Thursday, October 15, 2020

Part 6: The Virtual Storyteller - I'm a Teller Not a Film Editor!

 I remember the first time I opened Imovie. Yes, it was six years ago. I was in Canada freezing my tuckus off and I made a video about the freezing weather.

It was the first video I'd ever shot on my computer. I downloaded Imovie because it was free, and I "produced" a little short that ended up on my Facebook page.

I was very proud of myself.

After that, I did a few videos that I uploaded to Youtube. Here is one of those old videos:

I can't tell you where I shot that or anything else about it, but I do know I did it in Imovie.

I was pretty impressed with my new skills but not so enamored of them that I continued to do movies much after that.

No, I didn't have much use for the whole video story connection.

Fast forward to 2020. 

I opened Imovie again for the first time in six years and had to start all over. Nothing about it was familiar.

I have no idea what other people have on hand if they are not mac folk.

I sent out an SOS to the internet. Someone suggested I use Adobe.

Adobe? Right. That's why I have children. If I need something in Adobe, I'll just ask them.

Brainstorm! I'll shoot videos and let my kids edit them. If they balk, I'll start talking about how I had hyperemesis with both of them and they owe me.

No, I would never do such a thing. I'm talking about the hyperemesis, not asking them to do things for me. 

After letting my son edit my first video series back in March, I decided I should learn the software and do it myself.

Back to Imovie and video tutorials like this one:

So, that's the end of this post...

No, just kidding.

Once I started using Imovie, I discovered it wasn't as flexible as I needed it to be, and besides that, the dang thing kept crashing. 

So, I upgraded to Final Cut Pro.

I love Final Cut Pro.

This post, however, is not about the software. Use what you like. This post is about what I've found effective in editing, and what I have found to be ineffective.

My experience with editing has led me to these conclusions:

1. You can edit out every pause, and smack, and slip of the tongue and produce perfect looking videos. Yes, you can, but it is not natural. The humanness of the story is in your humanity. Humanity is not perfect.

2. You can edit in the midst of a story, but be very wary of where you start from and where you end.
Matching your hand gestures, tone, and such is tricky.

3. If you must edit internally, it is more important to match your voice than your hands, gestures, and the tilt of your head. Try this - Close your eyes. Can you hear the edit? If you can "hear" the edit, then you should reconsider that section. (A tip from my son)

4. Listen to your edited footage...more than once. I had some bad edits when I first began and luckily they were caught by people who love me before they were widely distributed!

5. Whenever possible, I do the story in a single take. I perform as if there is an audience present, and I just get through the tale. I can always go back and edit out things if I hate them, but I much prefer the single take to multiple edits in the story.

6. If I get too flustered and can't get through a tale, I stop and move on to a different story, or I stop for an hour or the day.

7. I stop when I get tired. It comes across in the recording

8. I stop when I get frustrated. It comes across in the recording

9. I stop when I am feeling stressed. It comes across in the recording. 

10. It is perfectly okay to hate the sound of your own voice. Get another set of ears on it before you erase it in a fit of anger or disgust!

11. Recording yourself and editing the product is incredibly exhausting. Monitor yourself. Keep hydrated, and make sure you take enough breaks to keep the work fresh

A few hints -

1. Before I start speaking, I pause, give the camera a huge smile, and hold it for two seconds. I end the same way. That way, I will have a visual cue as to where the actual recording is starting and ending.

2. I use fades between stories as well as at the beginning and end of clips. I give the audience at least three seconds to reset before the next story. More if it is a particularly heavy one.

3. I offer custom introductions to venues for the videos

4. I offer live Q&A or discussion for an extra charge if you get a pre-recorded show....


I've strayed into marketing with the last two statements. Oy. This business of editing and marketing and how you work this all bleeds into each other!


Time to edit this post.

Next Week...How to market the Virtual Storyteller!

See you then!

Happy Recording!

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Part 5: The Virtual Storyteller - Performing For The Camera

 Live audiences are amazing!

Live audiences help you sculpt new material and keep old material fresh.

Live audiences give you energy and keep you going when the story is getting hard to tell.

Without an audience I am a hot mess...

I'm sure I can fix it in post!

No. No, I can't.

(I won't talk about editing until next week.)

