Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Telling in Isolation

by Madeline Pots

 

When it comes to storytelling, I have a free wielding spirit.  I tell personal narrative. From kitchen stories to bedroom tales to the drama of a big family living-room, I’ve enjoyed spilling the beans.

The result of letting the listener into my life is, I gain the comfort of knowing I am not alone. No matter how unique my situation may be, a thread of common experience always binds the audience and me together.  For example, one of my favorite stories is about the gift of a two hundred year old bread dough culture whose survival was foisted upon me. I’ve told the story at small gatherings as well as in a tent packed with 1200 listeners. After every show,  people will come up and tell me about their involvements with unsought responsibilities. And just like that, we are connected. That is the reward of storytelling. Connection.

Our art form faces new challenges during this pandemic and the isolation it has inflicted on us.  Storytelling is an interactive experience.  We tellers depend on audience reaction.  It tempers our performance . We can lean into what is being well received. How then, do we deal with telling into a dispassionate and impersonal camera, iPhone or computer screen?  How can we know if we are connecting?  

Soul searching and heart are the prerequisites for good storytelling, particularly when it comes to personal narrative. And so my message is simple. Listen to your heart and be brave enough to be honest with yourself and the audience, be it live or virtual. A tale that has the ring of truth, will always be well received because in some ways, one story is everyone’s story.




Madeline L. Pots is a former New Yorker who has made a wonderful life for herself in Florida. Whether telling folktales, or personal stories about growing up Brooklyn, she holds listeners in the palm of her hand. Madeline is also a potter and musician. You can learn more about her here http://www.madelinelpots.com

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Storytelling in Times of Fragmentation


Connection in Times of Fragmentation

By Linda Schuyler Ford

It started with Sandy Hook.

That tragedy shook the entire country, but had a personal impact on
the cluster of villages and small towns around Sandy Hook, Connecticut -Bethel, Brookfield, Danbury, Ridgefield-form the community of Northern Fairfield County.                

One community.

What happened to one of us happened to all of us.

In the weeks that followed, Rev. Laura Westby, pastor at First Congregational Church of Bethel, along with local officials and school leaders planned “A Place for Healing Through Art". Two days of storytelling, painting, dance, music, counseling, and listening at an area conference center.

I was honored to be the storyteller.

And uncomfortable.
Though I believe in the power of Story, I was overwhelmed by the magnitude of this massacre. What kind of hope and healing could I possibly impart?

 

What I could do, with conviction, was open paths to deep listening, to empathy.

Through Story, I could help begin the work of shoring up walls of normalcy. Through Story, I could widen the lens of perception to see beyond trauma and fear, to include hope, strength, empowerment, even humor.

Dan Keding graciously gave me permission to tell his story, The Dragon’s Tear. Listeners made up a short song that that shepherd boy played. 

Unity. 

Collaboration.

Laughter.

I added a silly, interactive version of Tipingee to lightheartedly bring awareness to the power of friendship. That created an opportunity for parents to talk about layers of protection, of community. A delicate and honest sense of safety was slowly being restored. Children began to identify people who made them feel safe.

Stories opened conversation, and those initial healing conversations enabled families to fully participate in other healing activities over the weekend. And that led to more conversation. More stories.

Now, as in 2012, our world seems to crack open with hateful disparity, anger, and unanswered questions. In these times of fragmentation, what we need, more than anything, is genuine listening with the intent to understand.

Story creates a safe cushion of comfort from which we can hear with open hearts. It dislodges the myopic view, the focus on woundedness, and reminds us that the world is still turning, life is unfolding, and we are still part of the grand scheme. Sharing the Stories that alleviate paralyzing fear enables clearer thinking. It enables us to gather up wisdom and take action.

Action, too, is part of healing. And of Story.

Expanding our world view while still stinging is, perhaps, the most perfect and tender place to begin. Again.

 Tell those Stories.

 


Linda Schuyler Ford grew up in Sleepy Hollow, NY, and now divides her time between Florida and Connecticut. Much of her repertoire revolves around  Peace, Women’s stories, and  Hudson Valley Folktales. She is particularly  fond of the works of Washington Irving.

