Though Joel has been telling stories all his life, he began his professional
career in 1983, after graduating from Stanford with a degree in English,
Creative Writing and Storytelling. After a year performing in and around San
Francisco, he set off to travel the world, gathering and telling stories. His
first job as a storyteller took him to a little village outside Rome, where he
worked in a camp that turned out to be haunted. You can hear the story of his
adventures on The Green Hand (a collection of ghost stories collected
from around the world). Just as one story leads to another, so one trip led to
another, as Joel found himself traveling, teaching and telling stories in
England, Wales, Ireland, France, Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria,
Hungary, Spain, Israel, Japan, Hong Kong and China.
In 1991 Joel produced his first recording, Stories From Far Away,
which went on to win a Parents' Choice Gold Award and was chosen as an ALA
Notable Recording. He has produced six recordings since that time, all of which
have won awards, including his most recent, Lights & LaughterJoel ben
Izzy Spins Hanukkah Tales, which received a Parents' Choice Gold Award, NAPPA
Gold Award and received a starred review from Booklist Magazine.
In addition to his geographical travels, his stories have carried him to many
places rarely frequented by storytellers. His work as a story consultant has him
coaching and teaching story skills to folks in fields ranging from film to
high-tech, from banking to advertising, from medicine to law.
Joel's own story took a sharp twist in the summer of 1997, when he was
diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Though usually a treatable form of the disease,
in his case there was a strange complication; when he awoke from surgery he
discovered that he could no longer speak. So Joel began an adventure as strange
as any story he had ever told, which was to become the basis for his book. As he
says in the prologue:
"Sit back and let me tell you my tale, of a journey that took me
through dark times, yet gave me a gift that I treasure. That gift is this
story, which I now pass on to youa tale of lost horses and found wisdom,
of buried treasures and wild strawberries, of the beggar king and the secret
This biography was last updated on 12/06/2012.
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