"Year of the Adopted Family" book release

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Sleepy Storyteller: 5 Reasons to call Mr. Sandman

You glance at the clock. It says 1:23am and still you are working on a project. With a few more minutes, you could rest knowing that you accomplished what you wanted to do.

Another look and the clock says 2:17am. Your eyes are heavy, but more and more an all-nighter seems to be on the schedule.

Heavy sigh.

The stage may have a sleepy storyteller, but at least it was worth getting things done.

Sound familiar?

Despite all the reasons we tell ourselves to stay up late, the legendary Mr. Sandman offers gifts only to the storyteller who is fully rested:
1. Mental Abilities and Inspiration
2. Energy to, from and on the Stage
3. Positive Attitude
4. Health
5. Passion for the Stories

Before delving into Mr. Sandman's gifts, let us understand the sleep cycle that occurs throughout the night. There are two different kinds of sleep: Non-REM and REM.

Non-REM (Non-rapid eye movement) can be broken into four stages. The first stage is considered light sleep when we transition from wakefulness to dreamland. About 10 minutes later, we enter the second stage of true sleep where our breathing and heart rate slows down. Then about 20 minutes later, we enter stages three and four of deep sleep when our breathing and heart rate are at their lowest levels and our muscles experience little activity. Finally, the delta brain waves allow us to disconnect from our physical world so we can integrate anything we may have learned during the day.

REM (Rapid eye movement) is introduced about 70 to 90 minutes after Non-REM and we have about 3-5 REM episodes in a night. The brain is active and often more active than when awake. As a result, we have dreams for about 5-30 minutes that increase our breathing and our blood pressure. Yet, our muscles are in an almost paralyzed state otherwise we may act out our dreams.

Keeping a notebook by our beds could help us capture these dreams and ideas that may be used for future storytelling.

This leads to the first gift of Mr. Sandman.

Mental Abilities and Inspiration
Certain stories and programs seem to test our brains in the way we develop them and get them ready for the stage. For the more complicated ones, I like to use a huge whiteboard about the size of a dining table to map out the possibilities. Sometimes staring at the board puts me in a trance and nothing new comes from the dry erase marker.

At times, my husband pulls me away from the project and reminds me of the power of sleep. Though he is not a doctor, I know he is right.

Sleep has a way to engrave new ideas through a process called memory consolidation.

When attending the National Storytelling Conference, often I have a total of eight hours of sleep over the course of four days. I rationalize that besides going to the workshops and performances, I need to network.

Without sleep, I may have difficulty remembering who I met in the first place. Though the brain is active during sleep, certain parts like the emotions and the social skills are at rest so names could be recalled in the morning. Any other skills learned during the day could also be retained through sleep.

Energy to, from and on the Stage
A storyteller tends to travel anywhere from 1o minutes to 10 hours to a gig. If any of that time involves driving, then arriving safely to the stage is needed.

Many police officers are worried more about drowsy driving than drunk driving, though both have killed well over hundreds of thousands of people every year.

Once I had a four-hour drive from the Vernal Storytelling Festival to my home. The event ended Saturday night and I wanted to get home in time for the Sabbath. With few cars on the dark highway, my eyes batted a bit and my brain could not recall the last few miles I drove. Hallucinations seemed to appear. After a few minutes of this, I signaled off to the side, locked my doors, and took a nap. I arrived home later than planned, but I had something to be thankful for. . .I was alive.

Positive Attitude
Sponsors, audience members, and fellow storytellers appreciate a cheerful person. Unless grumpiness is known as your style of telling, then the likelihood of being hired again could drop by choosing to get four or less hours of sleep versus seven to nine hours of sleep.

As I am a detail-oriented person, there could already be a certain level of irritability and moodiness so that things are "perfect". Lack of sleep makes me less welcomed by others.

A sleep deprivation experiment was conducted on two groups of rats at Washington University in St. Louis, MO. The first group did not receive any sleep and died in about three weeks. The second group were denied REM sleep and died in about five months. Both groups had sores on their tails and paws since their immune system deteriorated. These rodents normally have a life span of two to three years.

Naturally, these results reflect on us humans. The longer we live, the more stages we can grace as as storyteller. During sleep our white blood cells develop so to combat illnesses. We may have more luck in fighting cancer, avoiding hypertension and maintaining a regular heartbeat. Besides the major diseases, I have noticed headaches and sometimes a sickly stomach if I get too little sleep.

Our fans will appreciate the way we take care of ourselves.

Passion for the Stories
Though I love the stories I choose to tell, sometimes the audience may not sense the passion due to lack of sleep. I may appear to have flattened emotions or even. . .gulp. . .be monotone. The spark could be missing from my eyes and without this excitement, I may have trouble for the audience to connect.

Sometimes we have trouble getting to sleep even if the desire is there. Here are some "Do"s and "Don't"s.

What to Do:
1. Maintain regular time to go to bed as well as when to wake up--even on weekends
2. Develop regular and relaxing bedtime routine like reading, listening to music, etc.
3. Adjust your bedroom to be sleep-conducive that is dark, quiet, comfortable and cool
4. Use bedroom only for sleep
5. Exercise regularly as long as done a few hours before sleep
6. Write down what you what to accomplish the next day before jumping into bed

What to Avoid:
1. Talk on the telephone late at night or being on the Internet
2. Keep computers or televisions in the bedroom
3. Eat or drink anything with caffeine no more than 4-6 hours to bedtime
4. Extreme hot or cold temperatures in bedroom
5. Alcohol or Cigarettes due to withdrawals during night and having light sleep versus being fully rested

So have sweet dreams and may Mr. Sandman smile at you.

