StoryTelling-Journey to the ImagiNation
with Dianne De las Casas
<Note from Verla. The actual workshop was held using some alias/nicknames that have been changed to the speakers' real names so that people who were not there will be better able to see who is talking.>
Verla: Okay everyone...tonight's workshop is about to begin. Make sure that once we start, you keep all personal conversations to private messages only. No hellos or goodbyes to others until the workshop is done.
Verla: Feel free to ask questions and talk, as long as you stay on topic.
Verla: Dianne is our leader tonight. Would you like to tell us a bit about yourself before we start, Dianne?
Dianne: For those of you who don't know me, let me introduce myself. My name is Dianne de Las Casas.
Dianne: I am a professional storyteller and children's writer. We're going to take a Journey to the ImagiNation tonight and learn about storytelling.
Dianne: Are you all ready to take a trip?
Dianne: This is our itinerary - Planning a Trip - Your Destination, Packing the Essentials, The Actual Journey (Storytelling), and Landing (on your feet)
Dianne: The most common FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) I get is this: What's the difference between storytelling and reading out loud?
Dianne: With storytelling, there are no books involved. You tell stories by heart. You learn a story (not rote memorization) and tell it. Before we get into that, let's talk about the basics first.
Dianne: Your Destination: Purpose for your program. Why are you telling stories?
Dianne: We are all storytellers in that we relate events and feelings by telling a story about it.
Dianne: Taking it a step further, telling stories to an audience is different.
Dianne: Ask yourself, "What is my motivation for telling stories?" It could be to relate a story from childhood that you absolutely loved, to relate a family historical event, a personal anecdote you'd like to share, or just for the love of stories.
Dianne: Part of the storytelling destination is finding your voice.
Dianne: As in writing, with storytelling, you have to find your voice.
Dianne: Now, are there any questions about Your Destination?
Verla: So you are saying that all of us are storytellers in some way?
Dianne: Yes, we are all storytellers.
Verla: Because we tell others about daily events in our lives, for instance?
Dianne: But storytelling for performance and storytelling in daily life is different.
KarmaW: But not all can do it to an audience. That takes skill and practice.
Verla: Right. Because you are "on" when you tell stories for performance.
Lyra: yup--I don't act out stories, just read them
Dianne: We can all tell to an audience, it just depends on our motivation.
Dianne: Next time you go to a family function, just listen.
Verla tapes her mouth with duct tape. That's the ONLY way she can listen and not talk....
Dianne: Everyone tells a story. "Boy, you should have seen the one I caught last week!"
Dianne: It's how we humans relate to each other
Dianne: There is a saying - "You can't hate someone when you know their story."
Dianne: And it's true.
Verla: Hmmm. Interesting saying...
Lyra: I like that saying
Dianne: We all get to know each other by listening and learning each other's stories.
Verla: And learning about others is fun, too.
Dianne: Back to finding your voice.
Dianne: Storytelling involves personal style. If you are quiet or gregarious or a natural wit, your personality will shine in your storytelling.
Dianne: I am a people person so I choose stories that have audience participation because I like that intimate contact with my audience.
Dianne: Does anyone have any questions?
KarmaW: Dianne, do you write all the stories you tell?
Dianne: Karma, I perform a lot of folktales as well as original material.
Verla: So even a quiet person who isn't naturally boisterous can be a good storyteller?
KarmaW: Verla, that leaves you and me OUT! : )
Dianne: Verla, absolutely!! Sometimes a story can be more powerful when delivered with a quiet deliberateness.
Verla: Hey, are you listening to that, lyra?
Lyra: I am shy when it comes to story-telling
Dawn: I love to ham it up
Dianne: Dawn, you would be great at telling TALL tales. Make up your own!
Verla: I'm a ham, too.
Dianne: Verla, I know you could probably tell a doozie of a whopper!!!
Verla: But...what if you have a TERRIBLE memory?
KarmaW: Cheat notes..
Dianne: Verla, about memory, we are going to talk about those steps shortly.
Verla: Oh, good.
Dianne: My next section deals with finding a story.
Dianne: Here are the places you can find a story. Take notes!
