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A Tapestry of Storytellers' Tips and Tales
By Chris King, Marilyn Kinsella, Linda Spitzer, Patti Christensen, Steve Otto, Granny Sue and Yvonne Healy

Every two months for several years I had the delightful opportunity to share tips from my storytelling friends in the Tips Column in the National Storytelling Network's (NSN) Storytelling Magazine. Realizing that not everyone who visits this website is a member of NSN - although I highly recommend you join - I have decided to periodically start sharing some of these wonderful tips on this site. Because of space limitations in the magazine, I also have many tips that have been sent to me, but not used. So, this will solve both situations and it will become a win-win-win project for all of us. I hope you enjoy them, and let me know if you like the change of pace and hearing from a tapestry of tellers. Read on!

Storytelling Opens Marilyn Kinsella to the Artist's Way

After my first (NAPPS) workshop in 1981 with none other than Jackie Torrence in Jonesborough, TN, I got on bus to go back to Illinois. I sat next to a little old lady on an otherwise empty bus. When she asked me what I was doing in Jonesborough, I talked non-stop about the weekend even being so bold as to tell her the stories I'd heard. When I finished, she said I should look at my life as an artist's palate. Storytelling was just one color on my palate, but soon I would discover other colors. When I put the storytelling with the other colors, my true artist would come through. It wasn't long after that encounter that I started to write plays, stories, poetry and puppet plays. I directed and acted in community theatre. I drew murals, storyboards and original flannel boards. I became a workshop leader and festival organizer. And it always goes back to my storytelling. Storytelling not only opened me up to the way of story, it opened me up to the Artist's Way.
Marilyn Kinsella

Great Marketing Ideas from Linda Spitzer

A few weeks ago I attended a Gemini concert given at the Sunday Afternoon Concerts for Children (music). I sat there for 30 minutes waiting from the time the doors opened until the beginning of the show as did many hundreds of people. The concert starts at 3 p.m. but the doors open after the rehearsal at 2:30 p.m.. I wished I could just jump up on stage and start entertaining the audience sitting there. I did something about it. I got the website, e-mailed and offered my services (but I didn't say at what cost). They called me back and in talking I told them what I do and that they needed entertainment like I do for that 20 minutes. She said the magician that she had walking through the audience who can entertain about three people at a time was sick and yes I could come.

I asked for my fee, but for 20 minutes they came to half of that. Since it is five minutes from my house, has a prestigious audience, is given at a beautiful concert hall at the University of Miami, I accepted. I knew I just wanted to do audience participation stories. We never talked during the week. She never called to confirm and I got a little worried that she forgot I was going to be on the program. I arrived all dressed and made up to look my best, in storytellers clothes (the same as I would wear to a semi-dressy event). She greeted me like she expected me - she'd never met me before, pulled out a program and said, "You're even listed in the program." Now I had arranged this only a week before. Was I lucky or what?

I watched the rehearsal, went out on stage with my story bag before the audience came in. I have signs made with my name, phone and website that I set on little easels (I recommend this to anyone doing shows at anytime. They copy your information down and your name is in front of them the entire performance). They started filling up the seats and I walked out, introduced myself, had all my paraphernalia sitting on top of a beautiful big grand piano, had a lavaliere mike the quality I wished I owned and told them how it was my idea to come since I sat in their last audience a few weeks ago. They loved everything I chose to do, lots of applause, I was very comfortable up there - at last a concert stage. I stayed for the concert because how else was I going to be able to mix with the people to hand out business cards.

When they were giving out cookies and juice I mingled, handed out cards. As I left, some older women asked for my card, said they didn't come with children that they were friends of the producer and that I was so good I ought to tell to adults. I assured them I have many adult audiences all the time. I came home on such a high.
Linda Spitzer
Just for the Tell of it

What If You Have to Turn Down a Gig? Patti Christensen Has the Answer

If you have to turn down a storytelling job either because you are not available or it's not the kind of story work that you do, please give the caller the names of several other tellers. The generosity of this will be appreciated by the person looking for a storyteller, and the other tellers.
This is really a case of "what goes around, comes around." Rather than getting into scarcity thinking which says if they know about other storytellers, there is less work for me, the act of giving out other teller's names affirms that there is enough work for all of us.
Patti Christensen
San Diego CA

Look 'em in the Eye! Steve Otto Knows How to Establish a Bond

Our kids do not get looked in the eye any more! And that is one of the best ways to make sure that your story is being shared with your audience. The object of telling stories is to SHARE the story and you have to establish eye contact to do that. I have been known to get down on my knees to look up and get eye contact with a "shoe looker" and once that bond is established, you find that you have "hooked" another convert to oral communication.
Steve Otto

Granny Sue Stresses the Importance of Listening

Storytellers are listeners, and not just to voices and stories. We are often looked at as the one to tell the stories, but we must first hear those stories from some source, whether it be another person, a book, our own inner voice, or the physical world around us. We need to be listening and
aware to hear the stories being gifted to us daily. There are stories told with a glance, in a song, in children playing a game. Stories are in the wind in the trees, birds calling, water trickling over rocks, the soft swish of snow falling, towhees scratching in dry leaves, doors closing, windows opening, swing sets creaking, footsteps, the hum of air conditioners or crackle of fire, car horns, train whistles, elevators - all these have stories for the teller willing to listen.
Granny Sue
Stories from the Mountains and Beyond

Yvonne Healy Shares Her Ideas on Humor

  • Take yourself lightly.
  • Third time's the charm: introduce the bit, repeat the bit, twist the bit.
  • Take risks. Make mistakes. Comedian Martin Short claims 30% or more of his material is horrendous - a sacrifice in the search for humor.
  • Unexpected gifts are found along new paths.
  • Stretch your face before performance. Like vocal warm-ups, stretching makes it more flexible and expressive.
  • Find a different way to say the same old thing. Jack Benny was praised as one "who says things funny, as opposed to a comic, who says funny things."
  • Watch old comedy films & TV variety shows. Trained in vaudeville, these comics adapted classic material, tailoring it to their speech rhythms & personas, and considered it an honor to be emulated but not copied.
  • Include loving-kindness when poking fun at anyone including oneself.
    Yvonne Healy


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