"Year of the Adopted Family" book release

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Story Police: 3 Ways We Arrest Our Progress in the Art

Laurie Allen, professional storyteller and music teacher, mentioned the term "Story Police" during a Utah Storytelling Guild meeting. With her permission, I have taken that phrase as well as three common sayings either said aloud or in our minds.

A five-year-old boy playfully grabbed another five-year-old boy and exclaimed, "I'm a police officer and you're under arrest!"

I smiled, but wondered about this response. Seeing the reaction from me and the three other kids in the room, the boy repeated, "You're under arrest! You're under arrest! You're under arrest!"

My smile changed to worry. Since I am married to a man who works for a police department, I did not want the boy to think that taking people to prison was the only duty of a police officer.

Despite all the help that police give--from finding parents of a lost child to "How to Change a Flat Tire 101"--sometimes we first think of the negative.

That could also happen when you hear the term "Story Police".

The following sayings may sound familiar. . .though there are also positive counterparts:

Negative: You can't do it that way. That is not storytelling.
Positive: Storytelling is an art of exploration.

The definition of storytelling is as easy to define as cookies. People have a vague idea of what to expect, though there are certain people are definitely know what it is not. An official answer has never been posted by any of the main storytelling organizations, perhaps for fear of being labeled as "Story Police" or offending friends in the art.

This does not prevent people from thinking--or spouting--their opinions.

Our lives are inundated with story. It is only natural that people would have many ways to express what they mean by the art.

Negative: No one would be interested.
Positive: Somewhere there are people willing to listen. Let us find them.

Though we are unique individuals, we also share universal experiences. Then, there are cultures and sub-cultures within our world who think in one way or another. Based on statistics, there must be others who would enjoy or embrace your storytelling program or idea somewhere. Of course, there is always the chance to come upon something so specific, it is not financially sound to pursue the idea as a professional storyteller.

We need to balance the potential audience members to the compensation expected. Otherwise, it may be another reason we have kids and grandkids. . .guaranteed audience!

Negative: Why did you think of something that dumb? That will not work.
Positive: Stories evolve and so do my ideas.

Sometimes we wish we could look into the future and discover if our ideas would work before we work on them.

So far, a time machine has yet to be invented.

Meanwhile, we must approach ideas through the trial and error method. A person could have hundreds--even thousands--of failed projects and ideas. I have heard people say that each failure is then one step closer to success. Yet, when that grand idea comes as a result of learning from the failures, people remember most your accomplishments.

If you ever need assurance of this fact, then attend a funeral or a wake.

The next time you hear "Story Police", consider that we do not have to put our art under arrest. Rather, we could live and tell in our neighborhoods. . .with safety and peace.

Until we tell again,

Rachel Hedman
Professional Storyteller
Tel: (801) 870-5799
Email: info@rachelhedman.com
Performance Blog: http://familyfamine.blogspot.com/
Fan Page: http://www.facebook.com/rachelfans
Other places to find me: Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Professional Storyteller

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The Learning Listener: 3 Areas in Storytelling to Hearken

The storyteller is known more for talking than for listening, though both skills are needed to truly be extraordinary in the art.

While the weekend before Thanksgiving is dedicated every year as Tellabration! (National Storytelling Network), a worldwide celebration of storytelling, the Friday after Thanksgiving is dubbed National Day of Listening (StoryCorps).

Does this mean we first tell and then we listen? Then to what do we listen?

As ever-learning artists and human beings, we need to listen to:
  • Self
  • Story
  • Society
***These three areas happen to be in the title of the journal "Storytelling, Self, and Society". The intention of this post is to focus on these elements and does not mean to infringe on any publication name.

We need to listen to ourselves before we can expect to give proper attention to other areas. Sometimes we need to build the confidence to not only listen but to hearken to our intuitions and first impressions.

Some questions to ask ourselves--
  • Who am I as a Storyteller?
  • What kinds of stories do I love?
  • Where have I told stories? Where would I like to tell stories?
  • When have I told stories? When do I plan to tell stories?
  • Why do I tell stories?
  • How am I different from any other storyteller? How do I share stories?
Listen to these answers. Then hearken.

With the busyness of our lives, we need the silence so we can better recognize these impressions. You could consider these quiet moments similar to the dramatic pauses we add into our storytelling before audiences. The audience needs those pauses in order to "listen" to the images shared by the teller. We, as individuals, need pauses so we can "listen" to ourselves rather than the world.

Many storytellers have felt the urge to tell certain stories at a certain time. A wise storyteller listens to what is needed so that the right story is told for the right people for the right time.

When the story ends, it may not be the intent to promote the "happily ever after"--if it ends happily in the first place.

It may be to ask the audience and the teller--
  • Now what? Where do I fit in with this story?
  • What action am I motivated to take as a result of this story?
  • How have my views changed, if at all?
Listen to these answers. Then hearken.

The storyteller has no control as to how the audience will respond to the tales. Therefore, the storyteller has responsibility to be in tune to what stories are needed in the moment--even if the reason is not apparent at the time.

The most important unit of society is the family. Start here.

Discover what your family members have to impart about their views of the world. This includes the youngest to the oldest people. Each person has amazing stories to share.

StoryCorps tours the world with a special vehicle complete with a recording studio. People meet at this vehicle in pairs as one person is designated the interviewer and the other person is the interviewee--or storyteller. Being able to listen and guide the conversation are key skills needed by the interviewer.

Beyond the family, national storyteller Elizabeth Ellis reflects on the popular culture of the day through movies, music, and books.

For example, after watching a movie, she jots answers to questions like--
  • What themes were in this movie?
  • What stories, if any, are in my repertoire to match these themes?
  • What do I have to say about these themes? What are my views? Opinions?
Listen to these answers. Then hearken.

Rather than reflecting the trends, some storytellers created theme-based programs to promote opposite actions. Who said we have to agree with everyone? That is a different way to listen and then to hearken according to Self.

So. . .are you listening to Self, Story, and Society? Only you know the answer.

Feel free to share your comments here.

Until we tell again,

Rachel Hedman
Professional Storyteller
Tel: (801) 870-5799
Email: info@rachelhedman.com
Performance Blog: http://familyfamine.blogspot.com/
Fan Page: http://www.facebook.com/rachelfans
Other places to find me: Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Professional Storyteller

Sunday, November 15, 2009

"Storytelling is Dead!": 3 False Readings to the Art's Vital Signs

Once upon a time the art of storytelling was born. The world celebrated the birth as the human family became more unified and edified upon each tale told.

People seem unable to pinpoint storytelling's exact time of birth or that first story.

We have relished narratives without knowing all the details.

Some details have been important. . .particularly to storytelling's death.

Is the art living or shriveling?

Vital Signs Of Storytelling In Relation To:
  • Technology Ticker
  • Generational Gauge
  • Political Pulse

Technology Ticker
False Reading: Technology will doom Storytelling.
Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick.

