"Year of the Adopted Family" book release

Monday, November 01, 2010

Celebrating 100: Top 10 Storytelling Posts Over the Years

Reaching 100--whether as an age or the action of doing something that many times--is an accomplishment.

You are reading my 100th post on "Voice--A Storyteller's Lifestyle".

This blog started on August 17, 2006 with roughly two posts a month since that time. The articles here have ranged from storytelling techniques, tips, opinions, insights, and interviews.

Out of these 100 posts, the top 10 were determined by the number of times viewed or based on personal preference.

So drum roll please...

Top 10 Storytelling Posts:

As the microphone rests on the stand, waiting for you to grab it, confidence swells because you know the show will be successful.

Having the "gift of gab" by kissing the Blarney stone is not enough to be a storyteller.

Adults seem to shy away from playing storytelling games to improve their skills as storytellers. (Plus game examples)

You have a fantastic project in mind and everything is coming together . . .except for the funding.

Our dream ideas as storytellers to further the art in the minds of the general public are often hindered by our working within the boundaries--whether drawn by us or others. (Reflections from 2008 National Storytelling Conference Brain Trust Session led by David Novak)

Once I was told that my voice would be confiscated. ( (tips to care for throat)

The stage beckons many of us storytellers and often we wish we could always count on having a stage.

Storytelling and poetry have existed for centuries and now these art forms have evolved into something more intense and lively.

When our eyes glaze over and a goofy grin appears on our face, we might have entered that fairy tale called childhood.

My husband and I have always wanted children. (adoption process of a story)

You may know how the #1 post got its position. That is personal preference as my husband and I are going through the adoption process. You can see our adoption profile here or see my "Year of the Adopted Family" storytelling project here.

What has been your favorite storytelling post?

Or, if this is your first time here, what drew you to this blog?

Your comments, as always, are welcomed.

Who knows? Maybe THIS post is your favorite.

Until we tell again,

Rachel Hedman
Professional Storyteller
Tel: (801) 870-5799
Email: info@rachelhedman.com
Family Famine Series Site: http://www.familyfamine.com/
Year of the Adopted Family Project: http://www.yearofthefamily.com
Fan Page: http://www.facebook.com/rachelfans
Other places to find me: Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Professional Storyteller

Friday, October 15, 2010

That Fairy Tale called Childhood, Mr. Glodowski, and Lifelong Learning

When our eyes glaze over and a goofy grin appears on our face, we might have entered that fairy tale called childhood.

Nothing could go wrong...or at least not for long...as memories conjure images of learning how to bike ride and then traveling farther than told to go, hanging around the basketball court and wondering when it would be your turn to shoot the ball, playing a night game of hide-and-go-seek and on and on.

Sparkles and rainbows often accompany the reflections as if anything we touched in those times were full of magic.

Then came the stormy fortress and villains within our life story. A few of us may have called this place "school".

Creativity was set aside so we could learn what all parents wanted their children to know: reading, writing, and arithmetic.

This scholastic kingdom divided its subjects into castes that could not invade another. Tall fences and barricades prevented Social Studies from invading Math and inhibited Science from merging with English.

Fortunately, I had a 5th grade science teacher named Mr. Glodowski.

He was a balding man with a few flicks of hair that gave his head a soft look when the light slipped through the large classroom blinds. His glasses were geometric in nature and magnified his eyes so that he could see what anyone was doing at any one time...like when I wrote stories while he taught.

I slipped my writing notebook under my science notebook when I felt a glance my way. But it was too late. I was caught. I could tell by the way Mr. Glodowski prolonged his gaze in my direction.

Instead of calling my name in front of the class at that time, he walked to my desk when the bell rang.

While stuffing my backpack, I kept my head down as if to thwart any lecture of my creative writing during his class.

Then I heard it.


Mr. Glodowski's tone had an edge of amusement to it. I was not expecting that.


Mr. Glodowski's eyes sparkled and he continued, "I could not help but notice that you are a writer."


"Could I take a look at your work?"

I hadn't shown anyone my writing notebook before. Not even in English class. But when you're caught, you're caught. I lifted the bright pink notebook by one edge so that the other half drooped.

