What does a storyteller do?by Penelope Starr on Sep. 11, 2011, under Arts
In the latest Story Works Group newsletter Glenda Bonin explains how she responds to the question, “what do you do?”
Looks of interest, amusement or skepticism are three responses I often get when I tell people I am a professional storyteller. Since my work does not seem to fall into a familiar job category, I am usually asked to explain what I do as a storyteller, what sort of stories I tell, who hires me and if it is actually possible to make a living telling stories.
Although I have been somewhat involved with performance of one kind or another for most of my life, I didn’t think of storytelling as a possible profession until 1996 after I had been downsized from a position in marketing for a non-profit organization. It was then when I took personal inventory, revisited old skills and discovered the joy that only comes from doing what I love to do. Whether I tell to audiences of children, tweens, teens, adults or seniors, if I do my job right I am able to make a connection through the art of story that might otherwise be impossible.
Every storyteller brings something unique to their work, making it possible to enrich the experience in a special way. Some people sing beautifully or play a musical instrument; others are poets, visual artists or dancers. Years ago I used puppetry and magic when I learned how to be a clown, so it is easy for me to call on these skills when I tell stories.
When I work in schools, I make certain my workshops and classroom exercises address specific educational learning standards and complement state common core standards. It is essential for storytellers working in schools to be well informed about what is expected, and be ready to provide connections in performances and workshops to as many educational goals as possible.
The popular thirty-second elevator speech that job seekers are told to perfect seldom covers all the questions I get about my work. This might be because many people inaccurately equate storytelling with pre-school story time where a book is read to a group of tiny tots. The fact is that storytelling is an age-old person-to-person form of communication allowing a storyteller to share stories with people of all ages and from every walk of life. Stories are told by different storytellers in almost every setting imaginable, and some storytellers specialize in order to meet the story interests of a specific niche: business/corporate, healing/therapeutic, educational, religious, cultural, historic, nature, environment/ecology. This is why it is so difficult to make one single statement to answer the question, “what does a storyteller do?”
You can contact Glenda at Glenda@storyartsgroup.com.