Dianne: 1. Folktales, fairy tales, myths, legends, tall tales, and fables.
Dianne: 2. Family history
Dianne: 3. Personal anecdotes (most embarrassing moment)
Dianne: 4. Oral source (someone who hands a story to you from the oral tradition)
Dianne: 5. Literary sources (be careful about copyright infringement)
Dianne: When you are telling someone else's version of a story, be sure to give credit to the source.
Dianne: Most storytellers don't mind if you share their version of a tale as long as you credit them and don't put the story in written or recorded form.
Lyra: do you have stories that other storyteller's use?
Dianne: If you are in a library setting and want to promote a particular book, it's okay to retell the story in your own words as long as you credit the book and even show the book to the children.
Verla: Is it copyright infringement when you tell a story from a book? Like in reading a book, only you don't use the book?
Dianne: Lyra, yes. I tell a story called "Roly Poly Rice Ball" by Judy Sierra. She gave me permission to retell it in a live session only.
Lyra: is it a book?
Dianne: Her version of the story is in her book entitled "Multicultural Tales to Tell Children"
Dianne: She is the only source I could find for that story so I asked her permission to tell it just be safe.
KarmaW: Good idea.
Dianne: Most storytellers are not in the business for self-glorification. We are here to share the wonderful gift of stories.
Verla: Yep. Always better to be safe than sorry later.
Lyra: but if the book is called "Multicultural Tales to Tell Children," why couldn't you just tell any of the stories in it?
Dianne: Lyra, because I am a professional. I am paid and I profit from my telling.
Lyra: I mean, isn't that what the book is for?
Lyra: But who else but a professional would tell the stories?
Dianne: Her publisher doesn't want anyone else to profit from their copyright.
Dianne: Lyra, many librarians and teachers use storytelling in the classroom. They are not considered professional storytellers.
Verla: Hmmm. So it's okay to tell stories NOT for profit without permission, but if you are going to get paid for it, then you should make sure you have permission to use the story first?
Dianne: Verla, it is best to obtain permission first. Often, storytellers will give their consent for retelling if you credit them as the source. They put that in the beginning of their books or tapes.
Verla: Okay. It's always okay, though, to tell your OWN stories, right?
Dianne: ALWAYS okay to tell your own stories unless Uncle Ned doesn't want his past revealed! :)
Lyra: (how personal of a story about "Uncle Ned" would you tell kids?)
Dianne: Are we ready to pack now?
Dawn: Take me away
Verla gets out her BIGGEST suitcase! "I'm ready!"
Dianne: OK. Let's pack.
Dianne: Packing the Essentials - Elements of a story.
Verla: wine, books, paper, pencils, computer,
Dianne: I'll go over this part briefly because, as writers, you should already know this.
Dianne: As in writing, storytelling requires that you know the characters, setting, plot, conflict, and resolution.
Dianne: Build strong characters and describe them with detail but not too much detail.
Dianne: Describe the setting - are you in the woods? What does it look like? How does it smell?
Dianne: Use your sensory perceptions. Know your plot and give the conflict meaning. Why should your listeners care about the problem in this story?
Dianne: When coming to a resolution, tie any loose ends.
Dianne: Don't use trite endings like . . . and they lived happily ever after. Be creative with resolutions but make them make sense.
Dianne: Learning the Story. This is the part you asked about, Verla.
Dianne: Storytelling does not require rote memorization. Instead, you "learn" the story by knowing the basic story outline, adding details as you tell.
Dianne: Each telling of the same story will be different as a result but the story will never change.
Dianne: There will be spontaneity and freshness with each retelling.
KarmaW: Just like the ancient campfire tales...
Dianne: Karma, exactly.
Verla: Okay, so...you need to "know" your story well before you tell it. Then, bring it alive through the same techniques you use when writing a good story by using action, characterization and sensory details. And...NO memorization of the story? So you learn the basic story but don't try to tell it exactly the same each time?
Dianne: Verla, there will be some memorization and I'll get to that soon.
Dianne: But the story itself will NOT be memorized line for line, word for word.
Dianne: For those of you who are visual, learn the story by picturing events in the story much like the frames in a movie.