When I first began this journey of recording myself, I had a number of pretty horrendous pieces, but they have all been recorded over because of storage needs in the early months. 

So, all of the cringey things you are about to see are recent. That's right, no matter how long I do this, cringey is the name of the game.

So, let's get into this business of performing for a camera.

Live audiences can be tricky if you pull an odd one, but at least you can try to play them as you perform.

Virtual audiences are difficult because you aren't getting cumulative reactions or any reactions at all despite the fact there could be several hundred people watching you.

Then, there is the truly difficult audience...the imaginary one.

Every single time you sit down in front of a camera to record, you are performing for an imaginary audience.

You have zero idea how many of them there will be or what they will want or whether or not they will look at you or just put you on mute and laugh.

You don't know how old they'll be, how enthusiastic or annoyed, or anything.

You can't pinpoint that moment when the story drags just a touch and you need to get the audience back involved. You can't do anything that will help them re-engage if their attention wanders. 

Not to mention all the time you spend doing crap like this.

Yes, I know, I'm making it look and sound so glamorous!

There are a number of challenges to overcome when there is no audience to address. Here are some that have come up from time to time.

1. I look unfocused even though I'm not

2. Losing track of what I'm saying because I am actually unfocused

3. Nobody is participating with me in a participatory story

4. I have no idea if I've landed a funny line in a funny way

5. I don't know if I've impacted an audience because I have no way to gauge how my ending landed.

6. I worry that people aren't going to like it.

7. I see all the things I think of as flaws and I am certain the audience will as well

8. I want it to be perfect. It's recorded, so it should be perfect! 

9 - 100. I only see the flaws

Doubtless, there are other concerns but these are the ones I wrestled with as I worked my way through this process.

After a while, I started looking at my imaginary audience differently. 

Rearranging my thinking about who was watching me and why helped me find my groove in the pre-recorded game.

First of all, one of the things I harp on all of the time is crafting. Crafting your material helps you figure out not only who a story suits but how you want the material to land.

So, I fell back on all of the foundational work of the storyteller. I know who the story is meant for, so I conjure up my perfect audience.

I imagine that they gasp at the right moments, participate with gusto, laugh at the things I think are funny, and have stunned or shocked moments when I choose.

I imagine my perfect audience full of perfect story listeners, and then I tell to them. I can see them sitting there. 

As I tell, I conjure up actual faces from audiences in the past. I conjure up parents, teachers, kids, grandparents, adults of all kinds, teenagers, and that baby giraffe who came over to the fence in the Africa exhibit at the Brookfield Zoo and watched me tell Why Mosquitoes Buzz In People's Ears.

They are arrayed in front of me as I give them an encore private performance.

This has proved to be a very useful strategy for me.

I pause at places an audience has made me pause. I've connected with a face in the "dark" that I recall from some show who knows how many years ago. I go through the participation practice as if everyone out there is doing it with me. I don't rush it or anything.

I go full tilt performance as if I am dealing with five hundred people instead of a camera.

Here I am apologizing to my imaginary audience because I didn't realize they were looking at me.

This new way of performing has made for a more enjoyable recording experience, and the stories are flowing better.

I've also changed my attitude about my potential imaginary audience.

1. They are watching because they want to. They came to find me particularly.

2. They came with a desire to watch me tell stories. They are not captive, they are willing

3. They are looking forward to whatever I am about to do

4. They are going to gasp, and play, and do all of the things they want to do. They can also participate at the top of their lungs.

5. This imaginary audience is the perfect audience, and they deserve the best I have. So, I'm going to look them straight in the eye and rev it up!

6. Just like the kids who tell me they watch one of my youtube videos multiple times a day, someone is going to watch one of these videos and fall in love with storytelling!

7. Someone is going to watch these videos and exclaim, "I didn't even know this was a job! I want to learn more!"

8. People who could never hope to see me in person can watch me tell at festivals and events no matter where they are!

9. People who've lost track of me can find my work!

10. In fact, this imaginary audience that my pre-recorded work has reached goes deeper and farther than my live work ever could!

Bring on the imaginary audience!

Bring on the next generation of storytellers who are encountering us through a medium they understand!

Bring on the tellers who have always wanted to find a place in our storytelling world but who have not found an audience yet.

Let me end with a few tips and tools.