To some people, the progression in technology sounds like a metronome alongside a piano to provide the steady inspiration to create something extraordinary like concertos or full-orchestra pieces. People build relationships or collaborate who--due to distances--could not otherwise meet.

Others account the ticking to a time bomb. The explosion of social networking on Facebook, Twitter, and blogging could cause casualties, but will storytelling be one of them?

In the article "Native Canadians and the End of Storytelling" written by Jerry Mander, a woman believed this was the case.

She watched as television came to her village. Less and less children had any desire to sit around the elders at night to learn of their culture. Instead, the culture came from the television. She lamented, "The generations are sitting all together now, silently watching television. And on TV it seems like being young is all that matters and that the old have nothing to say."

No matter your view, we must remember that for every trend there is also a counter-trend.

Anyone who vocalizes their opinions strengthens these trends and counter-trends.

Society will seek for ways to interact the more that people latch onto laptops, cell phones, blackberries, or whatever else is the next vessel for technology.

Storytelling is often the counter-trend to technology despite existence of digital storytelling or virtual teller sessions through programs like Second Life. In fact, storytelling is more rooted in society than ever before because of the existence of technology. As long as the human race progresses with ideas and inventions, then there will always be the ones to uphold the narrative art in its purity.

Yet, we still come upon titles of lectures as given by Douglas Rushkoff like "The End of the Story: How the net killed narrative, and what - if anything - comes next". This was presented by The Brooklyn Experimental Media Center and the Dibner Family Chair in the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology.

Rushkoff questioned, "Is the traditional story itself a relic, incapable of providing meaning over time?" He continued, "Is it our job to create stories capable of competing with the ones currently programming our society, or to abandon this arms race altogether in favor of new artistic and cognitive mechanisms. And, if so, what are they?"

Lately we have witnessed storytelling combine with other art forms so Rushkoff may be right that some of us are "in favor of new artistic and cognitive mechanisms." Though does adding different styles to storytelling constitute a death of some kind?

The essence of the art must exist in order for other styles to be added to it.

Generational Gauge
False Reading: Storytellers are dying out with no one to replace them.
Needle up. Needle down. Needle still down.

Or are we reading the gauge upside down.

While interviewed by the Reading Eagle, professional storyteller Charles "Chill" Kuhn from Coatesville, Pennsylvania said, "Yes, I do believe storytelling is a dying art." He added, "But I would like to add that we are all storytellers whether we realize it or not."

This comment was enough for the article's author, Rebecca Strauss, to dubb the headline as , "Pro says love your stories: Professional tale weaver Charles 'Chill' Kuhn laments his dying art".

Not everyone agrees with this verdict, as was apparent when Betty Smith, who has worked with the National Storytelling Network staff as well as with the International Storytelling Center, responded to this article and declared on Facebook, "Hey storytellers. . .someone needs to let this guy know that storytelling is alive and well."

Reading the regular column of "Remembered Voices" compiled by Wendy Gourley in the Storytelling Magazine may seem that we lose at least one well-loved storyteller a month. However, for every storyteller who passes on, we gain at least two more new tellers.

Whether or not these new tellers align themselves with storytelling guilds or organizations does not change the fact that they do exist.

The Weber State University Storytelling Festival, which celebrates over 70 youth tellers as part of its program, has considered expanding from a three-day event to a four-day event in order to give at least 20 more youth opportunities to tell. Such a change may happen within three years. This does not count the hundreds of youth who participate before tellers are selected.

Whole schools or school districts declare storytelling units or festivals to fulfill the demand for this art.

The generational gauge certainly has the needle up.

Political Pulse
False Reading: Storytelling Organizations have lost their influence.
Thump. Thump. Tha-thump.

Can you hear the life of storytelling organizations? We did not always have them.

In an excerpt from The Way of the Storyteller, Ruth Sawyer, the author, wished, "there might be a guild for storytellers today where masters and apprentices might work together for the upholding of their art." She died five years before the National Association for the Preservation and Perpetuation of Storytelling (NAPPS) was formed in the United States in 1975.

Sawyer was not the only one who desired organization, as Kathryn Tucker Windham, key person of the American Storytelling Movement, wanted to be the first paid member of the NAPPS. Nowadays, NAPPS is known as the National Storytelling Network (NSN).

In NSN's golden time, there were over 4,000 members. This membership has dwindled to about 2,000 members.

During a personal interview in 2000, Windham reflected, "Organizations come. Organizations go. Storytelling remains. . .I'm at a place where I'm not scared anymore about what happens if this stops or that stops or whatever."

Though every organization, whether connected to storytelling or any other industry, have their periods of growth and then times that plateau. We are in such times.

Organizations do not equal storytelling. Windham was right that the art would continue whether people promoted the name of the National Storytelling Network or any other organization. These entities exist to give structure and possibility to what we cannot accomplish as individuals.

As if to respond to the current economical instability, there are still people who wish to join in the efforts. Tim Ereneta pointed out that Europeans tend to be more adept at these unions. He shared the promise for the International Storytelling Network, also known as Red Internacional de Ceuntacuentos. You can read Ereneta's blog post on this discovery here.

So membership numbers may rise or fall, though it appears we will have many organizations and guilds for decades--if not centuries--to come.

You must ask the question: Do you believe storytelling is "alive and well"?

You know my answer.

Until we tell again,

Rachel Hedman
Professional Storyteller
Tel: (801) 870-5799
Email: info@rachelhedman.com
Performance Blog: http://familyfamine.blogspot.com/
Fan Page: http://www.facebook.com/rachelfans
Other places to find me: Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Professional Storyteller

Sunday, November 01, 2009

3 Reasons Why Improvisation is Crucial to Youth Today

Think of the perfect words to say in a few seconds.

Then say them.

Such are skills that storytellers cherish and that youth could benefit from if trained from the beginning.

Reasons to Build Improvisation Skills in Youth:

  • Balance Recitation in Life
  • Increase Independent Thinking
  • Develop Quick Solutions
Balance Recitation in Life
Youth have been told what to say since babies. "Mommy" and "Daddy" are common requests from parents for the baby's first words.

Siblings may join in this contest of words.

When my parents gave me a tape recorder for Christmas, I pretended to be a reporter. I had certain phrases I wanted my younger brother and sister to say.

In schools, kids are expected to memorize, recite, or repeat what the teacher says or what the textbook proclaims. Sometimes this encouragement is needed to build vocabulary. However, at a certain point, we need youth to explore their world and play with sound and images.

Some teachers boost creativity in their classrooms by encouraging students to write historical fictions. Other teachers merge storytelling games with curriculum. Usually the games work best as a review of material so that the students could adapt their improvisations to the knowledge learned.

Increase Independent Thinking
Kids cannot vote in elections until the age of 18. That is a while to wait before their voices are officially counted.

In the meantime, they rely on the decisions of adults to shape most of their political, economical, and social lives. . .unless they build confidence through improvisational skills.

