Creativity

Top 5 Storytelling Tips From A Professional Storyteller

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“What are the basic skills of a good storyteller, Melea?” came the question from a casual mentoring moment online. ” “Boy, that’s an excellent question and where do I start?” I pondered. Storytellers are good communicators. If you have ever been in the presence of someone who can tell a story, they probably made you feel valuable as the listener in the audience. How I give the story away will relate to how the person or group receives that story. I want the person to be involved in the story and not thinking about how dramatic my voice is, or of how I am using my hands for dramatic emphasis. Here’s the real truth about a storyteller: They want you to remember the story, not them. It is a very simple art form and preparing for great storytelling moments can break down into a Top 5! 1. Be a READER and a COLLECTOR of stories. Make sure the stories you desire to tell are meant to be told out-loud. Some stories are best on paper, and others are meant to be told out-loud. There are tons of genres and cultures to pull your stories from. There are the stories from your life and regular everyday living that can be just as powerful. If a part of our story has universal meaning and value, then it will have that for another person. Read the newspaper online, keep up on blogs, watch and observe the world around you in your everyday living. 2. KNOW your listeners. Do you have a group in mind for your storytelling? Is there a group you love to tell stories to? You want to know what makes these people tick. Who are they? Their likes and dislikes are? For example, if it’s children–spend time with them and listen to what is important to them, what makes them laugh, what touches their hearts. If it’s the elderly, make sure you have time to spend time with them. Teens connect care to the interest you show in what matters to them and don’t “preach” at them. Co-workers—you probably already know what they like. VERY IMPORTANT: Know your audience and care about your audience! 3. REHEARSE. In the car, before you go to sleep, or while waiting for someone. Try your story in front of a mirror—your body; your face is 90% of the message. Use your “beautiful living room voice” (that’s the middle register of your voice). With concentrating on pushing from your diaphragm as you speak, your voice will reach all the listeners in a large living room space, a boardroom, or classroom with ease.Push from the diaphragm and not the throat. Will you use a prop? If you do, rehearse with the prop. 4. START SMALL. 5-10 minutes of story is best for trying out this art form for a first time. Perhaps, two shorter stories that connect to one another in some way would be an effective and a fun foray into storytelling. Practice—rehearse the...

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“Writers Block and the Other Complications of Writing”

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Any writer will tell you, “Yes, I have had writer’s block or… It comes and goes, like my sciatica and arthritis on rainy days.” It doesn’t mean you’re not a serious writer, nor that you lack something. It could mean you need to carefully examine your approach to writing. I am mentoring-coaching a young writer these days and he was having “writer’s block” so I went to some sources to find simple answers and encourage him to self-exam this this thing we call “writer’s block” I found a great article that addressed it. The article discusses Writer’s Block defined as “the condition of being unable to think of what to write OR how to proceed with writing.” Here were 10 Practical Tips to review concerning your writing. I found them very practical and helpful to my young writer and myself. Ginny Wiehardt, a fiction expert and the author of the article gives more information. My thoughts are in the parentheses.: 10 PRACTICAL TIPS TO OVERCOMING WRITER’S BLOCK Develop a Writing Schedule. (Hard one. I will admit it. Sure helps. And hold it sacred.) Don’t be too hard on yourself. (We are our own worst critic.) Think of it as a JOB and not an ART. (It becomes about the word “work” and takes the word “whim” away–I just didn’t FEEL like writing today.) Take time off after you’ve finished a writing project. (Celebrate! You did it.) Set deadlines and keep them. (Our phones are set up with reminders for this.) Examine deep-seated issues behind your writer’s block. If any… get some help. (Talk to other writers. If it’s something serious, yes, do seek help. Likely, not your fault.) Work on more than one project at a time. (I find this eases boredom, fatigues and excuses.) Try Writing Exercises. (I love writing prompts to free up my mind. Try https://promptuarium.wordpress.com/ A great little recent find on the internet.) Reconsider You Writing Space. (Do you have a dedicated writing space, free from distractions?) Remember why you started to write in the first place. (Go back to the beginning. Re-evaluate.) From http://fictionwriting.about.com/od/writingroadblocks/tp/block.htm Another complication–my attitude. I control this. I answer for it. No one else does. Enough on that one. Another complication–circumstances beyond my control. Things happen. Sometimes, surrendering to them is easier on us and those around us. After that, “get back to the desk” as soon as you can. Don’t let the interruption cheat you of your work. So we stay up a little later, lose a little sleep, or get up a little earlier to work. We can and we will see work has a payout–you did it. ~And now, for some inspirational quotes on writing~ “Being a good writer is 3% talent, 97% not being distracted by the Internet.” —Anonymous “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” —Richard Bach “It is by sitting down to write every morning that one becomes a writer.” —Gerald Brenan “If you’re a writer, your first duty, a duty you owe...

