Tuesday, November 30, 2021

 


Holiday Greetings:  We are blessed with two holiday stories filled with memories from two of our seasoned Florida tellers: Katie Green, who lives in Dunedin, and Cheryl Floyd, who lives in Deland:


Making Memories

By Cheryl Floyd

 “With the holidays coming, I was thinking of my childhood and all of these wonderful memories came flooding back.”  I received those precious words in a text message from my daughter recently, of course, the note made me smile.

 I was close to her age and very busy with family and career when my mother passed away. We lived a thousand miles from her and didn’t have cell phones with video chats. Times are changing so quickly, let’s not take for granted the technology we have to stay connected even if we can’t be together in person.

My mama made holidays special with foods she served only once a year: divinity candy, fudge, and pies with pecans from my Grandparent’s tree, fruit salad with maraschino cherries, lemon and chocolate meringue pies. Oh! Also, she made the best banana pudding with vanilla wafers. What treats do you remember from your holidays?


We celebrated Christmas with all our relatives at my grandparents’ home in southwest Louisiana when I was a child. Santa miraculously arrived on their front porch while we shot fireworks and played in the backyard. Presents covered the living room floor.  I have no memory of gifts I received the year I was eight, but will never forget my cousin giving his girlfriend an engagement ring on the nose of a large stuffed, white toy poodle. We all knew the ring was there, but sadly all she could see was the poodle she unwrapped until Mike said, “Look, Marie, doesn’t it have the cutest nose?” We all cheered and clapped as she cried tears of joy after finally spotting the ring.

My husband and I celebrated Christmas Eve 2015 at our home with our oldest daughter and grand girls here in town before heading to Texas the next morning to visit with our younger daughter and extended family.  As we exchanged gifts our daughter shared a very special story of how she would remember us when we are gone. My husband wiped tears from his eyes and told her that story was the best Christmas present she could have given him. We didn’t know that one month later he would be gone, through an accidental death. The story lives on.

Many times holidays bring sadness because loved ones are no longer with us or they are too far away for a visit. Why not put together a collection of stories of your own holiday memories to share with loved ones; or add an extra line or two of memories to that greeting card. Do you have holiday food traditions? Want to give a treasured gift? Write down a recipe with a memory story on a keepsake card. Share them with friends or family this holiday season and ask others to share a memory or two from their family traditions. Our shared stories connect us.

Healthy, happy holidays for your soul, from my home and heart to yours.

Cheryl Floyd, Speaker/Storyteller and Life Coach is a graduate of East Tennessee State University Storytelling Program. Her career includes over thirty years in education, publishing, coaching, public speaking and writing.  Cheryl is also a gardening and butterfly enthusiast. Cheryl is a southern girl with her early traditions steeped in her Cajun Louisiana roots and the lyrical power of the language permeates her storytelling style.  Learn more atwww.cherylfloyd.com



Our second story is from Katie Green, who will be one of the Fringe tellers at the 2022 Florida Storytelling Festival, Jan. 27-30 at the Lakeside Inn in Mt Dora.

Keeping Family Traditions

Telling stories about our lives is to value our existence and rekindle our love and appreciation for each other. We tell stories about events that are important to us, and, in this way, define our values and re-create our existence.

By Katie Green

When I was a child, Christmas was a time of travel. No matter where we lived, my parents and I went to my grandparents’ house in southwestern Virginia. In December, we traveled to Meadowview, Virginia by train from Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Long Beach, California, or Houston, Texas.

We rode in a Pullman compartment with beds that were pulled down out of the walls by the porter. Meals were taken in the dining car, where tables had white linen cloths, heavy silverware, and a small bouquet of flowers.

During the Korean War, there were many soldiers on the train from Texas to Virginia. I remember how polite and handsome they were in their Army or Navy uniforms; how happy they were to be going home for the holidays.

Times were different then. People trusted each other. I remember falling asleep leaning against a soldier while my parents drank coffee, smoked cigarettes, and chatted with other travelers. The soldier sang me to sleep with a popular song containing my name: Nancy with the Laughing Face. (Back then, I was known as Nancy Kate.)

It was dark when the train went through Birmingham, Alabama. My mother pointed out the colored Christmas lights on the small houses next to the railroad tracks. She told me that the Christmas spirit of love was in everybody’s homes. It was not about how many toys Santa brought.  