In addition to performance, her Story work includes applied  storytelling in health care, Elder care, and bereavement.  Linda can be reached at StoriesHeal@gmail.com

 

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Thursday, July 16, 2020

The Healing Aspects of Storytelling     

                                by Dr. Christine M. Chew                                        

 

It should not be a far stretch for one to recognize the therapeutic benefits inherent in the use of stories.  After all, storytelling is one of the oldest and most powerful teaching and learning methods used by humans.  And who, as a child, did not have their behavior and emotional responses redirected through stories such as The Boy Who Cried Wolf, The Little Red Hen or Henny Penny?  Through these stories, the cultural importance of not raising alarm over nothing, sharing in the work to get the reward, and not to believe everything one is told was passed on in a more pleasing, entertaining and acceptable manner than had we been directly taught or scolded.   Through what appeared to be simple folk tales, we were given sage life advice while chuckling at the silliness of a hen who believed that indeed, the sky was falling.  And hopefully through these stories, we were readjusting the way we acted in, and responded to, the world around us.

While listening to stories has great value, the telling of one’s story has also long been believed to therapeutic.  Journals and diaries have been written for centuries, with the authors finding insight and catharsis in documenting the activities, thoughts and emotions of the day.   Even the practice of psychotherapy had its roots with the father of psychoanalysis welcoming patients to his fainting couch to tell the stories of their mothers!

Through the 1970’s, developmental psychologist Howard Gardner, best known for his theory of multiple intelligences,published several professional articles documenting the therapeutic benefits of telling one’s story.  And while it’s beyond the scope of this blog post to cite all the specific publications, there are studies documenting that the telling of one’s story increases self-esteem and self-confidence, modifies negative behavior patterns, increases concentration, improves mood, and has benefits for dementia. 

The power of telling one’s story was captured for me so notably through the life of my friend, Dana.  When I met Dana, she pretty quickly revealed that she did not celebrate Halloween.  As the friendship deepened, Dana shared that the reason that she did not celebrate Halloween was because on Halloween night of her 10th year, her older sister had a terrible fight with her parents, packed her bags, and never returned home.  For Dana, this night that should have been filled with the glee of costuming up and giving herself a bellyache from eating too much candy, became her defining moment of family trauma.  For years Dana sat alone with her story, with each Halloween bringing angst and depression.  Dana was sure that this holiday was filled with sadness and despair for her parents and siblings as well.  It was definitely not a night for revelry; in fact, yearlyit set Dana up with mood struggles that persisted until spring.

After years of friendship (and therapy), Dana was coming to spend some time at my house and had decided that during our visit, she was going to meet her long estranged brother for lunch.  During this meetup, Dana intended to talk with her brother about Halloween and all the terrible angst that holiday brought up for them.  On the day of disclosure, I dropped Dana at the specified meeting place and came back a couple hours later to find a befuddled and confused friend.  Come to find out, Dana’s brother not only had no recollection of that fateful night, but actually quite enjoyed Halloween.  In the sharing and processing her story, Dana was able to step back from all that her story had taken on in the years of not telling it and start to let herself see the night differently.  And Dana was able to start on her journey of being more present to, and content through, her winters.

So now the challenge is yours.  Which of your stories is waiting to be told?  What healing is yours for the finding?  Accept and tell your story.  It’s what it is. It’s made you you.  Some of it was out of your control.  For some parts of it, you might need to make amends.  For a quite a bit of it, you probably didn’t give yourself nearly enough credit.  So own it.  Tell it.  Let’s see what happens…




Dr. Christine Chew has been helping children tell and gain mastery of their stories for the past 20 years in her work as a Pediatric Psychologist.  While she has lived in the the Northeast, the Midwest, and the Pacific Northwest, she most comfortably finds home with her partner, son, cat, two tripod dogs, and 26 chickens on their expanding homestead in Central PA.

She enjoys listening to storytelling on Zoom and in person,

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Timely Insights From the Executive Director of the Healing Story Alliance

A HEALING STORY STORY

by Mike Seliger

Is there a human  being on this planet who is not, to some  degree,  wounded—physically or emotionally—or in  fear of becoming  wounded or still experiencing  the effects of a  past wound or threat?

 

I  ask this because Healing can only  occur if there has been a Wound, or damage  caused by Fear of loss or wounding. And  the healing can only  begin  once the  wound has been acknowledged.

 

Some people say all Stories are  actually  healing stories. Indeed,  virtually all stories have  healing elements. Every  story  that is told, orally or  via sign or image,  entails an interaction between a  teller  and  audience (whether  an audience of one,  ten, or  thousands!) This is an  active  exchange that provides  gifts to both tellers  and audience. These  gifts  are  elements of healing,  such as

·         A  recognition of one another as humans with  vulnerabilities and  dreams

·         Sharing in  ways that  resonate and contribute to understanding  and  resilience

·         Affirmation  that the  experience  of telling and listening are  rewarding ( informing,  educating ,  entertaining,  reaffirming humanness!)