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Re-Story Theater 2014-15 & Your Art-filled Summer

Posted by in Connection, Creativity, Storytelling, Teaching, Theater | 0 comments

  “Be brave enough to live life creatively. The creative place where no one else has ever been.” -from a poem by Alan Alda   My H.S. Drama One class has ended and in a great way—a melodrama by Craig Sodaro, “Wait ‘Til The Sun Shines Nellie”! It’s been fun to see timid, apprehensive, quiet students blossom into confident and capable actors and servant-artists.  And for those that possessed drama skills already, there was a refining of them that may have even surprised them. We are all different after this year of Drama One. RE-STORY THEATER 2014-15! Next year, I am bringing my troupe—Re-Story Theater—back to life.  And I have decided it will be a H.S. troupe, supplemented with young adult and sage and crafted actors.  Could there be a better partnering—teens and crafted actors? I am convinced H.S. people need a place to rise above what we think they can do.  At the H.S. level there’s an offering of classes, a musical, the night of one-acts, or a dramatic play, but where do we send H.S. people to train and grow as actors… actors that want to give a sacred message away? I think there is a need for a Re-Story Theater troupe of high school aged actors. My desire is to have a team trained in improvisational theater which will perform shows with their partnering seasoned actors on a regular basis.  As skill and time allows, we will work sketches into these shows. Who knows, we may supplement the shows with other skills and talents such as music, dance, art.  We will see what God brings to our team of actors… My other hope for this team is that we will produce a Christmas play, to be performed in December of 2014.  I don’t mean to sound like a broken record here, but when was the last time you watched a production where teens were the main storytellers?  Right.  I couldn’t either. If you are an interested teen or you are the parent or friend of a potentially interested teen (and living in the L.A. area), go to my website page where there are details and full description of Re-Story Theater  – http://rightsideupstories.com/re-story-troupe-membership/. Let’s talk!  Feel free to send me an email or give me a call, too. My contact info is on that page. Homeschool parents are often looking for a Drama elective for H.S. credit.  There is a strong possibility that we, together, could make this work for your son or daughter. The rest of us will wait, with anticipation, for news about Re-Story Theater!  You will be the first to know about it… Make it an Art-full Summer! I hope the summer that has begun will be bathed in stories.  Make a habit of visiting the public library on a regular basis. Look for their summer reading program for children. And libraries have air-conditioning! Why not see a play or a musical, visit a museum, or an art gallery …how about taking an art class,...

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Re-Story Theater’s Beginning… An intimate look at the writing of “The Green Velvet Christmas Dress”

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Last year, I wrote backwards! I started with a play, not the story first. I write stories all the time. I do my best to write one Christmas story a year and have begun writing one this year in the midst of the busyness of directing and producing “The Green Velvet Christmas Dress”.  It’s called “The Unopened Christmas Gift” and I like where it’s going. After last year’s successful premiere, I began writing the story of “The Green Velvet Christmas Dress” and I had high hopes for it being available for this year’s reprise of the play.  I had no trouble starting the story and then I came to the part in Emma’s life where her family passes (oops, I’ve told you something important if you haven’t seen it yet!). It stopped me cold in my story tracks of writing. I was fine through establishing relationships, setting scenes, describing places, and the seriousness began to set in.  Death was on its way and all I could do to stop it was this—stop writing. So I did. In February the Lord asked me to return to the page.  It was raining outside and cold for California. I stayed in my flannels and wrote and wrote. I finished the most difficult part of the story up until that point.  There was a sense of relief and then the grief began to set in. “They’re gone now…” from the story and now my main character must live in a grief few could survive… and so will I. After dinner that night, “my first audience” as I like to call Grace and David (Tim if he is home), heard all that I had written thus far.  I wasn’t a very good storyteller that night.  In fact, I had to stop several times to let the tears flow.  As I glanced from the page to my audience, they were crying as well.  And then I was done. “That’s all I have so far,” I said with apology.  A flurry of compliments and thoughts tumbled out the mouths of my faithful family listeners.  And they begged me to write some more. The story is unfinished, but I have written more of it! I know the arc, the chapters. I know the look of the packaging I would like to have for the book.  I know to whom I will dedicate the book. And I know I will ask my faithful editors—Marcia and Gary—to do what they do so well.  I would like to record it, too. And so I wait for the next portion of “The Green Velvet Christmas Dress” to pour forth out of me. After this show’s “curtain closes” and all of the play’s set and props are stored away, I will likely return to the story I began this year—“The Unopened Christmas Gift”—and finish it. I am hoping and praying for a special rainy day in January… when I can return to the dress.  One of the dearest compliments from last year’s...

