Melea’s Blog

To blog or not to blog…” that’s always been a question for me. “Do I have something people really want to hear, consider, use in their current writing and storytelling endeavors?” I decided I do!

I’d like to encourage the story you are living out as “a spiritual being having a temporary human experience” on this globe called Earth (the quote is credited to Robert Morris, Gateway Church). Your story matters. My story matters. And God’s magnificent story, that we all have breath and life in, matters.

I hope my blog work brings a smile and some encouragement to your storytelling and writing today…

Melea

 

 

MOVING THE BOOKMARK FORWARD

Posted by on Oct 16, 2017 in Storytelling | 0 comments

  I was in line at a Barnes and Noble Bookstore the other day and there was a rack of beautiful and elaborate gift-quality bookmarks near the cash registers. I marveled at how bookmarks have changed. Remember how bookmarks were once a common item in our lives? Bookmarks are strips of leather, cardboard, or other material used to mark one’s place in a book. As a kid, I remember the local public library gave you a paper bookmark when you checked out your books. I would take the greatest of care and use my bookmarks to remember my place in the book. Your public library allowed you to check out several books at a certain age, so I could have several bookmarks in use. I’ve collected some bookmarks over the years. I’ve also found them in old books. Right-Side-Up Stories used to have a bookmark with my poem Step Inside on the front of it. I need to bring that bookmark back. I’ve given bookmarks away as gifts, sent them to people in a card, … and I’m certain you have done the same. We don’t use bookmarks as much as we used to, do we? We read online or on a Kindle, Nook, iPad, or laptop that give us access to bookmarking our place.  Sometimes we replace bookmarks with something else when reading a real book. We’ll grab a piece of paper, an envelope, or bend down the corner of a page.  It’s never quite the same as a bookmark. Our lives are full of stories. The relationships in our lives are living stories. If you think about it, we are kind of like books with chapters. As people share their stories with us we would be wise to remember where we left off with them. Almost like a placing a mental bookmark. The hurried effort we live, the overwhelm of life, and work will attempt to crowd out the remembering. It will require us thinking for a second of a way to mentally and emotionally mark the place where we stopped in the conversation with that person. This is always a good idea. If we were to measure our life by the bookmarks we last placed in someone’s life, what page would we be on in their story? I have made a more recent habit of going back and checking in with people who have asked me to pray for them. In some way, the story they’ve been living has always changed. You can get the Facebook version or the intimate how-they-are-really-doing version by asking off the radar through a text, email or a phone call. The cost and effort? Time and intention. The value? Priceless. I encourage you to move the bookmark forward in a relationship today. The best part is that someone else’s amazing life story is being taken into your story as you do this.  While you are at it, turn the page in the storytelling of your life. Maybe they didn’t ask, but tell one of your recent amazing stories. Move their bookmark forward!...

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Tune Into the Beauty

Posted by on Mar 12, 2017 in Storytelling | 0 comments

I believe it has to do with the reality that I am purposefully trying to see things differently, and forging judgement. Be they my January 2017 rose-colored glasses, or my purposeful non-particular viewpoint, I am choosing to call out beauty when I see it. I like the word BEAUTIFUL. Pleasing the mind or senses aesthetically. The word has become my catch-all for many things. I use the word a lot. I am certain I overuse this adjective. Scattering it about like it’s a noun. So many things are beautiful. I have tried to tune my eyes, ears, mind, and heart to the things that are beautiful. Tuning the eyes: We don’t have to go further than our front door for beauty. Right now, things look so green with the constant rain we’ve had here in California.  Green is a color that is psychologically appealing to us. Color psychology tells us green represents renewal and growth… balance, calm and harmony. Tuning the ears: I find listening deeply and purposefully is key for me. Letting people talk without the need to comment, but instead affirm them. It’s what we call active listening. Music helps me tune my ears and my heart. And spoken word tunes my ear, and my heart, and my mind. Being a storyteller and writer, I realize the power of words.  “A word fitly spoken (at the right time) is like apples of gold in settings of silver,” says the Proverbs 25:11. Here are some Spoken Word Pieces that are BEAUTIFUL to the ear, heart, and mind. They tune my eyes, ears, heart, mind and soul like a tuning fork. I hope you enjoy them. Don’t listen to them all at once. Take your time. Tissue may be required for a few of them, and it seems fair to warn you. Taylor Mali, “What Teachers Make” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fuBmSbiVXo0 Jon Jorgensen “Who You Are” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uWi5iXnguTU Jon Jorgensen “The Wall” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nGuO6hzI8Ok Shane Koyczan “To This Day” (for the bullied and beautiful) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sa1iS1MqUy4 Janette Ikz “I Will Wait For You” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=glB3yAFDX-o Brittain Bush “Woman At The Well” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=opZv7lGJDdo Amena Brown Owen “Be Strong and Courageous” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HfgU0RXDw4Y Melissa “Mommy, Can You Hear Me” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QP-PpfIfWzI   Tell me what you think… I am all ears and eyes!...

