Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Story Trail: Kentucky and Fairmont

It's been a storied month for this old lady. Typically I have a few events in November but this year really piled them on and it's been a fun ride.

The Kentucky Storytelling Conference was outstanding as always. Part of my commitment to storytelling is to connect with storytellers in the states in my region, either online or face-to-face when possible. I much prefer face-to-face, of course, and conferences are one way to see and hear other tellers and maintain relationships that otherwise must rely on computer communications.

Jo Ann Dadisman and I traveled together and we had a great time. She was presenting this year, while I was simply going to get new ideas, hear great stories, and see friends. It's rare for me to go to a conference at which I don't have any responsibilities, and it was fun to just sit back and do what I wanted for a change. The workshop on using all five senses in a story echoed what I have taught myself but as always there were new ideas and things to be learned. I also attended Jo Ann's session on developing stories from family history; I have been telling more family stories in recent years and Jo Ann was right on target with her suggestions for breathing life into the people of the past. I actually sat out one session, taking a break to do a little writing and take a short nap. I was definitely into making this a leisurely experience!

The story swaps at the Kentucky conference are some of the best I've ever attended and I was a happy listener, preferring for once not to tell myself. One of the most intriguing things about storytelling is how unique each teller is in their method of presentation--how they use their voice, gestures, body language, eye contact, and words to shape what they want the audience to see (both actually and mentally) and remember. Young, old, fat, skinny, tall, short are all unimportant in storytelling--how a teller makes his/her story compelling and involving is key. So an evening of storytelling is constantly stimulating and surprising because the audience usually does not know just what the next teller will do.

On our way home, Jo Ann and I hammered out the details for the workshop and concert we were hosting the next weekend. It was a good thing we had that car time because we had a lot of loose ends to tie up!

It all came together in the end though. We had a fantastic concert, one where the performances dovetailed so neatly together that it seemed as if we'd all rehearsed together, which of course we did not (storytellers rarely do that). I MC'd the evening concert that featured our workshop presenter Susan Gordon, poet Kirk Judd, Jo Ann and me. We had lots of volunteer help to handle refreshments and book/CD sales, and the Folklife Center at Fairmont State University was a perfect venue. Dr. Judy Byers made us at home in her facility and did everything she could to make things go well. I was thrilled to see old friends Bob McWhorter and Betty Bea Cox, who were the moving forces behind the first West Virginia storytelling festivals, and who got many storytellers, myself included, started on the right path.

The workshop was fascinating. Susan Gordon led us through exercises that led us deep into the heart of the stories we brought to the class. I was startled to find new insights into a story I have loved since childhood but never told. There were several in the class who were new to storytelling and that was exciting. We were very happy that we had full registration for this workshop and it makes me want to plan another in the future. Success breeds energy, doesn't it?

I returned home Saturday evening tired but very satisfied, with a new story that will soon be added to my repertoire. The best part of all was having time with other storytellers. It is, after all, the people in our lives who make it all worthwhile, and I soaked up their creativity and excitement as fuel for my own storytelling fire.

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

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