Friday, February 12, 2016

A Day In The Life: Being a Professional Storyteller

Any day that I am planning to perform starts the night before.

First, I receive my data sheet. These are compiled by my manager husband, and they contain all the information necessary. Depending on when and where the work is to be done, I get this sheet either the night before I have to leave if it s a travel experience, or the night before the show if it is a day trip. The sheets look like this.

Top of the page:

Balance Due - (This is in green, and it tells me the amount the organization still owes, and whether or not they are going to pay me that day, have paid in full, or if there is some kind evaluation I have to fill out after the fact if it is an arts council show)

(Most of the rest of the sheet is always in black)

Friday February 12th, 2016

(What am I doing? This is listed next)

Two Storytelling Sets 10:00 am & 11:25am

(Where am I going?)

The Xavier School for Gifted Children
0000 Gendon Heights Drive
Anywhere, USA 00040
Phone: (444) - 555 - 6666

(Next, my contact person. Sometimes this person has a different phone listed, sometimes not)

Contact: Storm

A little further down the page is a rectangle. Inside the rectangle is a list of situations about product

Book/CD Sales?  Y/N (Depending on the color of the Y or N that will tell me if I can sell product)
Library/School ordering Books from Publisher? Again Y/N
Book Sale Prices Hardbacks  $    /Paperbacks   $   / CDs $

The prices in these slots will depend on whatever type of deal my manager/husband made with the school about product.

This is the cover page. Flipping beyond it there are any notes the school may want me to have, maps to the hotel if I have to stay overnight somewhere, and maps to the school(s) I will be visiting that day.

There is plenty of blank space on the cover page for me to doodle, make notes, or 'think in ink' as I am want to do.

Upon receiving my travel sheets, I go to my computer and open the Exel spreadsheet where I keep a list of all the schools I've visited, the year I was there, and the stories I told. I also make notes if anything in particular occurred. I check to see when or if I was last there.

If I discover I was never there, then I break out my first set year and make a note of it on the cover page.

Next, I look at the time I have to start performing, decide what time I have to leave my house or hotel in order to arrive half an hour before the show, and then I back that up an hour to figure out what time I really have to be out of bed.

This is the one I have. A Fender Passport System.
I check with my manager/husband about whether or not the school has a decent sound system. If they do, I don't worry about the sound system, but if they say they don't or if they aren't sure, we pack mine in the car just in case.

If I have to spend the night away from home, I drive there. Usually to a Hampton Inn. I try to get there in plenty of time to have dinner by about 5:30, because if I eat later than that on the road, I'm likely to be up really late. (Don't know why it just happens like that when I am traveling!)

Next, I do my nails, iron my outfit for the next day, and make sure I get at least eight hours of sleep.

Next morning  - Arrive at school half an hour before show. Make the necessary acquaintances, see the space, make sure the sound system works, find out about the school and the kids, find out if the school wants anything in particular. Discuss which groups I'm seeing when, and make sure there are no surprises. If there are surprises, because sometimes there are, I adjust at that point.


Today I was working with a middle school in Charlotte, NC. Middle School is my favorite group. We had a blast. After the sixth grade set, one of the teachers came up to me. "I've never seen them sit that well. You kept the attention of three hundred sixth graders!"

"Thank you. Storytelling can do that." This is my canned answer. 

"You're really good at your job!" She beamed.

"Thank you! I've been at this for 28 years. If you work at something for almost 30 years and you're not good at it, then you should consider making it a hobby." We both laughed. This is a variant of what I say when people seem surprised that I am good at my job.

The seventh grade set was also fun, and after it was over I was packing my stuff, and trying to get home since I had a three hour drive in front of me. The set started almost ten minutes late, and the teachers said they didn't care if I cut into the next class so long as the kids got the entire set. That meant they were in limbo for about fifteen minutes after the last story, and they wanted to ask me questions as I was trying to get out of there ahead of the weather.

What are you going to do? So, I stopped putting the sound system away and spent ten minutes answering questions. Then, I went back to packing. The bell sounded, they left, and some of them were very sweet. They came up and shook my hand, asked how they could find me online (I give out this information during the set, but there are always a few kids who just want to talk to me, so they ask again after the set is over), some told me I did a great job, and a few were certain I was the best storyteller in the whole world. (well, they're young)

Then, I drove three hours home.

Built a fire, opened Excel and recorded the name of the school, the month and year as well as the stories told. Then, I went into the mileage sheet in my business folder, recorded the mileage, and filed the paper contracts in the filing cabinet. After that, I filled out the arts council sheet to show I'd completed the show, evaluated the experience, and emailed that back to the ASC office.

Now, after all of that, I'm sitting here typing this blog post.

There is still laundry and dinner to get to, and my daughter has an audition for Governor's School tomorrow morning in Raleigh.

Did I mention I was pretty tired?

So, that's a typical day in the life give or take the kinds of travel, performance, or teaching needs.

I enjoy this work. I enjoy this life. Good thing, because I'm not really suited for anything else!

Happy Telling!

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