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How to write a personal story by Sam S. Mullens

Written on December 21, 2014

I am curating posts mostly until the new year. Then I’ll write some more of my own. But I couldn’t better this great article on how to craft a personal story for public performance by Sam S. Mullens. Thanks to Jackie Kerin for sharing it.

So You Want to Be a Storyteller?

Sam Mullins

Sam Mullins

Really? Even if people won’t want to date you ever again for fear that you’ll one day talk about them on stage? You’re sure?

Okay. Welcome aboard.

Here’s a cheap glass of wine. Where we’re going, you’ll need it.

I’ve got to tell you – I think you’ve picked a great time to get into the story game. I mean, with the success of storytelling podcasts like The Moth, RISK!, Definitely Not the Opera, Snap Judgement and This American Life millions of people are now aware of the phenomenon of modern storytelling. Just about every city in North America now has a regular storytelling event, and there seems to be more opportunities for storytellers than ever before. For raconteurs like us, the getting has never been good-er.

But before you start speaking your heart into the crackly microphone at the local roti place’s storytelling event (at which no one is there to actually hear stories [they’re just there for the roti]), there’s a few things we need to talk about.

Firstly: Storytelling is magic. It is capable of changing people’s lives in a way that few other forms of expression can. A well-told story will make a room laugh as one, cry as one, breathe as one. It can bring people together in a way that almost nothing else can. It is truly a special thing.

Alternately, storytelling is also capable of being the *@#!~* !! worst.

Being held captive by a terrible, meandering, long-winded, self-indulgent piece of shit story is worse than anything imaginable. When a bad storyteller is at the mic spinning their self-satisfied yarn, weaving in and out of tangents that lead nowhere, there is nothing more painful to sit through. Your blood pressure rises. Your eyes roll so far back they might never come back.  You’re stuck in your seat helplessly longing for a happier time – like the time you were on hold with your cellphone provider and a knife hit you in the eyeball.  You’re a hostage! You’re THIS GUY!

And unfortunately, pretty much every storytelling event will have at least one hostage-taking situation a night (if we’re lucky), and I don’t want you to ever be the one at the microphone when it happens. 

That’s why I’m here to help.

When you tell a story onstage at your next live event, I want you to crush it. And if you let this advice sink in, I promise that you will.

1) If you’re running long, you’d better be KILLING, buddy.

Thing I’ve never thought after a story: “I wish that story went longer

All storytelling events have time limits. Most are 10 minutes. And I’m telling you, if you’re going to be a storyteller, keeping your stories within the time limit is the single most important thing you can do when you are starting out. Because it will make the producers trust you and like you and want to invite you back. Not only that, but learning how to make the required cuts will make you a better writer, it will make the audience more comfortable and your story will be WAY stronger. Trust me. The worst stories are ALWAYS the longest. ALWAYS. Because who tells a story that goes way over the time-limit? Someone who doesn’t think our time is valuable. Time it. TIME IT. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, TIME IT. I would rather sit through a 10-minute piece of shit than listen to a middling story that runs 5 minutes over the limit. Because the 10-minute story had more respect for its audience.

2) Outline.

You don’t need to write out the whole story, but you do need to have a road map. Some of my favourite storytellers like Martin Dockery and Peter Aguero don’t write down their stories at all because they are freaks of nature. BUT! That doesn’t mean that they don’t know exactly where they’re taking us. Know your structure. Know where and why and for how long you’re taking us. Basic story structure is a beautiful thing.

  1. SET THE SCENE
  2. INCITE INCIDENT
  3. RAISE THE STAKES
  4. CLIMAX
  5. DENOUEMENT

Know exactly what your story is about. Then, get your Michelangelo on, and chisel away everything that isn’t David.

3) Punch it up. 

There’s always a more unique and interesting way of saying things.

How happy were you that week?

“When I walked down the street that week, my gait looked like end-zone dance.”

How did you feel when you told her that you loved her for the first time?

“Vulnerable. Like I was bungee-jumping naked over shark-infested waters while being broadcast live on TMZ.”

Find a way of saying things that no other human except you would come up with. Be a snowflake who marches to the beat of your own synth.

4) That opening sentence or two is crucial.

Get us! Grab us! Right now! As soon as possible – and by whatever means necessary. Whether by using a joke or a cryptic hint or a surprise or by simply taking us to the opening scene as quickly as possible. Have an opening line that makes us put down our phones and lean in.

You might not suspect from looking at me, but I lead a double life.”

Every family has secrets. In my family, the secret was me.”

It was one of those breakups where all of your stuff ends up in trash bags and you have 5 minutes to find a new apartment and once you do, the last thing you want to do is unpack those trash bags because they contain a lot of raw emotion.”

5) Oh, there’s a moral? Yeah. We know.

I’ve seen so many storytellers totally stick the landing on the climax, but then instead of winking at the judges and walking away triumphantly, they will inexplicably start ham-fisting their way through the moral(s) of the story. Dude! You were so close!

Tying a nice bow to the end of the story can sometimes be the exact right thing to do. But if you do, just keep it clean, concise, and make sure you’re giving us something that we haven’t already deduced on our own.

Remember:

  • Storytelling audiences are the smartest. They get it.
  • Different people will take different things away from your story – and that’s okay. Don’t tell them what to take away because all stories are about multiple things.

Remember at the end of Full House when Uncle Jesse and Uncle Joey would sit next to Michelle on the bed as the cheesy music swelled and they’d teach her about all the life lessons she’d learned from the episode we just watched? Don’t do that.

Just give Kimmy Gibbler one last zinger and hit the music.

6) Don’t get hung up on the theme.

Lots of storytelling events have a monthly theme. I always love reading what the upcoming themes are because very often a theme will dislodge a long-forgotten story from the back of my brain. “Oh yeah. I DO have a story about GARBAGE.

The unfortunate side-effect of themed events is that lots of storytellers feel the need to explain to us in excruciating detail why their story is appropriate for the theme. Or they’ll tell us the story of how they decided which story to tell us, “When I first heard that the theme this week was Freedom, I thought of blank, blank and blank.”  JUST TELL US THE STORY!

The theme will be a dot and your story will be a dot and then we’ll connect them with our minds.

7) Sometimes it’s too soon.

I’m guilty of making this mistake before. All of my favourite stories are always ones of pain and finding the light in life’s darker moments. Sometimes as a storyteller, we’ll be going through something very challenging and will want to take it to the stage – like losing a loved one or having our heart broken or surviving a trauma. If you’re taking it to the stage, though, remember: It’s very difficult to paint a picture of a whale when you’re still trapped in its belly.  Make sure you’re in a solid emotional place and you’re recollecting from a safe distance if you’re talking about the tough stuff. A good rule:

If you’re not ready to laugh about it, then we’re not ready to be sad about it.