Christmas at my grandparents’ house was always special. My mother had 5 siblings, and they were usually there with their families. They came from as close as Galax, Virginia and as far away as Pocatello, Idaho. The extended family filled the old farmhouse. We decorated the fir tree with colored glass balls, strung popcorn, and tinsel. Then we sat back to watch the new, candle-shaped bubble lights. We were warmed by the coal-burning fireplace while we listened to Christmas carols on the big, upright static-filled radio in the corner. The evening ended with everyone singing Silent Night together.  Grandma would say, “That song always makes my eyes leak.”

The years go by quickly. My husband and I are now the grandparents. These days travel is more difficult.  We are happy to have friends and family gather at our home at Christmas to make music, sing songs, and tell stories.  I hope that our children and grandchildren will have fond memories of the holidays and that their stories will continue the tradition.


Katie Green is one of the founding members of the League for the Advancement of New England Storytelling (LANES). Katie has performed and presented workshops at National Storytelling Network, Sharing the Fire, Connecticut Storytelling Festival, Three Apples Storytelling Festival, Hans Christian Andersen Storytelling Center, Friends General Gathering (Quaker), and hundreds of libraries, schools, and museums.  She is a member of the Florida Storytelling Association, Storytellers of Old Tampa Bay, NEST. and the National Storytelling Network.  

Learn more at: 

Katie Green Storyteller Home (katiegreenstories.com)

 



Friday, November 5, 2021

 THE ORLANDO STORY CLUB:  STILL GOING STRONG   

As we slowly emerge from the COVID days of virtual storytelling, this month’s blog checks in with the long-running Orlando Story Club which held an in-person November slam on the 3rd and is gearing up for the year-end “Slam Championship” on Dec. 8. 



Launched in 2014, the Orlando Story Club doesn’t require membership.

Tellers (experienced as well as beginners) just show-up on a Wednesday night about every other month to join in a friendly, relaxed competition.

 Listeners also come for the entertainment, guided by hosts/producers Bobby Wesley and Danielle Ziss.

Currently, the Club is meeting at CityArts Orlando, a restored historic building on 39 South Magnolia Avenue in downtown Orlando. Prior performances were at The Abbey, a small downtown theater.

“Before COVID we would get anywhere from 35 to 65 or more in attendance,” says Wesley who has co-hosted these story nights for more than five years. For much of the lockdown in 2020-21, the Club went virtual. 

Bobby Wesley


Wesley, a marketing consultant, is also a storyteller who told at a Moth concert in Brooklyn in 2020.

The Moth was the inspiration for the Orlando Story Club. Back in 2014 film producer Robin Cowie (“Blair Witch Project’) had moved to Orlando and was looking for a place to share stories. Cowie has said that he enjoyed Moth performances in Los Angeles and was frustrated that there was not a similar venue in Orlando, so he helped start one. 

Wesley says that the Orlando stories are just as good as any heard from a Moth stage. These stories range from true, serious, and often dramatic, accounts to some that are amusing and sometimes hilarious.


Every Orlando Story Club night has a theme. The Nov. 3 theme was “Cutting My Teeth.”

Tellers enter by dropping their name in the story hat. Ten are drawn at random. Each storyteller is given a flexible 5-minute chance to impress the audience. Three non-telling volunteers are picked as judges, ranking tellers from zero to 10. The top 3 tellers take home prizes such as gift certificates for dining at local restaurants.

Wesley and Ziss also have fun with the short storyline “zingers,” inspired by the theme. Audience members can jot these down on note cards and toss them in another hat. “It’s a lot of fun to ad-lib on the spot,” says Wesley.

On the Nov. 3 night, there were eight tellers, including first-timers Lisa and Lindsey.

Lisa told of how she overcame her fears and learned to face life’s challenges after jumping off a four-story building in a controlled- harness as part of a charity fundraiser. Lindsey impressed the judges with her account of how she coped with a seizure that robbed her of her memory.

Among the regular returning storytellers was Jesse, who got laughs and sympathy when he told of his struggle to cook the perfect meal for his girlfriend. And a young man named Logan told a funny and heartwarming story of overcoming a childhood injury that made learning to ride a bicycle an enormous challenge.

                                                    Danielle Ziss

“The thing I love best about this is how open people are when they get on the mic,” says Ziss. “It creates a connection that you don’t get out of every day, casual meetings. People will share things here that build a connection that you don’t get anywhere else.”