Until we tell again,

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

Some Online Resources on Sleep:

Sunday, June 01, 2008

NationalStorytelling.Net vs. Professional Storyteller

With development of both NationalStorytelling.Net and the Professional Storyteller social networking site, some people are confused as to the purposes of each site. Others mistake that one site cancels out the other site.

Though some features overlap, the goals are different and can be embraced by all storytellers and story appreciators. Then compare to what you want to accomplish.

The following seem to be the main aims--

1. Encourage suggestions to the National Storytelling Network (NSN) Board as well as open communication of Board proceedings
2. Integrate websites and projects for NSN Special Interest Groups (in process)
3. Share documents through Internet--rather than files only--to boost efficiency for any NSN committees, especially when leadership rotates
4. Brainstorm and experiment project ideas that could further storytelling, whether on stage or in applied settings, before pursuing in the real world

Professional Storyteller:
1. Network with storytellers and story appreciators from around the world
2. Develop relationships that could lead to gigs or inspiration of specific story programs
3. Promote events, projects, and individuals
4. Exchange opinions/experiences that range from the basics of being a professional storyteller to trends in the performing arts

For more details--


Encourage suggestions
Though certain information could always be requested by the general public about financials and governance of NSN, there has not been as easy a way as presented through the website. Posting updates and information beyond the legal statutes allows people to peruse at their own pleasure without hoarding time from the limited NSN staff.

Integrate websites
All of the NSN Special Interest Groups (SIGs) have separate websites to promote their goals. These groups are the following: Youth, Educators, and Storytellers Alliance; Healing Story Alliance; Storytelling in Organizations; Storytelling in Higher Education; and Producers and Organizers.

While having these individual sites, it is possible for boards, committees, and membership to view documents and minutes that are not available to the general public. If a group so chose, there could be one to dozens of privacy levels.

Depending on the website features desired, the domain names could link with the NationalStorytelling.Net site so to avoid web hosting fees. Since editing information would be possible through a word processing format, knowing html code would not be a requirement. More people may be more willing to volunteer for webmaster positions as most people are comfortable with word processing systems.

Share Documents
If you lose a flashdrive or file with your information, then you have a small chance to retrieve it. Yet, there is a way to save documents online to avoid the file attachments sent by email, especially as email boxes receive several message in one day. By remembering one website address, you can fend off headaches.

Beyond organizational reasons, having files online provides a backup plan if anything were to happen to a member of the committee. Whether through elections, accidents, illnesses, or even death, the group could still move forward with projects. Nothing would have to be retyped or reinvented.

Brainstorm and Experiment
Ideas float inside us and sometimes we share them with others. NationalStorytelling.Net provides another way to receive feedback. I posted a couple of what I call "Random Rachel" ideas to check how far-off the ideas may seem to my colleagues such as for NSN to develop an international storytelling library/museum.

Most of these brainstorm activities happen within the forum section. Whether or not someone is a NSN member, all are welcome to take part in this feature. Follow the instructions to join found at http://forum.nationalstorytelling.net. When a profile is created, then a picture and links could also be posted.

Professional Storyteller:
Before the Internet, it may have been days before a storyteller was in contact with another storyteller. Some storytelling guilds include huge regions so that even meeting on a monthly basis can be difficult. With Professional Storyteller, people can celebrate with fellow artists globally every day if desired.

Develop Relationships
The best way to build relationships is in-person, though making them online works, too. When a profile is created, you are encouraged to have a photo id so that this image shows anytime you leave a comment on Professional Storyteller. If someone attends a major event such as the National Storytelling Conference or the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival, perhaps this makes it possible to recognize others and strengthen friendships.

In time, the relationships could lead to the sharing of contacts or story program ideas. Invitations to performing at events is always easier when you are more of an acquaintance or friend versus being a stranger.

The profile page itself has many ways to spread the word through uploading pictures, audio, video and blogs. Beyond this area, the main page has a tab to submit events. The founder of Professional Storyteller, Dianne de Las Casas, has encouraged to post events "that other storytellers would be interested in attending (no personal gigs or tours) such as festivals, conferences, and professional development workshops".

Exchange opinions/experiences
From ideal situations to mistakes and blunders, letting our fellow storytellers know about these things can lead to more progress and respectability for the art.

Some people enjoy specific areas of storytelling and have created groups within Professional Storyteller to reflect these interests. Some of these groups represent a NSN Special Interest Group like the "Youth, Educators, and Storytellers Alliance" or other groups focus on basic business and marketing practices such as "Story Biz" or "College Big Cats: Tracking and Capturing Gigs".

Upon reviewing the groups, you could always create one of your own. Twenty-two groups and growing exist for the 370+ members on Professional Storyteller.

More possibilities are still to be discovered for NationalStorytelling.Net and for Professional Storyteller.

Thanks to M.L. Barron, one of the NSN Board Members, here are links to understand set-up of the NationalStorytelling.Net through Google Applications--
1. "Welcome to Google Apps" page gives an overview of the different services within Google Apps and links to training videos, etc:

2. "Google Apps Help Center" page gives links to different FAQ's about using Google Apps, here: http://google.com/support/a/users/?hl=en

3. "Google Apps Case Studies" page gives short videos and links to specific Google Apps users, sorted by type (small business, education, organization,family, affinity). Here you can see how dozens of different organizations have used Google Apps to create their online, organizational infrastructure: http://www.google.com/a/help/intl/en/admins/customers.html

4. "Overview video" page explains what Google Apps is and how organizations can use it: https://services.google.com/apps/site/overview/index.html

For understanding set-up of Professional Storyteller through Ning, here are two helpful links--
1. "Ning Create Your Personal Social Network (NewTech Meetup)"

2. "Ning Network Creators" page allows you to ask questions on what is possible: http://networkcreators.ning.com/

Enjoy NationalStorytelling.Net and Professional Storyteller. There is plenty to do regardless of your personal goals.

Until we tell again,

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