8) Keep it fresh.

One of the biggest challenges of being a storyteller or comedian is that you have to take this thing that you’ve obsessed over, written down, rehearsed, outlined, said hundreds of times and then make it seem spontaneous and off-the-cuff every night. One trick that I find helpful when I’m running a story alone or with a friend is that I’ll challenge myself to tell the same story using slightly different language each time. Sprinkle in a few moments where you have to grasp for the words. Have a different way of describing the smell of the car every time. Set some booby traps for yourself along the way so that you’re forced to think on your feet in the present moment.

Sometimes when I’m trying to find the 20th new way to describe the smell of the car, is when I’ll find the perfect one and keep it.

9) “Look ‘em in the eye and speak from the heart.” -Louis CK

Storytelling has one gimmick: Heart. Use yours.

Be vulnerable with us.

10) Become a story aficionado.

Thousands of the best stories you’ve ever heard in your life are available. FOR FREE. RIGHT NOW. The Moth storytelling archives arestaggeringly good. Listen to: This American Life, DNTO, RISK! and Snap Judgement. They’re all free. FREE!  Listen to as many as you can.  Listen to brilliant storytellers like Mike Birbiglia and Tig Notaro and Elna Baker and Adam Wade. Dismantle their stories. Why was this one so effective, and this one not so much?

Become a student of the game.

11) Pet peeves and things to avoid.

My friend Peter Aguero has hosted his fair share of story events in New York and has probably heard more live stories than anyone I know. So I asked him for some of the things that irk him as a listener. Here’s what he said:

I don’t like when someone strings together a series of representative anecdotes to make a point in trying to tell their whole life story in 10 minutes. Everything ends up on the surface and there’s no detail. They end up nottelling us ten stories instead of telling one.

I cringe at the phrase “…and in that moment, I realized…” – I don’t know why, I just hate it.

I don’t like when people say, “if you’re not familiar with (whatever), it’s (explanation). Just explain it or don’t. Asking rhetorical questions reminds the listener that they’re listening to a story. It takes me out of it. You were going to explain it anyway, just explain the thing

True dat.

To add to Peter’s list, here are a few of my own:

Defining words in a reading-from-the-dictionary-type fashion makes us feel like we’re at a commencement address or like the bride’s childhood best friend is at the mic. Steer clear.

Soapboxing is the worst. We’re here for stories, not to hear you plagiarize a conspiracy theory website.

The microphone is your friend. Talk into it. If your voice sounds loud, that’s good – it means it’s working.

Know how to ride a laugh. Let the whole laugh happen before you continue. You’re doing great.

Never start by saying “My story is…” or end with “That’s my story”.

12) Some tips from the PROS.

I asked a few of my most accomplished story buds for wisdom that they’d like to pass on to storytellers who are just starting out. Here’s what they said:

Kevin Allison; Creator/Host of RISK! Podcast

Zero in on an especially emotional moment you had and begin to reconstruct what you recall seeing, hearing, thinking and feeling.

TJ Dawe; Legendary Canadian Monologuist

Make your story specific. You might want to make it general, so that people will relate to it. Strangely enough, the more grounded it is in the specifics of your life, the more universal it will become.
Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. Your weaknesses, your failures, your sillinesses, your anxieties, your contradictions, your self-sabotage – this is the stuff of good stories.
If your natural conversational rhythm is fast, pauses are your friend. And vice versa.

Be willing to cut a good line, or a good paragraph, or a good story altogether, if it isn’t working, or if it doesn’t add to the whole. The fact that you wrote it, and that it was hard to write isn’t justification enough to keep something. You’re not in this to avoid work.

Watch and listen to the audience. You’ll learn from every audience. Their laughter will cue you. Their silence in dramatic parts will cue you. Their restlessness and inattention will cue you. A good solo performance isn’t a monologue, it’s a conversation with the audience.
Notice which incidents in your life you keep thinking about, or telling friends about. There’s probably something there that reflects what you’re going through now.
Use contractions when you write. Don’t dress up your sentences in Sunday clothes. Talk the way you normally talk.
Have a specific person in mind when you create. Develop your material with that one person in mind. It could be a friend. It could be your partner. It could be someone you wish was your partner. It could be one of your parents. It could be you. It could be a younger version of you who might have needed to hear this. People can be fabulously expressive in an email, because they know exactly who they’re talking to, and they calibrate their vocabulary and sense of humour and references to that person. And they often become vague and general and clunky when trying to write something for an audience of everyone in the world.

James Gangl; Canadian Comedy Award-Winner; Moth StorySLAM Champion

Write as if no one will ever read your work. When I write like this, I stop worrying about my work being good or bad; I just write. I go for quantity over quality. I like to write fast, write forward and I don’t look back until my first draft is done. Quality will come in the edit.

Write stuff that you plan on burning later. When I hit upon a subject that scares the shit out of me, then I know I have something worthy of writing. Write stuff that scares you… that’s where the gold lies.

Tell the story as if you’re speaking to your friend in a bar. No pretention. No gimmicks. The simplest way from point A to B will become the bones of your piece. The rest is just window dressing and if you have a good enough story it will support all kinds of fun dressing.

Martin Dockery; Award-winning monologuist, Moth Mainstage Performer

Just to get up on stage and do it. And do it as often as possible. It’s the only way to get a sense of how to tell a story, how to find your authentic voice, how to judge pace, timing, and impact. Every single time I’m on stage I learn something, even now, more than a decade into doing it.

***

And that’s it. That’s pretty much all the wisdom I (and my story buds) can think of.

And y’know what?

You’re going to be great.

Lucky for us, storytelling audiences are the warmest, kindest, best-est audiences of them all. They came to listen. To you. You don’t have to fight to get them or win them over or trick them into listening to you. They’re already on your side as soon as you walk up to the microphone. You have their undivided attention.

Don’t waste it.

 

Read Sam S. Mullen’s article here.

Last-minute ethical, green XMAS Buyers Guide

Written on December 16, 2014

Xmas tree sticksDo you need ideas for a last minute, low stuff, low impact Christmas? This is not meant to be stress inducing. As we transition not all our choices may be 100% green but with some awareness we can still minimize our Xmas impact! It is a bit late but there are many things you can buy online to speed things up. TODAY is the latest day to order from me safely to get in the post in time for Xmas. Here are some ideas and links. (Scroll down for Story Tree giveaway: colouring in page to download and a sweet and quirky nature loving Xmas story.)