Dianne: Play the story in your mind as a film, stopping and rewinding when necessary.
Dianne: Story mapping and story boarding are also good ways to learn a story.
Verla: Ah...a new technique....
Verla: Tell us more, Dianne.
Dianne: With story mapping, you outline the story and sequence of events or draw a map with one event leading to the other.
Dianne: With story boarding, you learn the story much like an animator draws a cartoon, frame by frame.
Dianne: With this technique, you will physically draw out your stories using stick figures if necessary. :)
Lyra: stick figures--my kind of art!
Verla: But...you don't do this WHILE telling the story, do you?
Dianne: For those of you who are auditory, you can read the story out loud into a tape recorder and play it back, storing the details of the story as you hear it.
Verla: Hmmmm. I'm not really clear about the differences between those two techniques, Dianne
KarmaW: Dianne, is mapping like spider graphing?
Dianne: Verla, story mapping is hard to explain without drawing it!
Verla hands Dianne a crayon...
Dianne: Picture a pirate's treasure map or the map of Pooh's Hundred Acre Woods.
Dianne: You would draw a map outlining the story sequence by sequence drawing necessary details.
Dianne: With story boarding, it's more like a comic strip.
Dianne: Each scene that advances the story will be drawn in boxes.
Dianne: Animators use this technique.
Verla: Hmmm. I confess I'm still a little confused about what story mapping might look like....
Verla: I can picture a story board easily. I just don't see how you could MAP a book
Dianne: Story mapping - Let's take Little Red Riding Hood
Dianne: On a map you would draw Mom's cottage.
Verla: Okay. I see that. Go on...
Dianne: Then a dotted line from the cottage into the forest (which you would draw).
Dianne: You are actually using pictures to illustrate your story.
KarmaW: I get it.
KarmaW: I was thinking it was like graphing a story.
Dianne: Graphing a story is called "outlining"
Dianne: Or memory clustering.
KarmaW: My visual memory is not good....
KarmaW: Better to use the tape recording. Ah, outlining! Now that's putting in terms I understand..
Dianne: Story boarding is the same concept but a different format.
Dianne: You draw each scene using your visual imagery.
Verla: So it's essentially like a storyboard, only it is drawn like a treasure map with lines leading from one part of the story to another instead of boxes in rows like a comic book has?
Dianne: Verla, you got it!
Dianne: It's just a technique to stir our visual imaginations.
Dianne: If you memorize a story, you are bound to forget what line came next.
Verla: (Whew! About time I got SOMETHING! I was beginning to think I was really dense.)
Dianne: When you picture a story, you know the story's structure and even if you get lost, there is room for ad libbing and spontaneity.
Lyra: interesting, Dianne
KarmaW: That's true.
Dianne: For those of you who are tactile in nature (as many writers are), go to the computer and re-type the story or re-write it with a pen.
Dianne: Sometimes seeing the words will help with learning the story.
KarmaW: Now THAT'S how I will do it.
Verla: Ah HA! So even one who hasn't got a great memory can improvise and still get a story told if they KNOW that first Red Riding hood has to walk through the woods, then meet the wolf, then go to Grandma's, then...etc
Dianne: My personal choice of story learning is visualization. I see the pictures in my mind's eye and then describe them to the audience.
Dianne: Verla, EXACTLY! :)
Lyra: do you do this with every story you tell?
Dianne: Let's review those steps again.
Lyra: yes, teacher (g)
Dianne: Visualization, story mapping (think treasure maps), story boarding (think comic strips), audio recordings of self reading story, or re-typing or re-writing the story.
Dianne: About memorization.
Verla: Uh oh...now she has hit my big problem...
Dianne: Keep memorization to a minimum. You will need to memorize opening sentences, any chants, poems or repetitive phrases in the story, and the ending sentence.
KarmaW: Verla! A minimum... Good news!
Dianne: Like I said, if you memorize the whole story, when you are under pressure, you may forget the next line.
Dianne: With learning the story by heart, you know the basic story structure and can shoot from the hip if you get stuck.
Verla: Please tell me cue cards are okay to use?
Verla: (I mean...When I was giving a talk once, I even forgot my OWN NAME because it wasn't written on my cue card!)