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“Re-Story Theater’s Beginning… (Part 2)

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But first, I must share with you about The Green Dress Velvet Christmas Dress!” I will share with you about “Improv In Our Everyday Living” in a future blog.  I promise.  But for now, I want to share about Re-Story Theater’s upcoming Christmas show December 7th, 8th, and 9th. My beloved theater group, Re-Story, is well into its second season (with one show under its improvisational belt) and has begun rehearsals on the reprise of “The Green Velvet Christmas Dress”.  And we are  loving the momentum from Molly’s Coffee House, passing it on to the two other actors joining us to complete our cast. Re-Story Theater 2012-2013 is a wonderful group of skilled actors, with some seasoned improvisers and some just beginning their journey in improvisation.  With years of teaching theater, I have come to believe the art of improvisation is different from the traditional actor and script.  The improviser-actor needs a comfortable and accepting environment in order to succeed. As we begin each rehearsal, we start with telling a little of our current story, along with coffee and a little bit of something to eat.  Fears and anxious thought dissipate as we sip and chat. “Bearing one another’s burden” is a fairly scriptural thing, but knowing “an actor has your back” on stage is very important.  It involves trust.  I teach my actors that their desire for the success of their scene partner on stage and their partner’s desire for their success on stage is fail proof! That actor is for you and you are for them. Loving improv, I built into “The Green Velvet Christmas Dress” an interactive tea-time with the audience and characters.  The audience is invited to spend their tea-time with characters and ask further details about the character and their story within the play. To prepare for this time my actors develop a lengthier character study than that which I have provided as the author of the play. They get involved with what makes the character live and breathe and their unique part in the play’s story.  Some of our rehearsal is spent in interviewing our characters.  The actors improvise their way through this interview in character.  There is no third-person dialogue, but dialogue with the character and it is equal in importance to the lines they memorize. As a good director, I remind them about their Uncle Harry or their best friend that is likely to come up and try to get them to break character.  My counsel to them is firm: “Don’t break!  Don’t let them steal what you have worked so hard to create.”  And I remind them, “It’s only unscripted conversation and some of the best part of the play happens in this moment.” It was great fun to see the audience interact with the cast last year.  Some of the most thoughtful questions came from the children and teens.  They really absorbed the story and wanted more details! I hope you will join me and Re-Story Theater for a...

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Living the Artistic and Storied Life

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Living the Artistic and Storied Life

Entry One: Living Creatively in a Dry Season I have been through one of the driest seasons of my life as an artist.  I am not sure many know this… I have kept it to myself, save a few trusted artists experiencing a similar season and a dear husband.  Now, work should not define an artist, but unfortunately it happens to be true with this artist. More recently, though, I have sensed the urge to move forward regardless.  Move forward regardless.  Did you hear that?  Write, tell, memorize, prepare. I have had to stare into the mirror and ask an honest question of myself:  Does my writing and storytelling only make sense if there is someone in the room to applaud or validate it?  Or does my art intrinsically have value because I am called to create in these ways? I believe it has value because dry season or abundant rainy-over-flowing-with-work season, I am called to live creatively. An Audience of One… My audience of one happens to be a relationship I have been in for a very long time. It began when I was 14 and barely knowledgeable of my gifts. The relationship is the one I share with my Creator.  God is my audience of One.  And if I never wrote another story, told one, recorded one, I have lived off of a feast of His goodness in allowing me to use these gifts of storytelling and writing for many years. So… today as I write this post, I know that to tell a story to Him, to write a story for Him is very much like running into the kitchen and showing Him the sculpted piece of clay, the finger painting thick with gloppy paint, the story with the scrawl of child beginning to write out of their imagination. I can see myself holding a paper up high and saying proudly, “Please put it on your refrigerator… I hope you like this one.” And in my mind’s eye, I can see Him throwing his head back with laughter and declaring, “I love it! It’s your best one yet!” I watch as He tapes it on a door filled to capacity with paper after paper. He studies it one more time and I swell with pride. My audience of One is pleased. Now, I might lose a few of my friends of Right-Side-Up Stories as I share from this POV (point of view-vantage), but if that is true, perhaps we weren’t really in a relationship as fellow artists and lovers of story.  I am hoping you’ll stay and hear me out through more entries of how I live creatively as an artist. Hey, I found water today… My highpoint of creativity today was that of being a listener as someone told their story. Of course, they had been kind and listened to mine, but I have to say I loved listening to theirs.  As I listened, our stories overlapped and the edges touched and it was a...

