Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Just checking

This week has been all about checking. It’s a fiddlesome, pernickety job and it has reminded me of some of the feelings I had when, years ago I got involved in storytelling, I was struggling to finish a book on the fascinating subject of wolf-children. I’ve written before about the problems I had – how I used to agonise about getting the wordings right as well as making sure I had the correct information and was ordering it in sensible ways.

A Talking Book?

Soon I began to fantasise. How much better it would be to be a Talking Book in a library. People who came into the library could come over and talk to me about my subject. In the subsequent conversation, I could take their personal interests into account and direct my talk accordingly. There could be other advantages. The library might take care of my clothing (my covers). They might even give me board and lodging.

My fantasy must have been a premonition. Eventually came the day when I almost literally bumped into the poster in my local library calling for storytellers to join the Lambeth Libraries Storytelling Scheme. Immediately I started the work, I found myself relishing the fact that, telling a story, you didn’t have to fix your words. You could improvise, re-phrase, say things twice but in different ways, enjoy the freedom of your words going into the air and not having to be checked.

The old agony returns:

This week I’ve been back in the old agonised place. An email arrived with an attachment containing a long list of queries from the copy-editor who’s been dealing with the book I’ve been writing, Storytelling and Story-Reading in the Early Years.

Oh lawks! Places where I hadn’t been clear. Places where the language was clumsy. What a torment it has been to face up to the inevitable problems involved in the fixing of words. How it’s made me value all over again the flexibilities of storytelling!

Not only in writing:

And yet! Dealing with the need to get things right has made me think about some of the issues that also arise in oral telling. I’ve heard storytellers getting things wrong where they shouldn’t. Muddling the names of characters in well-known tales. Mispronouncing Welsh names in Welsh tales when I’m sure if they’d asked someone who knew, they could have got them right. Not being clear about what happened next in the story. I’m sure I’ve been guilty at times. So as well as part of getting the story right, it’s important to do some checking.

For me, the nice thing about confronting all those queries about my book has been that it seems that the book is now on course to be published next March rather than in May. Even as I enjoy that thought, however, I realise I must prepare myself for the undoubted feelings of unease I will get if, looking at it, I see something wrong or poorly phrased. Ah well…

PS: The leaves that have fallen from the trees have been forming into great drifts on our side of the street. This year in particular those that are still clinging on are looking especially lovely, dancing about in the breezes and winds. Hence my two photos this week. They come with the thought that if the branches and trunk of a tree are like the bones of a story, perhaps the leaves are the individual words.

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2 Responses to “Storytelling Starters ~ Just checking”

  1. Meg Says:

    Good news about the book publication date, Mary. And somebody said that editing was the real work of writing. Oh my!
    I agree about the need to get oral stories ‘right’ in the telling. I sometimes hear a ‘clang’ in my head when someone slips modern slang into an old story. I’m not sure if its being ‘true’ to the story which reminds me of the complicated notion of why I tell a particular tale. I’ve heard myself do it sometimes … and it always rattles.
    Like the idea of being a being a talking book, face to face in a library. There’s a great Australian Radio program a bit like that called Conversations with Richard Fidler. He’s such a good interviewer of people, especially authors. Awesome listening!
    All the Best, Meg

  2. Karen Says:

    I was very much taken with the idea of words falling from the sky, Mary, like leaves and it put me in mind of “the year 1666 when London burned like rotten sticks.” As you might know, the well-heeled folks had put their belongings inside the old St Pauls Cathedral hoping they would be safe from the ferocious flames. So, too, had the booksellers who used to ply their trade in the courtyard of the cathedral. However, so intense was the Great Fire that it melted the lead on the roof, and the great metal bells as well, and the molten metal ran down inside the cathedral setting fire to everything stored inside the stone walls. The stones exploded like bombs and the wind caught the charred fragments and carried them far away. The first that people down in Brighton knew of the Great Fire that was happening in London was when leaves of paper from the burnt books started raining down on the beach! Words falling from the sky – how confused they must have been at first until the news finally reached them of the catastrophe taking place in London.

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