The Maze of storytelling

By Rama Idrees

I’ve always wanted my voice to be heard and my stories to be told. One of the lessons that I’ve learned from life needed to be taught. I was looking for an opportunity in life to share great stories with people from different ages and nationalities.

However, when I thought of storytelling it is like a maze. I was not sure how to enter and once there, I was not sure of my next direction. Without help, I could become confused.

I didn’t have the confidence to look for workshops or centers that may teach you the way of being a ‘’Great Storyteller’’, until that day My teacher told me about the ‘’ABER: What’s your story trip,’’ and recommended that I shoot a video for Qatar Foundation International & Global Nomads so I can possible earn the chance to be selected in that great program.   I still remember the day I recorded the video.  It was all about telling my story of what I did to be involved to join in my school’s book club.


I was over the moon when I heard that I was accepted in the program. I was to learn what it takes to possibly be a “Great Storyteller.”   The days went along working on my story-box.  The story box is basically small box (Could be shoe box size or smaller) that contains few items, each one of them reminds you of a great story that happened to you.  (see

We also started a visual video exchange with students from the United States.   This was our first method to meet the students using Google Hangouts video calls, It was also a useful way to share some of the stories we had.

The 7th of March was a celebrated day in my life.    I was so jumpy because this was the first meeting with the U.S students and chaperones. The time flew away quickly, but I can’t forget the words that Mr. Kevin Cordi told us ‘’ Always rule with an iron fist, listen with a warm heart, and drink from the Great White mug this side only.’’ That’s exactly what  Mr. Kevin told us at the first workshop we had, it was a great story of a king , his son , his grandson. The father gave this advice to his son before he died.   If you just followed that quote, although it is couched in  a folktale, I realized it had deep meaning and understanding the meaning of it will improve my life.


I got the chance to see many different places in Qatar such as (Souq Waqef , Katara, and The Islamic museum of art ). Although I have seen them before and I’ve been to them before because I live here, I never really understood the story behind each place. I saw the places in different ways.   I saw them in the way that the U.S students did.

I am reminded of Lewis Carrol’s words in Alice’s Adventure in wonderland and through the looking-gladd, “No, no! The adventures first, explanations take such a dreadful time.”  How was I to know the adventure could be in my own back yard of Qatar.


Each one of us have been into many adventures before, and I believe that everything happens for a reason, perhaps someone asked you to explain what happened to you during a journey or and to share an adventure of somewhere you have been, surely initially it was hard for you to explain, but now imagine instead of recalling the events, sharing them as a story. Stories are the best way to tell an adventure.  Simply explaining the event takes a  long time, tell the story and people will listen. With stories, detail  the main points that you want to tell and a great  story has been told.

  Nevertheless, I thought of how comforting it is to go to so many places and try to listen to their story with a warm heart.

I realized it takes an iron clad determination to travel to unknown places.

I knew that a white mug can lead to a great story. Basically any other small item can lead you to a great story and therefore become a “Great Storyteller.”  All is required is to take a deep breath, look at it and believe that a great story will be told.

Each one of us is made out of a story.


“It’s like everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always. All the time. That story makes you what you are. We build ourselves out of that story.”

-           Patrick Rothfuss, The name of the Wind


Don’t be afraid of anyone, go forth and venture into that ‘’Storytelling Maze,’’ fight your fears, spread your voice all over the world .  As “ABER reminds us, tell us your story’’.

About the Author/Teller


I’m Rama, Jordanian But I live in Qatar.  I attend Am Joiner high school, I am all about having fun.  I read books whenever I get a chance.   You can consider me a beginner storyteller and but with each day, I am a little closer and one day will be a “Great Storyteller.”

(We indeed believe you will be Rama. Thanks for your powerful telling.  Keep it up, we are listening.)

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A Jack Journey by Tasha Allen

by kcteller on March 29, 2013

in Fairytales folktales


In my uncovering folktales class, students are reading Jack Tales.  I have asked them  to create their own Jack story.  I hope you enjoy them.  This is by Tasha Allen.

Each Jack tale is an adventure!

Each Jack tale is an adventure!