LAST MINUTE ETHICAL, GREEN IDEAS

If like me, you have been so busy with work that your Xmas shopping got behind and you’d rather not go hunting the shops for junk no-one really needs or wants, here are some last minute ideas.

Buy digital downloads- you can email them tracks or print details and put into a card for the day. Story Tree downloads are here.

Buy idevice audiobook subscription Tales2GoDoes your family love stories and also use idevices- ie ipod, ipad, iphone? Here is an idea to boost literacy and enjoyment for whole family with a free trial to test it out first. StoryTree tales are on there. Search catalogue for Jenni Cargill-Strong here.

Buy experiences, not things: eg tickets to a concert, buy a gift certificate for a massage or workshop voucher from a local OR check out Red Balloon. Hand them a voucher on Xmas day.

Buy donation certificates from charities- especially good for the person who has everything. I love Kiva, a microloan system; Greenpeace and Orangutans. What’s your favourite?

General Ethical Buying Principles

Buy local: reduces carbon footprint from transport and supports local economy, driving the ‘multiplier effect’- the more money you spend locally, the more jobs you create locally, so the more the money there is in the economy which if spent locally creates more jobs and income etc).

Buy from artisans, independent artists and small businesses: with multinational corporations responsible for huge impacts on the planet and society, spread the love to smaller businesses.

Buy fair trade goods: avoid made in China where workers conditions poor and carbon footprint very high.

Buy long lasting, quality goods: Ask yourself how long will this last? Will it biodegrade?

Buy local and/or organic food and minimise food waste by catering conservatively, rather than extravagantly

Buy recycled stuff

Use recyclable wrapping: eg fabric

OR Buy NOTHING: the most radical of all!

 

As my US environmental storytelling colleague Fran Stallings likes to say, “There is no ‘away’ to throw things to.” It will all end up in our overflowing landfills.

 

Story Tree CD’s: An environmentally friendly gift recycle_logo_green

You won’t be harming the environment by buying this album. All Story Tree album covers are printed in Australia, on recycled cardboard and printed with soy-based ink in a cover which uses no plastic or wrapping. The disc is the only plastic involved. This means the CD’s are very thin and extremely cheap to post, if you are looking for a quality present to send. If you buy digital downloads there will be no plastic involved and your download will last a lifetime also. CD BUNDLE: ANY 4 CD’s for the price of 3, STILL only $65, including FREE postage! Order by Tuesday 16 Dec 8pm to receive for Xmas. ORDER NOW

My favourite online sites:

 Stories and songs from Australian teller Annie Bryant

Dragonfly Toys

Natures Child for babies and young kids

Planet Corroboree Aboriginal and local art, craft, books, clothes

Stainless steel lunch boxes

 

xmas_waste and recycling

 

Learn more:

Australian Ethical Xmas Shopping Guide

Story of Stuff

Great Article with ideas Help! I Don’t Want More Stuff for Christmas

Minimalist movement video Australia

1 Million Women- Australian organisation mobilizing against climate change.

 

 

 

Story Tree Colouring in Sheet

Would like to download and print out a blank version of my Story Tree backdrop for your children to colour in? Follow this link to my Resources page and see it under heading “Colouring in Sheet”.

“The Fairy at the Top of the Xmas Tree”

If you haven’t gotten it from me yet, read and listen to this tale here. YOU could tell by your Christmas Tree this year. Locals can hear me tell it this Saturday at Byron Bay Library.

 

Storytelling Concert FB event poster 2014‘Christmas and Summer Solstice Stories and Songs’
WHEN: Saturday, December 20 at 10:30am – 11:30am
WHERE: Byron Bay Library
Join storytellers Jenni Cargill-Strong and Annie Bryant for a FREE concert of stories and songs on the theme of the Christmas spirit and the Summer Solstice for families. Suitable for children 3-9 years. See our FB event page. Both of us will also have our albums for sale at this event.

 

A VERY happy Summer Solstice to my southern hemisphere readers and a very happy winter solstice to my northern hemisphere readers! May your holiday season be full of joy and peace!!

Holly Sierra sun

Sun by Holly Sierra. You can order from her website or Etsy.

WELCOME

Written on December 11, 2014

There are lots of story fruits here to enjoy- for story lovers young and old!

Our most popular offer is the CD Bundle Deal: $65 for 4 CD’s with FREE postage at the story shop page.

Jenni Cargill-Strong

Australian storyteller, Jenni Cargill-Strong telling nature tales at ‘The Living Earth Festival’ in Mullumbimby.

 

PAID STUFF

award-winning story CD’s to buy (for individual CD’s, click on CD cover art ->)
read applause from fans of Story Tree CD’s

stories to download

story shows
story coaching and story courses
book Salty Pete the Pirate for a party

storytree tales on iphone app tales2go

 

FREE STUFF

stories to listen to and watch
story tree colouring-in page
stories to read
stories radio via airwaves and online: Australian “The Heart of the Story” and US  “The Apple Seed” 
story resources
subscribe to newsletter here 
storytree on FB
read about storytelling, Jenni and Salty Pete
story articles (scroll down)

Hiding by David Whyte

Written on December 10, 2014

Thanks to Illumina Christos for passing on this beautiful piece from my favourite poet, David Whyte on the positive aspects of hiding. A farming analogy for hiding is is a fallow period. In the ancient rotation farming methodyou let a garden bed or field rest for a period before planting it out again. David makes the distinction between hiding as a constructive, regenerative process, as opposed to hiding as escapism or denial. In myths and folktales the wise mentor was often an old woman or man who dwelt in a cosy cottage alone within a deep forest- a little sheltered from everyday concerns of the world.

HIDING

is a way of staying alive. Hiding is a way of holding ourselves until we are ready to come into the light. Even hiding the truth from ourselves can be a way to come to what we need in our own necessary time. Hiding is one of the brilliant and virtuoso practices of almost every part of the natural world: the protective quiet of an icy northern landscape, the held bud of a future summer rose, the snow bound internal pulse of the hibernating bear. Hiding is underestimated. We are hidden by life in our mother’s womb until we grow and ready ourselves for our first appearance in the lighted world; to appear too early in that world is to find ourselves with the immediate necessity for outside intensive care.

Hiding done properly is the internal faithful promise for a proper future emergence, as embryos, as children or even as emerging adults in retreat from the names that have caught us and imprisoned us, often in ways where we have been too easily seen and too easily named. 

We live in a time of the dissected soul, the immediate disclosure; our thoughts, imaginings and longings exposed to the light too much, too early and too often, our best qualities squeezed too soon into a world already awash with too easily articulated ideas that oppress our sense of self and our sense of others. What is real is almost always to begin with, hidden, and does not want to be understood by the part of our mind that mistakenly thinks it knows what is happening. What is precious inside us does not care to be known by the mind in ways that diminish its presence.

