Rachel’s Re-Awakenings & Reflections-inspired by National Storytelling Network’s CONNECTED Virtual Conference & Festival, Part 6 of 9

This is the sixth of nine parts to focus on each of the nine days of the National Storytelling Network’s CONNECTED Virtual Conference & Festival that occurred May 30-June 7, 2020. Enjoy biggest moments and action items as a result of the experience for Story Crossroads and on the storytelling world in general.

9-Parts for the 9 Days:

  • Part 1 – May 30, 2020 – Pre-Conferences/Preparations – REVEALED
  • Part 2 – May 31, 2020 – Official Day 1 – REVEALED
  • Part 3 – June 1, 2020 – Official Day 2 – REVEALED
  • Part 4 – June 2, 2020 – Official Day 3 – REVEALED
  • Part 5 – June 3, 2020 – Official Day 4 – REVEALED
  • Part 6 – June 4, 2020 – Official Day 5 – TODAY
  • Part 7 – June 5, 2020 – Official Day 6
  • Part 8 – June 6, 2020 – Official Day 7
  • Part 9 – June 7, 2020 – Official Day 8

What I expected to be taught was not even close to what was actually taught. Though how stimulating…

As Baba the Storyteller would be presenting, I assumed that his topic was on how individual storytellers can “evolve” and learn some tech skills. I read the title of “Evolution of Our Craft: The Processes of Mastery in an Age of Technology” and guessed what that meant. With the rush of this 9-day event, not all the workshop descriptions were available.

However, what I learned in exchange was far better…at least for me. I say this because I was part of a panel that was more story producer focused on transforming live events into virtual. I had hoped that Baba’s workshop would compliment what we were doing to be focused more on storytellers who do not see themselves necessarily as producers but are now forced to do so.

Oh, well.

And Dr. Raymond Christian opened my eyes to a whole world of podcasting. This never crossed my mind, and now I am determined to do something with the knowledge he bestowed so beautifully.

I was hypnotized, enthralled, thrilled with the concert from Indonesia. You can tell by the length of my comments! I would buy this concert in a heartbeat, knowing that nothing could compare to the in-the-moment feel. This is not that different from when you hear a storyteller in-person (not screen) and NEED to buy the CD.

I missed a few concerts due to my library shift. Again, much to catch up on once the Digital Library from the National Storytelling Network is available.

Discover the “surprise” during Baba the Storyteller’s session as well as other delightful moments–like delving into the world of podcasting.

Events of June 4 and Reflections–

10:00 am CDT: Tales From Indonesia with Agus PM Toh, Bie, Ariyo Zidni, Uncle Gery, Rona Mentari, I Made Taro & Gede Tarmada, Folktales from different island of Indonesia; Aceh and Padang from Sumatera Island, Java and Bali. Enjoy the stories, we will take you there. Ayo Dongeng Indonesia is an organization that initiate the annual “Indonesia International Storytelling Festival” since 2013. It’s also have a voluntary based community, with more than 150 storyteller, writer, and support volunteer. Ayo Dongeng Indonesia now gathered Indonesian Storyteller to be part of this NSN’s event. Presented by Ayo Dongeng Indonesia.

This concert was so amazing that…it went over. I don’t remember any other storytelling concert going over time. Thus, the hard decision had to be made to not have the last storyteller perform. I have an inkling of some of the tellers who went beyond their promised time…though I enjoyed exactly how they worded and shared their stories that I cannot imagine those stories being shorter.

Being a story producer, I would hate to face the decision of having a teller not perform if that happened with Story Crossroads. I have been lucky that this has not been an issue…yet. We did have a panel with four presenters, which already placed us “in danger” of at least one person being over time. Though, they respected each other and kept to the 10-15 minutes per person for what I nicknamed the “solid time” before we got to the questions. I did write a private message to one of the panelists to remind that time was getting close. I did not want to hold up a sign as all six of our boxes (four for panelists, one for me, one for ASL interpreters) to disrupt. I appreciated the ability to privately message. I was also lucky that the panelists were good about checking their chat/messages during the stream itself.

The National Storytelling Network was smart to send a video of the remaining teller that same day to anyone who registered for that event. Whew!

Now, with those thoughts out of the way, I want to focus on the performances themselves.


The first teller, Agus PM Toh, used everyday objects to become characters and items while singing Acehnese. I kept wondering, “What will he use next?” From brooms to a pair of plastic spoons to make birds, I was completely enthralled. I noticed in the chat box and some people thought he made these choices due to the pandemic and being quarantined. Or perhaps those people meant that we can all do the same thing if we feel confined as artists. No matter the meaning, what was obvious is that we can do so much more with what we have. Truly worth watching over again!

I don’t drink coffee, though the story told by Bie was the closest I have been tempted to tasting it. I do not drink coffee for religious reasons, though the way Bie told “The Minangkabau Coffee” was done in such a reverent and delightful way that I was religiously hanging onto every word. She repeated the phrase “This is not a sad story” as a powerful storytelling technique as this did involve a coffee plantation and slaves. Another repeated line was “We are honest people. Don’t steal, don’t break rules.” Bie used traditional ways mixed with modern slang beautifully.

