"Year of the Adopted Family" book release

Monday, September 15, 2008

Top Book for Professional Storytellers: "The Story Biz Handbook" by Dianne de Las Casas

One book was left and I lunged for it. A lady took it before I could grasp it. Perhaps when the lady saw my disappointment, she offered the book to me and I shyly yet happily took it to the cashier in charge of the 2005 National Storytelling Conference bookstore.

The lady may have been Linda Gorham, the same woman who wrote the foreword to the 2005 edition of a book called The Story Biz Handbook: How to Manage Your Storytelling Career from the Desk to the Stage by Dianne de Las Casas.

My spiral-bound copy was from when Dianne self-published it in 2005. Other national storytellers, like Elizabeth Ellis, still have the even older binder version. Elizabeth recommends The Story Biz Handbook in her suggested reading list for her advanced storytelling course. Some tellers read the book at least once a year if not more to refresh on the techniques and tips. Regardless of which type you may have (or have yet to get), the book is revered among professional storytellers and performing artists alike.

It is no surprise that Libraries Unlimited approached Dianne to publish a revised version, with special attention to technological tools. September 30, 2008 is the availability date. (Check out Fall Catalog)

What makes this book so special?—
1. Transforms passion into profit
2. Gives most comprehensive look to business/marketing/social needs of the storyteller
3. Influences storytellers to raise professional standards for the art

Transforms Passion into Profit
When you open the The Story Biz Handbook, there is a dedication to Antonio, Dianne’s husband. She laughingly said, “He doesn’t argue with me. He just lets me do what I want to do.” She continued to say that from the beginning, he recognized her commitment to the art. He told her, “Dianne, if this is going to make you happy, I will support it.”

Before becoming a professional storyteller, Dianne came from the legal field as a secretary/office manager in which she earned anywhere from $35,000 to $40,000 a year. For a while, the switch in careers only provided about $10,000 a year. Dianne reflected, “Many people don’t understand how difficult it can be, especially when you start out. In order to become successful, take risks, but make sure they are calculated risks.”

Storytelling became a viable career and with all the touring and publishing requests, Antonio could see that it was worth the wait. Dianne declared, “My husband invested in me. He also invested in my career.”

With Dianne as an independent contractor, Antonio’s job provides crucial health insurance and stability. Dianne, in the meantime, enjoys and shares the secrets to her success in The Story Biz Handbook.

Gives Most Comprehensive Look to Business/Marketing/Social Needs of the Storyteller
“When I first got into storytelling, there was no one to guide with the business sense.” Perhaps Dianne was not alone with this statement.

At the time she pursued her career in 1994, there was Margaret Read MacDonald’s The Storyteller’s Start-Up Book. By 1997, there was Harlynne Geisler’s Storytelling Professionally: The Nuts and Bolts of a Working Performer and the co-authored book by Bill Mooney and David Holt, The Storyteller’s Guide.

Several topics were addressed in these aforementioned books, though not to the depth provided by The Story Biz Handbook. The book is 30 chapters and nearly 400 pages long. Her book, the author said, “is for storytellers who have been on the frontlines but need a push in certain areas.” Often storytellers are retired educators or librarians who decide to turn to storytelling as a career. This means they already have been storytelling most or all of their lives and it is now the matter of gaining some business and marketing sense.

“Not everyone wants to become a touring international artist,” pointed out Dianne. She continued to say that some tellers, like David Joe Miller, pride themselves in making a nice living telling stories within a 150-mile radius from his home. Then there are those like Diane Ferlatte who travel all over the world.

With her strong and ever-rising reputation as a storytelling marketing guru, Dianne finds the pressure challenging. She noticed, “When you are considered an expert in your field, you are expected to stay on top of the trends and be a trendsetter. I don’t pretend to know everything. Every time I get on the web, I learn something new.”

Dianne said, “The [storytelling] community helped me write the book, and I wrote it for the community.”

As if to give the book an added blessing, Margaret Read MacDonald wrote the foreword for this 2008 edition of The Story Biz Handbook.

Influences Storytellers to Raise the Professional Standards for the Art
With the approach of Hurricane Gustav, Dianne and her family evacuated from the New Orleans area in a 17 hour drive to Birmingham, Alabama. This included her immediate family (husband and daughter), her parents, and her brother’s four children (her brother had to stay behind due to his duty as a police officer).

As soon as the hotel was secured and the luggage stashed, Dianne half-jokingly announced to everyone, “Aunt Dianne is working on a book deadline. You are not allowed in the room. Don’t even knock on the door unless someone is dying.”

When Hurricane Katrina devastated the same area in 2005, Dianne had two book deadlines that she pursued with vigilance in order to remain professional for the publishing companies. Some people thought Dianne should have postponed her projects, yet she persevered, saying, “If I miss my deadline, then it misses the production deadline. That means a loss of money for the publisher and for me.”

Ever since Katrina’s destruction and with the number and intensity of hurricanes rising, Dianne has made her work more mobile so that she can gather her files at a moment’s notice and still carry out her career as a professional storyteller. The Internet has also made it possible to prosper during hard times.

She insisted, “Today is the deadline—hurricane or no hurricane. I’m going to make my deadline.”

Such determination is present throughout The Story Biz Handbook and makes it possible for professional storytellers to be as respected as musicians, actors, motivational speakers and other performing artists.

