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The Art of Storytelling

Let me tell you a story. You have heard that, seen that, said that, now let me really tell you the story behind that! I am a storyteller, really! Storytelling can be an art, an avocation or a full time job. I’m not talking about the story of last weekend’s party or your bad date night, or the ever popular weather story. I am not talking about the librarian or after school educator reading a book out loud, that’s story-time. The storytelling I want to tell you about is person to person recounting of a tale with no notes, books or script, just the telling of a story. Storytelling has many meanings these days and they all are derived from its beginning as the name for an oral narrative.

I had seen a couple of storytellers, but it didn’t register with me. It might be because they mixed music with their storytelling that I thought first about the music. Then I saw a performance by a storyteller and I was hooked! That performance was the story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight from King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table. I was transported to long ago Wales and travelled right along with the characters. That’s what Storytelling can do to you.

At that point I began to research it because I knew I was supposed to become a storyteller. I spent two years reading, researching, listening and lurking through the National Storytelling Network list-serv. I finally began with a few stories to tell and sought free audiences to craft my experience and tried to emulate what I had seen. I set a five year plan in motion to get known and learn as much as I could. I took workshops at the Connecticut Storytelling Festival and I travelled anywhere that I saw storytellers perform. I watched storytellers on line, I went to all of their websites. I practiced, like all things, perfection comes from hours of practice.

My storytelling journey has taken me to several state, regional and National Storytelling  Conferences. I have performed in many states. I tell stories to children of all ages, at museums, in school residencies, at private events and in nursing homes and Alzheimer units. I tell Aesop fables, Grimm’s tales, Arthurian legends, American history, Connecticut history, folk tales and fairy tales, multicultural tales from around the world and agricultural and horse stories. I tell stories in after school.

Storytelling for after school is a perfect fit. This is a basic speaking, listening, language, vocabulary and SEL (Social Emotional Learning) tool. It fits all occasions and subjects and can be used with all ages.  The human brain is wired to learn from stories told. I don’t tell stories all the time, I don’t want to burn out my after school students on stories. I do tell them to supplement whatever we are doing. Sometimes an individual student will hear a brief story. Some days the entire group will hear a story to launch an activity or sum one up.

If you are intrigued, you too can tell a story. Choose a folk tale or fairy tale picture book. Read that story over and over. Then tell the general ideas of the story to someone. Tell it a few times, each time adding more detail and a couple of gestures or expressions. Now gather some students and tell them the story. You are now on the road to becoming an after school storyteller.


Carolyn Stearns is a professional storyteller and Site Coordinator for EASTCONN Community Arts Connection.


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