Improvisation is another way to give youth permission to think outside the norm. Risks and mistakes are part of the practice. Adrenalin rises and the heart pounds, but these natural reactions seem to also fire the synapses in the brain. The more we test our wits, then the easier and faster our brains work.

Story repertoire could be as much as a source for building improvisational skills than storytelling games.

The youth could make a list of stories they could tell with ease. Then they could make a list of stories that could be told after one or two run-throughs. While reflecting on the keywords, moods, and moments within the stories, the youth may be inspired to tell one story over another given the situation.

Perhaps they may create stories simply by looking into the eyes of their listeners.

Now that is independent thought.

That would be a gift that youth could take with them and use while giving presentations in college, answering interview questions of potential employers, or addressing needs of their own families as they have children of their own.

Develop Quick Solutions
Youth seem to fly through their baby, toddler, adolescent, and teenage years until suddenly they are going to college.

Every second that youth save in making right choices--whether saying no to drugs, cheering a friend to do their best, or handling bullies--improvisation skills provide resolution to their lives such as through role-playing techniques.

The lack of role-play or exploration of possibilities leads to resistance.

While attending an excellent workshop taught by national teller Angela Lloyd for teachers and parents who coach youth tellers, two youth tellers were asked to be coached in front of everybody.

As Lloyd promoted the tellers to share the prepared stories in words other than what was memorized, one youth repeated the same words. Lloyd was patient and asked the question in different ways so that the youth learned other ways to approach the story.

Sometimes, if shy, youth may be more willing to play with the story when done with a partner. Then the youth would have support in the process and could bounce off pretend dialogue with the other person for the story.

Who said that quick thinkers needed to be alone to produce the solutions?

When other youth are not available, then at least the youth could count on you.

Go out there. Cheer on the youth. Enjoy storytelling games. Build stories in the moment. Role-play.

You know you want to play. So do the youth.

Until we tell again,

Rachel Hedman
Professional Storyteller
Tel: (801) 870-5799
Email: info@rachelhedman.com
Performance Blog: http://familyfamine.blogspot.com/
Fan Page: http://www.facebook.com/rachelfans
Other places to find me: Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Professional Storyteller

Thursday, October 15, 2009

5 Spooky Family Relationships in Folklore & How to Avoid Them Today

Families are usually the people who care about you no matter what happens.

Then there are exceptions we see reflected in folklore:
1. Cannibalism
2. Abuse
3. Abandonment
4. Neglect
5. Infidelity

When one wakes in the morning, one does not usually think, "I better be careful or I may be eaten by my father today."

Yet, there was a little girl who had that fate. Sometimes the fate falls on a little boy.

The guilt rests upon the one who kills and prepares the child for the family meal. Rarely do the other family members know the meal's true source until later.

Folktales to Consider:
Applie and Orangie, from Scotland

When the mother dies, the father cares for the girls Applie and Orangie. Then, he remarries. The stepmother kills Applie and turns her into stew that the father eats unknowingly. Orangie takes the bones from the stew and buries them. The bones transform into a pigeon. The bird flies to a shopkeeper, a jeweler, and an ironmonger. The bird sings, "My mammy killed me. My daddy ate me." The people are enchanted and the bird gains a doll, a watch, and an ax respectively. Finally, the bird sings down the chimney and drops the doll for the sister. The second time the bird drops the watch for the father. The stepmother is anxious to receive her gift, and the bird drops the ax down the chimney.

The Juniper Tree, from Germany
A boy is killed and fed to the father when the stepmother desires the whole fortune to go to her daughter. The daughter knows about the evil deed, though she loves the boy and wraps the bones. The bones turn into a bird who perches in the juniper tree and sings, "My mother, she butchered me. My father, he ate me." A goldsmith, a cobbler, and a miller provide a gold chain, a pair of red shoes, and a millstone to hear the bird sing the dismal song. The family hears the bird, and the father goes outside by the tree to see. He is given the golden chain. The girl then goes to the tree and is given the red pair of shoes. The stepmother goes to the tree and is squashed by the millstone. The bird transforms back into the boy.

The Cannibal Wife, from Southern Polynesia
A mother is not allowed to be alone after giving birth. If left alone for the first year, she would turn into a witch and eat her children as well as everyone else in the village. A certain mother gives birth. Almost a year has gone by when there are plans for the babe's first birthday. The father needs more meat for the celebration, and he takes their son along for the hunt. Then, since the mother is left alone, she turns into a witch and eats everyone in the village. When the father and son return, she attempts to trick the father by having him walk in front of her to check on the fish so she could surprise attack and eat him and the boy. The father gives an excuse that he must relieve himself, runs into the woods, and makes noisy toys in the woods so she would think he was still relieving himself. He leaves the island, and to this day the woman waits for him.
***Also see Houmea, Uta's wife, from Maori culture.

Ways to Avoid Cannibalism--
Do not accidentally sprinkle salt on any family members.
Stay far enough away from the campfire so you do not roast your bottom.
Say several times aloud, "People do not taste like chicken."

Real Way to Avoid Cannibalism--Believe in Higher Being

People tend to avoid such an act when they acknowledge the existence of One who could bestow justice. No matter your religious views, the consequences of killing are undeniable and fiercely punishable.

There are many forms of abuse from physical to sexual to verbal. A few families have more than one abuse in the home.

Often folktales highlight one kind of abuse, though sometimes all three are found.

Folktales to Consider:
The Falcon's Daughter, from Egypt

A man eats a pomegranate that grants pregnancy. He bears and abandons a baby girl. A falcon raises the child. A Sultan's son falls in love with the girl, but she must be tricked down from the tree. An old woman pretends not to know how to slaughter a sheep so the girl comes down from the tree to help. The boy sweeps her up and marries her. One day the boy asks his mother to watch his wife while in the village Hejaz. When the girl asks for bread, the mother cuts off her arm, then foot, etc. until the girl is thrown out. She receives a wish to return to her normal self and have a fruit tree. Meanwhile, the mother pretends to be the wife and sleeps with her son and becomes pregnant. The mother has cravings for grapes. Two servants go to the girl's fruit tree and hear a strange song of what happened to the girl. The boy learns the truth. The mother is killed.

The Little Match Girl, by Hans Christian Andersen
The girl fears what her father will do to her when she returns home without any money from selling matches.

Noodlehead Stories, from around the world
In these tales, often the mother repeats a phrase like "Ain't got the sense you were born with" when her child performs a foolish act. The frequency seems to create a self-fulfilling prophecy that this would be the child's unavoidable fate. This could be considered a form of verbal abuse.

Way to Avoid Abuse--Support Positive Discipline

Sometimes family members resort to abuse for they feel compelled to stop misbehavior or certain actions. This does not mean that the victim is in the wrong, but only that the offender craves some level of power.

Abuse often leads to the seeking of revenge by the victim. At other times, there permeates the feelings of worthlessness. These mind-sets could be appeased by using respectful methods such as avoiding "I told you so" statements as well as encouraging people to explore mistakes through thoughtful questions. As a result, the people could reflect on their actions rather than listening to someone tell them what is wrong all the time.