Mr. Glodowski carefully took the notebook into his hands and delicately read page after page.

"Hmmm." And then another, "Hmmm."

He looked at me.

"What if I had a special spot in my file cabinet for your writing? You could add your stories. I expect the folder to be thick with your stories."

I scrunched my face in surprise. "Yes, but, Mr. Glodowski, you're a Science teacher. What does writing have to do with Science?"

"Pffaw! Since when is Science Science and English English. So will you continue writing or not?"

A few moments of silence until out of my mouth, "Sure, Mr. Glodowski. Sure."

And so it happened. Story was part of my Science classroom.

I paid attention to what Mr. Glodowski taught. I noticed that he used more and more stories from past and present Science experiments of failures and successes. Sometimes folklore mixed with his lessons.

One time, while studying the constellations, he announced, "I want each of you to create a constellation out of a current star chart."

While addressing the whole class, he smiled at me and said, "I want each of you to write a story behind that constellation. Be creative as you like for, after all, this is a Science class. Science encompasses the world, and the world is full of stories."

That day I knew: storytelling was the action form of learning.

Storytelling still is the key to lifelong learning.

Then it happened one day.

I had a new story to place into Mr. Glodowski's file box. It was about time travel to dinosaur days through the pop of a bubble.

When I looked for Mr. Glodowski, all I found was an empty desk.

One of my classmates walked to me with serious expression on his face.

"I heard Mr. Glodowski died of a heart attack last night. We're getting a substitute."

I scanned the room as if I could find Mr. Glodowski shake his head at such nonsense.

But it was true.

The viewing and funeral was scheduled. I brought my Mom.

We got in line to share our condolences to the Glodowski family.

For the first time, I met Mr. Glodowski's wife. I had no idea what to tell her. Nothing seemed like the right words. I had to say something though.

So I told her about the file cabinet and how he inspired me to write.

She smiled through her tears. She thanked me and took my hand in hers.

When the school yearbooks were distributed at the end of my 5th grade year, I saw that I was not the only one who Mr. Glodowski inspired to write.

One of my classmates, Ka Xiong, had written a poem in his honor.

Here is a part of Ka's poem:
Pencils are wood, A square has an angle.
There I stood, Looking at you as if you were an angel.

Mr. Glodowski's stories are part of my being as they are for others he taught.

All stories become part of our being.

That fairy tale called childhood does not have to end.

Teachers and students alike could take part in a collaborative story that builds and grows with each passing day in the classroom.

As we graduate, that time with story continues in our minds until we achieve what our teachers had wanted to instill in us: lifelong learning.

So go forth and tell, and we will listen.

Every story adds to our education.

Until we tell again,

Rachel Hedman
(801) 870-5799

About the Author:
Rachel Hedman is a family folklore expert and youth storytelling advocate who had several teachers like Mr. Gladowski who inspired the creative spirit she has today. She promotes positive communication and relationships through the Family Famine Series, a story synergy experience with fellow storytellers, musicians, and other performing artists. Rachel will publish "Year of the Adopted Family: 12 folktales to place in your home and value the process today" in November 2010 as part of National Adoption Month.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Story in its Simplicity

Beauty surrounds simplicity. Story can and often does encompass such beauty.

Storytelling could be reflected in the following words:

  1. Listening
  2. Sharing
  3. Thinking


Before the performance, there could be the sound of energized buzzing. People enjoy the company of others while anticipating the stories to be told. When the emcee greets everyone, there might be a moment of silence—the waiting for the storyteller to get on stage.

In this short moment, imaginations warm up.

For those hearing stories at a family gathering, there may not be microphones to adjust. Instead a grandpa, aunt, or other relative may be sitting on the coach and shifts in the seat before sharing an experience.

Silence, once again, heightens the instance.

Applause welcomes the storyteller on stage. The story begins.


The space shared with the storyteller and the audience allows more room for each story to spout forth.

A smile, a frown, or an excited look cues the storyteller on the reception of the story.

Characters are introduced. Settings are painted. Storyteller and audience alike feel like they know everyone involved . . . even if it is the first time hearing the story.