 

Healing Story  is a  way for humans to convey compassion and understanding in support of  Resilience and empowerment  for a  person,  group, community or the entire planet,  that is suffering from a  wound.  A story may not cure the wound, but may make it more understandable and hence more  bearable by showing that the pain or  grief is heard or recognized. Healing  stories may  reawaken belief that things can  get better, obstacles  overcome, justice achieved, cruelty  confronted,  possibilities opened.  The stories may also offer alternative ways of looking at a situation, sometimes educating, sometimes  reassuring or refocusing. Often the  message  is “You  are not alone or trapped in an impossible place.”

 

Many stories  follow the arc of “the Hero’s journey”, in which   an individual is  called to take  actions, go places, encounter helpers who may offer   advice or empowering gifts, overcome  dangers and challenges, eventually  achieving a  success that provides rewards and new  knowledge/ awareness with which  he/she returns with new  ability to  use this in  beneficial ways.

 

That  story  arc may or may not  focus on a heroic  figure who is  suffering from a wound,  although in the course of the journey wounds  and  dangers  are likely occurrences. But the journey experienced by the listener/ audience is  healing—it comforts, reassures, supports imagining of  wonderful possibilities and achievements  and can  alleviate doubts and pain, at least for the moment. The  story’s protagonist acts bravely (exhibiting courage in the face of  fear) even  though  sometimes that  bravery may  seem to come  out of  ignorance or  foolishness. The listener identifies with the  character, even as the character  may stumble into   deeper  troubles  that call for  further  reliance on the resources within his/her  grasp..

 

The wounds  we  experience come in all sizes and shapes—from a sprained ankle to a broken heart, from a lost  ring to a  famine, from a child being bullied to institutionalized  racism,  from loss of  a job to collapse of an entire  economy,  from a common cold to a  devastating pandemic.

 

In all these cases, stories may not cure, but can awaken ways of looking at them and assisting in finding  the best ways to act  within the  situations. 

 

Stories may not prevent anxiety and impatience, but might offer options on how to find and  use inner  resources  to discover the  best  ways through difficult  situations.

 

Stories may not  reduce  feelings of loss  of loved ones, of home,  or  the  frustration at   finding that one’s  beliefs in fairness and justice are being  denied and abused, but  may encourage  identifying resources and supports that  can help respond to the  feeling of woundedness.

 

 

Some times, major  crises such as wars, fires, natural disasters, famines or plagues (!) leave many  people  experiencing loss, confusion, and anxiety over what might happen next. This was certainly true after  9/11 brought down the  World Trade Center  Towers and brought  in  a time of  fear and mourning.. Yet  at that same time  stories  of resilience, heroic acts, kindness,  and hope  made the situation more full of possibilities, more  strands of hope for   people to grasp and  begin to rebuild their  sense of  a future. Fears  were  acknowledged,  shared,  and  ways  were sought to  overcome and move past them. Resources  aimed  at  helping children better understand the  world they were experiencing,  and  offering   stories of  generosity and resilience, were developed. (See  the Resources on The Healing Story Alliance Website, especially   Stories  for Children in Times of Crisis compiled by Laura  Simms).

 

Of  the many many  stories  that  could  be told as examples of  Healing Stories in times of  crisis, where the  right story at the right time can open eyes and hearts,   I  offer  this brief tale, which I first heard  at  a prayer  service  not long after  9/11.  The story’s origins go  back many hundreds of years.


 A king had a  favorite jewel, one he proudly wore on a chain around his neck,   showing it  to admirers pointing out the way  light radiated from each point on its surface.  But one day  the jewel  fell from its casing,   landing on the   hard floor with  a loud thud. A crack  appeared on its  surface. The king was   terribly upset. His prize  was no longer perfect.  He called for  the  best  artisans in his kingdom  to come up with a solution for  restoring the prize to its  perfect state.  One suggested simply  reversing  the jewel in  the casing, so the crack would never  be seen. Another suggested  filling in the  crack with  a glue, then sanding down the surface.  These were not acceptable  solutions. A young  artist   stepped forward and boasted that if  given the jewel for  two  days, he would   return it and the King would surely  be pleased with   the result. The king  gave him  the opportunity, with a warning of dire consequences if he failed.  He returned  as promised, two days later, and handed the  gem to the king.  At first glance it was clear that the crack was still there.  But the  artist had  etched the surface  so that the crack had  become the trunk of a  tree, from which branches, leaves and flowers  emerged. The work was   beautiful. Indeed, the king was pleased, for  what had happened was that  rather than attempt to restore something after  damage,  the wound was turned into an opportunity to  build something  even more  special. 

