Minister of the Month – Sam Oppenheimer

Posted by Ilona Leighton-Goodall on 7th June 2017

Meet our Minister of the Month Sam. Sam’s enthusiasm has been rather infectious both in the workshops and in the shop.

Name:   Sam

Volunteer role:  Workshop Leader or Chief’s Assistant. I’ve done everything, but I’d say those are my favourite.

Lives:  Just one, unfortunately. My friend Mimi is an enchantress who comes to the shop for our midnight lollies, and she’s got nine. Well, she had nine. I don’t know how many she’s got now.

Lives: New Cross

Favourite story and why:

I love Catherynne M. Valente’s short stories. She writes a lot of what you could call mythopoetic fiction, stories based on mythology and folklore. My favourites are The Long Goodnight of Violet Wild, The Bread We Eat in Dreams, and The Shoot-Out at Burnt Corn Ranch Over the Bride of the World. I love them because they make me think so differently about language. In her stories, words have different meanings — for instance, in The Long Goodnight of Violet Wild, sorrow is a small, purple woolly mammoth, and death is a long red dress. It makes perfect sense in context, I promise.

Tell us a little bit about yourself:

I am currently receiving my master’s degree in Children’s Literature and Creative Writing from Goldsmiths University. I write about girls with deer-feet and pink egg yolks and what’s going to happen when the world ends. I read everything, and I love jackalopes and purple leather and space. I write in lists of three, but it is a habit I am trying to break.

Why did you decide to volunteer with Ministry of Stories?

It’s exactly what I wanted to do when I grew up. Everyone has a story inside of them, and when you help a child express that, their world changes. It’s about possibilities.

Were you nervous about anything before starting?

I was nervous before I lead my first workshop, because I was afraid I wouldn’t get the timing right. I went way too fast! Now I’ve lead another, and it’s easy breezy lemon sneazy.

What has been the best experience of volunteering?

Getting to read the stories. They’re just brilliant, like this one with an evil mutant ant who works for a corporation and goes about handing out evil business cards, or the one where the hero finds himself in an alternate dimension full of skeletons in police uniforms. You learn so much from them. Oh, and hearing the kids say things like “I want to live here!” That doesn’t get old.

What has been the most unexpected thing about volunteering?

The way kids blossom when you tell them they’ve created something of value.

Has volunteering changed anything in your life?

It’s made me realise what I want to do, career-wise. I love this more than anything, and I want to figure out how to do it forever. If I can’t manage to do it here, I’m going to start it somewhere else.

Describe the Ministry of Stories in three words:

Entering another universe.

What would you say to other people thinking of volunteering with the Ministry?

Go for it. You never know what’s going to change your life. You have to try everything.

NEXT PAGE: Introducing ‘The Magical Ministry of Stories’: a podcast by children