When the story has impact, then the level of thought intensifies.

The reactions may vary from “Huh! Well, what do you know?” to “Now who did that remind me of?” to “What do I do now, after hearing that?”

At times, there could be the thought “When will this story be over with?”

Or the story is not thought of at all. Other things press into the mind like: what needs to be added to the grocery list, cleaned in the house, or completed by the ever-looming deadline?

Though most likely, your experience was one to think about again and again and again.

You find it looming in your mind until a story must be told and continue the cycle: listening, sharing, and thinking.

So go ahead.

Enjoy the simplicity of story.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Auditions: Judging Beyond the Story

Listening to the stories at auditions energize me . . .until it comes to judging them. Certain elements are obvious to note such as the story launch, voice, body language, word choice, and story closure.

The story performance, though important, is only part of the storytelling audition process.

The teller on and off the stage inspire other elements to consider such as:
  1. Audience Connection
  2. Stage Presence
  3. Respect the Committee

Audience Connection
While I am often on the judging side of storytelling, at times I am the one being judged. Several contests and auditions abound in my state.

During one particular contest, the judging committee announced my scores for the different categories. I had scored high, though my Audience Connection number was average. I was not surprised. It happened to be a story that I wrote, which then could lead me to sound frozen.

The story probably would have sounded the same with that audience than if there was no one else in the area.

From that experience, the following questions come to mind about Audience Connection:
  • Rather than a staged performance, does the teller give the feeling of talking with the audience? This does not mean direct audience participation, though this technique may be used.
  • Even if the piece is memorized, does the teller still seem to have a rapport with the audience?
  • Is the teller willing to be flexible depending on the audience feedback?
At some contests or auditions, as much as 20 points out of 100 may be for Audience Connection. All other elements, by comparison, have 5-10 points.

Every ballot differs. Some ballots ignore Audience Connection as a category.

Stage Presence
Every time I perform, butterflies abound in my stomach. The trick with Stage Presence is to look as if no insects are having a party with the nerves.

When I first competed in storytelling as a sophomore in high school, sometimes the butterflies wanted to fly out. . .along with my lunch.

During one of the breaks at the Wisconsin finals with about 100 tellers, I slipped away to find an unused classroom with a wastebasket with my name on it. Thankfully, my composure has improved.

A storyteller could improve stage presence simply by breathing deep before getting out of the car or entering the building of the auditions.

Perhaps a pre-recorded motivational CD with your mix of favorite songs or quotes will boost the confidence.

If I need to be energized, I listen to “Dancing Queen”. For a more serene composure, I play “Daydream Believer”. As for a moving quote, I learned this from Don Doyle: “Behind you infinite power. Before you limitless possibilities. Why should you fear?”

Carol Esterreicher taught me the “Circle of Excellence”, a neuro-linguistic technique of picturing an imaginary circle wherein you perform the perfect performance in the perfect setting with the perfect audience. Then you transfer these images upon the actual performance.

Keep in mind that the audition starts as soon as the storyteller enters the room. The audition continues as the judging committee calls the storyteller to the stage. Each footstep, arm swing, and shoulder erectness communicates either fear or confidence.

When judging, I watch to see if the storyteller accepts the applause. Too many rush off or fail to soak in the appreciation from the audience. A professional is poised from beginning to end.

Respect the Committee
This may seem like a strange category. Unfortunately, I added this category for the rare individuals who. . .come off the wrong way.

Before Audition: There are times when storytellers have felt entitled to be part of an event. Performing is a privilege. Sometimes a polished teller is not invited to give a chance to less experienced tellers who need a stage to grow. Consider your words in speech, telephone, or email. Are you too confident in being chosen?

During Audition: Did you arrive on time if a time slot was reserved? Are you pleasant when you turn in your application? Does your tone sound flustered, impatient, or annoyed? If you are a walk-in, do you understand that you might need to wait a while based on the number who came to audition?

After Audition: If chosen to be part of the event, do you continue to have good manners towards any and all people involved with the event? If not chosen, do you keep your anger in check? I like to write a personal letter to each person not chosen to tell. I share the positive as well as what could be improved to possibly be chosen the next year. Much time and thought go into these letters.