 

Most  recently, Healing Story Alliance has  been conducting  weekly “zoomed” gatherings of tellers and other  story users. These  gatherings, under the  heading “Keeping the Oars in the  Water”  apply  the  metaphor that in turbulent waters, keeping the oars in the water enable the  boat to be kept on a stable  course heading towards  safety. These weekly gatherings have provided a place for members of the storytelling community to share their experiences,  cares, and  vulnerabilities in a safe supportive space. The stories emerging there are not performance oriented, they are expressions  given  from a place of  generosity and hope, providing   moments to pause , reflect, and renew.  It is there that the essence of  Healing Stories can be found.



Mike Seliger has been Chair of The Healing Story Alliance’s Executive Committee for over six years. He holds a doctorate from The City University of New York in Sociology and has also studied mime, clowning, and storytelling. A retired Dean for Planning at Bronx Community College, Mike has devoted most of his life to community organizing and empowerment through education. He has written and edited extensively as editor of Mime Times, the New York Storytelling Center Newsletter, and Broadway Local Community Newspaper. 


He lives in New York's Hudson Valley.

Learn more about his work here.
https://mikeseliger.com/

Saturday, May 16, 2020




Magic Beans
Marketing Thoughts Offered By Janel Behm




I admit it.
I can’t hide it any longer.
I have a secret identity.


You may know me as a barefooted storyteller with a passion for tales rooted in myth and ancient magic, but long before I became a story artist I was and still am…an entrepreneur.

Over the years, my husband Dennis and I have created, bought and sold several businesses. I don’t pretend to be a marketing expert or advertising guru, but over the years I’ve acquired several “magic beans” of self-promotion that have served me well in my adventure as a storyteller. My “beans” have helped me cultivate opportunities and create gigs at a magical pace with minimal effort.

Five of my favorite magical self-promotion beans:

Magic Bean #1 – Truly tell who you truly are.

Promoting yourself as an artist isn’t selfish or egotistical, it’s actually quite generous. When you tell others what you have to offer, you give them the opportunity to share in the gifts you have been given. Don’t pretend to be something you’re not, and don’t pretend that what you have to share isn’t of value.

Magic Bean #2 – Do what you do, NOT what you think you can sell.

One of our favorite businesses is a concession stand where we sell funnel cakes at fairs and festivals. We don’t sell pizza, cotton candy, or barbeque, which are also very popular. We sell funnel cakes and we sell a lot of them because they’re the best funnel cakes you’ve ever tasted. Similarly, I tell ancient myths and wisdom tales. Humorous personal narrative and five-minute moth stories are hugely popular right now, but that’s not what I feel called to do. Honing in on your niche doesn’t make you unappealing to the masses, it makes YOU irresistible to YOUR target market.

Magic Bean #3 – Separate your personal prejudice from your professional goals.

Personally, I have a love/hate relationship with technology which means I love to hate all things digital. Don’t even talk to me about Facebook, it makes my tummy hurt. Professionally, I understand that social media is the most effective way to reach my target market and follow trends in the storytelling world. I’ve learned to set my personal aversion aside so that I can professionally reach my tribe.

Magic Bean #4 – Find the social media sweet spot.

It’s not about how many friends you have on Facebook, it’s about how many of those friends follow you. Post too frequently and you become white noise that no one really hears. Post too little and people forget who you are, and your message never gathers momentum. Craft your posts like you craft your stories…interesting, informative, and entertaining.

Magic Bean #5 – Find a “Media Magician”

The smartest thing I ever did was engage someone to help me with my social media, website, and promotions. My “media magician” spends hours helping me create Facebook posts, adjusting photos, and crafting text that will keep my style consistent across all platforms and in alignment with who I am as a teller. She manages areas of self-promotion that I don’t enjoy which frees me up to do what I LOVE – walking with Story, researching and practicing.

Now, you might be wondering how to find your own media magician and my answer is rather simple: Decide that there’s a place on your team for such a sorcerer and then don’t stop looking until you find one!

Finally, remember that no one can listen to your stories if you don’t tell them you have something special to share.

May these beans help you grow your self-promotion and share the magic of YOU and YOUR stories.




