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More Treasured Tips from a Talented Troupe of Tellers
By Lois Sprengnether, Steve Otto, Lorna MacDonald Czarnota, Tim Ereneta, Lyn Ford, Rich Knoblich and Angela Davis

Every two months I have the delightful opportunity to share tips from my storytelling friends in my Tips Column in the National Storytelling Network's (NSN) Storytelling Magazine. Realizing that not everyone who visits this website is a member of NSN - although I highly recommend you join - I have decided to periodically start sharing some of these wonderful tips on this site. Because of space limitations in the magazine, I also have many tips that have been sent to me, but not used. So, this will solve both situations and it will become a win-win-win project for all of us. I hope you enjoy them - I received a lot of great feedback the first time I tried it - and let me know if you like the change of pace and hearing from a full troupe of tellers. Read on!

Never underestimate the value of humorous fillers. They can make for transition time & help tie a program together thematically. You'll find more of this is in the children's section of the library than in the adult, but don't let that stop you if it's not a program for that age level. You can even make your own material to fit the topic. Yes, you can. While there are a few books on the topic, my favorite is Joanne E. Bernstein's _Fiddle with a Riddle_ (Dutton, 1979) to get you creating wordplay by brainstorming key words. So even if you can't find existing material, you really can create your own humor.
Lois Sprengnether in Michigan
LoiSsez@Earthlink.net

Don't leave your day job for the "Big Bucks" of Storytelling! If you are going to be a full time storyteller, make sure you LOVE your craft. . . There is absolutely nothing like the high you get when you see your story come back to you through the eyes of a child or adult. BUT . . . You will be spending 12-15 hours in preparation for every hour you tell, you will be questioning your leaving the stability of a regular job. You will find soon enough that you will be working harder than you ever have before. . . And feeling better about yourself and your life, than you have ever felt!
Steve Otto
i-tell@juno.com

Risking strangers or losing one's ego. Storytelling requires risking ones ego. Separating ego from the event allows the teller to become the giver of a gift. For myself, a shy person, discovering this enabled me to reach out to many people on a daily basis, including the strangers all around me. I found people who really needed a story and a smile. Storytelling has helped me remove my insulated blinders and reach out to my community where the ones in need of a story reside. Offering the gift turns strangers into listeners and listeners are no longer strangers. My favorite quote says what I feel about the risk, "Treat strangers with kindness for you never know when you might be in the presence of angels."
Lorna MacDonald Czarnota
LCzarnota@storyhavenstudio.com

My risky business tip: While performing at zoos can be a wonderful opportunity to share folklore and stories about animals, keep in mind that if you are asked to perform in or near the animal enclosures, the storyteller is always second fiddle to the animal. Your audience came to see the animals-- you are an extra attraction. Be prepared for interruptions, as the star of your story may suddenly start "performing" for your audience while you're telling. Be flexible, and incorporate what happens into your story. A briefing from the zookeepers or docents beforehand can alert you to expected behaviors (e.g. "the elephants like to throw dirt around this time of day") and allow you to pass on scientific information along with your story.
Tim Ereneta, Storytelling Association of Alta California
tim@storyteller.zzn.com

Humorous storytelling requires polished storytelling skills: illuminating voice, meaningful facial expression, expressive body language, and well-practiced delivery. The flow of events should include effective, not affected, pauses for audience reflection and response. The storyteller should try to be aware, in advance, of suitable story selections for the proposed target audience, and, if working with other tellers, the order of telling for the program. The laughter that might come from a storyteller's offered experience shouldn't throw off the structure of a planned program, or tear the audience apart. It should bind us together in a positive, heart-healthy laugh.In the shared experience of humorous storytelling, we revel with one another, rather than laughing at anyone. We may not all understand or like the same joke, but we all enjoy the well-told funny story.
Lyn Ford
FRIEDTALES@aol.com

Crafting Tall Tales. I especially enjoy crafting tall tales because my 'lies' can ignore the laws of physics. However, no matter how far fetched you are with the similes, metaphors, exaggerations, and blarney the audience still expects you to follow a logical sequence so they can build visual images of the plot's action. Remember, in telling a tall tale, you can get as fantastic as you want with the word play but you still have to apply the rules of cause/effect and sequence so your listeners won't get confused and give up on you. Allow them to enjoy your speculative tale while you enjoy the laughter.
Rich Knoblich
Knoblichr@aol.com

Problem with your materials. At the festival's start, the storyteller's musical instrument was accidentally damaged, preventing its use in the telling. I watched the storyteller make a list of tales that could be told without the instrument. The result - the stories were absolutely wonderful and superior WITHOUT the instrument - though none of us had the heart to say so. Lesson learned-be prepared at all times. Always have a back-up plan in the wings. If your materials don't arrive in time or become unusable - don't sweat. Know what you're going to do before it happens. Get into the habit of thinking ahead and be proactive rather than reactive! True professionals are prepared for the best and worst of situations!
Angela Davis, the Yarnspinner
http://www.yarnspin.com

 

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Improving Your Storytelling: Beyond the Basics for All Who Tell
Aspiring storytellers will be pleased to know that Lipman's down-to-earth approach allows for flexibility rather than emphasis on memorization.

The Way of the Storyteller
Very few books on the art of storytelling have matched the scope and charm of this book by Ruth Sawyer.

Your Mythic Journey: Finding Meaning in Your Life Through Writing and Storytelling
This book offers readers the tools to detect the story line in their own lives and write and tell it in a step-by-step way, opening up a hidden world of self-discovery and meaning.

The Storytellerís Guide
Each chapter includes a dozen or so expert storytellers sharing their opinions on a plethora of topics.

The Power of Personal Storytelling: Spinning Tales to Connect
Your mind wanders, until you hear the words, "I remember once when I was..." You become engrossed. A story unfolds.


The Story Performance Handbook
For teachers, librarians, parents, or clergy who wish to grow in competence and confidence.

The Story Factor: Secrets of Influence from the Art of Storytelling
Nearly everyone responds to a good yarn, and this precisely the point being made by Annette Simmons.

Pete Seeger's Storytelling Book
You can almost hear the banjo plucking away in the background as veteran singer-songwriter Pete Seeger tells his folksy tales and shares his useful tips on storytelling.


The Triumph of Narrative: Storytelling in the Age of Mass Culture
A lively, strikingly original look at the prevalence and endurance of stories in our lives and our culture.