Hiding is an act of freedom from the misunderstanding of others, especially in the enclosing world of oppressive secret government and private entities, attempting to name us, to anticipate us, to leave us with no place to hide and grow in ways unmanaged by a creeping necessity for absolute naming, absolute tracking and absolute control. Hiding is a bid for independence, from others, from mistaken ideas we have about our selves, from an oppressive and mistaken wish to keep us completely safe, completely ministered to, and therefore completely managed. Hiding is creative, necessary and beautifully subversive of outside interference and control. Hiding leaves life to itself, to become more of itself. Hiding is the radical independence necessary for our emergence into the light of a proper human future. 

Excerpted from ‘HIDING’ From CONSOLATIONS: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words. © David Whyte: 

Now Available 

http://davidwhyte.stores.yahoo.net/newbook.html

PHOTO © David Whyte 
Hidden Boat: River Cong: County Mayo: Ireland.
December 2012

HIDING is a way of staying alive. Hiding is a way of holding ourselves until we are ready to come into the light. Even hiding the truth from ourselves can be a way to come to what we need in our own necessary time. Hiding is one of the brilliant and virtuoso practices of almost every part of the natural world: the protective quiet of an icy northern landscape, the held bud of a future summer rose, the snow bound internal pulse of the hibernating bear. Hiding is underestimated. We are hidden by life in our mother’s womb until we grow and ready ourselves for our first appearance in the lighted world; to appear too early in that world is to find ourselves with the immediate necessity for outside intensive care.

Hiding done properly is the internal faithful promise for a proper future emergence, as embryos, as children or even as emerging adults in retreat from the names that have caught us and imprisoned us, often in ways where we have been too easily seen and too easily named.

We live in a time of the dissected soul, the immediate disclosure; our thoughts, imaginings and longings exposed to the light too much, too early and too often, our best qualities squeezed too soon into a world already awash with too easily articulated ideas that oppress our sense of self and our sense of others. What is real is almost always to begin with, hidden, and does not want to be understood by the part of our mind that mistakenly thinks it knows what is happening. What is precious inside us does not care to be known by the mind in ways that diminish its presence.

Hiding is an act of freedom from the misunderstanding of others, especially in the enclosing world of oppressive secret government and private entities, attempting to name us, to anticipate us, to leave us with no place to hide and grow in ways unmanaged by a creeping necessity for absolute naming, absolute tracking and absolute control. Hiding is a bid for independence, from others, from mistaken ideas we have about our selves, from an oppressive and mistaken wish to keep us completely safe, completely ministered to, and therefore completely managed. Hiding is creative, necessary and beautifully subversive of outside interference and control. Hiding leaves life to itself, to become more of itself. Hiding is the radical independence necessary for our emergence into the light of a proper human future.

Excerpted from ‘HIDING’ From CONSOLATIONS: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words. © David Whyte:

Now Available
http://davidwhyte.stores.yahoo.net/newbook.html

PHOTO © David Whyte
Hidden Boat: River Cong: County Mayo: Ireland.
December 2012

 

Creativity, Vulnerability and Dr Brene Brown

Written on December 4, 2014

Brene-Brown-Quote owning our story-Collage I love the work of Dr Brene Brown! When I coach people to tell stories and or become more confident at giving presentations or speeches a huge percentage of what I need to do is work with inner gremlins that create negative ‘psychobabble’ as I like to call it. But Dr Browns work applies to everything in life. Right now as we need positive changemakers to be at their most powerful and effective, her message is enormously important. Let’s all shine as brightly as we can, being vulnerable all the way!

When your gremlins tell you to play small, listen to Dr Brene Brown!

Brené Brown: Why Your Critics Aren’t The Ones Who Count

You can also read the Huffington Post article below and watch the short Oprah clip here. Dr Brown has also done countless talk shows and you’ll find her all over the place. My favourites are her TED talks.

 

Brené Brown On The One Thing More Terrifying Than Being Vulnerable 

Via Huffington Post Posted:

 

Shame and vulnerability researcher Dr. Brené Brown says we all have a choice in life whether to put our true selves out there or hide behind our fears. While many people are afraid to be vulnerable, Brown explains in this clip from “Oprah’s Lifeclass” why the alternative is far worse.

In the video, Brown starts by reciting a quote from President Theodore Roosevelt that she says changed her life and inspired the title of her book, Daring Greatly:

“It’s not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the person who is in the arena. Whose face is marred with dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly … who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly …”

Brene Brown

  After reading that quote, Brown says it made her realize three things. First, she wanted to be the person in the arena. “If we want to be courageous and we want to be in the arena, we’re going to get our butts kicked,” she says. “There is no option. If you want to be brave and show up in your life, you’re going to fail. You’re going to stumble. You’re going to fall. It’s part of showing up.”

The second thing she realized is that comments from “Twitter thugs” — people who never risk anything but criticize the people who do — don’t matter. “If you are not in the arena also getting your butt kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback,” Brown says.

The third thing culminates everything Brown has learned over the past 12 years of studying shame and vulnerability. “Vulnerability is not about winning, it’s not about losing — it’s about having the courage to show up and be seen,” she says. “It’s about willingness to say, ‘Look, I don’t have all the answers.'”

If you’re afraid to be vulnerable, Brown says you’re not the only one –- but there is something even more terrifying.

“I think being vulnerable feels dangerous, and I think it feels scary, and I think it is terrifying,” she says. “But I don’t think it’s as dangerous, scary, or terrifying as getting to the end of our lives and wondering, what if I would have shown up?”

“That, to me, is what daring greatly is,” Brown says.

 

‘The Penetrating Skill of True Listening Forgotten’ by Laura Simms

Written on November 28, 2014

This is a response from Laura Simms to the situation unfolding in Ferguson, which is now reverberating through many parts of the US and the world. Laura is an award-winning storyteller, recording artist, teacher, writer and humanitarian based in New York City. She is also a founding member of the Healing Story Alliance. I am an avid fan of hers. Thanks to Laura for allowing me to repost this piece.

