Advice to new storytellers

Here's another long post, of interest to storytellers or those who want to learn. 

I asked this important question on Twitter and the Facebook Storytellers Group: Do you have a first piece of advice you give to beginning storytellers?

I've taken a few liberties with the responses, changing the order a bit and leaving out a couple of tangents. 

Mary Hamilton chimed in first with the advice that was offered most often: "Tell only stories you truly love." To me, that's the one hard and fast rule of storytelling. All the rest are merely suggestions. Kate DuddingMichael D. McCartyMarilyn Hudson and Beverly Comer agreed with this. Beverly added, "On the subject of telling stories that you love. Remember it's OK to have a favorite age group to which you tell stories. That can change over time, too. I love the wee ones... although I enjoy telling stories to all ages. I know, however, some folks might run for the hills at the thought of telling stories to toddlers and two's or preschoolers. You know what.... it's all good... it's all OK." I added a little piece, too: "I also am likely to give old friend Papa Joe's advice: 'If you want to be a storyteller, tell stories. If you want to be a better storyteller, tell more stories.' Is that foolproof? No, but if you're open to learn as you go, you may go far."

Julie Moss Herrera refined it a little: "Tell stories that you love and that love you back."

Mark Goldman did as well: "1. Tell stories you love. 2. Save all your money!

Thea M. Nicholas said, "Practice at least one more more time."

Pam Faro said, "I encourage them to do 2 things: Listen to as many storytellers as you can - there's always something to learn. Tell as often as you can - there's always something to learn."

Robin Bady took it in a different direction: "There are four things necessary to tell a story

1. a story
2. a storyteller
3. a space
4. an audience

have fun!"

David Thompson said, "Unless you are ready to live in the land of myth and legend, don't."

Danny Turner said, "Be passionate! Because if you aren't you'll never make it." Then he added, "Be true to your story, your audience and yourself. Nothing else matters"

Liz Weir gave the excellent advice, "Listen!" 

Sara deBeer suggested this: "Use the phrase 'Now I'm going to tell you about . . .' The obligation to 'tell' can seem overwhelming; to 'tell about' is much less loaded for some people."

Steve Daugherty said, "Watch their eyes (the members of the audience). Are they imagining your scenes and stories? Are they with you? Are you managing to keep "just one step ahead of them?" If so, you got em. Now, throw the curve ball. Take a wrong turn."

Michael D. Cohen gave this idea: "Record yourself--and then listen to yourself. You will hear what you are doing right, and what you are doing wrong. You will also get to to enjoy the audience's reaction (which you were probably too busy or nervous to fully take in)."

Mel Davenport said, "Relax, relax, relax....let the story do the work...."

Anthony Burcher made this observation: "So many folks say, 'I can't sing, can't dance, can't act, but I can talk--I must be a storyteller.' No, we are an art-form as valid as all the others. Everyone can and should tell stories, but only the artists with true talent should charge money for their tales."

Pat Musselman's advice could apply to life in general, too: "Be yourself. Don't try to mimic another storyteller. Let your true self come out."

Gregory Leifel said, "Commit some time to assist the storytelling world through volunteerism, and it will pay you back as a more complete teller and grow your audience."

Diane Edgecomb had a different take, "Storytelling has nothing to do with memorization!"

Marilyn Kinsella said, "Putting your words and you images into the telling of the story will allow you to remember it...forever."

Traphene Parramore Hickman had a piece of advice for teaching new storytellers: "The first thing that I do with beginners is walk out , look each in the eye and tell who I am. Then I bow. Then I asked what I had done and have each do it. They learned to stand up straight withour all that silliness of being imbarrassed. The I tell a simple story and ask who want to to it. It is amazing how well they do. I try for nothing but possitive reenforcement."

Ruth Stotter was succinct: "Find your own style"

Judy Sima said, "Start simple, choose a story you love, practice and find someone supportive to give you feedback."

Lisa Facciponti's advice was some she'd been given: "A very long time ago, Bill Harley said, 'tell it like your life depends on it.' It has stuck with me all these years and given me courage needed in the moment."

Andre Heuer reminded us, "Relax, enjoy and trust yourself..."

Ward Rubrecht gave another piece of good life advice: "Make mistakes, then learn from them."

Elizabeth Ellis' advice was also a bit of life advice, "Don't forget to breathe." Sharon Gilbert agreed with this.

He who is known as "Narrative Arts Oh-Assieux" had several recommendations: "Find a comfortable venue with an air of time past about it. Adjust the lighting. Dress well." He added, "Wait until people are listening." Then, "Let your stories live their own lives, unfettered by your dogmas."

Megan Hicks said, "A beginning storyteller sought me out after a showcase today to ask for just this sort of advice. Having witnessed her showcase, the advice I gave her was, 'Decide where on the spectrum you feel most comfortable -- as storyTELLER or storyPERFORMER.' I don't know why, but that continues to be an important consideration for me to keep asking myself." This is an interesting consideration, and a little sidetrack in the conversation formed, but I'm saving that for another time. 

Tim Ereneta said, "I always tell beginners: you have permission to make two mistakes. Four would be even better."

Though this wasn't the last word in the thread (I've taken liberties with the order here), I want to end with Arif Choudhury's comment: "Play, have fun...oh, in case no one mentioned this before...TELL STORIES THAT YOU LOVE!"

Have more to add? Put them in the comments below.