Storytelling links

There are also storytelling mailing lists on the Internet. Storytell is the largest, and you can find others using Google Groups or Yahoo Groups searches.

Books on storytelling

Here are just a few books available on storytelling. Most of these include lists of stories to tell or collections to use. To find folktales, haunt the 398.2 section of the public library, in both the children’s and adult collections.

  • Who says? Essays on pivotal issues in contemporary storytelling edited by Carol Birch and Melissa A. Heckler. August House, 1996. These are chewy essays on the philosophy of storytelling and the storytelling revival. Birch also wrote The whole story handbook: using imagery to complete the story experience, a book useful for working on stories.
  • Telling your own stories by Donald Davis. August House, 1993. In this great little book, Davis’ story prompts draw out your personal stories. He also has a nice story structure outline.
  • Storyteller, storyteacher: discovering the power of storytelling for teaching and living by Marni Gillard. Stenhouse, 1996. Not a how-to book, but a wonderfully warm "learner’s journey," this is one storyteacher’s tale, told to encourage us all to tell stories.
  • The storytelling coach: how to listen, praise, and bring out people’s best by Doug Lipman. August House, 1995. You’ll find a very useful structure for encouraging others to tell stories here.
  • The storyteller’s guide by Bill Mooney and David Holt. August House, 1996. Holt and Mooney interviewed storytellers around the US for this book, which houses a wealth of information on the art, craft and business of storytelling.
  • Storytelling: process and practice by Norma J. Livo and Sandra A. Reitz. Libraries Unlimited, 1986. (See also Storytelling activities by the same authors.) You’ll find nuts-and-bolts advice on storytelling in this valuable tome.
  • The storyteller’s start-up book by Margaret Read MacDonald. August House, 1993. (Also look for other collections by this storyteller.) I recommend this simple how-to book for beginning storytellers.
  • The grammar of fantasy: an introduction to the art of inventing stories by Gianni Rodari, translated by Jack Zipes. Teachers and Writers Collaborative, 1996. This is a quirky, funny book, full of ideas on how to play with stories in unusual ways.
  • The way of the storyteller by Ruth Sawyer. Viking, 1942. A classic in the field, this book is as readable and insightful today as it was when it was first published.


Storytelling Tips

Relax! Before you tell a story, take a deep breath. Set your intention to have a good time.

THE BIG RULE: Only tell stories you love. If you don’t like your story, neither will the listeners.

Know your story (unless you happen to be making it up on the spot). The good news is that you don’t have to memorize the words, just know the events, sequence, character and setting. 

Imagine the people, places, objects and actions fully, but remember, you don’t have to tell all you know. Experience the story clearly in your own mind so the listeners will experience it as well.

Practice. Vary your voice and your body language as the story demands. Pay attention to the movements you make. Your gestures should add to the story, not detract. Some stories and some audiences demand more subtle gestures than others.

Look at your audience. Storytelling is about connection, so you want to connect with the listeners. Good eye contact helps the listeners know you want to connect.

Know that the listeners have never heard this story told this way. Every storyteller is different, every story is different, every telling is different. Even if you think you have made a mistake, most listeners won’t realize it. You can usually backtrack if you’ve left something out.

Let go of making it absolutely perfect. The audience just wants to hear a good story. As the storyteller, you’re the bearer of this good story.

Give credit: if you didn’t make the story up, tell the audience the source. By respecting the author or the culture of the story, we also respect the story and the audience.

Have fun!