‘Listening to the radio in a taxi last evening about the pent up outrage and demonstrations in Ferguson, I wept. I wept for everyone. The taxi driver, whose erratic driving was frightening, pulled over. He was also effected by the news. I never asked what side he was on. We just sat for a moment. We paused. Then continued to a destination. We are ignoring the chance to apply the alchemy of deep justice, to apply a pause in reactions in order to see the bigger story that needs healing. That story is very old. To reveal it is stronger than judgement, punishment, or revenge. A judge, a jury, lawyers, all parties and public need help. A true judge might h

mother and eggsave spoken about the consequences and the causes of the murder. Seen beyond what he assumed is the law to a larger law. he or she might have created a new kind of justice of human kindness so a community could begin to work on the mutual act of reconciliation and use this dreadful situation for the long repair. There is an opportunity to acknowledge the festering deep wound of inequality, brutality and mistrust that lives in all of us. The stakes are bigger than one man’s guilt or punishment.

I am reminded of telling a story, told to me by a great musician/storyteller from Zimbabwe, to a group of adults. Ephat Mujuru (years before) said to me after the tale that it was about the “origin of murder.” For a long time I ended the tale with that addendum. And then I stopped doing that. His listening to a story was different than my audiences, or mine. He listened into the conundrum of the interdependent pieces of the story. But for my listeners, my addendum didn’t provide a revelation it fed the fuel of interpreting the story through that filter of pointed out meaning erasing the actual experience that each person had. A great story functions not to bring us to a neat outcome or moral conclusion, but as an event that allows us to feel into and become all sides of the picture. A great story provokes us into deeper kindness and listening where we find ourselves in the story.

During a storytelling (years later when I told the story as an example of social action and narrative) the profound situation of the events came alive within each of us as the story was being told and imagined and felt. The silence of being in the whole reciprocity of the tale was palpable shared compassion. My intention was to invite a conversation following. One person, able only to react to the literal words of the text as a justification for rage against men, argued her rightness immediatly. She did not wait for my instruction to be fully heard. The conversation blocked. In a habit of upholding opinions, of being right, people took sides. It was vehement; ultimately futile. It was also the point of the exercise. We enacted the events of the story. It took a long time before I could add a spice to the arguement ( point out another point of view neither right nor wrong) and shift us back into a conversation. We began, reluctantly at first, in a process of seeing/hearing multiple points of view grown from different experiences and trainings and beliefs expressed in the events. We used the story as our mirror.

Pulling opinions off of soapbox reactivity can be as agonizing as pulling a bandaid off an open wound. But without fresh air and time, the wound does not heal from within. We managed to listen to each other. Our dialogue became stunning and hard. We had to agree to consider each person’s reflection. With space, and with listening, and with a certain personal discipline, each of us began to melt. Our differences and our listening became our common ground.’ (This is Part I of a blog to be posted at Laura’s blog The Illuminated Story)

Laura Simms at SL Public Library, 13 October 2006

Laura Simms

 

Four Tales for Halloween

Written on October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween  if you celebrate it! Here in Australia, Halloween is not universally embraced by adults, but most kids adore it! Halloween pumpkins and candlesModern Halloween morphed from the much richer and ancient European Samhain Autumn Festival or ‘Day of the Dead’. I must write a blog about that one day, however there are lots to be found with a quick web search on ‘Samhain traditions’. It was about honouring ancestors and the shadow, noticing that nature’s energy was quietening for the coming winter, not lollies and plastic masks! The following day the light was celebrated in what became “All Saints Day”.

Personally, I like the playfulness of it, even though I would MUCH rather celebrate it in Autumn rather than high Spring, when nature is bursting with vitality. But try telling your  kids or students that! My 11 and 14 years old kids certainly won’t listen to me on that! So my partner will be carving a watermelon today, we have the treats stocked up and my daughter has been busy decorating the house.
But if you’d like to have a few spooky, but not too terrifying stories for kids, here are four that are on my ‘Stories’ You Tube playlist.
They can also work for adults, so maybe you should try one out tonight?!! I DARE YOU! Mahhaha! (Cue: maniacal cackling!)
1. ‘Boy Bow Bird’ is a spooky story from Samoa from my Hawaiian friend Jeff Gere, with an environmental note. Jeff has a larger than life style and uses pigeon English a lot in his stories, so you would have to put the story into your own words. I did. I told it myself for the first time yesterday to some intellectually impaired adults. They loved it!
I also told the Japanese Kamishibai story
2. “Three Paper Charms” with my new kamishibai story stage- which can be enormously funny, if you play up the part where the charm pretends to be stuck on the toilet and the part where the monk is slow coming to the boys rescue.
3. Abiyoyo by Pete Seeger is a song, but you can also retell it without music, if not musical!
3. The Russian ‘Vasalissa and Baba Yaga’ story  is another great spooky story, which is also a tale of female initiation- scroll down the playlist to find Part 1 and 2.
Have a great day and weekend, whatever you celebrate!

Banksy and Tipingee: modern memes and ancient folktales

Written on October 22, 2014

 banksy chav Banksy ‘graffiti’ art has become an intriguing, thought-provoking meme with a wide emotional range: sometimes delightfully humourous and at other times, poignant, tragic and provocative. Banksy images hbanksyave made a significant political contribution, and provoked heated discussion. I heard him discussed and interviewed in ABC Radio and the young male interviewer was positively aggressive and angry towards the man, seemingly beacuse his work now commands huge sums. People refer to the “Banksy effect”. I  wondered whether he is an actual person, since ‘his’ work has appeared from Bristol to Israel to the US, or is he a shifting collective? Having read a little more now , perhaps he is just one person. I know nothing about art- I just find his work stimulating and poignant and though provoking and very much in tune with what many people are feeling. But here is the link to the folktale of ‘Tipingee’.

Captain Paul Watson, reposted this fake report about Banksy’s arrest from a spoof site on FaceBook with this humourous comment:

‘Hey that’s not Banksy, I’m Banksy! Actually we all should be Banksy and everyone needs to inform the London Metropolitan Police that they are in fact the real Banksy…’ Many people didn’t read the post properly and responded as if it were true and/or as if Paul had believed it. Others responded with, ‘No I’m Banksy!’, as did I in a FB conversation with friends.

This playful phenomenon of many people pretending to be Banksy, is what reminds me of the folktale ‘Tipingee’. It is a Haitian tale of collective resistance.

In the folktale, many little girls pretend to be Tipingee, to protect her from a nasty, powerful (and magical) old man who wants to steal her away to be his slave! (If only that just happened in folktales- the stealing little girls away I mean!!) Here is a heartening, playful retelling of Tipingee from master storyteller Diane Wolkstein in an American high school classroom.

Diane Wolkstein

Diane Wolkstein

graftti slogan banksybanksy-queens_verge_super_wide

 

Banksy

Diane, sadly is no longer with us, but she was a world renowned storyteller and author. She brought the tale of Tipingee to the U.S. and the world by writing a book “The Magic Orange Tree” (1997) after living in Haiti for some time.