1. - I know it is counterintuitive and weird and you don't want to do it, but stare at the camera. Stare at it as you tell or it will look like you are not looking at anyone. We've all been on enough Zoom meetings to know what it looks like when someone is talking and not looking at the camera.

2. Don't make lots of quick or jerky movements. You'll blur the image

3. Be aware of ambient sounds. Your neighbor running the mower might not be all that loud to you, but it is going to star in your video

4.  Check and make sure there are no electronic noises like buzzing or mechanical like a loudly ticking clock that you can hear while you are recording.

5. Make sure you are telling something that you have some idea how an audience receives when you first start. This will help you get used to thinking about your telling rhythms.

6. Share the video with someone else before you post it. It is good to get another set of eyes on it.

Okay, Good Luck, and next week I will talk about video editing. 
What? You can't wait? I know, right?

Happy Telling!

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Part 4: Lighting the Virtual Storyteller


Billy Porter's Oscar Hat - He looks like a lampshade to me!

There is this amazing thing called a lighting designer.

"A theatre lighting designer works with the director, choreographer, set designer, costume designer, and sound designer to create the lighting, atmosphere, and time of day for the production in response to the text, while keeping in mind issues of visibility, safety, and cost."

So, basically, there is a person who designs lighting situations to account for shadows, outfits, angles, time of day, the contours of the space, the skin tones of the subject, and every other thing in a performance space to give the audience the right mood, feel, impression, and experience that the director wants.

You can even get a degree in this field!

You know what I really could have used when I started this whole process? 

A degree in lighting design, or potentially a lighting designer. Neither thing was at hand.

I turned to the cheat section of lighting design. That's right, I started looking up articles and videos on the interwebs. 

I watched hours of footage, read tons of articles, and tried loads of things. 

The following videos are the ones that I found most useful.

This one is great as a jumping-off place.

A great, simple tutorial to get you going with a complete set-up.

 I read about  3 point lighting. 

I called a young man who is a lighting designer and asked him about some of my lighting challenges.

There was a huge glare on my glasses. I attempted to sort this problem, but I could not do it to my satisfaction, so I just tell without my glasses. I do have some videos with my glasses, but those tend to happen when my natural light in the area is bright enough to allow me to forgo one of my ring lights.

Here is the tutorial I watched about glasses glare. I suppose if I decide to re-design my lighting set-up, I could buy the type of lights he's using, and that might solve the problem. If you wear glasses, this might be helpful to you.

Armed with my research, I went about setting up lights and shooting videos. 

Sometimes I was successful and sometimes I was not. Some videos came out too dark and had to be reshot, and some videos were lovely, and I could use them. 

I moved from my living room to one of the bedrooms upstairs. That space is now exclusively my "studio". I store everything up there, and my lights are set. It also has two big windows, so I get great natural light...providing it isn't night time or raining.

I bought some ring lights, and I have two standing lamps. I also have spotlights.

With all of this light, I have managed to light my videos to my satisfaction, but it was a long slog of trying to figure out how to do it.

backdrops on my daughter's old bed!
My performance outfits and a little changing area!

My "work table" lights and a backdrop.

Here are my recommendations:

1.  Find a space you want to record and stick with it

2.  Use the lights you have. Supplement if you must

3.  Try different things until you get the quality you want

4.  Ask for help if you need it

5.  If you can, buy your lights from an outfit that works with videographers, and can offer advice when you purchase. B&H comes to mind, but there are lots of them, so go out and find what works best for you.

6.  There is no right answer here. Do what works.

7. Be bold, be bold!

Good Luck. Have fun. 

Happy Lighting!

If you missed the other posts in this series:

Part 4: Lighting the Virtual Storyteller

Next Week I Will Talk About Performing For the Camera.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Part 3 - The Virtual Storyteller - Getting Equipped

Okay! Now you have made some decisions about what you think you might want to do on this virtual performance ride! 

You think you know what you are going to try to produce
You think you know what you want to offer

I use the word "think" because you should not set anything in stone at this moment. 

Stone is bad
Stone breaks
Stone weathers and becomes illegible

Try something more flexible. Flexible is very good at this point.

I went into my first recording sessions on my laptop with gusto. I could do this! I am woman, hear me record!

Abject Failure

I went to The David and informed him I had failed to do a thing that I was pretty sure I should be able to do.

