What Youth Tellers Want & Need – Part 2 of 7

This is the second of seven parts on gleaming from personal experiences as well as 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 – REVEALED
  • Part 2 – Friend/Listener/Mentor – TODAY
  • Part 3 – The Storytelling Birthday
  • Part 4 – Combining Talents
  • Part 5 – Ownership of Events & Beyond
  • Part 6 – Virtual Options
  • Part 7 – Wishlist Stages

Everyone talks about having adult mentors for youth tellers…when that is the wrong beginning.

Youth first need friends in the art, then listeners, and finally mentors.

When I delved into storytelling as a sophomore in high school, I was not drawn into it because of any adults. I had friends who said I was animated and that needed to do something about it. So I looked into the National Forensics League (NFL – yes, a confusing acronym) and discovered “storytelling” as a category.

It was the adult that made me nervous.

Everyone in the high school knew she was an award-winning coach. How many times had she “scored big” with the team she took to tournaments? Tons! That actually made it more terrified to test out my first story with her. After I stumbled and did almost everything wrong, all the coach said was, “Make sure to sign up for more practices.” This worried me.

“What?!? Was I meant to even take this storytelling path?”

Now think of how some youth could feel with these award-winning and highly-skilled professional storytellers.

The big reason most youth participate in storytelling is somehow linked to friends or the potential to gain friends.

My storytelling team-mates and I had some crazy times. We hung out and laughed as we awaited the results. Ah, my hands are still sore from our Egyptian Rat card games. I cheered on competitors (okay, so my team-mates were also my competition but still benefited our team as a whole). There was one girl known as “The Queen of Storytelling” because any time she competed, she ALWAYS went to trophy round…and probably 1st or 2nd place. So many other youth were inspiring and a hoot.

The only adult I remember in the whole Forensics experience was my coach.

Having Story Camps and residencies gives chances for youth to gather and gain those close-to-their-age friends.

That is not enough.

What happens after? Is there ANY kind of reunion or potential hanging out later?


If you said, “None,” then you are not alone. Even long-standing storytelling festivals with participating youth often do not have Youth Teller Reunions. I have brought up a few times with the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival that–as they usually have 25+ youth each year–it would make sense to have some kind of reunion. I know people with Timpanogos, but that is not my organization so I can only do so much.

At least where I have been connected…that is where I can make changes. The Weber State University Storytelling Festival has reunions at the Dinosaur Park in Ogden, UT. Story Crossroads usually has them at Boondocks – fun and arcades – in Draper, UT.

Are you linked to any storytelling festivals or events? Several? You have the potential to bring this up.

You could say, “But gathering is hard now.” Uh, there is the Internet. Zoom. Google Hangouts. Facebook Rooms. And on and on.

This year, the 5th Annual Story Crossroads Youth Teller Reunion will be done virtually in mid-August. Yes, we have permissions from guardians while being free. We are already receiving registrations for it.

We want to propose to the youth the idea of having them interact with other youth tellers from around the world. Their answers will determine everything.

Remember the first post and the talk of Texas, New York, and Florida? What of India, Singapore, Italy, and Lebanon? Hopefully, we can have a sort of pen pal/story pal thing going on.

Do people even know what having a “pen pal” is anymore? You use “snail mail” and write letters on paper back and forth. Postcards are better.

The virtual version could be an email story pal. But that term won’t work with youth today.

How about “TellTale Friend”? Someone you can share your secrets and fears with storytelling. Hopes and dreams. Ideas and inklings.

Besides, if Facebook can use the word “Friend” the same as any other social media, then at least the word “Friend” works.

Adults, have you thought of doing this?

  • Supporting a youth teller by being someplace they tell
  • Finding performing opportunities for youth
  • Setting up performing opportunities for youth
  • Showing up and dedicating virtual or in-person time to hear their latest story WITHOUT comments
  • Showing up and dedicating virtual or in-person time to hear their latest story WITH comments only WITH permission
  • Sending encouraging texts or links to story videos – again, permission from guardians – could send directly to guardian who then passes along the message
  • And so much more

See how this works along the proper order of first Friend then Listener and finally Mentor.

We can adjust our thinking and techniques to be more youth-friendly.

Keep in mind that youth can be all three of those roles: Friend, Listener, and Mentor.

Did you ever see Kindergarteners paired with 6th graders for reading to each other back and forth? They are both kids, though the pairing of youth can be done in many ways.

Can we link elementary youth tellers with high school or even fresh-in-college tellers?

Then what else can the adults do? We can be listeners. Only become a mentor or coach IF you have permission from that youth (and guardians, of course).

I often take my kids to the Utah Storytelling Guild Chapter meetings. When it came time for people to comment on stories for the coaching part, I was pleased that my kids felt comfortable in adding to the conversation. There was not an adult/youth hierarchy. They were equals. Their comments were thoughtful and with a fresh perspective.

Open your mind. Keep brainstorming. Then make it happen.

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.

Published by storycrossroads

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

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