She was also author of the version of the first story I ever told, the Goddess myth of ‘Inanna and her Descent to the Underworld’.

 

Jacks’ Redemption

Written on October 17, 2014

Many years ago I wrote this article about ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’. I was holding off publishing it until I had recorded and/or published my version. However I think this article needs to be released from it’s confines (after eight long years) and perhaps it may generate discussion. Jo Henwood of the recently established Australian Fairytale Society, initiated her genius idea of Fairy Tale Rings (read more and follow links at the blog I wrote about this). They are held nationally every two months. Jack and the Beanstalk is the tale being discussed currently and a reading list was sent around

http://ausfairytalesociety.com.au/forums/topic/jack-and-the-beanstalk-reading-list. So, last night my friend Sandra Frain and I told our storytelling colleagues our versions of ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’. While not radically different, our versions were distinct enough to delight our friends and generate much discussion. I will add a write up of our versions eventually, but meanwhile here is my article.

 

jack_and_the_beanstalk_by_flina-d3g1d35 I have to confess: I am a Jack lover. I find him empowering, exciting, magical and delightfully cheeky. However, it hasn’t always been so. Once, like many people, I was suspicious of Jack. He was just a lazy, violent, materialistic, thieving social climber obsessed with phallic symbols, wasn’t he? If so, what kind of a role model is that for a boy or a girl?

 For me, coming to love Jack of ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’, has come through learning more about how to understand the inner language of stories. Just because you don’t understand the indecipherable strings of words your teenager mutters, or just because you don’t understand the techno-babble error messages your computer spits out as your deadline draws near, it doesn’t necessarily mean that there is no meaning to be gleaned. It’s just that you don’t understand the language.

 Embedded in the folktales and myths that have endured through time, are ancient codes. These codes appeal so strongly to deep places within our souls, that even the most modern children are still drawn very powerfully to them. That is, unless they have been taught, either explicitly or implicitly, that folktales are not good stories. Of course, not all folktales or myths are jewels. Not all literature is worth reading either, but it doesn’t mean we throw the baby out with the bathwater and dismiss all literature, in the way that some people dismiss all folktales.

 However know that you may have to kiss a few toad stories as you journey along the road of folktales. The treasures you seek may at first be difficult to recognize, for they may be hiding under the cultural moss of outmoded prejudices or the cobwebs of old fashioned references and ideas. Then, once you have cleared away the moss and the cobwebs, you may need to decode their golden language if you are to fully appreciate their value. No wonder so many of us adults fall along the wayside. Children don’t have these problems. They can instinctively and unconsciously intuit the metaphors, leaving them to simply enjoy a good story.

Giving a historical context on our attitudes towards traditional stories, Joseph Campbell, a world authority on mythology and folktales said,

‘The “monstrous, irrational and unnatural” motifs of folktale and myth are derived from the reservoirs of dream and vision. On the dream level, such images represent the total state of the individual dreaming psyche…but clarified of personal distortions and profounded – by poets, prophets, visionaries-, they become symbolic of the spiritual norm for Man the Microcosm. They are thus phrases from an image-language, expressive of metaphysical, psychological and sociological truth. And in the primitive, oriental, archaic and medieval societies this vocabulary was pondered and more or less understood. Only in the wake of the Enlightenment has it suddenly lost its meaning and been pronounced insane.’ (1)

 Bruno Bettleheim in his classic book, “The Uses of Enchantment”, has this to say of Jack and the Beanstalk:jack-and-the-beanstalk-B&W clipart-illustration-royalty-free-

“Important elements of this fairy story appear in many stories all over the world: the seemingly stupid exchange which provides something of magical power: the miraculous seed from which a tree grows that reaches into heaven; the cannabalistic ogre that is outwitted and robbed; the hen or goose that lays the golden eggs; the musical instrument that talks. But their combination into a story which asserts the desirability of social and sexual self-assertion in the pubertal boy, and the foolishness of a mother who belittles this, is what makes Jack and the Beanstalk such a meaningful fairy tale.” (2)

 Once I began thinking in these terms, something else clicked into place. I recognized that Jack was descended from a long line of mythic heroes and heroines, who at great risk to themselves, wrest wisdom, wealth and power from Sky Gods who usually, are extremely reluctant to part with these boons. I have a particular passion for one of these heroines -the ancient Sumerian Goddess of Fertility, Inanna. She stole and brought back to Earth the sacred tablets of wisdom, power and wealth, after tricking her Sky God Father, Enki. She was celebrated by her people for it. The ancient Greeks told of Prometheus who stole fire from Zeus. The Aboriginal Rainbow Bird bravely snatched fire from the mouth of the greedy crocodile, to share it with the people. (3) Maui the trickster God, in Maori legend, annoyed his grandmother Mahuika, the Fire Goddess until she threw fire into the trees, so people could rub sticks together and make fire. But Jack’s story is tailor made for the understanding of a Western child. My son’s Kindergarten teacher, an enthusiastic storyteller herself, calls Jack the Robin Hood of the Sky.

 Take another look with Jung or Bettleheim’s eyes and you see that Jack is simply the archetypal young boy, needing to jump over his next developmental hurdle. To grow up, he must relinquish the endless supply of mother’s milk and the dreamy, self-indulgent or ‘lazy’ phase of early childhood. This is represented by selling their beloved cow Milky White. He has to stand up for what he believes in, be brave, assert himself to his mother and take action. He has to take initiative in life and start the journey towards manhood. The phallic beanstalk is an emblem of his arising potency, replacing the previous oral stage.

jack and beanstalk and beansHow now to remove from his story the moss and cobwebs: the outmoded values and references? Since folktales can have a powerful effect on children, this is an important surgery to perform. Yet, if you don’t know what you are doing, a little nip and tuck could turn into an extreme makeover with disastrous results. You must always leave the essential elements of the story intact or in your quest to update the tale, you could render it so politically correct that it is left dull, impotent and banal.

The parts I wanted to update in Jack were the rather unequal relationship between the ogre and his wife; the implication that Jack and his mother keep their treasure all for themselves and the idea that Jack is both lazy and a giant killer. So in my version, the giant’s wife becomes ‘the Giantess’, so that she has an identity of her own: she is not merely somebody’s wife. She doesn’t become a Goddess, she just has a little more oomph. She gently bosses the giant around: “Oh you and yer fee fi fo fummin! Just sit down to yer dinner dear.” She reminds the giant to do the washing up and drying up after dinner, which he meekly complies with. However it is also OK to have a disempowered character in a story. They can act as a warning to children of how NOT to be. They may see something tragic in the character and decide not to be like that, but to be more like the hero or heroine.

