Telling a story is fun and a great way to connect with people.
I enjoy telling stories—and have for a long time. Several years ago, I went online to see if I could find a nearby storytellers’ group. It seemed like it might be more fun to be amongst other storytellers. I found a group that met regularly in a library located in an adjacent county nearly an hour drive from home.
When I arrived at the Hancock County Library, it looked new and impressive. The community had outdone itself, as this was an asset any citizen could look at with pride. A welcoming entrance led to an area with dozens of computers. Nearly all were in use. On one side of this area were several meeting rooms and on the other side was a service counter that introduced patrons to the shelves of books it guarded!
I arrived early for my first meeting and waited outside a room that had a sign hanging on its door: “Story Telling 1:00 pm.” After a few people entered, I followed. In the center of the room was a circle of about a dozen chairs. They were filling up, so I chose one with an empty seat on each side. After more people and a few adjustments, the circle was full.
Sitting three seats to my left, a white-haired man who looked to be in his seventies or eighties opened the meeting by welcoming us; told us his name; and, starting from his left, asked each person to introduce themself and say where they were from. It was apparent this man was the leader and that most everyone there knew each other.
When introductions were completed, the leader shared a few ground rules. Everyone in the group was invited to tell a story. It should be between five and ten minutes long. When the storyteller finished, anyone in the group could comment. Here the leader paused and said emphatically, “The comments should be positive and constructive. Those commenting should not say, ‘That reminds me of … and go on to tell their own story.’” He then asked people to raise their hand if they would like to tell a story; and if you were not sure now, you could volunteer later. He assured us that there would be time for everybody to talk.
The stories unfolded and were, for the most part, interesting and entertaining. The common thread was that each person seemed pleased to be able to say what he or she did, and they were comfortable doing so. I attended this group about a dozen times and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
Exploring possibilities further, I found a storytelling group that met in a local library just ten minutes from home. This group was led by a professional who was supported by a grant. These storytellers were more advanced in the art and some had won prizes at competitions. One woman re-told a long story that dealt with her struggles with brain surgery. She had told it at a competition and won a prize and offered a CD to anyone who wanted one. Another member of the group was a cantor and he told interesting stories but also included a lengthy chant, which to me only proved he could carry a tune. The leader offered advice and shared tips learned from his own storytelling at the end of each session.
I attended these sessions for nearly a year. They were enjoyable and instructive, but they also taught me I did not want to be involved in storytelling that was like a track meet or a tennis match. For me, storytelling would not be a competitive sport, just a time to share and have fun.
Stories can be written, but in many cases, a story best achieves its potential when it is told. Writing is work. Telling a story is easier and can be fun for the teller and the audience. Anyone with a story, and that includes almost everyone (including you), will find that participating in a storytelling group can be rewarding.
By Savvy Senior
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