The good news is that most people receive full points for the Respect the Committee category.

So be outstanding at the next audition. You could be a star.

Until we tell again,

Rachel Hedman
Professional Storyteller
Tel: (801) 870-5799
Email: info@rachelhedman.com
Family Famine Series Site: http://www.familyfamine.com/

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Narrative Intelligence: 3 Ways to Stroll Memory Lane

Inspired by East Tennessee State University

Storytelling Masters Program

Much credit to Roger C. Schank

—Author of "Tell Me A Story: Narrative Intelligence"

as well as David Novak

—National Storyteller/ETSU Professor

Question: To what extent do you already know stories?

Answer: You know more stories than you think you do.


  • List any stories that you could tell right now
  • List any stories that you could tell after one or two run-throughs
  • List any other stories that you know that would need two+ run-throughs

Wise Storyteller = right story at the right time and with many stories in the repertoire

Index Stories

We create indices/labels for stories so to tell stories effortlessly and unconsciously. You may also apply indexing to when interviewing others.

Index Construction & Understanding:

1. Match indices for story retrieval

Example: Creating themed storytelling performances

2. Add aspects of a new story to empty slots in an old one

Example: Love a story except for the ending

3. Seek further evidence for stories that were only tentatively held as having been correctly understood

Example: Feminist tales


  • Take story from your repertoire and complete the right side of the table below--

Types of Indices




Plan to Reach Goal



Group Exercise:

  • Form circle or semi-circle as a group and pretend that there is a fire in the center.
  • One person says any word or phrase toward the imaginary fire. In no particular order, everyone can say what words come to mind. Some people may talk at the same time, which is fine because you are creating a bonfire of words. Whatever word was last heard is what a person connects to when tossing out a word. Try this activity with the eyes open and then with the eyes closed.

Shape Memories

The ability to remember an event/story increases with:

1. Immediacy of telling after event experienced/story learned

2. Frequency of telling

3. Uniqueness

4. Significance to you

The act of sharing a story with someone else creates its own memory. The more the story is shared, then the more memories connected to the story.

With every version of a story learned, your memory is changed. Every version blurs the details so it is easier to put your own spin to the story. You will have details that you cling to and you will have details that you drop. Finally, ask yourself “How is this story the story of my life?”

Example: Disney version of “The Little Mermaid” vs. H.C. Andersen version


  • Tell a familiar tale backwards.
  • How has your viewpoint of the story changed

Understand and Share Stories

We may have stories that reflect different cultures but it does not mean we understand the stories completely. According to Schank’s book, if someone learned French and traveled to Paris, that person would struggle with the language. That person did not learn the life and speech genres such as the slang and proverbs so as to avoid embarrassing situations.

Insider Story Examples: personal tales, stories of your culture

Outsider Story Examples: multicultural tales, stories of another place or time


  • Using your repertoire list, place an “I” next to your insider stories and an “O” next to your outsider stories.

Combinatorial--Questions to ask when feel like there is no story to tell:

1. What story do I know that relates to the incoming story?

2. Are there any events in my memory where I had a similar goal for a similar reason?

3. Do I have a story in memory where the main goal is the same as that being pursued in the story I am hearing?

Schank, R. (1995). Tell Me A Story: Narrative and Intelligence. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.
ISBN: 0810113139

Yashinsky, D. (2006). Suddenly They Heard Footsteps: Storytelling for the Twenty-first Century. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi.
ISBN-10: 1578069270

Suggested Reading:
Bavles, D. & Orland, T. (2001). Art & Fear. Santa Cruz, CA: Image Continuum Press.
ISBN: 0961454733

Coles, R. (1990). The Call Of Stories: Teaching and The Moral Imagination. Boston: Mariner Books.
ISBN: 039552815
Lakoff, G. & Johnson, M. (2003). Metaphors We Live By. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
ISBN: 0226468011

Rodenburg, P. (1993). The Need For Words: Voice and Text. New York City: Routledge.
ISBN: 0878300511

Rodenburg, P. (1993). The Right To Speak: Working With The Voice. New York City: Routledge.
ISBN: 0878300554

