Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Archive for the ‘Adults’ Category

Storytelling Starters ~ The Call of Stories

Saturday, July 13th, 2019

Being on cancer treatment makes for a kind of half-life. Getting to the hospital, sitting through the chemo transfusion (typically for me about eight hours from sitting down to getting out), feeling strange for several days afterwards with not much else going on because of the after- effects. Sometimes getting up much earlier than usual, sometimes very much later and rarely going out in the evenings because of generally feeling knackered.

Brightening things up:

But always there are kind contacts from friends and neighbours, phone calls and cards with enquiries as to how it’s all going and many messages of goodwill. In the odd way that illness produces, there’s even the brightening of relationships with some long-term neighbours in the street. Never before on particular talking terms,  having learned what’s going on, they now always enquire how things are going.

Meantime, you’re looking for more ways to make life feel brighter. Crosswords and word wheels are good, but I find they can only last a relatively short time. Reading is a must but you need other things too.

Missing the storytelling:

And I miss the storytelling. I ask myself if it will ever come back. Programmes of stories begin to form in my mind, stories for children, stories for adults, ideas of stories I’d like to tell and how I’d like to tell them. Short ones, long ones, quirky ones, ones that have happened in my own real life: they present themselves to my attention, swirling out from choppy seas or clouds of mist and wanting to get acknowledged. Writing them down is one thing. Telling them is quite another. I hope I’ll get or make the chance to be telling them again.

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Storytelling Starters ~ From nature and awareness

Saturday, June 22nd, 2019

What a beautiful singer! Watching the Cardiff Singer of the World competition on TV on Thursday evening this week, Mingjie Lei was obviously going to be the clear winner of the Song Prize. He sang in such an unforced way, giving time and space and feeling to the words and emotions of his songs. His performances put me in mind of the kind of storytelling I like best.

The storytelling I like best can’t be described as entirely natural. And yet natural it is. For wherever it has reached, it has resulted from a combination of awareness and study but also continues to derive from a natural love of the medium.

A Natural Art:

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Storytelling Starters ~ The Gardener and the Cake-Maker

Saturday, June 15th, 2019

Last week it was Farizad of the Rose’s Smile. This week it has to be the old riddling story that must have come back to my mind in the wake of Farizad because it’s also got roses in it. In the last few days, I’ve been trying to update it a bit to make it more suitable for our modern times.

That’s why the gardener’s wife in the story (she’s crucial) is now an entrepreneurial Cake-maker who sells her excellent cakes not only to Lord Top Noddy, her husband’s employer, but to everyone else on his vast estate. Indeed, it is probably the fact that she is doing so well that has aroused the ire of the Jealous Evil Spirit of Capitalism whose mean-mindedness is the motivating force of the story as it is now.

The story: The first bit

One evening, our gardener came home from a hard day’s work to find that although the smell of newly baked cakes pervaded his kitchen, his wife was not there.  What could have happened? Where could she possibly be? (Such questions are especially helpful when telling this story to older children. The zanier the answers, the better.) (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ The human touch

Saturday, June 8th, 2019

Remembering stories can be a comfort when you’re poorly. And, dear readers, have I felt poorly since the third of my third chemo treatments. Still, I’m halfway through bar the shouting and that’s something worth holding onto.

A story that came to my mind when I couldn’t get back to sleep very early one morning this week is one that needs the best part of an hour for the telling and it’s one that I love. It comes from the Arabian Nights. Here it is in brief.

A story with a human touch:

The third of the three children of a king is a girl. With her brothers she has grown up in the home of the king’s gardener not knowing who she is by birth. The children’s mother was imprisoned long ago because of lies that were told against her, the gardener is poor but loving and the three children he took on as his own are leading a sheltered life not knowing who they really are. An important feature of that life is the gardener’s beautiful garden. It is a place of peace and refuge. Why should anything change? (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Dream and Reality

Saturday, April 27th, 2019

It was raining. I was lying on my bed thinking about what I’d write in this blog this week. My mind (or whatever passes for it these days) was wandering about, touching on all kinds of things that happened this week. One was the visit of a friend, a local historian, who came to show and lend me two old manuscript books full of stuff about Shemi, that 19th century storyteller I was writing about last week. This reminded me of my father many years ago telling me about a handwritten exercise book full of Shemi stories that he’d been shown and then, suddenly addressing himself to the ether, asking: ‘I wonder where that book is now.’ Strange to think the book he was speaking about may now be in my house.