Verla: (That was one of my MOST embarrassing moments.)
Dianne: Verla, for speeches yes. For storytelling professionally, no.
Dianne: Verla brings up a good point though.
Lyra: I think I would want at least some cue cards with the story map on it - like a cheat sheet
Dianne: You can use cue cards to help with the story learning process.
Dianne: I should have listed that. Each scene can be written out on cards. You can review them right before you go on.
Verla: (And have them in your hip pocket in case you freeze up totally?)
Dianne: For those of you who like cheat sheets, there is flannel board storytelling.
Verla: Ah HAH!
Lyra: how do you stick to the flannel board?
Lyra: (I saw a flannel board used by a librarian)
Dianne: Each character and setting is velcroed or stuck to a magnetic board.
Verla: Now we are getting to MY kind of story. One with "cheat sheets!"
Dianne: There is all kinds of storytelling but I am just talking about traditional storytelling in this workshop.
Verla: I'm glad to know there are different ways for different kinds of people.
Dianne: There is Storigami, string stories, cutting paper stories, overhead projector stories...
Verla: Whew! Lots of kinds.
Dianne: You get the idea.
KarmaW: Dianne, are you going to tell us about finding an audience?
KarmaW: A captive audience?
Lyra: shackles & chains?
Verla: (Jails, karma.)
Dianne: Karma, audiences are easy to find.
Verla leans forward and perks up ears...
Dianne: You can first start at the local library and volunteer as a storyteller.
Verla: AH HA! I did just that!
Dianne: Libraries are always understaffed and welcome and free help.
KarmaW: Okay, I'm talking rural area though...
Dianne: Verla knows.
KarmaW: I asked a librarian, and she said, "No, we don't have a need." I was floored!
Verla: Yikes, Karma!
Dianne: Karma, I travel to rural areas all the time. Try churches and community centers.
Dianne: Also organizations like the Girl and Boy Scouts
Verla: Cub Scouts, too.
KarmaW: How about schools?
Dianne: Many schools will welcome you with open arms if you are free.
KarmaW: Well, I'm free....for now.
KarmaW: After the Newberry I'll have to charge them... : )
Dianne: Try offering a buy-one, get-one-free.
Lyra: how long did you give your skills away for free before charging, Dianne?
Verla: Good question, lyra!
Dianne: I cold called on several people - bookstores, children's museums, anywhere where there were children's activities.
Dianne: But I first started out for free at my local library as a volunteer, just like Verla.
Verla: Ah ha.
Verla: But they expect me to READ books at the library, Dianne.
Verla: Not improvise...
Dianne: There I honed my skills and tried new techniques until I found the ones that worked for me.
Dianne: The kids loved it. They never knew what to expect.
Dianne: My children's librarian encouraged me to take the professional leap and I did.
Dianne: She gave me some contacts.
Dianne: Verla, first develop a relationship with your children's librarian. Ask them if you can tell a story.
KarmaW: Maybe I can coerce my library into reconcidering..
Verla: You should TRY, karma.
Verla: My library was SURE I'd quit after one session.
Lyra: what "tricks" have worked the best, Dianne?
Verla: What audience participation "tricks" work the best for you, Dianne?
Dianne: Audience participation is key in getting children involved in your stories.
Dianne: I like chants and songs within stories to keep the audience with me.
Verla: Hmmm. Like chants and songs that the kids know and can say with you, Dianne?
Dianne: This brings me to my next topic.
Dianne: Storytelling techniques.
Dianne: Creative movement - Using creative movement to add drama to your storytelling.
Verla: Creative movement being...what?
Dianne: Verla, creative movement - flapping your arms to connote an eagle flying...
Dianne: Audience participation - Stories belong to everyone, especially to your audience. When they participate in the story (chants, songs, synchronized movements), they are a part of the story.
MARI: (I like the singing part!)
Dianne: With younger kids, audience participation is almost a must. It keeps their attention. They are SO wiggly.
Verla: Kids love to be active. But don't they sometimes get carried away and get too boisterous?
Dawn: True Verla
Dianne: Verla, that's where you must maintain control of the audience.
Verla: Ah...and you are going to tell us about audience control before you are done?
