Thursday, November 12, 2015

How Do I Become A Storyteller? A Common Question

When I started this blog, I made several assumptions. I assumed people who found their way here would already be somewhat involved in the world of storytelling. What did not occur to me was that there would be people who were trying to figure out how to get into storytelling. 

Recently I was on a thread, and a person made the comment, "This is all well and good, but how do you get into storytelling?"

I get this question fairly often when I'm out traveling. People want to know how to become a professional storyteller. They aren't asking how to get to the next level, no, they want to know where to begin.

This is such a common question, it even has a Wikihow page.

Most people who decide to become a professional storyteller have encountered the art and been taken with it. They see a professional up there doing their thing and say to themselves, 'I could do that'. 

Here is one of the best rocking the stage. Go on with your bad self, Donald!

If you get a professional doing their thing, it looks easy. That is their power. Good storytellers seem to just bring the story to life. 

What you don't see is all the work that goes into making it roll off of the tongue. So, if you are just beginning, you don't start at the art point. You have to start at the beginning.

Wikihow offers five steps. I thought I would do the same!

1. Get some stories under your belt. 

You can either tell traditional stories or you can write your own, but you need to know some tales.  Where do you find them? Well, you can google folktales or folklore and take your pick. You'll have to write your own personal material if that is how you wish to go.

Under no circumstances should you tell anyone else's personal stories!!!

As you learn stories, you need to make sure that you are shaping them with your own personal tastes.
Try not to completely copy an existing storyteller. Find you own style.

2.  Next, you must engage in the craft of storytelling

Craft is how you put stories together, and how you present them. This is important, because it shapes what type of storyteller you are, and what types of stories you tell. You will spend a great deal of time in this stage before you ever get to the last step.

There are many ways to work on your craft.

a. Go to university and study storytelling.

I went to Northwestern University and studied under Rives Collins. Call your local community college and find out if they have a storytelling program. Go to festivals and conferences given by storytelling organizations and take workshops and classes. 

You most likely live in a state where there is a storytelling guild. You might live near one and not know. Go to a guild meeting and get to know your local storytellers. Listen, get feedback, and consider what people have to say. The link above is for the National Storytelling Network organization that has catalogued guilds for every state. Click on your state, find out where your guild is, and enquire if there is a group near you.

David Novak is a wonderful performer and teacher. Catch him if you can!

c. Read. 

I cannot stress enough that you should read about storytelling. Parkhurst Brothers, and August House publishers have a great number of books about storytelling.

d. Tell! 

You must find opportunities to tell your stories to the audiences you wish to serve. Whether adults or children, you must find willing guinea pigs. Find out if you can volunteer to tell in your local public library. Find open mic nights. Do what you have to do.

3. After you are confident that you've got some stories ready, you feel comfortable telling them, and you are ready to roll out your carpet and invite the paying public into your world. You have to tell them you are alive and offering a service.  That brings us to the most annoying part of this whole thing. You have to start the onerous part of the whole process.

There are lots of books about marketing. I did mention you should read, right?

4. The Business of Storytelling.  I haven't written much about this on this blog, but the thing that goes here is the business of storytelling. This is the part where you schedule, produce contracts, set prices, cold call, put together email lists, contact people, and make connections with others. I don't do this part of the business, but it is an essential part of making this job work.

While all of that is happening, you get to the last step in the process.

5. Working the Art

Lather, rinse, repeat. Lather, rinse, repeat. Lather rinse repeat! This cycle of gathering material, crafting it, working the material, engaging with new audiences, marketing to new places, and working the art is not a fait is a cycle.

So, there you have it. Some really basic steps to becoming a professional storyteller.
Is this a really simplified list? Yes. Will it be quick and easy? No, probably not, but it is a roadmap to becoming a professional.

I leave you with some of my favorite tellers.

Peter Cook! I do love this man!

Good Luck! We'll look for you out there! 

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