There once was a young boy named Jack who was stuck on a farm with his grumpy mother and father. He always dreamed of going into the big city and getting away from his miserable parents. Until he was old enough though, he was stuck at the farm plowing and gardening for his father. As soon as he turned sixteen he began begging his parents to let him go. He promised that he would bring them back something every time he returned. The father saw this as a way to get something out of his naïve young son, so he let him go. The young boy was so excited to get away he set out early the next morning. He was walking along the dirt road, but along the way met a young girl. Her name was Jackette and he fell in love immediately. He spent the entire day with her before he realized he had to head back home. Until he realized he did not have anything for his parents. He was stumped but knew he could not go home without something. Jackette helped and said, “Here take them these”, and handed him a bouquet of freshly picked flowers, so he did. His mother loved them and his father saw it as sufficient, after all he had not specified what types of gifts to bring back. His parents never asked how his trip went and once again left him neglected and alone, so he used this time to think about Jackette. The next day he set out again. He vowed to make it to the city but could not get past Jackette again. This time they talked about their past and told each other stories. He enjoyed his time, but once again had to make the journey home. He did not have a gift, so Juliette gave him a book to give his parents. He made his journey back home and gave his father the gift. His father was less than pleased with the gift after all what would he need a book for. He was a farmer he did not have the time to waste on a book. Jack was once again left with his thoughts that always steered back to Jackette. The next day Jack set out again in hopes of maybe making it to the city. Once again he made it to Jackette. Today was a beautiful day and they decided to catch butterflies. He decided he would take one back on the way home. His father was distraught his son had let him down once again and brought him nothing that he could actually use. He asked his son, “Son what were you thinking, these gifts have no value to me!” Jack smiled for these gifts meant more than he would ever understand, so he explained. “Father those gifts have value. The flowers were for the affection you never showed me, the book was for the brilliance you failed to make important, and the butterfly was for honesty, gentleness, and tenderness. All of these are things I wish we could have shared as father and son.” With that, Jack turned and walked down the path back to the only happiness he had really found, Jackette.


Some additional observations that Tasha found out about Jack:


Each Jack tale stretches a little.

Each Jack tale stretches a little.

Five things I learned about the history of the Jack Tale

  1.        That the name has taken many forms and many meanings in English and Scots, coming to mean a man in general (“man-jack,” “jack-of-all-trades”), a worker (lumberjack, Jack Tar), a useful tool (jackknife, hydraulic jack), and a fool (jackanapes, jackass). I found all of the different forms very interesting
  2.        The fact that the Jack’s tradition goes back to the medieval times, and was written down in the fifteenth century is interesting. I never would have imagined that something like tales would stick around for that long.
  3.       It was surprising to me that in older Jack Tales there were fart jokes. Since most such tales have been cleaned up for publication I find this fascinating since that is not something we encounter in our tales nowadays.
  4.       The fact that Jack Tales were included Jack as both scatological and sexual is interesting. I always thought of Jack Tales as something for kids and have these qualities are not something I would incorporate with kids, and also not something I saw in the Jack Tales I read.
  5.      I definitely liked the idea of incorporating psychology into the idea of Jack Tales. The quote below is an important part of Freud’s theory and the development of children. I find it so interesting that these stories can be compared to psychology because I never thought about them like that. I like this take on stories and hope to try and see more stories like this.
    1. a.       “Various psychoanalytical interpretations of “Jack and the Beanstalk” (e.g. Bettelheim 1976) have suggested that the beanstalk is a phallic image and the tale is essentially about sexual differentiation from one’s parents. The giant is an evil father-figure who has destroyed and replaced Jack’s true father—a typical Oedipal fantasy. The giant’s wife is a fantasy aspect of Jack’s mother, which explains why she helps him to escape her evil husband. In the end, Jack conquers the evil aspects of his father, and in so doing transforms his mother from a woman who must reject his magic by throwing out the beans, into one who can partake of the gifts he brings back. How does Jack reintegrate his family? By destroying his father’s phallus—or, at least, by destroying its hold over him.

a. Reading the other Jack Tales helped me add in the idea of three scenes and adding in a meaningful part of the story. I liked the idea of keeping the idea of three because it seemed to help the story flow. I also liked having an overall meaning of the story because it made the ending more powerful and moving.

b. One thing I learned from reading Jack Tales was that having a form to follow makes it easier for the story to flow. It helped the overall form of the story as well as made it a lot easier to write.

c. I made my Jack tale stand out by using important morals and values and using symbols to signify their importance. By adding in the symbols it signified how important a father and son relationship is especially for the simple things. I think adding in the symbols makes the story more meaningful for young children as well as for families.

Tasha Allen

About Tasha Allen

I am currently attending Ohio Dominican University, double majoring in Early Childhood Education and Intervention Specialist while also minoring in Psychology. Stories have always been a very important part of my life. I hope to continue to use stories throughout my career as well as in my personal life!


