Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Archive for the ‘Preparing’ Category

Storytelling Starters ~ In my beginning is my end

Saturday, July 18th, 2015

P1070042A young woman asked me the other day: ‘How do you end a story?’ It’s a very good question! The first point I made in reply was the one I feel to be the most important.  

Facing up to the silence

In storytelling, you have to recognise from the very beginning that there’s going to have to be an end to whatever tale you are telling. It may come after ten minutes, an hour, several hours or even days. But an end will have to arrive and after the end, there will be a silence. Unavoidable? Yes. Uncomfortable? Only if you’re not ready for it. Long or short, that ensuing silence should be part of the magic. Be ready for it. It’s one of the interstices between the world of story and the world of here and now. There’s a lot of power in it. Sometimes you have to be brave to face it.

Preparing the last sentence (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ The Crucible of Story

Saturday, July 11th, 2015

P1070464A castle, wherever it is, is a story in itself. When was it created? Why? By whom? Inevitably the story continues to the people who have lived there, the conflicts they may have provoked or suffered, the enmities and love affairs its silent walls may have witnessed. And so it goes on, suffering ravages of time and weather as decisions are made to extend, rebuild, refurbish or abandon until eventually, it reaches today and the people who decide to go and see it in its old age and those who have become its carers now.

Carew Castle

Carew Castle is a staggeringly beautiful creation. It has existed in one form or another since 1100 or shortly thereafter…., first as some kind of stone tower with wooden palisades, in Tudor times taking on aspects of a mansion, today almost completely floorless except for a couple of large rooms. Several of the participants who attended the storytelling training day I ran there on Thursday for Pembrokeshire Coast National Park are people who do guided tours around it. What a huge story it provides for them to tell! Architectural, archaeological, historical, social, Welsh, English, the story has so many aspects, including what visitors add. I loved what one young woman said to me about it as our training day concluded and we were walking away. ‘It’s a crucible we have here,’ she said. ‘Every day it’s different, always transforming. Whatever you put in, there’s always more. It’s always changing.’

On reflection, I think these could be very good words for describing stories and storytelling. Whatever you put into the crucible, it’s always changing, it’s never full, and for that reason it’s life-enhancing. It  leaves you with new perspectives and new questions. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ What’s new? What’s true?

Saturday, July 4th, 2015

P1070490Last week I asked this question: What did Iron-Age people have? Karen’s response was: ‘They’d have had each other.’ The elements were what  had been in my mind – earth, air, fire, water. With characteristic insight, Karen thought about the people. Her response has been helping me think through one of the issues that arose from my training day at Castell Henllys on Monday. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~Repertoire Refreshment 4: Happy end

Saturday, February 21st, 2015

What is a calumniated wife? You may well ask. In the terminology used by folklore scholars, it’s a wife who has been much wronged, spoken against with lies and bitterness and then sent away. One wife who suffered this fate was the mother of Valentine and Orson, vastly popular heroes of the French romance of the Middle Ages. Another calumniated wife is part of the beginning and end of the story I’ve been writing about here over the last few weeks.

How the story begins:

P1070119There’s a mighty king, the King of Persia. His wife gets pregnant and gives birth to a son. All would be well except that the queen has two jealous sisters. They snatch the baby away, put it in a basket, push the basket down the river and tell the king his wife has given birth to a dog.

When the king’s wife gives birth a second time,  it’s another son. The same thing happens. Now the jealous sisters tell the king his wife has given birth to a cat.

The third time the king’s wife is pregnant, she has a daughter. The jealous sisters do the same thing again and tell the king his wife has given birth to a mouse.

This time, the king is so appalled (as if his wife had deliberately wronged him!) that he has her taken away and imprisoned somewhere in the depths of the Palace. But meantime, each of the queen’s three babies has been rescued by the king’s gardener, the one who has been making that most beautiful garden. He and his wife take pity on each of the children in turn and bring them up. They are Fariz, Faruz and Farizad.

