Welcome to the National Storytelling Blog! Within our membership, we have people with expertise in all facets of storytelling. Here we offer their insights and highlight their stories for you to enjoy, learn, and connect.
Told by Joyce Story
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Like all the stories in Joyce’s book Tales of the Sonoran Desert, these two stories captivate the listener with the light they cast on the unique desert that lies in the southwestern US and in Mexico. Giving voice to the desert’s plants and animals, the stories intrigue audiences with their unforgettable characters, the unexpected twists of their narratives, and their blend of humor and wonder. With the introduction of venomous animals in the tale about the Cloud People, some listeners can be seen to visibly recoil, but by the end of the story, the western diamondback rattlesnake, the Gila monster, and the blonde tarantula have won even their smiles. Listeners nod with sympathy at the bobcat’s ill-fated love for the saguaro cactus and the difficulties caused by his unwanted affections, and they chuckle with approval when the situation is resolved. Along with the creative, fanciful journey they take into this land of marvels, audiences enjoy the subtle lessons and the factual information to be learned, and they praise Joyce’s stories for enhancing their understanding and respect for the flora and fauna of the Sonoran Desert.
Joyce has published two books, Tales of the Sonoran Desert and The Rhyme and Rhythm of Childhood, a collection of story-poems fashioned from childhood memories shared with her by family and friends in North Central Florida. As a storyteller, she is noted for sharing both these original stories and folk tales from various cultures. Joyce holds a Ph.D. degree, and as a public speaker, she frequently lectures on her experiences in the countries where she has visited and often lived and studied. CDs of her desert tales are currently in production. To preview a sample of her storytelling, please click here: http://vimeo.com/100655502.
told by Sandy Oglesby
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Have you ever heard your phone ring at 3:00am in the morning and hated to pick up the phone thinking something awful must have happened to someone you love? This is “that” story.
It was such a huge honor to tell at the NSN Conference. What I loved most about it was the tremendous support that I felt from the audience. There is nothing better than telling to your peers. Their openness and gracious spirits made me feel like I was telling to dozens of my “best friends”.
Sandy Oglesby grew up in the Arizona desert, and is still enthralled with the plants, animals, and the diversity of people that live there. A graduate of the South Mountain Storytelling Institute, she has honed her storytelling craft as an Arizona tour guide, Elderhostel instructor, keynote speaker and early childhood educator. She conducts workshops and in-service seminars for museums, libraries, and schools, helping them “connect through story”. Sandy tells stories and has conducted workshops across the nation and throughout Europe, expounding the benefits oral literacy, self-esteem and cultural diversity.
Sandy’s first children’s book has just been published: You Are Special Just The Way You Are. It is available in soft cover, hard back, and Kindle through my website StorytellerSandy.com or at Amazon.
by Csenge Zalka
What is a MythOff?
I’ll let the creator of the idea, Clare Muireann Murphy answer this one: “MythOff is an evening of mythology where the audience chooses the winners. It can pit Norse myth against the Irish, or Persian against Chinese. There are two or three rounds, and each round has a theme (Monsters/ Goddesses / Lost Love/ Bad Prophecy…the list goes on and on). Storytellers delve, audiences vote, and the prize for winning MythOff is usually something iconic and terribly cheap (like a plastic sword if you win the Best Dressed Warrior round).”
In short, MythOff is a story slam that features myths instead of personal stories. According to the mission statement, it “aims to revitalize mythology, bring new audiences and venues to storytelling, and promote international storytelling relations.” It also places the focus of the event on the stories, rather than the storytellers.
It is one of the core values of MythOff to tell the myths in their original form, without fracturing or parodying them. The audience is prompted by questions to make their decisions based on the story they heard, rather than the person that told it (“Which monster would you rather have guarding your house?”). These, and other guidelines together make sure that MythOff stays true to its original idea of education, entertainment, and the promoting of mythology told live.
MythOff was founded by Clare Muireann Murphy after the FEST (Federation for European Storytelling) conference of 2009. She developed her idea with the help of Love Ersare (Sweden) and Torgrim Mellum Stene (Norway). The worldwide premiere of MythOff happened in Stockholm in 2010, and featured four tellers with four mythologies.
Yours truly, excited and intrigued by the idea of bringing mythology to new audiences, joined the team as the MythOff USA representative in 2012. Since then we have had events on both sides of the Atlantic, from London to Johnson City, TN.