Sawyer, R. (1977). The Way of The Storyteller. London: Penguin.
ISBN: 0140044361

Simmons, A. (2002). The Story Factor: Inspiration, Influence and Persuasion Through The Art of Storytelling. New York City: Perseus Books Group.
ISBN: 0738206717

Smith, A. D. (2006). Letters to a Young Artist: Straight-up Advice on Making a Life in the Arts-For Actors, Performers, Writers, and Artists of Every Kind. New York City: Anchor.
ISBN-10: 1400032385

Zipes, J. (1995). Creative Storytelling; Building Community, Changing Lives. New York City: Routledge.
ISBN: 0415912725

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Jackpot! 5 Ways to Boost Your School's Luck with Storytelling

I am not a gambling person, but I am willing to bet that storytelling would make a difference in any school.

If the art is promoted and supported, then it may not be long before students experience higher test scores and. . .some major life skills.

5 Ways to Boost Your School's Luck with Storytelling:
  • Classroom, School, and District Level Events
  • Training Teachers to Merge Storytelling with Curriculum
  • Storytelling Residencies
  • Games
  • Schools Standards

Classroom, School, and District Level Events
Any state could be a strong youth storytelling state. One classroom could lead to one school and finally one school district who support the art.

In Utah, the following school districts promote storytelling the strongest: Alpine, Davis, Jordan, Morgan, Ogden, and Weber. The Canyons District is in progress to be added to this list. Private and charter schools are becoming more interested due to the Weber State University Storytelling Festival. In February 2010, there were 87 youth tellers invited to tell for the festival. This did not count the hundreds of students who had classroom, school, or district level showcases to determine the top tellers.

Did Utah become this way overnight? No.

Though if you would like a "fast-forward" approach, then nearby festivals need to extend invitations to schools. You may be surprised at who accepts the opportunity.

Training Teachers to Merge Storytelling with Curriculum
A one-time visit from a professional storyteller can have influence, but teachers are with their students on a daily basis. These teachers could take already-made lesson plans and merge storytelling in them.

A book called “Story Proof: The Science Behind the Startling Power of Story” by Kendall Haven shows that test scores do go up when students learn through story-based teaching. The brain seems to feed off stories and remembers facts much more quickly that way.

Storytelling Residencies
Schedule a professional storyteller for more than the "one moment" with the students. When there are 2-8 weeks dedicated to literacy and communication skills, then a storyteller could guide the course through stories.

The lessons linger longer. . .and so do the "happily ever afters".

Any storytelling game could connect with the curriculum. Kids to adults love these activities. Games serve as a way to kick-off a new topic or section, to reinforce concepts, and to review.

Example Game: Mixed-Up Mayhem
Set aside a bowl for each of the following categories or create your own: Status, God of Choice, Daily Activity, Place, and Object. Note that these reflect social, political, religious, geographical and economical areas. On slips of paper, write a word and place in the appropriate bowl.

For a Greek game, here are ideas to put in each bowl—
a. Status—Rich, Middle Class, Poor, Slave
b. God of Choice—Zeus, Hera, Athena, Hephaestus, Ares
c. Daily Activity—Farming, Sailing, Hunting, Wrestling, Attending Wedding, Running Household, Going to School
d. Place—Athens, Sparta, Mediterranean Sea
e. Object—Lyre, Flute, Petasos (broad-rimmed hat), Metal Headband, Tunic, Hairpins, Rattle, Little Clay Animals, Yo-yo, Terra-cotta Dolls, Pet Goat, Pet Mice

Pull a paper from each of the bowls. Create individual or group stories that connect each of the items drawn. Be prepared for stories to go in any direction as long as all words are used.

School Standards
The Youth, Educators, and Storytellers Alliance has a one-page
position statement that could guide states in how to review their school standards.

These standards are not in stone and chiseling the words "story" or "storytelling" into it does not have to be an impossible task.

So take a chance. . .roll the dice. . .and see if you can soon yell "Jackpot! There's storytelling in my school!"

