The craft of storytelling is as old as mankind. Since the fall of 2007, I’ve been a storyteller. Since then, I’ve made over 600 presentations to schools, libraries, festivals, organizations, and churches–mostly through the South, but also on excursions . Now, I admit, my presentation is unique because I almost always combine storytelling and music, but it’s been a busy and productive schedule. My Facebook friends (you can see my fan page here) often express amazement at my busy schedule. Last year, I made 143 presentations. Though based in Monroe, Louisiana, it seems I’m only there a few days a month. My friends ask why and how do I travel about so much? Some of it is because of necessity, because I’m still at the economically struggling author/musician stage, and partly because I love to travel. I am able to support myself in my travels by teaching online college courses, so in some ways I guess I could be called a “digital nomad.” The combination of my sources of income–CD & music sales and royalties, payment for music and storytelling presentations, and the college income–have enabled me to be self-employed and live the kind of free life few get to enjoy. I like it so much that I’ve probably ruined any chance of being able to work a 9-5 job.
Back to the storytelling, the point of this post: I tell these kinds of stories–stories of the War Between the States (America’s Civil War), state history (mostly, Arkansas, Texas, and Louisiana to this point) Scottish, Irish, and other Celtic stories, and stories of Scottish and Irish saints. They have been well-received and I’ve had the battle experience now to answer this question: WHAT ADVICE CAN YOU GIVE TO THOSE WHO WANT TO DO STORYTELLING?
1. Read lots of stories. Attend Celtic festivals and other festivals and listen to those who are billed as storytellers. Buy their CDs if they have it. Meet them and take them to dinner. Just learn by any means you can all the subtle intricacies of the craft of storytelling.
2. Learn about how to market yourself. Read Guerrilla Marketing for Writers. Much of what the author advises authors is applicable to storytellers as well.
3. Develop unique stories. The story that got me on the map was the story of Jim Limber, Black Orphan in the Confederate White House. This story has been the central starting point of many of my presentations. I also wrote a poem called “Jim Limber’s Ghost” that I recite whenever I tell the story. You can hear the poem here, or you can see the words here. People are so surprised to learn that the Hollywood version of the war isn’t true and that the race issues were much more complex than they have made it. My book tells the story of how the President of the Confederacy rescued and adopted a free black orphan. My stories of the Scottish and Irish saints were also unique.
4. If you start out doing free storytelling, have a product to sell–book, T-shirt, etc. I’m quite confident that will bring you in a few bucks. You may have to do your first presentation for a library for free the first time. If you do well, they will hire you to come back. Most of the libraries I work for every year, I did the first presentation for free.
5. There’s some good books on storytelling. Do a Google search and you’ll find one that appeals to you. Decide on what type of stories you want to tell and what type you are good at. Though I admire and study standup comedians, I know I’m not suited for that style.
6. Email me after you’ve looked at my bio and website if you have any questions and I’ll give the most honest advice I can. I always answer an email. firstname.lastname@example.org
I wish you luck with your storytelling!