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Mentoring Through Story

Posted by on Feb 20, 2017 in Storytelling | 0 comments

People often ask me when I began storytelling. It all started at a small Christian college (Pacific Christian College, now Hope International University) while I was serving as an assistant dean. Whenever I was with students, I reached for a story. I found out that a story was a great way to get inside their story, to teach them, and to lift them up with encouragement. If the teaching material and the story connected to one another, this was a bonus! In fact, it created pictures that helped them remember material for a test, a final, or created the hoped for “ah-hah!”. I also counseled/mentored students with stories. I would be in counseling or mentoring session and ask, “Could I tell you a story that might relate to what you are going through?” The answer was always, “Yes.” After that moment of a story and the processing of its application came the question, “Could I have a copy of that story?” I’d walk over to our large office copier and make one, knowing I’d connected the student with a word picture for their pain, questions, confusion, processing, or personal growth. The first time I told the story of “The King Who Waits,” it was at this small Christian college. I’d been asked to speak at Dorm Devos. It was a weekly student-led time of community and a devotional, with an invited guest speaker. It was a real privilege to be asked to speak as this was usually reserved for pastors and professors. Students on and off-campus—residents from both the men’s and women’s halls—gathered (piled into) into one of the large lobby spaces after evening classes, ready for this “sacred-once-a-week-moment” together. I was asked to address the topic of “How to have an intimate relationship with God.” The more I thought about it, the more I knew it had to be a story that would best explain this relationship. I used the metaphor of a King—a Great King—and a subject coming to visit the King at the end of the day. To my amazement, weeks later the story was still hanging around in students’ lives and affecting their relationship with God. The preservative power of a story! This touched my heart deeply as a young assistant dean and a blossoming storyteller. And it gave me a push to continue writing stories that could serve as metaphors for our lives. It’s a pattern used by great speakers (and comediennes). I’m sure you’ve noticed this. The speaker will start with a story, and usually, it’s a funny story. I think they want to hear us laugh so they can relax a little. Any time this opening story is from their life, they have cleverly hooked us—connected our story to their story. They’ve got us. We’re for them. A good speaker will use story a second time in the body of their material. If they take us back into that first story by connecting the dots to the material we’ve been taught, they’ve become unforgettable. They’ve mentored us with a story! When I am asked to speak, you can bet I will have a story, or two, or three. If I am counseling or mentoring, I will have a story for this person. I will snoop around and find one. I was mentored...

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Top 5 Storytelling Tips From A Professional Storyteller

Posted by on Feb 10, 2017 in Creativity, Storytelling | 0 comments

“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 story(stories). Know it well. Enjoy what the story teaches you or how it encourages you. There is something in our voice when we communicate something we care about. You will communicate your care of the story’s content to the audience. 5. REVIEW your story moment. Have someone who was there...

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“Writers Block and the Other Complications of Writing”

Posted by on Nov 6, 2015 in Creativity, Storytelling, Writing | 0 comments

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 to yourself and your readers, and to your writing itself, is to become wonderful. To become the best writer you can possibly be.” —Theodora Goss (all quotes form http://writersrelief.com/  A good site. Why not join their mailing list.) Okay, let’s get back to the desk! May the story you WRITE...