Until we tell again,

Rachel Hedman
Professional Storyteller
Tel: (801) 870-5799
Email: info@rachelhedman.com
Family Famine Series Site: http://www.familyfamine.com/

Sunday, August 01, 2010

"Eat, Pray, Love"--A Teller who Traveled to Conference

Thanks to Karen Rae Kraut, we have this picture (left to right): Rachel Hedman, Joel ben Izzy, and Willa Brigham. This was after we sung and danced "We love our hats!" at the 2010 National Storytelling Conference in Los Angeles. Consider it a jazzy thankful prayer.

Elizabeth Gilbert's memoir "Eat, Pray, Love" has had a resurgence of popularity with the movie hitting theaters.

Little did she know that those three words could also apply to anyone attending a storytelling conference. . .or any kind of conference.

I have had the privilege to attend six National Storytelling Conferences: 2004--Bellingham, WA; 2005--Oklahoma, OK; 2006--Pittsburgh, PA; 2007--St. Louis, MO; 2008--Gatlinburg, TN; 2010--Los Angeles, CA.

Here are some wisdom gained:

Whether the aroma of food or the word "free" in front of "lunch", people are drawn to meals. A storytelling conference revolves around food.

Focus groups. . .and eating.

Membership meetings. . .and eating.

Celebrations. . .and eating.

With so much food to be had, sometimes came the thought, "Boy, do I wish I would have asked the hotel if they had a small refrigerator!"

I smiled when the National Storytelling Network membership meeting merged with a free lunch for the Los Angeles Conference. More people seemed to linger and listen than at other conferences. As we relished in the one-minute stories of why people came to the art, the entertainment brought a satisfaction to our stomachs.

Eating does not consist only of that physical sustenance that calms the grumbling stomach.

There is plenty to feast upon while at a conference. There are workshops, intensives, concerts, fringes, keynotes, story swaps. . .and the list could go on. A conference attendee may be tempted to "taste it all".

I used to think I had to go to everything. Then, with conflicting sessions, decisions had to be made. I could rush everywhere and go crazy. Or, I could absorb whatever opportunity presented itself in the moment. Giving attention to one person in the hallway may be better than being counted among the hundreds.

As can be the case in eating too much, there is the risk to spew forth when too much is in the belly.

Allow time to digest and savor every flavor.

Singing naturally comes from my mouth. If I do not sing, then a hum is sure to pass my lips. All is like a prayer no matter the tempo or energy.

Some conferences have had talented musicians like Larry Brown, Joseph Sobol, or Willy Claflin to strum the guitar and inspire the people in group singing. For the Los Angeles Conference, I watched delightedly as my friend, Holly Robison, was asked to join Joseph and Willy on stage. She swayed with the music and added an angelic voice to the mix. Her wardrobe had a modern hippie look with her yellow loose slacks and long yellow scarf. Since the song was a parody of the classic "Get Together" by the Youngbloods on the changes for the National Storytelling Network, everything established the perfect mood.

Afterward I told Joseph, "You see why I love working with her?"

Holly and I sometimes do tandem telling/singing for the Family Famine Series. Electric guitarist Joshua Payne joined us for the "Family Famine: Hunger for Love" fringe while at the Conference.

On Sunday morning of the same conference, Victoria Burnett slipped on some white gloves and gave us a "tour" of the Black Baptist Church (B.B.C.) with music that could move any soul. With swaying and call-and-response, the hotel ballroom transformed into a spiritual place full of fervor.

Even as a new conference attender, you could feel the urge to embrace when a Facebook friend or social network buddy becomes flesh for the first time.

Holly Robison, as one of these new attenders, said, "I've been telling people how generous and loving the storytelling community is. . .then at the conference, I saw that as I talked with people, they were genuinely interested in what I had to say."

If you are not the kind who gives--or receives--hugs, then you may at least give handshakes. The next step could be to place your hand on someone's shoulder.

I lost track of the number of hugs I gave or received during the Los Angeles Conference or any of the conferences. Many people relate conferences as family reunions, and who fails to hug at a reunion?

Laughter and tears are shared along with the hugs. As my husband and I are in the middle of the adoption process, several peopled asked for updates. Sometimes I did not know where to start except that "On January 20, 2010 we became 'visible'. Birth parents can find us online now." A smile spread across my face as I told people, "I am a vocal person. When there is something to report, you will know!"

