Jenni discovered storytelling at ‘The Drama Action Centre’ in Sydney, where she studied dramatic arts full time from 1990 to 1991, specialising in storytelling. Though she reluctantly attended her first storytelling class, it soon became an all consuming passion and from there developed into her vocation. Her graduating individual performance, a 45 minute rendition of the myth cycle of the Sumerian Fertility Goddess Inanna, was polished by international director, Neil Cameron. She also trained in singing privately and with Frankie Armstrong in the calling voice.
Jenni joined ‘Pastance’ in 1993, a mediaeval and renaissance ensemble which toured Australia and New Zealand for seven years. She sang, played percussion and told stories at schools, festivals and corporate events.
In 1999, Jenni settled with her family in Mullumbimby, near Byron Bay, a beautiful tourist destination, and the most easterly part of Australia, which is an enclave of activism, alternative thinking and creativity.
She self-published five award-winning storytelling albums and taught storytelling at Southern Cross University for nine years. When she became a parent, Jenni began using therapeutic applications of storytelling and joined the Board of the Healing Story Alliance. She was mentored by Dr Fran Stallings as she developed Environmental Storytelling workshops and now teaches ‘Stories for Change’ to activists, change-makers and educators. She is a trained facilitator of Joyality Circles (experiential and online ecopsychology program) and is an active member of Stop Adani Byron Shire.
Jenni curates ‘Stories in the Club’, a monthly community concert, facilitates intimate ‘Story Circles’, provides private coaching, makes temporary and permanent labyrinths and is a regular guest on local community radio station Bay FM 99.9. ‘Stories on Foot’ is the story walking tour Jenni leads along the picturesque foreshore of Byron Bay to connect visitors and new locals to place.
She offers school shows, public concerts and festival performances for adults or children, as well as face-to face and online training in storytelling, storytelling for social change and public speaking, including private coaching.
Workshop leader, teacher
In the academic realm, Jenni has worked at Southern Cross University (SCU) since 2009. Her roles have included being a featured presenter for UniBound Hero’s Journey program for Year 7 & 9 students run by Equity and Diversity. She teaches storytelling to pre-service teachers through the Education faculty each summer session and is also a Guest Lecturer for SCU Occupational Therapy students. Jenni is a trained secondary teacher, specialising in English and worked as a casual English teacher for four years, during which time she taught Advanced HSC English. Jenni has been teaching storytelling to teachers, librarians, parents and children since 2003 and university students since 2007.
Stories on Foot: Tales of Byron Bay and the Rainbow Region
Jenni settled in Mullumbimby near Byron Bay seventeen years ago to raise her two children. She began researching the history of the region and offering storytelling walking tours for small groups along the Byron foreshore in 2016: ‘Stories on Foot: Tales of Byron Bay and the Rainbow Region’. The feedback has been consistently enthusiastic and heartwarming. See testimonial videos, read Trip Adviser reviews here or listen to our ‘Stories on Foot’ Bay FM sponsorship announcement
Storytelling and stories for the modern audience
Storytelling is an ancient art, which has enjoyed a modern revival which started in the seventies. Ancestral stories and the folktale have since been adapted to suit modern audiences. Storytelling is the perfect antidote to our overly technological and impersonal age, where we can be overwhelmed with ‘soundbytes’. Our children get bombarded with advertising messages via TV, ipods and the internet. Many of these messages we’d rather they never heard. While recorded stories may not be delivered eye to eye, they can feel very much like they are coming ‘mind to mind and heart to heart’.
Stories ‘shorten the road’
The Irish have a saying: “A story makes the road shorter.” In other words, you don’t notice time pass when you’re deeply engrossed in a great yarn. Our car journeys became vastly more pleasant after stocking up with story CD’s and audiobooks for our journey which the whole family could enjoy.
Stories as soul food
Quality stories, told skilfully and thoughtfully can nourish the soul while fostering imagination, emotional resilience, moral values and critical thinking. The level of concentration required to follow a story is very high, yet the magic of stories with a folktale structure is such that modern children can still sink deeply and effortlessly into them. Even very exciting stories can generate a feeling of relaxation, because they create such an intensity of focus or ‘entrainment’. (To read a short blog post on the value of stories as soulfood read “Storytelling Bread for the Soul” . Or for a more in depth, academic style article on the power of folktales, see my storytreetales blogs post ‘Frightful witches and kissable toads’.)
Children need to have ample opportunity to exercise their imaginations so that they can begin to see that the pictures in their minds are valid too. Storytelling is an unmatched as a tool for stimulating the imagination. – Hamilton & Weiss, Children Tell Stories, p.11.
If you don’t know the trees you may be lost in the forest, but if you don’t know the stories you may be lost in life. — Siberian Elder
Good stories, told well, can also build emotional resilience by helping a child make sense of life.
Those who do not have power over the story that dominates their lives, the power to retell it, rethink it, deconstruct it, joke about it, and change it as times change, truly are powerless, because they cannot think new thoughts. —Salman Rushdie
If you keep telling the same sad small story, you will keep living the same sad small life. —Jean Houston
Stories in many contexts
In the wider context, storytelling is currently enjoying a healthy resurgence worldwide. People are rediscovering the power of storytelling in education, business, therapies and the arts. The power of stories is currently being related in TED talks, discussed on blogs, twitter feeds and in universities storytelling courses.
To find video links, recording, article or books visit my extensive storytelling links and resources, on my resources page.
Thanks to Patti J. Christensen for some of the above story quotes.
About the Story Tree
The name came from an ancient fig tree which grows on a rainforested property inland from Bonalbo. This tree has the most magnificent buttress roots, tangled hair roots that hang down from the branches and mossy, mysterious alcoves. When our children were quite young, we came to refer it as “The Story Tree”.
We would walk through the forest to it, play under it and sometimes, sit to tell stories under it. But strangely, for me at least, stories rarely came when we sat under the tree. The tree evoked mystery, wonder, and silence. Stillness and silence. Sometimes ideas would well up days later. When I came to set up my own company, my ex-partner Max suggested the name ‘Story Tree’. Feeling indecisive, I asked the people on my email list to vote for their favourite of name from three choices. The Story Tree won, which was lucky, because by the time the vote came back, I was completely-down-to-my-roots in love with the name Story Tree!