Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Stories and The Future

I have loved stories for as long as I can remember.  One of my earliest childhood memories was asking one of my parents for a bed-time story, and my disappointment at the brevity when I received a one paragraph, if not one sentence.

In the late 1990s I was delighted when I discovered Tellabration  , the annual storytelling program held each November by the local Story Circle of the Capital District .  I hadn’t realized people told stories in public and there were stories for adults.  I have been a regular attendant of the programs since then.  I’ve only missed it rarely, one time when something in the engine of my car broke and let loose.  

My preoccupation with stories may be because I am descended from Mohican people. Once a year they would gather and recite their history orally to instill it for another year.  Unfortunately that tradition died as they coped with the need to exist among the European people who slowly took over their land.  

As I’ve slowly learned of and researched my heritage, I’ve also thought of the need to preserve what I’ve learned.  Some people are familiar with what have been called the teaching stories from Native American culture.  Although they are only a tiny fragment of Native culture, they deserve to be remembered and shared.  I’ve been wrestling with the need to do the same with what I know.  I’m more of a behind-the-scenes person than someone who wants to get on stage and perform.  However, I was a radio disc jockey for a few years on a local community radio station and enjoyed it very much.  I was basically storytelling to an unseen audience.

During this period of recession, I’ve become aware that I may have to reinvent myself to support myself.  I’ve been contemplating this and other things when I attended the latest storytelling open mic night at Caffé Lena.  That evening the hostess explained that well-known storyteller Tom Weakley had weeded out his book collection and donated the books to the Story Circle, suggesting that donations be collected to benefit the Schoharie flood victims.  Members of the audience were invited to choose books to take home in exchange for donations during the intermission.  

Due to the large number of people who came to the program, I had to choose a seat that was right next to the tables where the books lay.  I’m not too proud to admit that between the stories being told I took advantage of my location to look at the books before the intermission.  My eyes lit on one titled Creative Storytelling:  Choosing, Inventing, and Sharing Tales for Children by Jack Maguire.  I was intrigued by many of the areas covered by the book:

  • Origins and Traditions of Storytelling
  • Types of Stories
  • Remembering and Adapting Stories
  • Creating Your Own Stories
  • Telling Stories
  • Beyond Storytelling

When storyteller Kate Dudding passed by the table I was sitting at, she commented that the book was a good one.

The next day I saw that the previous owner had written his name in the book and the month and year he purchased it.  I found a note he’d tucked in the book, typed on an old library catalog card:  CREATIVE STORYTELLING  by Jack McGuire.  Recommended by my storytelling colleagues for its basic approach to the process of storytelling.  Techniques learned here will apply to adult audiences also.”   

I feel like someone has reached out and tapped me on the shoulder.  I have thought of what can be my next career.  I can have a third one, if I work at it.