Storytelling is not officially recognized by the Grammys, though the question is being asked more often of creating a separate category since national storyteller Bill Harley received the 2007 Grammy of Best Spoken Word Album For Children (consisting of predominantly spoken word vs. music or song) for “Blah Blah Blah: Stories About Clams, Swamp Monsters, Pirates & Dogs”.
National storyteller John McCutcheon was also nominated for the same category for his “Christmas in the Trenches”.
At the February 2007 meeting, Cathy Fink and Charlie Pilzer, Airshow Mastering and Grammy nominee, promoted the creation of a storytelling category to the Grammy committee. They wish for storytellers to help in this possibly 3-5 year process, depending on the support. Fink remarked, “Creating new categories is very difficult, but not impossible. The biggest challenge is to prove that a new category would be well served. Would the storytelling community get more active?”
Debbie Block of Round River Records said, “There are so many tellers in this community who are putting out wonderful work, it would be great to have the opportunity to be recognized in a wider community of artists.” Block urges storytellers to reflect on the opportunity and submit ideas to Fink and Pilzer (emails found at end).
Fink and Pilzer agreed that placing Harley’s “Blah Blah Blah” against McCutcheon’s “Christmas in the Trenches” was an unfair comparison as one was primarily a full-length spoken word while the other was about 10 minutes of spoken word. Fink noted that a similar situation occurred with Tom Chapin’s readings of stories that consisted of five minutes of spoken word plus music.
From Fink’s suggestion to make the storytelling community “more active”, I propose the following ideas:
1. Create Two Sets of Membership Standards with National Storytelling Network
2. Share Submissions from Other Storytelling Awards with the Grammys
3. Promote Professionalism on Local and National Levels
4. Educate Storytellers on How to Use Technology for Recording Purposes
Create Two Sets of Membership Standards with National Storytelling Network
The January/February 2007 “Storytelling Magazine” published by the National Storytelling Network (NSN) had a fitting theme of “In Pursuit of Excellence.” Several articles expressed the need of standards among storytellers while some articles showed signs of fear of having standards at all.
With two opposite views, it would seem best to have two sets of membership standards with the National Storytelling Network.
For those wishing to be more career-oriented with storytelling, certain guidelines could be followed to be in “good standing”. It would not go as far as licenses found in occupations like doctors and lawyers. Rather, there would be an application process beyond the regular contact information asked currently to be part of NSN. Submitting annually such items as an artist statement/vision, references, listing of repertoire, résumé, and education background should not intimidate professional storytellers, as these are common things asked for when applying for grants.
Once a committee reviews all information, then the storyteller could receive some sort of certificate indicating “good standing”. Storytellers could share their status with potential sponsors/patrons.
Storytellers who wish not to be judged by such standards (or even story appreciators) could decline the application process and be a regular member of NSN.
Share Submissions from Other Storytelling Awards with the Grammys
Many storytelling materials including CDs, DVDs, and books are already being submitted to Storytelling World Awards, Parents’ Choice Awards, and “Circle of Excellence” as part of the NSN Oracle Awards. The list could go on. With the right rapport, the Grammys could receive duplicate submissions from the other awards.
Promote Professionalism on Local and National Levels
Sometimes I am shocked at how many storytellers do not even give an invoice for a sponsor/patron. Having an invoice alone would boost how the general public views storytelling.
Librarians talk to librarians and educators talk to educators and so on. When someone is professional, then the visibility of the art increases. Imagine what could happen if storytellers promoted standards within their local guilds and friends?
I would recommend having the following items given in a file/folder for sponsors:
- Storytelling Résumé
- Introduction Card (for emcee/sponsor to read to avoid terrible introductions)
- One-Page Quote from Others
- Contract/Service Agreement/Invoice
- Questionnaire (to understand event and audience)
- Extra Business Cards
There are so many free ways to use technology and many storytellers do not know the possibilities.
Did you think that YouTube and MySpace are for teenagers? Guess again. Storytellers need to be familiar with such things as blogs, podcasts, mp3 players/recorders, and iTales. Some ways to educate storytellers the lingo and use would be having workshops within guilds, the National Storytelling Conference, and through teleconferences.
Teasers and trailers of storytelling CDs and DVDs could be posted on websites as well as other online places such as YouTube and iTales. As a recording receives more hits, it will eventually catch the attention of the Grammys.
Regardless of what happens with the creation of the storytelling category, Grammy-winner Harley has this to say, “I spent the morning after the Grammies telling stories in a second grade class. Most of them had no idea what a Grammy was, and couldn’t have cared less.”
Until we tell again,
Co-Chair of Youth, Educators, and Storytellers Alliance