What was the problem?

Video Quality
Background Too Busy
Not focusing well enough on the camera
Content Not Engaging
Structure not tight enough
Not connecting on a personal level

In other words, I did not have a handle on this at all. 

I had to back up and try to acquire a set of skills I had neither wanted nor needed at any other point in my life. Honestly, I didn't even know what those skills were.

I did a few "shots across the bow" stories and uploaded them to youtube just to see if they worked.

Well, this looks...homemade. 

Clearly, I needed to up my game, but how could I do that?

That's when I realized that despite all the time I'd spent in front of the camera producing subpar work those first few weeks, I was only at the tip of a very big, very intimidating iceberg.

I researched video editing
I researched lighting
I reached out to professional lighting designers
I researched video recording speeds
I researched how to deal with echo
I spoke with my friend,  the talented and sexy Simon Brooks who helped me immensely - with recording
My son - Degrees in digital music and 3-D art and animation was a key player in the research!

All of this research resulted in several different outcomes:

1. I went from room to room and space to space in my home and listened for echoes and ambient sound. 

The first best place was in my living room in a corner between the fireplace and a bookshelf that faced the downstairs hall. No wall to bounce the sound back, and lots of ambient light as long as I shot footage during the day at it wasn't raining.

2. I decided to get an external camera. I have an old Iphone and an even older laptop.

Webcams were out...not because I didn't try to source one, but because every single human being on the earth was smarter than I was and bought one the second the pandemic hit. There were none available.

After buying and returning a camcorder, I finally settled on this one.

3. I listened to what was coming out of the camera and decided I needed an external mic.

After acquiring my purchases, I discovered I needed a tripod. These were also in short supply, so I bought a selfie stick that doubles as a small tripod and I repurposed - wait for it - my ironing board.

I borrowed a really bright light from my daughter and bought two track lights at Lowes.

My totally professional and not jury-rigged setup looked like this.

I got a horrid glare off of the picture behind me, so I took out the glass. It is a very nice, contained, non-echoey space with a simple background and nothing distracting.

All sorted, right?

Not even close.
I had not yet begun to purchase!

My Macbook Pro, which had been a wonderful word processing machine and portable movie theatre for the last nine years discovered that I suddenly needed it to process video, upload, and download a ton of content, and talk to a video camera.

I can almost hear the thought process.

The Mac - "What the hell is wrong with you? You knew my memory and processing speed when you bought me! At no time in our relationship did I ever give you the idea that I was up to this sort of abuse. You better back up, woman!"

Wait! Wait! Wait!

I am not suggesting you go on a shopping spree! You don't need to do what I did at all!!!!!

1. I am explaining what happened to me.
2. I am explaining why I made the choices I did
3. I am not saying that if you don't drop 4 grand your quest is hopeless or anything of the kind
4. Lots of people are using their Iphones - I just have one that doesn't have a stellar camera
5. Lots of people have great lighting situations already - mine sucked
6. Lots of people have computers that could handle the processes - mine didn't

I am not a technophile, and mostly what I used my laptop for was writing. I have an amazingly huge amount of writing on my laptop and little else.

I was completely unprepared to be a virtual anything.

Now, if you do need some new equipment do not despair.

If you are having a cash crunch, there are tons of sources for cash out there right now for artists who need to upgrade their gear for this new age of virtual work. My buddy, Tim Lowry, (Head to his website and support his brilliant work) just went Mac crazy at his house with a PPP loan. (This program is closed, but keep a lookout for future programs of this kind)  

 The resources are there.

Okay, back to the saga of transforming my reality to a virtual experience.

Now, after purchasing a new Mac, transferring over relevant files, and commencing to store my videos on the drive, I discovered that if you try to put ten one-hour-long videos on a computer that is already storing lots of other things, it gets mad.

(I promise I will do a post about editing software and what little I know about how to work it.)

Then, there was the backdrop saga. (Blog post where I decide to upgrade the feel and look of my videos)

Now, all of this buying and rethinking happened in the first month of the lockdown as I realized I didn't have the capacity to go virtual in any way that looked professional.

The amount of failure that I experienced over the course of this summer was epic. Each and every single fail taught me something valuable that I was able to take into my next attempt. 

