian! It’s my “middle name” (Hungarians put family names first)

3- What does it mean to be the “Multicolored Lady”?

When I decided to become a professional storyteller, I was playing around with stage names that sounded exciting. Storytelling has always been a very colorful occupation in my mind, plus I love wearing bright colors, so that’s the name I ended up using early on. I don’t use it much these days, but it stuck around on the blog.

4- How did you find out you’re Hungary’s first international storyteller?

I started talking to storytellers from other countries, and they told me they have never encountered a Hungarian storyteller before.

5- In how many languages are you fluent?

Apart from Hungarian, I speak English and Spanish.

6- Your words are so quotable. “I am a person. Not affiliated with any organization, political party, government agency, or secret society. Oh wait, I have a library card.” I love that line! Would you share a picture of yourself at a library?

It’s a photo I took when I was telling stories at a library sleepover, and I actually got to sleep between the stacks along with the kids. It was awesome!

7- You did a TED talk in Nov 2010. Would you tell us about that?

It was a TEDxYouth event, and they invited me to talk about storytelling as a profession. Back then it was not well known in Hungary that storytelling exists as an art form and a job, and why it is exciting and useful for all ages. So I used my TED talk to tell people that storytellers still exist! A few years later I also wrote a book about that.

8- And another TED talk in 2016! Please, would you tell us about that as well?

That one was fun! It happened at the (in)famous Sziget Festival in Budapest. I talked about storytelling and representation, and the responsibility storytellers have to their communities.

9- Trinity College (Connecticut, US), East Tennessee State University (US), Bowling Green State University (Ohio, US), Eötvös Loránd University (Budapest, Hungary) — That’s an impressive amount of education! How long did it take you to attend all those educational institutions?

Five years at ELTE (MA in Archaeology), one year at ETSU (MA in Storytelling), four years at BGSU (PhD in Culture Studies). Trinity College was a one-year study abroad program. All in all, I spent about six years studying in the USA.

10- Would you share a fun story from your college days?

When I first attended an American college, I was 21 years old. The first time me and my Hungarian friends showed up to an official college party, we were the only ones around at 11pm, and were stunned to see all the party kegs filled with water and orange juice! It took us a while to figure out that they couldn’t serve alcohol because of underage students. It was very strange (legal drinking age in Hungary is 18). Eventually someone took pity on us and directed us to the frat houses, where the real party was happening… I was a little disappointed because I rarely ever drink, and an orange juice party sounded just fine to me 😄

11- “Hősök és pimaszok – Mit és hogyan meséljünk kamaszoknak” Google translated that title as “Heroes and Sober – What and How to Tell Your Adolescents.” What is the English translation of that title, and is the book still for sale?

“Heroes and tricksters: The how and why of storytelling for teenagers.” One of my latest books, it came out last June. It is a handbook for people who want to tell stories to teenagers (who are my personal favorite audience). It also contains twenty-one of my favorite folktales for this age group.

12- “Currants at the End of the World: Old Hungarian Folk Tales for Today’s Children” – How many languages has this book been translated into, and where can we get a copy?

It was only published in Hungarian so far, but I hope it will get an English translation! It ran on my blog as a series titled “Feminist Hungarian Folktales.” Right now, there is a sequel on my English-language blog titled “Feminist Folktales”, from around the world.

13- “Tales of Superhuman Powers: 55 Traditional Stories from Around the World” – How did you go about collecting all of the stories, and how long did it take to write this book?

The writing didn’t take all that long, but the research did. I made a list of popular superpowers from movies, comics, and TV shows, and I tried to find a traditional story for each of them. People have been telling tales about supernatural powers for a very long time; I wanted to show the connection between traditional storytelling and modern superheroes. I did a lot of digging and searching until I found stories that fit the criteria, and were also enjoyable to contemporary audiences.

14- “Dancing on Blades: Rare and Exquisite Folktales from the Carpathian Mountains” – It’s so amazing to share the myths and legends of your home country. How did you discover these?

I found some of them in a book from the 50s that was out of print, and I loved them so much that I went digging for the same storyteller in the Folklore Archives. A lot of her stories have been collected a hundred years ago but never published. Her name was Pályuk Anna, and she was an exceptional folk teller. I love telling her tales, and I wanted to share them with a wider audience!

15- “The way stations of Nemescsó and Sorokpolány on the Amber Road” – How much of the historic amber trade route have you traveled?

A lot of it, in separate installments 😊 When I was studying archaeology, most students wrote their thesis on the artifacts of an excavation their professor gave them. I was interested in travel in Roman times (my focus was the archaeology of Roman provinces), so my advisor gave me one Roman way-station with all its documentation and finds. What ended up in that book is basically my Master’s thesis.

16- “On the way to the sky – three novels” – At what age did you publish this, and is it still for sale today?

I think it’s out of print by now. I wrote those three short novels when I was in high school, and they were published during my first year in college. They are historical fiction, my favorite genre. I haven’t published any fiction since, but I keep hoping to circle back to it eventually!

17- “Forum-Based Role Playing Games as Digital Storytelling (Studies in Gaming)” – On about how many forums have you roleplayed? What year did you start? Do you have a favorite character you’ve played?

Uhh, a lot of them! I have been forum gaming for about eleven years. There are a few sites where I have been present consistently, and four I specifically played on for my dissertation research (which is the basis of this book). Forum gaming is one of my favorite pastimes. I have had many characters over the years. I am currently playing on a forum based on alternative Roman history (one of the forums from my dissertation work – I loved it so much I stuck around), where I have quite a few characters near and dear to my heart.

Quote by Zalka Csenge about #atozchallenge bloggers who do not want to promote their own blog.

18- Yet another quote of yours that I love! In your opinion, why are some blog hop participants resistant to promoting their own blog?

I think people are conditioned to see any self-promotion as “awkward”, even though it’s the bread and butter of artists and freelancers. When you try to politely and tactfully promote your work, you run into a lot of negative feedback about “tooting your own horn”, and it can make people hesitant. But over the course of A to Z visiting people is everything, and sometimes I’m disappointed when I can’t trace someone who left a nice comment for me…

19- As an archaeologist, what is the most interesting artifact you encountered?

I never worked as an archaeologist apart from university excavations, so I don’t have a huge track record. I always loved finding small things – small objects that a person like you or I used in their everyday life hundreds of years ago. I once found a Roman shaving razor at one of the excavations. I was holding it, thinking of the person who held it all those centuries before. There is something magical about small personal objects, almost like time travel.

20- I cannot believe I’m out of questions already! Okay, last one…
What’s your favorite part of the A to Z Challenge and your favorite part of being on our A to Z team?

My favorite part is the visiting! I always pre-schedule my posts, and spend April blog-hopping. During A to Z I read about a whole lot of things that don’t often appear in my everyday reading materials. I learn about cooking, history, faraway cultures, other people’s writing… It’s exciting to discover how colorful the A to Z topics are!
I love being on the team because I get to participate in the work that goes on behind the scenes. It is a fun group of people to work with, and it’s great to see from the inside how participants connect to us and the challenge!

Do you take the time to promote your own blog? Have you read any of Csenge’s books? Spill your thoughts in the comments!

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Author: John Holton

Internet disc jockey, lover of old TV (especially the commercials), inveterate wise guy.

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