The Walk Between Worlds monthly storytelling event provides Yukoners a chance to hone their craft
We’re all tellers of stories. Some are one-liners. Maybe you’re with your siblings, and one of you says, “remember the time Grandpa sneezed so hard his false teeth fell in the soup bowl” and you all laugh hysterically. That works because all of you know the backstory–who was there, what kinds of relationships they had with Grandpa, how he felt about having false teeth and what he did to retrieve them from the soupy depths. If you’re telling this story to someone who is unfamiliar with it, you fill in enough juicy details that they see the humor in it too. That’s what storytellers do.
If a young child requests, “tell me a story,” you might pull out a favorite picture book to read aloud and talk about. You might retell an event from the child’s own life, or you might make up a little story about the tooth fairy, or what the neighborhood dogs are saying when they bark, or about the patterns of stars in the night sky. Many of us have done this kind of storytelling.
It’s a bit of a leap from there to being a storyteller in front of an audience. Mauretia Holloway is keen to encourage that leap. In April, she kicked off the “Walk Between Worlds” monthly storytelling event at Well-Read Books. The poster image of a woman laughing with delight at something a straight-faced gorilla appears to have just said has generated a lot of interest around town. It certainly caught my eye. So, although it had been some years since I’d done any storytelling (and, even then, mostly to audiences of children), I took a deep breath and signed up to be a teller.
It was great fun. There was an amazing variety of stories from tellers young and old. The audience was supportive. And as a few months went by, more brave souls stepped up to tell tales. A stylistic divide became apparent after a while between those who told a story and those who read aloud a story they had written. I’ve done both. The theme suggested for the very first Walk Between Worlds in April was a good fit with a story I had written. Because I had considered and re-considered every word, I felt I wanted to honor that effort by reading those exact words to the audience. Mauretia encouraged me and others in a group of regular tellers, to free the story from the pages. So I’ve done that with the classic folk and fairy tales I tell. To prepare, I read the story so many times that I can see it like a movie in my head. I write up an outline for myself to reinforce the order of certain events and plot shifts. Then I leave the outline behind. I practice the story out loud and experiment with different voices, pregnant pauses and pacing. Can I do that with a story of my own?
Sure, Mauretia says. She has immersed herself in the world of storytelling for much of her life, starting in her home country of South Africa. In Toronto, she studied with Michelle Tocher, going deep into ancient archetypal myths and legends and finding their themes mirrored in fairy tales such as Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. It was in doing that coursework that she was challenged to re-work and tell stories. Her involvement in the culturally rich and diverse world of storytelling goes on.
The monthly events at Well-Read Books continue with an evening of storytelling on Thursday Dec. 5 at 7 p.m. Tellers will bring to life the seasonally appropriate theme, “Gifts from the Dark.” I am challenging myself to tell a story I wrote, without the pages in front of me. Maybe you will be inspired to tell a story, too.
In the new year, some months will be devoted to workshopping, developing storytelling skills and confidence, and planning for future events filled with stories–a rich and rewarding alternative to screen time. If you’d like to join in or learn more, email [email protected].