Today at parent conferences I was talking to a very shy student about her lack of discussion during class seminars. I won’t bore you with teacher details, but I confessed to her that I was the same way in high school and that I still remember the one day I spoke up in class to tell Rebecca DeGroot she was dead wrong about something in philosophy class. I then commented that it’s really amazing that I’m a teacher because I hate talking in front of people.
And I was also a tour director where I had to talk in front of tourists all day. With a microphone. And don’t get me wrong, I love teaching. But I brave the sea of teenage hormones on a daily basis. Willingly. Neither of those jobs really fit my college dream job of working in an archaeology lab. Or being an animator for Disney. (I’m nothing if not diverse.)
What did I love about both those jobs? Telling stories. I’m good at it (the humility button has been turned off today, can you tell?). I can see when I have my audience, be they graying retirees spending their hard earned cash on a dream vacation to Alaska or a group of jaded high school seniors with a massive case of senioritis. I can jazz up the story of Mighty Moses with his wire cutters freeing the Hebrews in Egypt or act out the Battle of Bunker Hill, complete with me standing on desks, shooting students with imaginary guns, and offering tips on how to take over the world (Rule #1- You MUST have the high ground!). I know when I’ve goofed the timing, can see where I need to improve the story the next time around for a bigger laugh, or more shock.
It didn’t dawn on me tonight that even though I’ve finished a novel and am writing a second one, I’ve earned another title over the years: storyteller.
Yes, that’s right. I’m a regular Homer. Except I’m alive and I can see. And I’m pretty sure I’m only one person. I’m not as famous though- that’s still on my to-do list. 🙂
Are you a storyteller?
I'll say this: Under the right circumstances, I can be. Sometimes I need to warm up a little bit first, but I don't at all mind dramatizing things once I'm sure of my audience.
But as a writer? I think I do a heck of a job! for the most part, anyway. 🙂
According to my wife, I suck at telling stories verbally (I blame the Journalism training and being an engineer's son). I am, however, very good at verbal commentary when I have the right crowd.
My personal favorite remark that I made recently was "I was sweating more than a pig on a spit."
And I'm also fantastic at making myself look like an idiot for a laugh (11 years of tromping the stage and hanging with theatre kids means I have no shame left).
I think my written stories are fantabulous though … just need to get some details ironed out.
Storyteller – that's an exalted position, one I'm honored to be part of.
Postscript: I went from reading your post to reading one written about storytellers. Check it out:
Yep. I'm a storyteller!
I think all writers are story tellers (at least I hope they are–otherwise what business do they have writing?) I'm impressed with your ability to get up in front of people and tell stories though. I think I would fall into the same category as your student. Talking in front of big groups is not my forte. I can make myself do it, but it isn't fun.
I love creating images with words, so on paper I am a storyteller. It is what exhilarates me as a writier, creating suspense and conflict.
When I see my books on the shelf it will be confirmed for me.
I'm the same way, Stephanie. Over the course of the years I've been in plays, a professional public speaker, narrator, educator and tour guide (high five! Tour guides unite! Yeah!) and taught horseback riding lessons. I've always been told I should be a teacher, and I hope someday I can do that, perhaps at the college level, once I've proven myself. I never really thought about until now, but yeah, I'm a storyteller. Thanks for pointing out that they're all related 🙂
Thanks for the link, Judith. That was an interesting article and definitely one I empathize with. I want someone to hold my story two hundred years from now. I want to be immortal!
*cue evil laughter*
Sorry- I'm feeling Halloween-y today.
L.T.- Woohoo for another tour director! Where were your tours?
Matt- I make an idiot of myself almost every day in front of my students. I even dressed up as the Pope once, complete with construction paper hat. I sent my kids on the Crusades and killed them all. 🙂
Yay for all of us storytellers!
I worked in the education department and later as a penguin keeper at a certain large and popular marine animal zoological facility.
I'm w/ Matt — my wife thinks I'm awful at communication (at least verbally) and I don't have an excuse (my father's one of the top storytellers I know).