Excited yet? Good news! MythOff is a brand, much like The Moth. Events follow a set of rules and guidelines created by the founding team in order to stay true to MythOff’s original mission statement. Any storyteller who would like to organize a MythOff event can do so by following these few easy steps:
- Decide to have a MythOff!
- Check out the Introduction to MythOff document available on our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/notes/myth-off/introduction-to-mythoff/392455050810150). It will tell you the most important rules, the mission, and some basic information.
- Contact one of the curators (see contact information below). We will send you the extended rules and guidelines, tell you about our experiences and ideas, and work with you to make your even the greatest success possible!
- Organize your MythOff. Promote it. Live it. Have tons of fun.
Part of the MythOff experience is reporting on your epic adventures after every event. Sometimes it involves a video or sound recording, sometimes it features posts on the organizers’ blogs. All reports are also linked to the official MythOff Facebook page (www.facebook.com/mythoff) for your viewing pleasure.
WARNING! Side effects of MythOff include: “An increase in mythic curiosity, a community for isolated storytellers, a widening of the typical storytelling audience demographic and a deep sense of the epically playful in all of us.”
MythOff Europe is curated by Clare Muireann Murphy. MythOff America is curated by Csenge Zalka. Please contact either of us if you would like to host a MythOff event!
Contact Csenge or Clare
Csenge is a professional storyteller and author from Hungary. A former Fulbright student with an MA in Archaeology and another one in Storytelling, she is currently pursuing her PhD at Bowling Green State University, OH. Her first book in English, Tales of Superhuman Powers, a collection of folktales featuring superpowers, was published in 2013.
When I first found The Orchard I fell in love with its setting of rolling hills, trees, and artists’ sculptures. I knew it would be perfect for storytelling, which I began in 2013 along with my new friend, Bob Reiser. The chickens, the “Square Gazebo” and the Apple Store all attract gatherings of apple pickers, walkers, and talkers. We feel so fortunate to have this beautiful venue atop a hill with a view of the Pioneer Valley’s surrounding mountains. You’ve got to see it to believe it!
The Storytelling in the Orchard Series
The series is supported in part by a grant from the Easthampton Cultural Council, a local agency which is supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency. I am honored to direct this series that is FREE for adults and children. It is held at the Park Hill Orchard, 82 Park Hill Rd, in Easthampton, MA.
I just had a great time sharing Puppets & Sound Stories over Labor Day weekend, where people picked apples and then picked a story from the Story Tree. It’s not too late to join the fun though with events in September and October.
Next up is Tim Van Egmond performing “A Harvest of Stories and Hammer Dulcimer Music” on Saturday, September 6 at 4 pm (rain date, September 7). Tim is a multi-talented storyteller, singer and musician who transports people to the wellspring of wisdom, humor, inspiration and renewal found in the traditions of multicultural tales and folk music.He has been selected by the Massachusetts Cultural Council both for its Creative Teaching Partners roster for Residency Programs in schools, and its Touring Program. His engaging warmth and dynamic performance will by turns tickle your ribs, make your spine tingle, and warm your heart in an uplifting experience of enjoyment and enchantment. “Tim is a triple treat. He can sing, he can play a variety of wonderful instruments, and he can tell whopping good tales!” Jane Yolen, renowned author and storyteller.
On Saturday, September 20 at 4 pm (rain date, September 21), Bob Reiser presents “Apple Sauce! Stories for All Ages.” Bob is an expansive and joyous storyteller, teacher, and an award-winning author of books for adults and children. Accompanying himself with flute and drum, Bob brings warmth and wit to traditional and original stories. A quote from Pete Seeger says it all, “Bob Reiser is a wonderful storyteller, with tales for every age and temperament. I hope he keeps on for another half century.”
Rona Leventhal, will perform “Travelin’ Shoes: A Multicultural Storytelling Extravaganza” on Saturday, September 27 at 11 am (rain date, September 28). Rona is an international Storyteller, Improv Theatre and Movement Specialist, Team Building Facilitator and certified Teacher. For twenty-four years she has used her passion for story, teaching, literacy development, movement, spoken word and communications to inspire and help others to free their body/mind, find their own voice and help them in their work and life in a fun, interactive and safe environment. Rona has performed at the National Storytelling conference, at international venues and at local schools and libraries throughout the country.