Perhaps you have heard the phrase "babes in the woods". During times of war, some European parents would abandon their children in the woods because they could not take care of their temporal needs.

Folklore then reflected this reality.

Sometimes the abandonment occurred when parents lost faith in the ability for their child to survive. Though a child may live and then harbor ill will towards the one who abandoned them--or allowed them to be abandoned--a parent was blessed indeed if the child forgave them.

Folktales to Consider:
The Powerful Boy, from Seneca people

A baby is born no bigger than a palm. The father thinks it will die and abandons it. The father's five-year-old son finds the baby, feeds it, and they become friends. The father learns of the baby's strength and survival and is reunited. The father tells his sons not to go north, but they do. The powerful boy kills all the frogs since he thought they threatened his father. The father tells his two sons not to go north again because of Stone Coat, a giant. The boy goes alone, tricks Stone Coat, and kills him. The father tells the boy not to go southwest because it is gambling country. The boy wins the bet against the buffalo-size-head man and frees the people. The boy goes east, wins a game against two clans, and receives land. The father and two sons move there.

Hansel and Gretel, from Germany
The mother fears their poverty, and convinces the father to abandon their boy and girl in the woods. The children overhear, prepare, and return home. The children are abandoned a second time, and despite their attempts to find home, they find a gingerbread house. After escape from the witch who lived there, they return to their home. As the mother died in their absence, the father welcomes the children home, never to be abandoned again.

Forsaken Brother, from Ojibwa people
A sister and brother promise their dying father to always watch over and provide care for a sickly brother. The older brother leaves first, and the sister endures longer until the loneliness overcomes her soul. The sickly brother must fend for himself. He is befriended by wolves and transforms into one. When the sister learns of the change, she mourns to the end of her days.

Way to Avoid Abandonment--Practice Smart Finances

Nowadays, people have accrued major credit card debt and have spent more money than they earn at one time. Interest never sleeps, and the debt continues to grow.

Avoid credit card use whenever possible and attempt to have a zero balance. Review the family budget periodically and decide together on ways to save money. Build stronger bonds with each other by doing wholesome recreational activities that cost little money or are free.

Addictions often cause neglect of family members, and these addictions could include anything that keeps one away from fulfilling responsibilities. Though one usually thinks of drugs, alcohol, and pornography first, slothfulness or constant Internet usage could be as deadly to family relationships.

Folktales to Consider:
Misery, from Russia

A poor brother asks for food from his rich brother. The rich one invites the poor one and wife to a feast, yet the rich one gives no food to them. Although hungry and thirsty, the poor one sings as though fed and drunk like the other guests. Misery hears the song and invites the poor one to the pub and convinces the brother to sell a sheepskin to pay for the drinks. Then the brother drinks himself out of his sledge, cart, harrow, plow, hut, and even his wife's dress until nothing is left. Misery tells the brother to borrow a neighbor's cart and oxen for more money to continue drinking. Finally, Misery shows the brother where to dig for gold. The brother takes the gold, and then bumps Misery into the hole and buries him. The rich brother is jealous and releases Misery in hopes for revenge. Instead, Misery attaches to the rich brother. His wealth dwindles until destitute. He plays hide and go seek with Misery and tricks him to be stuck in a wheel spoke. He drowns Misery in the river.

Lazybones, from Hungary
A wealthy farmer has a lazy daughter who never has dates due to this fact. One night she attends a dance but no one dances with her because of her laziness. Then one man dances with her, despite being warned, and decides to call on her family. He proposes, the daughter accepts, and the parents give a huge chest full of clothes. Every day the girl wears the clothes and burns them when soiled since she is too lazy to wash. She runs out of clothes, the husband dresses her in straw, takes her to her parents and leaves her there. He remarries.

King Midas, from Greece
King Midas helps a satyr who mentors Dionysus, the god of the life force. After listening to the satyr's stories of the City of Atlantis and the streets paved with gold, King Midas desires such a life for his people. Dionysus grants a wish for the king's kindness, and the king asks that anything he touches would turn to gold. He accidentally turns his daughter into gold, and mourns over his golden touch. He asks to be free of the curse, but it is too late to save his daughter.

Way to Avoid Neglect--Rehabilitate from Addictions

Always surround yourself with people who have your best interests at heart. Some addictions have support groups like Alcohol Anonymous. Before any help is sought from these groups, it is best to admit the wrong to your family and have them cheer you on during this process.

These same family members could help remove some of the temptations that caused you to be in this rut such as getting rid of any alcohol in the home, setting up filters to avoid pornography, and so on.

Adultery and betrayal often create headlines for our newspapers, magazines, and television channels. As we are all part of the human family, perhaps it seems inconceivable that we would cheat the ones we profess to love.

Sometimes a family member, usually a spouse, suspects another of such acts when, in fact, the person is innocent.

Folktales to Consider:
The Flight of Birds, from England

A husband is jealous of anyone looking at his wife. One day, a handsome stranger comes to their home to seek shelter from the storm. Throughout the night, the husband imagines that the man and his wife wish to sleep together. Then the husband believes rather than thinks these thoughts. He leads her with a rope outside to hang her. Every time he throws the rope around the limb, a flock of birds disrupt the toss and the rope falls to the ground. The husband tries a pine tree away from the birds. By now it is dawn. The birds appear. The husband repents. The couple walks home.

Zeus and Hera, from Greece
There is not one particular story to choose, as Zeus was constantly being unfaithful. Zeus sometimes resorted to trickery to avoid detection, though Hera usually found out shortly after or during the offense. Even when Zeus and Hera first met, he transformed into a cuckoo bird that needed warmth from the winter winds. Hera gave the bird warmth against her breast, and that was when Zeus transformed and raped the goddess. She married him to conceal the shame, especially as virginity was the most sacred to her as proof by the yearly baths she took in the spring Canathus that renewed this gift. After their marriage, Hera often punished any mortal or goddess for whom Zeus constantly slept with or raped. Though other gods sought Hera, she was always true to Zeus.

The Man Who Came Out Only at Night, from Italy
The youngest daughter of a poor fisherman agrees to marry the man who comes out only at night. She learns that he is a tortoise by day and a man by night. If she were faithful the whole time while he travels around the world, then he would be a man forever. Her husband gives a diamond ring and tells her that she could use its power to good ends. He leaves. She gets a job at a bakery and blesses it with customers by the ring's power. Three men fall in love with her and offer money to sleep with her. One-by-one, she invites the men and has them, through the ring's power, do tasks around the bakery all night so she can get rid of them in the morning. The three men report her to authorities, but she uses the ring's power to have authorities play leapfrog. Her husband returns and becomes a man forever.

Way to Avoid Infidelity--Extend Trust to Others and to Self

Believe that you could be a wonderful husband, wife, son, daughter, sibling, or whatever roles you undertake in your family. Then believe the same of the other family members.

When there are disagreements, be willing to discuss them without interrupting each other's thoughts. Sincere listening could build the trust to develop positive solutions.