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I had my students in my “Uncovering fairy/folk/ghost stories class” create “fairy tales with a twist.” This one is by the talented Holly Lash. I hope you enjoy it. Feel free to comment and I will make sure that she sees it.

How did this assignment help you (or not) value fairy tales ?
This assignments made me see how hard it is to write a fairytale while sticking to the original tale. Your twist can’t be too out-there and has to make sense within the world already established. In “The Little Mermaid,” mermaids are an established race and you have to honor that. I couldn’t take the tale and place it in a desert with no water around for miles. I had to have the prince at least mentioned as that was the catalyst for everything else. For my twist, the mermaid being vengeful, I had to make it make sense within the story. I also had to give the sea witch then a reason to be angry and keep her role in the story as she was a prime character in the original tale.

What can you say about the role of fairytales as we consider what they say about how we live (or die?) 
I think fairytales are a way to explore an universal truth. For example, falling in love. Even if one hasn’t been in love, we can all relate to the feeling. In “The Little Mermaid” love is used as a cautionary tale. The princess sacrifices everything to be with a man she knows little about and, when he ends up falling for another, it shines a harsh light on reality. While we may think we are the heroes in our stories, we also have to accept that there are other stories in the world going on simultaneously. Happily ever afters don’t always come true and this fairytale says something about that.
Are fairytales still relevant today?

I think they are. Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, a movie that just came out, did fairly well at the box office as well as other fairytale retellings. Fairytales are fairly easy to retell since everyone’s heard of them. Even young adult books are understanding that.
The Lunar Chronicles are a series of books written by Marissa Meyers that are based on fairytales. The first book, Cinder, is based on Cinderella with a twist that Cinderella is a cyborg in futuristic China. The elements of the tale are still there with Cinder losing her actual foot instead of her shoe on the palace steps. Scarlet, the sequel, introduces Little Red Riding Hood as a girl hunting down the gang that took her grandmother. Both of these books made it on the New York Times Bestseller’s List so obviously there’s an audience for this.

Holly Lash would like to say that she has a long list of accomplishments that involve saving the world and excelling in all educational fields, but she can’t because she’s a hermit too busy weaving stories together in her head to pay much attention to the outside world. When she isn’t plotting characters’ death or torturing them in any shape or form she sees fit, she likes to relax with a good book and her cat curled up on her lap. She currently lives in Reynoldsburg, Ohio. Insanity is her first of hopefully many novels. Both Insanity and Haunted, its sequel, are available for purchase through Amazon.


Holly Lash

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 I have the honor of being included in the Online Storytelling Festival. I will be sharing a story about my journey of being an Applachian. It is entitled “Searing for my Appalachia: a modern Jack Tale.” I hope you can join us in this worthwhile festival. It is a world-wide conversation about diversity using stories. What better place would you want to be?
Join us for the first ever JustStories Online Storytelling Festival August 1, 2 & 3 – a free Facebook event. Every hour from 8 am to midnight (CDT) a new video will post on the JustStories Facebook Page (—stories that can help heal our racial and ethnic divides. Over 70 humorous, heartwarming and thought provoking stories by 43 professional story artists! You can comment, ask questions and share your stories, too. Storytelling + Facebook = a worldwide FUN and RESPECTFUL conversation that celebrates our differences and all that connects us.

Please share this invitation with all your friends so they, too, can have a front row seat to the JustStories Online Festival right in the comfort of their homes! Anyone can view the Festival at any time at, but with a Facebook user name and password you can comment, ask questions, and share your stories, too. (You don’t have to fill out a full profile and you can cancel the account after the Festival.)

Full schedule and story descriptions at:

Organizer Sue  O’Halloran also noted:

Often you hear leaders declare “It’s time to have a national conversation on race”. But how do we do that without causing more division and hard feelings?

One of the best ways to reflect on difficult issues is through the use of shared stories. Stories can be entertaining, engaging and emotionally touching. When you hear other people’s stories you realize how unique each person and each group is as well as all we have in common. When we’re able to walk in each other’s shoes, even for a few minutes, the stranger becomes a friend.

For the last nine years, the JustStories Storytelling Festival has been a live storytelling event in the Chicago area, a co-production of Angels Studio, a communications ministry of The Society of the Divine Word and O’Halloran Diversity Productions. But this year for its 10th anniversary the festival is going to the web in hopes of reaching an even bigger audience with stories that can heal our racial and ethnic divides. Think of it – on the internet there are no geographic boundaries or time limitations. This storytelling festival about inclusivity can now include everyone!