Yet another was the beautiful butterfly that had somehow got into my bedroom. I’d finally managed to urge it out of the window with the deft use of a sheet of newspaper. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Three items to entertain you

Saturday, February 16th, 2019

I’ve been sorting. Sorting is a very satisfying thing to do at any time but especially at this time of the year. My file box labelled Songs, Poems, Sayings has produced three items I’d love to share with you.

Item 1 – part of a poem:

When a day passes it is no longer there.
What remains of it? Nothing more than a story.
If stories weren’t told or books weren’t
written, man would live like beasts – only
for the day.
Today, we live, but by tomorrow today
will be a story.
The whole world, all human life
is one long story.

These lovely lines come from Naftali and His Horse, a children’s book by Isaac Bashevis Singer. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Props 2: The storyteller

Saturday, January 26th, 2019

So here I am, thinking about props and the usefulness of them. Props attract attention, they hold attention. Interesting objects, puppets, dolls together with fascinating bags and boxes: all can be part of the art of the storyteller. Last week, I wrote about the single object that may set the scene for a story. But a set of objects can also be good as well as fun to put together.

A set of objects sets the scene in a different way. It reflects the fact that there will be different scenes in the story and is very helpful for younger children. Showing the objects one by one before the story begins gives them an initial sense that the story will progress through different scenes. Then showing them again at the end is a great way to remind them of the story. Perhaps you do this as you put the props away in the bag or box from which they’ve emerged. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Props 1: inviting response

Saturday, January 19th, 2019

Last week brought lovely comments on my thoughts about audience. So this week – and over one or two following weeks as well – I’ve decided to write about props. It’s a subject that interests me a lot. Why use a prop or props? Do they help or hinder a storytelling or indeed the storyteller? How many props might one use in a session and how is best to deploy them? And where might one obtain them?

Props stimulate questions:

Placed on a theatre stage, props can intrigue the audience. Props arouse subliminal questions. Why is that object there? Who is going to use it and when and why? But storytelling is generally less theatrical. So why would a storyteller make use of a prop or props? An immediate answer has to do with the very nature of a prop. A stick, a stone, a badge, a flower: a prop is some kind of object that has been selected with a view to intriguing or informing the audience. Perhaps it is itself going to be the subject of a story. Perhaps its colour or shape is going to be significant. Perhaps it’s a matter of who owned it, where it came from. Props stimulate questions. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Seeing the audience, seeing yourself

Saturday, January 12th, 2019

We all know the syndrome. The start of a new year makes you eager to sort things out, throw things away, clean your cupboards and your shelves, pursue new objectives and resurrect plans you’d half forgotten about.

For me, this new year has done all those things. It has also brought the satisfaction of seeing that  Nursery World, the magazine that specifically deals with working and living with early years children, has now brought out the big piece on storytelling with early years children that it commissioned me to write towards the end of last year.

Seeing the photos:

Writing my Nursery World piece made me aware all over again how important it is for us storytellers to keep our flame burning by helping new generations of potential tellers to know what storytelling can do.  The new pleasure has been seeing the wonderful photos that were taken to go with the piece. Anna Gordon, the freelance photographer extraordinaire who was commissioned to take the photos, has generously agreed to my using two of them to illustrate this blog today. My thanks to her and to Nursery World and to the centre where the photos were taken. Actually seeing the photos – and in the top one here I’m holding up what I know as my rainbow cloth – makes me very aware of how the children are responding. In fact, seeing the photos made me think a lot about audiences and how important it is to the storyteller to think about the different ways in which they respond. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Jumping In

Saturday, December 29th, 2018

Perhaps it’s always like this at this time of the year. Christmas is over. New Year is coming. So you  start sorting through the detritus on your desk, clearing space for the future. You get out your new diary and, going through last year’s, note into the new one the birthdays of your friends and family for which you must send cards. Then as you continue the sorting, you perhaps turn to My Documents on your computer and, looking down through the list of folders, become engaged by all the items you can’t remember putting there. Or in my case just now, you start searching for something you definitely remember storing there but now can’t find because you can’t recall precisely in what folder you filed it away.

Specifically I started looking for Jumping In. It’s a piece I remembered writing a few years ago in which I tried to describe one of the favourite activities of myself and my friends when, as a child, I still lived in Fishguard.  Throughout the summer – indeed, from as early as April if I could get round my mother – we’d go down to the harbour in Lower Fishguard and, when the tide was sufficiently high, spend many happy hours jumping into the sea from the top of the quay. (more…)