This is the third 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.
We have birthdays, unbirthdays…and even storytelling birthdays.
For some of us in the art, we clearly have a year or month in mind. Do you know the exact day? When was it that you considered yourself a storyteller?
Let us be diligent in reminding the youth of their own storytelling birthdays.
We can distinguish between the storytelling birthday to the professional anniversary.
Me? September 7, 1994. This was when I decided to test a story out with my coach as a sophomore high school student–failed miserably–and then decided to not quit despite doubts.
However, this day was not what I count toward being a professional storyteller. Anything with work or paid opportunities tends to be dubbed an anniversary instead of a birthday.
My three years of high school plus four years of college are known as my apprenticeship time. I volunteered my talents as a storyteller through founding the Brigham Young University Storytelling Club.
Interestingly, I have a clear date for my storytelling birthday though only a month and year for the professional time.
Back to the youth in your life.
Help determine each youth’s storytelling birthday. Here are ways you can do that:
Date of first performance
Date of first date of workshop(s)
First date they prepped a story
Educated guess as to the time and allowing the youth to choose a specific date if not known.
If the youth remembers “August 2019” but nothing more, then have the youth choose a favorite number between 1-31.
No matter what date is chosen/determined, then honor it though a certificate of some kind.
Beyond the storytelling birthday, make sure to offer a certificate for any event or workshop they participate. These are important momentos that track and celebrate their storytelling journey.
Yes, encourage the youth to save the program or flier…but a certificate is that “something special.”
If you want to be really thoughtful, then create a Google Sheets or document that tracks the youth you have mentored or helped. You can send storytelling birthday cards in the mail…or at least a postcard…or even an e-birthday card.
When there is a birthday, people are wanting to “live” as long as possible within the art. Youth need to know that people care if they continue on the path of storytelling.
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.
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.
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.
This is the second of five parts on how to benefit the most from the Story Crossroads Discord Server. Discord is a platform that combines features of Facebook, Zoom, and many others in one place. Text, image, audio, and video communications are possible with a network of people of like-interests.
Most of Discord Servers are composed of Text Channels…so what does that mean?
This means if you can type, sometimes add emojis or “reactions,” and at times be allowed to share pdf files or other documents as well as providing a link to wonderful storytelling resources. Easy, right?
At times, the host of the server does not allow anything to be added to those text channels except by them. This keeps it clutter-free and focused. Though, at any time, a host can delete comments or ask people to copy their responses and place in a more appropriate category within the discord server.
You have access and can chat/add 24/7. Yes, you can chat at 2am or 2pm or anything in between. Please do.
The Text Channels are easy to identify because the category as well as the channels have the pound sign in front of them as seen below. Feel free to join us here through the invite link: https://discord.gg/KfwNK7Z.
Click on the category “Welcome” or the “carot” symbol to the left of “Welcome” and you can open up or condense the listing. Though, usually, you will be clicking the channels within the category. You can see that the one above has welcome, rules, and introduce-yourself.
This text channel reminds people of scheduled voice/video chats. No one else can post here but Story Crossroads.
This text channel is a reminder that the Story Crossroads Discord Server is a family-friendly place, even if mostly adults gather here. Again, this is a text channel that can only be posted by Story Crossroads. These rules have been adapted here and there (tried not to be too long) but these are what are there now:
We are family-friendly. Be positive and wonderful with clean and appropriate language.
No personal attacks, piling on, and spamming.
Keep calm. Anything beyond that may mean you need a break.
No Porn (hardcore or softcore). This also means Pornhub memes or off-color memes.
No soliciting or selling items.
This is an optional place for people to write a couple lines about their background in storytelling. You may notice that the handles people choose could give the hint that they would veer from revealing extra details about themselves. Other people reading these posts can give emojis/reactions. It is best to share without using links to people’s websites or other media.
Whoever is the host of the Discord Server has the privilege of having basic info about them. So…no one can add here but Story Crossroads. It is short and sweet and lets people know about our website.
Again, these are announcements that are Story Crossroads related. This will be the place to know what to expect for live and virtual events as well as what to expect on the next scheduled voice/video on Discord.
As Story Crossroads has a YouTube Channel, we remind people of this or anything we recently posted on YouTube. Yes, only Story Crossroads can post here.
Our livestreams are mainly the weekly Twitch, though can also include virtual or hybrid live/virtual events such as Story Crossroads Spectacular or The Big Why Panel.
Finally, a place in this Story Crossroads category where anyone can post their questions. People can direct message each other including Story Crossroads, but questions are lovely to be out for everyone in case someone would have had the same question.
When people first join the Story Crossroads Discord Server, this the the place you are “thrown.” An automatic “bot” sends a random welcome message. I check in to remind people to click on # introduce-yourself. Any kind of chatting can happen back and forth. You could consider this “the lobby” of this Discord Server. You can add emojis/reactions, links, and attach files. This a great place to chat back and forth with any current server members or even posting and eventually hearing back from people.
This is a focused text channel where people can…well…chat about stories. Are you researching a certain type? Need help in structuring a story? We already have some fun chats here (yes, you can see the history even if you are new) about Japanese as well as Gettysburg ghost stories. Someone shared a lovely article by Doug Lipman on how to approach stories. Useful stuff. If you get off topic…then I either delete the comments or ask the person to copy and paste into a different text channel. You can add emojis/reactions, links, and files here.