She says that most nights it’s like a rollercoaster with some stories being pure silly and fun while others that are raw and emotional. 

 Past tellers at The Orlando Story Club include members of the Florida Storytelling Association such as Robin Schulte and Madeline Pots, both        active with the Storytellers of Central Florida.

Madeline is a two-time Slam Champion of The Orlando Story Club and has written about her Orlando experiences in a previous FSA blog.  

She will be  among the featured tellers at the upcoming Florida Storytelling Festival in Mt. Dora (Jan. 27-30).

Wesley served as host of the festival’s slam in 2020. Ziss will be hosting at the next Festival in January.

There is a $5 donation requested to attend The Orlando Story Club’s slams with the proceeds going to charity. For more information about the Club’s year-end battle of winners on Dec. 8, visit the group’s Facebook page or website: Orlando Story Club - Downtown Arts District


Among the tellers at the Nov. 3 Slam:  Lindsey, Lisa and Jesse

Story by Walt Belcher

Monday, September 27, 2021

 


Time for Ghost Stories                

by Walt Belcher
 

Cold rushes of air. Faces peeking out of darkened windows. Objects falling, unexplained, to the floor.  Strange “orbs” of light, either seen with the naked eye or in photos.  And that mysterious, unexpected feeling that sends chills up the spine. You never know what might happen on a ghost tour.

Whether you are a believer in the supernatural or just love a good tale of hauntings, October is your month for things that go bump in the night.

And as Halloween approaches, ghost stories are a main attraction in Monticello, Fl., located about 20 miles east of Tallahassee.  The city is named after the Virginia estate home of Thomas Jefferson, and the Jefferson County Courthouse at the center of town is modeled after Jefferson’s Monticello.

The picturesque town also takes pride in being called “the most haunted small town in the South.”

This tiny historic village with its moss-draped trees, stately Victorian homes, creepy old jail, an 1890 opera house, and a meeting tree is home to once-a-month weekend walking tours, filled with ghostly tales. In October tours are held every weekend, culminating in a three-night Halloween event.    


The Historic Monticello Ghost Tours are a combination of history and stories about the places and people who lived and died in Monticello, says Linda Schuyler Ford, tour coordinator and nationally known storyteller.

"Schuyler" is well-know to members of the Florida Storytelling Association, having served on the board of directors and being active in the FSA annual festival. She was a featured tellers and workshop presenter at 2021 festival. Schuyler grew up in New York's Hudson Valley where folktales and stories like Washington Irving's “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” were early influences.  She says that as a child she loved Irving’s tale of a headless horseman that menaces the schoolmaster Ichabod Crane. 

Schuyler is familiar with the Old Dutch Church (the haunt of the headless horseman and final resting place of some who inspired characters such as Katrina Van Tassel and Brom Bones). Schuyler eventually became a tour guide for several years at the adjacent Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in New York.

She has been conducting tours and training volunteer tour guides in Monticello since 2018.

She says “I had no staff, no guides to work with that first year, so my storytelling friends bravely and generously stepped up to help, including Pat Nease, Robin Schulte, Paul Phelps, Rose van der Berg and Margaret Kaler.”

“As storytellers, they were quick studies, knew how to read a crowd, and offered the delicious benefit of offering traditional spooky storytelling performances.”

Now that the tours have gained traction, she hopes to add more storytelling in the future.

On a recent visit to Monticello, Schuyler was coaching a volunteer who called herself Agatha Christie.  Dressed in Victorian garb, Agatha guided the tour through several stops as a full moon peaked through the clouds. She told of spirits such as a “Woman in White” which has appeared in the window of a historical mansion.  


 
  During October hundreds of visitors traditionally take the tours, so         several guides are needed.  

  The Friday night tour is a two-hour jaunt through the town and the       Saturday night tour takes place in the city’s Roseland Cemetery,   established in 1847.

  The tours begin at 7:30 pm at the Monticello/Jefferson County   Chamber of Commerce, located in a small 104-year-old former   Catholic Church, which like every other building in town, might be       haunted. The tours are fund-raisers for the Chamber.

In addition to the regularly scheduled tours, the HMGT Halloweekend VIP package offers activities from 7p.m .Friday Oct 29 through 9 p.m. on Sunday Oct 31.

