Reviewing a Storyteller CD
Recently I had time to meet with Ron Jones, a North Carolina Storyteller and retired Children’s Librarian. We discussed how one should go about writing a review of a Storyteller’s CD. As a retired Children’s Librarian, Ron mentioned that he had often taught his associates to review children’s books to include certain points in the review. I have found many online bookstores and even the library catalog listings offer an opportunity to review items. Still I had questions: “Is there a prescribed format? Are there certain elements to include? How/should one address technical quality?” Ron was kind enough to adapt his book review method to the review of a CD. I found this very helpful to me and with Ron’s permission, I share it with you. Perhaps this will inspire you to write a review for the newsletter or even your local library or online bookstore!
Ron suggests every review include at least 5 of the following points. Some are very obvious (Title, publisher, etc) and others demonstrate that you have carefully read or listened to the work being reviewed.
Title of the CD, Performer, CE length in minutes, price, order information.
The opening two or three sentences should be an overview describing the genre and/or theme of the CD – is this a collection of ghost Stories, Folktales, Original Stories? Use descriptors like: fast-paced, humorous, heartwarming, etc. This is where you would include if there is a poetry, music, chants or call-and response in the stories. As well as “content” you could also describe the “voice” or “vocal quality” of the teller as he/she tells the story. Comment on how/if the story/storyteller capture or draws-in the listener.
Select one or two of the stories –sometimes there is a “title story” that demonstrates the mood, tone and energy of the CD. Here you could comment about plot, setting, time period and character. Here you can comment on the specific impact of the story – the engaging elements.
Authenticity: Are there liner notes on the stories – origin, adaptations, re-telling, etc. If you have knowledge about the genre you could comment on where the collection falls – meaning – excellent collection of ghost stories, or soothing or calming bedtime stories, or rollicking ride of humor, etc.
Target Audience: Age – young children, school age, all ages, great family stories, adults. Also her you could suggest “use” – meaning – great for listening in the car with kids, good at bedtime, classroom use, etc.
Technical Aspects: Production quality, sound, graphics and packaging, recording quality, etc. Also include a picture (thumbnail) of the CD cover if possible.
Bio-information on the teller – where from, performance areas, contact info (email, website, phone address) List other CD’s available – not all.
If this seems like a lot, be assured it is only a guideline and Ron suggests that a review need not contain all the items, but should contain at least 5 of the seven items. I can now approach an audio, or even adapt these suggestions for a book, review with a little more confidence that I have more to say than “it’s really a great CD!”
Grooming the Next Generation
In ancient cultures a designated storyteller preserved the people’s history, lore, and legends by telling the stories again and again. Often the storyteller was also the medicine man or woman who attempted to heal both body and soul: the body with herbs and chants; the soul with stories to bring some understanding to the great mystery of life and its sorrows. As the storyteller grew older, a younger person learned the stories to continue the passage of the lore to the next generation.
So it was in my family. My grandmother told me stories that her grandmother told her. Now I see my daughter learning and following in our footsteps. No long ago, my granddaughter said, “I like the family ghost story the best.” I then realized that my daughter had related the story to her children.
I had promised my middle granddaughter that I would tell stories for her kindergarten class, but the spring allergy season had left me with no voice. My daughter stepped right in, but not before calling to ask about the “funny Old McDonald” story that I had made up for the girls. She said, “Carolyn has requested that one as her favorite of all your stories.” The class loved the storytelling, and I was proud to be the mother of the next storyteller in our family.
It’s important to groom the next generation of storytellers both at home and at school. When I tell stories in elementary schools, I encourage the children to go home and tell their families my story. I explain that it is the highest compliment for me if they retell my story to someone else.
How do we groom the next generation? First, we tell them stories and encourage them to retell them. Second, we always listen; we are never too busy to hear a child’s story. Third, we make storytelling a part of our family occasions, encouraging everyone to add in details and memories shared in common. Then, the real family treasures are not lost.
Ingredients for a Successful Storytelling Guild
by Lisa Eister, Founder of Clemson Area StoryTellers Guild
© 2008 Lisa Eister
Have you ever wondered, “What makes a successful Storytelling Guild?” Is there a basic recipe for success, that beginning and established guilds can follow to build and grow their guild? That is the question I asked Tim Tingle and Joe “Doc” Moore. Tim and Doc are storytellers, authors, and veteran guild founders.
