I want to tell you a story…

We are pleased to share with you the following guest blog post written by the Executive Director of one of our member agencies, The Glenshiel.  Laurie Mueller recently attended our “Story Skills and Telling Tales” workshop facilitated by experienced storyteller Norma Cameron. 

I want to tell you a story about a Volunteer Victoria workshop I attended that was one of the highlights of my year.  Do you have time to read 600 words to learn about something wonderful? If so, please read on.

My mother was a great teller of tales.  I remember as a child listening to her make an ordinary situation turn into an exciting event as she retold it to friends and family.  I have always been fascinated by how well some people can capture our interest while others make me just want to nod off and go to sleep.   So it was with excitement that I signed up for the “Story Skills and Telling Tales” workshop.  A chance to learn how I can tell the stories of people that I work with in an exciting way just like my mom used to tell! It turns out that the group of about 30 had similar reasons for being there.

Our facilitator, Norma Cameron from The Narrative Company, skillfully taught us how to create a story that we could tell over and over again.  She started by teaching how to create the bare bones of our story.

A story needs a beginning, middle and an end.  Added to that we learned that there are components that make up the bones of the story and even if you tell the story many times but stick with the bones it doesn’t matter if some of the other details are added, forgotten or changed.  The story bones are created by following the story building guideline:

1. When and Where does your story start
2. Who
3. What happens
4. The So-What  (the climax)
5. The Now What

Before I went to the day-long workshop I did my homework.  I talked to some of the residents at The Glenshiel where I work.  I wanted to be able to tell their stories.  I asked them the questions to collect the data I would use to tell their stories.  Then I chose one that I would use.  Phew! Glad I did.  One of our first exercises of the day was to tell our tablemates in three minutes the bare bones of our stories. 

Norma took us through the theory, gave us some resources to pick up. I want to be sure to read “A Whole New Mind” by Daniel Pink and I want to go back onto the TED website and listen to the talk that Ken Robinson gives about The Demise of Education.  I also want to download some of the  Ira Glass podcasts from iTunes. 

After lunch we visualized our story.  We closed our eyes and let Norma lead us into a space in which we could view our story.  I’m not a visual person (or so I thought) but I was seeing my story right from the beginning.  It really helped to embed the story into my mind and allowed me to relax later when I was retelling it.  That was a great exercise for those of us who are right brained.  And then into the left brain we marched.  We drew a chart!  Three columns if you please, labeled Where, Who, What Happens.  We took three parts of our story and mapped it out in our chart.  The next step is to draw pictures and story board the sequence. 

We did voice exercises. Singers do voice exercises so why shouldn’t story tellers do the same?  I just can’t imagine what my staff will think when they hear me singing “do, re, mi, re, do” and  “Meow, Meow, Meow” in my office just before I give a potential resident a tour and tell them our stories! 

And then it was the end of the day and we were telling our stories.  Wow! What a day!

Laurie Mueller, M.Ed is the Executive Director of The Glenshiel, a seniors heritage residence in downtown Victoria. She also has written ebooks and blogs. Another place that Laurie tells stories is on The Glenshiel Facebook page and she invites you to visit it.

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