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Time to Share: Coaching and Caring
By: Kevin Cordi

Dr. Kevin Cordi, Story Mediator, my term for “coaching” see more at

*This is an article that I wrote a while ago however, I thought it was still important to share.  Unfortunately we lost storyteller Chuck Larkin but I find that we are still following some of his insight.  My own coaching style has changed, but the caring continues.  My new coaching is called “Permission 2 Play” and this is for stories that are not ready, but you are ready to play with their development.  I  See more at

A German proverb states, “If you have no arrows in your quiver, do not go with archers.” However, often storytellers feel they don’t have time to re-charge or reload before proceeding to a booking. I have met countless storytellers who feel alone in their art. They tell me they have been telling for such and such years with no guidance except themselves. Even though I marvel at the work they have done, I wonder how much the work would be improved if they had the guidance of a listener or coach for their stories. I guess sometimes artists can be like the man in the folktale who once boasted about his ax chopping skills, but as he grew older, his ability diminished. He dismissed the reason for his lack of ability due to his age, until a friend showed him that he hadn’t sharpened his ax for as long as he had it. As soon as the ax was sharp, so were his skills.

Sometimes storytellers are amazed when they discover not only are their storytelling guilds near them but storytellers who will take time to listen to their work.

However as of late other storytellers are coaching more and more storytellers. They are learning what I heard from tellers like Jay O’Callahan and Doug Lipman and Jane Yolen have echoed for years, it is essential to have an audience for your stories. In order to see improvement, coaching is vital to the development of the teller.

Storytellers are keeping their axes sharp by involving themselves in coaching sessions. Not only are their coaching sessions at the National Storytelling Conference, but there are wonderful storytelling coaches like Marni Gillard and Doug Lipman who are spearheading “Coaching Coaches” workshops, an experience not to be missed, along with other programs sprouting up all over the country. I want to tell you about a national first that occurred in Leesville Louisiana. Reverend Neil and Mary Early realized that along with storytellers needing coaching so did teachers in Louisiana. With the support of a grant from the Rapides Foundation and the Louisiana Division of the Arts along with his local guild, he was able to bring 10 storytellers from across the country to not only help guild members, but educators as well. I was fortunate to be one of these storytellers. For two days we were catered to and well cared for as we concentrated our skills on our task, coaching.

The Story Coaches came from everywhere. From California, along with myself, Debra Olsan Tollar joined us, from Texas Mel Davenport and “Doc” Moore, from Arkansas Jerre Roberts, from Ohio, Jim Flanagan, from West Virgina, “Granny Sue” Holstein, and from Pennsylvania, Beth Philips Brown and from Georgia, Chuck Larkin and from Louisiana, Diane De Las Casas.

Not only was this event novel because of the coaches from across the country, a fine company to be in I would like to add, but because we all represented varying backgrounds along with the participants or “coachees.” Some of the participants were experienced tellers and some were trying storytelling for the first time. Story Coach Beth Phillips Brown best sums up the experience. She stated that with her coaching group there was a glow from the teller. “It was the same kind of glow I’ve seen on the faces of brand-new parents. I loved being there as a kind of storyteller midwife. I kept thinking of how a woman in labor has a coach and there we were, helping birth stories, tellers and styles in 10 different rooms and that the group was a welcoming committee for all! That was exciting!”

As storytellers we have a vital role to birth stories and other storytellers into our community. That is how the tales continue to be told. As Tolar points out, “Coaching is such an intimate experience we all become vulnerable.”

But is this vulnerability not good for us as tellers? When we truly listen to each other including our problem areas, when true listening is established, are we not destined to improve? I once heard a Storyteller state, “I tell stories, but I listen to far more than I tell. That is what makes me a good teller.” Isn’t it about time that we establish more coaching workshops or gatherings like the one in Leesville?

In this type of environment, coaching moments are priceless. Like the one that occurred when Mel Davenport served as coach, “One of my least experienced tellers told of nearly being run over by a train. You could have heard a pin drop while she was telling, and the others were all physically leaning toward her with rapt attention.”

Chuck Larkin suggests that a coaching weekend like this will last long after it is over.

“It is another way of introducing skills and knowledge from each coaches into the local community of storytellers. The new knowledge and skills of the few from each coach will pass on to many storytellers in the community as the local storytellers interact. This will over time increase the quality of storytelling.”

