Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Into the bin

Old bag. Old hat. Old news. Old times. Old paperwork. It’s the paperwork that’s been especially on my mind this week. Slowly the papers are being sorted and wherever possible they’re getting into my wastepaper basket. For the most recent big decision made in this house has been to clear the decks, sort the papers and throw away as much as we possibly can. The storytelling gear? Well, perhaps that’s going to have to wait.

But yesterday afternoon, I sat on the little settee in my study going through a large pile of files from the past about storytelling bookings. Name and address of the venue, a note of whoever made the booking, details of how many sessions there’d be, who’d be attending the sessions and what ages they’d be, any special advice on themes for the stories, notes on how to get to the venue and what the payment would be: in quite a lot of instances, all this info is followed by my subsequent remarks on how the sessions went, interesting things said by pupils or staff and anything of especial interest that arose about the stories I’d chosen to tell.

Fascinating stuff. As I go through the papers, I note what a huge array of schools and other venues I went to during my busy storytelling years, places all over London and the Home Counties as well as further afield on trips to other parts of the country. Some papers I decide to save because of notes I made on them during or after the booking concerned. For instance, interesting remarks from listeners were likely to get kept. Also any particular feelings I had about the stories I’d chosen.

And now I have to admit that this stuff I’m currently sorting is only the loose paperwork from my storytelling days. In my study is also the storytelling gear, the bags full of interesting objects including what I call my sea-tray. And in the big wooden cupboard in my study are the notebooks which contain my considered thoughts on the work. What I think in retrospect about stories I’ve told. Storytelling techniques which seem to have worked especially well. Themes I might work on in the future. Altogether it’s a rich store of stuff. However, the loose papers do not amount to the kind of stuff that could really make them worth keeping. So into the wastepaper basket they have to go.

In a way it’s sad. Memory is jogged by all kinds of details. Throwing away the paperwork reduces the amount of memory-jogging that can now take place. Yet I reckon there’s still plenty left both in notebooks in my study and in my mind. Besides, one folder on my computer is labelled A Storyteller’s Tale and this too is the repository of a lot of memories of my storytelling experiences and my thoughts about them. Perhaps it’s one of the problems about being a storyteller. You can’t help picking up more tales on your way to tell the tales, just as in my case I could never stop seeing objects that could be candidates for going to go into my store of objects that could be picked to go into  storytelling bag. Ah well! A problem can also be a pleasure.

PS: One pleasure of a little umbrella is not just getting it out of your storytelling bag but slowly opening it up. Same goes for what I call my sea-tray. For once you’ve picked up the sea-tray, you have to fetch out the special bag of little stones that are going to make the sound of the sea as they get swished about the tray. Waiting to hear just what the sound will be is all part of the fascination.

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