To the first response I take a deep breath, smile and explain that, while reading to kids is great and important, I tell stories, mostly to grown-ups. The conversation can go in many different directions from there and, if I'm lucky, it leads to a really good discussion. It often does.
It's the second response that I love, because it gives me a chance to do a magic trick. Everyone is a storyteller; you already know that. Storytelling a crucial part of how people understand their lives and connect with others. The magic trick is helping someone see that the everyday communication they already engage in is really storytelling and how, if they wanted, they could expand on it and tell a more polished story. massmouth sees this happen routinely at mouthoffs and slams.
When I perform the magic trick, all I do is this:
- I talk about storytelling as part of every day life
- Then I let the conversation move onto something else
- Within a few minutes I ask them a leading question and I listen to their response. I let them tell me a story. I listen with interest and maybe ask another question or two
- And then I thank them for telling me their story, mentioning something I enjoyed about the story.
So what can someone tell a story about, even if they don't think of themselves as a storyteller? Here are some suggestions for stories; these are all topics that can take a moment or an hour, none are the be-all and end-all of storytelling, nor is this list comprehensive. Many of these are topics massmouth has used at slams or will be using at upcoming events.
- favorite meals or foods
- embarrassing moments
- family (massmouth slam, January 31)
- eros and love (massmouth slams February 14 and February 22)
- your kids - or someone else's
- dastardly deeds or heroism
(c) 2010 Laura S. Packer