As the Mythbusters were always fond of saying - Failure Is Always An Option.


So, wherever you are in this is my advice for dealing with the absolutely annoying, frustrating, exciting, draining, nonsense up to and including listening to hours of your own voice and performing for a camera of some kind:

Some New Rules for Old Dogs

1. Be gentle
2. Be patient
3. You can always start over
4. Not everything works
5. Play - Play like there is no tomorrow
6. Victories whether large or small should be celebrated like the world is ending.
7. Breathe
8. Relax
9. Lather, rinse, repeat

Happy Recording -

In the next installment - I will talk about lighting

Par 3 - The Virtual Storyteller - Getting Equipped

Friday, September 18, 2020

Part 2: The Virtual Storyteller - You Need A Cunning Plan

This post is about marketing. I just thought I'd get that out of the way.

I am sure some of you think I am jumping the gun here:

"How on earth can marketing be number two on this list???" You demand. 

"I thought this series was about doing virtual storytelling! Where is all the info about cameras and stuff! Why are you starting here?"

There is a good reason why we are starting here.

We are not actually talking about the marketing piece itself, we are talking about the plan for the marketing: These are two different things.

For the last however many years you have been a storyteller/performer, your job has been pretty straightforward...

1. I will show up at your event.
2. I will do a live show of a certain length
3. You will pay me for this experience
4. I will put the money in the bank
5. Lather rinse repeat

You probably have some idea how to market that.

Contact schools
Contact libraries
Contact venues
Contact senior centers 
Contact hospitals
Contact park services
etc, etc, etc

If you never got to the marketing, or you had issues with it, click here to read the long, in-depth series I did on marketing!

Traditionally, our marketing is like this, "Hey, I am a storyteller/puppeteer/singer/poet (you get the drift),  and I would like to come and tell/sing/perform for your clientele.

What they expect is some form of this:


Yes, lots of touching, gathering, shouting, laughing, moving about, and generally having a fabulous, loud, communal time.

There is no way on the Flat Earth that you could sell something like this to any venue in the world right now. 

So, what can you sell? What is going to be the new marketing strategy?

Well, in our current circumstances there are some options:

1. - You can do "live" virtual.

2. - You can go pre-recorded

3. - You can do a mix of both of the above

4. - You could offer in-person shows with some very strict guidelines to protect the health and well being of the audience, the venue, and yourself

Each of those things has its own challenges. So, you need to decide what you want to do.

Do I want to do all pre-recorded?

Am I more comfortable with Live virtual?

Do I want to mix the two?

Am I determined to do in-person gigs?

Will I do it all?

I'll wait while you answer those questions.

Okay, now you have the beginnings of a plan.

What are you going to offer?

Q&A events?
Hour length performances?
New material?
Old material?

What are you going to do?

At each stage of this questioning phase, stop and imagine how that affects the market that you want to tap. Each and every decision you make will impact the changes you are about to make. It will also decide how you are going to make them.

For example:

I knew I wanted to do performances
I want most of them to be pre-recorded
I will do live zoom, but it is not my preference
I will not be doing any in person shows anywhere until at least May of 2021. I will reassess at that point

Having made those decisions, I had to decide what I was going to offer, and could I either tap a market or create one.

I committed to marketing to my traditional markets and offering them a version of the normalcy that we all crave.

That was my hook. See, we can still share stories just as we always have. It will look a little different, but we will get that warm, happy, fun experience that we have come to know and love.

If that is what we were going to offer, then I had to figure out how to make that happen.

Up Next:

The Learning Curve

The other posts in this series

Part 2: The Virtual Storyteller - You Need A Cunning Plan

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Part 1: The Virtual Storyteller - The Philosophy of Plenty - Don't Let People Talk You Out Of It!

I didn't plan to write this series so soon or while I was in the middle of it, but I am fielding so many storytelling questions through my email, I thought I'd better give it my best shot.

Today is Non-Fiction Thursday.  (If you don't know why I call it Non-Fiction Thursday - follow this link)

Unfortunately, I have a number of different things to do that are not strictly in my Thursday model, but that is because the virtual storytelling processes we put in place last March are now beginning to generate work all over the country.

This is a good thing. It means that despite the lockdown and the lack of traveling and the advent of virtual school - the virtual storytelling shows are selling.