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In Search of Theater for Teen Actors…just my thoughts

Posted by on Oct 24, 2014 in Community, Storytelling, Theater | 0 comments

Okay, so where does director of faith-based theater go to research and find good material for H.S. students? After piling through sketch and play sites and a few other resources, I am considering the following: We need writers for high school aged actors (sketches and plays)… ones that will commit to writing the stories that matter to them! I need to write. Today, high school people are more sophisticated and wiser (worldly-wise) than ever before. My experience, after being back in the classroom is this: They won’t do corny.  They won’t do obvious. They won’t do things that seem immature-childish scenarios, story-lines, sketches or plays.  “Not-ever-going-to-happen in my lifetime…” as one teen informed me. They will do funny, if it’s truly funny. They will do serious work if they find it addressing a story that is true enough to be lived out by them or other teens around them. They don’t mind being the messengers.  They will work. They will show up and rehearse.  They’ll open up their own stories for the telling. I find it more than interesting that young adult fiction books (series)—read and enjoyed by teens—have become successful movies over the last several years: “The Fault In Our Stars” (John Green), “Divergent”, “The Hunger Games”. I personally have been moved by these stories and movies. The characters are brave and courageous—heroes and heroines—in their living and in their dying. Also, interesting to note, is the futuristic reality of Divergent, Insurgent, Allegiant (Veronica Roth) and the Hunger Games Series (Suzanne Collins). As a parent of a teen, a teacher and a theater arts director of teens, I am asking the question—“What is speaking so loudly to their hearts, minds and souls in these works?”… “How can I enter this dialogue and could I be a part of helping them tell the stories that matter to them?” The best way to do this, if teens are in your life, is to ask questions and create an open dialogue. Ask them at a time when they are open. “When’s that?!  The door is always closed,” you might be thinking. I find some of the best time is in the car on the way home or to places, after dinner or a dinner-out time, the last moments of the day before they retire. Let them talk… tell their story. This is not your time to philosophize-criticize-moralize…interrupt. Simply listen and open your ears. Ask open-ended questions. And make sure you are ready for some questions to come back your way. If you want to write for them, you must get inside their stories and find out what is hard, challenging, crazy, hopeful, joyous, important, etc., to them. With their permission, hurry to your laptop, journal, yellow pad and write as many notes as you can remember… And then when you get to the place of writing, ask them to be a part of the critique team.  They love that—critiquing us! Call or write me about your thoughts on writing for teens… I’m all ears about this group of amazing people. God bless your story and the teens in and around your life!...

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

Posted by on Jun 11, 2014 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, a pottery class … go to the local art store (Walmart or Target) and buy some supplies  for your summer art enrichment program!  And let’s tell lots of stories this summer—around the BBQ, campfire, in the car on a long trip, or while visiting with relatives. You’re a great storyteller...

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Shakespeare & The American H.S. Drama Student

Posted by on Mar 6, 2014 in Storytelling, Teaching, Theater | 0 comments

“We know what we are, but not what we may be.” –William Shakespeare   Remember way back in August when I shared of how I would be teaching a H.S. theater class, once again?  Every Friday, I teach a group of 15 H.S. students. It’s been a good year, so far! And a very stretching one for all of us. For me, it has been the reusing of old muscles and building back strength.  And for most of my students it has been the building of new muscles. They’re a wonderfully creative group of teens.  Some are timid and shy, some are bold and outspoken, some are in between those two extremes, but all of them are willing to risk self to step into character and story.  They are my favorite blend for a class. They are all growing in their knowledge of theater and they are growing as individuals.  And I am doing my best to stay just a bit ahead of them! Sometimes, I just want say, “FREEEZE!” and stop the class so I can capture the moment. Facial expression is one of my favorite ways that the actor communicates on the stage. Some of my treasured facial expressions, from a teacher’s POV, have been the surprise of discovery, the “I did it!” and my personal favorite—“I have a better one in me, Mrs. B.” In April they will take their skills to the stage and we will do a play within a play kind of show.  The show is entitled, “Shakespeare & The American H.S. Drama Student”.  Dear Shakespeare is mentioned in several of our comedy sketches, some of his best monologues are shared along with other great theatrical works such as Shaw, Twain, Wilder, Hugo, Miller, Williams and a few poets and storytellers thrown in for good measure.  We are hoping Shakespeare will show up (wink-wink)! The information is listed here on my website and tickets for the two nights are available in my store.  The ticket price (very low) includes a delicious coffee and dessert too (Click Here for Tickets). High School students are worth our investment of time as they give away from themselves in sports, speech and debate, music, art, and theater.  It’s always nice to walk across the street, so to speak, and support another school’s efforts in the arts. Come join my students (and me) on April 11th  or 12th  (Buy Tickets Now). God bless the Story you’re living out today!...