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Gift Two: Creativity and Imagination

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Your Story Matters is a blog dedicated to encouraging you as a storyteller and as a writer, no matter where you are in these giftings. You may be young or old, naïve or wise in these gifts.  Stay open to learning and building these gifts. And as my blog builds, we’ll find ways to communicate our thoughts concerning our storytelling and writing within the context of our faith in God.  Right now, it feels like a one-sided conversation we’re having.  The blog is new and maybe you’re new to the idea of a blog. I would encourage you to register and share a thought or two with other readers.  I know you’ll encourage them… and me!  You can also copy our navigation into an email and send it on to a friend. Now, let’s get back to The 7 Gifts of Story.  We’ve already looked at one of the gifts—Rest and the Shhh-ing (Quieting) of our Soul. Gift Two: Creativity and Imagination [audio:http://rightsideupstories.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Blog3.mp3|titles=Gift Two] In quieting and resting in a story, imagination is engaged.  Now, for an adult this is a fairly wonderful thing.  Yes, the resting is very good, too, but engaging our imagination is good for those adult dendrites of ours and the building of brain reserves. I’d like to talk a little bit about story and the gift of imagination and creativity. Storytelling is theater of the mind. I prompt you with the invitation of “I want to tell you a story…” and you begin to engage as children do very naturally.  You become quiet and still on the rug of your soul.  As I (or another teller) tell the story, you begin to use your beautiful imagination—painting vivid pictures in your mind’s eye. Stories reignite the imagination that has become dusty and rusty from living in the adult day-to-day reality.  It brings forward sensory images and memories that are there, but latent.  After spending time using our imagination, we feel re-charged and ready to conquer a task, or even create something fresh and new. In fact, today you can practice activating our creativity with a story!  I’ll leave a story on this blog entry called, “The Sack,” and you can try this exercise and it will awaken your imagination related to story.  Search for the colored pencils or crayons now, grab some copier paper and when that story is finished draw the first image that comes to your mind. Just draw, don’t correct or critique what comes forward.  The story is rich in description and will evoke some feelings and experiences.  From that drawn image, write a sentence or question that comes to mind.  Place this aside.  Revisit it later in the day.  Your mind will have activated on the visual and written prompt. Writers, spend great amounts of time using their imagination to create stories.  The writer of fiction has to imagine the characters, the setting, the time, the problem to be solved, the action leading up to the resolution of that problem… and much, much...

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Gift One—Rest and the Shh-ing of Your Soul

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Welcome back… I am so grateful that you have returned to read my blog. If you are new to Your Story Matters, it is my desire to encourage you as a storyteller, as a writer, and, together, find ways to communicate our thoughts concerning stories within the context of our faith in God. Over the next several blogs, I’d like to share The Seven Gifts of Story. Ponder them with me and let’s see where they take us. Gift One—Rest and the Shh-ing of Your Soul  [audio:http://rightsideupstories.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Blog2-1.mp3|titles=Gift One] When was the last time someone said, “I’d like you to go rest for a little while and just refocus.” I can hear your response already: “Hah! It’s never happened! … I‘m so busy.” Over the many years of telling stories, I have had the joy of watching an audience enter a moment of storytelling, … unaware of what will transpire in the next moments, hour.  Distracted children become focused and content, teenagers and young adults turn off their cells, anxious and weary adults begin to relax and enjoy this “once upon a time” moment, once again. It’s story time on the rug and everyone’s invited and important! What a beautiful thing. #Snapshot!# I like to take a mental snapshot of these moments because in our very wound-tight, too-busy, electronic hand-held tool driven culture, these moments are few. At the top of one of the chapters in my book, “Step Inside,” there is a quote from a parent: “I haven’t relaxed like that in a long time,” remarked a grown man carrying a slumbering child after one of my Storynight concerts.  “I guess I needed this even more than she did.” So, when was the last time someone told you a story? When was the last time you sat someone down and told them a story? Here’s some of the wondrous benefits of a quiet moment of resting… listening to a story— A singular focus is created in that moment: I listen, you tell, or I tell and you listen. Relationships are strengthened. Imagination is engaged. There are wonderful physical benefits, such as one’s breathing slows down and becomes even, a sense of well-being and relaxation, distractions dissipate as one becomes singular in focus as a listener. And, we get a take away!  You know, kind of like the treat bags at a birthday party… the story has not only provided entertainment, but the possibility of learning something. Like a mirror reflects our face, so can a story reflect some part of one’s life as we quiet our soul to reflect. Every so often, there is wonderful, sacred and unmistakable moment that happens in a large setting, and often in smaller storytelling settings.  There is a quiet—an uninterrupted moment after the last and final words of a story.  My listeners are resting in the story.  And I try my best not to break this moment. Another #Snapshot!# I would encourage you, as a teller and as a listener, to rest in those moments after a...

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