Books to Find the Folktales Mentioned:
Until we tell again,

Rachel Hedman
Professional Storyteller
Tel: (801) 870-5799
Email: info@rachelhedman.com
Performance Blog: http://familyfamine.blogspot.com/
Fan Page: http://www.facebook.com/rachelfans
Other places to find me: Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Professional Storyteller

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Global Story Sisterhood Relations: 3 Ways to Become Family

Storytellers exist in every city, country, and continent.

When we gather at festivals, conferences, or other events, we experience a kind of storytelling family reunion.

Then everyone goes home.

Nowadays we have the Internet to be updated by our fellow "brothers and sisters" in storytelling. . . .and sometimes that is where it ends.

Or could we do something more?

Storytelling organizations could create Story Sisters much like the Sister Cities or Town Twinning established through government or municipal levels. We could encourage growth and advocacy in the art.

How could such relations be forged?
  • Involve Local People and Determine Purpose
  • Discover Group with Similar Goals and Make Introductions
  • Collaborate and Share Results
Involve Local People and Determine Purpose
A collaboration of any kind always starts with an individual. You. Someone has to envision the partnership.

Then you find another individual in your vicinity. Most likely this would be another storyteller.

Add another individual. And add another individual.

If you have a storytelling club or guild in the area, then it would make sense to involve them. A guild could be a sister to another guild.

Feel free to expand the outreach with other pro-story people. Consider businessmen, educators, librarians, retirees, and youth.

Think about groups such as rotary clubs, churches, hospitals, schools, local government, and anyone else who could be excited to be with storytellers.

When I used to be with the Brigham Young University Storytelling Club, we called other clubs that we collaborated with as "cousin clubs". Performing art groups made sense to join efforts such as Y Juggle, the juggling club on campus. We combined skills to create the program "Once Upon a Juggler". The first and last stories of the session merged storytelling with juggling. Then, we rotated from storyteller to juggler to storyteller throughout the night.

Local collaborations are plentiful.

Chat about the purpose of gathering. What is the desire to connect with other people, groups, or organizations outside the area?

Hopefully, you are thinking beyond monetary reasons. Perhaps there are services or expertise that could be exchanged. Maybe you could create a youth program to teach leadership through story-based methods. Do you need volunteers to run storytelling festivals or events?

Whatever it may be, have everyone in agreement before moving onto the next step.

Discover Group with Similar Goals and Make Introductions
If the group you wish to meet has a website, then read their mission statement or objectives to see if they match the ones that your local group agreed on.

The Internet makes this possible as well as an invention that has been around for a while: the telephone.

For international calls, consider using a service like Skype to save money.

There is something about hearing someone's voice that is more inviting than simply sending an email request.

Some people are fearful of contacting someone from another part of the country or the world, though one only needs to remember that these people could love stories as much as you. . .if not more.

Some national groups to consider for collaborations or guidance:
Click here for another online listing of storytelling organizations.

Once the relationship is established, then have each group's leader send the other group's leader an official letter to ask to work together. Be sure to share a general overview of your group, especially if this is the first time to be in contact. You may want to add promotional items like pins, pens, or anything else as a friendship gift.

Collaborate and Share Results
Decide on a project or at least determine a tentative time-line of when certain results would take place.

Did you want to have a Multi-Art event?

Would you like an elementary school class to interview senior citizens for stories?

Do you want Rotary club members to contact their international chapters for a storytelling event with broadcast abilities?

The ideas are endless.

Though, let the world know about them.

Share the project updates through websites, blogs, Facebook groups, Twitter, or any other social media tools.

You may find that spreading the word intensifies support. You could expand the scope you have for the next project or collaboration.

You would experience these storytelling reunions and efforts time after time.

Story Sisters could last for generations.

Now that is a storytelling family reunion!

Until we tell again,

Rachel Hedman
Professional Storyteller
Tel: (801) 870-5799
Email: info@rachelhedman.com
Performance Blog: http://familyfamine.blogspot.com/
Fan Page: http://www.facebook.com/rachelfans
Other places to find me: Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Professional Storyteller

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

"Look it up!": New Words in Storytelling & the Arts

The global storytelling movement for the past 40 years has brought new words to the art.

Sometimes, these words are shared for hopes of protologism, in which the creator of a new word or phrase is desirous for it to be accepted within the art community or beyond.

For the storytelling community, the word seems to be "accepted" when included or in relation with events such as the National Storytelling Conference or the National Storytelling Festival. There are moments when words, not meant to be used more than the one time, take flight and land in other areas across the world.

