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,
Tel: (801) 870-5799
How-To Blog: http://storytellingadventures.blogspot.com/Family Famine Series Site: http://www.familyfamine.com/