"Year of the Adopted Family" book release

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

"You Can Make a Living Telling Stories?"

I have often heard the question, "You can make a living telling stories?"

Answer? Yes!

I recently heard this question yesterday at a Utah Arts Council (UAC) gathering. As I met the people sitting around me, I realized I was surrounded by artists. Why I expected any other profession is beyond me!

To be around so many artists was breathtaking and awe-inspiring.

I met a muralist, a portrait painter, a woodcarver, and so many more wonderful and interesting people. I noticed a theme. These people were all visual artists. I wondered if I was one of the sole performing artist representatives being that I am a professional storyteller.

The seminar put on by the UAC geared towards creating successful press releases. Two presenters, one from the Salt Lake Tribune newspaper and one from the KSL TV station, answered our questions.

Publicity is more powerful than advertising. If you have the money, then you can buy an ad. Publicity comes from a third-party who believes that what you do is important enough to feature.

The KSL man said that TV does not do as many feature stories. They are focused more on "hard news." They used to have more time for the arts.

The man from the Salt Lake Tribune echoed this sentiment. He said he wished he could report on anything and everything related to the arts, but lack of staff as well as lack of space in the newspaper were at risk. They used to have art critics and now, either for budget constraints or search for experts to review, art critics do not exist.

I spoke to both of the presenters during breaks. When I pulled out my business cards, they both seemed fascinated that I was a professional storyteller.

Many times these men talked about visual arts and now they realized there was another kind of art in their midst--storytelling.

They each receive roughly 3,000 emails a month asking for time on TV or space in the newspaper. Most requests are ignored.

For both the TV and newspaper angles, something popular or groundbreaking is required to make a presence.

Where does storytelling fit in?

The KSL man said that their station is currently forming a one-hour program. He is unsure of what will be the focus, yet he suggested that I, as a storyteller, check it out.

The Salt Lake Tribune man was the one to ask, "You can make a living telling stories?" Perhaps to him, storytelling is "groundbreaking" despite the fact that storytelling has been around since humans could talk.

How popular is storytelling? How groundbreaking is storytelling?

You will get mixed answers. Many people do not see storytelling as a visible art. Obviously paintings and sculptures are showcased in museums and galleries throughout the world. Where can people go to view storytelling?

To give a sampling of ideas, storytelling can be found at festivals (whether geared specifically for storytelling, arts, or any other kind you can think of), libraries, schools, colleges, museums, camps, civic groups, Scout events, clubs, organizations, prisons, shelters, celebrations (parties, picnics, memorials), and the list goes on.

You cannot hang a professional storyteller against the wall like a painting and you cannot keep a storyteller as still as a statue. We are interactive with the audience and with the story told and so we are in constant movement.

People tend to remember glimpses rather than remember concrete moments of storytelling in their lifetimes. Their parents told them bedtime stories, they heard ghost stories at a sleepover, they sat at the feet while grandma told about the time she almost didn't meet grandpa--these are glimpses.

When people hear stories as adults, then they go back to these moments. At the same time, they realize that no matter what age they are, they love a good story. That hasn't changed.

So can you make a living telling stories? What do you think?

I am anxious to hear your comments on this blog.

Until we tell again,

Rachel Hedman
Professional Storyteller
Co-Chair of Youth, Educators, and Storytellers Alliance
(801) 870-5799

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