So lunge after this book and add it to your library. Better yet, read it often and apply its techniques. You’ll be glad you did.

Other Books by Dianne—
  • Scared Silly: 25 Tales to Tickle and Thrill, forthcoming

Workshops/Retreats Offered by Dianne—
  • 90 Minute Workshop
Abbreviated version on how to get booking and where to get them also includes a handout. Dianne shares examples of marketing materials from other professional storytellers. Perfect for conferences.

  • Whole Day Intensive
Combines business and marketing techniques that any high-quality storyteller would appreciate. Provides booklet handout and many real world examples in the field.

  • Weekend Retreat
Packed with details as well as one-on-one business/marketing coaching. Develop a personal plan on marketing materials, slogans, and other strategies.

About Dianne—
Touring internationally, author and award-winning storyteller Dianne de Las Casas sizzles on stage with “traditional folklore gone fun!” and “revved-up storytelling.” She performs and advocates arts-in-education programs and residencies at schools, libraries, festivals, museums, and special events. Interviewed by “Wall Street Journal”, de Las Casas is a sought-after international professional development workshop leader. She is a frequent presenter at IRA, ALA, AASL and other literacy and education conferences. Dianne de Las Casas continues to make the story connection with thousands of children every year, reaching and teaching through the wonder of stories.

***If you want more revealed about how Dianne and her family are working through this hurricane season, check out her Story Connection Blog or follow her on Twitter.

Until we tell again,

Rachel Hedman
Professional Storyteller
Co-Chair of Youth, Educators, and Storytellers Alliance
Tel: (801) 870-5799
Email: info@rachelhedman.com
Performance Blog: http://familyfamine.blogspot.com
Other places to find me: Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Professional Storyteller

Monday, September 01, 2008

Storytelling Bloggers: Basics for the Blogosphere

Almost every day I hear the word "blog" referenced on television, radio, or conversations with strangers and friends ever since being on the Technology Panel (left to right Eric Wolf, Rachel Hedman, Robert Kikuchi-Yngojo, Mary Margaret O'Connor) at the 2008 National Storytelling Conference. What some people thought would be a fad has grown to hundreds of thousands of sites and growing--even millions.

To create your own blog, these are the most popular ones:
1. Blogger
2. WordPress
3. Thoughts.com
4. Blogs automatic through social network sites like Professional Storyteller

Most of the types of blogs are of the personal or journaling nature, though several people have also tapped into the technology as a tool to:
1. Share advice
2. Promote advocacy
3. Enhance interaction for classes, workshops, programs and events
4. Market individuals, organizations or causes
5. Tell stories

The interactive aspects that draw people into the art of storytelling is often the same draw of why people enjoy the two-way constant communication with the worldwide web through blogs.

What kind of storytelling blogger are you?

So as not to confuse your readers, you need to know.

Will you have a article-based/resource type?

Will you have a personal and somewhat intimate look for your fans or family?
  • Storytelling Notes, storytelling life of Priscilla Howe with miscellaneous notes on puppetry and the eternal search for the best restaurant pie on earth (fruit, not cream)

Will you call for advocacy and create your own editorial?

With these questions answered, you need people to find your blog. You will want to register it--usually for free--at several blog directories such as BlogFlux and BlogCatalog as well as search engines run by Google and Yahoo.

Through BlogFlux, besides figuring what category you deems yours to fit, you are allowed up to five tag words. These are helpful for when people do searches online. Be sure that "storytelling" is one of those words. For this blog, I chose to have the words "storytelling", "storyteller", "tips", "artist", and "drama". Yours may differ depending on the focus.

Searching within BlogCatalog gave me 44,260 results for "storytelling blog" though rarely could I find one that focused on the oral art at first glance except for "A Storied Career", "The Stories La Tells", "The Art of Storytelling with Children", "Storytelling Notes", or "The StoryTeller".

One place to find several blogs was started by the National Storytelling Network under the Resource section, though the last time I looked only 18 were listed there. There are definitely more than 18 storytelling blogs in the blogosphere. This means people need to search out where to list their blogs.

When people do find your blog, make sure that there is RSS feed capability. Certain blogs, such as ones through Blogger, automatically provide RSS to each article you post.

If this is a foreign concept, or even if you are familiar with RSS, please watch this entertaining yet educational video called "RSS in Plain English" in YouTube by Lee LeFever of The Common Craft Show:

Finally, post condensed versions (or complete versions if you have short posts) at social network sites and always direct to your regular blog site.
I always post a shorter version on Professional Storyteller as those are the kind of people who would be more likely to enjoy what I have to say.

If you have a specific blog entry that other art forms or groups may be interested to read, then discover the blogs run by those other groups. Read some posts and make comments. You can ask them to review your particular post and see what they have to say about a subject.

Having comments for your posts boosts your rank for Internet searchability. In order to receive comments, often you must be willing to give comments as well.

Online Resources for Blog Tips:

Feel free to ask me about blogs and other details as the blogosphere is a big world and it's one in which you want to be found.

Until we tell again,

Rachel Hedman
Professional Storyteller
Co-Chair of Youth, Educators, and Storyteller Alliance
(801) 870-5799
How-To Blog: http://storytellingadventures.blogspot.com
Performance Blog: http://familyfamine.blogspot.com