This summer, I got to go to the National Storytelling Network's summer conference for the first time. It was amazing to be surrounded by storytellers from around the country, and some from other countries, who were exceedingly welcoming, supportive, and kind.
The day before the official conference opened, I took part in the Healing Story Alliance's pre-conference workshop, led by Lani Peterson. Lani does deep, world-changing work in Boston with people who have experienced homelessness or incarceration, and with other community members, facilitating their understanding of one another through storytelling.
There was a lot A LOT of stuff that I took away from that workshop. I'm not a trained psychologist, so much of it went over my head, but there was a part of the morning when we talked about helping people to tell their stories in order to re-construct their sense of self, helping them to "thicken" their stories. We go from the old normal -> through an experience of liminality and "undoing" our story -> to arrive at a new normal, where we are intentional in our responses. We then can return to the beginning of the story and help others.
This is the hero's journey, folks. We get to take that fairytale, mythic path every single day.
But it goes deeper.
We get to take that path every single moment of the day. In the pause between stimulus and response, where we make a conscious choice, we are responding to the call to adventure. That moment is sometimes briefer than the blink of an eye.
In every breath, in every response to our children, in every time we choose to speak up against hatred, and in every moment that we respond out of choice and not out of habit, we are heroes. We can have a thousand epic journeys in every day.
Those tiny, miniscule stories are woven together into the novel of our lives, the huge bildungsroman that tells of our journey from innocence to knowing, and then, we hope, into wisdom.
There is so much more to pull out of those few short hours, and I hope to bring you examples and insights over the next few weeks.
If you missed last night's facebook live, I have the video for you right here! Enjoy!
Learning to tell stories can be daunting. I get that. Even seasoned Waldorf teachers or homeschooling parents can feel that fear, and the Waldorf grades curriculum is built on storytelling. Letting go of always reading to your child, or turning on an audio book or Sparkle Stories story, or a movie, can be really, really scary.
So start small. Here are three easy ways to start telling stories to your children.
1. Puppets. Don't panic. Puppets can be really easy; everyday objects can be magical. Ask Dan Hurlin, whose puppet theater full of forks and spoons enchanted my college classmates. Pick something up -- a toy, a cup, a mitten -- and let it speak and move. This type of story can charm three and four year olds to stillness. Puppet wakes up, has a tiny adventure, and goes to sleep. Fin. Your lap, maybe draped with a playsilk or scarf, makes a perfect stage; so does the kitchen table, or the dashboard on the freeway-turned-parking lot. There can be an epic adventure, or there can be next to nothing. Just try.
2. When I was a kid. Can you remember anything from your childhood? Stories from your family or longtime friends? Children love real, true stories of your own experiences, especially when the story opens up a new perspective on you. Stories where you got into trouble, where you made a bad decision, where things didn't work out so great, these are a real gift to your child, who will find in them permission to fail, to learn, to try again. You become human and whole through these stories. Tell stories of your triumphs, too -- spelling bee victories, hard-won first fruits of your own garden, the Big Game. Humor and compassion for your young self and for the other characters in your story will feed their need for goodness. Tell these stories. They become part of your legacy.
3. Movies, Books, TV shows. My mother told me the entire plot of Anne McCaffrey's The White Dragon on a road trip to Nebraska to visit my grandparents. She later told me she'd done this to keep herself awake on the long, straight highway through the cornfields, but at the time, I only knew that here was a fantastic, beautiful story. So tell your favorite plots; re-enact favorite scenes with voices and gesture. Of course, there are limits, and you know what your child will enjoy and what will be unpleasant or scary for them. The best part is this: if you forget, make it up. This is your chance to fix the ending you hated, to fill in the details your mind has let go. Your imagination and intuition may create just the pieces your child needs most.
I believe deeply in the power of stories to heal, help, and guide. Pick any one of these, put down the book, turn off the radio, and let your own voice and the magic of the story sweeten your time with your child.
It's happening. I'm getting excited to write. I found myself thinking today, "Yes. I will share this. And this. And this."
Because I am beginning to feel the urge again, and I love it.
"A writer writes." So often, I have taken this as a tsk-tsk, how dare you call yourself a writer if you don't write?! But now, it feels like permission. I am writing. Ergo, I am a writer; you, if you write, are a writer. We write. We are writers. And I have permission to do it HORRIBLY! So do you.
What shall I share with you? Today, I made delicious Golden Milk, green juice, grilled cheese sandwiches, and toad-in-the-hole. The Sugar Sprite took away a pumpkin full of candy and left two books. I read almost half of this book by Seanan McGuire. I brought a photo of my mom holding my son when he was hours old, and placed it on the table at the front of the church.
I enjoyed this doodle.
The desire to share all of this with you has been immense, and I am delighted to know you are there, and reading, and living. What did you do today?
don't eat the story!!
Yep. Today was supposed to be the day I open the gates for all of you chomping at the bit to get your hands on Magical Bedtime. And I have opened the oven door, poked it with a toothpick, and it just isn't ready.
I have a lot of excuses. You aren't interested in those. They're likely just like yours: end of the school year, so busy busy busy, one thing after another, yadda yadda yadda.
What do I have for you, then? A little smidgen. A taste of things to come. Here's how it works:
You fill in the little contact box below with your email address. I will send you a link to a FREE STORY. Yes. Free. For you and your children. It's simple and lovely, this story. It's not too long.
So, just fill in the box, and get your own audio copy of "Masha and the Bear," as told by me. In return, I ask that you send others my way. Over the next few weeks, I'll make other stories available to you, and I will also be doing a series of Magical Bedtime posts. By summer's end, look for a beautiful ebook and set of all-new stories to purchase and have as your own.
Hello, dear readers. I have been a bit of a reluctant writer these days. I am hesitant to share anything that isn't really stellar, and therefore I have shared little. Since I want to keep the energy flowing, I am going to offer a few links I've been loving lately. Look! Alliteration!
here is a beautiful post from Rachel at .Clean. She makes divine natural body and skincare products, and she writes beautiful things.
because Leonie makes me so happy. She went on a retreat. by herself. and lived to tell the tale. hee.
I can't keep from singing along with this song. Raw, honest, live, and awesome.
go make some gluten-free play clay. you will have fun. promise.
ready to do some writing? here are some amazing questions to get you started.
a delicious piece from Martin Shaw on the quiet loss of lovely ways of speaking...
there. something to keep you busy for a bit...
Sara is a storyteller, writer, artist, teacher, wife, mother, and singer living in Minnesota. I write about storytelling, and about living a life with stories.