                                                                                                                                                                                                    Janel Behm is an actress and storyteller from Ohio. She now makes her home in Nokomis, FL. To learn more about Janel, visit her website, https://behmstorytelling.com


Thursday, April 23, 2020

World Storytelling Cafe Brews New Concept






The World Storytelling cafe was started by Mike And Lucie Anderson in Marrakech. It is an international virtual platform where professional and amateur storytellers are invited to broadcast their tales. 

FSA member Debra Weller is a featured storyteller at The Cafe, and tells us, "I filmed my performance at home with my I-pad. In the instructions Jon or Mike will guide you with performance quality. The finished product can be upload on google docs or iCloud and emailed to them."

Debra says it was a fun experience to be featured on their Facebook Page. 

Daily concerts are posted on the World Storytelling Cafe Facebook page, and on their website.


Check out their FB page here.
https://www.facebook.com/groups/511693402878337

To participate go to worldstorytellingcafe.com. Contact them and they will send you instructions about uploading your video. The video needs to be a 45 minute performance. 

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Why Folk and Fairy Tales?

  By Simon Brooks

There is so much publicity and cheer leading for personal narrative that I feel we might be getting away from folk and fairy tales, and losing focus. There is much craft that goes into a well-told personal narrative to make it work for an audience. It is also easy to simply tell a personal story for self-gratification. I was into the poetry open mic scene back in the day and you would hear beautifully crafted poems and some crass work which should have been kept within a bedroom or therapists office. I feel the same at some slams, or open mic storytelling too. There is some high art, and there is some rubbish. It can be the same for folk and fairy tales too.  I have seen stories ruined for me with a bad telling.

I have been asked about the relevance of folk and fairy tales, myths and legends these days, and this saddens me. A growing number of kids don’t know Little Red Riding Hood, and have not heard of King Solomon. There are, in many works, references to such tales, and if the youth of today are not hearing these stories then those references are lost. Reading Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series of graphic novels, you know Gaiman has a deep level of understanding of mythology. As someone who knows these ancient tales and stories I gain another level of enjoyment of the books. It is not only literary references which are lost but a level of understanding too.

Hansel and Gretel is set in reality. In the days when the story was created, young children, the sick and elderly were given over to the forest in times of starvation, or even when the fear of lack of food became apparent, so that the strongest survived. This does not happen these days, although some cultures as recent as 100 years ago still did this. But children, and the elderly are abandoned, or it can feel like that to them, when parents work three jobs to pay bills, or travel away from home for work, or are just ignored, and the elderly are placed in homes. This story can help young folks process what they might be going through.

Stone Soup is also set in fact. A study of warfare in Europe up to the 1700’s will show you that many battles were fought over the same territory, and the same routes were used to march to these places. Soldiers had to find their own food on route and often stole food (appropriated?!) as they passed through villages and towns. Often these soldiers were starving. Only the officers were well fed and clothed, the conscripted soldiers were not professional soldiers but men gathered by force from their homes to fight a war they were not interested in, nor whose stakes would have any effect on them other than the fighting. If stray soldiers found their way into a town, they would have been ignored, in fact there are historical records stating that some soldiers were hung, or even beaten to death. Understandable when some armies burned crops to stop another army from feeding itself, sending a village or town into starvation. This happened to the same villages and towns, year after year. The story of Stone Soup could have been a true personal narrative at one point. Homer, in the Iliad describes what is now known as PTSD. There is truth and power in the old tales.

These stories can be used to teach about our histories and how our cultures have changed, but they also teach about compassion, and how some things have been happening since time began. Sure, some are pure entertainment, the same as some personal narratives are, but there is a depth which, I feel, folk and fairy tales go to and reach in which personal narrative does not. One can lose oneself in a folk or fairy tale and become any of the characters and be safe, so if the subject is hard, you are one step removed. Personal narratives do not necessarily have that. Listening to a personal story can plunge the listener back to their own trauma, or fear more directly.

As human beings we need to be exposed to many different types and styles of telling. We need to hear different stories just like we need to hear all different types of music.  We need a foundation to build from, not just in telling stories, but in life, and the ancient tales, the myths, legends, folk and fairy tales can do that. They teach us that we can survive, we can process things we do not understand through the ancient stories, they can explain the world around us, and they can, most importantly give us hope. So when someone says to me, ‘Why folk and fairy tales?’ I tell them – hope. They always give us hope, and sometimes a really good laugh, too!


Simon Brooks will be a featured storyteller at theFlorida Storytelling Festival in Mt. Dora, FL,  January 23-26, 2020 He recently performed at the National Storytelling Festival where his animated style drew much praise.