What Youth Tellers Want & Need – Part 1 of 7

This is the first of seven parts on gleaming from personal and experiences of the 100+ youth who have taken the stage – live and virtual – through Story Crossroads since 2016. We support youth beyond the stage through Youth Teller Reunions as well as Live & Virtual Story Camps.


  • Part 1 – Choosing the “Right” Words – TODAY
  • Part 2 – Friend/Listener/Mentor
  • Part 3 – The Storytelling Birthday
  • Part 4 – Combining Talents
  • Part 5 – Ownership of Events & Beyond
  • Part 6 – Virtual Options
  • Part 7 – Wishlist Stages

The future is bright with youth storytelling.

There is more going on than most people realize. Even professional storytellers are unaware of how many youth are already involved in the art. Where Story Crossroads resides – Utah – is where youth storytelling is the most active in all the world.

Recently, we have been in contact with people leading amazing youth mentorship and performance opportunities from India to Singapore to Italy to Lebanon. Within the United States, other strong areas are Florida, Texas, and New York. Sometimes youth involves 5-year-olds to 17-year-olds while others lump in the college-aged adults when talking about “the next generation of storytelling.”

But what do youth want? What do they need? How does this affect how to work with youth in developing their storytelling skills?

We will take this one at a time during this 7-part blog series.

Let’s Use the Right Words.

Some adult storytellers cringe when using the words like “contest,” “competition,” and “winner” when promoting the art.

Yet…the competition side of things is what originally drew me into the art. And I am not alone.

Storytelling is a “nice” art. We cooperate and collaborate and have not as many divas than, let’s say, the theater world. To throw in words that indicate levels or ranks or anything like that tends to rub against the grain of many professional storytellers.

But, as a high school student, earning medals and trophies was awesome.

I started storytelling as as sophomore in high school. It has now been 27 years. I am not looking for medals or trophies anymore. My motives have significantly changed. But would I be around today had there not been some level of competition? Probably not.

Some people prefer a softer word such as “showcase.” The National Youth Storytelling has gone by several names. It originally was National Youth Storytelling Olympics (NYSO). Perhaps it was a little dangerous to use “Olympics,” though that word already implies competition. Later, it was called National Youth Storytelling Showcase. Some of the Board hated the idea of choosing “the best.” Suddenly, all the finalists received trophies or plaques but they were all the same. There was not the ultimate ambassador or winner anymore.

Now consider what older youth are hungry for…events that are set-up like The Moth. This is more than a competition. These fall often in the ultra-short personal and true stories (5-7 minutes) and usually categorized as “slams.” And these slams? They can even be ruthless and involve booing. Usually, there is only applause or cheering for “regular” competitions.

The counter of these slams though still in that competitive world would be Myth-Offs. These are more popular in Europe though bit by bit have made appearances in the United States. Now we delve into competition but in the folkloric world.

See a pattern?

We can still have the “nice” words to promote storytelling with the youth.

Consider something else.

The vision of Story Crossroads existed for a long time but what was the catapult? Someone over a city-level storytelling festival wanted a county-level storytelling festival for their youth to take part in. The result? Story Crossroads launching in 2016 instead of 2017 or much later. You have the need of moving to the next level to the next level.

If you don’t like “winner,” then you can still use “selected” and “chosen.”

Now another twist.

The surge in podcasts has an edge of competition to it as well. Not everyone gets to air on a show. There is risk and anticipation. “Will my story be the one?”

When we have open mic or other events where anyone can be part of something, it can be wonderful…and other times not as enticing.

Still have these “nice” events, though please think about what youth are being drawn to and adapt your offerings accordingly.

Be there for our youth – today.

Find our E-Newsletter and Email List Sign-Ups.

See our already-streamed/recorded The Big Why Panel: Historical Storytelling meets Humanities. See our 5-video playlist from the Story Crossroads Spectacular by clicking here.

And…Spread the word about our upcoming Story Camp for youth aged 8-17 in mid-August of two kinds: Limited-Sized/Proper-Distanced as well as Virtual.

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

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