 To help children make more conscious sense of the tale I give them this introduction:

“The giant is like us on the days when we don’t feel like sharing, when we are greedy and thoughtless. Of course it’s all right not to share sometimes, but the giant NEVER wants to share with ANYONE: not his money, not his golden goose and not his music!

Jack’s mother, is that side of us that is fearful, always looks on the dark side of everuytging that happens and is a bit melodramatic.

Now some people say that Jack is lazy, but I disagree. I think Jack was just happy-go-lucky. [For me that is a better way to describe early childhood.] He’s happy when he’s poor, and later he’s happy when he’s rich, but it isn’t money that makes him happy. Because money can help you be comfortable, but it can’t buy happiness. Jack’s happy because of what is in his heart.”

 

In my version, when the giant falls off the beanstalk and hits the ground, his great body carves a deep hollow in the Earth, the size of a valley. Then, he disappears in a puff of smoke. This, I explain is because he wasn’t the kind of Jack Beanstalkgiant that was meant to live on the Earth, he was meant to stay in the Sky. This underscores for the adults listening, as much as for the children, that Jack hasn’t murdered a mortal man, rather he has slain (in self- defence) an archetype. By slaying such a character, Jack is empowered to integrate into his own psyche the positive aspects of the giant: courage, strength and the ability to hold wealth. Because Jack is a hero, he can use these strengths to do good, rather than evil: so in my version, Jack and his mother share their wealth. They also buy a gypsy wagon and travel the world so that others can share in the soulful music of the golden harp, and whenever people ask how they came by the harp, he tells the story of Jack and the Beanstalk.

 

The Inuit say that a storyteller creates the atmosphere in which wisdom reveals itself. Children are able to imbibe this wisdom very naturally and unconsciously. It is only when we are adult that we want a more conscious and intellectual understanding as well. So please remember, that the inner language of stories is largely Sacred Parents Business. It is not meant to be shared with our children. When the time is right, they will begin to comprehend the hidden meanings and extra dimensions consciously as well as unconsciously.

 I hope this article has helped you to see another side to Jack and his Beanstalk. Perhaps you may also be able to see the empowering, exciting, magical and delightfully cheeky side of Jack. I hope that the next time you meet him, rather than shunning him, you’ll carefully remove any moss or cobwebs trailing after him and then invite him to come and play as a welcome guest at your place. But be prepared, as he is sure to bring his many good friends!

 

(1) The Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales (Pantheon Books, New York, 1944). Commentary by Joseph Campbell, p 861-2.

 

(2) Bettelheim, Bruno, The Uses of Enchantment (Vintage, New York, 1975), p184.

 

(3) Storyteller Eric Maddern has written a picture book called The Rainbow Bird, based on the Aboriginal version from Manyallaluk.

 

Scheherazade and The Thousand Nights And One Nights: the story

Written on October 14, 2014

 

Scheherazade.tif

Queen Scheherazade as painted in the 19th century by Sophie Anderson

This is a guest post by good friend Teeya Blatt, member of ‘The Byron Circle of Tellers’. She wove this exquisite version for our concert at the live performance night ‘ Tintenbar Upfront’.  

I’ve heard it said that there exist amongst us tonight a group that is not familiar with the ancient and age-old art of storytelling for adults!

Well, if that be true, I bid you who are new to this, on behalf of Storytelling Circles
everywhere, a most hearty welcome! As I am the saluting storyteller of this propitious event,
it is left to me to introduce you to our roles, that of listeners, and that of tellers, and the stories
themselves as the raison d’etre, the reason we are brought together and the reward of our
being here. Because, unlike listening to a band, or watching t.v., listening to a story requires
a certain light effort, not a heavy burden, but a willingness to focus on the story, a permission
to allow the inner child to fall into wonder, because if you drop out on a part, even a small
part, it just may be the bit that you most need to know for the story to embrace you and
transport you.

As a storyteller, I can tell you that your attitude and attention will transform me from
my little self to the teller of a story that adjusts itself to both our moods. If you as listener are
not willing, me as teller will fumble, or stumble or fall down flat. Have no doubt – you are
more important than me for the story that wants to be heard.
You may rightly ask yourselves, “What for?” “Why bother?” “What good will it do
me?”
The best way to answer those questions is by story. So let me, please, tell you the
ancient story of Scheherazade, Queen of Persia, whose name means “the freer of cities”. Her
story and the stories that she told – for she is one of the greatest storytellers of all time – have come to us as

The Thousand Nights and One Night, also known as The Arabian Nights, from
which collection come well-loved stories of Ali Baba and the 4o Thieves, Sinbad the Sailor
and all his adventures, Aladdin and His Magical Lamp. But these are a small number
compared to all the rest, and this collection was written down in the 14th century, but the
original, which was Persian, is said to have been told orally from about the time of 900 A.D.
We have here a collection of stories that have lasted so long, centuries, precisely because they
touch something essential in the human heart and human imagination. So now, let me answer
the question, ‘what can stories do for me?’ Let me tell you her story, the story of
Scheherazade.

The Tale

It is recorded in the chronicles of the things that have been done of time past that
there lived once, in bygone ages and times, a most powerful king, who
reigned of the Islands of India and China. He had two sons, and when he died, he set them
up each in their own dominions, the elder, who’s name, Shehriyar, means ‘king’ or ‘sultan’,
was given the larger part of the kingdom, of course. Kings Shehriyar and his younger
brother, Shahzeman ruled justly over their respective subject, and enjoyed the utmost
prosperity and happiness, for a space of time.

There are many stories about the two brothers which I may tell you another time, but
for now, suffice it to say that a rumour came to the ear of the Sultan Shehriyar, a terrible
rumour that involved his most beloved and wondrously beautiful wife.

He didn’t want to believe it was true, so King Shehriyar arranged to see for himself,
and rather than going to court to attend to his kingdom, he hid one day behind a latticed
window in his bedroom, and looked onto the garden outside. Soon, the gate to the courtyard
opened, and there entered 20 damsels and 20 slaves and among them his own wife, the
Queen. They all came to sit by the fountain, and the girls and the slaves proceeded to disrobe and sat down together. Then the Queen called out, “O Messoud!” and there came to her a
most beautiful black slave, who embraced her and she him, and then they ceased not from
kissing and clipping and clicketing and carousing until the day began to wane.
Even when the courtyard had emptied, in the dusk of twilight, Shehriyar was still at
his window, paralysed and enraged. What he had seen tore away at all that was soft in him.
His heart caved in on itself, became a hard know in the cavity of his chest, and he was filled
instead with a hot lust for vengeance.