 So that’s the start of it. Now for the end. You already know the middle. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Repertoire Refreshment 3: The Quest

Saturday, February 14th, 2015

So here’s the third of my blogs about that beautiful story from the Arabian Nights which I’m preparing for telling in a fortnight’s time.  The first blog gave a brief idea of the story as I’d remembered it over a number of years. The second itemised the three treasures in the story that I’d completely forgotten about. Now here’s the main body of the story.  I’ve simmered it down to its bare bones. That’s how I work when I’m starting from a written story. Visualisation must do the rest. Here goes.

The set-up:

P1070107Farizad and her two brothers, Farid and Faruz, live in the beautiful garden which was created by the gardener and his wife who were their parents.

Now the parents have died.

One day an old woman comes to the garden and says to Farizad: This garden is beautiful but it would be perfect with 3 rare treasures – the Talking Bird, the Singing Tree and the Golden Water. Farizad asks where these can be found? In the mountains on the road into India.

Farizad says she must go and find them. Farid and Faruz say, ‘No, we’ll go.’ But then they agree that one brother must stay to look after Farizad.

Quest of Brother No. 1 (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Repertoire Refreshment 2: The Golden Water

Saturday, February 7th, 2015

P1070096OK I found the book and identified the story I’d vaguely remembered. I had to search quite hard: the book turned out to be a hardback and bigger than I’d remembered. It’s Stories from The Arabian Nights,  the stories retold by Naomi Lewis with beautiful illustrations by Anton Pieck. I was surprised to see it was published way back in 1987 (Methuen Children’s Books). Did I review it for The School Librarian? I can’t remember and I can’t check – I recently threw out my old copies.

Three images from the story sang out as I re-read The Tale of Farizad of the Rose’s Smile. How could I have forgotten them? They’re what make the story so lovely. Each is something that must be obtained to make the garden where the girl and her brothers live into the most beautiful garden that it could be.

So this week I’ve decided to concentrate on those three items. The rest of the story can come next week. But now it’s time for visualisation. Time for the unspoken words that may come to mind as each of these three special things is really looked at. Time to imagine the scene they might make when they’re finally brought together in that already lovely garden.

Item One: The Talking Bird

If it was in your garden, the story says, all the birds of the air would flock to behold it. The bird is called Bulbul al-Hazar.

Item Two: The Singing Tree

If this tree was in your garden, all the lutes and harps in your home would break their strings with envy. Its leaves make a sound so ravishing that nothing can match its sweetness. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Repertoire refreshment

Saturday, January 31st, 2015

PigeonsNice to be asked back. New stories required. This will be the third time – or maybe the fourth, I must check my notes – that St Stephen’s School in Shepherds Bush has invited me to come to tell stories. This visit will be for a day in their Arts Week in March and I’m thinking fresh stories would be a good idea – for me as much as for them.  Even as this thought occurs, I’m also thinking that the process  of  preparing new stories could be  a good subject for a new series of blogs. So here goes: Repertoire Refreshment (for humans rather than pigeons)! Let me know if my approach appeals. Maybe you have a different perspective.

Step 1 – choosing a story

I’ve already started thinking about a story I read in a book. Now which book was it? It was ages ago. One I reviewed for School Librarian? Was it Middle Eastern tales? Palestinian perhaps? I’ll check my shelves. Meantime, I’m asking myself why this story in particular has come back to my mind. I’m trying to remember what it’s about. 

A young woman with two brothers. Her brothers disappear. There’s evil in the air and also magic. The young woman must get those  brothers back, she loves them, they’re an important part of her life. There’s a mountain she’s going to have to climb – it’s literal and symbolic and a big risk. But she sets out with courage and passion. First she succeeds in saving one brother. Then she manages to save the other. Despair and determination give way to joy. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ A Traveller’s Tale

Saturday, November 15th, 2014

This week I’m taking up the challenge I gave myself last week. What follows is my first try-out of the story I said I’d like to prepare and tell. Please let me know if you think it works. And if it does, please tell me how you would end it.

