Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Remind me to take notes, okay?

Whenever I'm introduced to a new group of kid-listeners, they immediately ask, "But where's the book? You don't have a book! How ya gonna remember the story?" I smile sweetly, tell them, "Oh, I don't need the book, my words will paint the pictures in your brain for you." I launch into my story, watching the little skeptics move into story trance; mouths slack-jawed, attention on me, but with a faraway look in their eyes that reminds me, no, this is NOT about you. It's the story. Those little dendrites are changing your words into pictures and firing them off to their grey matter.

Explain to me then, why at the moment am I wishing I had the book? Personal story, that's why. In the world of storytelling, especially in this part of the world, "personal stories" are the sign of a Real Storyteller. Real Storytellers don't need to rely on old folktales to captivate an audience. They create a "personal tale."

Now, as one who listens to as many stories as she tells, I will tell you right now that the good personal tales have undergone just as much honing as the old folktales. If they haven't, you probably don't want to hear them. If you hear one of these "not ready for prime time" tales, one of two things will happen.

1) You will feel like you just PAID to hear someone's therapy session.


2) You will have fallen asleep or traveled to some personal tale of your own, preferably one that is worth reliving, realizing that this story is one for which you "had to be there."

Personally, I think the trend to personal tales is a way to circumvent concerns regarding copyright issues. Still, since I aspire to be a Real Storyteller, I do have a couple personal tales I've told, neither of which is even remotely like therapy. I have spent considerable time and money--well, actually, not too much money, his rates are reasonable!--working on one of these tales with my storytelling coach, Don Falkos. I even took some notes when I worked with him.
Unfortunately, I think I last worked on it about a year ago.

I'm wanting to tell it for an audition next week, and though I have the framework, I keep thinking I'm missing some key moment, some critical story crafting element, some clever and humorous device usually present in my work.

In other words, I'm wishing I had the book.

Probably, I'm just suffering from another characteristic behavior of Real Storytellers, the characteristic known as Insecurity About One's Work. This is a trait that crosses boundaries and creates a sisterhood among artists of all types---storytellers, actors, musicians, poets, artists, scrapbookers. If it truly is insecurity, I can take comfort in the insecurities of all those who have walked the same road.

But just in case--should you happen to be driving in the Upper Mississippi River Valley area in the next week or so, and notice a woman carrying on a conversation with no one, not even a cell phone, it's just me.

I'm not taking any chances. Since there isn't a book, I'm practicing my story over and over and over. At least I have a captive audience!


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