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Sagacia’s nose twitched the moment Simplia stepped into the Fairy Tale Lobby with a bundle of letters addressed to Outraged in Oakland.

“Nothing!” Simplia said. “What are you drinking?”

“Lapsang souchong,” said Sagacia, “but that’s not the kind of smoke I smell.”

Simplia said, “It’s probably the mail. Our magical friends sent Outraged in Oakland some blistering comments. Here. I’ll read you just a little bit of what The Dragon Lady had to tell him.”

From her shopping bag she withdrew a sheet of parchment whose edges were scorched black. Here’s what she read:

Dear Vasilisa please communicate my opinion with Outraged who has made me breathe fire this morning…”

“…there’s this middle part that scorched the parchment,” said Simplia. “And then she tells him…”

I deal almost daily with those who are sure they are exempt from the rules -let me tell you the rest of us peons are not really impressed. … If you are as good as you think you are you should be able to do a 10 minute story that will make your listeners want to come back and hear you elongated Aladin.

“And listen to what Sue Black had to say.”

Simplia read:

The absolute best exercise a storyteller can include in the crafting process, when starting to think the story is ‘done,’ is to reduce a story’s time or word count. .. The perfect, most outstanding story can – believe it or not! – be edited for better word choice, condensed phrasing, economy of details, determining important and necessary details, staying on point, sticking to one point, avoiding random meanderings, and more.

(Instead of asking, “How many times in their lives will ((the audience)) get a chance like this?”) Outraged should ask, ‘How many times will I get a chance like this?’ …(He) might instead look forward to this single opportunity to tell for this august gathering of story peers – tell for their enjoyment; tell for the free coaching that Outraged will read in their non-verbal responses; listen to any polite-wonderfuls that may follow; and spend a few moments in quiet reflection when done to consider – based on their silent coaching … — what went well and what could have been done better.

“You must have left out some parts,” said Sagacia. “That didn’t sound heated enough to have singed the corners like that.”

“Yeah,” her friend agreed. “There’s more. And then there’s this one from Nick Smith.”

There are two real reasons for time limits at a swap:
1) To permit the maximum number of people to participate, and
2) To allow the audience to survive self-proclaimed great storytellers with minimal damage.
In my own experience, no one’s head will explode while listening to a bad story performance for ten minutes, but enduring such a thing for almost half an hour could lead to acts of desperation.
It can be very frustrating to encounter a “stage hog” who doesn’t understand the reason for sharing the stage and playing nicely with other performers. … Even if the performer is excellent other than in his or her own mind, if an audience is unprepared for a long-form story, neither the audience nor the teller comes out ahead.

“He sounds measured,” Sagacia observed, “No burn marks on that stationery. But he doesn’t pull any punches, does he?”

“Nope,” said Simplia. “And he had more to say, too. And then there’s this postcard from Glenda Bonin. Polite. But firm.”

A ten minute story time limit is an opportunity. Please remember, a good storyteller understands the value of self-discipline!

Sagacia said, “Outraged really hit a nerve, didn’t he?”

“Yeah,” said Simplia. “But you know, when folks are just starting out, sometimes they do things to embarrass themselves. Sometimes we all lose our perspective and balance. Especially when we’re new at something.”

Sagacia said, “Well, that’s when we need tough love. But don’t worry. I bet this isn’t the only advice our magical friends have for Outraged in Oakland.”

And indeed, Sagacia was absolutely correct. If you want to read these comments in full — blistering bits and all — you’ll find them at the bottom of last week’s post. Or, tune in next week when the Simpletons once again scour the post office, the Fairy Tale Lobby bulletin board, and FaceBook for more advice addressed to Outraged in Oakland.

Brooke, Leslie, illustrator. The Golden Goose Book. London: Frederick Warne, 1905.