Unfortunately, the connotation of the word “coaching” can emit images of a bad football coach who yelled at you every time a play was wrong, a speech coach who berated your performance, or in general, an unknown and sometimes scary element. This applied here, Dianne de Las Casas stated “My participants told me that they didn’t know coaching was ‘going to be like this.’ They thought that their stories were going to be torn apart by the coach and didn’t expect the session to have the level of group community and thoughtful coaching that it had.”

As Storytellers we need to continue to build that community and more trust in story coaching will follow. As Casas suggests this method could be a model “this one event could branch out, much in the same way Tellabration has “branched out.” However, Brown, cautions us to be weary of any model. There should always be room for individual growth as well.

“I think this model can be used very successfully yet I have concerns that it would become some kind of dogma. As long as anything that is done well and is intended to be a “model” is good and valuable, there is also the danger that it will become written in stone as the only way. While I think workshops, conferences and intensives are valuable and that community is important, I also feel the solitary work that one does in preparing and other parts is very valuable.”

That is why it is essential that as storytellers we find balance between our shared time with other tellers and our personal reflection/telling time. Yes this is difficult to established, however, they are essential for the growth of the teller. As Granny Sue points out,

“The experience also caused, for me, a stronger commitment of what I do, a better understanding of the power of storytelling, and awe, actually of what it is we do. What an amazing art this is, that it can reach out and bring people together in their minds to one place where all are experiencing the same story in uniquely individual interpretations.”

Neil and Mary Early set a tone for me at this workshop, one of a community effort to help storytellers and coaches. I would encourage others to experiment and continue their coaching, it is invaluable. However, better yet if you are going to build a community-coaching workshop, here are a few key points to remember when building your workshop. This is from feedback and Neil Early himself.

1. Treat Your Storytellers As Honored Guests Care for their needs. He states too often at conferences the workshop presenters are treated as second class citizens. The treatment is Aren’t you glad we are allowing you to present a workshop here? He states this mentality damages the conference from the onset.

2. Be in Constant Contact before, during, and after the workshop with all involved and never fail to say Thank You.

3. Seek Funding to Help Offset (or even fray) cost for Coaches and Participants. If there has to be a cost, keep it low. Your turnout will be better.

4. Arrange informal “Getting to Know You” Gatherings. This helps offset “stage fright” or storytelling apprehension.

5. Establish “Debriefing” times where Story Coaches and others can share an oral as well as written evaluation of the work.

6. Privacy, Trust, and Respect are the Tenets of a Good Workshop.

A Coach is more than someone that tells you that you got the plays right, a coach is someone who helps to remind you when your axe becomes dull or you need to find new ground. As we seek to build our own stories, let us not forget to take time to listen to others. Then we can truly say our art is flourishing!

***Permission to quote and talk of coaching sessions was given for this article. Confidentially is a major concern in coaching.


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Massaging Truth

By Kevin D. Cordi

June 18, 2011

*The idea of this story comes from an old folktale where truth meets story.  In this story, truth takes company with another. 


His wife screamed when he saw her husband Truth walk out the door.

“Where are you going in that condition?”

“I have much to share, much to share.  Little time to do it in.   I must make haste honey, I will see you when the sun sets and the moon wakes.”

“But dear, you are naked as the day you were born.”

“What is wrong with that?  As you note, I am as I arrived.   There can be no harm in that.”

“People are not ready to see you without a stitch, remember what happened to that Emperor that paraded the street with nothing on.”

“They laughed at him, I do recall.  But this is different, I am not marching and telling others I am fully clothed when I am not.”

“But dear, some people are not ready for the truth.”

“What is there to be ready for, they need to know?”

“Is  that true dear?  Did the Queen from long ago need to know she was not the fairest?  Look at what happened to her stepdaughter.   This would never have occurred if that awful mirror did not share what was known.”

“But dear, I can not lie.  It is not in my nature.”

“Honey, before you go out, wear this multicolor coat.   See the rich colors , they will help sharpen what you have to say.”

“Are you sure? I am not sure it is right.”

“Dear, was it wrong for that young girl with the slipper to hold back the truth from her step sisters.    Imagine the fate that would befall her if her words revealed her.”

“But dear, whatever should I do, my calling is to tell what is?
“ But honey, why is it your truth?   I am sure that stepsister believes that she was doing what she thought was wrong even though it hurt others.   Or that giant who squashed the town just a fortnight ago, I am sure that he believed his truth was the only truth.  Should we not be open to all the truths we can find so we can possibly learn what to do?