He called for his Vizier and had him go to the Queen and behead her and her lover.
The Vizier, of course, asked no questions, simply went to do his masters bidding.
The King meanwhile, went to the harem, and he unsheathed his own sword and in the
rage of his indignation, he slew them all – all the damsels who had caroused alongside his
wife.

That very night, King Shehriyar bid his vizier, “Bring me a maiden suitable to marry!”
And the King went into the maiden, and in the morning he bid his vizier, “Take her away and
behead her!” which the vizier duly did.
This he did again the next night, and the next, and the next.
And the vizier was sore bereft but kept this well hidden, lest it be his head that the
king called for.

The King, the Sultan, ceased not to do thus for three year, till the land was stripped of
maidens, and all the women and mothers and fathers wept and cried out against the king,
cursing; and those that had daughters left fled with them, till at last there remained one day
not a single girl in the city apt for marriage.

And on that day, the king bid his vizier bring a suitable maiden, the vizier nodded his
head, but was very anxious, as there were no marriageable girls left in all the land. Now it so happened that the vizier had two daughters, who he had managed to keep
safe during these troubled years. The elder, Scheherazade, was of great wit, and had read all
the stories of the kingdom, and the neighbouring kingdoms. She knew the histories of kings
past and present, she had memorized the poetry and lore of her land and of lands far off, and
when she saw her father’s troubled demeanour, although she guessed at its reason, she asked
him what was troubling him.

The vizier did not respond, for he did not want to involved his beloved daughter int he
goings on at court, but she pressed him until he told her, and she responded, “Be anxious no
longer, my father, and offer me this night for marriage to the king!” Her father refused and
Scheherazade argued, and the vizier refused, but Scheherazade was adamant, and in the end
he relented, and Scheherazade began preparations for her marriage that night.
Besides all the things that women do to prepare for their wedding night, Scheherazade
took aside her younger sister, Dunyazade, and bid her thus, “My sister, after the king has
come into me and had his fill, and while we are lying in his bed, I bid you to say to me thus,
‘my sister, as we are awake, will you not tell one of your pleasant stories to while away the
watch?’ ” and Dunyazade promised to do just that.

And so came the night, and after the king went into her and had his fill, and while
they were lying in his bed, Dunyazade asked, “My sister, as we are awake, will you not tell
one of your pleasant stories to while away the watch?” and Scheherazade replied, “With all
my heart, if the king give me leave.” And as he was far from sleep, the King said, “Say on.”
And Scheherazade started her stories on the first night.

Here is where it is revealed to us that Scheherezade was a priestess of the psyche
secure in her craft, in her art. That she gave not the best of her tales the opening night, just
yet enough to pique the invalid king’s interest, is one of the subtleties of her craft. She told
her tale, and when Scheherazade saw that the night was becoming light, she stopped off her telling on the edge of a knife, and Dunyazade, her sister exclaimed, “My sister, that was a
most wondrous tale,” and Scheherazade answered, “It is nothing to how the tale ends, and I
will tell you more tomorrow night if the King let me live.” And the King, who wanted to
know the end of the story, said, “Let it be so.”

And on the second night, when the King Shehriyar had gone into her, and had his fill,
and they were lying in his bed, Dunyazade said, “My sister, as we are awake, will you not
complete the story you started last night, to while away the watch?” and Scheherazade
replied, “With all my heart, if the august king give me leave.” And as he was far from sleep,
the King said, “Say on.” And Scheherazade continued her story.

Scheherezade's sister Dunyazad

Scheherezade’s sister Dunyazad

And Scheherazade told until she espied the lightening of the sky and stopped her story
at the edge of a knife, and promised to continue the following night, if the King allowed her
to live. And the King, who was most interested and intrigued, agreed, saying, “Let it be so.”
This happened again on the third night, and the fourth and continued to happen for a
thousand nights and one night. Scheherazade told magical tales, mystical, adventurous. She
told tales of love, burlesque and erotica, she included historical tales, tales of brutality and
bliss, and interspersed to add depth, she even told poems.

The stories included genies and jinns, ghouls, sorcerers, magicians, legendary places,
and sometimes, a character in Scheherazade’s tale told other characters a story of his own,
and that story may have another one told within it, stories within stories within stories,
multilayered, rich and textured.

And in Scheherezade’s tales was depicted the whole range of human experience, from
the comical to the tragic,, the wondrous to mundane, the secular to mystical. In her telling,
nothing was rejected as common or unclean, all classes of people were represented; slave and
king, and courtier and countryman, pietist and free-thinker, ignorant and learned, wise and foolish, moralist and debauchee. In a word – Humanity – wise, obscene, and greater than
judgment.

Her narrative was sometimes poignant, sometimes humorous, but never a sentimental
reading of the human heart, and slowly, slowly was transferred to King Shehriyar’s morbid
intellect little by little (nevermore at a time than a self-righteous tyrant could assimilate), the
wondrousness of the kaleidoscope of life, until in the end, there was left nothing in the world
for him to resist or not to love. And within the stories, he saw his own story in perspective.
The stories, which was Life talking to him, wound its way underneath his self-righteous
indignation and released his heart from its stone prison.

Scheherazade, a master of her art, presented the Universe of story, or rather the
Universe as story. I have heard tell from the wise old storytellers that it is not humans who
tell stories, no no, it is us who are the characters in a large story, it is the story that tells us.
Scheherazade told her tales for one thousand nights and one night, and when she came
to the end of her stories, she had her three sons that she had in the meantime born to the king
brought to the room, and said to him, “My most august king, will you take away the mother
from these your three sons? I beg of you to spare my life.” And the King, whose heart had
been healed, had fallen in love with his wife, her wit and strategy, and he had already long
thought that he would not put her to death.

Thus we see that stories in One Thousand Night and One Night, brought about a death
- of the tyrant, and refreshment as man.
And now, I bid you all a wonderful life of stories and songs.

Note from Teeya: I have borrowed much from Joseph Campbell’s (1952) editing of the Thousand Nights and One
Night in The Viking Press version of this collection, The Portable Arabian Nights.

Teeya Blatt is co-host of the Heart of the Story on 99.9 BAY FM Radio with Annie Bryant.

Teeya is also creator and founder of “From Heroes Into Men: A Boy to Manhood Program for Communities”.
She has a website here.

30 Nov, 2014 Update: Here is a fascinating podcast on the subject from ABC Radio National ‘Poetica’  with an intro by Marina Warner and poetry “The Severed Head”.

Teeya and Annie co-host The Heart of the Story

Teeya and Annie co-host The Heart of the Story

Teeya Blatt

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