Here are some neologisms for our art--
  • Urban Storytelling/Word Artists/Spoken Word--The term "urban storytelling" has become popular mostly due to The Moth, a New York City-based nonprofit at The Players Club. At this place, people from the community are guided by an artistic director to find the essence of a dramatic personal experience and make it presentable for the public. The themes of urban storytelling tend to be edgy and on the rebellious nature for whatever may be on the social agenda at the time. Sometimes the words and images chosen seem raw or violent. The word "spoken word" could be applied, though this term has different meanings depending on the region or intended audience. In the 1980s, the term "spoken word" was adopted by academia in an effort to categorize word-based performance as opposed to established areas of art like music, theatre, and dance.
  • Poetry Slam/Story Slam--Storytelling and poetry have existed for centuries and now these art forms have evolved into something more intense and lively. Story slams and poetry slams outreach mainly to high school students and college-aged adults, though all ages, cultures and races participate. The key components of a slam--poetry or storytelling: anyone could share poem/story; no props or costumes; about five judges from the audience and/or pre-determined panel; time limit (3 min. for poetry, 5 min. for story); and the importance of audience reactions. The event usually has three rounds of about 7-10 artists, with a different artist to be "sacrificial". The audience is taught to boo and hiss as well as to applaud. Heckling is encouraged. This world is highly competitive. The National Storytelling Conference had its first Story Slam in 2008. You can learn more about slams at my blog.
  • Anti-Slam/Art Stars--With all the booing and hissing from slams, then this movement of "anti-slam" came along. Usually that is how it works. For every trend there is a counter-trend. Reverand Jen Miller developed a poetry slam and created the venue called "Collective: Unconscious" and premiered on October 17, 2007. Every week the performers are called "art stars". Though the performers are given boards that show 1-10 numbers, the purpose is for the panel of "judges" to all give "10"s, thus calling each participant a winner. Performing arts could range from stand-up comedy to fiction to commentary to poetry and even rants. Author John S. Hall said of this movement, ". . .where everybody gets a ten. In a sense, that's kind of like the opposite problem [to slams], which is that you're saying there are no winners or losers at all. And even at an open reading, there are winners and losers, but it seems less stratified and controlled and gamed."
  • Tridem--This term was coined by Elizabeth Rose, director of the National Youth Storytelling Showcase, in 2007. Although the showcase asked for auditions for solo and tandem storytellers, she would also receive entries with three storytellers telling one story. Though the word "tandem" is still used as the category title, the word "tridem" was needed to be more specific in the kind of storytelling taking place. This term has spread to other youth-oriented storytelling events such as the Weber State University Storytelling Festival where over 70 youth tell stories alongside national and regional storytellers. The new audition page on the website has been clarified to say that the event looks for solo, tandem, or tridem performances.
  • House Concerts/Backyard Concerts--Although musicians, singers, and comedians have used houses as venues for their work, this have been a new term amongst the storytelling community in the past couple years. One of the 2009 Storytelling Magazine issues spotlighted this type of event featuring Dan Keding and Rivka Willick. Other storytellers who have benefited from these events are Priscilla Howe and Tim Ereneta. A host, sometimes the same person as the storyteller, invites friends and family to their house. Depending on the weather, the event could be inside or outside. Some of these concerts are ticketed while some are offered free. The artist could be testing material or may give polished performances of the same level as any paid venue. The Utah Storytelling Guild will launch and sponsor House Concerts as part of their membership's professional development series in Fall 2009. The participating storytellers must have completed at least five practices with specific audiences. The storytellers will tell for free, but will be allowed to sell merchandise.
  • [Here]Say/[Murmur]--Yes, the brackets are important if you want to refer to the community-based storytelling occurring in some downtown areas. The use of [here]say is the play on the word "hearsay", which means "scuttlebutt or gossip". In the storytelling sense, [murmur] is a pioneering mobile-based oral history documentary project which started in Toronto, Canada. Out from [murmur] came [here]say, which are community-based oral history documentary projects. Often these two programs are thought as story maps. For example, a person may see a sign in the downtown area to call a certain number to hear a story about that part of town. More signs would scatter along the street to have an experience like an art walk. What started in Canada has now become popular in the United States. You can read more about them here. Or should I say hear?
  • Second Life/Storytelling Guild of Second Life--This refers to a virtual world developed by Linden Lab on June 23, 2003 and not a second chance at life. Or is it? Second Life (SL) can be accessed through the Internet where people could create an avatar/character to look like them or look however they want. These avatars are often called "residents" and socialize with other "residents". This is for ages 18 and older, though there is now a Teen Second Life for 13-17-year-olds. People could own virtual property and places. For example, storyteller Dale Gilbert Jarvis created the virtual place for the Storytelling Guild of Second Life. There are regular storytelling events streamed lived where avatars gather. If you want to read about my experience with Second Life, then read it here.
  • UnFestival/UnConference/Open Conference--These are kinds of event where audiences "vote with their feet". Rather than the festival or conference where the audience is expected to arrive and leave sessions when scheduled, the audience is given permission to come and go as they feel the need. The presenters accept this fact. This eliminates the need for time limits on stories. Anyone could be the storyteller, presenter, or speaker. The term "open conference" is the more common term and derives from the adjective "opensource" that means "public access and community development". For the storytelling community, these terms were shared often due to the decision by the National Storytelling Network to not have an annual conference in 2009. Rather, this year became known as the "Year of the Regions" as NSN combined efforts with regional storytelling conferences in sponsorship. Some storytellers resisted the break in tradition and proposed having unconferences. Read more about these terms at Tim Ereneta's blog here.
  • Open Space Technologies/Brain Trust Sessions--A facilitator guides a group of people to briefly share the theme of the gathering. People announce what topics are of most interest to them. These ideas are listed on a piece of paper or board for the improvised agenda. The person suggesting the topic would be expected to lead the discussion when people can decide what room to go for the discussion. When all ideas are listed, then discussions ensue and people attend whichever ones they wish. The attendees organize the action. At the end of each session, someone reports what was expressed within the group. The report is then recorded and and becomes available to anyone. OSTs actually came into being 1985 by Harrison Owen. For the storytelling communities, Brain Trust Sessions occurred for the first time at the 2008 National Storytelling Conference. One room was used, though a couple sessions took different corners of the room so many topics could be discussed in small groups at the same time.
  • Storytelling Elitism--Storyteller Marilyn Hudson coined this phrase in 2008 after what she saw happening with the Oklahoma Tellers. In this case, the elitist could be the person who hires the storyteller or could be the storyteller himself. The elitist is the person who "sees only one type of storytelling as 'true storytelling' (theatrics vs. traditional, for example)." The organizer or the teller may see one style and may want to imitate only that style at the event. This causes difficulty for new tellers or lesser-known tellers to grace the stage. For more of Hudson's views, you can go here.
  • Festival-Worthy/Festival-Ready--When storytellers submit promo materials or audition items for storytelling festivals, then they are hoping to be "festival-worthy". This term is used most often for the National Storytelling Festival as well as for the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival due to the prestige associated with these events. I have heard the term "festival-ready" by Kathy Palermo, one of the directors of the Arne Nixon Student Storytelling Festival. Since Palermo teaches a storytelling class at Hanford High School in California, she has her students perform for this event. The students divide into several classrooms with a professional storyteller in each room to act as mentor/judge. The professional storyteller choses which students could tell later that afternoon and are then deemed "festival-ready". This phrase is even written on the ballot sheets. The afternoon is open for the public and not all youth are expected to be chosen to share their stories. However, all youth do receive certificates.
  • New Voices--These storytellers are in the 18-30-year-old range. Due to the small numbers of this generation in the storytelling community, some people consider age 35 to be part of this discussion group within the National Storytelling Network. This group formed at the 2005 National Storytelling Conference in Bellingham, WA. The "new" part of the name refers to the ages and not necessarily to their amount of experience with the storytelling art.
  • YES! (also known as Youth, Educators, and Storytellers Alliance)--The name for this organization was voted into place by people within the Youth Storytelling special interest group merged with the up-and-coming Educator special interest group of the National Storytelling Network at the 2005 National Storytelling Conference. The NSN Board encouraged the groups to merge due to some overlapping goals. The exclamation point was a key part of the name and represents "alliance". The name was also chosen to answer the question, "Storytelling in Education? YES!".
  • Edu-tainment--This word combines the words "education" and "entertainment". Storytellers wanting to promote both elements in their program told sponsors that they had "edu-tainment" value. Some storytellers are offended if their stories are only considered entertainment or "full of fluff".
  • Sense Presence--This term was coined by storyteller Bill Harley. The word is a combination of "stage presence" and "senses". The storytelling community often talks about "The Triangle" in that the three important relationships in the storytelling: teller to story to audience. Harley said that "sense presence" was when a storyteller did a perfect melding of these relationships in which the right story was told to the right audience by the right teller. A teller may not feel "sense presence" after every performance or even from a story that received that feeling before. It was something to strive for each time a storyteller went on stage. Harley predicted that these sense presence moments were rare despite someone's experience with the art.
  • Storetry--This word combines "story" with "poetry". My first encounter with the word was when Mitch Capel (a.k.a. Gran'daddy Junebug) labeled his style as "storetry" at the 2007 Timpanogos Storytelling Festival. All his stories/narratives were recited with rhythm and rhyme. I have since seen a book named Storetry by Allan Williams and published by RoseDog Books.
  • Citizen Journalist/Public Journalist/Street Journalist--Anyone can post news online and be their own journalist through tools like blogs, Facebook, and Twitter. This movement started around 1988 and has exploded due to people being able to go on the Internet from home or on their cell phones. These terms are not to be confused with "community journalist" or "civic journalist", who are considered professionals. Several storytellers write regular blogs so to join the citizen journalist force. From the seminal 2003 report We Media: How Audiences are Shaping the Future of News and Information came the statement that these journalists are "playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing and disseminating news and information."
  • Ezine--This is the back-formation of Ezine Articles. Writers are able to write about their expertise and become featured at EzineArticles.com. This site has a searchable database that make it possible for people to ask permission of the writers to add these articles to their own newsletters. In a content-driven world, this service is invaluable. Anyone could submit articles, but there are guidelines and all articles are proofread before posting online. Some storytellers have received offers for performances or presentations due to the articles posted at this site.
  • iTales.com--Like iTunes.com is geared mostly for music, the iTales.com site is where people can find stories available for download at similar fees. The "i" refers to "Internet". These audio stories could be placed on your computer, mp3 player, iPod, or on a CD. Storytellers receive a commission on any of their stories sold at this site.
  • Digital Storytelling/Web-based Storytelling/Hypertexts/Narrative Computer Games--These terms are still being figured out, though, at this time, they refer to using the Internet or computer software to create visual and/or audio ways to share true stories of one's life. The main focus is to share it in an engaging way that involves the emotions. Most of these stories are less than eight minutes long. One of the most popular places that uses these forms of storytelling is the Center for Digital Storytelling in San Francisco.
  • YouTube Storyteller--This phrase was likely coined by storyteller Tim Ereneta. On YouTube, he created a "channel" or group within YouTube called "The Ancient Art of Storytelling". People could submit their videos to this channel if they were performance storytelling pieces. Some people submit stories only online rather than going about the world as professional storytellers. Thus, they could be called "YouTube Storytellers". There are also storytellers who have over 20 videos of stories on YouTube and could also qualify for this term although no number has been set for who would be a YouTube teller. Perhaps if you at least have one, you can join this family!
  • Fringe Teller--This phrase, like "YouTube Storyteller", was most likely created by storyteller Tim Ereneta. This may have been the shorter way of saying "a storyteller who performs often at fringes". A fringe is a festival-like atmosphere that allows people to apply for a slot. The person could use the average of 55 minutes in whatever way he wishes. There are adult content warnings listed, if applicable, so the audience member could decide on their attendance. Most fringes gear for adults though there are specific family-friendly ones. Common artists found on the fringe circuit are musicians, comedians, and actors. As more and more storytellers are looking for alternate venues, the fringe has been a welcoming place. Any performing artists must pay for their own advertising, but they are still linked to a specific fringe.
  • Masterminding--This is a verb created from the noun of "Mastermind Group". Sean Buvala has popularized this term in the storytelling community. A Mastermind Group is a bunch of people all committed to improve as individuals in their industry. The group often meets in-person, by telephone, or through online methods to "check-in" with each other and keep everyone accountable for their individual goals often involving the marketing and/or development sides. The group may all be storytellers or the group may be a mix of business men from all backgrounds.
  • Shout Out--Several storytellers have labeled blog posts with "Shout Out" when they want to promote an individual, company, or idea. This term is a sign of respect and is synonymous to the phrase "giving props". The phrase emerged in 1990 with rap artists and has finally caught on in the last year with storytellers. Sometimes game show hosts have used the term when contestants have family in the audience so there could be a "Shout Out" to them.
  • Storytelling Tourism/Storytelling Tourists--This is the act of gathering a bunch of people to travel to another place--most likely a foreign country--to delve into that place's take on storytelling. The "tourists" are usually storytellers who combine their skills with the storytellers of the area visited. There is then a cultural exchange of ideas and techniques. The most famous of these tours are organized by Eth-Noh-Tec, a storytelling husband and wife team. Each year tends to rotate between India and China with the tourists coming from the United States.
Please share any words that you have heard within the storytelling community. . .or ones about to emerge.

