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Article: Back to Basics
By: Storyteller Joe Paris

’Tis the season for resurrection. Think about what resurrection could mean for your storytelling: not only more fun and more profit for you (funny how those two often go together), but also a more important consideration: how many folks’ lives are touched by your telling.

But there’s no time to waste - only a few more days until that other resurrection story gets all the attention (which it should), so here’s what you do to put into effect your own storytelling resurrection, of sorts:

1. Resurrect your favorite Fairy Tales. This is where we all started: listening to classic stories as told by our fathers and mothers. Our love of story was first engendered by these time-tested tales. There’s plenty of good reasons Fairy Tales (or Aesops Fables, or Grimm’s collection, or HC Andersen, or Perrault, or Greek and Roman myths) have been around for hundreds and in some cases thousands of years - so reacquaint yourself with them.

Find your favorites and re-read them. You will see them with new eyes and as you read them aloud or share them with others, you will hear in them things you may have missed so many years ago.

Want to please a group of youngsters ? Tell them some classic tales.

2. Resurrect stories from your own childhood. I’m referring to experiences you lived. No matter how many classic stories I told my own young son, he always asked to also hear those stories from my own childhood. It didn’t matter to him that many of the stories have no dramatic ending, or follow no storyline, per se. He loved the connection the story had to me (and by extension, to him), I feel, more than anything else.

This inclination to want to hear stories directly linked by experience to the teller is a well known phenomenon among listeners or readers - hence the enduring popularity of the memoir, the autobiography, the personal anecdote.

If you cannot seem to think of stories from your childhood, just read a few well-written or best-selling memoirs. Those literary works will remind you of your own stories. That’s one of the best-known catalysts to recalling our own personal stories: reading or hearing the stories of others.

It works that way around a storytelling circle as well - some folks who feel they have nothing to offer suddenly find themselves reminded of stories as they hear others tell.

3. Resurrect a neighborhood storytelling ritual. No matter how successful your own storytelling career has become, try to retain a link to the simple neighborhood storytelling. Those sessions from my own childhood are treasured memories, and only the continuing willingness of the adults to tell us those stories made that possible.

If no adults are willing to do that in your neighborhood, this cherished ritual of sharing stories will give way to the mass storytellers of TV, movies, ipods, etc.

We have all seen the growth of TV and movies (both in and out of the home) and all other types of mass storytelling displace much (and in most cases all) of the old-fashioned neighborhood storytelling rituals of yore. Don’t let your neighborhood be one of the many that doesn’t have regular storytelling events neighbors can attend.

Take this time of year, for instance. We could count on hearing the story of Christ’s Passion and Crucifixion in our Catholic School, but we also could count on Uncle Mose’s annual re-telling of his most successful spring hunting trip, when a fabulous set of outlandish coincidences (apocryphal or not) led to him bagging a season’s worth of game in one outing. I still tell his story, 20 years after his death, because it has come to be a part of our family’s spring ritual storytelling around Easter time.

You could create all sorts of storytelling rituals in your own neighborhood, just by looking at a calendar and seeing what stories fit what time in the year. In my own neighborhood when I was a child, I could count on hearing stories of heroic mothers (Mother’s Day) and brave soldiers (Memorial Day) in May, summer adventures in June, the founding fathers (Independence Day) in July, and so forth.

4. Resurrect your own enthusiasm for everyday telling. Most of us look for special occasions or venues in which to tell stories. But by doing so exclusively, we miss out on an untold number of opportunities to share stories on the spur of the moment. That’s why it’s so important to keep your repertoire filled with short, powerful stories (see #1 above) that illustrate a point or a virtue that we can plug into a social situation that calls for just such a tale.

Just the other day, I was in line at the grocery store and listened as two children were complaining that their mom would not buy them a certain movie to see and how that movie was probably no good anyway. "Sounds like you two are like the wolf in the ’Sour Grapes’ story," I said to them. They asked what I meant. I told them the classic Aesops Fable. They loved it.

5. Resurrect your calling as a storyteller. Perhaps you weren’t meant to be a world famous storyteller (almost all of us weren’t), but that certainly doesn’t mean you have to aim low. My Uncle Mose always told me that his highest ambition was to be "the best storyteller in my neighborhood."

I used to think that was a modest goal, until he reminded me once after I was an adult that to be the best teller in his neighborhood meant being able to draw children and adults away from their TVs, movies, video games, etc. in order to come to his front porch and listen to him. He succeeded. Being the best storyteller in your neighborhood is no mean goal.

And I have never forgotten Mose’s answer to my question about the size of the perfect storytelling audience. "One," he quipped. "Never forget that. Most of the stories in the world are told from parent to child. Period. Always tell as if you are telling to one listener. You will create a sense of immediacy and meaning unmatched by all the mass storytellers in our culture.

"I’ll never forget what a child once told me after coming to hear my stories on my front porch instead of watching TV. ’The TV knows more stories than you,’ the child pointed out, ’but you know me.’"

- By Storyteller Joe Paris, reprinted with the author’s permission.

Author Information:
Name: Storyteller Joe Paris
The contents expressed in any article on are solely the opinion of author.

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