Ariyo Zidni had a deliberate way of telling, and, by talking slowly, made the whole storytelling experience more intimate. His story was full of characters who misunderstood or did not listen correctly. My favorite phrase was “listening to the intention.” Powerful!

The fuller version is this: He only heard what he wanted, but he did not listen. He only heard what he wanted to hear.  And the Fairy didn’t listen to the intention.

Rona Mentari told “Suwidak Loro” from Central Java and used a double-sided mask as a type of device as part of the opening. Amazing way to grab the audience’s attention while connecting us to the culture! She played guitar and sang. I was intrigued by how young she was and delighted in her being part of the next generation of storytellers. She also made me hungry for coconut all steamed inside banana leaves.

Uncle Gery told “Ande-ande Lumut” and this romantic story was the kind to make the audience swoon…until there was danger of crab breath. Uncle Gery was so close to the screen that I thought he would pop through the computer at any moment. This increased the intensity in his eyes and facial expressions and seemed to dare the audience to listen. This Javanese story was a Cinderella version that was full of mystery and dedication and commitment. Loved it! I will need to follow this storyteller more often.

We never got to “The Songs to Beg for Rain” shared by I Made Taro and Gede Tarmada from Bali. We ran out of time. Thankfully, a video of their work was shared quickly by the National Storytelling Network to complete this awe-inspiring experience.

12:00 pm CDT: Podcasting for Storytellers / Storytelling for Podcasts with Dr. Raymond Christian, During this workshop participants will learn how to utilize podcasting to magnify their storytelling audience. Participants will receive lectures and review examples of various styles, formats, shows and genres to consider, along with best practices and tips for successfully selecting and pitching stories. Ray’s stories have appeared in Reader’s Digest’s 2016 Best Stories in America and 2017 American Hero’s edition, he is an 11 time Moth Story Slam Champion, winner of the 2016 National Storytelling Festival Story Slam and featured performer at Exchange Place. His stories have been featured regularly on the shows, The Moth, Snap Judgment, Back Story Radio and the Spooked and Risk podcast.

Dr. Raymond Christian was smooth in his presentation and excited me–and plenty others–to this new world of podcasting. He said, “Millions could actually hear your story…exposed to podcasts already out there.” He continued that money could be made and large national shows could put you on air. The typical payment is $100/minute of a finished story/episode. Not bad! He joked, “Storytellers can die of exposure, but this is different.”

Different and exciting! I talked with my husband afterwards saying, “I have seen two different spirits. I could totally submit something.” My husband said, “Do it! You would be great.” Ah, see why I love him (many reasons, of course). So this is on my list to do after all the grant and final report deadlines of Story Crossroads. Sigh.

To give a hint of the possibilities, he talked of Tier I and Tier II podcasts:

Tier I Podcasts – millions of downloads

  • This American Life-on terrestrial radio AND podcast
  • The Moth
  • Snap Judgment – on terrestrial radio AND podcast
  • Spooked
  • Risk

Tier II Podcasts – hundreds of thousands of downloads, will accept stand-alone recorded stories

  • Story Collider – prefer science-based
  • First Person Arts
  • Secret Society of Twisted Storytellers – out of Detroit, live storytelling show AND podcast, serially – 10-15 episodes in a year
  • Mortified – out of Chicago, stories about childhood, stories that come from diary, what you wrote as a child or teenager and how those stories affected you (embarrassed by these stories today)
  • The Memory Palace – prefers rebroadcast stories, if it was on another show

Dr. Raymond Christian talked on how to pitch and so much that you will have to get the paid-per-view option. Do you have a plan of action? Go forth and podcast!

1:45 pm CDT: Lunch Fun, Chocolate Stories with Erin O’Neil

I had some urgent and important deadlines for Story Crossroads and was sad to miss this storytelling with chocolate. I NEED a chocolate stash to survive life. Okay, so perhaps I would get by without…but it would be rough. I loved how Erin encouraged people to bring some chocolate with them as they watched. How smart to connect actual taste–not just describing taste–in connection with a storytelling performance.

3:00 pm CDT: Workshop, Evolution of Our Craft: The Processes of Mastery in an Age of Technology with Baba the Storyteller, The workshop “Evolution of Our Craft: The Processes of Mastery in an Age of Technology” will offer participants a “Big Picture” analysis of the contemporary craft of storytelling and its’ role in constructing our communities, enriching our educational infrastructures and harnessing the power technology “in service” to our craft. Baba the Storyteller is an author, educator and public speaker. He has been honored with numerous awards over the decades for his work around the world. Baba is currently touring globally working as a Master Teaching Artist, partnering with International Schools, NGO’s, and Cultural Centers while sharing his Love and Passion for the Craft of Storytelling.

Baba the Storyteller really makes the storytelling world look good. He is the utmost professional and has a lovely balance of honoring traditional storytelling while embracing technology and methods to further this love and respect. The academic paper that his discussion was based on can be found here: https://babathestoryteller.com/storytelling-as-technology/.