Guests can choose from at least four tour times. Included will be a tarot reading, a paranormal investigation workshop, and a “Macabre Magick” experience with spooky storytelling added. More surprises are planned, including the first annual HMGT town-wide Scavenger Hunt, with several prizes. The VIP Halloweekend tickets will be limited to just 25 guests (cost is $75 per ticket).

For more information see (12) Historic Monticello Ghost Tours | Facebook or reserve at MonticelloJeffersonFL.com

Old Jail
Linda Schulyer Ford



Other Halloween storytelling events include:

Tale Tellers of St. Augustine offers Family Friendly Gory Stories: Halloween Tales to Thrill & Chill. 3:30 to 5 p.m. on Oct. 30 at Flagler Health Village Murabella, 70 Turin Terrace. Masks required. Bring chairs for seating. $5 single. $10 family. 904-504-0402 or 949-293-7634 www.taletellers.org

 

The Storytellers of Old Tampa Bay will be doing a full Halloween show at the Historic Tampa Theatre, Oct. 27 at 7 p.m.  Admission is $10 for an evening of scary stories around the campfire under the historic movie palace’s iconic star-lit sky. It’s a family-friendly program of PG tales appropriate for all ages (who don’t mind having a chill sent down their spine). Campfire Stories - Tampa Theatre



 

Friday, September 10, 2021

The Upside of Zoom

                                 How I Learned to Love Zoom during COVID

                      


                                       By Walt Belcher

 

Nothing beats a live audience when you are telling a story. Personal group interaction has been missing during this pandemic.

We miss those live, in-person storytelling events that have been shut down for more than a year now. As we struggled to find venues this past year, many storytellers turned to Zoom.  On the Internet, some of us faced a new learning curve.

We had to remember to “unmute.”  We had to figure out where to look, or where not to look. Those of us who are technology-challenged also had to grapple with lighting: “The glare off your eyeglasses is distracting” “Say, what’s that glow behind your head?”

I remember one session where a framed picture behind the teller was slightly crooked and I kept wanting to straighten it

Some struggled with camera angles: “Sorry, but your chin is out of the frame.”

Some struggled with Internet connections that caused the frame to freeze or the sound to break-up.  Panic sets in when “your Internet connection is unstable” pops up in the middle of a story.

We had to get used to looking at a computer screen filled with little heads in boxes – like a giant-sized version of the old game show “Hollywood Squares.”

But there has been an upside to all this. For me, personally, this COVID year has brought new friends, new discoveries, and new experiences – all thanks to Zoom.

Locally, Zoom has allowed our guild, The Storytellers of Old Tampa Bay, to swap stories, share experiences, and critique each other’s work through twice weekly Zoom sessions, hosted by veteran storyteller Ross Tarr. 

I turned my dining room into a little Zoom studio. I recovered a large piece of plywood, free from a local mobile home factory. I coated it with “green screen” paint from Home Depot. And by using Zoom’s visual effects, I can change backgrounds.  For example, when telling the origins of “Spanish Moss,” I can appear to be under a moss-laden oak.

I also learned that by hosting my own self at a Zoom meeting at which I am the only attendee, I can record and practice my stories, over and over again.

But the greatest, most wonderful thing about Zoom has been the ability to meet storytellers from around the world.


On Sunday mornings, for example, I often join the World Ceilidh, a group of tellers, poets and musicians from throughout the world. They are brought together by Marin Millenaar, a jovial storyteller, musician and tram driver based in Amsterdam.

It’s been wonderful sharing experience with tellers like the charming Rona Barbour from Ireland, Barnali Roy from India, Alastair Daniel from London, and Cathy Crawley, a former schoolteacher from Texas who now lives in Sohar, Oman.

There are many more, including the delightful Scottish teller Ann Pitcher who sketches participants every week (but still refuses to draw me like Cary Grant).



Thanks to Zoom, I get to spend time with renown storyteller Tim Tingle and the merry band that joins The Doc Moore Storytelling Guild on the third Thursday of every month. 

Originating out of Austin, this swap session is one of the highlights of my storytelling experiences. It’s just pure fun to spin yarns with this group which honors the memory of the legendary Texas tale-teller Doc Moore.



But I also enjoy Thursday afternoon Zoom sessions with the Georgia Mountain Storytellers, hosted by two fine storytellers Alex Peers and Kanute Rarey.   They welcome ideas and stories from beginners and the experienced. 