Doc Moore is a storyteller and author, and Past- President of Tejas Storytelling Association in Texas. He has also served on the board of the National Storytelling Network. Doc was recipient of the 2008 Oracle Award for Service and Leadership from the South Central Region from the National Storytelling Network.
Tim Tingle is a nationally known storyteller, and award winning author. He has performed in schools, libraries, and festivals over a thirty-five state area, the Smithsonian Museum, and at the National Storytelling Festival.
Doc and Tim have each been awarded the John Henry Faulk Award for significant contribution to storytelling in Texas. They have founded more than twenty storytelling guilds between them, and have been deeply involved, in the development of each.
Based on their vast experience in founding and growing guilds, Doc and Tim have identified eight key ingredients found in successful storytelling guilds. These key ingredients can be incorporated into the culture of each and every guild; whether it is an established guild or a brand new guild. Each storytelling guild will have its own culture and flavor; just as tellers, we each have a distinct “voice.” The following eight ingredients have been the basis for more than twenty successful guilds, which Doc and Tim have been involved with over the years.
Mix the following ingredients with a heavy helping of Encouragement, Smiles, an Easy Going Spirit, and your guild is sure to grow.
KEEP a master list of all members, potential members, and everyone who ever attends a guild meeting.
CALL everyone a few days before the meeting to remind them of place and time. Tell them you are looking forward to seeing them, and encourage them to bring a guest to the meeting. Calling is an important ingredient in a successful guild, and one that is overlooked in favor of the easy email. Storytelling is all about oral communication. Oral communication can only be accomplished with a phone call.
APPOINT an Emcee for each meeting. Emcees decide the order of tellers, keep things moving, introduce the tellers with names and a brief fact about the teller, and ask for applause. They are “Mr. or Mrs. Clipboard” for the meeting, passing the attendance list, which should include a place for email address and phone number, before the meeting. The Emcee should place a STAR by the name of those wishing to tell a story that evening. This is a job that should rotate each meeting.
TIME all stories. Let members and new visitors know that you are looking for 8 to 12 minute stories. Have members let the Emcee know in advance, if they plan to tell a longer story. Encourage tellers to rotate longer stories with shorter, 5 minute stories, so the same person is not telling a long story at every guild meeting.
Every teller should have some 5 minute stories in their repertoire.
If stories are consistently going over 8 to 12 minutes, appoint a person or have the Emcee time stories and write the time on an index card. Give the cards to each teller at the end of the meeting. The time should not be read aloud, it is merely to help the teller. Timing of stories should be handled in an easy going way, so as to create an atmosphere where everyone is encouraged to tell a story, especially visitors.
Encourage members to time their stories as they rehearse. Every performer has a set amount of time, whether in a school, library, or festival setting. It is imperative to know the timing of your story.
ARRANGE the chairs in a proscenium style rather than in a circle or around a table. This gives a performance quality to the stories, rather than a sit and talk atmosphere. This also makes it easier for the Emcee to move things along.
ASK someone to bring refreshments to every meeting. The refreshment person should rotate each month.
SEND out a newsletter by email. Include a brief article with mention of all the tellers and the stories told. This can be one or two sentences. Encourage members to write book reviews, articles about festivals, conferences, and other events they have attended. Also, include a calendar with regional, state, and national storytelling events.
PROMOTE and advertise your guild. Put notices up in the libraries and in local newspapers. Contact your local Chamber of Commerce to see if they will list the guild on their website. Encourage kids of ALL ages from local schools to come. Leadership and regular members should bring guests to as many meetings as possible. Talk with creative writing teachers and invite their students to come and share poetry or a short story. While a storytelling guild may desire the telling of stories to dominate, as opposed to reading stories; tellers can learn from hearing a well-crafted story that is read. Open your arms as a guild. If guilds define storytelling as “this or that,” then the guild may unwittingly exclude people that would otherwise be a part of your guild.
Invite members of local Toastmasters Clubs to attend a guild meeting and tell a story. There is a Storytelling Manual in the Toastmasters program, and they can receive manual credit.
OTHER ingredients key to building a guild, include keeping guild business to a minimum at the beginning of a meeting. If more than 10 to 15 minutes is required, such as required for planning an event, set another date and time to meet.
You are sure to grow a successful guild if you mix all of the ingredients with the following: Always smile, be positive, encouraging, and make everyone feel as if the guild meeting would not have been the same without them there!