Now that we are starting to get work, and the business model we put together seems to be sound, I feel like I can share what we've done and how we mean to work this element of our business now and into the future.

I am going to do this in parts to prevent it from getting too long. My goal with this series is to cover the following elements - 

1 - Revamping the thought process on delivering storytelling

2 - Deciding on the direction of your virtual storytelling focus

3 - Performing for a camera

4 - Performing for a virtual audience

5 - Pre-recording material for audiences

6 - Delivering material via a virtual platform

7 - Creating Products vs Services in the Virtual Model

8 - A potential model for virtual residencies

9 - Marketing your virtual performances

Now, to be clear, there are lots of elements I can touch on in this series, but going in-depth would require me to write a manual. 

I am encouraging The David to do a series of videos about marketing and business processes. He is reluctant as he hates working with the camera, and he isn't sure he wants to teach a live/virtual workshop. I'll keep trying to convince him because he is way better at explaining the business side of this than me.

I've gotten emails from a number of performers who are just now beginning to grapple with what is going on in terms of the virtual storytelling world.

My goal in this series is to give people a jumping-off place to begin to focus on reshaping their work if they haven't already done so.

I admit upfront that I have so much to learn, so what I'm doing here is offering what I have already learned, and I hope you will have ideas to help me to keep learning.

I only know what we did as a company. If you have thoughts, suggestions, or comments, please leave them below so we can learn from your process if you are willing to share your insights.

You might ask - Why aren't you charging people to take a workshop on this? You are always talking about monetizing your work, and here you are giving things away for free!

I may very well start teaching virtual workshops on this subject too - but the truth is I would be nowhere if so many great storytellers hadn't been kind, caring, and helpful to me as I started my career. 

Paying it forward is a necessity if our art form is to survive.

Another caveat here - I mean to go through this slowly and explain it in steps so that it doesn't seem random, or unachievable. Another reason to, at some point, teach a four hour intensive on reshaping your storytelling for the virtual world.

Okay, enough pre-amble - Let's begin -

We live in a world built on the concept of scarcity -

That means, we only pay top dollar for things that are hard to come by. This creates a situation where people who provide services or products need to make it feel as if we don't buy it NOW and for whatever price they set, we will go begging in the future.

In other words - capitalism in all things including our work

Now, this is not a bad thing. Timpanogos and The National Festival only happen once a year, and they are an experience. The same thing is true of all of our wonderful national storytelling events. They have their own character and their own atmosphere. We swear by our favorites because they are all unique. We pay what we pay to be part of that experience.

Well, what about storytelling itself? If people don't have to travel across the world or even across state lines, will they value it? 

What if everybody can just click on a link and hear storytelling? Will it be overexposed?

If you can see it virtually, who will want to watch it in person?

We are not the first entertainment industry to be struck by this problem of a changing business model. 

Cable television freaked out over Youtube and Hulu.

How can satellite or cable compete if they force people to pay whatever cable television costs (I don't know what that is as we haven't had cable television for almost two decades) when you can watch it on Youtube for free?

Then, Netflix arrived on the scene, rendered Blockbuster obsolete, and allowed people to binge entire seasons instead of waiting from week to week.

Advertisers freaked out - The whole structure broke into pieces and started trying to reform itself into something new.

Well, cable, satellite, and streaming services have embraced a new philosophy - The concept of Plenty

There are plenty of ways to stream material and everyone can get what they want while paying a much smaller fee. People liked the myriad options, and the world of television and movies is still evolving.

New releases of movies are now rentable online instead of us going to the theatre.

My family watched the new Bill and Ted movie with some friends in our living room on one of our kid's giant computer monitors linked to my husband's laptop.

When I first began trying t figure out how I was going to deal with all of this virtual content and whether I wanted to do it at all, there was a hue and cry from some of the people with whom I shared my ideas.

"If you go virtual, your work will be rendered obsolete!"

"Why would anyone hire you if they could just download your work off the internet?"

"You will record yourself right out of a career!"

"Any show you record will make it impossible for you to do it live."

"How will you keep people from "stealing" your shows?"

"This is a terrible idea!"

Those are words from the philosophy of Scarcity - If they can get you anywhere, why would anybody hire you? Your presence will become useless. Don't do it!

