Sunday, May 5, 2019

Telling Stories to Young Children ~ Mij Byram

written by Mij Byram
"A person’s a person no matter how small." ~ Dr. Seuss
Those of us who work with young children are aware of the unique skill set needed to reach an audience with limited life experience and cognitive range but infinite curiosity and willingness to believe what you say.

TIP: Maintain Focus, Awareness and a Calm Demeanor - Not everyone can stay focused while watching a little one wiggle and jiggle because they are so deep in their own imagery that they are unwilling to acknowledge or tend to their immediate bodily needs. If you can relax and stay in the story, so will the child. There may be a wet spot on the carpet after they leave, but in the meantime, they have traveled with you through a universe of stories. And in the big picture a change of clothes is no big deal for a super hero.

TIP: Consider Point Of View - I don’t mean first person, second or third person. The actual point of view of a child sitting on the floor will determine what they see. If you are close to the children get down on their level so they are not looking at your toes or up your nose. Are you are standing or sitting far enough away to make it easy to see your face without neck strain? Be thoughtful and adjust when needed.

TIP: Consider Adults - When working with children, consider teachers and parents as part of the audience. It’s nice to be able to offer something of interest to them as well. Layered stories can please both child and adult. What would keep you interested in a children’s story?

TIP: Listen with your eyes to see what they are telling you with their bodies.
I often feel I’m holding a golden secret. A secret about how to make the world a better place. Through storytelling we have the opportunity and responsibility to add more kindness, compassion, generosity, honesty, courage and justice to the lives of our listeners. This should NOT be a secret.

Mij Byram
"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not." ~ Dr. Seuss

Contact info
Mij Byram

Bio: Mij is a highly respected, sought-after Early Childhood innovator with over 20 years of experience using stories to plant the seeds of literacy and love of language. Her workshops and play-shops have trained teachers, librarians, parents, and storytellers from Maine to Florida how to build character and promote literacy through story. Mij has been a staff member of the National Storytelling Network, a board member of the Florida Storytelling Association and president of the Palm Beach County Storytelling Guild. Mij is the founder and publisher of the monthly newsletter South Florida Storytelling News since 2005.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

To Slam or Not to Slam?

Article by Madeline Pots, award-winning Storyteller and Slam Artist.

Why I Slam.

The room was packed.  It was the first event of the newly formed Orlando Story Club and my first slam.  I put my name in the hat and hoped I would be called.  I had practiced my story.  I had condensed it from a longer story, isolating just what I thought was truly important.  I was ready. 

Ten names were pulled.  Some of the tellers were obviously experienced.  Others were new to any genre of public speaking,  but they all had a story.  And the audience listened.  They intuitively recognized sincerity.  They responded to honesty.  They laughed at what was genuinely funny.  They forgave the stammering starts and stops and showed support for the speaker. The stories had heart, and so did the audience. 
As it turned out, it was an experienced storyteller who walked away with the honors that evening.  That was because her story was real and bravely told.  It set an example that has characterized the quality of this long-lasting event, now five years old and going strong.

A story slam is a level playing field.  Anyone can slam.  The tellers are randomly picked.  The stories are often like uncut gems, rare and valuable even though unpolished.   Other times the stories are crafted, poetic and powerful.  For sure, there are the occasional stories that ramble, but that does not negate the open-hearted reception of the slam audience.  It is a supportive community that values the candor of the teller.  It’s a community I love.

I no longer try to condense my longer stories into mini versions of themselves.  I prefer to start fresh with a beginner’s eye.  I know that a glib turn of words will not do it for a slam audience.  They respond to content.  It makes me dig deep for message, while keeping within that infamous five-minute limit.

Slams are contests, and it is certainly nice to walk away with the honors.  But the biggest prize is being part of a community that accepts all equally.  The best reward is the experience, from both sides of the stage.  That is why I slam.

 Madeline Pots is a storyteller and musician living in Winter Park, FL. She has performed on the National Storytelling Festival's Exchange Place stage, Tallahassee's Stories At Blue, the Cracker Storytelling Festival and Stone Soup Storytelling Festival. She leads FSA's Youthful Voices.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Ready to Learn by Sheila Arnold

Ready to Learn

I love coaching.  I love being coached.  I appreciate hard specific feedback just as much, and sometimes more than, compliments and platitudes about my stories.  Because of these “loves” and “appreciation” in my life, this is what I try to give to others when I am coaching. 
I have been asked to coach performers (not just storytellers) for quite some time, and I think it is important for me to approach each coaching session in a similar way.  The first thing I do is listen – all the way through.  I don’t interrupt the first time around unless I really don’t understand something and I have to get clarity in order to get the full story.  Then we take a moment to let the story breathe between me – the coach – and the storyteller.  This is a vulnerable time; storytellers can get afraid of what I am going to say.  They are already beating themselves up about the missed word, phrase or, in their mind, awful storytelling technique.  I need a moment to soak in what I have heard and to review the notes that I take.  Then step 3 – I give feedback and make sure my feedback is specific, with a reminder that this is my opinion, not required to be accepted.  I also try to speak without interrupting; I learned that by watching Connie Regan-Blake give feedback to Charlotte Blake-Alston; very powerful and a great lesson.  If there are others in the coaching with me, which I actually like, then I ask for other feedback, and if I see unkindness, I point it.  Vulnerability needs to be handled with care and compassion and needs to know it has a safe community to succeed, fail, make mistakes and keep trying.  Finally, we make a decision.  Do we have enough time to listen again?  Do we need to just breathe in the feedback?  Do we need to schedule another coaching time?  What is next for the story and the storyteller?
I come to each coaching session with the golden rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  I also come to each coaching session with the lessons, compassion, care and challenges given to me from amazing storytellers:  Diane Ferlatte, Donna Washington, Charlotte Blake-Alston, Donald Davis, Bil Lepp, Minton Sparks, Syd Lieberman, Susan Klein, Milbre Burch, Clare Murphy, and a close-knit group of friends called “The Storytelling Girlfriends”.  There is a community that has helped and continues to help me grow, and I want to make sure that each person I coach leaves knowing they have a community that lifts and holds them up.  Finally, I leave each session having learned things about storytelling, about people and about stories, and I grow! 
I love coaching.  I love being coached.

Sheila Arnold, 12/11/18