Who Should Hear Our Stories—A Cry for an Answer
We all know the power of stories to touch and heal hearts and to connect communities. In today’s political climate, story is needed more than ever. Although we have all most likely experienced being moved by a story, a performance that touched us deeply, it is most likely that our minds and hearts reflect those of the teller.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot. If we are truly interested in healing, in connecting, in finding common ground, how do we get those to the table, to hear the stories that reflect the wounds of the community? Conversely, are we just as interested in hearing their stories as a foundation on which to build a new bridge?
I throw this out to the storytelling community as a plea for a response on how we can make this happen. Thank you for listening.
Recently, I did a lecture on the storytelling process at a local university. Toward the end of the presentation, I focused more on presentation vs. story, and brought up the subject of distractions, both from the point of view of the teller as well as the audience. We discussed that from time to time, we may encounter an audience member that is talking, texting, or just plain disruptive (more likely in a middle or high school setting). I advised them, as I had been taught, to always look for the friendly face.
We also addressed the ways in which an audience member could be distracted by the teller. We discussed clothing, hair, fidgeting, and pacing. Then we got on the subject of the filler words, e.g., er, uh, and the one most used by today’s youth….like.
When I got on this subject the instructor took a time out and said that we probably disagreed on the subject, and went on to say that she told her students that there is an appropriate time to use “like” as a filler word. I humbly disagreed and told the class that I often find myself counting the number of times a person uses the word, instead of listening to their content. I went on to add, that I felt that it tells me the performer is not prepared for their presentation or that they have not done the work to find the words they need to convey what they want to say. Thus, the hesitation and use of the filler words. I believe I spoke truthfully when I said that the storytelling community and the Toastmaster community would cringe at a performer using these filler words. I can tell you that there was a lot of conversation about this, most defending its use in a formal presentation.
So, for those who wish to omit the use of filler words from their narrative, I found a wonderful list on how to work toward that goal:
What I Learned from a Career in Sales
One of my earliest “real world” jobs was in sales at Jack Morton Productions in Washington, DC. At that time, the DC office was one of 6 in the country. Now Jack Morton Worldwide, it has grown to be an international firm with a global client list. Jack Morton himself was in his 80s when I worked there and came into the office from time to time, mainly to throw his pearls of wisdom onto the budding sales team. Although he was involved in some of the company management, it is his wisdom about sales that I believe was his greatest contribution. I remained in creative sales for over 15 years, and had a track record that I was quite proud of. But it was Jack who truly launched me with his wisdom when I was starting out. Here’s some of his more memorable advice.
“The Little People Become Big People Someday”
In my sales career, I have seen this happen over and over again. How anxious I was initially to get to the decision-maker, with total disregard to the gatekeeper. What’s more, I saw executive secretaries become VPs of Marketing. And let me tell you, once they become big people, they always remember how you treated them. So next time you come across somebody who can do nothing for you, think again. They may come back to haunt you. We all could stand to reach across the aisle of disparity, however that might be presented to you.
“Ask for Help”
Jack told me to take my focus off selling and to think about helping AND asking for help. As Americans, in particular, asking for help often is perceived to be a sign of weakness. We rarely think of ourselves as a tribe that works together for the common good and common benefit. Yet, I learned from Jack, that when asked with a sincere heart, most people are flattered that you came to them. Does that not indicate that you think their experience of value? When I asked for help, it was always given. When I was asked to help, I was always flattered. Both are the beginning of a promising business relationship.
“I Don’t Trust Somebody Who Doesn’t Have Holes on the Soles of Their Feet”
At sales meetings, many a person was embarrassed when asked, in front of their peers, to take off their shoes. Jack wanted to know how much walking they had done. In today’s world of social media, how often have we taken the time to sit down with somebody and get to know them personally. How often have we walked the streets, and beaten on the doors of opportunity? This is what Jack thought made a good salesperson. He almost chased us out of the offices, as he believed real sales were made face to face.
Upcoming Tours With Dream On and More
In mid-October, I will be leaving on a 4-week tour in China and S. Korea to perform in international/English immersion schools. I am thrilled to have been invited on this second tour which will take me primarily to Shanghai and the surrounding area, Suzhou, and Chengdu. Although I already have over 6 hours of material, I decided to further expand some of my offerings and learned about 10 new stories for ages 3-18.
After the tour, my husband will be joining me to spend time in Seoul, Jeju Island (Korea) and then to Guilin, China as well as Yunnan Province (which is supposed to be a not-to-be-missed).
In April, I will also be going on a 5-week Dream on Tour to Chile and Peru. Again, my husband will join me at the end of the tour to do the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, and other attractions in Peru (Lake Titicaca, Colca Canyon, etc.).
See What’s Afoot on my website for performances and workshops in Washington, DC, West Virgina, and Philadelphia upon my return in the early part of 2018. Hope to see you at some of them!
Works in Progress
This summer I have been consumed by research and writing on three projects that I hope to bring to fruition in 2018. Unlike most of my work, these will be mostly void of my physical interpretation of stories and instead will be a straight on tete-a-tete.
1) Stories about Adventurous Women. As somebody who has always taken the path less travelled and who strives to overcome her fears to keep on the road, I have been interested in putting together a program about some unusual women whose adventurous spirit I admired and wanted to share. After perusing many books, I have narrowed down to three women. Sorry, no spoilers. You’ll just have to invite me to perform them!
2) Fiction and Truth. I think there’s always been that one story that has stuck with us over the years. I have one from high school and yet I don’t believe it will resonate with today’s audiences. So, I have tried to find other real life stories that might segue into my beloved fiction. I found it. It’s going to be good. Sorry, I just can’t share yet.
3) From the Cutting Floor. My father was a small town barber who collected characters. Over the years I have been writing about my recollections of sitting in the customer chair with my feet barely touching the ground while a comedy of errors was played out before me. It’s almost ready!
Wishing you a wonderful Fall and artful 2018!