Well, over the course of the pandemic, we have seen something very different happen. We have seen that many storytellers have embraced the Philosophy of Plenty

The philosophy of Plenty sounds like this:

There are seven billion people in the world - 

Who knows how many of them would love storytelling if they had any idea what it was -

Let us make sure that lots of people are sharing stories -

People will find us if there are lots of places they could encounter stories -

Let's grow our audience by using storytelling as a powerful tool during this global pandemic -

Storytellers need to tell, and people need stories. We got lots. Let's share -

How sweet. How naive. How silly. What about that whole overexposed thing!

Well, I don't know about you, but I have a ton of stuff on Youtube. In fact, if you head over to youtube right now, and type in Donna Washington Storyteller - you will get hours and hours of me telling stories online. 

In fact, you can watch hours of bootleg shows, ghost stories, badly shot footage, professional footage and heaven knows what else of me doin' my thing. I will bet the same is true of you.

You know what else you can find? Music. 

Trust me when I tell you that if Tina was coming to town and I could get tickets...I would go, despite watching the above clip.

And despite having hours of storytelling online - I still get asked to show up in person for multiple hundreds of gigs per year.

When this pandemic is over, I hope to have been in even more homes, classrooms, and living rooms than I have up to now. I hope more people are trying to figure out how to get me to show up in person and perform. I think they will.


Because there is nothing like live performance. There is nothing like sitting in an audience with five, or twenty-five, or five hundred or more and experiencing a shared event.


In fact, I use my youtube virtual storytelling stuff in my marketing. I send schools and supporters to that stuff all of the time. They love it, and it has encouraged more than one group to hire me.

Lots of people find me by running across those videos. 

Watching a storyteller online whets the appetite for a "real" experience. People want to see it live. They. Just. Do.

So, Don't let anyone dissuade you from doing this.

Virtual content is a way to use storytelling and the many opportunities we have right now to expand our business and reach new audiences who will come look for us live when the opportunity comes around once more.

So, strap in, and let's begin this journey into virtual telling.

There is more than plenty.

We have nothing to lose!

Part 1 - The Virtual Storyteller - The Philosophy of Plenty - Don't Let People Talk You Out Of It!

Part 2 - The Virtual Storyteller - You Need A Cunning Plan

Part 3 - The Virtual Storyteller - Getting Equipped

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Covid Can't Even Delay Storytelling!

As we were being locked down across the country, many storytellers were asking:

What Now?

In that simple question, there were lots of other questions.

How will we make a living?
How will we do this art form at all?
How long will the world be unsafe?

There was a certain amount of despair and a large amount of panic.

Our next question was:

What's Next?

We embraced that question all over the place.

Online performances went live!

Storytellers are learning how to make art, share our work, and find audiences that are just as hungry for us as we are for them.

Artists Standing Strong Together and other online groups found their feet and started connecting people from various parts of the storytelling world with each other.

What did all of this wild change mean?

We suddenly had access to international performers we could never see live!

Some of us have been lamenting the lack of being able to have our big festivals. 

Well, there is no need to lament! The Big Festivals Are Still Happening! 

Guess how much all of that will cost you? Guess!

Not even close.


Amazing doesn't even begin to describe it.

Who is going to be telling this year? EVERYBODY!

This can easily become a $1,500 dollar weekend. How much will it cost this year? 


Not only that, but you can also do the whole thing from your living room, your kitchen, heck, you could watch it from bed!

=Hit this link to see more online treasure throughout the storytelling virtual world on The NEST Calendar if you didn't do it already!

On to other matters.....

I know I have not done much blogging during these crazy times, but I have been trying to reform my own business model. Now that I have a little more knowledge in me about how to make this work, I have some information to offer.

I will be blogging more about the business of storytelling in the time of COVID. In fact, that is what my next series is going to be dedicated to doing.

I am going to answer the questions I have been fielding, explain how I transformed residencies into online products, and go into detail about how we marketed this product, how we figured out what we wanted to do, and offer as much information as I can about this new world of work.

I am of the opinion it will be at least 2 years before we are back up to capacity in a safe way. Even after that, I don't think virtual telling will ever go away.

Let us march forward with both of these great skills under our belt.

You can't stop storytellers when stories are on the line.

Heck, you can't even delay us! 

Happy Virtual Telling!