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How to Become Seriously Involved in Storytelling
By Chris King

I attend many networking events, club, organization, association and information meetings. What I have discovered is that even though I have a plethora of careers – better known as a “Portfolio Career” – the one career that elicits interest and questions is when I say that I am a “Professional Storyteller.” Besides wanting to know what a “Professional Storyteller” does, people react often with, “I would love to do that too. How can I become involved with storytelling and storytellers?” I also get similar phone calls and e-mails asking how to become involved. Let me count the ways!

I have already mentioned many of the resources and ideas for becoming involved in previous articles, but thought – since this just came up again this past week at a networking event and again on a phone call – I would pull them together into one article. If you are already an active storyteller, you probably will know most, if not all, of what I have included, but I would really appreciate your letting me know if I skip something. I am going to start with the BIG picture and work down to the SMALLER for the sake of structure.

International and National Organizations advancing the art of storytelling

Storytelling has existed since the days of cave men and women, but it was in 1973 that an American storytelling revival was jump-started with the first National Storytelling Festival held in Jonesborough, Tennessee. The two organizations you should check out (both located in Jonesborough) are:

  • International Storytelling Center (ISC), dedicated on August 11, 2004, shares its mission: The International Storytelling Center inspires and empowers people around the world to capture and tell their stories, listen to the stories of others, and use storytelling to produce positive change. For, through the power of storytelling, we can build a better world—healthier communities, more effective workplaces and schools of learning, and enriched human life. For more information about ISC contact: International Storytelling Center; 1-800-952-8392;

    International Storytelling Festival: The International Storytelling Center celebrates the power of storytelling each year the first weekend in October by showcasing the world's stories, storytellers, and storytelling traditions at the highly acclaimed National Storytelling Festival – the world's premier storytelling event. Once you attend this spell-binding celebration of storytelling you will return year after year (I make my motel reservations a year ahead - the day I leave – it is so well attended).

  • National Storytelling Network (NSN), is a member driven organization, with a Board of Directors elected by members from six regions across America. It offers direct services, publications and educational opportunities to several thousand individuals, local storytelling guilds and associations. These services are designed to improve the quality of storytelling at all levels - in entertainment venues, in classrooms and libraries, and wherever storytelling can make a contribution to quality of life. To facilitate that process, NSN sponsors the National Storytelling Conference in cooperation with local or regional members at a different location each year. The Conference provides educational workshops, demonstration programs and the National Storytelling Awards ceremony that recognizes storytelling excellence, leadership and service across the country. For additional information about NSN visit, phone 1-800-525-4514, or e-mail

To find out what is happening in the wonderful world of story, I highly recommend becoming a member of NSN. Member benefits include:

  • Storytelling Magazine - an award-winning bimonthly publication, loaded with all sorts of helpful information.
  • The National Storytelling Directory - the most comprehensive guide to America's storytellers and storytelling organizations, festivals, and educational events.
  • The National Storytelling Conference - an information-packed four-day event designed to help storytelling enthusiasts learn more about the art. And the perfect way to meet other storytellers.
  • The National Storytelling Catalog - an ever-changing selection of storytelling books and tapes, gifts, and educational materials.
  • Tellabration! A Worldwide Storytelling Event – to visit my article about Tellabration, click here.
  • Calendar of Storytelling Events - a great place to find out about and/or post events.
  • Storytelling Across the Internet with Links List
  • NSN Awards & Research Program

Regional and Local Groups, Guilds and Clubs, are prevalent in every state. When you check out NSN, you will find that each state has a liaison (California has six). E-mail your liaison and he or she should be able to put you in touch with a group or active storyteller in your state. Or you may want to start your own group. Check out the article, How to Get and Keep Members Involved in Your Group/Guild, here. Even if you don’t plan on becoming a professional storyteller, you will find these groups to be fun, enlightening and a way to tell and listen to stories.

As an Individual, Aspiring Storyteller, you also have many individual choices. A great way to get started is to order the book, A Beginner's Guide to Storytelling. Read all about it in this article, which also tells how to order one. There are a plethora of storytelling books that have tips, ideas and even ready-to-tell tales. Besides becoming involved with a group and starting to practice storytelling, these are some of the steps I took and offer as suggested ways on your road to becoming involved:

  • Join a Toastmasters International group. The focus is speaking, but once I discovered my passion was storytelling, I told a story for every assignment, and the group loved it. Plus, there is always an evaluation session for feedback.
  • Volunteer at schools and libraries to tell free. I found that the schools in the poorer sections of town never had the benefits of being able to hire a storyteller, so were thrilled to have me and it gave me the best opportunity to practice.
  • Take storytelling workshops and attend as many festivals, conferences and concerts as possible.
  • Retreats for a weekend, or even two days are probably one of the best ways to work on developing your own, unique stories.

As you can tell from the length of this article, that there is no limit to the opportunities available for becoming seriously involved in storytelling. And, I have only scratched the surface.

Let me know how it goes for you. Send me your feedback!


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