Until we tell again,

Rachel Hedman
Professional Storyteller
Tel: (801) 870-5799
Email: info@rachelhedman.com
Performance Blog: http://familyfamine.blogspot.com/
Fan Page: http://www.facebook.com/rachelfans
Other places to find me: Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Professional Storyteller

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Generation Gap of Tellers: 3 Ways to Prove This Myth Wrong

By the way some storytellers sound, it seems that the 40+-year-American Storytelling Movement is coming to a close as more and more tellers are aging . . .and passing on.

At one time, I, too, had wondered about the generation gap.

Every time I attended a National Storytelling Conference, I was lucky to find 10 tellers within the 18-35-year-old range. Youth tellers, except for the Kids’ Koncert there, were practically nonexistent.

So we thought.

Then, after seeing the curious and excited looks of college students as I ran a booth on the art on their campus, I realized that the generation gap was only as looming as one made it to be.

Suddenly, I needed sunglasses to see the bright future.

Three Ways to Prove Generation Gap Myth Wrong:

  • Use Different Names for the Art and the Artist

  • Make Appearances on Campuses Beyond Performances

  • Promote Generational Participate at Events

Use Different Names for the Art and the Artist

We are attached to the name “storyteller”. The name has a long and cherished history with people of all ethnicities, tongues, and climes.

Then something changed.

People have their lists of what de-valued the status of storytellers: television, video games, Internet, falling family values, drugs, gangs, etc. Whatever the reason or reasons, the name “storyteller” does not have the power it once had with youth and college-aged students.

Although the term “storyteller” could still be used as a label or profession, we need to add other words to our daily vocabulary within and without the storytelling community.

Otherwise, we run the risk of having certain images evoked when saying “storyteller” such as the picture of an old lady reading stories to preschoolers. Yes, we do have storytellers that have talents in “story-reading” as well as connecting with preschoolers, but our art offers even more variety than this pre-conceived idea.

So how can we increase other storytelling images when youth or college-aged students think of our art?

We connect with other narrative-based art forms and use some of their words to invite others to our art form. Some terms to consider: humorist, slam artist, spoken word artist, sit-down comedian, solo performance artist, etc.

For new festivals or events, we can experiment of naming it a “story festival” rather than a “storytelling” festival. For example, out in Hawaii there is the Talk Story Festival. Director Jeff Gere said that the phrase “talk story” was slang used often on the islands and thus it was adopted as the event’s name.

Make Appearances on Campuses Beyond Performances

Imagine the chance to introduce storytelling as an art to pursue with 3,500 or more people. . .in one place. That is easy to do when you connect with a campus.

Weber State University has an annual tradition of booths, prizes, and food also known as the Wildcat Block Party each Fall Semester. I cheered when given approval to have a booth to promote the Weber State University Storytelling Festival there.

