Textbook Thoughts – Crash Course in Storytelling

This post is a collection of quotes from my textbook for my class Art of Storytelling at Texas Woman’s University in the Spring of 2019. My idea is to add to this post throughout the semester with more quotes and my thoughts on them.

The Book: Crash Course in Storytelling by Kendall Haven and MaryGay Ducey

“History can become story and lead listeners to following the path into the past.” (ch. 1)
My mind went straight to those time when I would sit next to my grandmother while she worked on her basketry. She would tell me stories as she wove. She passed on the lessons of our culture. I was told how the redbud (the plant used for Western Mono basket weaving) was harvested and stripped, dried and wound, so that it could then be made into a basket for us to use for a baby or another which we use when gathering acorns. Storytelling is integral to teaching and learning history of any culture or nation. For me, it was the only way to learn about my peoples history.

“In ancient times, the storyteller passed on stories of wisdom and heritage.” (ch. 1) 
This makes me mad because it unknowingly erases the importance that storytelling still holds today in many Indigenous cultures. It relegates a lot of peoples cultural practices to the annals of history. Indigenous cultures still use storytelling to pass on “wisdom and heritage” and relegating that practice to the past is erasure. I feel that this sentence could easily be updated to reflect modern Indigenous cultures. “[In many cultures, ancient and modern] the storyteller passe[s] on stories of wisdom and heritage.”

“Still others enjoy telling stories from a specific culture…” (ch. 4)
 Storytelling is a great way to introduce people to other cultures, however it is vital that you know you are the right person to share that story. In some Indigenous cultures, certain stories are not for sharing outside of the community. Culture sharing is a wonderful part of our world, but negative cultural appropriation ought to be avoided. As I learned in ch. 2 “Storytelling seems to create stronger, more vivid and more memorable imagery.” Keeping this in mind, when sharing stories from cultures that are not your own is paramount. You will be giving someone a strong memory, are you representing that culture correctly as you do so? Are you sure?

“You will find stories that are recommended so often it would be folly to ignore them, whether you end up using them or not.” (ch.4)
It’s important to check these stories though. Just because something has been said over and over again does not mean that it is right, true, or good.

“After a time you will be able to spot the tellable tale very quickly and, just as quickly, know whether it is one you are interested in telling.” (ch. 4)
Just because a story interests you does not mean that it is necessarily your story to tell. Be aware of negative appropriative behaviors.

“With the rise of a professional class of storytellers has come a good deal of discussion of cultural appropriation. Should storytellers recount stories from cultures they don’t belong to? Who owns a story? What is the right thing to do? This is a complex topic, but we encourage library storytellers to tell what they wish.” (ch. 4)
This is bad advice and will lead to negative cultural appropriation by well-meaning librarians.

“Choose stories carefully, treat them with respect, tell them with joy. In doing so, you honor all traditions.” (ch. 4)
This is at best inaccurate and at worst a flat-out lie. You do not “honor all traditions” by telling whatever stories you wish. You “honor all traditions” by learning about the culture from which your story comes and learning whether or not you have the authority to tell that story. Telling whatever story you wish reeks of privilege that the culture from which you are taking the story may not have. Ask permission to tell stories that are not yours. Talk to authority figures from that culture. Talk to more than one. Do not assume you are doing right because your intentions are good.

“Pick stories that will be appropriate for, relevant to, and interesting to your intended audience.” (ch. 4)
The 10 criteria for choosing stories are really well thought out and make sense. 10 specifically is a great thing to keep in mind in general. I think that it’s important to ask ourselves questions throughout the story choosing process, in collection development  and lesson planning.

“Memorize the first thing you will say and the last thing you will say.” (ch. 5)
This is great advice! I think that using this method would really help me stay on task in my storytelling (and writing).

“Also learn the essential chants, songs, and phrases in the story.” (ch. 5)
Be careful with this! Some chants in traditional stories could be a part of religious ceremony and not for you to say. Again, make sure that you have the authority to tell the story you are telling.

“Let gestures naturally evolve from your body and the story.” (ch. 5)
This is great! If I think too much about what exact gesture I want to do, I could become a robot. This is storytelling, not the chicken dance.

“Create an emotional memory.” (ch. 5)
Creating an emotional investment between yourself and the story sounds like an amazing plan. To lose yourself in the story you’re telling could be to bring the audience closer. Become the story and let it move though you.

“Remember: you are sufficient as you are.” (ch. 5)
You are good enough. You are good enough. You are good enough.

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