Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Tour d’Amour

It sounds odd to say it. But it was so. In the early days of what became the Storytelling Revival in the UK, there was a distinct whiff of opposition to writing. Storytelling was, and is, very different from reading aloud and different too from writing: we storytellers felt at that time that, in public at least, we had to proclaim, reveal and uphold the differences.

By now, a good number of well-known storytellers in the UK – Hugh Lupton, Sally Pomme Clayton, Daniel Morden among them – have published books. I’ve published books too, nine in all, and I feel I can now admit to enjoying both the differences and similarities between the two forms.

Keeping it hidden:

I used not to admit to writing, though as much for reasons of shyness as anything else. I’d keep what I’d written well hidden in filing cabinet drawers. By now, however, I have no compunction in saying how much I relish the work – getting sentences to flow, trying to choose words that will arrest attention and ruthlessly cutting the dross. Words and meaning are, I suppose, my passion. But so is voice.

So I’m interested by what many people have told me – that, reading something I’d written, whether a story or some kind of think-piece, they could hear my voice. Often I’ve wondered whether this was because they’d actually heard me storytelling. Yet I know some of them  definitely hadn’t. Perhaps the act of telling stories affects the way in which you write.

Bringing it out:

Nowadays, I’m spending far more time writing than telling. Health issues over the last eight years made me uncertain about looking for storytelling bookings I might not be able to fulfil. By now I’m once again enjoying whatever storytelling work comes my way.  At the same time, I’m glad that those past years gave me time to develop the writing. I’m now at the point of wondering whether, in the occasional adult performances I do, I might include things I’ve written alongside the stories I tell.  I suppose I’ll have to try it to see.

Meantime, following up on the recent blog where I wrote about swallows in Corfu, here’s a short piece I’ve written during the course of this week. It’s the first section of something longer inspired by my Corfu holiday that I’m entitling Tour d’Amour.

Tour d’Amour, Part 1:

I’m still admiring the grace of their movement, the ease of their comings and goings, their passionate attention to getting things right. One whole day in the week, I remember, was engaged with nuggets of black mud. Time after time, they’d arrive with those nuggets in their beaks. Then with no pause between flight and arrival, they’d have dived into their nest, first the one and then the other, and, watching from below, I’d observe them visibly repairing their home by nudging the mud into its sides. I’d know this was what they were doing from observing the tiny movements resulting from the pressure their beaks applied.

The next day it was sticks and long pieces of straw. Subsequently came the days of the sitting, usually the bigger of them alone in the nest – that must have been the male, I concluded – while the other, presumably the female, faithfully stood on the adjacent ledge until the exact moment her mate flew out. Meantime I, below, would have been waiting,  camera raised, neck strained, eyes focused. So suddenly I knew I was, yet again, too late. For, just as I’d been on the verge of the consummate click, they’d have upped and offed, gone, streaking into the sky while what would have been my best shot ever remained yet again an unrealised token of my new-found love of the swallow.

PS: Other parts of Tour d’Amour are about the extraordinary cactuses, the sea, sunsets and storms and the vibrancy of colours all around.

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One Response to “Storytelling Starters ~ Tour d’Amour”

  1. Meg Says:

    Hi Mary
    I think getting a book published, getting it out in print, still gives you more credibility as a storyteller and opens up different arenas you might be asked to work in. Storytellers I know have flourished more after they’d published. Getting more academic qualifications is also a route tellers take.
    I don’t know how other tellers feel about how successful recording their stories electronically has been. It’s hard to come to grips with the notion of storytelling as a once-only entertainment, live, spoken word art form between teller and listener(s).
    Word came back from a young man who walked into one our ‘Storytelling Unplugged’ sessions recently. It was reported that he said “It was just a bunch of women sitting around telling stories!’
    Just some thoughts from Meg

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