Zoom has also allowed me to join the WRAPPS 2nd Wednesday story swaps out of Cincinnati, Ohio, featuring friends and members of the Western Reserve Association for the Preservation & Perpetuation of Storytelling.  And I’ve dropped in on the Montreal Story Tellers Thursday night sessions out of Canada.

One of the more unusual story swaps I’ve found is the 99-Second Challenge, a monthly competition on Zoom in which you try to tell a true, personal story in 99-seconds. Created by Sean Wellington, it tests your ability to boil a story down to the essentials. I’ve tried several of these over the past year and made it to Grand Finale Challenge.

 Based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Wellington is a motivational speaker who also founded GRIT: True Stories that Matter, centered on mental health. He also is a former Moth & NSN Story Grand Slam winner.

Another upside of Zoom is that I’ve been able to watch several state storytelling festivals as well as online performances by some of the best tellers in the county such as Shelia Arnold, Jeff Doyle, Andy Offutt Irwin, Tim Lowry, Antonio Rocha, Bil Lepp, Anne Rutherford, Norm Brecke, Ingrid Nixon and others.

 On Zoom, I watched the National Storytelling Festival last year as well as a few state festivals such as those in Alabama and Georgia. I would never have been able to travel to all these in person. And with Zoom or Facebook Live recording, you can attend every workshop and every performance.

And while I really long to tell stories in-person before an audience, I’m going to miss all the tellers I’ve met on Zoom if these online sessions go away.

 

Walt Belcher is a former feature writer for The Tampa Tribune who started storytelling in 2018.


Tuesday, August 3, 2021

A Storyteller's Thoughts on Storytelling

 



What to do When the Well Runs Dry

By Pat Nease

I was a writer before I was a storyteller, and cannot remember ever hitting a blank wall, of having no spark, no festering ideas waiting to be developed, no urge to create.  I loved assembling the frame, linking the right words together, deliberating over a phrase – or a joke – or a pun, feeling the rush when the ending made itself known.  Ideas were always popping into my head and I needed no excuse to create a story.

One of my fondest memories was, while teaching, writing an End-of-the-Year story every year for our faculty that was shared at our final gathering.  It included all the good, the bad, and the crazy things that happened during the school year – with funny asides about folks and students.  We laughed our way through it.  I wrote songs to help my 5th graders remember American history.  When I was busy entering Liar’s Contests, or presenting workshops, or telling stories for various events, I had no qualms about coming up with a new take on an old tale or waking with an idea that was unique just to me.

Until the last few years. 



I haven’t had an original creative thought since 2018.  I can’t decide if I got lazy, that maybe it was easier to keep telling the old stories that I KNEW worked, or if I was so busy with other life matters that there was no time for contemplation, for dreaming, for saying, “What if…”

I stopped keeping up my web site and calendar.  I avoided my storytelling books and magazines.  I was not inclined to watch Zoomed Teller events – remorse?   Jealousy?  Shame?  I’d be on the brink of taking down my shingle when, out of the blue, someone would invite me to tell.

I’d get away with telling my old standbys – but to a new audience.  Well.  Mostly.  So I hung on.

Meanwhile, my colleagues were delivering lovely, inspiring, thoughtful, humorous, delicious tales.

When Walt Belcher asked me to write something for the Blog, I had no ideas.  He suggested maybe something on humor or developing a whopper or my mode of creating story.  Hah.  That was an empty bucket.  But I began to reflect on the passion I seemed to have lost and wonder if I could get it back.    

I hope so.

I’m hoping the muscle can be revitalized, sort of like an athlete who has to regain strength after an injury.  And maybe that’s what I have.  An injury.  Or so I hope.  Here’s the plan:

1.      TIME for reading and writing and thinking.  Every day.  (For a while, there were not enough hours in the day, especially after Hurricane Michael.  Things are more settled now.)

2.      New experiences.  I hadn’t put my kayak in the water for over 3 years, lived near beautiful beaches but didn’t go there, let opportunities to attend a variety of events pass me by, limited my circle of friends.  Gonna’ change this!

3.      Creating opportunities for telling.  When did I stop volunteering for our senior centers?  Contacting libraries for their summer programs?  Letting my local schools know that I was alive and well and available?   My primary mode of operation has always been deadline panic.  I’d procrastinate, then be putting the finishing touches on a story the day it was to be told.  I know, I know.  Not a smart way to work, but it DID work.  Maybe the panic opened up a door in my brain that was otherwise sticky.

