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Storytellers Unite - Let's All Spread the Word!
By Chris King

In this article, I am extending a challenge to all of you storytellers, wannabe storytellers, story lovers and story listeners. It is time that we unite and tell everyone with whom we come into contact about storytelling. Whether it is at the water cooler, during lunch in the cafeteria, in line at the post office and/or grocery store, at networking events or during meetings of groups, clubs and/or organizations to which we belong, we need to spread the word.

Why? Because so many people have no idea how powerful, captivating, enthralling and important storytelling is. They don't even have a clue of what it is. And, if this continues, professional storytelling will remain an undervalued and misunderstood profession of the few.

Yes, there has been a resurgence of interest in storytelling - the International Storytelling Center and the National Storytelling Network have helped foster this. And, yes, there are businesses and organizations who know the value of using story. But these are few and far between. When I meet new people and tell them I am a professional storyteller, the response is usually, "What? Do you read stories to children?" On the Storytell List, we often discuss this dilemma, so now is the time to do something about it. I will give all of you some ideas of how you can proceed.

Always have a few stories of varying lengths and intensity ready. It is amazing to me how often a storytelling opportunity arises. Here are some examples of situations where you will be able to tell a story or stories, thus introducing the power of storytelling. And, do make sure that once these listeners are hooked to encourage them to watch for and ask for storytelling in their libraries, schools and organizations.

  • A couple of years ago, I was on a jury for a three and a half week trial. Once it was discovered by the lawyers (during the questioning) and the other members of the jury that I was a storyteller, I had a captive audience. If you have ever served on a jury you realize that we were always waiting, so I filled the time with stories. One of the biggest worries became that we would be called before I finished the story - not a serious problem. And, this was fun for it was a made-to-order adult audience.
  • Many storytellers have told me of times when they have been trapped in an airport with a group of disgruntled travelers waiting to board an overdue plane. Now, you will be received with great joy by the families trying to sooth their children and pass the time. They are your captives, so rise to the occasion.
  • Another opportunity for telling is as a reward to those attending a meeting. Last year, I was involved with a volunteer event where we wanted feedback from the attendees. I was in charge and promised if they participated, I would reward them with a scary story (this was around Halloween). They are still talking about it.

Once you have established interest and rapport, tell others about local opportunities to get involved with storytelling. Then, of course, I mention Jonesborough - which many have already heard about. Invite these newcomers to storytelling to a local club meeting and/or storytelling event. Our state group's president, Donna Fetzer, held a storytelling tea at her home. She told everyone invited to wear a special hat. After serving an elegant tea, she encouraged the guests to stand up and tell a story about their hat. Most of the women invited had never told a story in public before, but all got into it, told wonderful stories and still are. Think of other fun events you can plan to get non-tellers telling. The more people involved the more PR for storytelling.

Speaking of PR, spread the word about storytelling to your local media. Editors don't pay much attention to press releases unless you include a clever hook. "Emma celebrated her 100th birthday with stories from her past told by local storytellers." Check the news for the latest topics. We just had a woman who claimed that she won a $68 million dollar lottery, but dropped her purse and ticket in the parking lot outside the store where she purchased it. She even had the gall to claim she was going to sue the rightful winner. What a story! They are all around us, and as storytellers we can make the news work for us. There are also local TV cable channels that will be delighted to give a time slot to storytellers. There are local colleges that will be pleased to offer storytelling classes. All of these activities can make news if you fashion a hook.

Infiltrate your work place with stories and storytelling. Every business has a story to tell, and there are many great employee stories that can be shared and posted on the bulletin boards or in the company newsletter. Presentations that include stories are the most interesting and memorable to the listeners. Sales people who know how to tell a good story make the most sales. And, in any difficult business situation, a story can soften and explain the difficulties away. It is much easier for employees to internalize the values and goals of a company through stories, rather than through a list of rules.

Offer storytelling workshops in your community. Or set up community gatherings in neighborhood recreation centers where residents can get together to share stories and even put together a special storytelling celebration event. A friend of mine was recently running for council in his township. He was working the neighborhoods, introducing himself. I suggested that he work on some good and interesting community stories. He received more votes than any other nominee has ever received in the local election. He is now sold on storytelling.

Think of the many ways you can introduce the power of storytelling to others. After all, we are the ones who are the storytelling ambassadors and are passionate about storytelling. I have just touched the tip of the iceberg. Please send me your ideas and the stories of how you are making a difference by spreading the word.

Yes, Storytellers Unite!

 

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