“But D, I am taken to the time young Pandora opened the box of evils, there was only one truth that would have been better and that would have been to listen to the voice that said don’t open the box.”


His wife placed his arm around his neck and softly kissed Truth’s lips.   I can’t say her nightgown was not slightly ajar as she whispered in his ears.  He smiled.   She knew she had him but did not know for how long.

After all, when Truth marries Deception no one can predict the outcome or even the next direction.


That is, until the affair with Parable, but we have been asked not to speak of this.

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How do competitions figure into enticing young people in becoming involved in 
FJ: Oh how I wish “competition” would not be a factor in any of these events. How I
wish the “experience itself” could be the sole driving force. Sadly­­after nine years of
attempting to get a youth storytelling program going in the late 1980s­­I learned that the
competitive element itself could motivate such an event. The majority of young
participants (and their parents) indicated they would not be interested without the
competition. However, that was just for the event we were sponsoring not necessarily for
storytelling experiences in the classroom.
JS: I do not believe storytelling should be competitive for young storytellers. Instead of
awarding prizes for “best” storytellers, I have created a “Circle of Excellence” whereby
students achieve different levels by their attendance, commitment, achievement, and
mentoring of others. I think young storytellers should consider using their storytelling
skills as a form of community service, telling stories for preschoolers as well as senior
Kids need our help as they find their storytelling voice.
Do you see a “next generation” of tellers in the wings? If so what are they like? 
KC: I see the “next generation” of tellers testing the envelope of traditional telling. From
NYC’s “Story Slams” (competitive storytelling like Poetry Slams) to the fusion of hip
hop, rap, punk and progressive telling. This is good, all arts need to grow. However,
tomorrow’s tellers need further direction. Some young tellers are learning the art despite
having no teachers. We need to mentor the art. We need to nurture the art. We need to
allow risks in the art and we need to provide safety for the next generation’s telling. I
have always said “with story comes responsibility.” We owe it to the next generation to
guide them as tellers. Too often arts can die out because others did not think of the next
generation. We need to be concerned now that the light of story will continue to burn and
not fizzle because we did not help the flame, it is simple? if we care about the art, we
need to mentor at least one or two tellers in the art. Imagine if each storyteller nurtures at
least one other storyteller per Year then I know we would not have to worry about the
next generation.
FJ: We “older folks” view the upcoming generation often with a critical eye sometimes
erroneously describing them as disinterested in the arts. The fact that most youngsters
can’t currently transform this performing skill into a viable profession definitely limits
interest for many of them. I “see” professional storytellers as being in their last half of life
generally after having been employed at 2­5 different earlier jobs.
JS: I think we have to actively seek out the next generation of tellers and encourage them
to attend local, regional and national conferences. We need to set them up with mentors
to encourage their growth and commitment to the art. At last year’s national conference, I
helped develop an Apprentice program to encourage young adults between the ages of
18­29 to attend the conference. I want to do more with this in the future. I also think we
need to encourage those young people to think of how storytelling can be used in any
profession they pursue­­education, healing and helping fields, law, medicine, ministry,
etc. I don’t think we need to encourage more professional tellers (it’s a hard way to go
without insurance), they need to see how storytelling fits into their lives. If the
professional free lance route is what they choose, so be it, but there are other ways to tell
So there it is, some views on youth storytelling from some folks who have been involved
for a long time both in introducing kids to storytelling and also mentoring and
encouraging young folks to tell their own stories. Check out Judy and Kevin’s new book
Raising Voices: Creating Youth Storytelling Groups and Troupes (Libraries Unlimited?
ISBN: 156308919X).
Like so many arts that we keep with us throughout our life storytelling needs to be
practiced. Tell your children stories and then let them tell you a story. Listen to their
stories about their day at school, the events that happen in their lives when you’re not
there to witness them, stories they’ve read in books or heard from teachers, even the
stories their grandparents tell them about you when you were a child. You’ll be surprised
how much you learn about them and about yourself. Just think if you tell them a story
while playing your banjo and step dancing you could be influencing the next generation
of folk performers who do it all!
Until next time, keep your stories alive!
(please pardon alignment, I am still trying to work this out.)
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This is from an article was compiled and edited by my friend and fellow storyteller Dan Keding published in Sing Out! Magazine.  At the time I was teaching full time storytelling classes at a high school in California. I now teach Applied Storytelling at Ohio Dominican University.  

As we consider youth involvement in stories and storytelling I think what it says applies even more today than yesterday.  For this reason I have posted it on my blog.  