This is another focused text channel where people can talk about folktales. As Story Crossroads has a multicultural focus and mission, we wanted to honor that here. Thus, we mention best places to find and research folktales. Yet, anyone can add to this discussion. Some of this could overlap with “chat-about-stories,” but “chat-about-stories” could include other genres of storytelling like personal and family stories. You can add emojis/reactions, links, and files here.
This is locked. Unless we grant you “admin” as a role for you, this is a place you don’t have to worry about. These are usually Story Crossroads Board members or volunteers.
This is locked. Unless we grant you “moderator” or nicknamed “mod” as a role for you, this is a place you don’t have to worry about. These mods help maintain order in the server and sees that the family-friendly rules are followed. These mods can be outside the Story Crossroads Board.
You can approach this text channel in two ways: ideas for storytelling-related games OR to play storytelling games. You can provide a written description of how to play the game and leave it at that…or, if another server member is online and willing to play, you could do string or collaborative storytelling. An example would be the ABC game where the first person writes a line with the first word starting with “A” and then the next person writes a line with the first word starting with “B” and so on. This could be done with two people or more. Another story game could be that someone shares a story prompt and sees who will add the next portion.
People know what a “meme” is – those fun images/pictures and sometimes animated ones such as a gif. Well, a storymeme is an oral storytelling one. We have at least four collected here. Our only request when you add one: do not have any book images. We love books. However, this discord server is about spoken storytelling and want images that reflect this type. You can save those book memes for the library-focused Discord Servers. Yes, there are plenty of those on Discord.
This text channel is similar to the worldwide-folktales though broader. Many types of oral storytelling exist. Do you love Folktales? Tall tales? Historical tales? Creation myths? So much more. Now…this needs to be more academic in approach rather than random chat. If you want to “chat,” then either the # general or the # chat-about-stories under the category of “Text Channels” would be best.
How do you involve more than one language when performing? What are ways to have multi-lingual experiences on stage? How can American Sign Language be offered more often? You can share links or videos with bilingual performances, interviews about it, or shares articles that delve into this topic. Again, this is an academic discussion rather than pure “chat.”
Whew! That covers the current text channels.
We may add more specific ones as time goes on. At least you have the basics…and the next blog post will be on voice channels. Only a couple…but some tips on how to troubleshoot and such.
Discord is best by laptop/computer though there is a free phone app. We have scheduled voice/video chats usually within “Voice Channels” and then “chat-about-stories” on Mondays at 10:00pm MDT. We will eventually have regular one during the daytime. Join us! Again, that invite link: https://discord.gg/KfwNK7Z.
This is the second of five parts on how best to manage marketing during this particular time period…or beyond. While Story Crossroads sees “story artists” to typically mean spoken word storytellers, these tips apply to all performing artists or professionals across industries.
With so many choices on social media, have at least one that is “strong.” Yet, you need a website to receive the full benefits of social media…
Your social media needs to drive people away from the hustle and bustle of the constant chatting and texting and voices of everyone.
The goal for any social media is to get to your website so that they can contact you about performance opportunities. Or buy your CDS and books. Or any number of revenue-building activities.
If you allow your people to “hang” on social media too long, they will eventually become distracted by something else. Blogs are considered social media though are part of your website so has the benefit of having people already at your website to explore.
Other forms of social media besides blogs: Facebook, YouTube, Instagram (plus many more icons) as well as picture-sharing, vlogs, wall-postings, email, instant messaging, music-sharing (can be story-sharing), crowdsourcing, and voice over IP, podcasting, etc.
Luckily, you do not have to be on or doing every single social media. Unless you have the volunteer or paid office people to give attention and care to it. Or interns. Ah, love interns–who tend to be up on the latest trends and ever-ready to share their knowledge and skills.
Paying someone at least $10/hour once a week could be worth it…if they can match your “voice” and style in communicating online.
Quick 5-Question Social Media Audit:
Do you have YouTube and are you using it? Asking for subscribers? Adding material at least once a quarter (once a month, once a week or more is awesome)? Of all the social media, YouTube is on the “required” list to best showcase your art and easier for people to write grants and prove your ability to committees.
Is there at least one other social media besides YouTube that you could commit regular time/postings? Consider your ideal client (will get more to that for tip#4). Click here for a basic idea from Flint Group – keep in mind this changes all the time.
Are there any social media you do that you could drop to free up more time to emphasize your best one(s)? Or at least do automatic linkage such as Instagram/Facebook or any other combination? Best to post separately/per social media…but can “cheat.”
Are you familiar with the up-and-coming platforms? Have you considered Twitch? Tik Tok? Discord? You do not need to be “on” these new ones, but are you willing to test them out? Ponder on what highlights storytelling and your work the best.
Do you follow and analyze other storytelling, performing arts, and people of other industries and see what is working? What is not? Can you apply this to you?
Story Artists & Organizations Who Know How to Use Social Media to their Advantage:
Tim Lowry – YouTube – he put out a goal to have at least 1,000 YouTube Subscribers so he can stream in a more effective way (was at 787 on 7/4/2020) – he will want to customize his YouTube domain name to have his name after “youtube.com” as he reached the minimum 100 subscribers to do so
Brian “Fox” Ellis – YouTube as Fox Tales International – while in the new stages, he has AMAZING production value and a plan/schedule in place, within 24 hours he had over 100 subscribers (was at 143 on 7/4/2020) – he will want to customize his YouTube domain name to have his name after “youtube.com” as he reached the minimum 100 subscribers to do so
If you want me to give initial thoughts on how you are doing with social media and do not mind well-intended bluntness, I am open to letting you know if you email email@example.com. Yes, this is complimentary.