FAQs ON STORYTELLING….(or what the hell is storytelling and why do you do it?)

Dear World,

Every week for the past 9 years I have been asked the same questions, questions about the kind of work I do.  It doesn’t matter where I am, whenever I mention what I do for a living I get asked one or more of the these same questions.  Questions that are laced with a wonderful incredulity that I have learned to really enjoy…these questions are:

Are you really a storyteller?    Is that your actual job?  Do you do anything else?  Where do you do it?  Where is the furthest place you have traveled to?  Is it only for kids?   Do you travel?   What kinds of stories do you tell?  Do you get paid?  What is it?  What does it look like?  What made you become a storyteller?  Are you a Seanchaidh?  Can anyone become a storyteller?

I’m going to field these as best as I can.  Be assured that given the nature of my work (magpie, liar, thief, creator), these could change when next we meet and you ask me again.

Q: Are you really a storyteller?

A: Yes.

Unfair brevity?  Alright.

Yes that is my job title.  I am also known as a self employed freelance artist.  So I stand up in front of a live audience & tell stories.  It is often used to describe writers, directors, artists, singers etc.  In fairness story informs all of their work so they too are considered a type of storyteller.  I stand up and I tell stories without a script, a set, or any props.  It is just me, you and the stories.  The closest thing I can draw compare it to is a one-person show.

Q: Is that your actual job?

A: That is my actual job.

Q: Do you do anything else?

A: No.  Welllllll….all my work is based on storytelling.  I am a performer of stories, a writer of stories, a consultant for companies on narrative, a trainer for corporations/charities on how to be better speakers (i.e. storytelling skills), a university lecturer on storytelling and creativity, a workshop facilitator on storytelling and living a creative life.  A host of storytelling events.  A project manager of storytelling based events.

Q: Where do you do it?

A: Anywhere and everywhere.  I am based in London so I work here a lot.  I have told in a variety of places such as: theatres, art centres, universities, schools, libraries, beaches, castles, ancient roundhouses, converted whiskey cellars, temples, churches, forests, homes.  I have told at festivals, literary events, celebrations, parties, funerals, weddings, baby namings.

I also travel and have told stories and taught in a lot of countries including: Canada, USA, Brazil, Tenerife, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Germany, Portugal, Spain, Romania, Ireland, Scotland, England, Wales.

Q: Where is the furthest place you have travelled to?

A: Probably Winnipeg for the residency at the Centre for Creative writing and Oral Culture (University of Manitoba) or maybe Sao Paolo, Brazil for the Boca do Ceu festival in 2014.

Q: Is it only for kids?

No. I have told stories to someone as young as 3 weeks old and someone as old as 97.  I work with all ages and often tell for adults.   The stories I choose suit the audience I have.

Q: What kinds of stories do you tell?

I love to tell myths.  I also tell fables, folktales, fairytales, legends, anecdotes, original, historical and contemporary tales.  The oldest story I have is about 3000 years old from Sumeria.   The most recent would be from the last century.

Q: Do you get paid?

Yes, rather essential part of the job.  Otherwise I would be very very thin and very very homeless.  I find getting paid helps hugely with eating and paying rent.

Q: What is storytelling?

This is a long debated conversation that goes on all over the world.  There are many versions of an answer for this.  So to hazard a go at a definition: storytelling is a performer telling stories live to an audience.

Q: What made you become a storyteller?

Began my life as a writer. Daughter of an actor and a poet.  Found my way to storytelling in my twenties.  Began by watching what others were doing.  Discovered an artform that can create transformative personal experiences for the audience, and have spent the last 9 years exploring that.

Q: Are you a Seanchaidh?

No.

This is an old Irish word for a type of storyteller, but does not encompass all types of storytellers.  To be a seanchaidh is to be part of a taught/inherited tradition.   They are lore bearers, holders of history and story of the locale.  There is a word in Irish: a scealaí, which means a tale teller. That is probably the closest approximation to what I am.

Q: Can anyone become a storyteller?

Some say yes, some say no.  Storytelling, like theatre or music or writing is a dedication of one’s life to an artform.  It takes a lot of time and work to get good at it and to get the gigs to make money at it.  If it is your passion then go for it and find out.
I think that covers all the FAQs I get on storytelling.  Did I miss any?

In cahoots

Clare

1 thought on “FAQs ON STORYTELLING….(or what the hell is storytelling and why do you do it?)

  • Hi Clare,
    Jackie Tait gave me your webpage. I teach Spoken Word and Storytelling at the State University of New York in Potsdam, NY and, this fall, will teach at Semester at Sea for their Fall 2016 Voyage.
    I would like to share this blog with my students if that’s OK.
    It will be grand for them to hear voices and perspectives of storytellers from all over the world.

    I will return to England in April 2017. I hope we might be able to meet then in person and I will have an opportunity to see your work. Best wishes as the autumn approaches.

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