From: Sing Out!  |  Date: 9/22/2004  |  Author: Keding, Dan



This issue I have asked three of the best known advocates of youth storytelling to talk

about some of the issues and ideas that arise when dealing with storytelling with kids.

Flora Joy is currently the Storytelling Professor Emeritus at East Tennessee State

University. In 2000, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award in Storytelling from

the National Storytelling Network. Kevin Cordi teaches storytelling at the high school

level and created the award winning student storytelling troupe, Voices of Illusion. He is

the 2004 recipient of the National Service Award from the NSN. Judy Sima has trained

hundreds of young storytellers at the middle school where she is the librarian in Warren,

Michigan. She started the Chatterton Talespinners, a student troupe and The Parent­

Tellers, an award winning adult volunteer storytelling group. She is the co­author with

Kevin of the new book Raising Voices: Creating Youth Storytelling Groups and Troupes.



What is the best way to attract students to be active storytellers


KC: In order to encourage students to be storytellers they must first be aware of the value

of stories and storytelling. We need to have a national and international mentoring

program where older or seasoned storytellers can work with younger tellers. This

apprenticeship program can work wonders.

JS: Expose them to good storytelling by professional storytellers as well as other youth

tellers. Then, invite them to join a group and bring their friends. Provide active and

engaging activities to teach storytelling skills and always have a performance goal in


FJ: Youngsters must feel the power of story before they are drawn to the telling process.

Sometimes this power occurs through the strength of peer approval (whether they’re

telling “stories” in a private group or in a more formal audience), and sometimes the

power is emanated through the stories’ messages. Adult leaders can provide venues for

both of these situations.


In what way does storytelling fit into the curriculum? 


KC: There is no subject material that cannot be taught using storytelling. In this state of

standards, oral and written language are highly valued. What better way to teach them

than through story? Storytelling is a natural method to learn any material.

FJ: All storytellers who are interested in connecting with school­age listeners (and

potential tellers) should first check out . Massive listings of curriculum skills are given

(and they are even broken down by individual states). Practically every story that is fit a

teller’s repertoire call relate to one or more of the skills listed. “Tellers wanting to

convince academic personnel of the value of their programs should in advance prepare a

written connection of their stories and these standards.


What is the value of storytelling in the classroom? 


JS: Many state objectives now include oral communication. Storytelling helps not only in

communication skills but listening skills, as well as comprehension. By helping

strengthen imagination, storytelling helps with writing and comprehension and even

understanding of science concepts. Storytelling brings any subject to life? history,

English­­even math. In regards to reading it helps with comprehension, story structure

and language development. Storytelling by students helps them develop self confidence,

poise and strengthens their ability to organize and express their thoughts. My students

also tell me it helps with their memory skills in all subjects.

KC: Since it has been observed that using narrative­based teaching or storytelling is the

most effective style of learning, storytelling has a natural place in teachers’ lesson plans.

It can be used to teach effective skills such as group cooperation to cognitive work such

as exploring the causes of The Civil War.

FJ: And the young learners themselves may become involved in the telling process. By so

doing, they are developing all of the oral language arts skills­­a “lifetime” communication



Do young storytellers actually stay with the art form? 


KC: We have a “Storyteller’s Hall of Fame” on my classroom walls. Everyone in my

storytelling group signs it at the end of the year. I see it everyday and just the other day I

looked at all the names and was surprised that 1 knew where most of the students were

over the years. Very few, but some, have become professional storytellers … but

countless others write or call me to share how they use stories as nurses, police officers,

as guards in the military, or even how they now tell stories to their own family.

JS: Many of my former Talespinners went into the theater program and forensics in high

school. They’ve told me that storytelling helped them in speech and writing classes. And

one wrote that she tells stories now to her own child.


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  Sometimes I hear storytellers “borrow” a tale without credit or simply not know credit should be provided when telling certain kinds of stories.   Sometimes, I need a reminder that in order to tell this folktale, personal tale, and/or original tale I need to do a mental ‘check in’ to see if the tale should be told by me.  This is not to say it can not, but it is to say, it requires time, dedication and care when deciding.  A story is a gift.   Has it been given?  Does it need to travel?  How do we know the answers to these questions?  This questions should be considered before sharing the gift of certain stories.

Below is a poem that I wrote to remind me that some stories can be told and some stories should not be told without doing the required   homework or securing permissions.


You can’t catch this story.