4.      Support from Storytellers.  If you’ve been where I am, or have an idea, or just want to offer encouragement, let me know.     I never feel more alive than when I’m sharing a story and know my listeners and I are all on the bus, barreling down the same highway.  I want to feel that way again.

Pa 


Pat Nease: Storyteller,  Workshop Leader, NSN Liaison,

Florida Storytelling Association 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award

National Storytelling Association 2012 Oracle Award for Service and Leadership
Florida Storytelling's 2017 Ambassador of Storytelling Award 
4 Time Florida's Champion Liar! 
4435 Pratt Avenue 
Panama City, FL 32404-6553 


To contribute to the blog: contact Walt Belcher at wbelcher47@yahoo.com

 



 

Thursday, July 8, 2021

 


The Tale Tellers of St. Augustine

 Surviving and Thriving in the Year of COVID


 by Debra Weller, President

     Can a storytelling guild exist for twenty-eight years? Yes, it can! 

      The Tale Tellers of St. Augustine is a performing guild of talented storytellers, poets and actors who devote themselves to storytelling as both an art form and entertainment medium. We are comprised of thirty members, some love to perform and some are story enthusiasts and supporters. TTSA is an example of what a small, local non-profit organization can accomplish. We have had a local, state and national presence in St. Augustine and beyond since 1993.

     In collaboration with local groups and service clubs, we have been able to have benefit performances on behalf of many local charities. This past year Chris Kastle and Debra Weller were able to return to some schools in the spring semester to continue our Art in Stories performances for the Crisp-Ellert Grant. 

    The storytellers told a story in classroom in the St. Augustine Schools and the children created complementary art projects which were displayed at our May Family Story Fest. In the past we have partnered with The Florida School for the Deaf and Blind and the St. Johns County Public Library.  Many of our tellers have participated in the Romanza Festivale and the Celtic Festival. We are hoping to revive our Theater of the Mind: Storytelling presentations at the Limelight Theater in the winter of 2022. Tellabration and Gory Stories are on the fall line- up.

     How did we survive Pandemic restrictions? At first, we were in the stunned state trying to pivot into new safe, virtual formats like Zoom. We lost out on using the St. John’s Public Library, the Limelight Theater and using a local church for meeting and performance space. Our Board of Directors met outside when the weather permitted as we enjoyed seeing one another with social distancing precautions.  Then we began holding our second Monday of the month meetings on Zoom. It took a few meetings to get everyone familiar with the Zoom set up. It was a saving grace allowing us to conduct business meetings, hold discussions and of course tell stories!

     In January of 2021 we were able to secure a space on an outdoor stage in Vilano Beach. We scheduled four performances, Eddie and Robin Mahonen, in February, XX Marks the Spot, Celebrating Women’s History Month in March, Pirates, Crackers and Spanish Dons in April and a Family Story Festival in May. Mother Nature caused us to postpone and reschedule two of the events but we prevailed and had nice sized audiences.  There are some perils in outdoor events.




                         Audiences turned out for The Tale Tellers new location in Vilano Beach

     Our members are quite active on the state, national, and international stages. Debra Weller and Margaret Kaler serve on Board of Directors for the Florida Storytelling Festival. Many of our members have served FSA in the past and have received awards for service. We participate in the annual Florida Folk Festival. In this Pandemic year Debra Weller and Chris Kastle have participated in storytelling festivals on Zoom with audiences in India. Many members have been telling on virtual stages for NSN and other national and international programs. Storytelling has stood the test of time and has weathered the storm!

     The guild was formed in 1990 when a small group of story enthusiasts worked with the renowned Florida storyteller, Gamble Rogers to produce the first St. Augustine Storytelling Festival. After his death in 1993, the people of the town requested more stories. This tiny group joined with energy, mind and spirit to form the Tale Tellers of St. Augustine to honor one man’s simple dream of having storytelling in his hometown. We continue to honor that legacy.

   You can join the Tale Tellers of St. Augustine or support our mission by visiting our web site, www.taletelers.org.



Debra Weller

Professional Storyteller
Early Childhood Consultant 
https://story-tellingcourses.com
@debstoryteller, Instagram
I teach people how to overcome the fear of public speaking  and  to gain confidence by engaging the audience through storytelling. 
I tell stories to delight audiences!




Thursday, June 3, 2021

How to Get Others Involved in Storytelling

 

Community Storytelling Is My Passion

By Caren S. Neile, Ph.D.

