Friday, September 22, 2006

The nicest thing a person could say to a storyteller

I had a wonderful gig last week. Wonderful, because it took me away from my world of troubles for a day. Wonderful, because while being whisked away from worldly concerns for a moment, one of the members of my audience told me something that is truly the nicest thing a storyteller could hear from her audience.

My gig had been arranged last spring, when Julie Kryshak of the Wausau YWCA contacted me through the Wisconsin Humanities Council Speakers Bureau program. She was looking for someone for the fall kick-off luncheon, and thought my "Women of Substance" program meshed well with their motto of "Eliminating Racism-Empowering Women." Sounded like a great gig to me, and on top of everything else, Wausau is where I student taught, eons ago.

Off I went, driving through the cranberry bog country on a crisp fall day. Wausau has changed just a wee bit since I was there. I circled the block a few times but still managed to arrive in plenty of time for the event. I chatted with some of the women who were already there, enjoying the elegant setting of this older building. Though the coffee smelled heavenly, I kept my pipes smooth with infusions of water.

I enjoy these kinds of audiences; all women, all roughly in my age bracket, all open and unpretentious. During lunch, my tablemates regaled me with stories of the trials and tribulations of getting back into the dating scene in mid-life. We could have developed an entire program around some of their stories!

When the meal was over, I took my spot. I'd planned the program from among several stories in my repertoire that portrayed strong, independent women. Some chose marriage, but on their terms. Others didn't require the status of a husband. And one was content well into her years with everything being "just right," no matter how it worked out.

The Squire's Bride, a tale from Norway, in which the young lady tricks the old man into marriage to a horse.

Three Strong Women, a tall tale from Japan in which three generations of women help strengthen the "weak" sumo wrestler Forever Mountain.

Tatterhood, another Norwegian story, often a favorite of my middle school audiences, about a young lady who does things her own way.

Just Right, about an older woman whose fortune turns to a stone, and it's always "just right," hopefully like the stories just told today.

The audience was great. I saw those listeners who watched me intently, as well as those who were taking their mind on an imaginary journey. After the program, one of those second types of listeners approached me, asking if any of the stories were illustrated. I told her I'd seen a children's picture book of Three Strong Women, but like any storyteller, created my own version.

"Oh, well I thought sure they must have been picture books, because you told them so well, I could see those pictures in my mind."

Storytellers will tell you---what she said was the ultimate compliment to my ability as a teller. She didn't notice my gypsy-style dress, but saw pictures in her mind.

Someone at the event took photos, and said she'd send me some. So far, I haven't received any to share here. Until that happens, you'll have to picture it in your mind!

7 Comments:

At 7:51 PM, Blogger silverlight said...

What superb appreciation of your talent. Story telling is a wonderful ocupation. It was also a good thing for you be able to have this respit, from what is going on in your life right now.
You do know, that to the Native Americans. Stories have a living spirit. they are entities in their own right. And to have that ability, to inoke the spirit of the story when you relate it.

 
At 7:52 PM, Blogger silverlight said...

forgive my misspellings. argh!

 
At 8:28 PM, Anonymous Becca said...

I'm trying to get my little readers and writers (grade 1/2) to see pictures in their heads... sure wish you could come to my class!

Do you know the story of Clever Manka? One of my favorites... this lady made her DH mad because she contradicted him or something and he said she had to leave. But since he's not a cruel man, he'll let her take the thing she likes best from the house. She gives him lots of food and lots of wine and when he falls asleep all fat and happy she takes what she likes best from the house--him!

 
At 9:40 AM, Blogger Cindy Lee said...

how thrilling to have received such a compliment! Congrats to you! I wish I lived closer so I could enjoy your storytelling in person! hugs, Cindy Lee

 
At 4:16 AM, Blogger knitsteel said...

It sounds like the job and comment you needed. I think that many times, we don't say things that need to be said, even good things. I'm glad she did.

 
At 11:28 AM, Blogger Jane Swanson said...

Gwyn,
I MUST hear you spin your lovely tales. When are you going to be in Madison? I want to see pictures in my head too!
Take care my friend.
~jane

 
At 8:34 AM, Blogger KChic said...

This totally just reminded me of something I saw the other day. Has anyone ever heard of urban storytelling? There’s this group in NYC called the Moth, and they put on storytelling events there. Right now, they’ve teamed up with the TV network TNT (we know drama) for some reason, and are doing a contest on Myspace called “What's Your Story?”. Basically, you submit a video of yourself telling the story of the most risky thing you’ve ever done, and you can win a trip to New York and other cool stuff. It's actually really interesting and I strongly suggest everyone check it out: www.myspace.com/mothstories . They show a few videos on the myspace page that are worth watching if you’re confused by what they do…

 

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