 (For Tersi Bendiburg who reminded me that some stories are not always meant to be caught.)

By Kevin D. Cordi

January 13, 2011

Here is the windup, here is the pitch

A story is thrown.

Wait. You can’t catch this story.


It belongs to someone else.

It is a tale that has reservation,

A Native tale for a tribe

that you have no ownership.


An African tale told in a sacred circle

A Lakota legend passed within the tribe

A Cuban recount personally rolled like a homemade cigar.

An Appalachian account told in whispers

not meant for public ears.

Another pitch is thrown, but

you can’t catch this one either.

It is a story sacred to someone’s family

A true tale about a sad ordeal

that was meant for the family.


A tale about someone:

A grandmother who survived the war.

A grandfather who worked the mines.

A brother who died of something everyone was told was something else.

A sister who secretly married the one she did not love.


The last pitch is thrown, but again this story

is not meant for you.  It is a tale that another has







From a published children’s tale

to a tale someone else labored to find the right words.

You don’t have permission to carry their words.


This story they hold tight to their chest,

close to their hearts.

Why would you stop their heart from hearing it?


Rest easy. This story may not be your story to tell,

but others freely throw out their stories.

Waiting for them to be caught.


Tell these stories.   Share them with the rooftops and

short stops.  Let them travel because they desire it.


Tell your family tale that you know so well.

Share a folktale that the culture has said let soar.

Let travel words meant for children that you wrote

so others can hear.


This is your heart tale that beats with each word.


Let the words soar, like a fastball seeking home plate.

Be the pitcher who knows how to hold these stories

and let them go.


Here is the wind up, here is the pitch

Don’t let these stories slip from your grip.



Let them go and be close to your heart when you hear them.

*For those who would like this poem to travel, I give permission for this to be shared but please share the author as well as the site when you do.

Thank you for your care and artistry when telling stories.


Kevin D. Cordi



 “Together we make a difference with stories.”

*Note: This poem was inspired by this poem “Story Catching” read it at


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The Artist’s Commitment


I promise to always remember my power, love, and intelligence as an artist,

and the vital role that artists have played in every culture and time.

I will never again invalidate any artist,

including myself, or any work of art, but rather ally myself with all artists to end our economic oppression,

and enthusiastically encourage the creativity of every human.

 Rational Island Publishers developed by the Re-evaluation Co-counseling Community

The next person to speak to this is noted storyteller, author and coach Jay O’Callahan. 

Jay O’Callahan has performed with acclaim at Lincoln Center, at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin and other theatres around the world, at the Olympics, with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and on National Public Radio. Time Magazine has called his work “genius.” NASA commissioned Mr. O’Callahan to create and perform a story to celebrate NASA’s 50th anniversary. He Performed the resulting work, Forged in the Stars at space centers across the country, in Cape Town, South Africa For the International Astronautical Congress, and in New Zealand. Michael Eastwood from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory said, “O’Callahan captured the soaring human spirit of our work.” Forged in the Stars was also broadcast nationally on PRI’s Living on Earth.

The National Endowment of the Arts awarded Jay a fellowship for solo performance excellence. In addition he has received awards for his performances, books, CDs and DVDs from the National Education Film Festival, Fund for U.S. Artists at International Festivals, Parents’Choice, NAPPA, New England Theater Conference and UNESCO. He leads creativity workshops for corporations, universities, law firms and private groups.

On a personal note, I have known the work of Jay before I knew Jay.  It is hard to say what happens when Jay is working.  He knows the value of silence before sound so that sound is poignant.  He treats each performance with extra care so that he can be ready for the invitation of story.  Most of all, he is reflective not only of his work but really listens to others.  He knows the inherent value of always building from  where you are now and where you can be.  Most of all, he does all this with care and passion.  He is attuned to the story, audience,and the tale.   He is a true testament of what it means to be fully involved in the work of the telling and the joy that comes from when  you know it is done well.

Jay’s words:

Storytelling has been the work of my life. An artist explores life in any way that he or she can. My gift is creating stories to tell. That means I use sound, gestures, silence, movement, dance, song, all to create images and characters and scenes. When I was beginning I read one of the Noh Masters in Japanese theater who said he would rise each morning and work on a gesture. I admired the sense of commitment and have tried to follow suit. Each work is a new world and I stay with it until the story seems to be whole, and that can take a commitment of two or three years. So I’ve stayed with it and it’s been a great gift.


Feel free to leave a comment for others to read or send me your response to Jay’s message or your own commitment as an artist.

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