Since there would be over 100 booths, I knew our booth had to stand out. We had to have a drawing with many storytelling-related prizes and candy. We also had the basic email list, festival business cards, and fliers.

After about five hours, I earned some sunburns—red battle scars—that told me that the day was victorious.

The results: 98 people entered the drawing, 56 signed the email list, 70 cards were taken, and 30 applications to audition for the festival were taken.

Yes, I do understand how the numbers work. Though 30 applications to audition were taken, perhaps five actually make the effort.

Yet, if five new college tellers were gained per Fall Semester over the course of 20 years, then that would be 100 new artists to storytelling.

Consider now that this was done for Fall and Winter Semesters at 50 universities, with one per state, what would your number be?

That would be 500.

The current membership for the National Storytelling Network is about 2,000 people.

Though, this idea of booths is not limited to college campuses. Although the main place to find storytellers are in elementary, middle, and high schools, there could be booths dedicated to the art during events where these students could be found.

We could play with numbers all day—and this is all hypothetical—but you can imagine that the generation gap of tellers does not have to exist.

Promote Generational Participation at Events

Most storytelling events unintentionally ignore youth and college-aged students by the tellers they invite. Every event is entitled to figure out how they go about choosing their tellers, however, if concerned about the generation gap of tellers, the next step is to invite them to tell.

As mentioned earlier, the booth promoting the Weber State University Storytelling Festival had applications so that college students could audition with 8-minute-or-less stories.

When students approached the booth, we called out, “Are you a storyteller, a story appreciator, or both?” Regardless of their answer, we could either guide them more about storytelling events happening and/or share opportunities of how they could be storytellers . . .and get paid.

This way, we start each session with two 3-minute story slots for youth, one 8-minute story slot for college students and adults, and finally about a 25-minute slot for the featured teller.

Returning to the numbers game, what if every storytelling festival reserved 3-5 slots for college students and youth?

Perhaps you will no longer believe in the generation gap of tellers, too.

Until we tell again,

Rachel Hedman
Professional Storyteller
Tel: (801) 870-5799
Email: info@rachelhedman.com
Performance Blog: http://familyfamine.blogspot.com/
Fan Page: http://www.facebook.com/rachelfans
Other places to find me: Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Professional Storyteller

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Storyteller as Yarnspinner: 6 Reasons Why We Weave Sewing Terms in the Art

A storyteller adopts the imagery of weaving stories together whether or not there is a love of sewing fabric.

Why is that exactly?

Let us explore the terms we use to explain our art form inspired by the needle and thread.

First, a personal experience.

I took a sewing class during high school, but piecing together a dress was torture.
Instead, I was ready to weave stories during my World Literature class during my senior year.

I anticipated my senior year for many reasons, but one of them being the delving into Greek Mythology. Everyone knew about the Greek projects. We chose areas that interested us most in the culture, though some of us did whatever would be easiest to complete.

Most people created architectural miniatures of Greek homes, temples, or amphitheaters. As for me I was most interested in rhapsodes.

I do not remember how I came upon the word "rhapsode", but when I heard it, I could not let it go from my mind. Through the years, we had studied about Homer and with such epic tales as The Illiad or The Odyssey.

These tellers often sung their whole pieces so I knew I would need to sing the "Eros and Psyche" story to my classmates. I studied Greek music to get a feel for the common rhythms. Much of the tunes and words were improvised so I expected to do the same. However, I committed to memory key phrases and notes that would move the story along. I was dressed in Greek attire--of which I did not sew--and mentioned to everyone that I did not bring my lyre.

Funny enough, a lyre looks like a miniature loom.

The word itself, also known as rhapsoidein, meant in the Classic Greek language "to sew songs together" or "singer of stitched verse" or "sewer of formulas, lines, and scenes to share a performance".

Then, to add to this already visual way to think about storytelling, the rhapsode tended to carry a staff.

The staff was symbolic of the kind of staff a judge may hold. The audience saw this sign and knew that they had "a right to a hearing".

Though I have not seen any specific connection, the staff could even be like an enlarged needle to expand the sewing image.

Athena was a goddess over many things including weaving and sewing. You may recall the story of the weaving contest between Arachne and Athena. The lady Arachne has since been transformed into a spider as punishment for all the "bad" stories she wove onto her tapestries. The images showed each of the Olympian gods at a weak moment and Athena could not have those stories shared.

Besides Athena, Hermes was known for his stories. Interestingly, he carried a staff much like a rhapsode was expected to carry a staff. The staff is also a device used to herd sheep and goats. From these animals we get wool and thus the thread and weaving. Perhaps this was part of the reason he was known for his trickery and the telling of tall tales. He was a sewer of fabrications.

Even the word fabrication has the word fabric in it. Broken down even further, "fabula" is the Latin word for fable, story, or tale. The words themselves mean "the act of making" and has a female gender connected to the word. As women were often the ones sewing, weaving, and making cloth, the gender assignment makes sense.

Consider these other sewing phrases or words used in storytelling:
  • Spin a Tale/Weave a Tale/Spinster/Old Wives Tales--The sharing of stories often took place while woman gathered to take care of repetitious and monotonous jobs like spinning, weaving, and quilting. As these stories were often conversational and based on gossip, then the phrase "Old Wives Tales" came about. While a spinster was usually someone unmarried beyond the age expected to be married, then these women had more time to spin and thus more time to tell stories.
  • Text--Though we are an oral art, often times in history storytellers memorized or shared stories so as to be the text for the listeners. "Text" is short for "Textilis" or "Textiles". These words are Latin for "woven fabric". Robert Bringhurst, a Canadian poet, wrote, "An ancient metaphor: thought is a thread, and the raconteur is a spinner of yarns -- but the true storyteller, the poet, is a weaver. The scribes made this old and audible abstraction into a new and visible fact. After long practice, their work took on such an even, flexible texture that they called the written page a textus, which means cloth."
  • Red Thread/Golden Thread--This may be the part of the storytelling that links and weaves all else into something comprehensible and meaningful. In the European middle ages, the color of red is significant for it was once seen as a sign of wealth and status. Sometimes, only royalty could wear this color. The dye itself was hard to get as it had to be dark enough. Curator Rebecca Stevens of the Textile Museum said, "People made their living trading this dye." It could also relate to the pleasing way red threads looked in a tapestry. Then, within the Chinese culture, you find the belief that when a child is born, there are invisible red threads that connect the baby to all the important people in their life of the past, present, and future. As a result, children have red thread tied around their wrists. Sometimes instead of a red thread it is known as a golden thread due to English influences. You may have read many stories of spinning straw into gold.
A bonus fun thought: A popular brand of sewing machine is known as "Singer". It seems we have rhapsodes still.

Until we tell again,

Rachel Hedman
Professional Storyteller
Tel: (801) 870-5799
Email: info@rachelhedman.com
Performance Blog: http://familyfamine.blogspot.com
Fan Page: http://www.facebook.com/rachelfans
Other places to find me: Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Professional Storyteller