Dianne: You cue them.
Dianne: Storytelling techniques.
Dianne: 1. Creative movement. (moving your body with the story)
Dianne: 2. Audience participation (chants, songs, synchronized movements)
Dianne: 3. The power of your voice (the timbre, the tone, the highs and lows)
Dianne: It is NOT necessary to give every character in a story a different voice.
Dianne: This could get confusing to you and even to your audience. Instead, try different tones and vary your voice.
Dianne: You can create characters by changing the tone of your voice, not altering it.
Verla: You mean like talking deeper or higher? Softer or louder?
Dianne: Verla, yes. Exactly.
Dianne: Voice can heighten excitement and build suspense.
Dianne: Would you like a suggestion for an Imagination activity?
Verla: Yes, please. And then we will have to close. Our hour is up. :-(
Dianne: This is to try at home with a partner.
Dianne: Imagine yourself in a special place. A place that you loved as a child.
Dianne: It could be real or it could be imaginary.
Dianne: Now remember the space. Is it a room? Is it a tree house? Is it a hiding place?
Dianne: What does it look like? Describe it in detail to your partner.
Dianne: What does it smell like? Can you feel any part of that space? What is the texture like?
Dianne: Now grab your partner's hand and have him/her tour your special place. Tell him/her when to step up/down, when to duck, when to climb up the stairs, etc. and physically lead him or her.
Dianne: As the activity progresses, you will notice the space becomes more real to you and your partner.
Dianne: Then switch. Have your partner describe his/her special place (as a CHILD) and take you on a tour.
Dianne: This activity helps with imagination, visualization, and picturing the details.
Dianne: All of which help with storytelling and Writing for kids!
Dianne: With storytelling as with writing, Imagination is crucial.
Lyra: A new game to play at writing gatherings!
Verla: Helps you to release some of those inhibitions that we all have.
Dianne: Last words.
Dianne: Landing on your feet.
Dianne: Bring your audience back down to earth. End on a positive note.
Verla: How do you bring them back down, Dianne?
Dianne: End program with gratitude and say "Thank You" to your audience. You couldn't do it without them.
Dianne: Lastly, congratulate the pilot. Pat yourself on the back for a great trip!
Verla: And...how DO you bring them back down?
Dianne: Verla, if the last story was a bit exciting and rambunctious, sing a quiet song.
Dianne: If the story was serious, end on a lighter note.
Dianne: Your audience needs to leave on a level note.
Dianne: That is your responsibility to your audience.
Verla: Ah..so if they were laughing hysterically, you want to calm them down a little by being somewhat serious at the end.
Dianne: Verla, if you let 300 kids go back to class like that, the teachers would kill you!
Lyra: how many stories do you usually tell, Dianne?
Dianne: Lyra, for a 45 minute program, I tell 3 stories with stretchers and songs.
Lyra: so each story performance is about 15 minutes long...
Dianne: Lyra, each story varies in length. I also have songs and poems and riddles in between.
Dianne: Are there any more questions?
Lyra: you did great, Dianne! Made me understand storytelling
Flyinggoat: do you like using visual aids?
Flyinggoat: puppets or pictures?
Dianne: Yes, I also use puppets and props.
Dianne: But, that's another workshop.
MARI: How long have you been doing this?
Dianne: Mari, I've been a storyteller all my life (every storyteller has to say that) but I've been telling professionally for 2 years now.
Lyra: Is it a lucrative profession?
Dianne: Lyra, you can make a very decent living at storytelling if you work hard.
Verla: Dianne...thank you SO much for a WONDERFUL session tonight!
Dianne: Lyra, thank you.
Dawn: I enjoyed it Dianne. i can't wait to practice
MARI: Dianne, thanks
Dianne: I have to say that you all were great participants with very thoughtful questions.
Dianne: Thank you for having me.
Lyra: We enjoyed your talk, Dianne
Dianne: Lyra, :)
Dianne: I hope it was helpful.
Verla: Oh, it WAS! Very helpful. And...for all of you...Dianne will be back on May 26th
Verla: Her topic on the 26th will be Marketing to Schools. Tell everyone to come!
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