Monday, May 7, 2012

Food for Thought, Food for the Soul: OOPS Storytelling Conference

I spent last weekend at the Ohio Order for the Preservation of Storytelling Conference in Mount Vernon, Ohio, just north of Columbus. The conference opened with a story swap at a lovely bed and breakfast. The first teller told a version of the Child ballad The Two Sisters in story form and I followed up by singing the Appalachian version of the ballad, Dreadful Wind and Rain. Later another teller told a story that included a mention of the gates of hell so I offered the ballad about the old woman who beats the devil called The Farmer's Curst Wife. I love it when stories and songs come together this way.

Keynoter and featured teller Elizabeth Ellis led us off with a morning session that had us thinking about the different hats we wear as storytellers: artist, craftsperson and business manager. She hit the nail on the head: we're most comfortable in our artist hat, but the other two are equally important. The craftsperson is the one who does all the arranging, setting up, know how to use the mic and how to place the chairs, etc. She used some pretty cool hats to illustrate her points!

I'm pretty good on the first two hats; it's the third one that needs some work. Elizabeth challenged us to set goals for each hat for the coming year and I know which goal needs the most attention! Time to think about how I can do a better job of marketing and managing the business end of storytelling. I've already made a few steps so that's a good start.

I presented my workshop twice in the afternoon. My sessions had a simple goal: give attendees three stories they could walk out and tell immediately. The format was simple too: I told a brief version of each story, then asked for volunteers to re-tell the story. At least 2 people re-told each tale, then we discussed how and when the story might be used, whether or not to add props, puppets, audience participation, etc. In one session we also wrote the bones down on a flipchart for a participant who felt she learned better that way. I brought props and puppets with me so the tellers could experiment with them in the stories. The best verification that it was a useful workshop came later in the evening when one young man told one of the stories at the open mic. That was cool, and just what I wanted to see happen.

The evening concert features three or four fine Ohio tellers and then an hour with Elizabeth. She was outstanding: funny, inspiring, challenging, thoughtful, and always pulling us into the stories with her. Afterwards we adjourned to the motel for a get-together that continued the fellowship of the day. Elizabeth told a story that referenced the Civil War battle on Shiloh Hill so I sang the old song about that battle for her. I was sorry to see the evening end. Morning brought us together one last time for breakfast, then it was time to head home.

Thanks, OOPS, for an inspiring weekend!

Copyright 2007 Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.


Wayfarin' Stranger said...

It's been many years since Ive been to Mt. Vernon, Ohio, but I remember liking the town then. Sounds like a fun event.

Wayfarin' Stranger said...

It's been many years since Ive been to Mt. Vernon, Ohio, but I remember liking the town then. Sounds like a fun event.

Pat MacKenzie said...

What nice validation you got when someone retold your story at a later session. You have such a talent. I can't even tell a one-liner joke without messing it up.

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