“Why?” asked Simplia. “Are we going fishing?”
“No, Silly!” Sagacia said. “I was just reading Priscilla Howe’s reply to Outraged in Oakland. She says…
“Here’s what would happen if you ignore the time limit: At first, you’ll go over time for just a little. Everybody will be slightly uncomfortable, but will cut you some slack. The longer you tell, the more anxious the listeners and especially the organizers will get, because it will be clear that you have no intention of stopping. Some of the listeners will know the story and will be alarmed that you are not even halfway through.
The organizers will start to whisper to each other. ‘Should we get the hook? What do we do here?’ or maybe Simplia will kindly inch up to you, to hint that your time is up.
“The audience, rather than enjoying your story, will be thinking, ‘Sheesh, what a time hog. That is SO rude.’ Those who run festivals will think, ‘Huh, not a bad story, but I’d never hire such a diva.’ You’ll keep telling. Listeners will fidget, unable to pay attention to the story. Maybe at last Sagacia will interrupt you by saying to the audience, ‘If you want to hear the rest of Outraged in Oakland’s story, I’m sure he (or she?) will tell it to you later.’ Though you may feel even more outraged, nobody will make eye contact with you as sit down.
“Please, do yourself a favor and either bring a shorter story that you love to tell, within the time constraints, or just go to the swap to enjoy other people’s stories.”
“Naomi Baltuck agrees!” said Simplia. “She says it short and sweet:
“There’s a time and a place for every story, but a ten minute time slot simply isn’t the place for a twenty-seven minute story. People will be impatient, the story will be compromised by too much cutting and slashing, and there are so many wonderful ten minute tales the audience will truly be grateful to hear. Reach into your story bag and pull out another to share.”
“Well, of course,” Sagacia said. “I mean, really! Now that we’ve thought about it a while, who could disagree? Getting your stories timed right for the occasion is the only professional way to do it. No one, not a single person, not a soul in the world would say otherwise! Nope! In the entire universe, I am absolutely sure there is not one solitary…”
“Marion Leeper,” Simplia interrupted.
Sagacia eyed her companion with alarm, and Simplia began to read.
“Only ten minutes for Aladdin? Shock horror! I think Aladdin is so well-known, Ms. or Mr. Outraged, that the only viable way to tell it is to expand it well beyond half an hour – put it in its context in the Arabian Nights, or use it as a frame for other wonderful stories that will give it a new life.”
“Let me see that!” Sagacia snapped, snatching the letter from Simplia’s hand. She read,
“Then find a hall and fill it with people who want to hear this masterpiece. But at the story swap tell the one just before it, of the Historic Fart, which you can do justice to in six and a half minutes and everyone will be your friend. They might even come to the long show as a result.”
“Okay, I get it!” said Simplia, shuffling through the remaining letters. “She had you going at first, though, didn’t she?”
“Perhaps a little,” Sagacia agreed.
“Now, here’s one that really does agree with Outraged,” said Simplia. “It’s from Charles Kiernan.”
“Charles Kiernan agrees with Outraged?” Sagacia exclaimed. “No!”
“Yep,” said Simplia. “He says…
“Dear Outraged in Oakland,
“I must concur with you. Ten minutes for a story? I mean, ten minutes for a really good story? Why, it takes ten minutes to set up the context. If I were to tell a personal story about my first grade experience, need I not say something about my parents? How they met? When they got married? How many children did they have? I ought to say something about the economic-social status of the family, no matter how briefly to put my first grade–self in its proper setting.
“Where are you getting these letters!” Sagacia demanded.
“Even for a traditional tale,” Simplia continued calmly, “If the prince gets on a boat to sail to a distant land, don’t we need clues to set up an atmosphere for the story. What kind of boat? Does it have sails? How many members are in the crew? Is the boat insured? How can I be comfortable with the story if I don’t know if the boat has insuran…
“It’s OK. I’ve taken Charles’ pen away from him. I’ll take care of this.
“Charles’ wife, Jolene”
“Jolene?” Sagacia asked. “Oh, Jolene! Yes!”
“Hmm…firm, tactful, proactive…” Simplia pondered aloud. “Jolene would make a great story swap emcee!”
Fairy Tale Lobbyists: If you’re coming to the Fairy Tale Lobby StorySwap Friday morning and want to eat lunch with us at First Watch afterwards, please let us know by leaving a comment below, by replying on the Fairy Tale Lobby Facebook page, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or, actually, however you want to.