The Art of Storytelling

Last evening, I enjoyed listening to seasoned storytellers from the Guelph Guild of Storytellers. The ninety minutes flew by as Sya Van Geest, Brian Holstein, Maryann Bailey, and visiting storyteller, Donna McCaw shared original, traditional and personal stories with us. I was impressed by the complexity and simplicity of the stories and took note of the different styles of telling.

Brian likes to start his stories with “Once upon a time” and offers twists on traditional favourites. Last night, the classic Three Little  Pigs became Three Little Wolves with the pig as the bully. He is not a fan of “happily ever after” and often changes the expected endings.

I love watching Sya’s expressive face as she describes the setting and characters in her stories. This seasoned teller likes to borrow stories from African and Aboriginal folklore. Sya also delivered a short, informative PowerPoint session on “Finding Your Story.”

When I listen to Maryann, I know there will be a universal lesson in her stories. Last night, she entertained us with a “devil” story.

Donna shared two short stories: a personal one and a variation of the big bad wolf tale. The retired teacher and author impressed all of us with her poise and soft-spoken delivery.

I now know why the guild has been described as “one of Guelph’s best kept secrets.”

A few details…

The Guelph Guild of Storytellers meets on the second Wednesday of each month at 7:00 p.m. at the Main Branch of the Guelph Public Library.

Hope to see you there.


The Art of Storytelling

For the most part, I enjoy listening to writers read from their novels. The book comes alive as its creator breathes life into each word and punctuation mark. But sometimes, the writer’s storytelling abilities fall short and I’m left to question why his or her speaking voice is so different.

There is a definite art to storytelling.

Recently, I participated in a workshop facilitated by Sya Van Geest of the Guelph Storytellers Guild. She displayed her well-honed communication skills as she interspersed her PowerPoint presentation with folk tales. It is easy to see why she is so well received by all her listeners.

At one point, she turned the tables on us and asked us to tell the stories behind our given names.

A few of her hints…

1. Get out of yourself when you tell a story. Realize that you are only the conduit of the story.

2. Stories are meant for the ear. Do not memorize the story before telling it.

3. You can find your stories in different places. Be alert to what you see, hear and read.

4. Throw your voice.

5. Practice your story by living and feeling it. Have it in your head and go over it many times…before falling asleep, while doing chores, while driving.

6. When telling your story, build on the positive energy of attentive audience members. Ignore the one or two audience members who may be sleeping or not paying attention.

7. Trust your instincts. There is no one way to develop a personal style.

One of her suggested resources: New Tales for Old by Gail deVos and Anna Altman.