So. . .Eat. . .Pray. . .Love!

You find it all no matter which storytelling gathering you attend.

Until we tell again,

Rachel Hedman
Professional Storyteller
Tel: (801) 870-5799
Email: info@rachelhedman.com
Family Famine Series Site: http://www.familyfamine.com/

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Creating a Youth Storytelling Community One Kid at a Time

Most youth storytelling events are just that: events. Nothing may occur for another year. Until then, the youth have nowhere to express their talents.

This is assuming that you have at least one youth storytelling event in the area.

Even with intense organizational efforts, the youth may not feel like they were important to its success.

One youth teller stated in front of parents, teachers, and coaches, “No. This festival is not about me.”

For such a youth-centered event, the answer was devastating. The leaders vowed to change this perception.

To create a youth storytelling community, you will need to:
  1. Build an Event for Youth
  2. Develop Reunions and Gatherings
  3. Promote Storytelling Games and Fun
Build an Event for Youth
Expand your mind as to what could be considered an event such as a: party, social gathering, house concert, library activity, school assembly, campus celebration, civic meeting, contest, festival, etc.

An all-youth storytelling event is preferable, though youth tellers could share the stage with adult tellers and performing artists. Some places encourage artists to come from the community, thus inviting amateurs and professionals. Adult and child levels could be supported.

A festival allows for more than one youth teller to participate in the program.

For the three-day Weber State University Storytelling Festival, 87 youth took part along with 4 national tellers and 30 Utah adult tellers.

Most events will not have as much opportunity to highlight that quantity of youth. If the audience leans towards about 50-100 people in the audience, then 3-5 youth might be able to join the other performers.

Having one youth teller as part of an event would still be one more teller than what normally occurs.

Develop Reunions and Gatherings
A parent exclaimed, “My child has been anxious for this reunion for months.”

After 14 years, the Weber State University Storytelling Festival endeavored to hold a Youth Teller Reunion. The idea could be one of the first of its kind.

During the 2010 February festival, each of the 87 youth tellers received a “Save the Date” postcard. At the beginning of June, letters and RSVP cards arrived to the youth’s homes. Inside the letter the youth were told, “You are officially part of the Festival Family and will be invited every year to this new tradition.”

Youth tellers from other festival years could join the reunion, but that would come from word-of-mouth. One year’s worth of youth would be a large enough group for the kick-off.

An event involving any number of youth inspires a reunion. Three youth would be enough to have an ice cream party or a retreat. Besides, it is easier to arrange smaller gatherings. These gatherings may evolve into something bigger like a reunion.

A reunion need not be an expensive affair.

The Youth Teller Reunion of the Weber State University Storytelling Festival was fortunate to have the Ogden Eccles Dinosaur Park waive its rental fee for the space. The park already generated excitement. The Park offered for the youth teller and one parent to attend for free while other family members paid the group rate.

Out of the 87 youth, 24 came. With parents and family members, the numbers reached 76 people.

To further the low-cost approach, the families brought their own lunches. The festival donated items like water bottles, Frisbees, storytelling CDs, and posters as door prizes.

About a week previous to the reunion, 12 names of youth tellers were drawn to determine fairly who would perform for the concert at the park. After the concert, the families could roam the dinosaur park for as long as they liked.

A reunion provides a story-filled day to energize the youth to continue in the art.

Promote Storytelling Games and Fun
While at the Youth Teller Reunion, parent-volunteers led the youth in games. Once taught, the youth could play the games and teach others . . .possibly other kids in their neighborhood.

Provide a copy of these games, possibly through email, to the youth. Give them freedom to adapt the ones on the list or to create their own games.

The youth may enjoy playing the games so much that they will wish to form a storytelling club. These clubs may be as informal as kids wandering into the same space and “talking stories”. Some organizations, like 4H, may sponsor the gatherings while some schools may opt the storytelling clubs as after-school activities.

For storytelling game ideas, check out the book “Raising Voices: Creating Youth Groups and Troupes”.