 

My father, my stepbrother and I were involved in community theater down in Fort Lauderdale. The lead actress had so many lines that she was always forgetting them. So you would be in the dressing room, which was upstairs and down the hall from the stage, and suddenly you would hear your cue half an hour before you were supposed to go on! She would forget a different part every night, so castmembers ran back and forth trying to make the performances work.

                                                                                                     -Community storyteller

 

There’s one thing I like even better than telling stories: giving others the opportunity to tell theirs. For two decades, I have worked with dozens of organizations and thousands of people to provide engaging ways to give voice to their stories. After all, don’t we, as storytellers, know that everyone has a story? Don’t we know the value of listening, and being listened to? Here is a gift we can give others that definitely keeps on giving.

What follows are stories from some of my experiences that may inspire you to engage in community storytelling.

 

Storytelling slams: One of the hottest tickets in community storytelling is the storytelling slam, a friendly competition that invites people to tell their true stories in a performance setting. I have held slams in coffee shops, a bar, and most recently online. My current sponsor is the local library.

One Sunday evening I was tired and frankly not in the mood to host the event, but it was advertised, and of course I went. One of the tellers who signed up turned out to be a ninety-year-old man, who was helped to the stage by his younger cousin. Was his story going to be relevant to the college students in the audience, I wondered? He proceeded to tell a story from his days in a Nazi concentration camp. I thought the man was nervous because his eyes were shut; it turned out that he was nearly blind.  Yet despite his age and infirmity, he kept the crowd, some of whom were seventy years younger, absolutely spellbound. I was in awe.

Professional storytelling series: What could be better than bringing great storytellers to perform in your hometown? Courtesy of local theaters, schools and libraries, I have invited dozens of nationally acclaimed storytellers. I generally take care of airport transport, and they stay at the homes of generous storytellers, friends, or at hotels.

Early on, I was able to invite one of the foremost storytellers in the country to my town. Not only was she one of my favorites, but I also had a special feeling about her from her performances. Other than briefly introducing myself at the National Storytelling Festival, however, we had never met. From the moment I picked her up at the airport, we clicked. Since then we have worked together on several projects, I have been her guest in another state a number of times, and we have maintained a rewarding personal and professional relationship. More importantly, she has shared her talents in my area through workshops and performances with storytellers, story listeners and others several times. What an unexpected gift!

Local public radio:  Public radio stations are often seeking local content. Since 2009, I have co-hosted and produced a segment that invites people in the listening area to tell brief, first-person local stories. These are edited by my co-host, who is an employee of the station. My co-host and I then discuss the story on air. The excerpt with which I began this piece is from that segment.    

Storytelling workshops for non-profits: As more non-profit administrators learn the benefits of storytelling, we have an increasing number of opportunities to help them assist their clients by offering workshops. I once led a workshop for a homeless organization. I entered into the project with some trepidation, having no idea what to expect. One man emerged as a leader in the group, paving the way for others by speaking up often and eagerly, thereby demonstrating that I was not going to judge or criticize. It was not the first time, and certainly not the last, when my “students” taught me how to be more open, honest and humble. We followed the workshop with a slam. While the stories of hardship and endurance that emerged were amazing, the looks of pride on the faces of the storytellers, listeners and administrators were priceless.

Senior communities:  They may not always hear so well, but seniors sure know how to listen. In fact, the longer people have lived, the better acquainted with storytelling they often are. I started leading a story-sharing group at a senior center in 2001; as the group changed, I found myself telling stories and doing the TimeSlips technique (timeslips.org) more often than listening. Nevertheless, I always gave the seniors time to tell. Assisted and independent living facilities, as well as women’s and cultural groups, are other great venues that need programming.

Storytelling performances for non-profits: Not all community storytelling is exclusive from performance, of course. I have also interviewed stakeholders and created corporate stories for non-profits. I once told a story for Goodwill Industries from the perspective of a client. Afterward my aunt, who was in the audience, told me she became so involved that she thought I was talking about myself!  

 

While I haven’t gotten wealthy from these endeavors, helping people get their voices heard fills me with joy. And hey, I’ll never run out of stories!


Caren S. Neile
Caren S. Neile, Ph.D., is the former chair of the National Storytelling Network and a former board member of FSA. She has taught storytelling studies at Florida Atlantic University since 2001. cneile@fau.edu