Baba explained what is meant by “technology.” He had the most beautiful way to say it: “Physical manifestation of human-spiritual potential.” He continued, “We bring technology into being, our imaginations bring technology into being.” Even during Socrates time, people railed against technology. At that time, it was the written word as the technology!

As for the role of the storyteller, he said, “Our craft is integral to bringing the society of where it needs to be.” Thus, the need to focus and be more than entertainment with our fellow human beings.

We discussed that any indigenous cultures are dominant-oral and revere the spoken word. Any Western cultures are dominant-literate and revere the written word. Someone in the chat asked about screen culture. What can we expect from all the virtual events and interactions?

Baba paused and explained that writing can mimic the spoken word and that screen culture “has potential to be something great.” Though, he admitted, that the screen culture has the ability to enslave us. “Instead of owning the screen, the screen owns us.” He then said, “I don’t always enjoy all aspects of technology, but I have to go where the people are. I can’t expect the people to come to me.”

What of the hope from all this? Baba encouraged us to give the people “something else on their screens” Have an impact. He urged, “Give them something that gets them to put their screens down.”

We strive to do that with Story Crossroads. We had each of our Spectacular sessions end in a Question and Answer so the audience can think beyond the stories and warm up their imaginations and logic. You need both right and left sides of the brain to structure stories. We always hope that people explore the art of storytelling for themselves–pick up the screen to see “us” and then put it down to discover “them.”

7:00 pm CDT: Mid-Atlantic Regional Spotlight Performance, Adults Only Event, The Mid-Atlantic Region of The National Storytelling Network brings together storytellers from varying styles and applications in the states of VA, PA, MD, WV, Metro DC, and Metro NYC. The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spotlight will feature some of the hottest storytelling talent in a region bustling with storytelling events, shows and talent. The show will feature personal narrative, folktales, and historical narrative from and ten tellers and the innovative organizations and shows that they represent. Emceed by Nick Baskerville & Robin Gelfenblen, Featuring Robin Gelfenbien, Oni Lasana, Ingrid Bohn, Jessica Robinson, Jack Scheer, Gary Lloyd, Jane Dorfman, Stacey Bader Curry, Srilatha Rajamani, Laura Kaighn, Judy England-McCarthy

I got to hear two stories from this concert because I had a 15-minute break at the library. While still wearing a mask, I hovered over my phone. I was glad to have the Zoom app for these kinds of story-listening emergencies.

The timing was amazing because one of the people I heard was Jessica Robinson. I cheered as she was my fellow panelists for “Save Your Space” on Saturday, June 6. I delighted in hearing her tell. When I told her that she was one of the few I could hear this day, she snorted and it was obvious by her “text tone”–if such a thing exists–that she did not see her as the most important to hear from the line-up. I did my best to tell her she is important and glad I had the chance. Just to warn you–her story is a kissing story!

9:00 pm CDT: Voices From Down Under with Jackie Kerin, Anna Jarrett, Christine Carlton, Kiran Shah, Lindy Mitchell-Nilsson, Lillian Rodrigues-Pang, Anne E. Stewart, and Jenni Cargill-Strong, Stories of wisdom, mystery, intrigue, danger, comfort, challenge and caution. The Australian Storytelling Guild (NSW) is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to the development of and advocacy for oral storytelling, literature appreciation and creative expression through story creation and performance. Presented by the Australian Storytelling Guild (NSW)

I missed most of this concert. The library closed at 9:00pm MDT and this started at 8:00pm my time. Sigh. By the time I was settled in the car and had the Zoom app running, I got one story called L’histoire Grand’Mère (The Grandmothers Tale) told by Jenni Cargill-Strong. This was a darker version of Little Red Riding Hood. And…I do love dark tales. I am not for gore, but give a little edge to it…perfect! These are not even the kind of stories I tell.

I did think of someone while listening to this piece. Lori Hansen tandem tells with her husband, Omar through The Great Bear Folk Theatre. Her favorite story is Little Red Riding Hood and created a Facebook Group called “The Grimm Keepers” as a way to discuss through Zoom the symbolism and significance of different fairy tales and folktales. The kick-off story was Little Red Riding Hood only a few weeks before this 9-day virtual event. Meant to be? I think yes!

Thank you for taking part in this re-awakening journey for me. Please post comments, and we can continue the discussion.

We did this 9-part Blog Series in anticipation of the Digital Library being put together by the National Storytelling Network. Whether or not you attended virtually, you can still access the recordings through pay-per-view options. More details to come soon and will be at http://www.storynet.org/virtual-conference/.

See our already-streamed/recorded The Big Why Panel: Historical Storytelling meets Humanities with three options to watch it featuring our panelists: Dr. Caroliese Frink Reed, Sheila Arnold, Darci Tucker, and Brian “Fox” Ellis. We are grateful to funding from Utah Humanities.

See our 5-video playlist from the Story Crossroads Spectacular by clicking here

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Story Crossroads fosters creative and compassionate communities through the art of storytelling. 501(c)(3)

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