I also feature a storytelling game each month as part of my e-newsletter. You can go to http://www.rachelhedman.com to sign-up for this free resource.

So what are you waiting for?

Your youth storytelling community may have the population of one.

But one plus one plus one plus one. . .it adds up.

Until we tell again,

Rachel Hedman
Professional Storyteller
Tel: (801) 870-5799
Email: info@rachelhedman.com
Family Famine Series Site: http://www.familyfamine.com/

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

When is a Folktale a Folktale? Today’s Changes to Yesterday’s Story of the People

A folktale tends to conjure images of shrouded forests with country peasants, majestic mountains inhabited by isolated hermits, or dusty deserts pitched about by canvas tents of nomadic tribes.

A folktale is usually not thought of in a setting like New York City with its skyscrapers and bustling people.

Yet, a folktale, in all its simplicity, is a story of the people.

Time does not really factor into the folktale equation. We like to add the “long ago and far, far away” as probably a part of nostalgic and romantic notions.

New York City could be admitted to be as grand as any kingdom spoken of in classic folktales.

Universal themes are still the same from the past to the present. These themes provide the foundation for folktales.

There are three main areas that have changed:
  • Common Characters and Jobs
  • Self-Made Monsters and Disasters
  • Rural to Urban to Viral
Common Characters and Jobs
In the folktales of the “long ago and far, far away”, the main character or hero tended to start as a farmer. Oftentimes, some royalty made an appearance.

Today we continue to have our workers and our leaders, though we name them differently.

Jack’s mother may not be asking for her son to take a cow to town for some money (and have Jack bring back magic beans instead). Now Jack’s mother is asking for her son to take his college education and find a job in this high unemployment world. Jack is lucky to bring home some beans.

People like Jack and searching for the gold that would support their homes. Climbing the beanstalk is often the only way to do it. That could mean gaining further education or climbing the corporate ladder.

Folktales could center on the adventures of being a student. Passing final exams circulate as stories with the rituals and traditions involved.

Besides the perpetual student, we have occupations that did not exist to such a degree a hundred or more years ago.

Horse-drawn carriages have made way for automobiles. Sending letters by carrier have many times been sent through email. Books and programs could be placed on microchips and in software packages. Vaccines and cures have burst forth from healthcare research. And the list could go on.

Self-Made Monsters and Disasters
We still have killer crocs and devil pigs. We even have giants, though ours today go on to swallow fire and swords and become a finalist for “America’s Got Talent”.

One of the largest self-made monsters of the day: identity thieves.

So the idea of becoming someone stealing or becoming someone else is not new.

Consider the infamous folktale character “Master of Thieves”. If you delved into folktales from Iraq, it seems every other piece involves a man dressing as a woman or a woman dressing as a man so as to gain glory and gold or to avoid death and detection.

Now people are becoming other people without the clothes . . .only dressed in a social security number.

As for disasters, we live in a time when millions of gallons of oil could spill out from reckless offshore drilling and destroy coastline communities faster than any hurricane or flood. Though, not to be forgotten, these natural disasters still pound from the skies and the earth and compound the self-made disasters.

Stories of the past always involve battles, but now the bow and arrow and guns have made way for bombs. Earthquakes are not the only things that tremble the earth.

Rural to Urban to Viral
As we share the news of events with others, we can credit many words used to explain storytelling from country influences such as “spinning a tale” or “old wives’ tales”.

Whenever there was a barn raising or a celebration of some kind, the farmers and their wives would gather. The women had their area of their quilting bees and spinning wheels and would share stories and gossip while doing these repetitious tasks.

Then the printing press became more common and newspaper were born. Cities housed these machines and the stories disseminated mainly from these heavily populated places rather than the countryside.

Now we have the Internet. A person could zip a message to a friend on the other side of the world in seconds.

Our folktales and folklore are being chronicled mainly through Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Stories are continuously before our faces. The question becomes, “Do we value them?”

You are part of the people. The answer lies with you.

Until we tell again,

Rachel Hedman
Professional Storyteller
Tel: (801) 870-5799
Email: info@rachelhedman.com
Family Famine Series Site: http://www.familyfamine.com/