"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