“Songs and Stories in the Orchard” with John Porcino is on Sunday, October 5at 2 pm (rain date, October 19). John’s performances are a mix of stories and songs that come to life with warmth, humor, a playful touch of audience participation, and a twist of music from around the world. His performances are geared to the wit and intellect of each age group: adults, young adults, pre-school, elementary, junior and senior high schools and family audiences.
Our last show for this year will be on Saturday, October 11 at 2 pm – a Story Slam to give everyone the opportunity to tell. To sign up, call Gail Herman at 413-203-5247.
What a treat it is to gather in the apple orchard and share stories during this beautiful time of year. Join us if you can!
Creative storyteller and arts consultant, Dr. Gail N. Herman, has performed and taught storytelling in the U.S., Europe, the Caribbean, Ghana, India, and Oman. She taught storytelling for Lesley Univ., UConn, Garrett College and Mount Holyoke College’s JTerm. She works with schools to infuse storytelling and the kinesthetic, musical, and visual aspects of learning into language arts, reading, social studies and science. Gail uses a variety of puppets and musical instruments for sound effects along with mime and Organic Storytelling™. Gail is a member of NSN, LANES, National Association for Gifted Children, National Association for the Education of Young Children and Massachusetts Children’s Music Network.
By Katie Knutson
Although it is impossible to put a numerical value on the art or experience of storytelling, if you are going to work as a storyteller, you have to charge for your performances. Even many experienced storytellers wrestle with the appropriate fees for their art. For a new teller, this can be a mystery. Here are some ideas to help you figure out what to charge for your work.
Know your Market
Talk to other storytellers in your area, especially those who do work similar to yours. Although money is not something most people like to talk about, it is a vital conversation to have—both for our survival as artists and to help the public understand that what we do is more than a hobby. How do your programs and experience compare to theirs?
Find other artists who work in similar venues. If you perform for birthday parties, talk to clowns, face painters, and singing telegram performers. Check out rental rates for bounce houses and chains that host birthday parties. If you want to work at festivals, approach musicians, buskers, Renaissance festival performers, and producers.
Consult with your local and regional organizations that have artist rosters. Many will list their expected fees on their website. Does your work meet the same quality standards as the roster artists?
Consider other costs
What expenses do you have for your performances? This includes not only mileage, meals, and lodging (which can often be listed as separate items in your contract), but also the time it took you to prepare for this specific gig and supplies (e.g., sound system, puppets, handouts).
Remember that your pricing can impact your market. If you are charging dramatically less for your performances than others, make sure it is for a good reason (e.g., you only have four stories in your repertoire or have only been performing for a couple months). If not, you are undercutting the market, which hurts you by making you work much more to earn a living and harms other tellers by undervaluing our art. Conversely, if you are charging too much, you may not get work. Find your balance, and don’t be afraid to raise your rates. Remember that people often determine your value as a performer based on how much they are paying you.
What if they don’t have the money?
First-time producers are often shocked when they hear that entertainers of all kinds expect to be paid for their services. Here are some ideas that continue to place a high value on our art while still respecting limited budgets:
- Encourage them to find a rookie for this event, and then budget more for entertainment for next year.
- Offer a set number of pro-bono gigs a year, but have an application process. If they really don’t have the money, they should be willing to fill out an application.
- If you are doing anything for a free or reduced rate, send an invoice that shows the normal price and the discount you are providing.
- Make an exchange. Maybe they can’t pay you, but would be willing to buy ten of your CDs, promote you in their newsletter, or write a letter of recommendation.
Give producers an opportunity to invest in you in some way; you will not only be treated with more respect, but will also be helping all of us as we advocate for storytellers and storytelling everywhere.
Please share your pricing tips and stories below. How did you decide what to charge? When was the last time you raised your rates? Did you decide to charge more than the other performers in your area? Did it pay off? Have you decided to raise your rates after reading this? (Good!) Why? Let’s start a conversation!
Katie Knutson has spent more of her life as a storyteller than not. She holds a degree in Theatre and spends her days working in schools using theater and storytelling to teach literacy, playwriting, acting, improvisation, and teamwork. She leads a variety of workshops for adults, including voice and movement, and has served extended terms on the boards of Northstar Storytelling League and Northlands Storytelling Network.