Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Storytelling Ventures

Two different ventures are my subject this week. One involves one of the readers of this blog – Swati Kakodkar.

Becoming a storyteller:

Swati lives in Bangalore in India. She became interested in storytelling when she lived in America and started taking her young son along to her local library. She loved seeing and hearing the storytelling sessions that were held there and she loved how they involved her son.

So when Swati moved to Bangalore, she took up storytelling herself. She enrolled at an institute in Bangalore which gives training and knowledge in storytelling. She also arranged to go regularly to tell stories to a children’s group. 

I know of Swati’s venture because, while working on her thesis, she got in touch to ask if I would do an interview for the thesis. Skype provided the means, we had a lovely long talk about storytelling and since then Swati has remained in touch. Now she has sent me a link to a website about four storytellers in Bangalore. One of the four is Swati herself and I’ve asked her if she would permit me to put the link on this blog. I hope you will be as thrilled and inspired as I have been to learn how storytelling is happening in India today.

So here’s the link to copyand paste onto your browser:

Writing about storytelling:

The second venture is one of my own. It has involved some of the issues that can arise for storytellers who become keen to raise awareness about storytelling as well as doing it. One of these issues is how you talk about storytelling when it’s the storytelling itself that you love. The other is how to write about what is essentially oral.  And another of course can be how you film it, a challenge which arose in my case back at the end of the 1980s when Channel 4 commissioned By Word of Mouth, my series of four programmes on storytelling which got aired in 1990.

From time to time, I’ve written and talked about storytelling as newspaper or magazine articles have been requested or invitations have arrived to come and give a talk at some conference or other. Also, of course, there’s been this weekly blog. But earlier this year, a rather bigger challenge cropped up in the form of a publisher’s enquiry as to whether I’d write a book for a new Early Years series. When I realised that the remit was to include story-reading as well as storytelling, I felt some initial worry. As a storyteller, shouldn’t I focus exclusively on the oral side?

But as I got going, I felt glad. During the years of part-time work I did long ago on the Lambeth Libraries Storytelling Scheme, I learned a lot about story-reading to what were then described as Under-5s. Since then, as an oral storyteller, I’d realise how hard it could be for many early years staff even to contemplate telling a story without a book let alone do it. Yet from all the training work I’ve carried out, I also know how compelling it becomes for people when they dare to try it. Besides, there are many problems and pleasures in common between story-reading and storytelling.

Writing the book became a real pleasure. Fortunately a good deal of it got done earlier this year. More recently during my breast cancer treatment, it gave me something to keep focus on. The deadline for the work was the end of October (though I have to say that, quite early on, I was reassuringly told that deadlines could slip). But today I’m happy and relieved to be able to report I’ve met the challenge. By the end of this weekend, I plan to have sent off all the material for Storytelling and Story-Reading in Early Years. The book is scheduled to come out next Spring. I suppose my next challenge is going to be dealing with my nerves about whether it will be well received. Ah well …

PS: The top photo is, of course, storyteller Swati Kakodkar. The bottom photo is of the booklet I put together to accompany the By Word of Mouth series. It turned out to be the bestselling booklet Channel 4 had produced up to then.

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4 Responses to “Storytelling Starters ~ Storytelling Ventures”

  1. Julie Sperring Says:

    Congratulations on finishing the book Mary – such an impressive achievement. Looking forward to reading it next year – it sounds really interesting. I’m definitely one of those who would feel totally vulnerable telling a story without a book – a single joke is hard enough!

  2. Mary Medlicott Says:

    Hi Julie, thanks for your congratulations on the finishing of the book. It feels really good to have finished it and got it sent and already now to have received nice comments from the publisher. Odd thing is, though, that I’m now missing it! What am I supposed to do instead? The answer, I suspect, is get on with some of my other projects incuding clearing away some of the many cobwebs that have been a feature of this year’s Autumn.

  3. Meg Says:

    Hi Mary.
    I have a copy of the By Word of Mouth Booklet (dip into now again when i’m drifting) and I have no doubts your latest material will be just as well received. There’s a real need for more understanding about developing fluency
    Reading Aloud well is a pleasure-able art. Making readers more aware of their voice and range of options, like those of an oral storyteller, has got to help young listeners understand and feel what it is to read “with expression.”
    School students I’ve worked with can tell when someone’s reading lacks expressiveness, but they are not sure how they can improve.
    Got a bug about this at the moment. Look forward to reading it. Do you think the spoken word is not so valued?

  4. Mary Medlicott Says:

    Hi Meg, you’ve made me wonder about that business of young people lacking expressiveness in their way of talking. Is the lack more than an unwillingness to ‘show themselves’ at that age? I suppose we all went through it at one time except that, growing up in Wales, we were generally encouraged in speaking in public by all the eisteddfodau. But now perhaps the shyness is compounded by people spending so much time staring at Facebook. It surely must make speaking out and speaking in coherent sentences more difficult.
    Good subject to think about. All the best, Mary

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