The best things in life sometimes are free!
I am a member of a worldwide internet "family" called Storytell. Storytell is a listserv hosted by Texas Women's University, and over the 10+ years I've been participating, I've been fortunate to meet many of my fellow posters IRL (in real life for the non-Net savvy)! Two of these wonderful tellers have been my roommates at the Northlands Storytelling Network conference the past few springs, and I could not have asked for more fun, along with a definite New England accent to add spark that matches the color of the speaker's hair!
Not too long ago, one of the discussion threads centered on "getting the good quote." Storytellers are always open to ideas and advice when it comes to presenting themselves to potential audiences, and the listserv is a wealth of knowledge shared freely by those who have forged ahead of us. The "good quote" refers to little snippets that look good on brochures, websites and other publicity materials. I have a few quotes on my homemade brochure, but not one of those "good quotes." That will change very soon, when I finally get a professionally designed brochure.
I have a son who is a junior in high school, and lucky for us/unlucky for him, his English teacher has a website on which she posts all the assignments for each day. Checking this site a few weeks ago, I was delighted to see that she was including a unit on "storytelling" as part of the folklore curriculum. I sent her an email, sharing that "although Taylor probably won't volunteer this fact, I'm a professional storyteller and I'm off work next Tuesday."
The teacher was thrilled to hear this, and invited me to come as a "special guest speaker." I spent the day, in other words, telling stories to my son's 16 and 17 year old classmates. Sound fun? It was.
When I first dove into storytelling, these kids were in preschool and kindergarten, ready audiences for my practicing. Their teachers were all too happy to have me come in every week or so and share a story, and it was great practice for me to find stories that matched their current curricular focus. Some of these kids got to hear me more than once; I also was a regular at Cub Scout events and my church.
The kids had no idea who this "guest speaker" would be, and as each class filed in, someone would recognize me and squeal, "Oh, it's YOU!" One girl even gave me a big hug, like long lost friends. The boys weren't quite so bold, but a few of them said, "I loved your stories in 3rd grade." One girl asked if I'd tell "that story about a spider." She wasn't sure what it was, what happened, but she remembered that she "loved it." I told that class "Anansi Steals the Stories," and that was the one she recalled. My first ever special request!
I shared a couple stories with each class; all the kids heard one from Kenya called "The Tail of the Linani Beast," which I tell using my djembe. Gets them every time. After that, I told each class a different story from my repertoire, then shared tips for learning and telling their own stories.
I could tell the kids enjoyed the stories. Because so many of them knew me, they didn't have to adopt this "cool" attitude. When Taylor got home from school, he told me "Everyone loved the stories, they all want to come over here and have you tell more."
The real prize came a few days later. Taylor came home with a couple of thank you cards, one from the teacher, and one signed by many of the kids. Lots of the comments were great, but this one is priceless.
"I loved your stories when I was 5 and I still love them at 16! Thanks so much!" Susannah M.
I could have paid lots of money to a publicist, and they still wouldn't have written such a great quote. Susannah has granted permission for me to immortalize her words in my new publicity materials.
Thank YOU, Susannah!