story magic

 Mostly when parents tell stories to their children, the children are enchanted, enthusiatic and appreciative! But  not  always! This blogpost is dedicated to any parents who are telling stories to their offspring and being met with  disapproval.

If this is you, here is a warm pat for your back and a sympathetic nod. Yes I have been there too! This can be an  indication that we need to work on our storytelling and/or choice of story. However it can happen for some of  us that our own kids are our worst critics! Somebody else’s kids may be just delighted to listen to you tell.

I am a professional storyteller. Some kids who own one of my story CD’s go all shy when they meet me. However my son is quite a different kettle of fish! There were times when his comments about my storytelling have left me feeling withered- even though he is generally a sweet boy.

A friend recently came to a small story gathering at my house and told a fantastic 9000 year old story. It was about ‘The Half Boy’ and he accompanied the story with a heart beat rythmn on his jembe. It was fantastic. This storyteller is a groovy, fit looking guy with a big Celtic tatoo and a strong precense. He is a confident teller and tells for boys and men often for Pathways to Manhood and for teenagers he volunteers with. My 10 year old son had decided he wasn’t going to listen to the stories, yet he walked in mid-story. I thought- ahhh he has heard the drum and the story has attracted him. But no- he had just come in to sit by the fire.

Oh well, I thought, now he’s here, he’ll be enchanted enough to stay and listen to this great story all about a confused teenage boy growing into a man. My son rubbed his hands a few times in front of the fire and walked out again- well before the story ended. Sigh. At least it’s not my storytelling that put him off, I thought.

My son, now 12, has not been into storytelling for some years. When he was only 8 years old he thought it was pretty uncool. “No offence Mum, but I’m not into it.” I kept telling stories in his class anyway and after his friends decided it was cool (and so was I) he showed some interest again.  One night my heart leapt when he enthusiastically ASKED for a story- and he wasn’t even after anything! (The way to some mothers hearts is to admire their cooking- the way to mine is to admire my storytelling!) However- alas- that phase didn’t last very long! Last year at his school around Halloween, I told an American Indian ghost story “The Vampire Skeleton” which even Year 6 kids find quite scary. scary forestOther kids were impressed and enthusiastic. From my son I got “That  was quite good Mum.”

However luckily for me I have a second child -a girl, who adores storytelling. She loves listening and she loves telling too! We don’t tell every night as she is 9 years old and it is also important to read books while she is learning to read. Most nights she listens to recorded stories or we read together to help her with her reading, but sometimes we tell stories. But one of our greatest pleasures is collaborative telling. I start the story and keep asking for ideas along the way. We don’t do it enough really. Whenever she tells a story she tells with such conviction and confidence that I can completely be immersed in her tale. (Both of my children are featured in two tracks I have recorded: “Two Russian Goats” on ‘The Mermaid’s Shoes’ CD and “Lily and the Fig Tree” on ‘The Story Tree’ CD.)

One night we used props for our telling: a beautiful smooth palm sized gemstone and then a sliver lamp that looks a bit like something from 1001 Arabian nights. I forgot to write down what came up but it was great at the time!

This Sunday she’ll be helping me tell tales at the Tweed Art Gallery, Murwillumbah NSW Australia.  If you are a local, maybe I’ll see you there. In the mean time have fun telling stories and if you are starting out with a tough audience, take heart! While you need to be sure you have chosen the right story for the right group at the right time and polished you telling, if it’s still not working, maybe it’s not you. Someone else may adore your stories!

Jenni and Layla in character telling 'Molly Whuppie' to Kindy students.

Jenni and Layla in character telling ‘Molly Whuppie’ to Kindy students.

Jenni telling 'Molly Whuppie' at the Tweed River Art Gallery

Jenni telling ‘Molly Whuppie’ at the Tweed River Art Gallery

“Tales from Under the Sea” with Jenni Cargill-Strong – storyteller extraordinaire in the Ken Done ‘Sea Gardens’ exhibition space.. Two 30-40 min sessions of participative stories and songs for the whole family to enjoy at 11.30am and 12.30 pm. From the depths of the ocean to the beaches of Byron Bay, meet the likes of Shelley the Leatherback Turtle and The Mermaid of Byron or hear Kipling’s playful “How the Whale got his Throat”. Suitable for all ages – great for families. Stories may vary. Entry by Donation.

Jenni tells Jack and the Beanstalk at Tasmanian International Storytelling Festival

Jenni tells Jack and the Beanstalk at Tasmanian International Storytelling Festival