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Workshops Shape Vision and Bring Hope

Posted by on Feb 28, 2014 in Storytelling, Teaching | 0 comments

In a culture that can’t seem to find its common narrative, we found one as we risked embarrassment, misunderstanding and fear as we shared our own personal stories that day…   My January Storyday—“The Power of Storytelling and Spoken Word”—was powerful and meaningful for its participants, including its speaker-teacher. Every age was represented, from teenager to senior. We gathered up from central California to San Diego, and added Kansas and South Africa in for contrast and depth.  It was seven plus hours of teaching, partnering, discussions, coffee, lunch, coffee, media, and some writing and gathering onto paper what began to come forward like butterflies needing a net. I, once again, witnessed the way workshops shape and shift the participants. Workshops affirm and clarify goals and direction. They create a synergism—a community of like minds and hearts come together.  Workshops bring hope and future to the doorstep of our lives.  The knock is so loud, you can’t help but let it all in.  And what a bunch of stuff it leaves on the living room floor! However, you do find a way to sort it out later. Several participants from the Storyday have shared of their sorting.  I am in awe of their steps to use the teachings, promptings and encouragement. All credit goes to them. I have participated in many writing and storytelling workshops.  Some felt like big fat commercials for the speaker-teacher.  And then there were those that I took to heart and I went home and applied them to work and ministry. They are so familiar to me, still. I can remember the room, where I was sitting, and these moments where personal stories and application brought the teaching up close and personal. The knock on my door was loud, very. One of the decisions I made at my January Storyday was this—I will do more Storydays and I will do them more regularly. I have two that have come to mind: “Developing the Artist Within” and “The Creative Process of Writing—Finding and Keeping the Tools Sharp”.  And I am thinking early May. Send me some feedback on these please.  I’d love to know your thoughts. More to come on this. Until then, may the story you live out today change someone. I know it can…...

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MOVING FROM LABOURER TO CRAFTSMAN TO ARTIST

Posted by on Oct 21, 2013 in Storytelling, Teaching, Theater | 0 comments

He who works with his hands is a labourer. He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands, his head and his heart is an artist. —Saint Francis of Assisi   This was the first quote that I wrote on the board for my Drama One students.   It went in their new and empty Actor’s Journal.  It’s a composition book where they are to relate their growth, challenges, ah-hah moments, and general thoughts about being a student-actor. It’s also a place they log their rehearsals.  And, from time to time, I will collect them and check them.  Mostly, to see if they are thinking and processing.   I think their Actor’s Journal will prove to be a great measuring stick for where they were in September of 2013 and where they will have ended up at the close on our class in June of 2014.   I have decided that I need to keep a journal as well, for I am growing as a teacher-coach.  I am spreading my wings creatively.  I am working hard as a teacher.  I had forgotten how much teachers do for their students. The prayers and hopes that go into preparing for each teaching moment are immeasurable.  Teachers are awesome people!   To be honest, not every student is as interested in the subject of drama and really don’t care that it very likely will change their lives.  “Hey, I am just fulfilling elective credits… Seems like an easy A.”  And that’s really okay.   What they don’t know yet is what I know—a theater class changes people.  My H.S. theater class changed my life.  Mrs. Cooney, my theater arts teacher, changed my life.  It was my senior year of college and a required class for the musical.  From then on, theater was a part of my life… and eventually, my ministry and calling.   In fact, taking an acting class, a theater course, an improv or storytelling workshop changes a person. In a 3 hour evening class or a 6-8 hour workshop day, amazing things happen in a person. One leaves a class/workshop euphoric, hope-filled, and bursting with creativity. I know my students have grown some dendrites, made some friends, and for some, they have found the found something powerful—the artist within them.   I am going to be leading a Storytelling and Spoken Word (…for the Artist, Speaker, Teacher, Preacher)  Workshop, in January  25th, 2014, at my studio in Sierra Madre, CA. It you’re interested in this class, could you email me today at melea@rightsideupstories.com and I will get you on the information list and you’ll be the first to know the date and all the forthcoming details.  Come take a creative and artistic leap with me!   And remember: “He who works with his hands, his head and his heart is an artist.” (St. Francis aka Giovanni Bernadone Morosini!)  ...

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