Saturday, September 30, 2017

Storytelling Is A Joyful Thing

Anyone who has spent any time telling for children has heard this phrase....

- Every time we got in the car they had to listen to your CD. No offense, but I got really sick of hearing your voice! -

There are days when I am getting up at stupid 0'clock to head out to a school, and I think to myself,

If I worked conferences more often or any other type of venue, I could still be asleep! Why does the bulk of my work have to begin at 8:45am?

-As an educator and performer, I know how impactful storytelling can be to brain development, language development, communication, literacy, and empathy...that doesn't mean I have to be the person out there doing it at such a foolish hour of the morning!

Sitting in traffic at 8:30am makes thoughts like this careen around in my head like a pinball.

All of that, of course, is before I get there.

Writing this blog has been an interesting journey for me. Sometimes I get so caught up in the inside/business work of being a storyteller I forget that there is the absolute fun of it. The anticipation of waiting to share a great tale is palpable in me, and often even the audience before we ever begin!

I spend so much time writing about the business of telling and the craft of telling, I don't always focus on the absolute joy and reward of it.

I don't want anyone to think storytelling is an easy, throw away thing to do.
I don't want people to think that there is no work, skill, or craft involved in this art form.

I probably don't spend enough time reveling in the experience on this space. So, today, I will share some of the good stuff.

The Barking Mouse
Antonio Sacre
- I was in South Carolina and one of the Kindergarten teachers asked me, "Do you know Antonio Sacre? For a period of time in my family, his was the most important voice of my kid's childhood. We loved him. We still tell his stories. We were with a family who primarily spoke Spanish when we saw him, and all of the kids fell in love with him. We played his recordings so much, we can tell all of his stories by heart. They are in their late teens now, and they still talk about him and tell his stories.

- I got an email from one of my friends who lives in Kansas who wrote, "Oh my gosh, my husband and I were walking through this park, and we saw an advertisement for storytelling, and we were like, "Hey, maybe Donna will be there." You weren't there, obviously, but we saw this amazing performer. Antonio Rocha? He was fabulous! He was a mime storyteller! We didn't even know that existed. He did this thing where he almost got carried away by a big balloon! Have you ever seen him?"
Do you know this guy named

- A teacher at one of the middle schools in Chicago came up to me as I was packing up to leave, "You came to my middle school when I was in seventh grade. I will never forget it, and today, when I heard you were coming, I was through the roof. I have been talking to my kids about you non stop all week, and they were prepared to be disappointed because they said nobody could be as good as I said you were. When they got back to the class, they were blown away. Now, all they want to do is talk about you. Thank you."

- I've been asked about a whole host of other tellers. They always start you know...and then they launch into the story of where they saw the teller and how important that person was to them and their family.

I don't know all of the storytellers they list, but I am usually familiar with the stories they told.

When I get in front of middle school audiences within about one hundred miles of where I live, I often ask them if they saw me as elementary school kids. Most of them have. They are the easiest audiences. They already like stories, they remember me, and they are anxious to see what we are going to do next.

In the end, they almost always ask for tongue twisters because that is something I do with elementary school kids to get them to start playing with language.

 It is always cool to me when some seventh or eighth grader stops me and says, "Listen to this" and breaks out with a tongue twister. Their next statement is usually something like..."I learned to do that after you did tongue twisters for us."

I've worked with Freshmen in college who've geeked out over seeing me because they remembered me from elementary school. It is quite fun to watch some eighteen year old kid announced, "Epaminandus, you ain't got the sense you was born with!"

Our next door neighbors moved to Texas some years ago. They contacted me last November and told me that out of nowhere, their ten year old started telling Bastienello unprompted. He hadn't heard the CD in years. His fourteen year old brother told it with him. They had a blast in the car. She sent me a recording. It did my heart good to hear it. The audio is really low, but I sat glued to the computer listening to them retell that story with both sass and "bro" language. It was hysterical.

The next generation of people who love stories, support storytelling, and want to be storytellers is moving through our schools. I am honored to be one of the people on the front lines helping them to experience, love, and be excited about storytelling as an art, career, and consumer.

If you work in schools, sitting in front of you is a kid who might one day get up on stage and begin the work for the generations that follow.

From My Scrapbook!
I know this for certain because when I was a Freshman in high school, I sat in an audience and saw a storyteller with a puppet. The show was called The Wizard and Groark. I loved that show. I went up afterwards and got an autograph from the performer.

Many, many years later I was at a storytelling festival in Ocalla, Fl and I could barely contain myself. The fellow who I shared a stage with was none other than Randall McGee. aka The Wizard.

I couldn't wait to tell him that I'd seen him when I was a kid. I couldn't wait to tell him that he was my first actual professional teller. I couldn't wait to admit that the reason I knew that I could do this was because I remember seeing him all those years ago.

Randall McGee and Groark
I remember how excited I was. I can still feel it even as I look at these pics I just posted!

 I get to see that excitement on the faces of so many others.

Storytelling is a joyful thing.

Yes, it is a great deal of work, yes, it is an exhausting business...but it is definitely a joyful thing!

Happy Telling!


  1. Oh! thank you! You never know when you tell where your stories will fly and touch minds and hearts.

  2. Thank you! I needed that! What a great memory!