The story:

WowThe story I want to tell you is about a traveller. The amazing thing about this traveller is that he goes on his travels every single year without fail. Every year, he goes an extremely long way and he always ends up in pretty much the same place. You’d think he might try somewhere else or vary the journey sometimes, visit other countries, see other places. But no, every single year he does the same thing.

So this is what he does. He leaves Britain at about the same time – in early summer in June or July. First, he travels down to the Mediterranean – and that’s not surprising because it’s warmer there than here. Then he crosses the Mediterranean sea and arrives in North Africa, which of course is a very popular place for people going on holiday.

After a short while in North Africa, maybe a week or two, having a bit of relaxation and making sure he’s ready for the next part of his journey, he sets out to cross the Sahara desert. Why he feels obliged to do this is a bit of a mystery. It’s not somewhere you’d want to stop. It’s extremely hot, it’s extremely dry and it’s extremely dusty. But it’s his most direct route and it usually takes him only about three or four days.  (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Baa-aaa

Saturday, October 25th, 2014

P1060973A bit of patter is part of the art. It may be only to say where a story comes from, where and from whom you heard it. Or it may be something about the weather, the event or the audience you’re addressing. It may be some introductory narrative that includes something about being a storyteller (after all, lots of people still don’t know what to expect) or you may have a joke that puts people at their ease. Whatever it is, it’s all part of creating a receptive atmosphere.

Dylan Thomas in Fitzrovia:

This week, I participated in the Fitzrovia Festival, an annual week of events that take place in the area round London’s Fitzroy Square. This year’s festival has been dedicated to Dylan Thomas. I did two sessions of Dylan Thomas readings and, among other things, my patter for my second session included a delightful (and true) little story I once heard from one of the people involved. This was an English lecturer on a visit to South Wales to see her daughter and her daughter’s two little children. An excursion to Laugharne had been planned so as to visit The Boathouse where Dylan Thomas lived and the shed where he worked. The children had heard a lot about this proposed excursion and on the way in the car, one of them piped up from the back, ‘Mum, will we see see Dill and Thomas?’

For my first session, which I knew in advance would be for young children, one piece of patter that came in handy was what I’d discovered a few days previously when making decisions about what poems and prose-readings I’d offer. Two possible poem options – Poem in October and Poem On His Birthday sent me scurrying to look up when Dylan Thomas was born. A hundred years ago, yes. But when exactly? The answer was 22nd October – the very day of my readings.

Preparing for the 6-year olds:  (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ A garden of stories

Saturday, September 20th, 2014

This week I’ve been preparing for a Storytelling evening I’ll be giving in Llangollen on 10th October.  The event is for the Story Circle regularly organised there by storyteller Fiona Collins . My preparations for it feel a bit like the gardening I’ve also been doing in my garden this week. A garden takes time and effort to make and time and effort to maintain. When it’s going right, it gives great pleasure.

From the Land of the Magic

Rebecca's roseMy Llangollen programme is a new one – From the Land of the Magic. The title comes from the Welsh, gwlad yr hud, which is a phrase that has been applied to Penfro, Pembrokeshire, the part of Wales I come from. The light there really is magic. It’s no surprise to me that so many Pembrokeshire stories reflect its enchanting effects.  

My stories for Llangollen will include some smaller ones I’ve often told before as well as one big one I’ve told before but not often, namely the story of Manawyddan which comprises the Third Branch of the early Welsh cycle of  stories, the Mabinogion. I feel this ancient story is extremely relevant to our world today dealing as it does with how to bring a halt to the incessant taking of vengeance.

As for the work of preparing my overall programme, I’ve adopted my normal technique – Mind-Mapping.  Mind-Maps are what work for me. They prompt  me to remember what stories I know, bring them into  fresh focus and enable me to create new programmes and themes. So, how to do it?

Making a Mind-Map (more…)